Action at Oxford

by Maj John F. Schmitt, USMCR


You are the executive officer of Company L (Lima), 3d Battalion, 7th Marines. You are operating in rolling, wooded terrain. Vehicles move best on the roads, not at all in the woods, the battalion is presently on the defensive, currently in reserve, your company is moving northeast via Oxford to conduct a relief in place with Company K (Kilo) at the forward edge of the battle area about 8 kilometers north of Oxford. Your coinpany is mounted on assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) and is further reinforced with a Dragon section, a TOW squad, and a heavy machinegun section (one M2 .50 caliber, one Mk19) on HMMWVs. Upon arrival the tank platoon currently supporting Kilo will be attached to your company. The company commander and first sergeant have already gone to Kilo’s position by helicopter to see the terrain and coordinate the relief. You are responsible for moving the company up to the forward edge of the battle area. The company gunny and the machinegun vehicles have driven ahead as an advance party.

The company commander calls you by radio to report that Kilo is coming under increasing pressure to the front from enemy probes. He frags you to move the company as quickly as possible into a blocking position at a designated location several kilometers to the rear of Kilo (5 kilometers north of Oxford) and to prepare for a rearward passage of lines rather than a relief in place. He says the tanks will meet you at that position and will come up on the company tactical net. You are about a mile west of Oxford. The forward observer tells you that somebody is calling for fire east of Oxford using your company call sign. Simultaneously, the gunny comes up on the tactical net with the following report:

Checkpoint 21. Enemy force at least company strength closing on Oxford from the east inside two clicks. I count five PT-76 followed by at least that many BTR-60. Looks like more coming. No sign of friendlies to east. Two BRDMs approaching South Oxford from east; will reach high ground in about two or three mikes. I have not been spotted.

What now, Lieutenant?


Things are happening fast. In a time limit of 3 minutes, issue instructions to your subordinates. In an additional 2 minutes, decide what reports to make and to whom. Provide an overlay of your solution and a brief discussion of the rationale behind your actions. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #93-12, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134.

Quote to Ponder

The Small Unit Leader

On the maneuver warfare battlefield, NCOs must make decisions based on tactics, not just rigidly applied techniques. . . . “[they] must learn to cut to the heart of the situation, recognize its decisive elements, and base [their] course of action on these.”

-Capt Daniel J. O’Donohue