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Sitrep from Kahndahar

Old Sweat

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The following sitrep from LCol Tim Bishop, who went from CO 1 RCHA to G9 at KAF, is a good read.

Please share this with Gunners across Canada - From Lt Col Tim Bishop,
Chief of Fires for Task Force Afghanistan (Golf Niner)

Sirs all,

When we arrived here in Feb 09 we knew that there would be challenges and
some difficult times.  We also knew that we were well trained and well
equipped for the months ahead.  The fact that the battery that was here
from 2 RCHA already had most of their tour under their belt made that
transition easy.  The folks that we took over from were also really well
prepared and Maj Sonny Hatton had done an outstanding job setting our team
up for success.

Being the commanders gunner (G9er) has meant that I have had the good
fortune to get out and visit all the gun lines and gunners on every
position from the actual gun lines to the more remote gunners on Ghundy
Ghar and other exotic locales.  Sometimes getting there was challenging
and at times even a little exciting, but the gunners always welcomed me
with open arms and a cup of coffee - or something colder, which in summer
here is much appreciated.  Their morale is - as ever - high.  I attribute
that to a couple of things.  Firstly great leadership at all levels.  From
Bdr on up, they all continue to inspire their younger charges and mentor
them in everything from gunnery, to basic life skills.  Second and most
important here - the sense of purpose shared by all for the mission.  They
all understand that they are here to support their fellow Canadians and
coalition partners that are in direct contact with the enemy and they
never have to be told to hurry up.  When the command to take posts is
given there is no hesitation at all.  I have been asked why the gunners
are in their underwear firing the guns - there are cameras everywhere
after all - and I invariably answer the RSM - they support the troops
first and get dressed at end of mission.  I have yet to see a gunner
without their IPE on the guns - but I have seen several in shorts and flip
flops because that is what they had on when the call came to take posts.

And did the calls come.  At all hours of the day and night and in all
kinds of weather.  The guns have responded to all calls with the expertise
and speed we are known for.  They are loved by the troops on the ground as
they know that they are always there.  This can't be said for other
support.  They have done every type of mission imaginable and some called
for creative solutions, all worked out in the famous hot planning fashion
well known to the Director. (Or planned on the fly for those uninitiated
in the fine art)  They have worked with and fired for a variety of allies
in contact with the enemy and have always earned their respect and
admiration.  To date they have fired more than any other roto and we still
have time left.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the sterling work of our supporting
troops.  The HALO, and LCMRs have been kept very busy supporting the fight
and are often our first indication that something is going on in the AO.
So accurate is their information, that we have been able to contact the
call signs operating in the area and ask them if there is something
happening - more often than not the reply is - Contact - wait out!  Also,
the SUAV continues to break records monthly for the amount of outstanding
Situational Awareness they are providing.

The folks that are nearest and dearest to my heart are the Coordination
Centres in the Bde HQ.  They have functioned flawlessly for the entire
time that we have been here ensuring that the battle space is clear for
all other operations, the air space is clear and coordinating the assets
to win the fire fight.  The thing that I am most proud of is their
willingness to work 24/7 to keep the troops in the field fed with
information, and occasionally even ammunition.  Although they function
behind the scenes their work is critical to the smooth day to day support.
Without them there would be chaos in the battlespace.  To give you an
idea of the scope of this challenge, Kandahar Airfield sees about 6500
individual air movements a week making it the busiest single strip
airfield in the world. (Heathrow has about 5500)  All of this traffic
transits our battlespace.

I would like everyone to know that we largely have it right.  With our
solid teamwork we win the fire fight, and we do that by combining whatever
assets are available at the given moment from Arty, to CAS, to CCA and
sometimes all of it.  These are all coordinated by the Bde FSCC, ASCC, and
TACP.  Our training is outstanding, our selection of troops and soldier
skills are second to none, and the heart and soul with which the soldiers
shoulder the load makes me proud to call myself a gunner.

I will close by remembering our gunner wounded during this tour.  To the
young FOO that was severely injured in an IED attack just weeks before the
end of 2 RCHAs tour, and to the MBdr that was my crew commander that was
injured in the IED blast on 03 Jul; both of them were out doing the
business and were highly respected members of their teams - both were/are
sorely missed.  The sacrifice that everyone makes to come here and
especially in these two cases, to make the lives of Afghans better, must
always be remembered.
 

The Bread Guy

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Great stuff, and thanks for sharing, OS!
 

vonGarvin

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"G 9er" is a bit Hell of a stretch, given that all the gunners are in the BG.  (By "gunners" I mean not only the FOOs, the gun battery, but also the ISTAR Tp, and so forth).
I have my own opinions as to the performance of the TFK FSCC, but I'll reserve them.

Other than that, a good read.
 

Old Sweat

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Midnight Rambler said:
"G 9er" is a bit Hell of a stretch, given that all the gunners are in the BG.  (By "gunners" I mean not only the FOOs, the gun battery, but also the ISTAR Tp, and so forth).
I have my own opinions as to the performance of the TFK FSCC, but I'll reserve them.

Other than that, a good read.

But there are other fire support resources and troops to be supported in the TFK area, and in any case things like air space control over the TF area are probably not best done by the BG. As far as I can determine, HQ TFK originally did not have a FSCC and it was not until 1-07 that a small Fire Support Advisory Team (FSAT) was established consisting of 1 major, 1 MWO and two or three junior NCOs. On TF 1-07 a troop from the battery was taken away by the Comd TFK and given to non-Canadian elements on two or three occasions depending how one counts it for prolonged periods.

The FSAT was expanded into a full FSCC for subsequent rotos.
 

muskrat89

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Tim and I grew up pretty close together in Woodstock, NB and are both 89th Battery Alum.

Good on him! Thanks OS
 

Old Sweat

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Yesterday I spent about three hours talking to the officer who commanded B Bty on TF 1-08. During our conversation, I asked about dress on the gun position. It is normal practice for part of the gun detachments to be fully dressed and close to the guns in the stand easy area. The rest of the detachment are resting, eating, engaged in personal administration or whatever and may be in underwear and flip flops. It is, after all, a 24/7 operation. When the order "take post" is given, everyone runs to their place on the guns or in the CP regardless of dress. Depending upon the requirement to maintain fire, individuals may be sent back to get properly dressed.

 

Dan Bobbitt

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Great sitrep, it was nice to get an update on how things are going with the guns over there, it's not always easy to get at this info from where I'm at. 

On the G9/TF FSCC requirement I can back up OS's comments - I was deployed with TF 1-07 with the Gun Bty when there was no full up FSCC, only an undermanned FSAT which did some great work with minimal support, and no "G9" at TF HQ.  This created many problems, given that although the Gun Bty belonged to the BG it provided support to the entire TF, and at times other TFs in RC South for extended periods(eg - a Gun Tp OPCON to the Brit TF in Helmand for 40 odd days and US forces in the North).  The FSCC at the TF was needed to do all the normal things a Bde FSCC does - establish priorities of fire, coordinated cross boundary fires and, even though the gun Bty belonged to the BG, allocate fire sp resources to those in the Tf who needs them most.  The FSAT did its best to do this during our tour, but was not manned, equipped or given the remit to do it all.  A full up TF FSCC has gone a long way to fix this.
On the requirement for a G9er over there, i was extremely happy to see LCol Bishop was given/took on this role.  On our tour there was no senior Gunner advisor to the TF Comd - the FSAT Maj was there but he was separated from the Comd, having to go through the G3, CHoPs and COS to "get to" the Comd.  As a result, the Comd did not have readily available Gunner advice, and in my humble opinion some poor decisions were made on the employment of the guns as a result.  Having a LCol advisor direct to the TF Comd (like the CO of the Gun Regt does with the Bde Comd) is way overdue and much needed.

related to this discussion is where in the TF the Bty is best placed given the current employment over there - should the Gun Tps belong to the Tf, as they provide fire sp across the TF to all units (BG, OMLT, even the PRT) and to other units?  How has the influx of US units changed this dynamic?  Maybe a topic for another thread, I have to go as my wife is tapping her foot at the door and anxious to head out.

Dan
 

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Dan Bobbitt said:
related to this discussion is where in the TF the Bty is best placed given the current employment over there - should the Gun Tps belong to the Tf, as they provide fire sp across the TF to all units (BG, OMLT, even the PRT) and to other units?  How has the influx of US units changed this dynamic?

Interesting point - isn't the fundmental organizational principle of the Artillery that it is commanded at the highest level and coordinated at the lowest?  Moving the Bty to TFK would seem to fit into this principle.

However, this would also leave that BG Comd with no organic indirect fire of his own.  I would really want to see a Mortar Platoon again, but we've all been there before.... :-X
 

Dan Bobbitt

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You're absolutely right on the organizational principle of Artillery.  You're also right that it would leave the BG with no integral fire support of its own, however with multiple manoeuvre units under TFK now (BG, OMLT, PRT, US TFs that perhaps lack their own integral fire sp like MP unist) a better use of fire sp would be to centralize the Gun Tps under TFK to prioritize and allocate this scarce resource. 
The Gun Tps overe there are actually mini Batteries capable of independant deployment across the AO.
It would be important to leave the BC, FSCC and FOOs with the BG to do the normal advice and coordination thing, incresaingly important with the number and types of fire sp assets being used over there.
I'm with you on the Mortar Platoons  -most Gunners were the last guys who wnated to see those go away and become the responsibility of the Artillery, it meant about 1/4 fewer soldiers providing fire support.

Dan
 

vonGarvin

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Dan Bobbitt said:
I'm with you on the Mortar Platoons  -most Gunners were the last guys who wnated to see those go away and become the responsibility of the Artillery, it meant about 1/4 fewer soldiers providing fire support.
Hi Dan (et al)
The key point is the integral fire support to the BG.  The US bn over there when I was there (TF 3-08) had its own mortars, as well as a troop of M-777s (which were tasked DS to the US bn, if I recall thing correctly).  Putting the battery "out there" as a TFK-level asset is fine, so long as the BG (which does the fighting "slice" of our commitment, although naturally PRT, OMLT and others also need support) gets integral fire support.  Is this a mortar "battery", manned by Artillerymen?  Sure.  I don't think the argument is "The infantry need to man the mortars", I think it is "The battlegroup needs integral indirect fire support".  How that is done is the key.  On my tour, that was F Bty, 2 RCHA.  Ergo the fallacy of "G9" (commander) vice "Chief of Fires" (staff officer) in the original post of this thread.
 

Dan Bobbitt

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Midnight Rambler,
Great to hear at least some of the US units are coming with their own integral fire support, that was not always the case when I was there.
I'm with you on the G9 vs Chief of Fires distinction, and you are bang on in that the Chief of Fires does not have command authority over the Gun Battery, my bad for implying that he did in my last post.  It is important to note however that the role the Chief of Fires is currently employed in, as not only a staff officer but as an advisor to the commander, one who travels with him and is his go to guy for advice on the TF's employment of all fire support, is also an important distinction and is a much different (and improved) way for employing the Chief of Fires then in previous TFK HQs.
I also understand where you are coming from on the desire for the BG to have integral fire support, the issue is that there are only so many Gunners and Guns out there and its pretty unlikely that they are going to beef up the TF with more (and even less likely the army could force generate them).  So the TF finds itself with multiple "manoeuvre" (granted that the BG does much of the combat operations, but all the manoeuvre units are in pretty regular combat) units conducting operations, but only one (the BG) with dedicated fire support and no fire support assets at the formation level with which they can influence operations...Having the Bty belong to the BG made sense when they were the only show in town, but that's no longer the case. 
Centralizing this scarce resource at the TF level, who then parcels out Gun Tps to the manoeuvre units through priorities of fire and tactical tasks (A Tp in direct support to the BG for example) would make for better use of available gun support.  The unit(s) that are doing the majority of the fighting get the pri of fire of the guns.  This is not easy for me to admit, as there was rumblings abut this happening even when I was there in 07 and I fought it tooth and nail.  The need to review the command relationship of the Bty was driven home to me however when I was on Observer Controller for F Bty's CMTC exercise in Spring 08.  There were numerous operations where the Bty's guns had to support other TF elements, and coordination was made more difficult then it needed to be because of a lack of FSCC capability at TF HQ, the unwillingness of the BG to "give up the guns" for even a short period, and the fact that when the Gun Tps were DS/pri of fire to other TF units the other units did not possess the C2 (BC, FSCC and sufficient FOOs)to coord the use of arty.  Giving the Gun Tps to the TF and allowing them to establish pri of fire/assign tactical tasks would go some way to sorting this out although in my opinion it would have to be done very carefully to ensure that the Tac Gps (not sure if this term is still doctrinally correct, but the BC, FSCC and FOOs) remained with the BG to do the normal advice and coordination bit. 

Dan
 
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