Wednesday, May 29, 2013

React To Contact, Break Contact and Insurgent Operational Planning

I talked about Battle Drills awhile back. Recently Max Velocity talked about Reacting to Contact. We label the steps differently but basically do the same thing. I will get into it a bit but do not feel the need to write it from memory or get fancy paraphrasing FM 7-8. Either you know how to do it and I'm wasting my time or you don't and me writing about it for a couple paragraphs will not fix the problem so I'm wasting my time. For those without an Infantry or Special Operations background Max's book Contact (my review here) is a great starting point. In that mythical time when I have a hundredish dollars of preparedness money which is not spoken for picking up a few copies to hand out would be a good idea.

Anyway in the US Army React to Contact is a Battle Drill. It is the 2nd one according to the copy of MF 7-8 I'm looking at. Personally I think it should probably be number 1 because it is the most frequently used and more importantly it is the base for platoon/ squad attack and break contact.

React to contact is the classing 2 groups stumble into each other situation. To cover it very briefly the element in contact returns fire and seeks cover. Anyone who can see what is going on yells the direction, distance and disposition (CONTACT LEFT, 200 meters, 2 personnel in a ditch or whatever) so everybody in that element can put fire onto them. If people need to move (crawl) to a different location to put fire on this element they will. The patrol's leader will make the assessment of whether they can achieve fire superiority and maneuver on the bad guys or whether they should break contact. At this point they attack or break contact.

I would in fact argue platoon/ squad attack (as per the battle drill it's a hasty attack really, not a deliberate one/ raid/ ambush) and break contact are really just subsets of react to contact. Anyway moving on.

The decision to attack or break contact has a lot of variables. A cohesive well trained force that happens to patrol into an enemy element that is larger but unprepared or outright screwing off/ sleeping/ eating without significant security can defeat them. A squad wiping out a platoon in this fashion is not implausible.

As Max discussed sometimes a small element can not achieve fire superiority. Sometimes the other guy has more soldiers or bigger weapons or key terrain, whatever.  Conventional forces are unlikely to just break contact though they may adjust their locations. If they are unable to achieve fire superiority typically they will try to fix the enemy or at failing that hold up in a small area defense until reinforcement arrives via additional personnel or CAS/ CCA/ Fires.  The reason for this is that in a counter insurgency (COIN) type unconventional environment time is on the conventional forces side. Almost without exception (the exception typically being massed pre planned enemy attacks) they have more friends and weapons coming than the insurgents/ guerrillas do. The longer the fight goes the better it is for the conventional forces and the worse it is for the G's.

For guerilla's/ insurgents/ whatever the word of the day is the question is equally simple with the exact opposite answer. If I were a guerrilla small unit leader in the stumble into another force situation we would break contact probably 8/10 times. The only times we would not break contact would if the enemy force was very small and isolated (2-3 guys that clearly are not a point or security team for a larger element) or a situation that is too good not to exploit (a few enemy soldiers boozing it up in the woods, a high value individual whose vehicle broke down on the side of the road, etc).

John Mosby has debunked the .308 battle rifle 'far ambush' fantasy such that I do not need to talk about it. His point that infantrymen win fights by closing with and destroying the enemy is correct and valid.

In my opinion guerilla's should only fight if they have no other choice or are confident they will win. Guerilla's need to fight when their advantages can be used and their weaknesses mitigated. If a guerrilla force makes contact with the enemy in any situation they are not sure they can win with few to no casualties on their side and a clean get away they need to break contact.

Furthermore coming back to something I have touched on before it is my personal opinion that guerrilla's should not only fight when they can win but when it serves a purpose. Guerrilla's are very often outnumbered, their medical care systems are poor and getting trained replacement personnel is problematic. My point is that G's shouldn't be doing ambushes for the sake of ambushes. Guerrillas can not trade 1-1 casualties with the enemy, they will run out of men and lose by default. Guerrillas should be conducting operations to deter the enemy from patrolling their safe haven areas, gather intelligence, attack key (military) infrastructure or supply/ log convoys to put pressure on the enemies logistics or whatever.

My point is that guerrillas should only fight when they can win and that win serves a greater purpose. Anyway that's my .02 cents on that. As always input is welcome.

1 comment:

StukaPilot said...

Good essay. That 8/10 figure sounds about right, esp. early on in the coming violent discussion, and of course the "8" then sets up the best kind of counter, an L-shaped ambush by our side. As to that little jab at us M1a carriers, I'll say this: you hit someone wearing plate with your BB-gun, they're likely to keep right on coming. Hit them with a .308 @ 3,000 FPS, they are going horizontal.

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