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Subject: Squad Fires, CAS brought to the Squad Level
SCCOMarine    1/19/2008 12:53:17 AM
CAS training and capability resident in the Infantry Squad. The first of 3 experimental Battalions has been proven successful in Iraq. This is another step in pathing the way for Distributed Ops Squads. Squads that can operate w/ the autonomy of a CAP Plt, at the extended ranges of a Reconnaissance Team,w/ the offensive capability and Fire Power of a Supported Infantry Unit.
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SCCOMarine    Press Release   1/19/2008 1:00:55 AM
Press Release Marine Corps Warfighting Lab
MCWL embarked on an experiment entitled ?Squad
Fires? with a goal of not only meeting future requirements on the distributed
battlefield, but addressing what had become an increasingly evident gap in current
warfighting capability.

MCWL has conducted, and continues to conduct experiments

that allow commanders to employ greater levels of dispersion on the battlefield. CG

MCCDC?s paper specifically points out the need to improve ?training in the control and use

of C2 applications, ISR, organic and joint fires.? It goes on to say that the Marine Corps

needs to ?Develop ways to increase our ability to use our organic and joint fire support.? A

key part of succeeding in this task is to provide widely distributed infantry squads the

capability to access and employ air-delivered fires.

Currently the Marine Corps uses Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) and Forward

Air Controllers (FAC), to coordinate, integrate and direct actions of combat aircraft engaged

in support of ground combat forces.

Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq proved that the limited number of JTACs and

FACs cannot keep pace with overwhelming number of operations being conducted, and an

ever growing battlespace.

?The shortage of aviator FACs was apparent throughout the operation: There was

often more maneuver elements at one time then there were FACs to support them.?

(From Shortage of Qualified Forward Air Controllers 22nd MEU/1st Bn/6th

Marines OEF Apr ? Jul 04)

??isn?t enough structure to support the wide variety of operations that the Bn is

currently conducting. Experience has shown that based on the wide number of

maneuver elements within the Bn battlespace and the flexibility of our enemy with

regards to engagements, JTAC?s will very rarely be present when the fight begins?

(From Cmdr 2d Bn/24th Marines OIF II)

The solution arrived at during the experiment planning process was to provide

infantry squad leaders the ability to act as an observer during a close air support (CAS) Type

II or Type III engagement using techniques and procedures developed in accordance with

joint doctrine. Joint Doctrine allows for an observer in the loop between the JTAC/FAC and

the pilot. This observer, an infantry squad leader, provides the ?eyes on target? for the

JTAC/FAC and enables real-time information flow between the observer, JTAC/FAC and the

pilot as the strike is planned, executed, and assessed.

The Squad Fires concept employs a training package using simulation to develop

squad leader proficiency to facilitate Type II/III terminal attack control, and a sustainment

training package to be implemented at the battalion level. To determine the success of the

training package, live-fire sorties with both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft were used. The

overall objectives are to develop, evaluate, and transition a training package that provides the

infantry squad leader an ability to access and facilitate the employment of air-delivered fires,

and to assess the utility of simulation in developing proficiency.

The initial phase of the experiment, Limited Objective Experiment 1 (LOE 1), took

place in March 07. Marines from 1/7 were provided an academic and simulation training

package followed by an evaluation of their skills using live aircraft controls. At the

conclusion of the experiment, 10 of 13 Marines were deemed capable of performing the

required skills to an acceptable level as judged by certified JTAC/FAC instructors. Some of

the key takeaways for the Lab from this experiment include:

? A target location device or laser range finder should be provided to Marines for this


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SCCOMarine    Squad Fires   1/28/2008 12:47:23 PM
Understand, Squad Fires is not the new catch phrase or name for DO.  Sq-F is the named portion of the DO experimentation process strictly devoted to the inorganic fire support capabilities being developed as a basic requirement for DO at the Squad Level.
What Squad Fires does is bring every SqLdr up to the level of training of a certified JTAC, but he only has the authorization to call in all Air Support & CAS missions except Level I CAS, which MUST be done by a certified JTAC.
But what Sq-F does is trains the SqLdr as a surrogate to the JTAC, so that the JTAC doesn't even have to be on scene w/ eyes on target to authorize a Level I CAS delivery.
There's an example of what this looks like in a real world Op  in an article about the 1st DO Plt that was attached to the Army's 10th Mtn in A'stan in '06.
It was not a Squad Fires per se(being B4 Sq-F was formalized), & it was not a Level I CAS drop, but it is an example of how a Level I CAS mission performed by a SqLdr and authorized by a JTAC/FAC not on scene would look like.
I'll have to find the article and bring it up for you to get a picture of what it would look like.
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SCCOMarine    Illustration   1/28/2008 5:45:45 PM
Squad Fires trains a SqLdr to perform all levels of Air Support and CAS on his own authorization except Level I CAS, which are very sensitive strikes, which can only be authorized by a certified JTAC/FAC.
However Sq-F training allows for a formalized relationship btwn the SqLdr and the JTAC/FAC that allows the SqLdr to perform Level I CAS under the JTAC/FACs authorization w/out the JTAC being present to actually put 'eyes on' the target.
As I said B4, this example is not Squad Fires per se (b/c Sq-F wasn't formalized yet) and delivery the performed is not a Level I CAS delivery, but it is an example of how the Sq-F relationship would allow the SqLdr to perform Level CAS on the JTACs authorization w/out having 'eyes on.'
Marine Corps Times
May 22, 2006
Pg. 14

Nowhere To Hide

Experimental distributed ops unit proves its worth in Afghanistan

By Christian Lowe, Times Staff Writer

They were about seven miles away, nestled deep within Afghanistan?s high mountain ridges that soak up radio
transmissions like rounds into body armor. It was the kind of terrain that lends itself more to communicating via
smoke signal than high-tech radios.
The convoy was cut off from its base. A Marine was down, and the convoy was taking fire from Afghan fighters on
a peak high above.
That?s when 1st Lt. Carlo DeSantis stepped in.
                  DO Plt Cmdr & JTAC.  All DO Plt Cmdrs & Plt Sgts will be certified JTACs. 
Just below another ridge to the west, DeSantis heard the desperate calls from his fellow Marine, 1st Lt. Phuong
Phan, who was leading a convoy out of their forward operating base, Camp Blessing, when it was hit by a roadside
bomb and ambushed by Afghan fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.
Phan?s calls for help couldn?t get through the mountainous terrain to Camp Blessing.
So, using sophisticated communications gear normally found with commanders above his grade and using training
previously bestowed solely to aviators, DeSantis fired up his satellite radio to relay Phan?s reports to Camp
Blessing, redirected aircraft trolling the Afghan skies for close-air support and coordinated a helo-borne casualty
evacuation — all well beyond visual range of the convoy he stepped in to help.
?At the time, I was the only qualified person in the vicinity to control the aircraft,? said DeSantis, whose infantry
platoon has been trained as an experimental ?distributed operations? unit, during a May 10 telephone interview
from his base camp in Afghanistan.
?I could see the aircraft, but I couldn?t see Lt. Phan?s convoy. So it got a little tricky.?
               This was an Adhoc arrangement, however Squad Fires formalizes this 'tricky' relationship.
A top Corps initiative that officials claim will change how the service trains and equips its infantrymen, distributed
operations envisions a rifle platoon equipped with sophisticated, long-range communications gear using special
training and tactics that make it capable of dividing into smaller units and operating far from support or higher
The exploits of DeSantis? platoon — 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines — have garnered the
attention of top Marine Corps brass, who describe the unit?s special capabilities as the wave of the Corps? future.
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