You are the 2d Platoon Commander, Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 11th Marines (BLT 2/11), 11th MEU. Your company has recently taken over the area of responsibility (AOR) of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. After initial operations, organized resistance has ceased. However, insurgent and tribal fighters remain as active combatants.
Your AOR is in an urban environment characterized by densely but haphazardly arranged mud brick houses of one and two stories with flat roofs, with the occasional taller building—usually a mosque or other religiously associated structure. The main roads are paved and two lanes wide. Side roads are also paved but only 11/2 lanes wide. In addition, there are numerous narrow dirt alleyways only suitable for foot traffic.
The enemy you face wears no standardized military uniform and often appears in civilian dress, uses Soviet-era infantry weapons (AK–47s, light machineguns, and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs)), and has the occasional command of 82mm mortars and 12.7mm machineguns. His main tactic is the ambush, initiated by RPG attack or improvised explosive device (IED). The enemy rarely stands to fight, even after such ambushes. When they do, it is often the signal of a major engagement. S–2 (intelligence) believes such battles center around religious sites.
The BLT has been relatively successful in matters of civil affairs and civil-military relations. They initiated a “weapons buy back program,” paying for each weapon turned in depending upon its lethality. Despite such gains, the AOR still has its share of insurgent attacks. Of the seven major clans in the area of operations, the BLT has secured the support of one smaller clan but still faces resistance from several of the larger clans in the city and surrounding area.
Currently your platoon is on its second patrol. After crossing the Route 6 bridge, you enter the area controlled by the smaller clan that supports coalition forces. You are moving from south to north. 1st Squad is on the left flank, you are with 2d Squad in the center, and 3d Squad is on the right. You have only your organic weapons and are in radio contact with the other squads and the battalion combat operations center, though such contact is not always 100 percent due to the urban environment.
Approximately 20 minutes after crossing the bridge you hear and see an explosion where you expect 1st Squad to be. The explosion is followed by automatic and semiautomatic weapons fire. 2d Squad leader executes a halt in place and 360-degree security. Firing continues for 30 seconds before you receive 1st Squad’s report: “Enemy squad with AKs, RPG, mortar IED. Watson and Perez are down. Need casevac. Break. Recommend 2d Squad move north of my position and cut off retreating enemy elements. Over.”
What now, Lieutenant? In a time limit of 5 minutes, determine what actions you would take, what orders you would issue, and what reports, if any, you would make.
Issues for Consideration
- Who do you believe the enemy is?
- What do you believe your company and battalion commanders’ intents are?
- In this scenario, how do your actions and orders relate to their intents?
- What does the enemy hope to gain from this attack?
- How do your actions deprive the enemy of those gains?
- How will the enemy counter your platoon’s actions?
- Assume that as a result of this incident, two civilians are wounded and one home is damaged. How will the enemy exploit this information in 20 minutes? By the end of the day? For the rest of the week?
- What can you do to counter his effects at exploitation? Now? After you return to base?