Rifle Company Defends in the Desert

by Maj N. E. Reynolds, USMCR

You are a rifle company commander who, together with the rest of the regiment, landed in the country of Aridia a few days ago. The regiment is part of a Marine expeditionary force whose mission is to deter aggression by Aridia’s hostile neighbors, who covet her riches and have large mechanized armies. It is general knowledge that, in Aridia, mobility is excellent for armor but not always good for wheeled vehicles. While no one is at war yet, there are threatening concentrations of armor along Aridia’s borders, and border patrols from each side occasionally fire at each other, usually without much effect.

Yesterday morning, a platoon of assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs), enough to transport your entire company, joined you, as did a squad of engineers. Otherwise, you have a standard table of organization. According to battalion’s standing operating procedure, the battalion commander will retain control of his TOW assets but will readily entertain requests from his company commander for support by other antimech assets at his disposal.

Early this morning, the battalion moved northeast along Route 1, screened by Cobra helicopters, and halted approximately 15 miles from the hostile border. The battalion commander called you to his newly established command post for a meeting. You ordered your executive officer to disperse the AAVs, put out some security, and recon the area to the north and northeast of your stopping place.

When you arrive at the battalion command post, you find that the battalion commander has been called to regiment “for an urgent meeting.” leaving the S-3 to brief the company commanders. He tells you only that the battalion’s mission is to defend the area in order to deny the use of the coastal highway to the enemy and invites the company commanders to make overlays of the provisional boundaries on his map. Your frontage is small, about 1,000 meters, but it is astride Route 1, the coastal highway, about where the company is now. You notice that Route 1 is the only highspeed avenue of approach into the country in the area. You also notice that there are no discernable contour lines on the map. The S-3 promises more guidance when the battalion commander returns.

You drive back to the company, where your executive officer reports urgently that the recon patrol he sent down the road has just reported a large dust cloud “right front and left front, 8 to 10 miles” and “possible gunfire.” Looking around, you yourself notice a small dust cloud to the southwest, roughly where, you suppose, your neighbor could be setting in. The shape of that cloud suggests movement away from the front. You also notice that the dunes on either side of the highway form small linear ridges up to 10-feet high, much like gentle crested swells at sea. There is a moment of silence, broken only by a Marine 10 yards away muttering sometiling about “a speedbump.”

What are your orders?

Would your orders be different if you had more time to prepare your position?