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Multi-Purpose Combat Capable?



Multi-purpose combat capable?
From: Capt Alfred G.N. de Boda, PPCLI
Date: 2/2/00
Time: 8:31:50 AM
Remote Name:
Posted to ducimus.com by a serving regular infantry officer 2 Feb 2000

Currently the CF‘s mandate (1994 White Paper) is to provide a multi-purpose combat capable force. For the Infantry this means conducting a myriad of roles ranging from para-capable to mechanized. Given the current geo-political climate and domestic fiscal realities, I am of the opinion that the Army and the Infantry needs to develop niche capabilities rather than attempt to be multi-purposed. These niche capabilities would plug into coalition forces and be relevent to for the future (e.g. a special forces capability, recce?). The Navy has operated like this (anti-submarine warfare) for as long as I know. Anyway... what I am getting at is that I don‘t find doing combat team attacks up and down the Lawfield Corridor particularly relevant. Any comments?
Reply posted to ducimus.com by a serving reserve infantry CWO.

I agree in principle with Capt. de Boda‘s thoughts on specialized roles.
For years now, Reserve infantry units have hoofed it up and down traces, being evaluated in a very generalized warfare scenario. Appart from the abject boredom such repetetive trg creates (with the loss, in the Reserve world, of good soldiers), it has always struck me that Reserve units, especially, should have specialist roles. When a Reserve unit continually trains in a general sphere of operations, time more than anything else is the enemy as units are able only to scratch the surface of the spectrum.
I have, however, witnessed specialized Reserve units meet with enourmous success due simply to the more narrow sphere of operations and the consequent greater depth of expertise achievable with the time available. Having served with a British Reserve (TA) unit which was a resident unit of 5 Airborne Bde during the mid-‘80s, I can personally attest to the success levels achievable by units with a narrow and well-defined operational mandate. While our individual skills, including fitness levels, were expected to reflect the Bde standard, our unit/sub-unit roles were far narrower than our Reg Force counterparts and we were, therefore able to meet with great success in those roles. The unit was Airmobile and my own company was essentially a patrols company, mounting all manner of ptls, OPs, raids, etc., using a broad range of insertion techniques and in all types of terrain/theatre. And we got very good at it.
It is my view that, especially given the small size of Canadian Reserve units these days, it only akes sense to give them specific roles. Recce is the obvious choice as patrols training provide the best vehicle for just about all inf skills. Recce would aso provide the greatest interest trg to our Reserve inf soldiers.
Reply posted to ducimus.com 12 Mar 2000 by a serving reserve infantry MWO.

The idea of task specific reserve infantry units is not a new one. A few years back I was briefed on that possibility for our regiment. The plan then was to task us with either recce, pioneer or anti armour. The warrant officers and senior NCO‘s were asked thier opinion and in one voice we chose recce as the most viable, cost effective and sustainable specialized role for us.
We felt that this was a role which would produce highly skilled, highly motivated and very fit light infantry soldiers. Most of the skills required were attainable and trainable with far less material and finanacial resources than the other options we faced. Naysayers were fixated on high tech gadetry and the operating cost of helicopters needed to train recce platoons, Yes, while training in airmoble infiltration and exfiltration would be expensive when using helicopters, that is but one of the methods used by recce to enter and leave a target area and the C1 eyeball is still the most discriminating surveillance device in the arsenal.
Nothing has come of this yet, but as we in the Canadian Army are prone to reinventing the wheel every few years I‘m sure this discussion will take place again within the context of Reserve Restructuring.
Reply posted to ducimus.com on 8 Jun 2000.

The Canadian military does need to attain a genuine multi-puprose capability. On the other hand, the infantry for example can no longer as light infantry one day and mechanized the next (ie. the LInf Bats using armoured vehicle on deployments). Canada does need a wide variety of infantry skills for example para, marine (currently non-existent to a degree), mechanized, SAS-style and light infanty. Concentrating unit specialization would reduce costs as the units would not be using money to train in a half-assed manner and would also provide better trained soldiers. Although this brings up the problem of soldiers trying to switch between battalions and the question of whether we should adopt a US style infantry structure or should focus recruiting like the British, which recruits to their specific battalions?
Being non-infantry, and reserve as well, I only see the forest from a great distance. Thus to me it seems obvious that light and mechanized infantry must have distinct organizations (most importantly at the section level) to match their respective roles and equipment.

Regardless, for the time being it seems "general purpose combat capability" will elude our army. To me this implies at minimum a balanced brigade group, fully manned (or continously augmented) and equipped, with sufficient time and other resources to achieve applicable battle task standards. It also requires a dedicated (or at least continuously available) deployable national support element of appropriate size.

The internal military political strain of collapsing our resources into one mechanized brigade group and one light brigade group is probably too much to bear for those in control. Nothing would prevent each formation from having appropriate regional representation. I think it‘s the only solution in the absence of increased manning.

What to do about OOTW? We need to shed the belief that we should have a sustained presence in every major UN or allied operation. What is wrong with deploying an entire brigade group (if you have one) for 6 months to a year in either a mechanized or light role, and then being relieved by an allied formation if the operation continues so that the formation can spend a year to 18 months back in the training area before its next commitment?

For the smaller, long-term low-intensity missions, why not retain a third (Special Force?) brigade (more soldiers required) which has two or three task-organized infantry battalion groups for the sole purpose of sustaining a single overseas battalion tasking at all times? It would be interesting to see if such a formation could attract a continuous stream of short service (1 to 3 years) soldiers from the reserves and directly off the street.

Since we lack the mass to conduct amphibious or airborne assaults, is there a need to conduct "specialized" training beyond that necessary to safely get from aircraft to ground or ship to shore? It strikes me that where the training is needed, is on the part of the staffs who must run joint and combined operations - not at the unit level. Meanwhile, once they hit the ground, the airborne-airmobile-marine-etc troops are back to being light infantry.