From: Commanding Officer, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion

To:  Commanding General, 1st Marine Division (G-3)

 

Subj: COMMAND CHRONOLOGY FOR THE PERIOD OF 1 JAN 2003 TO 30             JUNE 2003

 

Ref: (a)  MCO P5750.1G

      (b)  FMFPacO 5750.8E

      (c)  DivO 5750.7D

 

Encl: (1) 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Command Chronology

    

 

1.  In accordance with the references, enclosure (1) is submitted.

    

2.  This document is unclassified.

 

 

           R. E. Talkington

           

FIRST RECONNAISSANCE BATTALION COMMAND CHRONOLOGY   

 

1 JANUARY TO 30 JUNE 2003

 

     SECTION I     ORGANIZATIONAL DATA

    

     SECTION II    NARRATIVE SUMMARY

 

     SECTION III   SEQUENTIAL LISTING OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

 

     SECTION IV    LIST OF SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

 

 

>

SECTION I

ORGANIZATIONAL DATA

 

1.  Unit Designation                      

 

1st Reconnaissance Battalion

1st Marine Division

Box 555584

Camp Pendleton, California 92055-5584

    

     a.  Reporting Unit Code:  11060

     b.  Table of Organization Numbers:  1423A/1424B

     c.  Period Covered:  1 Jan 2001 to 30 June 2001

 

2.  Personnel Information

 

     a.  Commanding Officer:

         Stephen A. Ferrando, LtCol        01 Jan – 11 Jun

        

         Commanding Officer:

         Rory E. Talkington,  LtCol        11 Jun – 30 Jun

 

     b.  Executive Officer:

         Todd S. Eckloff, Maj              01 Jan – 18 May

 

     c.  Subordinate Commanders:

         1.  Company Commander, Headquarters and Service                     Company

             Albert R. Mendoza, Capt       01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

         2.  Company Commander, A Company      

             Bryan E. Patterson, Capt      01 Jan – 30 Jun                                

         3.  Company Commander, B Company

             Craig R. Schwetje, Capt       01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

         4.  Company Commander, C Company                                        Brian L. Gilman, Capt             01 Jan – 30 Apr

 

             Brian T. Rideout, Capt        01 May – 30 Jun

 

         5.  Commanding Officer, D Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion                                    

             Andrew T. Roberto, Maj        01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

     d.  Principal Staff Members

 

         1. Intelligence Officer

            Brian T. Rideout, Capt              01 Jan – 30 Apr

 

            Adam S. Conway, Capt           01 May – 30 Jun

  

         2. Operations Officer

            Richard W. Whitmer, Maj        01 Jan – 30 Apr

 

             Brian L. Gilman, Capt              01 May – 30 Jun

                                                                        3. Communications Officer

            Aaron P. McFarland, Capt       01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

         4. Supply Officer

            Stephen F. Wildt, 1stLt        01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

         5. Air Officer

            Brian R. Peterson, Capt        01 Jan – 13 May

 

     e. Staff Historian

        Conan H. Chang, Capt               01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

     f. Senior Enlisted Personnel:

 

          1.  Sergeant Major

              John J. Sixta, SgtMaj        01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

          2.  Company First Sergeant, H&S Company

    Erik H. Shirrefs, 1stSgt     01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

          3.  Company First Sergeant, A Company

              John K. Bell, 1stSgt         01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

          4.  Company First Sergeant, B Company

              Derek J. Morris, 1stSgt      01 Jan – 15 Feb

 

              Jose L. Santiago, 1stSgt     15 Feb – 30 Jun

 

          5.  Company First Sergeant, C Company

              Michael Dechy, 1stSgt        01 Jan – 30 Jun

 

          6.  Company First Sergeant, D Company, 4th

              Reconnaissance Battalion

              Robert J. Cottle, 1stSgt     01 Jan – 30 Jun


SECTION II

 

NARRATIVE SUMMARY

 

 

In January of 2003, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Kuwait in preparation for combat operations in Iraq. Company C deployed via air transport to Kuwait on January 30, 2003.  Company B and the Battalion Headquarters (Forward) deployed via air transport on February 3, 2003.  Companies B and C trained in Kuwait for six weeks prior to crossing the line of departure. Company A and H&S Company deployed to Kuwait on the USS Anchorage, setting sail on January 17, 2003. After arriving in Kuwait the two companies trained for three weeks before combat operations commenced. Company D, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve, was mobilized and activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 03 February 2003. The company departed to the designated Staging and Integration Area (SIA) at Camp Pendleton, California, for joining to the Gaining Force Command (GFC), 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, on 07 February 2003. The company stayed at Camp Margarita briefly before being forward deployed to the country of Kuwait on 14 February 2003. Upon linking up with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 16 February 2003, the company began preparations and workups in earnest, eventually crossing the line of departure (LD) into Iraq and subsequently conducted combat operations while attached to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion/Tactical Movement Control-South for priority convoy security and escort duties. The company was detached and re-attached to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 04 April 2003, and engaged in all subsequent combat operations with the battalion until retrograde. 

 

The battalion initially was in general support of the division, but was detached to RCT-1 for the majority of the war. Through a process of trial and error the companies learned to plan and execute fragmentary orders on short timelines. Missions assigned to the battalion included screens, convoy security, a battalion level deliberate attack, strongpoint operations, CASEVAC recovery, team through battalion sized reconnaissance, combat and security patrols, defensive operations, blocking positions, personnel and vehicle searches, establishing traffic control points, reconnaissance in force, humanitarian operations, and raids.

 

On 21 March 2003 1st Recon Battalion crossed the LD through Breach Lane Red 1 and screened the western flank of RCT-5 between the LD and the Mother of All Battles (MOAB) Canal.  During the first day in Iraq 3 EPWs were captured and processed.  The battalion also observed and reported 2 enemy minefields.   The next day the battalion continued its screen mission between MSR Tampa and the MOAB Canal, taking 60 EPWs as they fled the fighting in the Rumalyah Oil Fields towards An Nasiriyah.  In response to reports of enemy armor operating north of the Sadaam River, the battalion received a Fragmentary Order to screen MSR Tampa between the MOAB Canal and the Sadaam River IOT protect the division’s flank as it moved up MSR Tampa.  The battalion screen line was established by 2300 local but yielded no contact with the enemy over the next 8 hours.  During this phase the battalion seized and destroyed approximately 10 small arms and several thousand rounds of ammunition. 

 

     On 23 March the battalion conducted a tactical road march up MSR Tampa towards An Nasiriyah. On 24 March the battalion experienced its first direct combat against hostile forces, establishing a Support By Fire (SBF) position on the south side of the Euphrates River near the An Nasiriyah bridge in support of a planned 1st Marines attack into An Nasiriyah.  Companies A and C engaged enemy forces with sniper, small arms, and heavy machine gun fire accounting for 12 suspected enemy kills. Approximately two hours after establishing the SBF position, RCT 1’s attack was delayed and the battalion was pulled back. 

 

Following 3/1’s successful attack into An Nasiriyah, the battalion crossed the Euphrates River into An Nasiriyah on the morning of 25 March 2003.  Despite 3/1’s strongpoint defense of the MSR through An Nasiriyah, the battalion received moderate small arms and RPG fire as it transited through the city.  During this movement, Company C successfully recovered an injured 3/1 Marine and evacuated him to 3/1’s aid station.  The battalion continued its movement north and established a screen line east of Route 7 in order to protect RCT-1’s flank as it moved north on the MSR.  During its movement north, Company B identified several BM-21 MRLs which battalion reported to RCT 1. Additionally, The battalion found and destroyed a truck loaded with 12,000 lbs of explosives and a truck loaded with 200 mortar rounds.

 

     As the battalion approached Al Gharraf, the lead company, Company A, began receiving fire from a platoon sized Fedayeen element in the city.  Company A suppressed the enemy element with its organic weapons and called in artillery, achieving good effects and silencing the enemy element.  The battalion immediately continued its movement through Al Gharraf in order to link up with RCT 1 on Route 7 on the other side of the city.  The battalion was the first friendly unit into Al Gharraf.  During the movement through the city, the entire battalion was engaged with small arms, RPG and machine gun fire.  The battalion accounted for 1 confirmed enemy killed (dressed in civilian clothes) as well as a platoon-sized element silenced with indirect fire.  The battalion suffered its first casualty during this battle - a corporal from Company B received a gunshot wound to his forearm. 

 

On 26 March, the battalion moved to Al Rifa and established a strongpoint defense along Route 7 IOT facilitate RCT 1’s movement north on Route 7.  Enemy forces were spotted on rooftops in town.  The battalion called a fire for effect on an enemy OP on a rooftop accounting for 6 suspected enemy killed.  Friendly heavy weapons fire was received while the battalion strong pointed Al Rifa. No friendly forces were injured.  Company C was detached and attached to RCT-1’s Headquarters Company IOT protect the RCT’s log trains as they transited north on Route 7.  The Company destroyed one Fedayeen technical vehicle as it approached the rear of the RCT’s trains, killing five Fedayeen personnel.

 

On the night of 26 March, the battalion received a short fuse tasker to conduct reconnaissance of Qalat Sikar airfield in order to support a planned seizure of the airfield by UK forces.  As the battalion approached the airfield word came down that the UK operation was cancelled and the battalion was subsequently tasked to seize the airfield itself.  Despite the short notice the battalion successfully seized the airfield in the early morning hours of 27 March 2003.  Company C rejoined the battalion at the airfield on 27 March where and the battalion remained until 30 March when a RIP was conducted with 1/4.   

 

     On 31 March 1st Recon Battalion conducted a reconnaissance in force along Route 7a (an unimproved road that paralleled the western bank of the Al Gharraf River).   During this reconnaissance, the battalion was tasked with establishing a blocking position on Route 7 north of Al Hayy.  During the reconnaissance the battalion tripped an ambush approximately 15 kilometers south of Al Hayy.  The ambush was quickly defeated with organic weapons and rotary wing CAS.  As the battalion moved over the Al Gharraf River north of Al Hayy it tripped another ambush, receiving RPG, machine gun and mortar fire.  The battalion quickly suppressed this ambush with its organic heavy weapons and pushed through to Route 7.  Upon consolidation on Route 7, the battalion occupied a BP where it subsequently received BM-21 impacts 500 meters from its location.  Artillery was called, destroying 1 enemy artillery piece, 5 trucks, and 4 personnel. 

 

On 1 April the battalion continued its reconnaissance north on Route 7a IOT protect the western flank of RCT 1.  Upon receiving enemy mortar fire and locating their firing position, the battalion employed fixed wing CAS destroying the mortar position.   As it continued its movement north, the battalion again came into contact with Fedayeen forces in vicinity of Al Muwaffaqiyah (Al Muf).  A division of AH-1W’s was employed as well as 3 fire for effect artillery missions against enemy positions in surrounding buildings.  An enemy platoon sized element was suspected to be destroyed.

 

     On 2 April the battalion was tasked to screen north along Route 7a to the 86 northing IOT protect RCT 1’s flank.   As the battalion attempted to cross the bridge over the Gharraf River at Al Muf, it began receiving effective machine gun fire and ineffective RPG fire from entrenched enemy positions on the near and far side of the bridge.  Due to a large obstacle placed on the bridge the battalion was unable to cross the bridge.  LAR and armor attachments pushed ahead of the battalion to suppress the enemy positions and attempt to reduce the obstacle.  As the battalion pushed through, an enemy squad was uncovered and destroyed with heavy machine gun fire from 50 meters away.  A fire for effect artillery and rotary wing CAS mission was called to engage enemy units on the battalion’s flanks.  The battalion suffered 2 casualties when a team leader received a gunshot wound to the foot and a Corporal received a shrapnel wound to the leg.  During the day’s fighting the battalion accounted for 6 enemy confirmed kills as well as a squad on the far side of the bridge suspected killed.  One wounded enemy was treated and transported to STP.  The enemies killed were all dressed in civilian clothes and most had paperwork indicating they had entered Iraq through Syria.  They are suspected to have been Muslim extremists.  As a result of the fires landing on and around the bridge, the bridge was severely damaged, ultimately preventing the battalion from crossing the River at Al Muf.  The battalion improvised and crossed the river approximately 15 kilometers south of Al Muf and proceeded on its screening mission north on Route 7a.  As it moved through Al Muf, Company C established a blocking position in the city and destroyed a large cache consisting of 500-600 60 & 82 mm mortars, 10,000 7.62mm rounds, 1 60mm mortar, 2 RPK machine guns and 30 bayonets.

 

     On 3 April the battalion established a BP at the 70 northing along Route 7 where it remained in place through 4 April.  The battalion processed in excess of 300 displaced persons (DPs) as they fled Al Kut and Baghdad.  A cache of 20 RPGs was destroyed and 4 EPWs were processed.  Upon conclusion of RCT 1’s successful feint towards Al Kut, the RCT began its movement to the west towards Baghdad.  First Reconnaissance Battalion established the RCTs rear guard and moved along Route 7 to Route 17 to Route 1 to Route 27 to vic of An Numinayah airfield.

 

On 5 April the battalion relieved 2/23 on it’s blocking position vic of the intersection of Routes 27 and 6 north of An Numinayah.  The battalion commander decided to conduct split operations leaving Companies A and D at the BP while the rest of the battalion pushed forward to the Division Main CP located on the outskirts of Baghdad.  During 5-6 April, Companies C and D stopped and searched over 50 vehicles and 250 DPs moving along Route 6.

 

     On 6 April the battalion rear element conducted a relief in place with 2nd LAR and rejoined the battalion forward at the Division Main CP. For the following day the battalion conducted rest, refitting, and mission planning for an attack north to Ba Qubah.

 

On 8 April the battalion, reinforced with a LAR company, conducted a reconnaissance in force to Ba Qubah.  Approximately 30 miles north of Baghdad the lead LAR company began receiving effective small arms and mortar fire in the vicinity of the 02 Northing.  Due to the restrictive terrain, pre-registered enemy mortar fire and limited visibility due to fog and low illumination preventing effective location of targets, the battalion pulled back and dispatched dismounted patrols to develop the situation.

 

     The battalion continued its reconnaissance in force at dawn on 9 April.  The battalion employed a two-axis attack with Company A and C on an eastern axis and the LAR company and Company B on the western axis with Company D maintaining rear security.  Multiple firefights occurred as the battalion attacked north.  These tactics produced excellent results and defeated a well-entrenched enemy on the approaches to Ba Qubah.  Four fixed wing sections, three rotary wing divisions, and eight mortar fire missions were called on enemy forces.  Enemy forces suffered 6 confirmed KIA as well as a platoon plus suspected KIA.  The battalion destroyed three BMPs, two T-72 MBTs, and six enemy mortars with weapons ranging from JDAMs to TOWs to AT-4s.  Ammunition located and destroyed included 450 82mm mortar rounds, 6 mortar tubes and 10,000 7.62 rounds.  When the battalion reached the outskirts of Ba Qubah, Companies A, B and D as well as the LAR Company established blocking positions along the approaches to the city while Company C conducted a reconnaissance of the Iraqi 41st Armored Brigade and Al Nida Republican Guard Headquarters Garrisons.  Company C found both garrisons abandoned and captured battle colors of the 41st Brigade.  Upon conclusion of this reconnaissance, the battalion withdrew to the Division Main CP without incident.

 

     On 10 April the battalion occupied a regime complex near the Baghdad suburb of Sadaam City.   Over the next two days Companies A, B and C conducted zone recon of the battalion’s AOR in and around Baghdad. The battalion destroyed multiple enemy caches and abandoned weapons including 100 RPGs, 55 mortars, 8 cases of 12.7mm, 1 25mm AAA gun and 10 cases of 122mm mortar rounds. On 12 April the battalion conducted a zone reconnaissance and moved to another abandoned complex north of Baghdad.  From this location the battalion conducted security operations, rested and refitted.

 

     On 13 April the battalion moved to a power plant vicinity of MC405057 in order to conduct security operations and defend the power plant against looters.  From this location the battalion conducted 17 platoon sized patrols over the next 4 days.  These patrols performed multiple missions such as locating UXO, locating abandoned military equipment, projecting a presence in the area, halting looting and lawlessness and providing water and medical aid to residents of the local community.  During this time period the following weapons were located and reported for future destruction by EOD:  1 SA-6 missile and launcher, 4 HIP helos, 1 AAA gun,  3 S-60s, 4 T-72s, 5 BMPs, 5 BRDMs, 2  14.5mm AA guns, 6  120mm mortars, 300 SA-16s, 6 SA-14s, 1 ZPU, and 6 SA-7s.  In addition to these weapons, the following ammunition was found: Approximately 100 rockets for helos, 5 cases of AAA gun ammo, 6000  14.5mm AA rounds, and an ammo dump 100m long X  20m wide and 2m deep.  This ammo dump contained an estimated 20,000 lbs of ordnance to include: mortars, missiles, RPGs, MG ammo, and over 500 land mines.  The battalion remained at the power station and provided security on the adjacent petrol facility until 18 April when it staged at Baghdad sports stadium in preparation for movement south.  

 

On 19 April battalion conducted a route reconnaissance along

Routes 5, 8 and 1 to vicinity of Al Hillah and established and organized a TAA in support of RCT 1’s retrograde south.  On 20 April the battalion conducted movement control for RCT 1 and loaded the TAA with RCT 1 units as they moved south.  On 20 April Company C conducted a route reconnaissance from the TAA to the Babylon Ruins vicinity of Al Hillah IOT confirm their location and routes to the ruins.  During its return to the TAA, CEB Marines attached to Company C identified an unmarked minefield along Route 1 approximately 10 kilometers north of the TAA

 

In the early morning hours of 21 April RCT 1 tasked the battalion to mark the minefield identified the day before.  Two CEB Marines attached to the battalion were injured when an anti-personnel mine exploded while they were marking the minefield. Both Marines were severely injured and were evacuated via air. An additional Recon Marine received minor injuries and was treated on location. 

 

The battalion remained in the TAA vicinity of Al Hillah until 22 April when it moved to the division AA in Ad Diwaniyah.  At Ad Diwaniyah the battalion established its CP next to division main. Over the next month the battalion conducted live fire training and prepared for return to CONUS.  During this time the battalion provided 2 platoon-size reaction force units to aerial patrols over the Saudi-Iraqi border in order to curb suspected smuggling and lawlessness along the border.  On 24 May the battalion departed for LSA 5 in Kuwait where it made final preparation for the return to CONUS. The battalion’s main body redeployed from Kuwait to March Air Force Base, Riverside, California on 3 June 2003.  The week following the battalion’s redeployment was spent on administrative functions in garrison.  The battalion began a 30-day block leave period on 13 June 2003.
SECTION III

 

SEQUENTIAL LISTING OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

 

15 Jan             Company A and H&S Company embark aboard USS

                   Anchorage

 

17 Jan             Company A and H&S Company deploy aboard USS

                   Anchorage in support of Operation Iraqi

                   Freedom           

 

30 Jan             Company C deploys via air transport to

                   Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom

 

31 Jan             Company C arrives in Kuwait

 

03 Feb             Company B and Battalion HQ (Fwd) deploy via

                   air transport to Kuwait in support of

                   Operation Iraqi Freedom

 

03 Feb             Company D, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion

                   mobilized

                  

04 Feb             Company B and Battalion HQ (Fwd) arrive in

                   Kuwait

 

07 Feb             Company D, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion

                   arrives at Camp Pendleton and attaches to 1st

                   Reconnaissance Battalion

 

10 Feb             Companies B and C and Battalion HQ (Fwd)

                   move from Camp Commando, Kuwait to Living

                   Support Area (LSA) Matilda, Kuwait

 

14 Feb             Company D deploys via air transport to

                   Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom

 

16 Feb             Company D arrives in Kuwait and moves to LSA

                   Matilda

                  

24 Feb – 28 Feb    A Company & H&S Company offload from USS

                   Anchorage to LSA Matilda, Kuwait

                  

04 Feb – 17 Mar    1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Recon

                   Bn)conducts training, planning and material

                   readiness preparation in LSA Matilda and

                   Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait

17 Mar             Recon Bn moves to its assigned

                   dispersal area in northern Kuwait

 

17 Mar – 20 Mar    Recon Bn conducts final preparations for

                   combat in dispersal area

 

21 Mar             Recon Bn crosses line of departure entering

                   Iraq at 0421 Zulu and screens RCT-5’s

                   western flank from the LD to Route 7.  The

                   battalion identifies and reports two

                   minefields enroute.

 

22 Mar – 23 Apr    See Tab A

 

23 Apr – 23 May    Recon Bn occupied TAA Ad Diwaniyah and made

                   preparations for redeployment

 

24 Apr – 25 Apr    Recon Bn moves from TAA Ad Diwaniyah to LSA

                   5, Kuwait for redeployment

 

25 Apr – 3 Jun     Recon Bn conducts redeployment preparations

                   and embarks for redeployment at LSA 5,

                   Kuwait   

 

30 Apr             Captain Brian L. Gilman relinquishes command

                   of Company C to Captain Brian T. Rideout. 

                   Captain Gilman assumes duties as Battalion

                   Operations Officer.

 

3 Jun – 4 Jun      Recon Bn redeploys via air transport to

                   CONUS

 

4 Jun              Recon Bn arrives at Camp Pendleton,

                   California

 

11 Jun             LtCol Stephen A. Ferrando relinquishes

                   command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion

                   to LtCol Rory E. Talkington

 

13 Jun – 30 Jun    Recon Bn conducts post-deployment leave


SECTION IV

 

LIST OF SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

 

TAB A              1st Reconnaissance Battalion Operation Iraqi

                   Freedom Operations Matrix

 

TAB B              1st Reconnaissance Battalion Operation Iraqi

                   Freedom After Action Report


In January of 2003, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Kuwait in preparation for combat operations in Iraq. B and C Companies deployed via air transport to Kuwait and trained there for six weeks prior to crossing the line of departure. A Co and H/S Companies conducted training while embarked aboard the USS Anchorage. After arriving in Kuwait the two companies trained for three weeks before combat operations commenced. Company D, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve, was mobilized and activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 03 February 2003. The company departed to the designated Staging and Integration Area (SIA) at Camp Pendleton, California, for joining to the Gaining Force Command (GFC), 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, on 07 February 2003. The company stayed at Camp Margarita briefly before being forward deployed to the country of Kuwait on 14 February 2003. Upon linking up with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 16 February 2003, the company began preparations and workups in earnest and did eventually cross the line of departure (LD) into the country of Iraq and subsequently conducted combat operations, first, attached to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion/Tactical Movement Control-South for priority convoy security and escort duties. The company was detached and re-attached to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 04 April 2003, and engaged in all subsequent combat operations with the battalion until retrograde.  The battalion initially was in general support of the division, but was detached to RCT-1 for the majority of the war. Through a process of trial and error the companies learned to plan and execute fragmentary orders on short timelines. The missions included screens, convoy security, a battalion level deliberate attack, strongpoint key locations throughout a city, casevac recovery, team through battalion sized patrols, defensive operations, blocking positions, personnel and vehicle searches, establishing traffic control points, mounted and dismounted security patrols, reconnaissance in force, humanitarian operations, and raids. This report is a compilation of lessons learned from the letter companies and staff sections in preparation for combat and during combat operations.

 

1.  TOPIC:  FRAGMENTARY ORDERS AND COMMANDER’S INTENT

 

    DISCUSSION:  The battalion conducted multiple missions from short Frags and short timelines and did very well in this mode.  After about 7 Frags, platoon commanders raised the concern that on some occasions, they were getting tasks and a scheme of maneuver, but not getting commander’s intent.  From that point on, if commander’s intent was not issued with the Frag, the company commander asked for it.  Both the battalion and the company immediately improved on issuing commander’s intent with the Frags.

 

    RECOMMENDATION:  This is a lesson re-learned: no matter how short the Frag, always communicate commander’s intent.  If you communicate nothing else, communicate commander’s intent.

 

2.  TOPIC: VEHICLE ORGANIZATION FOR DESERT OPERATIONS  

 

    DISCUSSION: The line company’s HMMWVs required significant modifications in order to make them a feasible platform for employment given the spectrum of possible taskings we anticipated.  Some of these modifications were made based on prior experience; others were made as the result of trial and error.  Some modifications were not made due to inadequate materials or time, but are recommended.

 

    RECOMMENDATION: The following modifications should be made to the HMMWV:

          1. Each vehicle should be equipped with gas   spout/funnel

           2. 12 feet of tow chain on the front and back

           3. Wire cutters

           4. Plug kit

           5. Slave cable per platoon

           6. Power inverter per section

           7. Armor plate for turret

           8. Mount for thermal optics (PAS-13 or replacement)

           9. Do not remove windshields

           10. Remove doors (non-armored HMMWVs)

           11. VRC mount with speaker

           12. brackets to stow AT-4s

           13. brackets to stow spare barrel

           14. SAW mounts

 

3.   TOPIC: TRAINING FOR MOUNTED PATROLS

 

    DISCUSSION: The company acquired all of the weapons, weapon mounts and equipment needed to conduct mounted patrols approximately two weeks prior to deployment and received its full compliment of vehicles just three weeks prior to crossing the line of departure.  Due to these material restrictions as well as competing training interests in CONUS (support to Division Exercises, CAX, etc.) and restrictions on available training areas and time in Kuwait, the battalion was unable to attain proficiency in all required tasks prior to crossing the Line of Departure.  Training was maximized given these restraints, but the company only attained familiarity, vice proficiency, in some key tasks prior to crossing the line of departure.  Aggressive execution and improvisation by the lieutenants, SNCOs and NCOs ensured mission success, but more training prior to crossing the line of departure would have resulted in less friction during execution.

 

    RECOMMENDATION: More emphasis should be placed on mobile patrolling to include patrolling in urban areas, gunnery package for both the M2 and Mk 19 that includes biannual recertification, night driving, vehicle hides, and maneuver training. Training should be conducted at the section, platoon, company, and battalion level. A combat SOP should be developed for mobilized patrolling from the TT&P developed during this deployment.

 

4.          TOPIC: THERMAL IMAGERY CAPABILITY

 

   DISCUSSION: Lunar illumination during the initial weeks of the war was low.  During the C Company’s 26 March 2003 convoy security mission for RCT-1 the illumination was insufficient to conduct security with only night vision devices due to the company’s inability to locate targets/threats under those lunar conditions.

 

    RECOMMENDATION: Every vehicle should have enhanced thermal capability to accomplish assigned missions, PAS-13 does not have the necessary range.

 

5.          TOPIC: COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES

 

    DISCUSSION: Inter-platoon communication was a constant challenge because the PRC-148s lost time consistently. This resulted in a slower tempo and some loss in flexibility within the company.

 

    RECOMMENDATION: If operating solely on MSRs where line of site will not be an issue, use UHF on the 148s as the platoon TAC and have each vehicle monitor company TAC on a PRC-119 or VRC if available.  If line of sight may become an issue due to terrain or dispersion, use 119Fs for inter-platoon communications, as allowed by quantity of 119Fs available.

 

6.  TOPIC: ATTACHMENTS FOR ANTI-ARMOR MISSIONS  

 

      DISCUSSION: C Company’s first Fragmentary order while in country was a screen mission against a reported 10-12 tanks. Our weapons were limited to AT-4s, Mk-19s and .50 cal SLAP ammunition.  Due to time restrictions, we were unable to coordinate for anti-armor attachments.  We could accomplish the assigned screen mission (i.e., report, provide early warning and fight only in self defense), but we had no way to interdict armor with organic weapon systems.

 

      RECOMMENDATION: Each company should have limited anti-armor assets that range out to two kilometers for standoff and force protection.  If anti-armor assets cannot be attained for the company TO&E, then anti-armor attachments should be provided when assigned a mission where contact with enemy armor is probable or likely.

 

 7. TOPIC:  T/E

 

      DISCUSSION:  Valuable pieces of equipment at the company level were sniper rifles, long range optics to include 15 X 80 binos, thermal imagers, NVG’s, HMMWVs, and heavy machine guns in that order. Snipers were very important in this operation. Their specialization in observation skills and knowledge of optics were critical to mission accomplishment. During several engagements, their ability to engage specific targets at long range prevented collateral damage.  PVS 7B NVG’s are still in use throughout the battalion. These are restrictive because both eyes are covered up.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Sniper school and other observational skills need to receive higher priority within the battalion training plan. The battalion needs to upgrade to PVS-14s to outfit its whole T/O.  PVS 14s offer the ability to see with both eyes keeping one on night vision and the other free.  The above listed items will assist the Marines in every environment. T/E changes should be addressed to incorporate the above.

 

 8. TOPIC: C2

 

      DISCUSSION:  Companies built their C2 structure to support maneuver operations in this environment.  The fight was at the company and platoon level throughout much of this operation.

  

     RECOMMENDATION: The recon community is flexible enough to adjust to these environments. I do not believe that we need to look like an infantry battalion. Our success proved that we can structure our companies to fight this fight and revert back to traditional recon operations if needed.

 

 9. TOPIC: ASSIGNMENT OF A “DUTY COMPANY” OR “QRF” AS AN SOP WHENEVER THE BATTALION IS IN A STATIC POSITION FOR AN EXTENDED DURATION

 

     DISCUSSION: While at Qalat Sikar airfield, C Company was tasked on very short notice to provide an escort for the CO from the airfield to RCT 1’s COC.  The timeline given in the Frag order from the Bn ROC was to be prepared to move in 25 minutes, an unrealistic timeline given the issues that needed to be resolved.

 

    RECOMMENDATION:  When the battalion is in a static position for extended periods of time, assign responsibility for a “Duty Company” or QRF as SOP.  The assignment of the duty company should include a readiness status, such as be prepared to move within 15 minutes.  This will ensure that the duty company is capable of meeting tight timelines that will undoubtedly arise.

 

  10. TOPIC: MEDCAP IN AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT

 

 DISCUSSION: Third Platoon, C Company was tasked to set up a MEDCAP to give assistance to the civilians of Shantytown while maintaining a military presence in the town. Once the platoon stopped a mob of civilians, mostly children swarmed the vehicle.  Dismounted security was barely able to contain and manage the civilians.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: A MEDCAP in an urban environment requires a   company (-) to conduct securely.  One platoon will be responsible for the MEDCAP and local security around the MEDCAP, while another platoon is solely responsible for establishing a perimeter around the MEDCAP station(s) and maintaining overwatch.  The security platoon should reinforce the perimeter with the vehicles. The location should be one in an open area away from vehicle traffic. Concertina wire should be set out 10-15 meters from the vehicles as a limit of advance for the crowd and completely surround the perimeter. An ECP should be established at the concertina.  The individual requesting aid should be searched at the ECP and escorted to the center of the perimeter where the corpsman is staged and ready to give aid. After care is complete, the individual is escorted to the concertina and another one returns to get aid from the corpsman.

 

11.  TOPIC: BLUE FORCE TRACKER

 

     DISCUSSION: The Blue Force Tracker proved to be an outstanding navigation tool and a good back-up communication tool.  Having the ability to pull up overhead imagery of a built up area that displays an icon symbolizing your location within the built up area enabled precision navigation.  Navigation in built up areas and cross-country would have been greatly complicated without this tool. 

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  The Marine Corps should procure this system permanently and field it down to the platoon level.  Users of the BFT must use map, compass and odometer as a back up in the event the BFT goes down.  Ideal BFT fielding for the company would be 5 systems: one for the Co HQ, one for each Plt HQ and one for each Plt point vehicle.

 

 12.  TOPIC:  CONTINUOUS COORDINATION WITH ADJACENT UNITS

   

      DISCUSSION:  Third Platoon, C Company was tasked with conducting a mounted patrol in a suburb north of Baghdad.  As per the Battalion OpOrder, Company C was the ME and the sole company tasked with conducting patrols in the suburb during the time.  Prior to departure the platoon commander ensured that no adjacent units would be patrolling in the town while third platoon was assigned to the zone. He made a face-to-face with an adjacent company’s platoon commander and agreed upon an easting to divide the platoons. While patrolling in the suburb, the platoon ran into another platoon from the adjacent company on one of the feeder roads in the town. They were static and surrounded by hundreds of civilians and Third Platoon had to stop in the middle of the road to allow them to push the civilians back so we could pass. The road was narrow and both platoons (eight vehicles) were crammed into a 50-meter stretch of road surrounded by buildings for several minutes. The company ROC was not aware of the adjacent company’s presence nor their intended route or planned time in the city.

 

    RECOMMENDATION:  All patrol routes must be approved at the battalion level.  No patrol exits friendly lines without required coordination being completed.  At a minimum the Platoon Commander and Vehicle Commanders should get a face to face with any maneuver unit that may end up in their RAO to include the QRF and aircraft. Time should be set aside to war-game unplanned linkups and unscheduled emergency extracts.  Platoons need to be prepared with air-panels, IR strobes and always approach other units in as non-threatening manner as possible. If a unit is going into another unit’s zone coordination needs to be done at the Bn ROC, Company to Company or, at a minimum, over Battalion TAC-1.

 

 13.  TOPIC: SETTING IN A BATTALION PERIMETER

 

     DISCUSSION:  Setting in the battalion perimeter was extremely painful the first several times we did it.  Either every company would try to set in their sectors simultaneously or the company would not wait until the company it was tying into was set.  This was further complicated by a tendency by leaders to be hesitant to dismount from their vehicles to get the platoons set. This would cause the company to get the vehicles set in and then have to adjust because the companies on the left or right were not set.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: Through trial and error, C Company found the following technique the most efficient for setting in a perimeter/coil: wait for the company you’re tying into to get set.  Have the company call you on Bn TAC when all their vehicles are set.  Platoon Commanders will then dismount, walk to the spot they want each vehicle and call the vehicles, via radio or hand and arm signals, forward to its position one at a time.  This ensures that the leaders have walked the ground prior to setting in the vehicles and prevents having to adjust the vehicles’ positions unnecessarily.

 

  14.  TOPIC: HEAVY MACHINE GUN TRAINING AND FIRE DISCIPLINE

 

     DISCUSSION: The first time C Company took enemy fire, every gun in the company opened up on the threat and fired many more rounds than the amount needed to suppress the threat and gain fire superiority.  Gunners virtually had a free rain to engage targets until the company began stressing fire discipline from the top and developing SOPs for engaging targets and ensuring fire discipline.  This was due to a training shortfall.  The company never formally trained on Alert, Description, Direction, Range, Assignment, Control (ADDRAC) or fire discipline.  The company also failed to develop SOPs for using ADDRAC as a tool for engaging targets.

 

       RECOMMENDATIONS:

q       Be cognizant of the fact that the first time your Marines are taken under enemy fire, their gut reaction will be to put as much firepower onto the threat as possible.  They’ll get better at controlling fire discipline instinctively the more they “get used to” getting shot at.

q       Train on ADDRAC and instill it as an SOP.  This is an easy hip-pocket training subject that can be done with virtually no training aids.

q       Train your gunners to fire to gain suppression, assess and then fire if necessary.  Train the gunners to take a full breath after each burst before putting another burst downrange.  This will help them to pause to assess.

q       Continue to maintain proficiency by having quarterly machine gun shooting at the company and battalion level. When the company has a shoot, the platoons can send four or five Marines out to fire.  It would also be beneficial to send one or two Marines per platoon to advanced machine gun courses. 

 

15.  TOPIC: COMBAT REPORTING

 

    DISCUSSION:  Recon Marines are trained on reporting procedures more than any other Marines.  Despite this, the company’s combat reporting was grossly inadequate initially.  Every report came as a narrative, vice a succinct, SALT REP, SITREP, or SPOTREP. This caused a delay in reporting the situation to battalion as the company tried to decipher the long narrative.  The company had to continually instruct the teams and platoons to make their reports in standard formats, vice narratives.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Never accept any report in training other than specified formats.  “Beat your Marines up” constantly on this issue to ensure its second nature.

 

16.  TOPIC: DISCIPLINE AND CONTINUING ACTIONS

 

     DISCUSSION:  Even disciplined Marines will “drop their pack” on discipline and continuing actions when they’re tired.  The best Marine’s alertness and vigilance will slide as he becomes accustomed/acclimated to the combat environment.  This occurred at all levels of leadership in the battalion at one time or another.  In all my professional and mental preparation for combat, I always told myself this would never happen to me, but on occasion, it did.  It’s now my belief that this does not occur due to malicious intent or laziness, instead it occurs because it’s human nature. 

 

     RECOMMENDATION: Even the best Marines will constantly have to be reminded to conduct continuing actions, remain vigilant and constantly assess their tactical situation.  Leaders must continually evaluate their unit’s tactical situation and continuing actions.  To do this 24-7, leaders must employ “back-ups” – other personnel who are specifically tasked to check these actions, so when the primary’s level of alertness is dropped, the issue is still being addressed.  Develop and use other tools like continuing action checklists that you can refer to when you’re tired and “brain dead”.

 

 

17.  TOPIC: EQUIPMENT

 

     DISCUSSION:

Equipment which worked well:

a.     AN/PAS-13 thermal sight.

b.     AN/PVS-17B/C infrared sight.

 

Equipment which did not work well:

 a. PRC-148 MBITR radios. -The PRC-148 MBITR radios work well during foot patrols, but are less effective during mobility operations.

 

Equipment needed:

 a. M40A3 sniper rifle with rail system to employ                                     PVS-9/10 night vision sights.

 b. Suppressors

 c. Helmet mounts

 d. SASR .50 caliber sniper rifles.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: We need to maximize our night fighting capabilities by conducting additional training with NVG. Most marines don’t know how to adjust the NVGs that we have to get the optimal performance out of them. It would help the training effort if we were able to mount the devise to the helmet in a more permanent and stable manner. The one piece helmet mount would make using the NVGs much easier and help to change the mind set of how and when they are used. We have a definite advantage over the enemy in this area and should take advantage of it.

 

The PRC-148 did not have the range or power needed to conduct vehicle operations. We should use PRC-119s whenever possible. 

         

Snipers are a force multiplier in urban operations.  They bring outstanding observation skills to the battlefield.  They can also take advantage of operating at night.  Suppressors can add to stealth and at least one per team could be beneficial. The company’s one SASR is with 1st platoon, who is currently attached to the 15th MEU.  The weapon drastically increases the sniper’s already stated advantage and effectiveness.

 

18. TOPIC: MINDSET FOR MOUNTED OPERATIONS

 

     DISCUSSION:  Mounted operations require a huge readjustment of perspective, especially for reconnaissance units accustomed to stealthy, foot-mobile patrolling. Limited attempts at concealment can be made, such as driving blacked-out at night and using camouflage netting when static, but the overall mindset must be one of force, not of stealth.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Train aggressively; by developing a frontal attack mentality that the reconnaissance Marines can understand and which will help them make the mental adjustment.  To use a football analogy, develop a linebacker or fullback mindset.  One that is developed, the Marines will not be hesitant to take the fight directly into the enemy’s face. Begin instruction at the Basic Reconnaissance Course in mounted, light vehicle type patrolling and tactics in order to meet the demands of this type of reconnaissance employment technique in future operations.

 

 

 

 

19. TOPIC:  PROPER USE OF NIGHT VISION AND THERMAL EQUIPMENT

 

     DISCUSSION:  During night movement and in stationary positions we, as a battalion, did not use the equipment that we had on-hand to its potential. The limitations of the Iraqi’s night vision capability should have been exploited to the fullest. Making night turn into day also helps our Marines spot and identify targets.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  During movement the lead element should have the bulk of our night vision and thermal capabilities. The lead vehicle should not carry the illuminators but the next vehicle behind it should, this would illuminate the area to the front increasing the range of vision by at least 100 meters. Stopping and observing with the thermals would tell the Marines in the vehicles where to look for personnel or targets up to 1000 meters ahead with ease. The amount of time that it takes to conduct these stops would more than be worth the time lost traveling.

 

 

20. TOPIC:  PROPER EMPLOYMENT OF VEHICLES

 

     DISCUSSION:  Moving to the Dispersal Area was the first time that the company tactically maneuvered with all of its vehicles. The fact that the platoons were given vehicles and weapons systems at last minute is known and explains why the teams appeared to be tied to their vehicles. When contact was made and vehicles moved into position, their team members stayed in the vehicle most of the time instead of dismounting, except for the gunner who has to suck it up and employ his weapon system.  

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  A good vehicle-patrolling package put into the company’s training plan prior to the platoons deploying would cover all the areas that need it. There are plenty of training areas in California and Arizona to accomplish all that is needed to ensure our Marines are ready to conduct these types of operations. Personal note on this, I believe that we can employ vehicles in almost all patrolling environments. Since Recon BN does not have a deep mission we should be able to support our teams with vehicles.

 

 

21. TOPIC: OPTICS THAT MATCHES THE WEAPONS SYSTEMS FOR PROPER TARGET IDENTIFICATION

 

     DISCUSSION:  The optics that we had did not match the distance that we could employ the weapons systems. With target I.D. being such an important thing, we need to look into purchasing optics that will greatly increase the range that we can identify targets.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  There are many optics on the market today and they are getting cheaper every year. We should stay away from digital zoom and stick to optical zoom power up to 40X after that digital zoom would be ok. Digital stabilization is a must for any optic that is going to have that much optical power and having a simple plug in for taking digital stills through any optic would assist in confirmation. These items are on the market at reasonable prices.

 

22. TOPIC:  WEAPONS RANGE

 

     DISCUSSION:  The M-4 and M-16 were limited to what they could engage while traveling in vehicles. The standoff that the .50 gave us was great but the other weapons that we had could not be employed. The snipers were at about max range but could have taken shots if necessary.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  If the M-16A4 with high powered optics can reach out and touch the enemy at long distances then we need to have a few in each team. Don’t get me wrong I think the M-4 is a great weapon for in city fighting from 100 to 300 meters. A weapon mix may be what we need to look at.

 

 

 

23. TOPIC: MOBILIZATION OF RESERVE COMPANY

                     

     DISCUSSION: The company as a whole was prepared for the mobilization process. The mobilization mindset had been previously instilled in the minds of all hands so when the word came down, there were no real surprises. Solid success on the last MORDT and plenty of lead time given the current world situation negated any real issues of refusal or delay of mobilization orders. Problematic issues included the accession of site-lined (SGU vs. SGV) personnel to the deployment roster and the administration required in the gaining of corpsmen. The Inspector/Instructor staff did a good job of supporting the mobilization effort. All hands including both the company and I&I staffs worked fairly well in concert towards a successful mobilization.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: The single greatest improvement to the mobilization process would be to have the family readiness brief given the FIRST day of mobilization, rather than the LAST night. The negative impact this had on precious remaining time left with loved ones as well as time left in which to accomplish critical family readiness tasks was felt throughout the chain of command. Furthermore, the family readiness brief needs to be carefully tailored to fit the specific needs as well as realities of Marine families. By using the organic assets on site at Kirtland AFB, many families received information that led them to believe that MWR issues would be commensurate with the standard of living that the Air Force enjoys – a marked contrast from what the Marines enjoy. All personnel assigned to RUC 14705 should have been mobilized. Navy corpsmen need to be mobilized with the company from day one, not handled through a totally different system – this matter caused the company to deploy forward without three of its four corpsmen due to the existing timeline. Focus on MORDT preparedness was crucial.

 

 

24. TOPIC: ACTIONS AT THE STAGING INTEGRATION AREA

 

     DISCUSSION: Traditionally, the expected time given for a reserve unit to complete preparations prior to being forward deployed into a theater of operations is approximately thirty days. In this instance, the company, in effect, had six days. This was wholly inadequate given the mission and equipment requirements needed by the company to fall in on its active duty battalion. T/O and T/E shortfalls will be discussed later. With the entire battalion and almost the entire division already in theater, support for training was virtually non-existent to minimal, at best.  The availability of ranges, ammunition, and most other items of training support were generally unavailable. The battalion rear party did a great job in providing what limited support they could, but had the company been at the SIA for the full thirty days, effective training would not have been possible. Company D was unable to adequately prepare for its mission upon joining the battalion.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: While a 30-day SIA workup period would be desirable, as in this case it is not always possible. In this event, it is recommended that the unit be mobilized at the earliest possible date, preferably while elements of the GFC are still at the SIA in order to facilitate a worthwhile workup for the reserve unit prior to being forward deployed. Should the GFC already be forward deployed, contingencies must be in place to help facilitate adequate training upon the unit’s arrival.

 

 

25. TOPIC: TABLE OF ORGANIZATION REQUIREMENTS FOR RESERVE COMPANY

 

     DISCUSSION: Guidance from the GFC was fairly specific regarding the personnel assigned to the company deploying. Of particular note was the fact that site-lined personnel (SGU vs. SGV) were left behind. Forgotten in this was the reality that by virtue of being a part of the company, these personnel are already functioning members of the command and perform critical tasks required for the company’s success (communicators watch standers, etc.). As a result of this decision, the headquarters platoon was significantly under strength. Upon arrival in theater, it became immediately apparent that all available personnel could have been gainfully employed despite their MOS or site line distribution.

 

    RECOMMENDATION: If companies in 4th Recon Bn are to maintain the “habitual relationship” concept of employment, then the T/O of the company must mirror that of the companies in the battalion with which it has the habitual relationship. To do otherwise would engineer a significant disadvantage for the reserve company from the outset and pose problems with the integration to the GFC. It is ill advised to “break up” the company based solely on “site line” issues. Either do away with site lining personnel altogether, or be prepared to deploy the company in total.

 

 

26. TOPIC: T/E REQUIREMENTS FOR RESERVE COMPANY

 

     DISCUSSION: Company D had been chopped to join a battalion which had been tasked with performing a non-traditional mission: A mobile, heavy/medium machine gun-mounted capability was identified. Early in 2002, the company was tasked with developing a mobile reconnaissance capability, but no additional vehicle assets were provided to give adequate lift for the company nor were any medium or heavy machine guns provided. The GFC identified the requirements in late November of 2002; still no additional vehicle or weapons assets were sourced. The command was advised by HHQ that all vehicles (and weapons) would be sourced and provided. The end state of this discussion was that the company was unable to cross the LD with the rest of the battalion. The vehicle assets that were sourced for the company (by the I&I) were sourced after the company had already left CONUS. Further, these vehicles were sourced from across multiple units in 1st Marine Division; in unknown condition and reliability. The company’s heavy and medium machine guns also had to be sourced – in this case, they were sourced from the reserve artillery regiment – also after the company was forward deployed. The company’s vehicles and weapons did not arrive until several days after the commencement of hostilities. Several more days were required to upload mission essential equipment and ammunition, mount the machine guns and make all other necessary preparations for conducting combat operations.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: It is absolutely essential that the T/E of the company mirror that of its habitual relationship unit. In this case, the company was unable to link up with the battalion equipped properly and properly able to prepare, train, and develop the tactics, techniques and procedures necessary to be an effective attachment for the battalion. This deficiency was offset by a strong mindset and will to succeed on the part of all hands. When equipment finally did arrive, the company was forced to complete preparations for combat without being able to execute rehearsals, test-fires, and all those other traditional preparations for combat that the rest of the battalion enjoyed.

 

 

27. TOPIC: INTEGRATION OF INSPECTOR INSTRUCTOR STAFF AND OTHER AUGMENTEES

 

     DISCUSSION: Despite considerable debate on this topic, no real value was gained in terms of the company’s ability to integrate and conduct operations with its GFC by the integration of I&I staff members into the company T/O. For Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Operations Chief, Company Gunnery Sergeant, Communications Chief, and Corpsman were I&I Staff members. The presence of the communications chief was the single exception, as the company did not possess a properly qualified comm. chief. Several augmentees were joined to the company; one officer, one staff NCO and one NCO. Again the overall value to the command was questionable.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: In the final analysis, the commanding officer should be the final authority in determining which non-company personnel should be augmented as he is the best judge of their value to the command. SGU-coded and non-MCT Marines were not allowed to deploy with the company, though essential while clearly non-essential personnel deployed. Company D executed all missions and taskings thoroughly, professionally and honorably during both combat and stabilization/humanitarian operations. The company sustained no friendly WIA’s or KIA’s. The concepts pertaining to mobilization, deployment, and training of reserve component units has, in large part, been validated.

 

28.  TOPIC: PERSONNEL

 

     DISCUSSION: There was a huge “value-added” by school-trained snipers and Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen.  Snipers and medical personnel were the most involved and most critical players during the highest points of combat.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: School-train or even cross-train personnel as much as possible on the skills of sniping and medical treatment.

 

29. TOPIC: INTELLIGENCE RELATED TRAINING

 

     a. SUB-TOPIC: SOFTWARE.

 

     DISCUSSION:  Over the past year, the S-2 integrated Special Operation Forces Mission Planning Environment – Maritime (SOFMPE-M) software training into the POI of battalion level team leader (TL) courses.  The primary program of choice to teach, that facilitated small-unit mission planning through digitized maps and imagery was Falconview, developed under the Pre-Flight Planning Software (PFPS) by Georgia Tech Research Institute.  Also introduced was PFPS Version 3.2’s Combat Flight Planning Software (CFPS) which provides commanders and team leaders the ability to plan and time detailed routes while viewing effects of digital terrain elevation data (DTED) as well as Controlled Imagery Base (CIB).  Though students of the TL course were forced to use the software during a mission planning practical application and subsequent confirmation brief, the skills were not reinforced periodically enough to maintain any level of proficiency.  Additionally, this “refresher” instruction should be extended to all platoon and company commanders (0203s receive training on PFPS as part of their MOS pipeline) for their use in detailed mission planning as well.  One other program that will also increase our small unit leader’s self-sufficiency is the Solar, Lunar, Almanac Prediction (SLAP) program.  SLAP uses algorithms to calculate/predict astronomical data (sunrise, sunset, illumination, EENT, BMNT, etc) and extremely user friendly. 

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  TL’s should be introduced to this software and its capabilities and at a minimum, should be required to integrate it into their mission planning for training evolutions at least one time per month.  Though primarily an S-2 function, all officers should receive initial and periodic training on PFPS.  The program has tremendous utility to commanders as well as other staff commodities (S-3, S-4, S-6).  This effort will increase autonomy and promote decentralization in planning across the commanders and staff. At a minimum, our leaders should understand how to load and manipulate map data - including DTED and CIB, be able to build an overlay, and construct, manipulate, and calculate a route.

 

30. TOPIC:  SYSTEMS

 

     a. SUB-TOPIC: C4I.

 

     DISCUSSION:  Current T/O & E of a reconnaissance battalion does not include any data-link equipment (MUCS, Smart-T, TRC-170, 93- Spoke Van, Trojan Spirit II) that enables the battalion to independently establish Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) or other networks to higher or adjacent units.  This places the battalion at a significant information disadvantage when operating independently, away from the Division G-6/G-2.  Three vital capabilities that “conductivity” would provide the battalion include: SIPRNET, classified e-mail, and the ability to view and manage the Common Operational Picture (COP) via Command Control Personal Computer (C2PC). 

     Approximately two weeks passed between the time Recon Battalion crossed the line of departure and when they linked up with The Division Main just outside of Baghdad.  In that short period, the S-2 accumulated 1,574 e-mail messages, some of which admittedly, were weather update and chemical downwind-related messages.  These messages combined amounted to less than 10% of the total number received.  This over-dependence on systems enabled RCTs with conductivity the ability to maintain a clearer picture of the battlefield to include timely indications and warnings (I&W) from HUMINT and SIGINT sources.  Recon Battalion attempted to mitigate the effects of its known lack of connectivity capability through aggressive research on SIPRNET prior to crossing the LD, using VIASAT (PSC-5) and Blue Force Tracker (BFT) as limited e-mail assets, and by acquiring a Signal Support Team (SST) from 2nd Radio Battalion (on lease from RCT-1).  Other than the BFT’s ability to provide current information on friendly unit locations, the above actions taken could not provide an accurate, up to date perspective on the fluid enemy situation of Iraqi military and paramilitary forces.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Division must understand and compensate for the fact that separate maneuver battalions do not have the same data connectivity as the RCTs.  Their TTP for information dissemination and duration of taskings must be adjusted accordingly.  Increased connectivity will undoubtedly provide the commander and his staff with an invaluable resource when it comes to tracking the battle or coordinating future operations.  However, the increase in size and weight of the unit could be negatively impacted. An effort needs to be made to investigate the possibility of procuring the minimum, appropriate equipment in order to establish some of these vital links.  The data requirement of modern combat will only increase; therefore it is imperative that good data be collected on costs and personnel increases before the concept is developed and briefed to a forum such as the ROAG.  Reconnaissance battalions should not be left behind in this regard.

 

     b. SUB-TOPIC: EQUIPMENT TO PROCURE (PLOTTER, ZIP STICKS)

 

     DISCUSSION:  The Dell laptop purchased by Division G-2 specifically for this deployment for each MSE proved its weight in gold time and time again.  Its speed (2+ GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM) and versatility enabled the S-2 to cut routes using 1m CIB on the hoods or front seats of HMMWVs without delay.  Though not a hardened CF-28 “Toughbook,” the Dell survived the sands of Iraq although the same cannot be said with regards to data-transfer (i.e. –floppy disks, CDs, etc).  Additionally, the S-2 systems were relied upon heavily to reproduce city graphic, 1:25,000 maps to scale in support of Phase IV operations in Baghdad.  A color, HP 4550 laser jet printer was used to produce pieces of maps (8.5” x 11”) that were fit together to create the end product, a time consuming project to say the least.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Fast, versatile systems in the S-2 are a must given the amount of data stored and retrieved by digital mapping programs such as Falconview.  Recommend the upcoming NMCI issue proportionally accommodate that need.  With regard to data transfer and file sharing in the desert, it is recommended that the battalion open purchase “zip memory sticks.”  At under $100, these tiny devices (1/3 the size of an index finger) can plug and play into any USB port and hold up to 100MB of data without programming software, cables, or plastic bags (used to store all of our 3.5” floppy disks).  They take up minimal space, do not scratch like CDs, and won’t fail after 2 uses, like the floppies.  The other item to procure for both rear and deployed operations is a plotter.  The battalion S-2 used to own one but it was evacuated to 11th Marines almost two years ago.  Start-up costs would exceed $1000 and ink is not cheap but having the ability to reproduce large scale graphics, including maps, will facilitate the S-2’s product development mission and cut down on battalion requests to combat camera.

    

     c. SUB-TOPIC: BLUE FORCE TRACKER AND S2

 

     DISCUSSION:  The interest of this sub-topic demands an AAR in and of itself therefore, the focus of this portion deals specifically with a recommendation on how to expand the capability, or use, of the BFT.   

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  The performance of the BFT in this campaign is sure to win it a spot in every HMMWV shortly down the road.  Although its capabilities have been proven with extreme success, it can go one step further: RFT or, “Red” Force Tracker.  On rare occasion, the BFT did display threat icons, be it confirmed armor formations or known surface-to-surface missile sites, but these icons were not frequent enough.  Again, with conductivity and C2PC, RCTs are able to track the complete COP as it is maintained by higher echelons (Division and MEF).  Considering the fact that these upper echelons also have pipes to theater and national level overhead collections platforms contributes to the validity of that battlefield “picture’s” completeness as our assets know it.  Recall however, the pipes that feed the COP are established in stationary COCs but the BFT is available on the move.  If we conceptually combine the two capabilities, the COP becomes available in every passenger seat of every vehicle in which it is installed.  Theoretically, this would require some inter-service, intelligence and systems personnel to manage the database but it is not far out from reach.

 

31. TOPIC: EMPLOYMENT

 

     a. SUB-TOPIC: T/O IN FORWARD

 

     DISCUSSION:  For the first couple of weeks, the battalion operated C2 from the forward command element whose personnel configuration had depth in every billet vice one, intelligence.  Given the lack of systems and at some times, nets, the intelligence officer could conduct sustained ops without fail thus justifying this T/O.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  If the mission were to call for a battalion (-) contingent where the forward element served as the C2, then, depending on anticipated duration, the intelligence section would require at least one other Marine to cover the sustained watch, conduct debriefs, etc.

 

     b. SUB-TOPIC: DRAGON-EYE

 

     DISCUSSION:  Bottom line, this asset was under-flown perhaps due to the fast pace of battalion’s maneuver.  By thinking outside of the box, Dragon Eye could be flown in support of maneuver.  There is no rule that states the UAV needs to return to the same point from which it was launched therefore, why not employ the asset on the move by keeping it two kilometers in front of the lead trace with a planned landing point based on projected speed and time/space analysis? 

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Knowing that to plan, launch, and execute a mission takes no more than 10 minutes, one could continue to plan waypoints and loops that coincide with forward movement.  This way, with a battery that lasts an estimated 50 minutes, one mission could cover 30 km (22 km beyond the “inside the box” 8km range –whose limitation is based on aircraft to antenna alone).  As long as the UAV operator remained no more than 8 km from the aircraft, the convoy could continue to use the UAV to screen forward or to the flank of its movement.  And if the convoy had to stop or speed up, the UAV could be dynamically re-tasked to adjust.  Recommend experimenting with this concept aboard Camp Pendleton or abroad in order to further develop TTP in its employment.  Additionally, the battalion needs more school trained pilots and the authorization of those pilots to “train the trainers” within the battalion.  These assets will begin pouring into the Marine Corps system starting in the summer of 2003 with Recon Battalion on the list of recipients.  It is recommended that the battalion maintain at least one pilot per platoon, particularly the platoon heading out with the MEU (SOC), as an increased T/E in Dragon Eye would allow Recon Battalion the flexibility of chopping one UAV to the platoon going on that deployment.

 

32. TOPIC: SUPPORT FROM HIGHER

 

     a. SUB-TOPIC: TRANSLATORS

 

     DISCUSSION:  Two translators per battalion might have sufficed had one of the two not departed prematurely.  The fluid environment coupled with a predominantly asymmetric threat meant that our best I&W consistently came from spontaneous interviews with locals and/or EPWs and DPs.  Although not vetted, these sources often provided accurate information on the enemy and terrain, particularly when it came to Fedayeen and Ba’ath Party ambushes, a critical piece to our intelligence picture and subsequent decision making process.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Even with a pool of Foreign Area Officers (FAO), Regional Area Officers (RAO), Iraqi Freedom Fighters (IFF), and Human Exploitation Teams (HET), there are never enough linguists/translators to go around.  Prior to Phase IV, our battalion could get by with two interpreters (one up front, one in the middle or rear of the convoy) however, we made due with one.  When traveling on restricted routes, the battalion was often delayed while waiting for the “translator to appear” as he walked from one end of the vehicular column to the other.  Also, at times, we had a influx of EPW’s which also required a translator.  Infantry battalions, who possess significantly more firepower than Recon Battalion, and are often not employed forward or to the flank of the Division, do not require an equal amount or more interpreters.  Recommend this argument be captured for future reference when assigning interpreters throughout the Division.

 

33. TOPIC: OPERATIONAL TEMPO DURING TRAINING

 

     DISCUSSION: During Operation Free Iraq, this battalion was unprepared to conduct missions at the operational tempo required. Although we quickly adapted to the situation, our mindset going into this campaign was wrong. Had we looked harder at the operational tempo of previous conflicts during the maneuver warfare area we would have realized that 1. We would not be tasked with a traditional reconnaissance mission. 2. That we would have to make changes to the way we are structured for combat. 3. That our mindset was wrong. We would have to become more mentally agile, able to adjust on the move and during execution. Finally we would have to be more aggressive in nature.

 

     RECOMMENDATION: Speed up the planning process during training. Intentionally leave  out key points in the enemy situation, or provide wrong information to force the marines to think on their feet. Give them the normal work up or preparation time for a traditional reconnaissance mission, but task them with maneuver missions as well, in which case planning time should be restrictive in nature.  

 

 

34. TOPIC: C2 AND LOGISTICS

 

     DISCUSSION:  During OIF the Battalion conducted operations and logistics from the Reconnaissance Operations Center and Logistics Operations Center respectively.  The two were disjointed and often times caused for reactive logistics vice proactive logistics due mainly to the lack of communication and information flow between the two tents.  To be successful the S-4 shop was constantly seeking information from the S-3 to avoid being an afterthought to the mission at hand.

 

      RECOMMENDATION:  While the ROC/LOC is a good setup for the detailed planning and precise execution of traditional reconnaissance operations our mission was more tailored toward a COC where the S-3 is the center hub and the spokes are all other commodities passing and receiving information through him.  A setup like this would allow for better staff planning and overall support of the battalion through increased SA.

 

35. TOPIC: EMBARKATION PERSONNEL

 

    DISCUSSION: During OIF the Battalion conducted its first full unit deployment since its reformation.  This was done without an embarkation NCO that the battalion rates thus drawing from other commodity sections to pick up the slack.  LCpl Cowee was the sole 0431 in the Battalion at the time.

 

      RECOMMENDATION:  Recommend the Battalion be staffed to T/O for its 0431s.  We currently rate a Sgt and a Cpl 0431.  There is also a U coded SSgt 0431 on the T/E.  The newly arrived PFC that checked in during OIF should help stop the bleeding once we arrive back to Camp Pendleton.

 

36. TOPIC: EQUIPMENT AND PERSONNEL REQUIREMENTS TO OPERATE AS AN INDEPENDENT BATTALION

 

     DISCUSSION:  In OIF the Battalion was tasked to operate as a separate maneuver battalion.  With this came equipment and personnel requirements that we had not had to deal with in the past.  IOT ensure that the Battalion was mobile and could accomplish the assigned mission successfully the following gear and personnel had to be attached:

 

(4) HMMWVs

(2) MRC-145s 

(5) 7-ton cargo trucks (with reservist drivers)

(6) US ARMY 5-ton cargo trucks

(1) 900 gal fuel sixcon

(4) MEP16 generators (with one generator operator/mechanic)

(2) 116 trailers to pull the generators

 

       RECOMMENDATION:  The Battalion T/E should be filled to reflect what we rate, especially in a time of war.  Adjustments should be made on the battalion side to identify the requirements beyond what the T/E allows.

 

 

37. TOPIC: DETERMINATION AND FULFILLMENT OF LOGISTICAL REQUIREMENTS

 

      DISCUSSION: The determination of the battalion’s internal logistical requirements worked well throughout the operation, once the “company gunny” mindset was broken.  DOS is not the recommended way to track supplies on a battalion level.  The companies turned in their maximum carrying capacity and the amount they had on hand of Class I and III.  Class V was kept in form of a MUREP.  All were turned in on a daily basis.  With this information we could push supplies to the company’s based off a calculated consumption rates and percentages on hand rather guess what a DOS was for a particular company.  This level of detail was not expected by all due to the fact that for the majority of battalion/division exercises we take to the field what is needed and when it runs out, we come home.

 

      RECOMMENDATION:  Extend the length of exercises IOT truly exercise the supply and logistics sections.

 

 

38.  TOPIC: COMBAT SERVICE SUPPORT LIAISON CELL

 

      DISCUSSION:  The Battalion was in a constant support relationship shift from the moment we arrived in Kuwait.  As we moved from GS to the Division and attached to RCT1 so did our CSS support relationships.  Often times communications between our supporting agency and us were not effective.  When gear was evacuated to higher echelons of maintenance, getting status on it was unheard of, other than it was “passed” to higher. 

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Recommend that the Battalion attach a liaison cell to the CSS headquarters.  This will allow him to adjust to any shift in our reporting relationships and ensure that our requirements are not lost or forgotten about as we shift.  A Sgt could handle any and all supply work that was done in the field during OIF.  Our higher echelon of Supply knowledge will better serve us in the future as liaison cells with our higher supporting agencies.  Communication between the battalion and them will be priority witch will further expedite supply support.

 

 

39.  TOPIC:  IRIDIUM CELL PHONE USED FOR SUPPLY/MIMMS DATA

 

      DISCUSSION: Requisitions were submitted over the Iridium Cell Phone to a webpage set up by CSSG-11.  The CSS Unit would pull and load the Atlas Data into the Mainframe Computer and post the subsequent info to the same webpage for us to review. 

 

     RECOMMENDATION: The concept was good but the parts were just not available and/or couldn’t be tracked.  This idea needs to be further looked into for all aspects of data transfer, it has promise.

 

 

40.  TOPIC: ATTACHING MECHANICS TO THE LINE COMPANIES

 

     DISCUSSION:  Each line company was attached (1) 3521 Motor Vehicle Mechanic during OIF.  His mission was to make quick fixes and assessments of broken vehicles.  If the assessment of the broken vehicle was above his ability to fix, due to tools or parts, a call was made to the Battalion contact team for assistance.  This method of vehicle maintenance saved to battalion and its maintenance section a great deal of time throughout OIF.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Recommend this method be continued in the future.  The Battalion needs to purchase (1) general mechanic tool kit per mechanic it has. 

 

 41.  TOPIC: VIASAT AND PSC-5 FOR LOGISTIC DATA COMMUNICATION

 

     DISCUSSION:  Our S-6 section did a great job of schooling up the S-4/S-1/Supply sections on the use of the PSC-5 ViaSAT for the passing of data to our supporting agencies.  Not having access to SIPR net, this method of communicating proved invaluable.

 

       RECOMMENDATION:  Further training needs to be conducted in the rear to ensure that each watch stander in the LOC is familiar with the operations of the ViaSAT as well as all other communications equipment it may have to utilize.  Further time needs to be devoted to TACCHAT for the use of Administrative/ Logistical data transfer.

 

 

  42. TOPIC: AERIAL RESUPPLY / AIR DELIVERY

 

       DISCUSSION:  The Commander of CSSG-11 briefed the Battalion that we would primarily be resupplied via air that the FSSG had in DS.  During OIF we received (0) air resupplies.  We did, however, have our extra NBC suits palletized and prepared for air delivery due to the fact that we did not have sufficient lift to carry them ourselves.  In the event that we needed the second suits, they were to be air dropped in the vicinity of our decontamination site.

 

       RECOMMENDATION: Don’t rely on air, no matter who tells you that its good to go.  If it wasn’t for our secondary means of resupply we would have spent more than a day of (1) MRE a day.

 

 

  43. TOPIC:  IRIDIUM PHONE AND ACCESSORIES

 

     DISCUSSION:  The Iridium satellite cell phone proved itself to be a valuable tool as a coordination asset and last line of communication during Iraqi Freedom, but not an infallible one.    On numerous occasions calls could not be completed, continually receiving prompts to “Try Again Later” or forwarding to a mailbox, even during comm checks where the phones were placed side by side.  There were periods where the battalion could not get any unit in the Division via Iridium phone.  It’s possible the employment of so many phones in theater overloaded the system at times (will review problems with the manufacturer upon return to Conus).  Making secure calls with the “secure sleeves” also proved to be a 50/50 endeavor.  The Data Kits the battalion purchased before deployment proved their value, allowing Supply and the MMO to coordinate with various service support elements and exchange documents and log stats while waiting at Camp Matilda. The Iridium’s specifications do not allow it to operate in extreme environments, such as the desert, but preventative measures on the battalion’s part (storing phones and SL-3 items in ammo cans) provided protection from the elements.  The battalion did not lose a single phone throughout operations in Kuwait and Iraq.   

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Upon return to Conus the S-6 will continue to work with the manufacture in regards to troubleshooting problems and operations to ensure the phones are utilized to their fullest extent.  Iridium phone operations (voice and data) will also be incorporated into weekly communications training.

 

44. TOPIC:  TRANSCEIVER POWER UNIT AC/DC/BT-TR-1  

 

       DISCUSSION:  The communication platoon employed four of these units in the battalion main ROC during Iraqi Freedom.  The four that were on the Main provided a reliable means to provide “house power” to the PRC-150’s and PSC-5’s. These units saved not only wear and tear on the rechargeable BB-390’s, but also saved countless BA-5590’s. 

 

       RECOMMENDATION:  For ROC operations, the platoon will continue to utilize the AC/DC converters whenever generator support is available.

 

 

 45.  TOPIC:  BLUE FORCE TRACKER REMOTED TO THE ROC

 

       DISCUSSION:  The Blue Force Tracker was a great tool on the move, but once the battalion main was established, we had to have our ROC radio watch or other battalion personnel continually checking the vehicle terminal for traffic.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  The battalion needs the hardware to remote the Blue Force Tracker into our operations center, as it is in the Division COC (currently making inquiries to the G-6).

 

 46.  TOPIC:  PSC-5’S

 

       DISCUSSION:  The battalion had great success with our two PSC-5’s which were employed on the DIV TAC 2 and DIV CMD 2 nets.  The battalion did temp loan one from Comm Company for minimal redundancy, but there were several times during Iraqi Freedom where additional assets were required when the forward and main were employed simultaneously, forcing the Commanding Officer to split assets between the forward and main elements.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  The battalion should immediately be fielded more PSC-5’s as per the current T/E. 

 

 47.  TOPIC:  PRC-150 3RD GENERATION SOFTWARE AND HARRIS TAC CHAT SOFTWARE

 

       DISCUSSION:  This software upgrade completed at Camp Matilda proved its value during a comm shot between our battalion main at Al Hillah and the forward at Ad Diwaniyah.  The 3rd Generation software allowed for the faster passing of data traffic, while the TAC CHAT program allowed the Commanding Officer to pass a text frago via PRC-150 HF back to the main for movement to Ad Diwaniyah.

 

     RECOMMENDATION:  Upon return to Camp Pendleton the battalion will incorporate the use of TAC CHAT into it’s weekly communication training and continue to maintain liaison with Harris for the latest software updates.