Force Protection: A State of Mind

By Milano, James M.; Mitchell, Christopher A. | Military Review, November/December 2000 | Go to article overview

Force Protection: A State of Mind


Milano, James M., Mitchell, Christopher A., Military Review


The Ist Cavalry Division had many opportunities to implement a wide range of force protection measures and consider how they applied to a unit conducting peace support operations As the command's top priority, force protection was a continuous concern of the command group and staff, including the G2, G3, G4 and provost marshal

THE TERM FORCE PROTECTION conjures varying notions and concepts; ranging from neatly constructed, sandbagged fighting positions to snow chains on tires in the winter and thorough precombat inspections. Ask 10 military commanders to write down 10 things that come to mind when you mention force protection--you will see some widely disparate lists.

For military professionals, is force protection a priority or is it a task? Should it have its own place in the five-paragraph order? When discussing the dynamics of combat power-maneuver, firepower, leadership, and protection-the 15 June 2000 draft of US Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations, discusses protection in terms of field disciipline, safety and fratricide avoidance-and force protection. Using examples in an operational theater, this article addresses the primary component of protection-force protection-and its many manifestations.

Operational Context

During Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina from October 1998 until August 1999, as Stabilization Forces 4 and 5 from the Ist Cavalry Division had many opportunities to implement a wide range of force protection measures and consider how they applied to a unit conducting peace support operations. As the command's top priority, force protection was a continuous concern of the command group and staff, including the G2, G3, 64 and provost marshal. Force protection became more than just a popular slogan in professional journals; it became an embedded dimension of all unit and staff activity.

While force protection never overcame the purpose for being in theater, it remained a primary consideration. Regular assessment of force protection levels required a certain number of vehicles in a patrol, wearing uniforms on and off base camps, clearance procedures for individual weapons, numbers of troop assemblies and control of locally employed personnel on the base camps. When necessary, leaders met to recommend changes to existing force protection requirements as contingencies developed and the operational environment changed.

Dangers in Bosnia take various forms, surfacing occasionally as direct threats and other times as significant command or staff concerns. Acts of terrorism, direct military action by a threat force, civil disorder, traffic accidents or dangerous road conditions, severe weather conditions, disease threats and electronic attacks through local networks or other electronic collection means are a few examples of force protection concerns in Bosnia.

Threats are both active and passive and very often difficult to detect. The key to identifying force protection threats is continual, rigorous assessment by staff agencies and subordinate organizations coupled with a thorough situational understanding of the tactical environment. With this information, staff analysis and recommendations, commanders can assess threats to the force and focus on staff and subordinate actions. Protecting the force required constant vigilance and continual estimates on ways to mitigate risk and respond to threats.

The operational aspect of force protection, while in some ways less tangible, was vitally important to the force. These operational missions and tasks were effective in enhancing force protection:

* Countermortar patrols in the vicinity of friendly base camps.

* Blue-on-blue surveillance (to assess ourselves).

* Intensified unannounced inspections of Entity Armed Forces weapons storage sites during the Kosovo bombing campaign.

* Increased route reconnaissance missions on main supply routes.

While these activities were occurring at brigade and battalion levels, division staffers developed a comprehensive reconnaissance and surveillance plan that included traditional air and ground assets, operational security measures and nontraditional tools from information operations. …

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