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Offline Haligonian

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Re Grouping
« on: November 17, 2018, 16:56:38 »
I'm out supporting Ex Common Ground and this year's Combat Team Commander's Course features a lot of regrouping on the fly.  While regrouping is supposed to be something we're to be good at and it should be a drill it induces significant friction.  Ensuring radios get on the right freq, moving one sub unit in behind another and getting it re-oriented, and getting the new cbt tm comd/spting arm comd situationally aware of the new problem and terrain.  Alleviating that friction requires time.  It also has a detrimental effect on the work rest cycle for leadership particularly platoon/troop commanders as they need to attend multiple sets of orders as they’re handed around.  I don’t think any sane commander would do the amount of regrouping that we are doing in real life but we’re here to achieve a course objective.

All this regrouping has got me thinking.  The Canadian Army is poor in armour and so rapid regrouping seems like a thing to be good at as we’ll need to rapidly make combined arms groupings and our infantry needs armour protection until we get ourselves a proper anti armour weapon (TOW doesn’t count yet due to its immobility).  After looking at the British Standard Orders Cards I started thinking on the Combat Team grouping and whether it’s really appropriate in most situations.

Despite what I said above about the frictions of regrouping I think for offensive operations, with a bit of practice, we could regroup in the attack position vice forming a Cbt Tm for the entire advance.  This is for enemy positions that would be appropriate for BG attacks, smaller objectives may still necessitate the more traditional Cbt Tm grouping.  In this case we could keep our squadrons complete to maximize shock and fight as a massed fist.  When an assault was required intimate support troops would move to the AP, elevate barrels, and merry up with the infantry there.  They would have a standard command relationship, probably OPCON, they’d come up on the Coy freq and fight with the infantry.  On ‘Punch Punch Punch’ they detach from the Coy and get back to the Squadron while the infantry gets into the terrain oriented and often lengthy business of consolidation and reorganization.  This is something that we need to be practicing vice routinely forming the Cbt Tms

A few random related ideas.

In Infantry Battalion in Battle and BG in Ops (1993) our command relationships were Under Command, In Support, and In Location (page 7-1-2) vice our current Full Command, OPCOM, OPCON, TACCOM, and TACCON.  Battalion in Battle on page 7-2-6 states that armour should be employed In Support vice Under Command to avoid complicated administrative relationships and facilitate rapid regrouping and that the support provided to infantry would be just as good under In Support as Under Command.

General von Mellenthin defending on the eastern front preferred to keep his infantry and tanks separate, only combining them at the division level.  He said that combining units only leads to confusion and should be avoided.  This is probably an effect of his particular situation but it is interesting to consider.

Offline FJAG

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2018, 19:19:41 »
Interesting thoughts. My own experiences hearken back to my own CTC in the early 70s and working with German ones on live fire battle runs at Shilo in the 70s/80s. On-the-fly regrouping was never a big thing primarily because all of our exercises were heavily pre-planned. Where I saw it work well however was with the Germans whose Panzergrenadiers were well versed in tank/infantry cooperation and a Panzergrenadier platoon from would very easily react to radio orders chopping it over to a specific Panzer company. Those exercises, however, (being short duration and very structured with paired Panzergrendier and Panzer bns) did not deal with the myriad of support/supply issues which come with such a transaction.

On a different note, the manoeuvre battalions in US Armored Brigade Combat Teams have over the last half dozen years morphed into Combined Arms Battalions which have a mix of two tank and one mechanized company (or two mechanized and one tank company-they used to all have two of each previously) which makes regrouping within a battalion (and the resultant supply issues) much simpler. (Similarly within Stryker BCTs, the direct fire Stryker Mobile Gun System Platoon is integral to the rifle company providing organic combined arms capabilities).

It strikes me that perhaps Mellenthin's was absolutely right and that regrouping elements from different battalions on-the-fly (or maybe even more deliberately) is fraught with potential disaster. That leaves us with either battalions that do not regroup and act as unique, unaltered entities (and I don't think that's what we do anymore) or need to be structured from the ground up as existing combined arms teams that already have their organic ability to mix and match. (Again as an aside I note that part of the concept of a US Combined Arms Battalion is that should be prepared to detach or receive additional tank or infantry companies from another CAB - a task that should be within it's capability because it already has similar organic units and appropriate support/supply structures in place). Considering our own tank to LAV company ratios, I doubt that we will ever have sufficient training to be able to become proficient at on-the-fly regrouping outside of the unique situations that we have on the CTC.

I note that even with US Combined Arms Companies that their manuals (see ATP 3-90.1 Armor and Mechanized Company Combat Team https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/atp3_90x1.pdf) have little discussion about regrouping. The topic is touched on briefly under the title of "Transitions" for each phase of war. (See for example Ch 2 Sec IV for Offensive Ops which discusses "Consolidation", "Reorganization" and "Continuing Operations")

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Offline Infanteer

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2018, 22:14:00 »
Interesting thread.

Let's imagine a Battle Group on the offence.  Who's going to be re-grouping?  While we would likely do it by forming combat teams prior to crossing the LD, how much regrouping on the fly are we doing?  If a combat team assaults, is it really going to be able to keep going, or is out of the fight for the rest of the day?  It's easy to regroup after attacking Figure 11 on sticks, but how many "fights per day" does a sub-unit have?

The most likely form of regrouping we need to get could at is merging elements after a fight.  The combat team attacks and destroys the enemy.  It's got casualties.  It probably, if history is reliable, has a bunch of dead leaders.  Since we use LAVs like they're tanks, we've probably got mangled light armoured vehicles around the objective.  We should probably get good at merging sections, merging platoons or troops, cross-loading crew members (take that gunner from the M-kill LAV and put him in the one where the gunner lost his eyes to spalling....), and even, as a battle group commander, merging companies or squadrons.  I remember working with a tank squadron that did this as it was whittled down from 13 tanks to 6 over the course of a day....

A read of Rommel's Infantry Attacks illustrates this.  When he's leading his detachment (essentially a battalion) at Caporetto, he breaches the enemy lines and gets into a running exploitation/pursuit over the course of a week.  He's constantly fighting battles, reforming his companies, merging elements, forming assault groups, and detaching elements to shuttle the bags of PoWs to the rear.  This is re-grouping - figuring out what you have on hand to keep momentum.  What's also interesting is that Rommel barely ever conducts a frontal in the mountains - especially at Caporetto, his battle is a series of penetrations that turn into attacks from the rear.  Attacking from the rear appears to be far more effective than attacking from the flank.  When do we practice that?

In Infantry Battalion in Battle and BG in Ops (1993) our command relationships were Under Command, In Support, and In Location (page 7-1-2) vice our current Full Command, OPCOM, OPCON, TACCOM, and TACCON.  Battalion in Battle on page 7-2-6 states that armour should be employed In Support vice Under Command to avoid complicated administrative relationships and facilitate rapid regrouping and that the support provided to infantry would be just as good under In Support as Under Command.

The US system of "supporting/supported," where the supporting commander is required to "aid, assist, sustain, or protect" his supported commander, might be a better concept in these situations.  The US system, with only COCOM, OPCOM, and TACOM, is a bit less clunky than the NATO system you describe above.  If you have a platoon or troop operating with a company or squadron, maybe TACOM is good, but if you have a square combat team, or you're quickly forming a combat team on the battlefield, supporting/supported may be the way to go - we essentially practice it this way anyways.

Quote
General von Mellenthin defending on the eastern front preferred to keep his infantry and tanks separate, only combining them at the division level.  He said that combining units only leads to confusion and should be avoided.  This is probably an effect of his particular situation but it is interesting to consider.

...and yet the Germans were masters of it with the Kampfgruppe....
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Haligonian

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2018, 21:22:05 »
It strikes me that perhaps Mellenthin's was absolutely right and that regrouping elements from different battalions on-the-fly (or maybe even more deliberately) is fraught with potential disaster. That leaves us with either battalions that do not regroup and act as unique, unaltered entities (and I don't think that's what we do anymore) or need to be structured from the ground up as existing combined arms teams that already have their organic ability to mix and match. (Again as an aside I note that part of the concept of a US Combined Arms Battalion is that should be prepared to detach or receive additional tank or infantry companies from another CAB - a task that should be within it's capability because it already has similar organic units and appropriate support/supply structures in place). Considering our own tank to LAV company ratios, I doubt that we will ever have sufficient training to be able to become proficient at on-the-fly regrouping outside of the unique situations that we have on the CTC.

Ah yes, the ol' OBG.  I remember those days.  The problem with that was there was no guarantee that the standing organization was appropriate for whatever force employment opportunity came along.  There was also the difficulties of expertise in training the other elms of the unit which the CO knew little.

Let's imagine a Battle Group on the offence.  Who's going to be re-grouping?  While we would likely do it by forming combat teams prior to crossing the LD, how much regrouping on the fly are we doing?  If a combat team assaults, is it really going to be able to keep going, or is out of the fight for the rest of the day?  It's easy to regroup after attacking Figure 11 on sticks, but how many "fights per day" does a sub-unit have?

The most likely form of regrouping we need to get could at is merging elements after a fight.  The combat team attacks and destroys the enemy.  It's got casualties.  It probably, if history is reliable, has a bunch of dead leaders.  Since we use LAVs like they're tanks, we've probably got mangled light armoured vehicles around the objective.  We should probably get good at merging sections, merging platoons or troops, cross-loading crew members (take that gunner from the M-kill LAV and put him in the one where the gunner lost his eyes to spalling....), and even, as a battle group commander, merging companies or squadrons.  I remember working with a tank squadron that did this as it was whittled down from 13 tanks to 6 over the course of a day....

You raise a great point.  I'd suggest our expectations of what commanders are capable of would need to rapidly drop when we start losing a lot of leadership.  Going back to regrouping, a company who is now being led by a green Lieutenant isn't going to be capable of doing a lot of combined arms ops right off the hop, let alone rapidly regrouping on the fly.  It goes back again to keeping sub units pure more often and may be using supporting/supported relationships.

A read of Rommel's Infantry Attacks illustrates this.  When he's leading his detachment (essentially a battalion) at Caporetto, he breaches the enemy lines and gets into a running exploitation/pursuit over the course of a week.  He's constantly fighting battles, reforming his companies, merging elements, forming assault groups, and detaching elements to shuttle the bags of PoWs to the rear.  This is re-grouping - figuring out what you have on hand to keep momentum.  What's also interesting is that Rommel barely ever conducts a frontal in the mountains - especially at Caporetto, his battle is a series of penetrations that turn into attacks from the rear.  Attacking from the rear appears to be far more effective than attacking from the flank.  When do we practice that?

Not to mention he did this with very small assault elements large support by fires, and a large exploitation force.

We don't practice because we focus on validating in events like live fires and we don't have real force on force free play exercises.  If we did opportunities for these things would present themselves.

The US system of "supporting/supported," where the supporting commander is required to "aid, assist, sustain, or protect" his supported commander, might be a better concept in these situations.  The US system, with only COCOM, OPCOM, and TACOM, is a bit less clunky than the NATO system you describe above.  If you have a platoon or troop operating with a company or squadron, maybe TACOM is good, but if you have a square combat team, or you're quickly forming a combat team on the battlefield, supporting/supported may be the way to go - we essentially practice it this way anyways.

I too am a fan of the concept of supporting/supported and think it would work in a lot of situations including the advance and the hasty attack. 

I will say that I don't think this is what we do.  Right now we're forming cbt tms, identifying a Cbt Tm comd and a supporting arm comd and the relationship is OPCOM.  This, essentially, gives the Cbt Tm comd seven (six in the case of the course as the sqn is down a trp) sub sub units to command as he can carve up his attached arm as he sees fit.  This is not unusual in my experience.  I think this threatens to turn the Cbt Tm Comd into a mini BG comd and causes the BG to make BG problems into sub unit problems.

Offline MCG

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2018, 09:15:01 »
The square combat team is the Canadian Army comfort zone.  I have watched CMBGs tackle Bde objectives in the offense by forming BGs and drawing unit boundaries that bisect the goose egg on the map.  The BGs then form two square combat teams each (because JCATS Bdes have more tanks than the Canadian Army) and throw a sub-unit boundary down the center of their AO.  Then when the Bde smashes into the known prepared enemy BG position with four square combat teams up, they are surprised to be very quickly stripped of most combat power.

We probably need to get away from the square combat team more often.  It is fine as a tool to train junior officers and to conduct the occasional live range.  But BGs need to be better at operating as BGs.  Don't split that tank squadron in half so that each rifle company gets a piece of it.  Us the BG HQ to coordinate the activity of all sub units and have that tank squadron use its full weight in sequenced BG manoeuvre to lodge both rifle companies onto their objectives.  Where I have seen it done, in simulation and in the field, it always works better for the BGs that own and control their fight as opposed to the result gained by the BG that balances the resources and launches combat teams to fight their own fights.


Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2018, 09:27:38 »
The square combat team is the Canadian Army comfort zone.  I have watched CMBGs tackle Bde objectives in the offense by forming BGs and drawing unit boundaries that bisect the goose egg on the map.  The BGs then form two square combat teams each (because JCATS Bdes have more tanks than the Canadian Army) and throw a sub-unit boundary down the center of their AO.  Then when the Bde smashes into the known prepared enemy BG position with four square combat teams up, they are surprised to be very quickly stripped of most combat power.

We probably need to get away from the square combat team more often.  It is fine as a tool to train junior officers and to conduct the occasional live range.  But BGs need to be better at operating as BGs.  Don't split that tank squadron in half so that each rifle company gets a piece of it.  Us the BG HQ to coordinate the activity of all sub units and have that tank squadron use its full weight in sequenced BG manoeuvre to lodge both rifle companies onto their objectives.  Where I have seen it done, in simulation and in the field, it always works better for the BGs that own and control their fight as opposed to the result gained by the BG that balances the resources and launches combat teams to fight their own fights.

A quote I heard from a Canadian who passed it on from a time he worked with the US Marines, went something like: 'Everything below Brigade is a frontal'.....
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Offline FJAG

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2018, 11:40:53 »
The square combat team is the Canadian Army comfort zone.  I have watched CMBGs tackle Bde objectives in the offense by forming BGs and drawing unit boundaries that bisect the goose egg on the map.  The BGs then form two square combat teams each (because JCATS Bdes have more tanks than the Canadian Army) and throw a sub-unit boundary down the center of their AO.  Then when the Bde smashes into the known prepared enemy BG position with four square combat teams up, they are surprised to be very quickly stripped of most combat power.

We probably need to get away from the square combat team more often.  It is fine as a tool to train junior officers and to conduct the occasional live range.  But BGs need to be better at operating as BGs.  Don't split that tank squadron in half so that each rifle company gets a piece of it.  Us the BG HQ to coordinate the activity of all sub units and have that tank squadron use its full weight in sequenced BG manoeuvre to lodge both rifle companies onto their objectives.  Where I have seen it done, in simulation and in the field, it always works better for the BGs that own and control their fight as opposed to the result gained by the BG that balances the resources and launches combat teams to fight their own fights.

My recollections of the Germans in Shilo is that they did things much simpler. Two tank companies up, a Grenadier company trailing with artillery all over the objective and recce covering the flanks. The tanks fired and manouvred their way in and then moved slightly to each flank to provide covering fire to let the infantry storm in through the centre and fight dismounted  through the objective while the tanks slowly pressed the flanks and moved to cut off positions.

They did have some lower level exercises where a company would be mixed tanks and Grenadiers but generally they thought that most fights would be nothing less than a battle group with companies staying unmixed. I think they respected the "don't penny packet tanks" rule much more than we do. I do remember on my CTC that we had one battalion and one squadron of tanks and therefore the tanks were usually half squadroned off. Guess that happens when you don't have enough tanks. It shouldn't, but it does.

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Offline Haligonian

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2018, 13:18:58 »
The square combat team is the Canadian Army comfort zone.  I have watched CMBGs tackle Bde objectives in the offense by forming BGs and drawing unit boundaries that bisect the goose egg on the map.  The BGs then form two square combat teams each (because JCATS Bdes have more tanks than the Canadian Army) and throw a sub-unit boundary down the center of their AO.  Then when the Bde smashes into the known prepared enemy BG position with four square combat teams up, they are surprised to be very quickly stripped of most combat power.

We probably need to get away from the square combat team more often.  It is fine as a tool to train junior officers and to conduct the occasional live range.  But BGs need to be better at operating as BGs.  Don't split that tank squadron in half so that each rifle company gets a piece of it.  Us the BG HQ to coordinate the activity of all sub units and have that tank squadron use its full weight in sequenced BG manoeuvre to lodge both rifle companies onto their objectives.  Where I have seen it done, in simulation and in the field, it always works better for the BGs that own and control their fight as opposed to the result gained by the BG that balances the resources and launches combat teams to fight their own fights.

Those are some great observations.  Very interesting.

We're a small army and so we pride ourselves on being competent at levels like Coy and Cbt Tm but by saying things like "the Cbt Tm is the Canadian Army Vital Ground" we've situated the estimate a little bit.

Offline Haligonian

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2018, 19:00:47 »
Had a chat with the British DS who is course officer for CTCC this year.  He confirmed for me that the British within a BG context will keep the Squadron together.  Intimate support tanks will merry up in the attack position with Companies then cut back to the squadron one given the punch.

According to him this all comes down to it being a well rehearsed drill.  This means that explicit command relationships aren't required.  Once the BG has rehearsed this a few times everyone understands whose doing what and how to support each other.  Our requirement for a command relationship to create our combat teams is probably overly pedantic when the same thing could be achieved more flexibly just by a few rehearsals and an understanding of whose supporting who, when.

Offline Infanteer

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2018, 19:42:12 »
Our requirement for a command relationship to create our combat teams is probably overly pedantic when the same thing could be achieved more flexibly just by a few rehearsals and an understanding of whose supporting who, when.

Of course, no command relationship is needed if the BG HQ does its part in controlling the two sub-units in the AO....
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Offline Lumber

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2018, 21:17:41 »
Hey guys, a couple of quick questions so I can follow this thread:

1. I get that combat teams are a mix of supporting elements (infantry and armoured, for example), but is there a specific size for it to be a combat team? Or, in theory, could 2 tanks get attached to an infantry coy and that'd be called a combat team?

2. What's a "square" combat team. How's it different from a normal combat team?

3. Is BG "Brigade Group"? Is that an example of a combat team?

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Offline MCG

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Re: Re Grouping
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2018, 21:36:54 »
Cbt Tm is a combined arms sub-unit based an an infantry company or armoured squadron with elements of the other manoeuvre arm.

Square Cbt Tm is a combined arms pairing of an infantry company and an armoured squadron.

BG = Battle Group, a temporary combined arms unit based on an infantry battalion or armoured regiment

Bde Gp = brigade group