The Defense of Schmitt Pass

Capt Eric M. Walters

This particular tactical decision game (TDG)-unlike all its predecessors-puts more emphasis on the rationale behind quick decisionmaking. Readers are still asked to formulate their initial concept within a strict time limit. But instead of providing a capsule explanation as has been customary, readers must provide what would be their commander’s estimate and commander’s intent, had they the time to write comprehensive ones. Such an exercise best demonstrates the power of the commander’s estimate and commander’s intent as the best explanation for orders: they should be verbally issued whenever possible.


You are the platoon commander of 1st Platoon. Company F. Battalion Landing Team 2/4. Your battalion has just been ordered to defend a 16-kilometer wide zone to prevent the enemy from seizing bridges and fords over the Kusch River. located 10 kilometers to the west of Schilling Ridge. This ridge runs north-south through the battalion zone and is traversed by two passes 11 kilometers apart. Company F is assigned to conduct an economy of force operation defending the two widely separated passes against an enemy thrust from the east while the remainder of the battalion maneuvers to counterattack an exposed flank. The company commander, 1stLt Oakley, assigns one platoon to each pass, retaining a large company reserve to reinforce one of them once the enemy axis of advance is determined. No artillery or air is available.

The enemy finished reorganizing during the night and is reported to be advancing. At 0800 an enemy infantry company was observed moving west towards the ridgeline; its parent battalion is estimated to be not far behind. Battalion S-2 has told your company commander that the lead enemy infantry company will be at nearly full strength-four platoons reinforced with machineguns and RPG-18s. Fortunately, no enemy artillery or air is expected.

Your mission (see map) is to defend, even if bypassed, the abandoned crossroads hamlet of Chappell at the east mouth of the Schmitt Pass in order to prevent the enemy from rapidly pushing his forces through this gap in the ridgeline. Your platoon consists of three rifle squads and an attached weapons squad with only one 60mm mortar tube and one M60 machinegun. A sniper and his spotter from the battalion scout/sniper platoon are also yours to employ. The day is clear, dry, and heating up, with no detectable wind. When you arrive at the pass at 1000, 1stLt Oakley radios that the enemy company is heading your way and is estimated to make contact between 1115 and 1145. The battalion mobile reserve is already on its way to take up its attack position several kilometers southeast of Schmitt Pass and is expected to launch the counterattack at about 1300. 1stLt Oakley quickly adds that he is saddling up the reserve platoon and expects to be on the scene sometime in the next 2 ½ to 3 hours. Your squad leaders gather next to you to receive their frag order. What do you tell them?


In a time limit of 10 minutes, develop your concept of operations for the defense. Subsequently write a summary of the verbal orders you would pass to your squad leaders. Instead of providing an explanation for your orders as has been customary with previous TDGs, write out the detailed commander’s estimate and commander’s intent you would issue if you had the time to do so. Make sure they provide a clear rationale for your orders summary. Include a sketch of your plan. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette. TDG #93-7. P. O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134.

Author’s Note: Some readers will recognize this situation, which is drawn from Scenario II. “Defiance on Hill 30.” in the advanced squad leader game module, Paratrooper,’ published by The Avalen Hill Game Company, 4517 Harford Rd., Baltimore, MD 20214, and used with their express permission.