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The Optimal Battle Group vs. the Affiliated Battle Group

Mountie

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Agreed, nine permanently organized combined arms battle groups would not work with the present structure.  It would required full manning.
 

Infanteer

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I'm of two minds on the issue.

On the "Optimized" side, I've always been a big proponent of the "downward diffusion of combined arms" (I started that thread).  I also used to advocate a permanent battalion-level combined arms grouping as well.  In fact, I like the US Army Stryker Brigade concept where a Company Commander has Recce/Surveillance, Snipers, 105mm DFS (MGS), and mortars integral to his sub-unit.  Throw in a section of engineers and you have a mini-battlegroup.  Permanent combined-arms groupings at the sub-unit level is probably the way to go, as sub-units seem to be the "unit of action" or "unit of employment" on today's battlefield.  The Canadian Infantry can do this, all it needs to do is revive its Combat Support Company and push those assets down to the Company Commanders.  The hard part - as identified above - kit and soldiers to fill those billets.

On the "Affiliated" side, I am a little leery of bashing up our Force Generation System (training, career management, branch experience, etc) to simply get what we have anyways - Combat Teams and Battle Groups that are pretty good at killing badguys.  My understanding of organizational theory is that no military organization provides the silver bullet and what works today may be wrong for tomorrow.  "Brigading" different sub-sub and sub-units allows our deployed units max flexibility - do we gain anything if we form "all arms battalions" with 2 infantry coys and 2 armoured sqdns and end up having to chop 2 infantry coys from another battalion and leave the 2 armoured sqdns at home because the war of the day is some jungle bush war?  The idea of Combined Arms Battalions came from the writing of LCol Douglas MacGregor in the mid-90s and works off the premise that the main "unit of employment" of the US Army should be changed from the division to the brigade - we deploy battalions, so I would assume that our "optimized" concept would have to work a bit differently.

Finally, as I said above, any talk of "Optimizing" our units for optimal force employment needs to consider the effects on force generation (again, training, career management, branch experience, etc).  The fact that the unit is the focus for identity (vice the US or German examples where it is found at the Divisional level) and that the unit is heavily tied to the system of a "trade-pure" Regiment/Corps/Branch means that "optimizing" the Army is going to run into some pretty heavy institutional friction.

In my opinion, any "optimizing" right now should be done at the sub-unit level for the Infantry.  Sub-units should receive the extra kit, PYs and actual dudes to man permanent "Combat-Teams", similar to Stryker Companies, with the addition of the Echelon (we in the Infantry need to thank the Armoured Corps for teaching us how to properly resupply ourselves).  The Artillery, Engineers, and Armoured Regiments should continue to exist as unit level entities which preserve higher level support (M777, Tanks, Bridging, etc, etc) that can be Affiliated with the Combat Teams and taken by Battle Group Commanders on operations as required.

My 2 Cents.
 

vonGarvin

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Infanteer makes some very good points.  The key, in my opinion, is that what's good for today's fights may not be good for tomorrow's.  So what?  The organisation, whatever it is, must be flexible.
In my opinion, the brigade group, along the model of the 4 CMBG model, would be ideal. 
As a reminder to our younger forum members, its ORBAT was roughly as follows
4 CMBG HQ and Signal Squadron
2 x Infantry Battalions
1 x Armoured Regiment
1 x Artillery Regiment
1 x Combat Engineer Regiment
1 x Service Battalion

As each task would "come up", the Bde Comd would swap sub-units about.  From there, the CO's would do the same.  Now, I am not advocating having three brigades able to fight at once or whatever, but if this structure were adhered to, with three brigades, each with 2 infantry battalions (yes, leaving us six vice nine), we would, in the short term anyway, be able to fully man them now. If we then have to go to "country X" to do "task Y", then when "Z" CMBG is tasked, then Col Wassisname then would have the assets available to form a BG and send them on their way. 
Going to a permanent structure, optimised or affiliated or whatever, may be a luxury that we cannot do in the short term.
 

ArmyRick

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I kind of think six fully manned infantry battalions would work better as well, BUT my stipulation would be that they have 4 rifle coys each instead of 3. Would a BN deploy with all 4 rifle coy? More than likely no. But it gives you that 10% pool that we actually dip into these days.

 

vonGarvin

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ArmyRick said:
I kind of think six fully manned infantry battalions would work better as well, BUT my stipulation would be that they have 4 rifle coys each instead of 3. Would a BN deploy with all 4 rifle coy? More than likely no. But it gives you that 10% pool that we actually dip into these days.
That's my point.  4 fully manned (less those on career courses, tasking, instructing, whatever) companies would, in my opinion, provide a wider and more easily sustainable force pool.  Heck, maybe there's a mission requiring only a headquarters element and one rifle company (as happened in East Africa in 2000/2001).

As for the other arms and services, there is less demand (eg,if there is only one armoured squadron and one recce squadron required), then the tools are there "in the bag" ready for use.  Heck, suppose a mission where a virtual brigade is required (think Bosnia early 90s, with CANBATT 1, CANBATT 2, LOGBATT, etc).  I think that focussing on battalions/regiments is a bit too far down the totem pole, as it were. 
 

Mountie

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I was reading a book on Canadian operations in Afghanistan and during the one particular operations being discussed the rifle companies were dispursed approximately 75 km away from each other or from the battle group headquarters.  As indicated in above posts the "unit of employment" has become the sub-unit.  Therefore, would it not be more effective to organize those sub-units as mini-combined arms elements? 

Take the USMC armoured reconnaissance battalion as an example (this is the closest we come to a Canadian mechanized infantry battalion).  It operates the LAV-II family of vehicles rather than the LAV-III but its a good comparison.  It is organized with 3-4 line companies each consisting of a headquarters platoon (2 x LAV-25, 1 x LAV-C2, 3 x LAV-L and 1 x LAV-R), three scout platoons (4 x LAV-25) and a weapons platoon (2 x LAV-M and 4 x LAV-AT).  The headquarters and services company has over 330 personnel organized in with the battalion headquarters, a communications platoon, a supply platoon, a transport platoon, a large maintenance platoon and a large medical platoon.

Wouldn't a combined arms battle group permanently organized into company groups be more effective.  Take today's mechanized rifle company and add a combat support platoon with mortars, TUAs, an assault pioneer section and a scout/sniper team.  Then add an echelon with LAV-based logistics vehicles, MRVs, MRTs and Ambulances.  A similarily organized recce squadron, engineer squadron and artillery battery and supported by a large service company and a large health service platoon would round out the battle group and allow it to operated effectively during distributed operations.
 

Mountie

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Enhanced Company Operations - A logical progression to capability development by Col. Vincent J. Goulding, Jr.

From 2004 through 2006 the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) focused its experimentation on the evolving concept of distributed operations (DO), itself focused on better trained, manned, and equipped platoons and squads. The DO project deliberately took a bottom-up approach, guided by the notion that a company is only as good as its platoons, its platoons only as good as its squads, and its squads only as good as its Marines.

The results of this 2-year program were outlined in the April 2008 Marine Corps Gazette.1 Collateral efforts in direct support of DO experimentation were SQUAD FIRES and COMBAT HUNTER, the former to create, through simulation, Types II and III Close Air Support capability at the Squad Level and the latter to increase tactical situational awareness of individual Marines. Both projects were successful.

In June 2007 the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force hosted a Tactical Capabilities for Irregular Warfare Conference. Participants were assigned to one of three subgroups and asked to identify irregular warfare required capabilities in terms of "find, fix, or engage."  Each group produced a list of required capabilities within its specific assigned topic. While there were redundant findings in several areas among the three groups, the required capability that all three identified (and the one that precipitated the liveliest discussion) had to do with standardizing a company-level intelligence cell.

It was clear that company commanders were creating this capability ad hoc and out of hide. It was equally clear that what they wanted was a standardized "train, man, equip" model.

The small contingent of MCWL participants returned to Quantico, assessed what had taken place over those 2 days at Camp Pendleton, and decided that the time had come for experimentation to shift from the squad- and platoon-focused DO program to the company level. For all intents and purposes, enhanced company operations, or ECO, was born.

Why the Company Level? Why CLIC?
Many battlefield functions previously thought of as "battalion level" have gravitated to the ever-broadening shoulders of the company commander. The problem, of course, is that the company is not trained, manned, or equipped to accomplish many of these critical tasks. Savvy company commanders and their Marines make it happen, but they do so more often in spite of than because of institutional support.

Add to this the Marine Corps ethos of maneuver warfare predicated on intelligence-driven operations, and the company-level intelligence cell (CLIC) became the logical starting point. A final consideration was the less obvious one that the company is probably the smallest tactical formation capable of conducting independent operations—and frequently does on today's battlefield.

CLIC experimentation began with development of a best practices model, based on a series of face-to-face meetings with combat veteran company commanders from across the Marine Corps. Based on those meetings, a task list was created, manning straw man developed, and "experimental" equipment list procured. Just as importantly, and in conjunction with Training and Education Command's (TECom's) Marine Corps Intelligence School, an extant training package was modified to suit the task.

Two limited objective experiments (LOEs) were conducted. They included all facets of training, manning, and equipping—culminating in mission execution during Exercise MOJAVE VIPER. The results were positive. As a result, the Marine Corps Combat Development Command's (MCCDC's) Combat Development Directorate established an integrated planning team to assess the results and inject the appropriate takeaways across doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities.

Additionally, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Office brokered a number of meetings with the U.S. Army and has expressed interest in funding requisite training facilities and equipment for the execution of CLIC training in both Services.

Company-Level Operations Center
The 8-month CLIC project consistently validated the plan to take company enhancement to the next level. Lessons learned from current operations were also making it increasingly apparent that, as areas of responsibility in Iraq and Afghanistan became increasingly larger and more distributed, more and more battlefield functions were being pushed to the company level. Early in the CLIC process and after discussions with TECom, particularly the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group (MCTOG) at Twentynine Palms, the decision was made to grow the CLIC effort into CLOC—company-level operations center—and make it the centerpiece of ECO LOE 2.

The approach is similar to CLIC. Begin with a research phase to define the required tasks, develop a prototype best practices model, man and equip it properly, conduct requisite training, then have the test unit run it through MOJAVE VIPER. Collaboration with and input from MCTOG and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center's Tactical Training Exercise Control Group has been indispensable, as has been the support of the 7th Marines, who from the outset have fully understood that the overhead required by experimentation is worth the value-added that CLIC and CLOC provide, not only to the regiment's organic battalions but also eventually to battalions Marine Corps-wide. Live force CLOC experimentation is scheduled for this summer at Twentynine Palms.

The Next Steps
ECO doesn't end with CLIC/CLOC. Two additional events are being designed and refined. The first is to look at potential critical limiting factors (logistics, command and control) to ECO (LOE 3); the second is the requirements incumbent with company-level expeditionary operations from the sea (LOE 4).

LOE 3 will examine two major objective areas, both in the context of an immature theater and irregular enemy: (1) distributed logistics/casualty handling and evacuation and (2) company-level command and control. Achievement of the first objective will include the use of prototypical air delivery systems, as well as unmanned air and ground vehicles for supply distribution and "short haul" casualty evacuation (CasEvac)—short haul in that the idea is to get the injured Marine from point of injury to a relatively secure area where conventional CasEvac can occur without putting mission enablers at undue risk from direct fire. MCWL planners are working closely with the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Research Center, and U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Medical Distance Support and Evacuation Joint Capability Technology Demonstration Office. The logistical and medical implications of the distributed battlefield transcend any single Service.

The second objective of ECO LOE 3 has a number of moving parts. Company-level command and control must begin with a capable and simple on-the-move, over-the-horizon tactical radio. To that end, MCWL developed a netted iridium distributed tactical communications system (DTCS). While never intended to become a program of record, DTCS was designed to provide the tactical beyond-line-of-sight communications required to develop and assess the tactics, techniques, and procedures the distributed battlefield requires at the company level. This command and control aspect of ECO LOE 3 has an additional and potentially very important subobjective: inform MCCDC and the Marine Corps Systems Command?s (MarCorSysCom's) development of the program of record Capability Set V—designed specifically for the company commander?s operations center. ECO LOE 3 is scheduled to take place late in the summer of 2009.

ECO From the Sea
The final event in the ECO program will occur in 2010 and look at the employment of a reinforced rifle company from the sea on a mission that causes it to operate in an austere environment and at significant distance from its higher headquarters. The mission won't be tactically unsound but will be tactically demanding. The central idea will be to put stress on communications to higher and lower headquarters, as well as on all aspects of tactical logistics, to include CasEvac.

The intended consequence of ECO LOE 4 is reorientation of experimentation and capability development on the Corps' enduring core competency of seabased expeditionary warfare as described in Operational Maneuver From the Sea and Ship-to-Objective Maneuver, written over a decade ago. In aggregate, the ECO experimentation program will put teeth into prescient concept papers of the past as well as contribute to the development of tactical units eminently capable of conducting the types of operations outlined in the recently released long war concept.2

Final Thoughts
Marines win battles at the tactical level, and a robust partnership between MCWL, TECom, and MarCorSysCom ensures that MCCDC gets the input it needs to identify valid requirements and set the stage for training, manning, and equipping tactical units that are the most agile, lethal, and survivable anywhere. Experimentation comes with a price, especially when considering operational tempo and the underlying requirements behind the ever-improving predeployment training package in which units must engage. The reality is, however, that Marines like those depicted in the photographs in this article stand to gain a great deal from the capability development and assessment process Marine Corps experimentation brings to the table.
 

Infanteer

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I read that article in the latest edition of the Marine Corps Gazette (perhaps you should include a link?) and it piqued my interest.  I followed the DO Project with interest and see ECO as the logical extention.

Problem is, is there any depth to the concept.  Our Doctrine is heading this way, with the new force employment concept being based around the concept of "adaptive dispersed operations".  Seems like we managed to get "adaptive" and "dispersed" - two big military buzzwords today - into one phrase.  Yay.  Now, does this mean cramming more electronics onto existing structures?
 

vonGarvin

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I have an idea.  Let's form SECTION Ops Centres.  I mean, why stop at Coy level? [/sarcasm]

Let's face it.  Our military is currently jumping a shark.  Our HQs are bloated, ineffective and very VERY slow.  A boy scout could out-OODA loop even our once-lean BGs!

ADO is just the latest in useless buzz-phrases that add no value.  "Spread out" is one way to say "dispersed", and we do that already.  Same with "Adaptive".  Do they mean FLEXIBLE?  I mean, come on: why do we really need to label wheels every time someone re-invents them?
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Infanteer said:
Problem is, is there any depth to the concept.  Our Doctrine is heading this way, with the new force employment concept being based around the concept of "adaptive dispersed operations".  Seems like we managed to get "adaptive" and "dispersed" - two big military buzzwords today - into one phrase.  Yay.  Now, does this mean cramming more electronics onto existing structures?

Don't forget "command centric" and "network enabled."  Make sure you make it "JIMP capable." 

A while ago I was thinking about "platoon groups."  This was based on watching platoons operate with a variety of support elements added in.  I think that this might be too low of a grouping.  Combat team/company group operations do seem to the norm, but not every situation calls for the same organization.  Spreading things like artillery, tanks, PSYOPs and CIMIC around can work in one situation, but it can then be hard to bring those assets back together to focus on a main effort.  What works in an insugency might not work when facing a modern army in old-school heavy metal fighting.

I suppose I want to have my cake and eat it to.  Organize along single-arms lines but train to group arms together at low levels.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Your CSS point is extremely important.  The loss/slashing of integral CSS from combat arms units is, perhaps, the issue that needs resolving before we start worrying over where other things like integral TUA et.  You can plug in supporting arms like tanks, artillery, reconnaissance, engineers etc, but integral CSS and C2 should be the baseline for a unit.
 

a_majoor

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Mortarman Rockpainter said:
I have an idea.  Let's form SECTION Ops Centres.  I mean, why stop at Coy level? [/sarcasm]

Let's face it.  Our military is currently jumping a shark.  Our HQs are bloated, ineffective and very VERY slow.  A boy scout could out-OODA loop even our once-lean BGs!

Tango2Bravo said:
Your CSS point is extremely important.  The loss/slashing of integral CSS from combat arms units is, perhaps, the issue that needs resolving before we start worrying over where other things like integral TUA et.  You can plug in supporting arms like tanks, artillery, reconnaissance, engineers etc, but integral CSS and C2 should be the baseline for a unit.

It seems the two common factors (going back through the thread) would seem to be a need for a smaller, faster and more flexible Command and Control apparatus as well as an integral CSS organization.

It seems rather crazy that Rommel could command an entire army spread out over North Africa from the back of a half-track while we need a huge command organization with multiple cells and sub cells for a single battle group. Using T2B's observation, maybe we should look at the BG (OBG or ABG) as a tree. The C3I and CSS are the permanent roots and trunk of the organization, and units and capabilities are branches grafted on as needed. I am still of the opinion that the "branches" should have common bonds of long association (like we sort of have with the CMBG's), and fleshing out the units to full strength to prevent musical chairs on deployment would probably be the cure for that problem.

This kind of turns the issue inside out; while capabilities might change and evolve (CIMIC and PSYOPS will not be very important in a future heavy metal conflict, but are very important now, while combat arms units will become smaller and capable of more dispersion), the real focus is not on the tooth but the tail.....
 

a_majoor

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If Command and control is the trunk of the tree, then here is a working model to start with:

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20080930.aspx

Putting Science Fiction To Work

September 30, 2008: The war in Iraq has changed the U.S. Army in many ways, some of them largely unknown to the public. A few of these unknown have been huge, and one of the less publicized of those has been the Command Post of the Future (CPOF). This has become the Command Post of Right Now. CPOF is basically a PC based software and communications system that enables users to collaborate with other units and officers, and plan and run operations in real-time. Each CPOF PC has three flat screen displays, which is unusual for your average PC user, but quite common for corporate heavyweights and Wall Street operators. There are now over 500 of these CPOF PCs in use at brigade and higher headquarters in Iraq and Afghanistan (and worldwide).

The idea for CPOF is only ten years old, but five years ago it was basically ready to go. CPOF showed up in Iraq four years ago, and emerged from beta (was officially "released") two years ago. The speed of development had a lot to do with the fact that similar software was already in heavy use by corporations, and that the army had been quick to adopt PCs and digital data.

CPOF means that commanders can confer from anywhere, with anyone, using network and videoconferencing technology. Most importantly, maps and other data can be shared, in real time, as well. For several decades, the Command Post of the Future was much talked about, but didn't appear much because of cost (high) and technology (largely science fiction) issues. As has happened in the past, wartime tends to eliminate cost and technology issues. In this case, civilian command post technology showed up, along with lots of high speed satellite communications capability, just as the war on terror began. That took care of a lot of cost and technology issues. By the time Iraq was invaded, individual combat divisions, and other military organizations, were already taking the civilian software and hardware to create their own Command Post of the Future experiments.

The U.S. Army had several official projects in development for Command Post of the Future, most notably ideas based on the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below (FBCB2) project. Parts of this (especially the Blue Force Tracking system) were quickly issued to the troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As combat operations continued in Iraq, so did the flow of money for new communications gear, software and communications capability. As a result, there were soon several improvised Command Post of the Future systems in action in combat zones, and headquarters that were supporting them. The tools were available, there was a need, and things just happened. Standardizing all this, and distributing it to the rest of the army, and Department of Defense, took a year or so. But with new hardware and software appearing every month, standardization became a problem. However, many components of this new form of command post (the fast satellite data links, PCs, large flat screen displays and laptops everywhere, plus easy networking) do remain fairly stable. Most of the change is coming in the software. But even this aspect is kept under control because most screw-ups occur in front of senior commanders. This provides an additional incentive to get these things working right.

This was not the first time radical technology sneaked up on the military. Portable radio, first widely used during World War II, radically changed how commanders operated, especially at the tactical level. But the current revolution is different in that the signals can easily be encrypted, and carry visual, as well as speech, data. Thus commanders at all levels can eliminate face-to-face meetings, and just videoconference, or talk freely about plans. But even Instant Messaging have become a powerful tool, because many times, a few short text messages are all that is needed to solve problems.

Finally, the Internet provided, for the military, many new ideas on how to efficiently handle information. The Internet has been militarized much faster than anyone expected. That has led to the military adopting new database and visualization tools as well. In a single decade, the way commanders run their units, and battles has changed more than it has in the past half century.
 

vonGarvin

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There are no surprises in this article.  Not only is the US doing things this way, but also the CF.  The only problem that I personally have with it is the lack of its acceptance by some elements in the chain of command.  It's hard to break the habit of having a 3D map model for face to face orders when the exact same information can be passed via electronic (and secure) means.  I for one rely exclusively on digital applications.  Having said that, analog means are always on standby "just in case".  (Just like Joe Dirt, I always have back up!)
 

dapaterson

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Dinosaurs in the chain of command?  Who'd have thought?

See also: Radar in Hawai'i, and officers who ignored its reports.
 

Mountie

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Is there any update on how the 2 RCR ABG experiment is going?  I haven't been able to find anything online other than a reference on the RCD website to its squadron that is forming part of the BG.

 

Mountie

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The RCD website calls the 2 RCR BG an "Optimized Battle Group".  However, the DND paper posted earlier in this site says the Army will move towards "Affiliated Battle Groups".  What's with the contradition in terms?  Is it just a word play or have plans changed at all?
 

Mountie

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Sounds great.  I just thought that it was a ABG experiment.  I wasn't sure how that would be different from the present.  I like the idea of an OBG.  So are the supporting artillery battery and armoured squadron actually being moved to Gagetown?  I assume the engineer squadron is already in Gagetown.
 

armyvern

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Indeed they are ... I have seen them ...  8)

>:D

Oh ... and lookie down on the bottom of the page you linked - there's a pic which includes the DCO Maj Kim Lapointe ... for those roto zero Namibia people - he was there as a Sgt. I'll have to go toss that up in that thread (I forgot about listing him).
 
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