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Old 09-22-2008   #41
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After all, the three-fire team Marine squad was born of Pacific island battles where casualties were sometimes well past the 50% mark that would reduce even the mighty three-team USMC squad down to the strength of a single large fire-team.

.
Having researched to origin of fire teams in some detail, I think I am safe in saying that the 3-Team Squad was copied from the Chinese, whom Evans Carlson observed them using in the 8th Route Army. I am still trying to confirm if the PLA still use the same structure. Apparently, and I am still trying to confirm this, some IDF platoons use 3 x 12 man squads, each of 3 fire teams.
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Old 09-26-2008   #42
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Ah, Wilf. Now that you mention it, I have read that before. Probably in something that you had written. Perhaps I could have called it the "three teams of four men each" structure - I seem to recall that the Chinese used cells of three men each. Correct me if I am wrong.

Getting data on IDF organization isn't as easy as it is for other armies... I would be very interested in what you find /have found.
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Old 09-26-2008   #43
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I seem to recall that the Chinese used cells of three men each. Correct me if I am wrong.
You probably read it in Doug Pikes work on the PAVN. - The three-person cell (to ba nguoi) is often referred to as the glue welded cell (to keo son) or the three participants cell (to tam gia).
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Old 10-02-2008   #44
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Sabre posted - "After all, the three-fire team Marine squad was born of Pacific island battles where casualties were sometimes well past the 50% mark that would reduce even the mighty three-team USMC squad down to the strength of a single large fire-team."

The 13 man, 3 four man fire teams was developed in the Pacific as you stated. It has remained thru thick and thin the basic Marine squad configuration for more than 65 years. Longer than any other successful other infantry squad configeration since WWII.

In today's environment 50% casualties are not the norm, and that fact increases effectiveness of the 13 man squad.

There are a hundred reasons for the difference in squad size, and that will probably remain the case well into the future.

65 years is a strong indicator that the Marines might have found the answer and see no need to change their tactical
basic unit.
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Old 10-02-2008   #45
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The 13 man, 3 four man fire teams was developed in the Pacific as you stated. It has remained thru thick and thin the basic Marine squad configuration for more than 65 years. Longer than any other successful other infantry squad configeration since WWII.
All true, but, IMO, this does not "prove" the case for a 13-man squad. The principle it uses could equally well be applied to a 9 or 15 man squad - and even a 20-man squad.

As a UK Infantryman, I have never understood, why the US Squad Leader is not part of a Fire team. Both the Army and Marines cling to this, for no good reason that I can see.
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Old 10-02-2008   #46
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How do you gents see the resurrection of the XM-25 affecting this? I've heard it would not replace the M203 and the desire is for 2 per squad. Not sure how that would shake out?

Seems it changes the calculus of cover at the least. Particularly in urban environments.
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Old 10-03-2008   #47
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Default Catching up

Just getting caught up on this thread, too many points to specifically hit but a few stand out. There is so many pros and cons anyway you go and many of those are METT-TC dependent. There were times I would have loved another fire team, times I would have loved to have had a gun team attached, and times I wish I didn't have so many men. Personally I am a fan of an 11 man squad with a gun team. Part of this is my upbringing in a weapons squad, unfortunately as I have stated before in other posts we currently do not train enough or properly on MGs in today's Army. One has to look at how well squad leaders could incorporate a gun team into the fight. Definately agree with UBOAT "Two gets you one, one gets you none." Thoughts on the SAW, yes they are outdated and continually getting updated and upgraded. Another thought is looking at the metals available today that can lighten the overall load, but we all know money is an issue. Amazing that disciplined soldiers/units that demand weapons be properly cleaned and maintained seem to have fewer issues, same can be said with any weapon system. Nothing worse than a truck full coming at you and the supporting unit's gunner on the .50 cal goes kerchunk, then the Mark19 on the truck next to him goes kerchunk. Nothing wrong with either system except they looked like they hadn't been cleaned after riding through the desert for 2 months, could have filled my kids sandbox with the sand in them.

Something I believe that has been missed in this thread is the Stryker units. Many of these units employ an armsroom type technique. They keep multiple weapons systems on the vehicles and take what the situation warrants. As we look at today's Army how many units are humping rucks on their back and living out of them. No units are without vehicles. I do not believe you can equip a squad ideally for all situations all the time. In my opinion squads need to have a bevy of weapons at there disposal that they can arm themselves accordingly to METT-TC. The key here is flexibility.

Additionally have not noticed any mention of our transition from a spray and pray military to well aimed shots. Don't get me wrong nothing wrong with a heavy dose of suppressive fire raining down, but have we not transitioned over the years to being more disciplined when we shoot? This fact may have more to do with the bean counters than any tactical advantage but something I have notice over my time in.

M203 most under utilized under trained weapon period. 15 years and I have fired 1 that's right 1 HE round in training. I have shot more LAWs, AT-4s, Dragons (showing my age), Javelins, over the years than 40mm HE. So we need to either change our training and usage of it or find something else in my opinion.

Someone mention SF having more luxury with weapons or something along those lines. I'd like to see it. The only things I have at my disposal that I didn't have as an Infantryman is a UMP-45 and a .45. Everything else I had as an Infantryman. I have seen conventional units outfitted better as far as weapons and optics goes. Only difference really is I personally have more flexibility in the weapon I want to carry and usually base this on the situation.

Optics is another whole new can of worms. What sights with what weapons? What NVGs? There is a multitude of things that go into this. Honestly we all know the bottom line that dictates it all BUDGET!
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Old 10-15-2008   #48
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Default Squads and machine guns

Machine guns:
Don't care much for any automatic weapon that jumps around as much as the different 5.56 derivatives. Most of them appear to be assault rifles on steroids. I had MUCH better results with the M-60 in medium to heavy undergrowth than with the 5.56. The M-60 is heavier but stays on target better and WILL cut brush. The 5.56 (at least the ones we were using) will not. The M-60 was also a very reliable belt feed and would shoot a LOT. We never bothered with the other barrel. Finally, an M-60 SOUNDS like a machine gun and that gets into peoples heads, your people and theirs... ;-)

Squad size:
Never felt the rifle squad was realistically designed to operate on it's own but as an administrative convenience to get enough infrastructure (Squad and fire team leaders) to let the platoon operate effectively. Maybe the all-volunteer thing has changed that equation but between rotation, casualties etc. there weren't many full to&e squads running around loose. When you start with nine and pare back from there for reality (rotation, illness etc), you got problems as a maneuver element.

If we were going out to ambush or interdict, we preferred to take 13 to 15 people. You need that many for a decent ambush if you are going to have any security at all and still have a decent KZ. Also some losses don't reduce your firepower in such a drastic fashion.

A TO&E rifle squad after R&R, illness etc which then takes a casualty or two is a fire team with lots of baggage and a seriously reduced ability to defend itself, let alone attack.

My 2
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Old 10-15-2008   #49
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
As a UK Infantryman, I have never understood, why the US Squad Leader is not part of a Fire team. Both the Army and Marines cling to this, for no good reason that I can see.
Wilf, I have definitely been wondering that myself (as someone who "grew up" in the US Army system of a squad leader, and two fire teams to a squad, each with a team leader).

One Fire-Team Leader? Absolutely, it is always useful for a squad leader, (heck, a leader at any level) to have a "second in charge", for a whole host of reasons. A second Team Leader? Hmmm... In combat, if the squad isn't operating as a single entity, then the squad leader is leading one fire team himself, anyway. It doesn't even provide any real "leadership depth", since (from what I saw) there weren't enough junior NCO's to fill all the slots, in any case.
Perhaps it is different in the USMC squads, with 3 fire teams.
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Old 10-16-2008   #50
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Perhaps it is different in the USMC squads, with 3 fire teams.
I am pretty certain that the Chinese 8th Route Army Fire teams, that Carlson copied were 9 men strong and organised into 3 teams of 3. The Squad Leader was a buried HQ.

Bizarrely, the UK uses a "buried HQ" at the Section level, and an HQ team at the Platoon. The 1944 Pam actually states that the full manning of the Platoon HQ is a "priority!" - something I am still looking into.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 10-19-2008   #51
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"Originally Posted by William F. Owen
As a UK Infantryman, I have never understood, why the US Squad Leader is not part of a Fire team. Both the Army and Marines cling to this, for no good reason that I can see."

William with respect, as a former Marine Squad Leader I submit the following experiences by the Marine Corps as proof enough for we who have been there

Iwo Jima, Okniawa, The Chosin Resevoir, The Battle of Hue City, The March Up to Bagdad and Fallujah II.

The one up and two back configeration needs the guiding hand of a squad leader who has been brought up in this unit configeration to direct the flow of the fight in progress.

I sense some inability from a few that the size of the Marine Squad is to them too big to control in combat.

It isn't, if you have been trained from Private thru L/Cpl to Cpl. to respond in this invironment.

It works for the Marine Corps. When vertical envelopment began in the 50's the air assets could not carry more than 8 Marines. A perfect excuse to break down the big 13 man squads to "fit" the size of the transportation available.

Didn't Happen! I was a squad leader in that period and the decision was made to put the extra squad members on the next chopper to load. The division of the big squad may have been discussed up the chain of command but it was not even considered at the troop level. We liked the way a three fire team squad "flowed" in the assualt phase of our training. 4 man rushes supported by 8 man covering fire is a thing of beauty as it moves forward to close with the enemy.

The forward movement was not a single 4 man unit moving ahead while being supported by the two other fire teams. The assualting fire teams interchanged between assualt and support in coordinated fire team rushes that constantly moved forward. The 8 man support is powerful and can not be duplicated by a 9 man squad with four assualting and five supporting.

The economy of putting a squad leader in the dual role of SL and FTL in an 8 man squad reduces the power of the support base by 35%. As in 35% less rounds moving down range in supressing the enemy.

It , in my opinion, would be the worst of both worlds. A weak unit with a dual-role SL who in the heat of battle is going to fight his fire team and focus on that and not the other fire team.

A Marine SL has the training to focus on manuevering his three fireteams as the terrain and the quality of the enemy's troops and defenses will allow. He is not part of the "uuuunnnnngggg" stress of moving forward under fire,
and he can develop his part of the battlefield as the power of his bigger squad projects itself under his direction. He is under stress and exposed to enemy fire, for sure, but his job is to fight his three fire teams without the distraction of having to lay down the base of fire or jump up and rush at the enemy with three other Marines in the fire team. He is also in direct contact with his platoon leader and keeps him informed on his squads status.

In a smaller 8 man squad, fighting a fire team, commanding a squad and keeping those above us informed seems a bit much, to me.

Running a Marine Squad ain't easy, but it is easier than trying to take the same terrain with 4 to 5 less guns in the fight. Especially when your gun is needed in the fight, while you are trying to figure out what has to be done.

This commentary on the 8, 9 and 13 man squads on up to a 20 man squad has the ability to become the "never ending story".

I submit 6 decades of success in combat with a 13 man squad works for the Marines!

The tour of a Marine Expeditionary Units in Helmand Provience this year seemed to have worked quite well. 500 to 600 dead opponents and only a single civilian casualty and a handful of Marines killed or wounded might be a model to study and learn from.

Please don't think my commentary is a "my way or the highway" kind of chatter. I hope my comments explain the reason the Marines continue to use the big squad configeration.

William Owen, How long has the UK had your squad configeration? And what were the composition of the squads before your current size? What were the squad sizes in WWI?

Were they bigger than today? The huge losses in that war
must have influenced changes that are still being felt.

Last edited by RJ; 10-19-2008 at 06:31 AM.
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Old 10-19-2008   #52
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William with respect, as a former Marine Squad Leader I submit the following experiences by the Marine Corps as proof enough for we who have been there

Iwo Jima, Okniawa, The Chosin Resevoir, The Battle of Hue City, The March Up to Bagdad and Fallujah II.
All testaments to the courage and determination of the the USMC, plus it's supporting arms and fires. It does not constitute empirical evidence in regard to the utility of the separated Squad HQ

Quote:
The economy of putting a squad leader in the dual role of SL and FTL in an 8 man squad reduces the power of the support base by 35%. As in 35% less rounds moving down range in supressing the enemy.

It , in my opinion, would be the worst of both worlds. A weak unit with a dual-role SL who in the heat of battle is going to fight his fire team and focus on that and not the other fire team.
Economy is the word. The whole argument/discussion on the size and organisation is not about absolute numbers. What the argument lacks is how do you organise X-number of men, for a given mission or task, not "how big is the squad."


Quote:
This commentary on the 8, 9 and 13 man squads on up to a 20 man squad has the ability to become the "never ending story".

I submit 6 decades of success in combat with a 13 man squad works for the Marines!
Concur

Quote:
The tour of a Marine Expeditionary Units in Helmand Provience this year seemed to have worked quite well. 500 to 600 dead opponents and only a single civilian casualty and a handful of Marines killed or wounded might be a model to study and learn from.
...and there is a Royal Marine Company, in Helmand that may have achieved a greater Loss Exchange Ratio


Quote:
William Owen, How long has the UK had your squad configeration? And what were the composition of the squads before your current size? What were the squad sizes in WWI?

Were they bigger than today? The huge losses in that war
must have influenced changes that are still being felt.
The current UK Section dates from 1985 as two mirror Fireteams. Prior to that we had an 8-10 man section organised as a Gun Group and Rifle Group. 10 men was the "War Time" establishment.

In 1918 the Section was 7 men but there were 4 sections not 3. There were 2 x Lewis Gun Sections and 2 x Rifle Sections. In 1934 they scrapped this excellent scheme to have the 3 combined sections, with the Bren Gun.
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Old 10-19-2008   #53
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Wilf,

I'd offer that the repeated call for empirical evidence that supports the individual squad leader can be countered with the same call for empirical evidence that we need to change. Bottom line is that you'll never get the magic bullet of empirical evidence.
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Old 10-20-2008   #54
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Wilf - 50 Bravo posted "Squad size:
Never felt the rifle squad was realistically designed to operate on it's own but as an administrative convenience to get enough infrastructure (Squad and fire team leaders) to let the platoon operate effectively. Maybe the all-volunteer thing has changed that equation but between rotation, casualties etc. there weren't many full to&e squads running around loose. When you start with nine and pare back from there for reality (rotation, illness etc), you got problems as a maneuver element.

If we were going out to ambush or interdict, we preferred to take 13 to 15 people. You need that many for a decent ambush if you are going to have any security at all and still have a decent KZ. Also some losses don't reduce your firepower in such a drastic fashion.

It looks like the US Army grew its 2 fire team squads to 13 or 15 in Vietnam to provide a realistic size force to meet the minimum size unit to conduct tactically effective ambushes.

50 Bravo, I'll bet that the ambush team included at least one M-60 in the party. We would include a Machine Gunner and assistant gunner in our ambush squads and every fire team leader and rifleman would hump extra MG ammo for the gun team.

jcustics - Empirical evidence seems to be the modern version of the Holy Grail! I'll bet todays Marine Corps still fills out 13 man squads that have battle casualties with Cooks, Bakers, Remington Raiders and the occasional Cannon Cocker until they can get some 0311 replacement parts. I suspect "Every man a Rifleman" is still practiced and the temporary interchangable parts get the job done.

M/3/5 0369 once a'pon a time, long, long ago and far, far away.
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Old 10-20-2008   #55
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Wilf,

I'd offer that the repeated call for empirical evidence that supports the individual squad leader can be countered with the same call for empirical evidence that we need to change. Bottom line is that you'll never get the magic bullet of empirical evidence.
Absolutely agree. - but there are measures of effectiveness that good trials and research would reveal.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 10-20-2008   #56
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Default Why 12 man ODA?

Wonder why 12 men was the answer for a SF ODA? Why not 10? 9? or 15? I understand in respect to the quality, experience, and education of an infantryman vs a SF soldier and the differences in mission requirements. My point is that some one much smarter than me saw this as the magic number. With 12 men there is enough redundancy built in to handle casulties and enough firepower to handle many situations. As I stated in and earlier post I am personally a fan of a 9 man squad with a gun team which brings us to the magic number of 12 men. Would like the historical perspective of why SF went with 12 man teams and that may help in figuring out the ideal sized squad.
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Old 10-20-2008   #57
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Default Two Honchos,

plus two each Ops/Intel, Weapons, Comm, Medics and Demo = 12.

Apples and oranges to rifle squads, I think.
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Old 10-20-2008   #58
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Default May have left the question

lost somewhere in the other jibberish. I was wondering if anyone knew why 12 men or was it more of that is just the way it worked out after looking at leadership requirements and having 2 of everything? Didn't know if some one thought 12 was the right amount of personnel and then tailored the make up to this number or the other way around. Understand the comparison is apples to oranges in some aspects.

A question that arises is also mobility assets. Under the current composition a 9 man squad can move by two gun trucks or 1 UH-60(seats in of course). If the squad size increases then do our mobility platforms need to increase in size as well or do we simply increase the footprint (more vehicles). Might simply be to far into 9 man squads in the Army to change at this point. How do the other services handle this?
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Old 10-20-2008   #59
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ODB,

Add vehicles. I think trying to keep unit size matched to transport size is a loosing battle.

It doesn't matter what the unit or transport type is either. It's a nice idea, but in the end we just have to accept the fact that crossloading and breaking up elements for transport will have to happen and get on with the job without worrying about it too much.

Hasn't it usually had to be sorted out in the assembly area anyway? Even if it was a hot LZ in the Ashau Valley? I think a UH-1D usually carried six for a combat assault. How many times was a platoon able to divide by six and have it come out even?
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Old 10-20-2008   #60
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lost somewhere in the other jibberish. I was wondering if anyone knew why 12 men or was it more of that is just the way it worked out after looking at leadership requirements and having 2 of everything? Didn't know if some one thought 12 was the right amount of personnel and then tailored the make up to this number or the other way around. Understand the comparison is apples to oranges in some aspects.
skills, generally doubling the number for redundancy (and insuring cross training to reinforce that) and was broadly based on the organization and experience of OSS Detachment 101 in Burma during WW II, by far the most successful large irregular warfare operation and way ahead of the success of the Jedburgh Teams.

The very different US Rifle squad, OTOH, is based primarily on Korean War experience and the two fire team leaders specifically date from there and a perceived need to have another NCO for both redundancy and for the training stream. The AR Man in each team (as opposed to a Machine Gun / Gunner) was due mostly to lack of an acceptable MG at the time plus the old "not invented here" syndrome which says that if another nation is doing 'A' we must do 'B.'
Quote:
A question that arises is also mobility assets. Under the current composition a 9 man squad can move by two gun trucks or 1 UH-60(seats in of course). If the squad size increases then do our mobility platforms need to increase in size as well or do we simply increase the footprint (more vehicles). Might simply be to far into 9 man squads in the Army to change at this point. How do the other services handle this?
The nine man squad is an abortion; it was introduced in the 80s simply to free up the other two men from the Squad to provide numbers to increase the number of Army divisions -- a process that sliced TOEs to the bone and really hurt the Divisions even as it created two more from the same manpower. Dumb idea then and a dumb idea now. Much more effective was the 11 man squad -- more staying power, also...

Part, not all , of the size of our vehicles is based on justifying that nine man squad -- can't be like anyone else...

Other organizations handle larger sizes with (a) bigger vehicles; and (b) splitting their squads -- just like the US Army has to do all too often...
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