The “3 M’s” of morale  every commander needs to pay close attention to are:

  1. Mail
  2. Money
  3. Meals

Especially during Thanksgiving, a good hot meal is the least a commander can provide to his troops.

Imagine yourself stationed at a platoon or company sized outpost in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. In my era, most of my meals would have been MREs, with maybe one hot meal delivered in Mermite cans daily from the battalion trains in the Brigade Support Area.

But the Army in the past decade, with Brigade Combat Teams covering enormous geographical regions, centralized cooking simply isn’t practical. And for many outposts, the delivery options are either a risky ground convoy, or an expensive aerial resupply by helicopter. So many units at outposts have been augmented with a mess team to provide hot prepared meals on site. Larger outposts that have power generation may have a Containerized Kitchen as well as adequate refrigeration. Smaller, platoon sized outposts are unlikely to have such luxuries, but still often have a cook assigned.

The normal ration for these outposts is the Unitized Group Ration, or UGR. In fact, the UGR is really three separate rations.

UGR-A has perishable and semi-perishable foods, and requires an actual kitchen to prepare.

The UGR-H&S (Heat & Serve) is canned foods that simply need to be warmed prior to serving.  The Company Level Field Feeding Kitchen is well suited for this ration.

The UGR-E is designed for even more austere environments. It contains everything for a hot meal, and the ration trays are self heating! Not only that, but a special turkey holiday meal menu is available.

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Here’s a little bit on how the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) assembles UGRs.


As you sit down with friends and family today to give thanks for all the blessings in your life, take a moment to remember those Americans deployed world wide, and especially in Afghanistan, who will not be surrounded by family, but by their brothers in arms.

Paladin PIM

Of all the combat arms in the Army in the Iraq War, and to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan, the least utilized, and thus least likely to be feted, and least likely to garner attention at budget time, was the Field Artillery. Now, from a parochial point of view, few things warm my heart more than mocking the gun-bunnies. But the professional warrior knows that not every fight will be like Iraq, and that against a near peer enemy, massed volumes of indirect fires will be critical to success.

Most of the technical advances in Field Artillery in recent years have been related to precision guided munitions, such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) and the Excalibur GPS guided 155mm artillery round.

On the towed artillery side, the Army and Marines have replaced their heavy M198 guns with the much lighter, digitally compatible M777 155mm howitzer.

But the backbone of Army field artillery has been, for about 50 years, the M109 155mm Self Propelled Howitzer. Mind you, the fleet has been greatly improved from the first iterations, but significant upgrades to the current M109A6 fleet haven’t happened in almost 20 years.

The basic tube and the digital fire control system are currently sufficient. What the fleet really needs is an upgrade to the mechanical side. And that’s what they’ll be getting. The legacy powertrain is being replaced with a kit that will use the same engine, transmission and final drives as the M2 Bradley fleet. This will not only give the Artillery much better power and reliability, it will also greatly simplify the spare parts and logistics challenges for the Armored Brigade Combat Team. It will also simplify training for mechanics.

The much more powerful engine also means greater generator capacity, and finally the M109 will receive an all electric turret drive system, to replace the current hydraulic system. Electric turret drives tend to be more reliable, and far easier to repair when they do break.

Modest improvements to the communications and fire control system (and today, that almost means the same thing) will also be added.

The Army Drawdown and BCT Realignment

So, the Army is cutting its troop levels fairly drastically. And it is trimming 10 Brigade Combat Teams from the force. But there is a bit of good news in there. While the numbers of BCTs are dropping by almost a quarter, the Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT) are being reorganized to be more effective. Desperately needing more BCTs in Iraq, the Army cheated when creating new ones by forming all Heavy BCTs with only two Combined Arms Battalions (that is, a battalion with two tank and two Bradley Infantry companies).  These BCTs found themselves often having to use their reconnaissance squadron as a third maneuver battalion, a role it was never intended nor organized and equipped to do. Finally, the Army is restoring a third CAB to its ABCTs. A friend of the blog passes along:

FYI, 1CD just deactivated 4th ABCT a couple of days ago, and 15 OCT marked the beginning of transitions of the Armored Brigade Combat Teams. What that will look like is as follows:

Reconnaissance Squadron.  Largely no change:  three reconnaissance troops and a headquarters troop.

Combined Arms Battalions.  A third one has been added.  Each CAB includes two tank companies, two infantry companies, and a headquarters company with staff, scouts, mortars, medics, and commo platoon.

The FA (Field Artillery) Battalion has added a third firing battery but it has changed from 2  firing batteries with 8 guns each to 3 batteries of six guns.  The FA Battalion is also assuming control of the Fires and Effects Coordination Cells from the recon squadron and the CABs.  (The FECC includes the battalion Fire Support Officer and the company Fire Support Teams).  The FA battalion is giving up the COLT(Combat Observation and Lasing Team)  platoon as a capability that will no longer exist.

Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB). This battalion is being reorganized as the Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB), with the addition of a second engineer company, so it will now consist of a headquarters company, two engineer companies, the signal company and the military intelligence company.  New equipment will include bridging and breaching assets, dozers, and a route clearance team.  The BEB has given up the MP platoon that the BSTB had, but retains the chemical reconnaissance platoon.

Brigade Support Battalion.  This BN currently includes the headquarters
company, a supply / distro company, a maintenance company and a medical company.  It also is the organic parent organization for the Forward Support Companies, which go to the other battalions.  The BSB currently has an FSC with the recon squadron, the CABs, and the FA battalion, but with the gain of the new CAB, there will be an extra FSC, as well as a new FSC that will go with the Brigade Engineer Battalion, with the net result that the BSB has ten companies, though six of them habitually work for a different battalion commander.
Brigade HHC.  The brigade also has a headquarters company which primarily consists of the brigade staff, while most support comes from the BSTB/BEB.

Though we are realigning the brigade, the equipment and personnel are not all in position yet, and will not be for some time.
Net gain to the brigade is one Combined Arms Battalion, taking it from 6 to 7 battalions, and an increase from 30 to 39 companies.
This puts the brigade at about the right design, and much closer to the
original design concept of the “Battle Group” envisioned in that book
“Breaking the Phalanx” which was big reading in the nineties (before we
discovered that we needed a bunch of under-strength BCTs to accomplish all rotational requirements in Iraq).  Of course, there are a dwindling number of these brigade combat teams now….

If you have any questions, just ask, I’ll be happy to answer or ask around.

How the sequester is crippling the Army

As a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative, we fully support the sequester. A line in the sand must be drawn against the ever increasing levels of federal spending. And if that impacts the budget of the armed forces, so be it. Even in a world with multiple and complex security challenges, the stupendous levels of federal debt are our greatest national security threat.

But the problems the sequester foists upon the services are real, and are having real, immediate impacts upon the services.

The actual monetary cuts the sequester imposes on the services are fairly modest. Under FY13 (last year) the main cause of pain was that the full dollar amount of savings had to be realized in only half the fiscal year.  The Obama administration fully expected a deal to avoid the cuts to be inked, and so steadfastly prohibited DoD and the services from even planning for the possibility of the cuts until the very last moment.  The way monies are allocated to the DoD meant that most funds for the FY were already allocated or obligated. In short, the only places it was even possible to make any cuts were in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and Personnel funds. Some O&M funds simply had to be spent, merely to continue operations (like, say, Afghanistan) already underway. So the training budget for units not tagged to deploy were slashed.

And the passage of a Continuing Resolution, while providing somewhat reasonable levels of funding for the Army, is still disastrous in the long term. Why? Because the CR is just that, a continuation of previous funding authority. In effect, the Army cannot move funding levels from one account to another, and are locked into the spending priorities set well over three years ago.

I’m not the only one who sees things this way:

When I first joined the military the United States Army alone had some 780,000 troops in 18 divisions. It was near the end of the Cold War, the inter-German border still represented a very real potential combat zone and — if one was looking only at the numbers — this was probably about the high-point of the “peacetime” Army. We had the manpower we needed. The “Big Five” combat systems were coming into the field* and most of the detritus from the post-Vietnam period had been flushed from the system. Plus, in the past several years the Army had well and truly taken to the philosophy of honest and hard free-for-all training as a means of evening the gap by developing quality whereas our potential opponents had the quantity. This was best exemplified by the National Training Center (in the Mojave Desert of California) and the Combat Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany.

We trained hard and in all environments across the planet, and at any given moment we had at least a dozen “combat ready” divisions. (A division was, at that time, anywhere from 17-23,000 men.) And because good equipment and hard training costs money, it cost a lot of money. But in the wake of nearly perpetual poor performances of the US Army in the first battles of every war, our late-70s leadership decided “Never Again.” American units would train to the highest levels, with exacting but realistic standards, and we would do it so comprehensively that we would win, the first time, every time. In the process we would be saving innumerable lives, not only our own, but all sides because we would be able to fight so fast that the wars would be shorter. Only when a unit was fully trained would it be certified as “combat ready,” and that status would only last so long before it had to be trained again.

According to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, as of yesterday, the entire US Army currently has only two combat brigades ready for combat.

Why? Well, we are not that much smaller than we were a few months or years ago. Though the drawdown has begun, it is only just starting and it should last four years. Oh, wait, that was the plan… until yesterday. Now we are cutting 80,000 in just two years. Perfect. (Hyperlinks in original)

You’ve probably seen where the Army Chief of Staff announced that only two Brigade Combat Teams are fully trained right now.

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Two years of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have forced the U.S. Army to greatly curtail spending on training, leaving it with only two combat brigades fully prepared to go to war, the Army’s top officer said on Monday.
“Right now, we have in the Army two brigades that are trained. That’s it. Two,” General Ray Odierno told a news conference at the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army.
Odierno’s comments came as he and Army Secretary John McHugh discussed the impact of the recent U.S. government shutdown as well as across-the-board budget cuts that forced the military to slash spending in March, nearly halfway through its fiscal year.
McHugh and Odierno both appealed to Congress to find a way to give the military more financial predictability so it can plan effectively. McHugh said that with the way the military is currently funded, budgets that are approved today are based on planning that occurred three years earlier.
“You can’t run the most important military on the face of the Earth locked into three-year-old budgets,” McHugh said.
The Army was hit particularly hard by the cuts in March, known as sequestration, because of higher-than-projected Afghanistan war costs and the need to make up those funds from its operations accounts, which include money for training.
“We had to stop training, basically, in the last six months of the year,” Odierno said.

That doesn’t mean all training has ceased, but virtually all training above the individual, squad and platoon level has been curtailed. It costs a lot of money to send a company of tanks to the field for a week or two. Fuel, food, spare parts, ammunition, batteries and all sorts of sundries add up quickly. Even more expensive is sending an entire Brigade Combat Team to the field. Few posts actually have sufficient real estate to conduct quality training for an entire BCT so there’s the added expense of shipping the BCT’s people and equipment to a training area large enough to handle that size unit. And since that’s money the Army doesn’t have, they just aren’t doing it.

But units that haven’t trained together for their wartime mission, as integrated units, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully complete those wartime missions. As friend-of-the-blog Esli has often noted, so many troops have had multiple wartime deployments, but virtually no experience in maneuver warfare combined-arms operations at the company level, let alone at the BCT or division level.

If a crisis comes (and sooner or later, they always do), the Army will deploy troops as needed. And those troops will pay a price in blood to learn lessons they were supposed to pay for in sweat.

Tiered Readiness is coming.

Today, under the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) plan, Brigade Combat Teams  (BCT) go through a cycle where they are deployed or ready to deploy, recovering from a deployment or readiness term, or are training up to regain their readiness to deploy. For the most part, all BCTs in the Army have, for the last decade or so, shared equally in cycle. The large numbers of BCTs needed for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan dictated that almost every  BCT would sooner or later get its turn in the barrel.

But with Iraq over, and Afghanistan winding down, fewer and fewer BCTs are being tapped to deploy overseas. Particularly, the heavy BCTs, with tanks and Bradleys, aren’t deploying to Afghanistan.

More importantly, the Army is running out of money. It has already made the choice to shutter a large number of BCTs (though the remaining BCTs will gain an additional maneuver battalion).

But even with those cuts, the budget for manpower, training, and operations is under pretty severe stress.

So the Army, despite promising itself it wouldn’t do so, is going to take something of a strategic risk.

Cancelled training. Deferred maintenance. Grounded aircraft. That’s been the damage to military readiness from the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration in 2013. Now the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army says the service may have to keep many units at lower levels of readiness for years. This is not a short-term expedient but new policy.

“We’re looking at having certain number of brigades at a higher level of readiness,” Gen. John Campbell told me last week. “Many of our units will go down much lower.”

“Some people would call that tiered readiness, where we said we never were going to go again,” the Vice-Chief went on, referring to the Cold War practice where units not in West Germany or South Korea sometimes never received their full allotment of troops, equipment, and training dollars. “I’d call it progressive readiness.”

A preliminary plan may be ready for public discussion within weeks, Campbell said. “We’re working through that now,” he said, as the service builds its 2015-2019 budget plan, the Program Objective Memorandum.

Campbell’s remarks suggest new willingness on the Army leadership’s part to shift it position on readiness, one that’s been urged by many thinktanks.

“While Army leaders have avoided cutting readiness to every extent possible, it is no longer feasible under current budget plans – even before sequestration moves into year two,” argues Mackenzie Eaglen, one of the think tank experts who recommended cutting readiness levels to guarantee the military’s ability to develop and buy new weapons.

“There is already a readiness shortfall this year that is being funded through war spending and additional untold readiness gaps based on all the services receiving fewer resources than expected when Congress finally passed a defense appropriations bill for 2013,” she said.

It is hardly a perfect solution, but then, it’s also the world I knew back in my own days of service.

Some BCTs will still receive the money and manpower to stay at full readiness, known sometimes as C-1. Fully manned, and trained in all the essentials of the commanders Mission Essential Task List, and having gone through a cycle of training from individual skills to full up BCT sized operations in the field at one of the Combat Training Centers against a dedicated Opposing Force.

Other BCTs… not so much.

They’ll have less money for fuel and maintenance for their equipment. Fewer spare parts. A smaller allocation of ammunition for training. Likely, exercised at battalion and BCT level will be cancelled or curtailed. They’ll get fewer rotations at the Combat Training Centers. They’ll be last in line for receiving new equipment.

And perhaps most painfully, they’ll get fewer people.

We talked above about some units being fully manned. But the truth is, no unit is ever really fully manned. Let’s say a rifle company has an authorized strength of 100.  The Army says it will be fully manned. But you’ve got people transferring out, and waiting for new bodies to come in. Then you’ve got people on leave, at various Army schools, people who are sick or injured (they still count toward you being fully manned, but aren’t available for duty), troops who are awaiting discharge either for completing their service, or because they’re unsuitable for the Army. Then there are the demands placed from above. It is not at all unheard of for a higher echelon to levy units for manpower, either for a temporary tasking, or for extended periods. Our notional rifle company might be lucky to have 75 troops present at morning formation.

My first two duty stations, I was assigned to units that were fully manned. My third wasn’t quite as lucky. We were constantly understrength. While we always had enough people to fully crew our Bradleys, we had only enough troops left over to field a single, understrength rifle squad per platoon. We needed another 10 to 12 troops, per platoon, to be fully manned.

We had enough money and assets to train on individual skills, and small unit collective skills. But it is hard to train a platoon to fight properly when every bit of doctrine that governs employing the platoon assumes a much larger unit, with a good bit more tactical flexibility.

The Army’s reasoning is that for the foreseeable future, should these lower tier BCTs be needed for a fight, they’ll have time to plus up their manning, and their training. We can only hope they’re correct.

If not, we can always ask the survivors of Task Force Smith how things worked out for them.

Thoughts on the Greywolves, OpFor, and NTC.

As Esli mentioned in the comments on this post,

In an interesting twist, our allies, the Atropians, are role played by OPFOR from 11th ACR, and actually roll in the same equipment as our common Donovian enemy. So the OPFOR not only fight us, but they fight each other.

It’s simply a fact of life that US units will operate alongside allies and coalition partner nations. The only truly unilateral action since before World War II that I can recall is Grenada.

As fractious as the US/British alliance was during World War II, in fact, it was a model of successful allied operations. Very few armies in history can claim such a level of cooperation and success. And since that time, the US and Britain have often operated side by side. Other notably successful partnerships include Australia, and Canada. Non commonwealth nations that we have close relationships with include counties such as South Korea, where for 63 years, Americans and South Koreans have served side by side.

The biggest, most obvious example of allied interoperability is, of course,  the NATO alliance, one so successful, it never had to fight to fulfill its original mission.

While the US has a good track record working with several friendly nations, the fact is, most actual combat alliances are extemporaneous.  And while other nations may well be willing to fight alongside us in any number of campaigns, it important to remember that they do so for their own reasons, not ours.

Aside from describing how our nation anticipates winning campaigns, doctrine exists primarily to provide a shared vision of how wars will be fought.  Every battalion and Brigade Combat Team in our Army fights under the same doctrine. When units that have never trained together before are thrust into combat together, they still have a great deal of interoperability built in due to a single doctrine.  But our allies in any given battle may have their own doctrine. And their own political objectives, as well. And few things are more likely to enhance the fog of war than divergent goals.

Battles make strange bedfellows. Don’t forget, Syria sent two armored divisions to fight alongside against Iraq during Desert Storm. Whether Syria genuinely wished to thwart Iraqi territorial ambitions, or just wanted to bask in the goodwill of other coalition nations, for whatever reason, a nation with historical enmity to the US, equipped as a vassal state of the Soviet Union, found itself fighting alongside the US, Britain, France and other nations that have historically been considered its foes.

Command of foreign forces is always more nominal than real. Just as we shudder that the thought of US forces under the command of a foreigner, so to would any ally. Further, no matter what the putative chain of command is for  an operation, allies are still sovereign forces, answerable to their own government. Further, it is a very rare foreign force that shares our current doctrine of Unified Land Operations.

So while theoretically, the OpFor in the Greywolves rotation was a net positive in the available combat power, differences in national goals, doctrine, and sheer bloody-mindedness can see a foreign force taking actions that can catch a US commander of guard. Foreign forces may not attack with the zeal US commanders are accustomed to. Or they may actually attack so fast as to find themselves far from support of US forces, and vulnerable to local counterattacks. Or maybe their attention to the laws of war and treatment of prisoners isn’t as fastidious as our own.

US commanders will have to learn to operate alongside foreign troops that vary wildly in their equipment, training, doctrine, support for the rule of law, and ability to operate on a decisive battlefield.

Now for the first time, US leaders are being exposed to the challenges of this in training, rather than having to devise solutions while actually upon the field of battle.

The Armored Cavalry Regiment

The mission of the Cavalry is to conduct reconnaissance, provide security, and perform economy of force operations.

As mentioned in a previous post, each heavy corps in Europe had its own Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR). Let’s take a look at these formations.

Ordinarily in the history of the Army, regiments have been branch specific. That is, an infantry regiment was almost exclusively full of infantrymen. Similarly, a cavalry regiment was full of horse troopers.

But the Cold War ACR, ironically, was a combined arms formation, integrating scouts, armor and fire support all the way down to the troop level.1


Scout Platoon– The basic building block of a cavalry unit is the Scout Platoon. Each Scout Platoon consisted of six M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles (CFVs). The M3 was identical to the beloved M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle your humble scribe served on, except the internal arrangements provided for only two dismount personnel instead of seven, and allowed greater internal stowage for ammunition and TOW missiles. Each CFV had a crew of three and two dismount scouts.2 One Lieutenant and 29 enlisted soldiers formed the platoon.

Cavalry Troop– Here’s where the organization of Cavalry units began to get interesting. Each Cav troop had two scout platoons. But because troops would often operate well separated from one another, outside of mutual support, the troop needed a bit more firepower. So each troop also had a tank platoon. The four M1 tanks of the platoon were equipped an organized identically to any tank platoon in an armor unit. In addition, to provide some level of organic fire support, the Cav troop also had its own self propelled mortar section, with two M106 4.2” mortar carriers. The troop headquarters consisted of the CO mounted in a tank, the XO, supplied with an M3, and an M577 command post vehicle (based on the ubiquitous M113), a fire support section, a maintenance team, and the 1sg with the company supply trains. At a time when Infantry and Armor battalions only intermingled when task organized in the field, the Cav troop was a combined arms organization at all times, with Scouts, Armor, Infantry (via the mortar section), Field Artillery (via the FIST team) and logistics. A Cavalry troop might not have a lot of staying power, but it sure had a lot of punch.

Cavalry Squadron– Three Cavalry Troops formed the heart of a Cavalry squadron. In addition to a Headquarters and Headquarters Troop (HHT), the ACS also had an M1 tank company, further boosting the squadron’s firepower. And because squadrons might typically be widely separated, each squadron had its own eight gun battery of M109 155mm self-propelled artillery.

Regimental Aviation Squadron- As if the firepower of the three ground squadrons wasn’t enough, the Armored Cavalry Regiment also had its own Regimental Aviation Squadron or RAS. The RAS had three troops of Air Cavalry for reconnaissance (total 24 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors) and two Attack Helicopter Troops (total 16 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters). The RAS provided the ability to see deep into enemy territory, or to cover any gaps in a screen the regiment might be conducting. To provide the lift capability, the RAS also had an Assault Helicopter Troop with 15 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. In addition to hauling troops and supplies, the Blackhawks were often used by the Regiment and squadrons as Command and Control birds to allow commanders to physically visit subordinate units spread over wide areas, rather than spending many hours driving from point to point. Finally, the HHT was also home to four EH-60 helicopters providing SIGINT and jamming capability.

The Armored Cavalry Regiment– . The fifth squadron in the regiment was the Regimental Support Squadron, providing the logistical, maintenance, medical and administrative support similar to that which support battalions would provide to a division.

The ACR also had an organic Engineer company, Military Intelligence company, and an Air Defense Artillery Battery (with Stinger and Avenger ADA systems) to round out its combat power.

Finally, while not organic to the ACR, corps headquarters often tasked an entire Field Artillery brigade in direct support of the ACR, with each of the three battalions of 155mm guns supporting one Cavalry squadron. That is about three times the artillery support most infantry or armor battalion commanders could count upon.

The combined arms, and supporting services of the ACR has caused it to be described as a “pocket division” and indeed, it was a potent weapon. 5

Roles and Missions

As noted above, the role of the ACR was to provide the heavy corps commander with reconnaissance, security, and economy of force.

Reconnaissance -Reconnaissance is the means by which the commander gathers information on the enemy and the terrain upon which he will fight. In an era of UAVs and recon satellites, it may seem archaic to send scads of scouts out onto the battlefield to locate the enemy. But UAVs and satellites can be foiled by cloud cover, or deceived by a careful enemy. More importantly, just knowing where an enemy is doesn’t tell the commander what he needs to know. More than just where an enemy is, a commander needs to know divine his plans and intentions. Cavalry, by “fighting for information” can force an enemy to disclose his scheme of battle, his fire support plans, communications plan3 and more.  By maintaining contact with enemy formations, cavalry mitigates any enemy attempts at deception operations. After all, it’s hard for the Guards 102nd Tank Division to pretend to be threatening in the north when they’re engaged in the south.

Cavalry reconnaissance also generates intelligence on the terrain the corps will fight upon. Are there trafficability issues in the corps area? Will the bridges and roads support the corps traffic? Will it support the enemy traffic?4 By knowing the terrain intimately, a good commander can make a fair estimate of likely positions an enemy will move to and routes to be used.

Security– No commander should allow the enemy to surprise him. Security operations both deny the enemy reconnaissance upon our forces, and provide our forces early warning of enemy movements and attacks.

The classic Cold War  ACR screening mission was to cover the border between East and West Germany before a Warsaw Pact invasion of the NATO countries. Covering the front of a corps, the ACR would first detect enemy movements across the border. The ACR would avoid becoming decisively engaged. That is, it was of prime importance for the regiment to not get pinned down. When the pressure became too great, they would fall back, either to another line of positions, or through the lines of the main body of the corps, the heavy divisions, handing off the fight to them. But before the regiment slipped away, it would want to destroy the Soviet reconnaissance effort, and if possible, the advance guard of the main body of the invasion. Beyond the salutary effects of attriting the  enemy, this counter recon battle also deprives the enemy of intelligence on our main body’s dispositions and plans. If the ACR is successful in this fight, it can seriously slow the enemy advance, sow confusion on the ranks, and generate opportunities to seize the initiative. A further objective during this covering force battle is to determine where the enemy main effort. This allows the defending corps to allocate resources where they will do the most good.

The regiment can also often be found guarding the flanks of the corps during movement, to protect against any flanking attacks from the enemy.

Economy of Force– Economy of Force is simply using the least resources needed to perform a mission. The ACR isn’t a Heavy Brigade, nor yet an armored division, and shouldn’t be used like one. But let us suppose our corps commander is attacking a dug in enemy tank division. His mechanized infantry division has engaged the front of the enemy division to fix him in place, while his armored division has begun to sweep around a flank to deliver the coup de grace. To keep the neighboring enemy division from counterattacking, he needs to stage a secondary attack on it. Rather than deploying his independent brigade, he may choose to hold that in reserve to exploit any successes, and instead task the ACR to fix the second enemy division in place. While the primary roles of the ACR are recon and security, it can attack, defend, and cover a retreat.

The Past and the Present

Desert Storm– When the ground war phase of Desert Storm kicked off on 24 February, 1991, the invasion of Kuwait was led by the Marines, coalition partners, and some US Army elements. The far left flak of the coalition was guarded by the XVIIIth Airborne Corps (in a kind of giant cavalry mission, forming a screen, as well as blocking Iraqi lines of retreat). The main effort, though, was the 5 heavy divisions of the VIIth Corps. And in the lead was the corps Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 2nd ACR. In deplorable weather, the 2ACR lead the way, showing the corps path was clear. And when the corps finally came to grips with the Republican Guard, it was 2ACR that first encountered them. Probably the most famous engagement of Desert Storm was the fight of (then) Captain Harold McMaster’s Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR at the Battle of 73 Easting. This company sized element ran headlong into the tanks and armored personnel carriers of a Republican Guard division, and seized the initiative, and in an incredible fight, tore the heart out of the Iraqi formation.

Present Day– While there are still formations in the Army named Armored Cavalry Regiments, they are really ACRs in name only. The 2ACR  and 3rd ACR today are  Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, and the 11th ACR, when not deployed to Iraq as a Heavy Brigade Combat Team, serves as the Opposing Force at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin.

While the Armored Cavalry Regiment may be no more, Cavalry is far from dead. We’ll take a look at todays cavalry squadrons in a later post.


1. Cavalry formations substitute the term “troop” for “company,” and “squadron” for “battalion.”  Similarly, a “battery” is a company sized element in the artillery branches.

2. Well, two dismount scouts in a perfect world. Very few units ever had all the personnel they were supposed to have. If a Scout Platoon has fewer people than it was authorized, the CFVs would be fully crewed first, then the platoon would field as many two man teams as it could. These dismounted scouts could provide immediate local security to the scout platoon, or they could conduct a more stealthy reconnaissance than a 30 ton Bradley. What they couldn’t really do was fight as infantry. The platoon lacked sufficient numbers of dismounted scouts to do so.

3. By forcing the enemy to communicate, intelligence at either the ACR or higher levels can gather information on the enemy commo plan, and even likely determine locations of command posts, artillery support, and other assets.

4. If you know key chokepoints where the enemy will have little room to maneuver, you can more successfully employ obstacles, artillery and close air support, and attacks by maneuver elements. For instance, if an enemy division only has one likely crossing point of a river, you can wait until the last moment, and blow up the bridge in his face. While his troops are massed at the crossing point, waiting for assault bridging elements to arrive, they make a dandy target for supporting fires, while protecting your force from a flanking attack.

5. Ironically, the “forward deployed” brigades in Europe (which were really separate brigades) were commanded by Brigadier Generals, but the larger, more complex ACR was a Colonel’s command.  A successful command tour was almost sure to guarantee promotion to at least Brigadier General, and if you look at the four star Generals that came from an Armor/Cavalry background, most had a tour as an ACR commander. One of the reasons much of the Army was stunned when (then) COL H. R. McMaster was first passed over for BG was that he’d had a very successful tour as commander of the 11th ACR, the traditional path to the stars, in combat in Iraq no less!

A final note- Cavalry Scout is a specific Military Occupational Specialty in the Army, 19D to be precise. But officers in the Armor career field can be assigned to either Cavalry or Armor formations. And there are any number of formations that carry the battle honors and traditions of Cavalry units. Try telling any of the aviators in the RAS they weren’t Cavalrymen and they’ll let you know just how wrong you are. For a lot of folks, Cavalry is a state of mind more than anything else.

Update: Commenters have notice a few errors on my part. Guilty. I was a tad surprised that I couldn’t easily find the doctrinal pubs covering the ACR during the late 80/early 90s, and instead had to use a mid 1990s version. Having said that, FM17-95 Cavalry Operations, DEC 1996, is a very interesting manual, showing a blend of the previous AirLand Battle Doctrine, and the evolving post Desert Storm Doctrine that would continue to evolve up to the War on Terror. It goes into great detail on planning, combat support, and service support, and most of the concepts it discusses can be extrapolated to give insight into how the larger army viewed those operations. Armchair generals may be interested in reading it.

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