Author- Cole Sammons
After nearly 4 years of full training calendars, busy work & personal life schedules, the founders of S&S took 2017 off as year to rejuvenate, retrain & most importantly challenge ourselves against a peer opponent in force on force light infantry simulation.
The following is the AAR on our experience during One Shepherds Fall FTX, 2017.
One Shepherd... what is it?
One Shepherd is a leadership school out of Ulman, MO with a 30 year history of training individuals in the arts of leadership through light infantry training & tactics. It is a community rich in comradarie, excellence of vision and execution. It simulates light infantry combat through the use of the MILES 2000 laser engagement system providing for the most realistic training simulation of light infantry combat available to the military and civilian market.
They hold 2 'semesters' that are each a week long in the spring and fall of each year. The capstone end to the week being a 3 day long field training exercise in which 2 totally autonomous patrols square off against each other, using the lessons learned throughout the week to accomplish their missions.
This is a community that we have been active in since 2012.
The weeks lessons for this semester covered 3 specific lessons: The Covering Force, Withdrawal OPS & Counter-Attack.
S&S ended up only fielding 5 warriors initially into the FTX. Most of which were truly "dual" citizens of both the One Shepherd & S&S community.
We began the 1st morning of the FTX on the FOB with an early wake up & PT session. We have the unique situation of being in the same FOB as the OPFOR (opposing force). So with the OPFOR still snuggly in bed we began our PT. I instructed our members to shout at the top of their lungs when exercising in cadence and when called to the position of attention we let out our Spartan war cry; HOWUGGGHHHHHHH! as loud as possible. This little bit of PSY-OPS may or may not have had any affect on the sleeping OPFOR but it did at least serve several purposes for us:
1.) It prepares the mind of the warrior for an aggressive fight.
2.) Separates us from the OPFOR who are normally our friends throughout the semester (and again after the FTX).
3.) Warms & stretches our bodies to prevent injuries.
4.) Allowed for critical ROC (realization of concept) drills & immediate action drills to be practiced with a group of warriors who had just been thrown together in the past few days.
5.) Allowed for a patrol rhythm & hand/arm signals SOP synchronization.
The PT conducted prior to stepping off I believe held a somewhat small but critical element in pre-FTX readiness & later successes during the FTX.
The mission & intelligence that came down from the Road to War & Operations Order painted a picture of us being an outnumbered force trying to plug the flood waters from spilling out of the dam.
I was patrol leader, with Parker being my Assistant Patrol Leader. We aimed to keep our mission plans simple, avoid over planning & have well defined measurements of enemy progress to determine our course of action (COA).
Our mission was to prevent an enemy advance into our area of operations along a road & several large open fields split only by a finger like extensions of creek beds & light wooded areas. These creeks were made into phase lines as measures of progress of the enemy advance.
Our plan was to become a light agile force, with only having 5 bodies to field. The initial plan was to move out of the F.O.B. (Forward Operating Base), ditch our rucks in a hide and beat feet to the only entrance into our A.O. Then prevent the enemy from advancing through a breach their engineers had blown into the minefield. The plan to counter that breach was to lay in a far ambush where 2 country roads "T'd" off, north of the minefield breach.
After ditching our rucks in the hastily established hide position/ORP, we set out again to move into position for the ambush.
The ambush was to be conducted with a 2 man team covering the road into the minefield breach with a 200 meter killzone, oriented to the south. The rest of the team was to lay in cover along Phase Line Chevy, orientated to the east and prevent the enemy from moving out of the kill-zone.
We attempted to set in this ambush quickly, without a leaders recon of the area, assuming we had free range of our A.O. since it was early in the operation; approximately just 30 minutes after stepping off.
The OPFOR, however, had other plans. They conducted a forced road march through the breach in the minefield & had already occupied the Southern edge of PL Chevy.
The OPFOR initiated contact on myself & rifleman Matt Geders in the open as we attempted to set in the ambush after we left the release point.
Matt & I broke contact back onto the road and I ordered a withdrawal to PL Ford. At this point the OPFOR attempted to cross the open field. We engaged the small team crossing the field and scored 1 or 2 kills. But they managed to push into the creek bed of PL Ford and disrupt or defensive line before we really got established.
It was around this time I became cut off from the rest of my squad. Alone & out gunned, I decided my best chance for survival was a 400 meter run across the open field to PL Buick. By either blind luck or MILES failure I managed to make it to the other side of the field without becoming a casualty.
The Honey Hole
After regrouping with my squad, I found the bulk of them about 200 meters east of PL Buick holding the road. We attempted to stall the enemy as long as possible, using high points in the road to give us 'plunging' fire down on the enemy as they moved up the road. We enjoyed moderate success with this tactic but this section of road provided little depth to our whole AO. The enemy, despite our best efforts kept coming, eventually forcing a full withdrawal to PL Buick.
Here, at PL Buick, the game changed. We had superb cover with interconnected fields of fire down the road & into the field. I assigned 3 men to stay on the road, myself covering the field looking east. From that position, I was able to cover the field and flanking fires northward into the road as the enemy advanced.
We took comparatively light casualties here. APL Parker Schreckenghaust dubbed our position "The Honey Hole". The official count from the OC's was 42 enemy KIA's to our 11 KIA.
I attribute 2 critical factors to our success in stopping the enemy advance in the afternoon of day 1 at PL Buick.
1.) Radio communications: We went in to this FTX planning to use our radios during hard contact. All too often in other FTX's, command and control would be lost because our leaders stopped communicating on the radio, trying to lead remote teams by voice alone.That is not as effective as dependable radios communicating clear information during the battle. Yes, when the shooting starts, SOI encryption is out the window- using radios with plain speak is NOT!
2.) Flexibility in the plan: We purposely built our mission plan with no frills or over planning. We knew with facing such high numbers of enemy personnel, we would need to maintain a slick, light force capable of adapting to the constant push of the enemy with lessons & tactics of the Covering Force in mind.
After several hours of hard fighting the enemy withdrew from the engagement. We stayed on site for a short time expecting more contact. Soon it became apparent team Spartan needed to resupply water & initiate chow/rest cycles. We moved back to our PB, relocated it to a more concealed & defend-able position.
We also really pressed for proper priorities of work in the PB. Weapons cleaning, chow then rest was conducted at 50% security. We then waited for dusk for what will be part 2 of the AAR.
1.) Breaking contact- A few times multiple warriors would be bounding back with no one covering them or in a column file, masking their own fires.
2.) Water resupply was too far away to effect on site. It was only after the enemy broke contact we became able to resupply water. More personnel would alleviate this.
3.) Subordinate leaders early on were fighting behind their rifles not using their teams as their weapons. This was addressed and corrected early in the fight.
1.) Again radio comms between teams during hard contact. This kept our separated forces in sync & calmed the whole situation on our end.
2.) Carrying small rations with us to replenish calories spent during the fight. This kept our energy levels up during the day long fight.
3.) Violence of action- whooping, yelling the Spartan cry during the battle charges up and inspires friendly forces.
4.) Use of cover & concealment. Personnel built up fighting positions as best they could during the fight.
5.) Priorities of work in the Patrol Base.
This was just flat out an intense, non-stop, defense against what seemed like human wave attacks. I am truly humbled by the caliber of fighters on both sides.
Join us soon for Part 2.........
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