There is a revolution in military affairs underfoot, and it can be seen today in combat operations conducted in the Iraq theater of operations. The necessity of the fight drives this change, and the mission and the leaders fighting it at the company level make it happen. I stress the company level because I watch it around me as my platoon leaders and squad leaders take the weapon systems at their disposal and employ them to meet their purpose. Witness the future of the Army as leaders, branch/MOS immaterial, take the tools that the Army makes available and execute their missions. This article will cover my situation (METT-TC [mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available, civilians]) and what actions I am taking as a commander to enable my subordinates. I'll review the challenges and obstacles I am encountering and what I'm doing to overcome, reduce, and bypass those obstacles. I'll close with my observations.
I deployed my company, pure, to Kuwait in February. Upon arrival, the division task organized and my company became part of an armor task force. Subsequently, I gave up a mechanized infantry platoon and received an armor platoon minus tanks. While in Kuwait, we drew three M1114 HMMWVs and would subsequently draw an additional M113, one M1197 (Air Force armored HMMWV), and two more M1114s while in Iraq. My initial task organization looked something like Figure 1.
The task force (TF) area of operations (AO) terrain is quite diverse. Much of the diversity comes from the Tigris River, which bounds our task force AO to the north and east, and the canal system. These two phenomena affect all components of OCOKA (observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, obstacles and movement, key terrain, and avenues of approach).
Observation ranges from two kilometers to 200 meters. Where the canals are present, vegetation can be quite dense. Likewise, where there are no canals, near-open desert results. There are also random rises in elevation throughout the AO, which tend to limit observation around the avenues of approach to 200m.
The canals facilitate cover and concealment directly because they allow individuals to utilize them for concealed movement and hiding caches. The vegetation can also get dense enough to obscure thermale from both Bradley fighting vehicles (BFVs) and also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The irrigation canals that run throughout the terrain with no discernible pattern or plan are obstacles to traffic. The canals vary in size from hand/spade dug to concrete reinforced. Most canals have bridges of varying types spanning their width with as much variety as the canals themselves. Some can support a 38-ton vehicle and some cannot. These bridges can easily become choke points for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and/ or ambushes. The terrain that is laced with the canals also tends to be wet and soft, creating restrictive terrain for nearly all traffic except dismounts. The areas without canals tend to be dry, arid desert and can support all sizes and shapes of vehicles.
There is not any key terrain in the AO that we are determined to hold on a permanent basis. There are aspects or terrain features which have importance during operations. These include the bridges over the canals and rivers.
There is a main high-speed avenue of approach, the ground line of communication (GLOC) in my area of responsibility. This highway is the main focus of IEDs and small arms fire (SAF), but occasionally IEDs and SAF occur on other roads and areas in the TF AO. The river itself is also an avenue of approach for the enemy, particularly from its far side. We also identified the tendency for roads and trails leading from the river to the GLOC to be key avenues of approach.
There are two main civilian population centers in my AO. One town numbers approximately 2,000 people, while the smaller town has a few hundred. …