PDA

View Full Version : The Battle for Hunger Hill



Scully
09 Oct 03, 16:45
Have any of you guys read "The Battle for Hunger Hill" by Daniel Bolger? It's an interesting book about a couple of his rotations through the training center as commander of a 101st Battalion.

Have any of you gone through the JRTC at Ft. Polk? Bolger believes the Army's traditional training and planning process/doctrine are ineffective, particularly against insurgent type campaigns like experienced at Polk. This was written in 1997, do you think it's true now?

In the book he talks about how he changed his Battalions way of doing things for his second rotation through. He deviated from standard doctrine. How do higher ups handle drastic differences out in the field? There were two other battalions with him during the exercise that did not follow his newly crafted principles. Does that make it more difficult to command the three battalions?

I also found it interesting how the stress of combat, even simulated combat, really threw off all the leaders and led to major mistakes. It reminds me of how my attacks go crazy in ATF. :)

I guess a final question would be how well do you think standard Army doctrine (and training) prepares commanders for battle?

Bolger also wrote a book on NTC. Apparently he rips his commander in that one because he apologizes for it in the new book. We'll have to see what that's all about.

Take care,
Brian

Pat Proctor
09 Oct 03, 22:20
In the spirit of my recent troubles, let me preface all of these comments by saying I am speaking as Pat Proctor, private citizen, not as CPT Pat Proctor, US Army. Also, these views are my own and not neccessarily those of the Army...

While the doctrine is a little vague in places, I think it is rock solid. The problem with the US Army is that most soldiers don't KNOW the doctrine. 90% of my time at the National Training Center is spent just teaching the doctrine. There is very little time left for techniques and procedures. We spend most of the rotation just learning to block and tackle.

I have not read the book, but I would make the general comment that, most of the time, when someone thinks that they have discovered some brilliant work-around for doctrine, it turns out that they are either a) doing something that actually is doctrine that they didn't know about or b) actually compensating for a problem created someplace else by not adhering to doctrine.

As to the question about planning doctrine, there are really two different types of military planning. The Military Decision Making Process (the process of making an OPORD, essentially) is very well suited to the set piece battles fought at the NTC on a normal rotation. The other method is the Targeting Meeting. This process is little understood in the force, but, when applied correctly, is the most effective method of planning for non-conventional operations like the JRTC, the current NTC rotations (since August), or current operations in OIF and OEF.

The problem is not that the current military planning methods are not correct or adequate. The problem is that battalion staffs are not well trained at doing them correctly.

Scully
09 Oct 03, 22:47
Not trying to be critical, but why do you think the staff is not trained enough? Just too many other things going on or is it perceived that it's not as important to practice and train to the second planning option you mentioned?

After reading some of the FM's, I can kind of understand why many soldiers don't know/understand doctrine. Those things can be tough reading. I guess that's why your job is so important. How could the Army improve the level of understanding of doctrine?

When I was an MP (granted, this was in the reserve and I was an E-4 and never participated in a major exercise like NTC), I really had very limited concept of our actual role and how it should be carried out. Most of what I knew, I read on my own. It seemed that during our training, we went more by common sense than any set doctrine. Of course, I wasn't making the decision, so I don't really know what was going on behind the scenes. I take it that's fairly normal though.

Interesting. Thanks for your comments Captain.

Pat Proctor
09 Oct 03, 23:04
The MDMP (military decision making process) is VERY painful. It takes, at a minimum, 10 hours of continuous effort, with all of the planners in the battalion participating, to do it right. And it takes lots of practice. Units put it off til the have to do it, at a training center, because it is hard, time and manpower intensive, and painful to train. And it isn't as sexy as launching bullets.

Many Army leaders actually PRIDE themselves on being unconventional and not following doctrine. It is kind of a "maverick" attitude to warfighting. While it might seem cool to go by your wits and "wing it", a lot of soldiers died in the development of the lessons that are codified in Army doctrine. I think that recent operations are making us take a hard look at ourselves and the way we do business. Learning by doing in combat gets soldiers killed.

I think that CTC's are the BEST place to teach doctrine. I think that we should increase the number of rotations units do. I think we should also do a lot more "cross-germination" with heavy units at JRTC and light units at NTC, to give units a better understanding of operating in different environments.

We are already starting to do a lot more non-standard, non-linear operations here. We have a lot of bugs to work out, and it is hard to replicate 25 million Iraqis with 100 civilians and 2000 soldiers. But we are getting closer.

kbluck
10 Oct 03, 20:08
Not trying to be critical, but why do you think the staff is not trained enough? Just too many other things going on or is it perceived that it's not as important to practice and train to the second planning option you mentioned?

In my opinion, the primary reason is the same as is often seen in civilian business and private lives: a culture that prioritizes and rewards dealing with things that are urgent rather than things that are important.

Leaders all too often get bogged down in the minutiae of army bureacracy - the readiness reports, the gunnery tables, the drug tests, the last-minute taskings - and forget to train.

All too often, a sort of misguided efficiency takes hold and they want to do things the way it would be best to do them given that there is plenty of time, a telephone right at hand, and a Walmart down the street, forgetting that they need to practice how they're going to do it in battle. I dealt with this a lot as an engineer officer --- NCOs and officers who apparently thought they were general contractors instead of soldiers. The support troops, like the now-infamous 507th Maintenance Company, who get so wrapped around their support role that they completely neglect their basic soldier skills and find their heavy weapons either inoperable or simply don't know how to put them into action on short notice when the shooting starts. The combat troops who get so wrapped around pointing the bullet launchers that they have no idea how to resupply or evacuate casualties or even call for fire properly.

There is a general reluctance to do the hard stuff and a natural gravitation to the path of least resistance. Supply sergeants, for example, more concerned about paperwork than support, whom you never see except behind their counter, who require all who desire supply to visit their domain on bended knee and plead their case. Units that go through the motions in the soldier's manual but fail to train at night, in NBC gear, or even if it is raining harder than a sprinkle. Artillery units that are so accustomed to shooting at the same old impact areas that they take a half-hour to execute an out-of-traverse, because they never practice that at home station. The list goes on and on. You can't really blame the troops; its to be expected that they don't wish to be uncomfortable. It is a failure of leadership.

The problem is exacerbated by the Army's very turbulent career management. Officers barely get a chance to figure out what they're doing before they're off to their next assignment. Command experience is required to get promoted, and so many officers who have no desire at all to command just do the minimum tour to get by and get ahead. I've never understood why the Army doesn't divide its officer corps into staff and command tracks and keep commanders in place for a minimum of three years, assign them to nothing but school, XO, and CO slots (in that order for each echelon) and make it a one-way path from command into staff; you're free to opt into staff at any time, or if you fail to complete a command tour satisfactorily you get pushed there. Either way, you're staff for the rest of your career, no exceptions.

Places like NTC and JRTC are valuable wake-up calls. Unfortunately, the lesson is all too often lost within months when all the key leaders rotate out and go off to school or recruiting duty or whatever. And the cycle begins anew.

I agree with CPT Proctor (did I say that?) that there is no good reason to go against doctrine. For the most part, it is well thought out by dedicated people a lot smarter than me. The usual failure is in a half-hearted or misguided application of the doctrine, not in the doctrine itself.

--- Kevin

Scully
11 Oct 03, 22:05
As to the question about planning doctrine, there are really two different types of military planning. The Military Decision Making Process (the process of making an OPORD, essentially) is very well suited to the set piece battles fought at the NTC on a normal rotation. The other method is the Targeting Meeting. This process is little understood in the force, but, when applied correctly, is the most effective method of planning for non-conventional operations like the JRTC, the current NTC rotations (since August), or current operations in OIF and OEF.


Do you think either of these would be useful in ATF/BCT? If you do, where can you get them?

Thanks,
Brian

Pat Proctor
12 Oct 03, 11:01
You can find army manuals at

http://www.adtdl.army.mil

Look for FM 101-5. It is the planning bible.