Priorities of a Line Company Prior To, During, and After its Deployment in Kunduz, Afghanistan
General Remarks Clear priorities need to be set to be able to thoroughly accomplish the challenging mission of a line company in Afghanistan. We are not speaking of tactical foci as described for instance in Army Regulation HDv 100/100 "Command and Control of Land Forces", but priorities in the sense of a general, clearer orientation of one's subordinate elements and units. Due to the tremendous complexity of missions and tasks, these must be determined almost inevitably during preparation for deployment, post-deployment activities and during deployment in order to vigorously enforce one's own intent and not to get lost in marginal requirements. This article is to briefly outline one option for the appropriate and varying setting of priorities by the example of 2nd/mechanized infantry demonstration battalion 92 (Munster, Germany). From June 2011 to January 2012, this unit was employed as Infantry Coy of Task Force Kunduz III in Afghanistan and thus formed part of 26th and 27th DEU CON ISAF. During their deployment, the company soldiers were responsible for the security in the unrest-ridden CHAHAR DARREH district. In my function as company commander, I determined three priorities for each phase – i.e. preparation for deployment, during deployment, and post-deployment activities – which were displayed in the accommodation area in their order of priority and visible to all company soldiers.
PRIOR to Deployment (October 2010 until May 2011): Deployment Training During preparation for deployment, priorities were: (a) near-operational training, (b) achieving excellent physical fitness, and (c) intense medical training (see figure). Despite the high burdens in terms of time and organization to be borne by the company during that phase, the soldiers again and again asserted themselves during training and exercises and thereby enhanced and consolidated their self-confidence.
DURING Deployment (June 2011 until January 2012): Deployment in KUNDUZ, AFGHANISTAN General priorities during deployment were: (a) steady professionalism, (b) maintaining physical fitness, and (c) maintaining contact. In particular the perpetual appeal to own professionalism may have saved the company from worse. There must especially never be any exceptions with regard to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like helmet, protective vest, fragmentation protective goggles, gloves, personal weapon and ear protection outside secure areas despite blazing heat and enormous strain. These rules had to be called to mind again and again and enforced also against resistance and convenience.
AFTER Deployment (as from February 2012): Transition to Garrison Duty Priorities after deployment were: (a) quick resumption of a functioning company structure, (b) adjustment to home duty, and (c) taking into account the company members' long absence from home when planning the training year. These priorities contributed to a quick convergence of the company and a phase of urgently needed recreation after deployment.
Assessment and Way Ahead Despite lower media coverage and distinctly less open combat action as compared to the year before, the situation in Afghanistan during our period of deployment was not stable yet. As a company, our action was offensive but always combat-effective and cautious; we were often in the area and at most different times and could advance into the depth of the CAHHAR DARREH district. This procedure deprived the enemy of the chance to take the initiative. Only once, forces of 2nd coy became involved in a firefight. Apart from that, Insurgents were forced to fall back on their perfidious tactics to emplace booby traps. Only three times during our period of deployment they succeeded in conducting IED-strikes against forces of Task Force Kunduz: Once against forces of Infantry Platoon Alpha, once against forces of Mechanized Infantry Platoon Golf, and once against a Recce patrol of the Recce coy. As compared to the high number of booby traps detected by own forces, these are relatively few incidents: During our period of deployment, 2nd coy alone detected and destroyed 17 IEDs under controlled conditions. Further experiences made by the company in KUNDUZ and detailed information on the deployment inter alia can be found in older issues of “Der Panzergrenadier” and other branch journals (DEU) like "Pioniere" and "Zu Gleich", in the CPM Forum "Bundeswehr im Einsatz" [Bundeswehr on Operations], in the publications of the Bundeswehr Universities Hamburg ("Univok") and Munich ("Campus") as well as in editions of the “Army Lessons Learned”-brochure. In addition, there were a DVD (“200 Tage Kunduz”, can be found online) and book chapters contributed to the recently published Editor Bookworks (DEU) like "Soldatentum", “Armee im Aufbruch”, “Das Zeitalter der Einsatzarmee” and "Jahrbuch Innere Führung 2013/2014”. The company's priorities defined for the time prior to, during and after deployment have proved appropriate when "checked against reality" and were certainly able to contribute to the operational success of the company. Under different context conditions, these of course need to be adjusted but with regard to the past experiences made in Afghanistan I would chose exactly the same. During operations, the reinforced company's strength increased to a total of up to 250 troops. Outside the camp, not only infantrymen and mechanized infantrymen operated as Task Force Kunduz, but also armor personnel, reconnaissance soldiers and engineers, medical personnel and artillerymen, signalers and maintenance personnel. Almost naturally, the First Sergeant as well as the Materiel Management SNCO and the Motor Sergeant of the company were involved in security tasks at outposts to generate "fighters" for the conduct of operations. Even Navy and Air Force members – admittedly employed outside their specialty – regularly participated in arduous foot patrols in the district under enemy pressure. This illustrates that the priorities mentioned do not only refer to the classical "fighting part" of the force. Also infantry operations in dangerous areas meanwhile extend to wide ranges of our armed forces whereby priorities as exemplified in this article may become relevant for them.
Author: Marcel Bohnert
published in: U.S. Army Infantry Magazine, 2015 (in press)
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