Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle for Objective Area Alpha

Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle for Objective Area Alpha

Article excerpt

USING THE STORY of a battle as a device for illuminating important themes and lessons regarding the art of war is a time-honored practice. In the example here, the battle is in the future. The theme is tactical operations. The goal is to present a picture of how the future Objective Force will fight at the tactical level.

The scenario is simple and familiar. A U.S. ally is attacked by a regional aggressor and is in danger of being overrun. Time is of the essence. The aggressor hopes for a quick victory that would make external intervention more difficult. The United States understands that the longer it delays, the more advantages accrue to the adversary to achieve its strategic objectives and to prepare more fully to defeat intervention.

Faithful to its commitments, the United States responds immediately to counter the aggressor while building a coalition of like-minded states. The first phase of the joint campaign-initial entry operations-has been completed, and the joint task force (JTF) is preparing to seize the initiative.

Entry Operations

After returning from face-to-face meetings with local police authorities, Colonel Ralph Donnelly, commander of the 1st Combined Arms Brigade (CAB), focused on the displays in his command vehicle. He reviewed the courses of action (COA) the staff had just completed in response to the digitized operation order (OPORD) and operational graphic received earlier from division headquarters. The brigade had been in country for just 10 days, and already, the joint force was transitioning from an initial defensive posture to offensive operations.

The JTF commander directed the brigade-the initial maneuver formation in the joint force flow-- to deploy as rapidly as possible to defend the ground approaches to the host-nation (HN) capital. The brigade, with joint air support, was to prevent the seizure of the capital.

Deploying by multiple means, the brigade surprised the enemy with the speed, location, and power of its projection into the HN capital region. Three of its six combat battalions, with the brigade headquarters, deployed by air to unimproved airstrips and unprepared landing areas near the capital. They bypassed the main commercial airport and military air base that the enemy had targeted effectively with improved, long-range precision munitions. The other three battalions deployed via shallow-draft, highspeed sealift under the deputy commander's control, coming ashore near several small fishing towns about 200 kilometers from the capital. They also avoided the main seaport, which had been subject to long-range enemy interdiction.

Deploying in combined arms unit configurations with integrated sustainment packages eliminated the requirement for reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) within an assembly area and enabled all six battalions to move quickly from debarkation into pre-planned defensive positions near the capital. In doing so, they surprised and destroyed the enemy's advanced elements in the near approaches to the city. Nearly simultaneously, an infantry regiment from the Marine expeditionary brigade sea base deployed to block enemy advances along the littoral.

Donnelly's command group included the temporary attachment of two observers from the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) at Fort Leavenworth. The commander wanted to capture all of the significant operational lessons during the campaign. He and the CALL team had discussed the extraordinary level of strategic responsiveness and versatility the new strategic-lift platforms provided. Those capabilities, plus the streamlined force structure of the Objective Force, its lighter platforms, and reduced logistic infrastructure, with substantial elements of the overall force remaining outside the joint operations area (JOA), enabled the brigade to complete its multi-modal deployment within 96 hours. The brigade then moved immediately off the ramp to fight its way into initial defensive operations. …

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