Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) After Action Report - Operation Iraqi Freedon
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Chapter 10 Maneuver
During Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3ID [M]) proved that a lethal, flexible, and disciplined force can continuously maneuver over 600 kilometers. The division’s successful maneuver was possible due to the superior training conducted in the United States and Kuwait. This training allowed the division to maneuver and destroy enemy forces with direct and indirect fires from Kuwait to Baghdad. The ability of the brigade and battalion commanders to integrate fires and tactical movement ensured battlefield success.
- The division fought to train under realistic conditions in preparation for combat. The priorities were clear, and subordinate leaders executed the training above standard. This produced a disciplined, lethal, and flexible force capable of accomplishing any tactical task.
- All units must train to secure themselves. Maneuver forces cannot cover the entire battlespace to protect all assets. Combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) units must train to a level of proficiency that allows them to defend against rear area threats.
- All units must train to contain urban areas to protect the main body. Units may not need to enter into each urban area, but must keep enemy forces from influencing other passing convoys.
- The requirement for tough realistic training has not changed in the past 227 years. The division lived under the “train as you fight motto” for the 12 months that proceeded the war. The training proficiency, lethality, and maturity of the division serves as the example for the Army to follow.
- The complex battlefield demands that units execute missions under a constrained timeline. Training must include complex missions that force units to issue verbal fragmentary orders (FRAGOS) with very little time and knowledge of enemy forces.
- Divisions need a political advisor during all Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) rotations and must deploy a team that can advise the commander on strategic issues.
- Divisions need an M1114 company and a mechanized company under the control of the division headquarters. These two companies will provide the much-needed combat power for various security missions.
Topic A - Trained and Mature Unit
Issue: The success of the division’s operations in Iraq can be directly attributed to the unit’s mature leaders and high level of training.
Discussion: The division crossed the line of departure (LD) with a mature and trained group of staff officer and commanders. The division stabilized all company commander and field grade officers after conducting multiple CONUS contingency response force (CCRF) and National Training Center (NTC) rotations. This produced a mature fighting force that was trained and ready to fight and win on the battlefields of Iraq.
A direct correlation can be drawn between the division’s training cycle prior to crossing the line of departure and the division’s successful attack into Iraq. Battalions conducted externally evaluated force on force and live fire operations focused on offensive operations. Rifle squads conducted combined arms operations focused on entering and clearing a trench and room. These two training events focused the entire division on the exact missions soldiers would execute in combat weeks later.
The division conducted a rehearsal of the operation in Kuwait with every commander in the division. Command posts (CPs) at all levels participated in the rehearsal and executed the exact movement plan they executed in combat. This rehearsal served its intended purpose as a synchronization medium and identified several points of friction that the division was able to correct prior to crossing the LD.
The division artillery (DIVARTY) conducted a live fire training event prior to crossing the LD that ensured every firing battery was trained and ready to mass fires anywhere or anytime on the modern day battlefield.
The 4th Brigade (BDE) trained both hasty attacks in support of the ground maneuver commander and shaping operations under the brigade commander’s control while in Kuwait. This served to not only synchronize the brigade’s internal aviation assets, but also to synchronize the division’s aviation with ground maneuver forces. The tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) established between 4th BDE and the maneuver brigades facilitated the rapid and safe employment of attack aviation in the close fight.
The division fought to train under realistic conditions in preparation for combat. The priorities were clear, and subordinate leaders executed the training above standard. This training produced a disciplined, lethal, and flexible force capable of accomplishing any tactical task.
Recommendation: The requirement for tough realistic training has not changed in the past 227 years. The division lived under the “train as you fight motto” for the 12 months that proceeded the war. The training proficiency, lethality, and maturity of the division must serve as the example for the Army to follow.
Issue: Combat Training Centers (CTCs) can adopt lessons learned from OIF to better prepare units for future conflicts
Discussion: CTCs prepare units for combat. The following focus areas should be addressed:
During OIF, 3ID (M) was forced to address urban areas. Anytime routes went an urban area, forces had to be employed to isolate the city in order for maneuver, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) units to pass on to the final objective.
When urban areas were not addressed, both Republican Guard and Regime Death Squads used built-up areas to plan and initiate attacks on coalition forces. More enemy forces than originally planned occupied urban areas enroute to Baghdad. All units must train to contain urban areas to protect the main body. Units may not need to enter into each urban area, but they must keep enemy forces from influencing other passing convoys.
As 3ID (M) moved north, the terrain became very restrictive. As the desert quickly changed to elevated roads with restrictive terrain, units were forced to travel along a single route for hours. Well-planned and enforced movement tables must be trained. Without a solid movement plan, critical assets may not reach a crucial place on the battlefield at a desired time.
All units must train to secure themselves. Even with pockets of resistance in urban areas and not all main supply routes (MSRs) completely secure, CS and CSS assets must be pushed forward. Units will not be able to rely on maneuver units to provide constant convoy security. All units must focus on securing themselves during convoy operations.
The complex battlefield demands that units execute missions under a constrained timeline. Training must include complex missions that force units to issue verbal FRAGOS with very little time and knowledge of enemy forces.
Recommendation: All units must train on the containment of built-up areas during their CTC rotations. Training should include civilians, conventional enemy forces, and irregular forces. Restrictive terrain and urban terrain training is an absolute necessity during home station and CTC training events. CS/CSS units must train to provide local security without armored vehicle augmentation. Units must train to execute short notice missions with little notice or planning.
Issue: Training focus
Discussion: The pace and focus of training at the platoon through task force level was outstanding. The ability to execute receiving, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) in conjunction with company situational training exercises (STX) lanes graduating to task force maneuver lanes and culminating in a task force live fire, showed that a focused effort by leaders and soldiers can produce a trained and ready combat unit in 12 days.
Recommendation: Continue to focus and resource training that maximizes training windows and challenges soldiers and leaders. Live fire training is the standard to prepare units for combat. MOUT live fire demands the same emphasis as a Table XII gunnery density and must be resourced as a major training focus for the battalions.
Issue: Urban training
Discussion: Now that we have proven we can successfully employ armor in an urban environment, we must gear our individual and collective training toward that objective. Most engagement ranges were less than 200 meters - something we never train. Additionally the crew coordination of close combat is entirely different than Tank Table VIII gunnery (shooting out of your 3X power sight and battle sight indexed at 200ms).
Recommendation: Update gunnery tables to include urban type engagements and greatly reduced ranges.
Issue: MOUT training
Discussion: During the BCT train up, the focus of military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) training was on the infantry units, using armor primarily in a follow and support role. During much of the urban fighting, tanks were the primary attack forces. The deficiency in urban warfare training for the tank crews was noticeable and forced units to create “on the spot” tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).
Recommendation: Develop realistic TTPs during training events, include urban warfare training where tanks lead attacks into built-up areas with the infantry in a follow and support role and develop training and evaluation outlines for MOUT tasks for tank companies
Discussion: Many factors, tangible and intangible, contributed to the division’s mission success, but the teamwork of key leaders and supporting arms was vital. We avoided “rice bowl” protection and “gave way together” to get the job done. Habitual unit relationships were routinely severed to ensure adequate support to the main effort. The efforts of our air liaison officers (ALOs) and enlisted terminal attack controllers (ETACs) demonstrated “gauntness” in action – with no concern for who “gets credit” for mission success — one team, one fight, one successful mission. The commendable end result was directly attributable to the months of tough training and close personal relationships that only true professional organizations produce and sustain.
Recommendation: Sustain the teamwork and guard against the post-war degradation back to the “rice bowl” mentality. Already evident in the press, we cannot fall prey to dividing our great joint success into stovepipe success. A synchronized team jointly focused on a clear task and purpose delivered this win for the Iraqi people.
Topic B - Additional Requirements for Personnel and Equipment
Issue: The division on today’s battlefield operates at the tactical, operational, and strategic level.
Discussion: A division operating at the strategic level is generally not addressed. The influence of real time media forces the actions of all combatants into the world’s view. This media coverage can place the actions of a single commander into the strategic realm. The lack of a political advisor (POLAD) leaves the division without a dedicated staff proponent to assist in these complex issues. The role of a political advisor at the division level is to advise the commander on political issues and liaison with the corps’ political advisor. There are several challenges that a political advisor to a division commander could face.
A division’s POLAD has no habitual relationship with the state department to determine the administrations’ current position. This can create friction between the division and higher headquarters if the POLAD’s advice is not aligned with the commander in chief ‘s (CINC) guidance from the National Command Authority (NCA). It is imperative that commanders align their decisions with current policies and orders from higher and merely use the POLAD as an advisor. A common understanding of the political ramifications of each decision must be understood on today’s battlefield.
Recommendation: Include a political advisor in all BCTP rotations and deploy every division in the Army with a team that can advise the commander on strategic issues.
Issue: During offensive combat operations, divisions need additional combat power to secure routes, division level CPs, forward arming and refueling points (FARPs), and Patriot batteries.
Discussion: When the Army changed from four to three companies per battalion, the brigade commander was left with very few options for security requirements. Three companies are required to conduct most tactical missions. When mechanized platoons or companies are required to secure high value assets, the battalion fighting unit is severely degraded.
The division needs additional organic combat power to secure crucial assets. Mechanized divisions will always have a requirement to secure routes for CS and CSS assets, protect FARPs and other higher echelon units. During OIF, companies of combat power were dedicated to security missions, which severely degraded the number of gun tubes in the close fight,
Recommendation: Change the modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) for mechanized divisions to add both an M1114 company and a mechanized company under the control of the division headquarters. These two companies would provide the much needed combat power for security. It would also allow brigade reconnaissance troops (BRTs) and mechanized platoons to stay under the control of their parent unit. This combined with CS/CSS “self-defense” training will enable the division to keep the battalions at full strength for the battles.
Issue: Sniper employment in urban operations.
Discussion: Snipers are essential for infantry task force operations and they need the ability to engage personnel and equipment at ranges beyond 1 km. There are no dedicated vehicles for snipers. The companies had to support them.
Recommendation: Change mechanized infantry MTOE to reflect a sniper section equipped with 7.62 and 50 caliber weapon capability. The sniper section requires organic vehicles.
Topic C - Capabilities, Combat Identification, and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs)
Issue: Role of heavy forces
Discussion: This war was won in large measure, because the enemy could not achieve decisive effects against our armored fighting vehicles. While many contributing factors helped shape the battlespace (air interdiction (AI), close air support (CAS), artillery), ultimately war demands closure with an enemy force within the minimum safe distance (MSD) of supporting CAS and artillery. Our armored combat systems enabled us to close with and destroy, with impunity, the heavily armored and fanatically determined enemy force often within urban terrain. No other ground combat system currently in our arsenal could have delivered similar mission success without accepting enormous casualties, particularly in urban terrain. This is not an anomaly. We will face similar threats, by equally well-armed and determined enemy forces in multiple battlefields the world over. Decisive combat power is essential, and only heavy armored forces provide this capability.
Recommendation: Sustain a robust heavy armored force in our regular army arsenal. Whether that is with the Army’s contingency corps or a revised Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) configuration, which incorporates an armor or mechanized task force, is open to further analysis. Bottom line, we cannot send lightly armored vehicles into high threat environments when decisive victory is assured with our current or upgraded combat systems.
Issue: Force protection.
Discussion: Security was lacking for critical command and control (C 2 ) nodes such as the assault CP, TAC, and TOC as well as for critical staff personnel. Security for the ACP was augmented with a M2 section that greatly enhanced the capability for the commander to move about on the battlefield. However, the TAC and TOC traveled mostly with Avengers as security. While using the Avengers as security for this operation worked, relying on Avengers for this role should not be the fix. With an asymmetrical threat, our C 2 nodes were vulnerable many times to enemy attack. This operation required our C 2 nodes to operate at greater distances than doctrinally accepted. The C 2 nodes were sometimes away from a “rapid reaction” force to provide security should the need arise. The same concerns arose when critical staff moved about the battlefield. The only way to augment security would be to take combat power, critical to their mission requirements, from the TFs.
Recommendation: Change MTOE to allocate M2s for all C 2 nodes (ACP, TAC, TOC) and add M1114s to MTOE to outfit critical staff.
Issue: Combat identification
Discussion: From the beacon lights utilized during limited visibility to the TF guidons flown from the antennas of vehicles, combat identification proved instrumental in the success of the mission. The numbering system used by the brigade combat team allowed for quick identification. We must train with this system at home station. Beacon lights are a major plus for all units executing limited visibility operations. The ability to identify at 4 km (+) was a combat multiplier. More work needs to be done for our soft vehicles (high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (HEMMTs), fuelers)
Recommendation: Use these systems at home station. Force the combat identification panels to be mounted and used, as well as accounted for. Outfit each vehicle with the combat identification panels (CIP), as well as thermal blankets for limited visibility operations. All of these items must be a vehicle basic issue item (BII) so the crew or driver accounts for them. Beacon lights must be issued and utilized as well. The units' identification numbers must be implemented at home station. Roman numerals work for individual units, but the numbers for each task force was a great help in maneuvering in and around other units.
Issue: Task force movement difficulties
Discussion: Movement of the task force over extended distances proved to be one of the most difficult operations performed. The mix of tracked combat vehicles with wheeled cargo support vehicles caused repeated breaks in contact. The 1960’s era 5 ton and 2.5 ton vehicles are not suited to the terrain, especially when loaded down with the additional weight of cargo trailers and water buffalos. Movement of the combat and field trains was also hindered by the lack of FM communications in many of the vehicles. This forced the task force to either travel at 5-10 kph or create a break in contact between the maneuver companies and the combat and field trains. This break forced the TF to pause in the offense to allow the logistical elements to catch up with necessary fuel, ammunition, Class I, etc.
Recommendation: Strengthen cargo fleet maneuverability and reliability in the desert and over extended distances, and ensure all cargo vehicles are equipped with a ring mounted weapon system to enhance security of the trains when separated from maneuver units. Increase number of radios in support vehicles.
Issue: M2 Bradley pros and cons in the urban environment.
Discussion: The M2 is well suited to the urban environment. Its size allows it to be easily maneuvered in built-up areas and the elevation, deflection, and barrel length allow it to engage and suppress vehicles and buildings up close. Over the 800 plus km traveled, the chassis proved very reliable, with the most significant issues coming from the turret drive and integrated sight unit (ISU). A disadvantage was the lack of external load carrying capability. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) can carry 6 soldiers in the back with weapons and basic combat gear (body armor, ammunition, and weapons). The space on the inside of the vehicle runs out quickly with the addition of items such as the joint service lightweight integrated suit technology (JSLIST) and additional ammunition. Viewing outside the vehicle while buttoned up could also be improved with better optics or a camera to increase situational awareness and accuracy of firing port weapons. The addition of a turret weapon for the Bradley commander (BC) would also increase local security by allowing a 360-degree close in direct fire capability. This becomes extremely important in the urban environment. On two occasions, the armor was penetrated by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), and on one occasion ammunition stored in the bussel rack was struck by an RPG.
Recommendation: Continue to Strengthen the BFV as an urban combat platform by developing lightweight reactive armor, reconfiguring bussel rack for protection of ammunition, and providing the BC with a turret machine gun.
Issue: Destruction of enemy equipment
Discussion: Destruction of enemy equipment and munitions must be undertaken with extreme care. Secondary explosions may be extremely large and may occur hours after igniting the equipment.
Recommendation: Soldiers must use the minimum destructive power required. Typically, the safest techniques to disable the equipment mechanically are to run it over, cut fan belts, and puncture radiators. Under no circumstances should non-engineer/explosive ordinance detachment (EOD) soldiers attempt to detonate ammunition or large munitions (rockets, missiles, caches, etc.). These items must be reported using a 10-digit grid for EOD disposal.
Issue: Force modernization starts with individual equipment items.
Discussion: We have only 25% PVS7B the rest are PVS7A. The 7As are better than the naked eye but only slightly. When expected to fight as the lead element in an Army, soldiers should have the most up-to-date essential equipment.
The FBCB 2 “magic box” was one of the most valuable items that we used during this war. It creates a common understanding instantly and shows you in relation to your brother. Many times I was able to visualize a FRAGO as it was being given.
The 120mm antipersonnel round is in the army somewhere. It would have been very helpful in Karbala and Al Kifl. Those are the kind of battles tanks will be fighting in the future. We used the multipurpose antitank round (MPAT) in air mode to do the same thing but it would be more effective if it did not rubble everything around it. We could have fought this war with only the MPAT though.
Bustle rack extensions were needed. In the urban fight, you have to be able to see over the rear of the tank using the vision blocks.
Remote CVCs would have helped as tank commanders were often dismounted.
Built in friend or foe identification that doesn’t require dismounting to change the batteries. The Phoenix lights probably were the most valuable tools that we employed at the individual vehicle level. There needs to be a permanently mounted system that can be turned on or off from the turret.
Recommendation: Fund new PVS14s, field FBCB 2 on leader tanks, generate interest in the 120mm anti-personnel round, fund bustle rack extensions, generate interest and support for remote CVCs, and figure out a way to hard mount the Phoenix lights.
Issue: Force protection for TCs and BCs.
Discussion: The missions conducted during this operation forced units to operate in urban areas and areas where visibility was limited. TCs and BCs did not have effective situational awareness from their hatch. Most BCs and TCs rode at name tape defilade (or lower) but most, if not all, were exposed from the top of the turret. This positioning was the only way for the leaders to have full situational awareness.
Recommendation: Outfit the commander’s side of the BFV and M1 with a cupola that provides protection from the front and sides and allows the leader to have situational awareness. A cupola that provides 8-10 inches of protection will prevent the leader from trying to squeeze back in to the turret at a time when direct fire is being placed on his vehicle.
Issue: The MK-19 40mm machine gun repeatedly proved itself as the decisive weapon while in contact
Discussion: In every contact, the MK-19 distinguished itself as the premier killing system throughout the engagement. Its ability to simultaneously and overwhelmingly both suppress and destroy enemy positions saved the lives of countless U.S. soldiers. The wing man concept of precision M2 cal .50 machine gun fire in tandem with the MK-19 quickly overwhelmed any dismounted or lightly armored enemy force. The MK-19 is a magnificent weapon in combat, despite the shortcomings in training ammunition and its unfamiliarity to many soldiers.
Recommendation: Continue to use the MK-19 and manufacture greater numbers in the Army inventory. This will allow gunners to become more proficient and result in fewer shortages during times of war.
Issue: Mounted urban assault
Discussion: Mounted assaults in a urban area can be executed to gather information on the enemy situation, clear or seize terrain, and destroy enemy forces along a route. Units must have a plan for downed vehicles that allows speedy recovery, as time is usually critical. The BCT also discovered the necessity of close- in small arms fire from TCs hatches or the back of M113s, using personal weapons, to assist in destroying enemy forces close to the road and on overpasses. Finally, employ psychological operations (PSYOPs) assets to warn away civilians who may wander into the crossfire.
Recommendation: Heavy units should incorporate combined arms urban assault techniques in home station training.
Issue: How tankers train-closed hatches, roads, and driving backwards
Discussion: In training, no tanker likes to stay buttoned-up or open protected. Additionally, no tanker likes to stay on the road. The training mentality is that we cannot see anything with our hatches closed and the enemy will destroy us easily on the roads. However, most fights were on roads, highways, and bridges.
Recommendation: Despite the advantage that the OPFOR gains and already has at a training center, I recommend that all commanders force their units to fight at least one battle open-protected at a CTC. It is critical to also practice formations and fighting on roads. Driving backwards with hull orientation to the enemy is another necessary skill.
My company did this numerous times in urban environments to the poor back deck clearance of the main gun.
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