NDM Article - Army Fine-tunes Training, Tactics for Urban Combat
Many pertinent and relevant issues raised in this article, including better urban warfare training facilities, the paramount importance of human intelligence, common communications platform, controlling the rooftops, and weapons malfunction in the field. That's what happens when you experience actual combat. The lessons learnt are real and remedial action needs to be done ASAP.
Army Fine-tunes Training, Tactics for Urban Combat
by Roxana Tiron
The U.S. Army, grappling with the intense stress of urban operations in Iraq, requires more training facilities to better prepare troops for this treacherous combat, officials and war veterans said.
The service needs to set priorities for preparing soldiers at home bases and training deployed troops, said Col. Edmund Woolfolk, director for combined arms and tactics at Fort Benning, Ga.
For those soldiers already in combat, the Army is trying to figure out what kind of deployable facilities can meet their needs, said Lt. Col. Jeff Hill, deputy director of the training and doctrine command's program integration office at the Army training support center at Fort Eustis, Va.
“There are many tasks to train for,” Hill said. “The question we have to answer is, what are those capabilities we need for deployed forces?”
Finding the right solution not only depends on picking out the critical skills that troops need to hone, but also on developing facilities that are easy to maintain, said Hill. “It is hard to send out a huge team of contractors.”
Based on the review conducted in 1999 by the Combined Arms MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) Task Force, the Army, at its U.S. bases, stood up a series of facilities to address each level of training, according to Hill.
The four types of venues are a breech facility, a live-fire shoot house, an “urban-assault course” with five separate components—grenadier gunnery, underground trainer, offensive-defensive building, individual trainer and squad platoon trainer—and a combined arms collective training facility, which replicates a semi-dense urban structure with 20-26 buildings.
“All of those are training enablers for a home station strategy,” Hill said. “The trouble with the deployed training is how to I get the most bang for the buck. It is difficult to replicate all the four training facilities for deployment. They cost a lot of money, and they are permanent structures.”
As a short-term solution, the Army already has a series of mobile MOUT sites, built by the Anteon International Corporation, in Camp Doha, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. Anteon was awarded a $6.8 million contract last year to produce the training systems.
The mobile site can support an Army platoon of about 30 to 40 soldiers. The modules are converted sea/land containers, measuring 8-feet wide by 9-feet high by 20-feet long. Movable walls allow the containers to be reconfigured to any shape or size required.
The mobile system also includes sound effects, booby traps and smoke, as well as instrumentation to provide various targets.
But the Anteon sites have their shortcomings, said Hill. “You limit [the training] to the re-configurability of the container. And you need special ammunition. You cannot use the combat ammunition,” he said.
The Army is shipping a new training facility to Iraq, called the Modular Armored Training House, or Match, in which soldiers can train with live ammunition.
Match, built by Target Action, in Provo, Utah, is a live-fire, 360-degree shooting-house designed for learning close-quarter skills, such as room clearing and hallway navigation. It is made up of a series of durable steel plates joined together to form walls, rooms and hallways. A plywood skin is attached to the steel, forming a 2-inch gap between the wood and the steel. Bullets penetrate the plywood, shatter on the steel, and fall to the bottom of the wall.
The house can be designed based on the type of scenarios soldiers need to train. Match can be made with open doorways, or with actual doors built with solid doorjambs to allow explosive entry training. It requires a flat foundation, such as a concrete pad or a wooden platform.
The system currently is used at police departments and public safety centers across the country. The U.S. Navy's special warfare center at Coronado, Calif., also uses Match, according to Action Target.
“Match and the Anteon [Mobile MOUT] are short-term solutions to what we need right now, and from those, we will develop a deployment training strategy,” he said.
Meanwhile, more training facilities are needed in the United States, said Woolfolk. “Soldiers complain that there are not enough shoot-houses.”
The Army should develop facilities at home stations, he said. The Army also needs urban exercise facilities that can accommodate an entire brigade and combined-arms training, he said.
He noted that virtual and constructive simulations can prove instrumental in preparing soldiers for their live exercises.
“Live is still the best way to train,” Woolfolk said. “You will never hear anything other than that from me. But there are some great ways to train to go to the field in this virtual-constructive realm.”
Woolfolk led a workshop on urban combat during the annual infantry conference and Fort Benning and has requested feedback from soldiers who had returned recently from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“[Simulation] gets you to a higher level and, [then] you do live training by stressing the organization to the max,” he told the soldiers in the room. “You are not doing the stuff that you could have done back at home station in the virtual-constructive [trainers].”
There is a lot of “goodness” in virtual and constructive simulations to train higher formations and staffs, according to Woolfolk. “Suppose you had a massive multi-player game to train the staff and rehearse,” he told commanders. “I am trying to develop a requirement for simulation to stress out the staffs, the formations, the things that we can't do at a combat training center.”
For lower formations, “we do what we can to get them as soon as possible into the live training,” he said.
Soldiers still view simulations with some reluctance, because they see value mostly in live training, according to those participating in the workshop.
“We have to prove to everybody that we can make virtual and constructive an enabler, that we can make it better,” Woolfolk said. “The only way that we are going to do that is by building something that replicates the dirty, cheating enemy, an asymmetric-type threat, because what we have now is not there. It won't even get you ready to go to the shooting.”
Trainers have to be three-dimensional and be able to be re-configured, he said. The Army also needs to develop fire-support and maneuver simulations, he added.
After training is completed and they end up on the streets of Iraq, soldiers can never let their guard down, said Woolfolk. “You have to look ready, so that you do not get attacked.”
In order to conduct successful urban operations, soldiers “have to stay on the offensive,” said Col. Joe Anderson, who commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division's (Air Assault). He now is the division's chief of staff. “Both pressure and momentum were built by offensive operations and raids.”
If there is one thing on which Iraq veterans agree, it is that human intelligence was the most effective means of countering insurgencies.
“The first question we had to ask is, who are we fighting? It is a question we still have to ask today,” said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment in the 4th Infantry Division. “Time and experience will help you pick out the good informants from the bad.”
The man on the street is often the best source, he told soldiers at the infantry conference.
Another good source is a tribal leader who knows every single person in a village. “He is able to give you a wealth of information about each family member,” Russell said. “He also knows who does not belong in the area.” Police and government officials could be reliable, but “you should proceed with caution because they have their own survival at stake,” he noted.
It is important to reward the informants with personal favors, often money or even weapons. Also, protecting sources should be paramount, he said. “But be careful not to discuss sources with other Iraqis,” he cautioned. “They find themselves dead as a result.”
Using a method that the police employ in the United States, members of Anderson's brigade, when they were searching neighborhoods, left a calling card for people to get back to them with information. Printed on the card was a telephone number for a 24-hour a day intelligence-tip hotline, which the brigade manned with the help of an interpreter.
Tactical human intelligence teams and mobile interrogation teams were “overworked,” and were busier than anyone else in the brigade except for the explosive ordnance disposal teams, Fuller said.
Leaders, however, lacked the tools to rehearse their mission plans, he said. “We need advanced rehearsal tools, such as satellite imagery for analysis,” he said. That data, in order to be useful, has to be able to be converted into three-dimensional imagery, he said.
As far as communication is concerned, the Army must standardize its common operational picture, he said, because there are too many disparate systems, such as Falconview, Blue Force Tracking and the Maneuver Control System, among others.
“We have to think about communicating in all grey areas,” said Woolfolk. “The smart guys of the world have to figure out how we get a communications system that does not have a limitation.” Whatever system is developed, it will have to be smart enough to be able to switch from line-of-sight, to satellite or work over-the-horizon, depending on the circumstances, he said.
Meanwhile, squad radios should be able to talk securely at a three- to-five mile range, said Fuller. Soldiers also could use lightweight, long-range voice and data capabilities, he added.
In urban combat, snipers are critical to controlling the rooftops, said Anderson. The .50 cal. sniper rifle performed beyond expectation, with one shooter using it to kill an insurgent at 1,400 meters, he said. But soldiers were plagued by constant weapon malfunctions, especially with the M249 squad automatic weapon and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, Fuller said.
“The current weapons we have are old, and we are forced to slap new parts on these old weapons, and it is very hard to reduce risk,” he said. “We need a policy change on how we do life-cycle replacement on these weapons.” He said he wants to see these weapons taken out of service.