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February 07, 2004

UnAss the A.O.

A friend sent this to me. It'll be rather dry to non-soldier types, but it's a testament to the U.S. soldier and his or her everyday existence as infantry in Iraq. Let's bring them home quickly, shall we?

January 23, 2004

*/Going to fight in /**/Iraq/**/? Lessons from an infantry company

*By Capt. Daniel Morgan*

/Editor's Note: Capt. Morgan is former commander of Headquarters and
Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st
Airborne Division (Air Assault)./

I have spent eleven months in Iraq fighting this war as a company
commander, starting from the berm in Kuwait to Mosul, Iraq. My soldiers
and I have learned a tremendous amount of lessons, shared many
successes, and witnessed horrific injuries on our fellow soldiers. We
never failed to conduct an AAR or hotwash after an operation, despite
the success, failure or casualties. I want to share some TTPs and SOPs
with as many as possible because this fight ebbs and flows with short,
shocking violence that "always being prepared" becomes more than just a
cliché. You will never know when you will be attacked -- it just happens.

An explosion rocks the vehicle in front of you, throwing soldiers onto
the street. You see the vehicle rise up onto two wheels before settling
and rolling to a stop. AK-47 fire and RPGs are heard almost
simultaneously. Your soldiers stagger about trying to shake off the
effects of the concussion. Some fire wildly in different directions
because the cracking of the AK-47s are echoing off the buildings, so you
cannot pinpoint the direction of fire. The battle drill says to clear
the kill zone, but you have competing priorities. First, you have
casualties that need to be secured, assessed and stabilized. Second, if
you run, you won't kill the enemy or deter them. You must fight back and
hopefully kill them. Do you stay in the kill zone and fight?

This happened to my soldiers and me. Sadly, this has happened to my
company and me on several occasions in various forms. On this day, I
lost a platoon sergeant and it was a devastating experience to many
soldiers. He is alive but when I got to that truck he was a pile of
blood and matter. His leg was completely blown off with shrapnel wounds
all over him. He stayed there as we secured everything, trying to still
lead his soldiers. We fought back that day, killing one suspected enemy
and detaining two more. This reaction occurred due to rehearsals, AARs,
aggressive leadership at every level, and discipline.

A hunch tells me that not much will change for months or a couple of
years in how we do daily business in Iraq. Operations will be basically
broken down into four areas. First, you need to clear Main Supply Routes
(MSRs) of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Second, platoons will
conduct cordon and searches against a neighborhood, store, market or
house. Third, units will conduct patrols to provide a presence in an
area, enhancing security. Finally, units will conduct civil-military
operations simultaneously with the first three operations. These
operations require patrolling in an urban environment, mounted and
dismounted, leaving you vulnerable.

You /must/ always be on the /offensive/. You cannot assume that you are
on a security presence patrol. It is always a /movement to contact/.
Company commanders must plan every patrol in this mindset and give
specified tasks that accomplish the overall mission. For example, if you
are going to conduct a patrol down a heavily congested market street in
order to distribute information, treat it as a movement to contact and
be on the offensive. Give a subordinate unit the task to distribute
newsletters or flyers and use the remaining elements to provide security
-- ready to fight. This offensive spirit increases force protection and
prepares you to gain the initiative immediately upon contact.

I hope to provide leaders who come to Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere
else in the future some ideas for training and preparing to fight in
this environment. This environment consists of two factors -- urban
fighting and civil-military operations. The fight at the company level
requires both skills and capabilities. Many factors are out of your
control and many assets needed for Stability and Support Operations
(SASO) are not part of your division or brigade force structure, much
less battalion. So, you must control what you can and that is urban
patrolling, force protection, company level information operations, and
home station training.

*Urban patrolling*

The more the terrorist succeeds in wounding or killing US soldiers, the
more he is emboldened to do it again. You must instill in your soldiers
that we will fight back into the ambush. 99% of the time you already
have fire superiority, so use it immediately. Train your soldiers to be
scanning rooftops, looking across open fields (the enemy wants some
stand off and the ability to run), and providing overwatch at every
moment. These three factors are key whether you are conducting mounted
or dismounted patrols. You must do a patrol brief every time you depart
the gate and never cease communicating and cross-talking between each

The most important part of the urban patrol is the threat environment.
The congestion and overpopulation in these areas endanger any US patrol
at any time. If you lack the number of boots on the ground, you could
find yourself in a predicament where you get overwhelmed by an angry
mob. For example, you are leading a three-vehicle convoy in the city
center with just a squad and three enemy insurgents attack with AK-47s.
You return effective fire, killing or wounding the attackers. You
dismount and secure the area. However, your return fire upset many
citizens and now you are surrounded. This is the dilemma. You can never
take a patrol for granted.

The urban patrol, dismounted or mounted, must have sufficient boots on
the ground to secure a casualty, set up an overwatch/support by fire
position, and maneuver. The challenge to this patrol is that, depending
on the direction of the attack against you and where in your patrol you
were attacked, every element must be prepared to assume each role.
Leaders must establish standard formations with sectors of fire. If
mounted, face out 360 degrees (do not have the soldiers twist to look
over their soldiers -- - see vehicle preparation), ensure soldiers
alternate high-low in their sectors, and always attack into the enemy to
kill or capture them.

Patrols for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) require boots on the
ground. A mounted patrol for IEDs limits the ability to identify a
potential IED and provides a likely target since the vehicles travel
slowly. The vehicles can trail the patrol to provide rapid response if
needed. The purpose is to identify an IED to eliminate any target for
the enemy and destroy the IED in place. The IED patrol focuses on Main
Supply Routes (MSR), avenues of approach in and out of battalion and
company command posts, and LOGPAC routes. These three routes must be
cleared prior to any movement, demonstrating the importance of the IED
patrol for a company.

IED patrols require dismounted soldiers with the lead team using
binoculars, spotting scopes, or some type of magnified observation
device. During limited visibility hours, you will need high powered,
hand-held spotlights. Your lead clearing elements must have interlocking
fields of observation and never hesitate to halt the patrol upon
anything suspicious. The trail teams must first provide overwatch, so
the lead teams can effectively search for IEDs. The trail team's
secondary task is to maneuver against enemy forces and/or cordon the
area. You must rehearse this patrol because it is paramount to saving

Routine dismounted patrols must be conducted in sector, despite the
risks a commander may have in its execution. A mounted patrol through
sector fails to provide adequate presence and does not lend itself to
winning the hearts and minds of the local population. The best way to
mitigate the risk is more boots on the ground, meaning never patrol
dismounted with less than a platoon. The dismounted patrol requires
intense observation and readiness. Vehicles must be prepared to
reinforce the patrol for an attack or exfiltration. These patrols must
be conducted two to three times a week during specific times of the day
to secure the environment and promote unity and cooperation in sector.

The dismounted patrol must have a purpose more than a presence. Platoon
and squad leaders must engage storeowners, bystanders, and others to
gather information. This patrol provides the best means to a stable,
cooperative company sector. Nevertheless, security precautions must be
taken to protect the troops. First, three-dimensional observation must
be maintained continuously. Second, communication between leaders,
vehicles, and the company CP cannot be overlooked -- higher needs to know
where you are! Third, treat it as a movement to contact even though you
are out talking to the people. At any time, a grenade will come from the
rooftops and you must go after them with violence of action and speed.

Leaders must be prepared to react to contact from any direction -- left,
right, front, rear, or above. The urban area lends itself to distraction
-- pretty girls, vendors selling soda or ice cream, vehicle traffic,
large crowds around vendors, etc. In this threat environment, the enemy
will choose the time, place, and type of attack. The enemy will run
after a brief attack. It is up to you to react quick enough to kill or
capture them. Leaders must immediately maneuver against the enemy, while
simultaneously isolating the area and providing overwatch for the
maneuver force or any casualties. Let the leader pull you back if he
needs the forces to conduct casualty evacuation.

The mounted patrol occurs everyday, whether conducting a dismounted
patrol out in sector or attending a meeting with local officials. The
mounted patrol requires constant vigilance by every soldier. Leaders
must have a SOP upon contact. If you want to prevent attacks, then, if
the situation permits, you dismount and fight or maneuver. Again, the
course of action depends on the number of boots on the ground. If you
are in a three-vehicle convoy with three soldiers per vehicle and you
are attacked and receive casualties, you probably will clear the kill
zone and call in the location and contact report. However, the more you
withdraw and not fight back, the more they will attack. In boldness,
lies safety.

I adopted a SOP called the Button Hook, which is derived from how a unit
attempts to capture or kill a sniper. A mounted patrol receives enemy
machine gun fire and RPGs. The "Button Hook" calls for the immediate
cordon of the suspected area by surrounding the block with its vehicles,
sealing off possible enemy escape routes. The convoy commander
simultaneously calls for OH-58D Kiowas to reinforce the cordon and to
identify escaping personnel or suspected vehicles. If the convoy
commander has the forces, he begins to clear the area from the most
likely target to the least likely target. If he lacks the forces, he
maintains the cordon and calls for the QRF infantry. This course of
action will lead to the capture of the attackers or to some information.

Soldiers cannot afford to relax during mounted patrols. In a
four-vehicle patrol, the leader leads the convoy. The second truck
maintains a mounted crew-served machine gun, as does the trail vehicle.
The third vehicle can vary in its composition and purpose. The lead
vehicle sets the speed and path of the convoy. His main purpose is
navigation and searching for possible IEDs. When passing under bridges,
gunners must observe the approach and then the departure on the other
side of the bridge. Everyone has a purpose and everyone must know what
to do upon contact.

The lead truck has a challenge as it navigates through the city. This is
a leader's responsibility and should not be delegated. For example, I
was leading a convoy in the evening hours -- a popular time for ambushes
and IEDs. As we approached a vehicle with a driver inside, I saw him on
a phone through his rear window. He spoke on the phone and drove away
before we passed him. I immediately changed our route by taking a right
through a neighborhood, avoiding the intersection. I do not know if we
avoided a possible IED ambush or not, but it is better to suppose that
this car and its driver were an early warning for an ambush.

Enemy forces emplace IEDs at key intersections, where our vehicles slow
down and get closer to one another. The lead vehicle needs to surround
the convoy with civilian vehicles and allow other vehicles in between
their convoy. This tactic disrupts the enemy as he tries to target the
convoy. In addition, speed of travel is an ally here. Leaders must
balance speed and safety in their travels. The last thing that needs to
happen is we run over Iraqi pedestrians and vehicles, or flip one of our
own. However, it is harder to attack a convoy, if it is moving at a high
rate of speed.

Leaders have TTPs in how to avoid IEDs and possible kill zones, but some
areas are inevitable. For example, as I lead convoys into an
intersection where we will turn right, my RTO moves the vehicle as far
left as possible. On turns, most IEDs, if not all, are placed on the
inside turn. This left position as we turn right increases space between
us and a possible IED. In addition, since we are turning right, I can
observe and clear the left side of the road and curb of possible IEDs. I
cannot see the right side until it would be too late. As we enter the
turn, my RTO observes the traffic and we pick up speed, like a slingshot
into traffic. Wide, fast turns protect the force.

Lastly, units will conduct hundreds of cordon and searches -- all
different with varying degrees of aggressiveness on entry. These
operations emerge from human intelligence against a specific target or
during a "neighborhood surge," meaning soldiers flood an area to search
homes with or without permission. The level of aggression will be
determined by your command. Basic task organization still applies as
every leader learns in military schools. However, units can NEVER fail
to isolate a target. Isolation of an objective must be paramount in
planning these operations, especially in this urban environment.

Urban environments present so many threats, ranging from rooftop
shootings and drive-by shootings to civil unrest against the cordon and
search. Leaders must isolate the objective and sub-objectives throughout
the entire cordon and search operation. Isolation does not stop at the
block the house is located. It goes from there to the house to the front
door and into each room in the house. Isolating each portion of the
objective protects your soldiers and allows you to react to any
contingency that may arise during a search. Isolation requires more
forces, but it facilitates a smooth operation by reducing distractions
and threats to your soldiers.

*Home station training*

You must train your soldiers in battle drills and take the necessary
preparations prior to your arrival. We learned as we went along
day-by-day. AARs and hotwashes every time are key to success, but
training at home station or in an ISB greatly improve your chances for
success and survival. Second, units must prepare their vehicles for
patrols and force protection in static positions. Third, everyone needs
to critique themselves and the unit to refine and improve their actions
on the battlefield.

Actual training for this threat environment remains fairly standard --
minus certain non-standard situations not found in many MTPs. The urban
environment in Iraq can be replicated at any military post urban
training site. I would focus on four aspects in training: 1)
Marksmanship; 2) CASEVAC, including aerial; 3) Enter and Clear a
Building and Room; and 4) React to Contact from a vehicle, a
non-standard task and dismounted. Each of these training areas must be
graduated in difficulty and in an urban threat environment. A unit that
trains on these areas with an unrelenting focus and discipline will
succeed in this environment.

Marksmanship is the core of excellence for an infantry soldier. Their
proficiency in killing wins the battle. The more you suppress a target
here without killing or wounding the enemy, the bolder he becomes in
attacking you. You need to train your soldiers to aim, fire, and kill.
If an enemy opens fire with an AK-47 aimlessly, which most of these
people do, you should be able to calmly place the red dot reticule of
your M-68 optic device on his chest and kill him with one shot. If you
do this, the rest will run and probably not come back. This skill takes
training, patience, and sadly, experience.

Units must familiarize themselves with every weapon system in a
battalion. Soldiers must know how to load, fire, clear, and reduce
stoppages and misfires of every crew served weapon. In combat, due to
personnel changeovers, a soldier may be behind a mounted .50 caliber
machine gun or M240 machine gun at any given time. He does not need to
be qualified, but he needs to know how to operate the weapon. Units must
set up concurrent training at every range, utilizing training on every
weapon. Leaders should also familiarize their soldiers with hands-on
training with foreign weapons, including AK-47s, RPKs, RPG launchers and
warheads, and PKMs. Soldiers will deal with these weapons daily.

Soldiers need reflexive and quick fire training, using burst fire. Do
not ignore 9mm, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, and shotguns. This
training is the most practical aspect to succeeding in this urban
combat. As the soldier's proficiency increases, leaders need to reduce
target exposure on computerized ranges. Enemy insurgents fire from
rooftops and then hide, popping up and down. Second, practice weak side
shooting and tactical magazine changes on the reflexive firing range.
Third, conduct a terminal effects demonstration on engine blocks,
vehicle doors, concrete, and various materials, using FM 3-06.11 as a
guide. This training will help leaders choose the right weapon system
and facilitate decision-making in combat. Lastly, let your soldiers move
around on the range -- from the zero range to the qualification range --
with loaded weapons, allowing the reinforcement of muzzle awareness and

Casualty evacuation requires training at every level. First, do not let
a casualty take your focus away from a combat engagement. You must
remember that your purpose is to fight and win. Let your First Sergeant
guide and direct CASEVAC. Leaders need to train casualty evacuation for
three purposes. First, combat medics must train under the most realistic
scenarios possible, using simulation and degrading symptoms. Many
technologies exist in this area -- find them and use them. Second,
integrate casualties into everything, but with a focus on maintaining
the fight against the enemy. Third, train every soldier in making
assessments in casualty priority, placing a tourniquet, and calling in a
four-line MEDEVAC.

Combat medics are a saving grace and will become your favorite and
most-valued soldier. Unfortunately, the ratio between missions and
medics is skewed, requiring training at the individual soldier level.
Combat lifesavers must be maximized by the battalion, and do /not/
forget your Support Platoon -- who will drive more than anyone else in
the battalion. Supply your medics with four tourniquets each and each
soldier with one tourniquet. We use a mini-ratchet strap that is 1" wide
and long enough to wrap around the thigh of a soldier. It is the most
rapid means to saving a soldier from blood loss. Trust me, it saved four
of my soldiers' lives, not counting another dozen in the battalion.

Mounted react to contact drills are a necessity in urban contact. Units
will move to and from many locations for missions, finding themselves
more vulnerable on a vehicle. Leaders must focus on three areas in this
training. First, soldiers must maintain 360-degree security and
alternate high-low. Second, leaders cannot forget dismount drills upon
contact. Lastly, although never really accurate, soldiers must train on
mounted firing while moving. These three areas are key to success in a
mounted react to contact. Leaders must also consider the placement of
their mounted weapons in their convoy. Remember, the heavy weapons do no
good if they are in the front of your convoy.

*Company civil-military and information operations*

This topic deserves serious attention from our senior leaders. I feel we
lack the experience, training and resources at the brigade level and
down. We need to implement this facet of full spectrum operations more
into our Army education system and equip the "boots on the ground"
soldiers with the capabilities. Nevertheless, these shortcomings do not
give an excuse for a lack of company efforts in information and
civil-military operations. Creativity and initiative by company
commanders make the difference.

Civil-military and information operations (CMO/IO) are not mutually
exclusive. Commanders must take personal responsibility of these
efforts. CMO/IO reinforce the success of each undertaking. The more
successful CMO is in your sector, the more positive your IO will be for
you. Brigade prioritizes CMO at the company level, meaning you are
directed to focus on certain projects for the community. These projects
will vary from schools, utilities, sanitation, and reconstruction. IO,
however, provides a company commander an opportunity to take control of
his sector, earning the respect of local officials and citizens.

Information operations are simple at the company level. IO has two
purposes. First, you must distribute information to the people.
Uninformed citizens in a country we just subjugated in war have the
potential to demonstrate and possibly riot. You must inform them of your
goals and actions. Second, IO involves not only passing out information,
it requires the collection of information. The development of an
informed populace and involvement of community leaders by a commander
leads to information about hostile threats and benevolent projects.

The first step in CMO/IO is to identify in priority areas to be funded
for CMO. Simultaneously, commanders need situational understanding of
the mindset of the sector. There are many TTPs that help in
accomplishing this assessment. First, commanders need to determine who
can help them. I broke my focal groups into business, education,
political, and religious. Since we were the first forces into Mosul,
Iraq, my soldiers and I had to get out into the streets and meet people.
We developed a "list of influence" and began developing relationships.

On 13 September 2003, one of my platoons was ambushed, wounding three of
my soldiers. The platoon was ambushed in a congested urban area with
narrow alleys. After linking up with the platoon and conducting an
aerial medical evacuation, a member of an Iraqi political party called
me and said he saw the ambush and knew the attackers. The attackers were
not home, but these men watched the houses of the attackers for 48
hours. They called me at 0200 to inform me they were home. The brigade
commander gave us approval to conduct a cordon and search. We
infiltrated the neighborhood, linked up with our "informants," and
grabbed the attacker. This ambush cost the leg of one of my soldiers and
through relationships we caught the culprit.

Leaders must understand the environment prior to committing blindly to
some CMO plan. I had no true understanding of the mindset of the
citizens in my sector. In addition, there were no performance measures
of effectiveness to determine any success we were having in our efforts.
Consequently, I developed a survey of attitudes and needs in Arabic that
was common across all my sub-sectors. My soldiers hated this at first,
but in the end we saw where we needed to be and what we needed to do.
This situational understanding is vital to CMO/IO. Performance measures
of effectiveness prevent wasted efforts, allocate resources efficiently,
and focus your company on valid, verifiable priorities.

*Force protection*

Force protection must remain on the forefront of every leader's mind.
Protecting your soldiers requires a tough balance between the safety of
your soldiers and mission necessity. Many times in this environment
leaders will avoid missions in order to protect soldiers. This bad habit
is not force protection. We protect soldiers to maintain combat power
for mission accomplishment and to bring them home. Force protection has
been alluded to throughout this discussion, but two areas demand
specific attention -- vehicle preparation and compound security.

Vehicle preparation prior to arrival in theater saves lives. As the
first combat unit to assume mission in Mosul, we had to learn the hard
way. Vehicles must be prepared in a manner that protects the soldiers
from shrapnel and rifle/machine gunfire. A tough decision must be made
with respect to sandbags in the trucks. The M998 HMMWV will experience
thousands of miles. The weight of a combat-loaded infantry squad with
over 50 sandbags will deteriorate a M998 quickly. The sandbags will save
the lives of soldiers, but they do not protect the M998.

Armor plating along the doors of the drivers and passengers and along
the benches in the back of the M998 protect soldiers. On December 26,
2003, we were ambushed while clearing an intersection of IEDs. After one
explosion and a fusillade of fire from two enemy machine guns, we
inspected the trucks and found that the armor plating on the doors and
back of the M998 had withstood the explosion and machine gun impacts,
saving the lives of over 10 soldiers. The armor plating must withstand
7.62mm at a minimum. Get it on your trucks as soon as possible.

Security is timeless in military operations. During mounted movements in
an urban environment, vehicles must have three-dimensional security.
Threats can come from anywhere at anytime. Leaders must prepare their
vehicles to facilitate 360-degree security. We placed benches inside
every HMMWV and LMTV. I do not know if we were the first ones to do
this, but we did recognize this early on, due to AAR comments by
soldiers. An RPG will hit you so fast that if soldiers are not in the
proper security position, you may never know the origin of fire. Simple
wooden benches so soldiers can sit back-to-back improve security,
increase offensive capabilities, and enable units to gain the initiative

Static compound security remains ever-present on the battlefield.
Commanders need to balance mission requirements with protecting their
company command post or battalion TOC. Every compound will be on a road
so vehicles can gain access. Some locations permit you to shut down all
civilian traffic and some areas will not allow this isolation. The
difference in successful or "just-surviving" compound security is the
active versus passive measures taken by a unit.

Enemy forces conducted numerous drive-by shootings against a particular
unit. The enemy avenue of approach was from only two locations on the
same road. The unit could not shut down the road for an indefinite
period of time so the commander was limited in his options. He could
emplace two checkpoints at either end of the road, which would require
another platoon, or he could emplace ambushes at either end of the road
during the times of past drive-by shootings. If he chose the checkpoint
course of action, he remained passive and lost another maneuver platoon
to static security, reducing his flexibility and presence in sector. He
chose the ambush option and ended up killing enemy forces and destroying
their vehicles. In the end, the drive-by shootings decreased
dramatically in this area.

Static security in an urban area requires a presence outside of the
walled compound. Commanders need to dispatch patrols during varying
times, not only to clear IEDs, but to clear unoccupied buildings, search
for fighting positions, occupy OPs, etc. Active, aggressive methods to
push your security blanket farther out than your walled compound
protects your soldiers, allowing them to rest and plan comfortably.
Commanders must implement a combination of active and passive measures
to isolate their company compound as much as possible.


American soldiers are facing men with a cell phone is one hand, a RPG in
the other, and ill-conceived hatred in their heart. This enemy is
asymmetric in the most unpredictable way. US forces will face this
threat for months in Iraq, if not years. Technology only enhances the
soldiers' capabilities to kill the enemy and win their hearts and minds
simultaneously. In the end, *US soldiers must meet the enemy --
specifically terrorists -- face-to-face, hand-to-hand and kill them.*
Company commanders must bring to bear creativity, aggressiveness, and
an offensive spirit to take away the enemy's will. In the end, gather
information on enemy targets and then narrowly target them with
overwhelming combat power.

Throughout this conflict, I discovered that most things taught in Army
schools remain valid and worth remembering during my decision-making
process. The most important factors that were reinforced to me that
applies to everything discussed here is the necessity to conduct combat
AARs after every patrol, whether there was contact or not. Second, Troop
Leading Procedures are vital, especially conducting a reconnaissance,
rehearsals and building a terrain model, and supervising platoon and
leader operation orders and rehearsals. Third, and most important,
maintain an offensive spirit always. Look for the enemy to shoot at you,
shoot back and kill or capture them. Bold leaders are dangerous and that
is what you want in them as they fight this fight.

Posted by tat at February 7, 2004 08:18 PM