Armor: February 8, 2001


: TANK TACTICS IN MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN; Years of combat training in the Korean mountains have taught the US Army a number of lessons, some of which it needs to take much more seriously than it does. 

1. The books on tactics are designed to apply to all theaters. Mountains provide a substantially different environment and "the book" must be adapted to it rather then trying to adapt the mountains to the book.

2. At the ranges where tanks do their business (1-4km), most combat is fairly two-dimensional. Not so in Korea, where an anti-tank missile team on a mountain could have a good shot at your top armor. 

3. Do not operate a tank while standing in the hatch or you will be shot by a sniper. As much as it insults your manhood, operate with closed hatches or in the open-protected position.

4. Rehearsals must include all elements planned for the real mission. If you do not include the engineers in the rehearsal, they will not know the mission or be able to improvise if things go wrong. All commanders (including the leaders of attached sub-elements) must attend all meetings. 

5. In close terrain such as that in Korea, having a light infantry platoon attached to your company team can be a major plus, if you know how to use it. With an entire platoon of light infantry, you will finally have enough warm bodies to conduct patrols and man outposts. The problem is that moving them at the speed of the tanks and Bradleys means putting them into a vulnerable truck, which must dismount them just outside of the enemy's target zone.

6. The 'tank tables' (gunnery training drills used by the entire Army) position targets representing enemy infantry on open ground in the middle of the sector. North Korean infantry, or tank hunter teams in the Balkans or northern Iraq for that matter, would more likely be positioned to the flank and at higher elevations. There is no current US Army training for tanks to engage such targets.

7. Medics are there to stabilize the most badly wounded soldiers and arrange for their evacuation. Most of the wounded will die waiting for a medic, and so must be treated by their crew and squad mates. US tankers in Korea have adopted a very bad habit. When a crewman is designated as hit during a wargame, the crew climbs out of the tank in order to conduct first-aid laying on the turret roof. In combat, this would be suicide. Armored vehicle crews need to be training to give first aid while still inside the tank.

8. Another bad habit of US armored vehicle crews (not just in Korea) is to roll onto the objective, and then assume that the battle is over. Crews quickly open the hatches and climb out of the vehicles to take a break. Getting into the habit of dismounting before commanders tell them to do so will cost lives in combat, where the habits of training will overwhelm common sense.

9. Engineers are the key to any attack or defense, and there will never be enough of them. Unit commanders need to know what engineers do, how to tell when they have done enough and can move on to another job, and how to tell when a fighting position is really deep enough to protect the tank. Units must be able to do things without engineers. Tanks should be fitted (using engineer stakes attached to the back) to carry rolls of concertina wire and more stakes so that barriers can be built. Korea is full of fairly large boulders, and few think of actually moving the boulders (using an M88 tank recovery vehicle if necessary) to create obstacles and clear lanes of fire. 

10. Everyone with a radio must know the proper way to send in a report of enemy activity. Use the SALUTE format when reporting on an enemy unit: Size, Action, Location, Uniforms, Time, and Equipment.

11. Company XOs must find out the requirements of all attached units. Having a mechanical smoke unit attached to your company is a wonderful thing, until someone notices that you never picked up the unique spare parts and consumable supplies they require. 

12. Training must build skills at each level and combine them at each higher level.Stephen V Cole


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