The Raid on Gazebo Ridge

by Capt John F. Schmitt

The Situation

It is dawn, the morning after a typically chaotic and bloody desert battle during Operation HOLY WARRIOR. You are the first sergeant of Company A, 2d Light Armored Infantry Battalion. The company’s last remaining commissioned officer was killed in the opening moments of yesterday’s battle; since then you have commanded the company. As of this morning, Company A consists of six light armored vehicles with 25mm chain guns (LAV-25s) each carrying only two or three scouts; two assault gun variants (LAV-AGs); two TOW variants, (LAV-ATs); and an air defense variant equipped with Stinger, a 2.75 Hydra 70 rocket system, and a 25mm gun (LAV-AD). The 25mm chain gun on the LAV-25 fires He (high explosive) and AP (annor piercing) rounds with a maximum effective range of about 1,500 meters. The 105mm assault gun variant has an effective range of about 2,500 meters. The battalion has been in intense combat for five days running, and you are hoping for a day off to pull maintenance. No such luck: as your gunner heats up the morning coffee, a messenger arrives with instructions to report to the battalion command post immediately.

You arrive at the command vehicle; the battalion commander, a captain who began the campaign as your company commander, says with a smile, “Good morning, skipper.” (Lucky he put you through all those tactical decision games, you muse.) He gets down to business:

We’re here. [Pointing on the map with a pencil.] The Indigenous Division is here. [Another jab some 25 miles to the east.] The enemy is here on Gazebo Ridge, in between, giving the Indigenous boys a beating. Our division has orders to relieve the pressure on the Indigenous Division. Unfortunately, fuel is low. Division has enough for a limited operation-a reconnaissance in force-which naturally will be us. We will make a raid directly into the enemy rear while the rest of the division pulls back for replenishment. First sergeant, your boys will be on the right; I can give you a section of two TOW Cobras in direct support. Bravo on the left; Charlie and Delta are reserves, on the right and left respectively. We’ll have one battery of self-propelled arty in direct support.

I can’t give you any instructions about what to do until we meet the enemy. If in doubt, raise as much havoc as you can-mindful of the fuel situation-but do not get committed to a set battle. If he attacks in force, pull back; use your superior speed to break contact. But it’s imperative that you act boldly to take some pressure off our friends in the east. We move out in one hour. Any questions?

You meet the Cobra section leader, who will come up on your company frequency. You agree that he will hover out of sight to your rear until you call for him.

You organize the LAV-25s into two sections of three vehicles each, gear up, make a radio check with battalion, and move out to the east across the scrubby desert. At least the comm is working for once, you think; that’s a good sign. But when it goes down-which experience tells you it will-your company has a tried-and-true standing procedure: “Do as I do,” or as the captain used to call it, “Follow the leader.”

You approach the rear of the enemy position-a low, crescent-shaped escarpment-apparently unnoticed. You are less than four miles away. In the distance to your left you can see the vehicles of Company B advancing in dispersed formation toward the enemy positions farther north. You see an enemy tank detach itself from a small cluster on the extreme left of the enemy position and move directly across your front to the other flank. Through your binoculars you see the enemy tank commander look over at you, apparently without recognition, and wave. You return the greeting.

You try to raise battalion on the radio, but comm is dead. The Company C commander tells you he will relay messages to battalion.

You see an artillery battery position in the hollow of the crescent pounding away at the friendly forces to the east. You see trucks and clusters of troops going disinterestedly about their morning chores. You see clusters of five or six tanks on either flank of the position, the crews milling about dismounted, and field guns lining the escarpment, also firing to the east. At the center of the crescent, among a cluster of smaller vehicles, you spot an enormous, two-story command vehicle, which you recognize as a captured U.S. model. Amazingly, the enemy seems unaware, or at least unconcerned, of your approach.

You are now nearly within the horns of the crescent. The cluster of enemy tanks on the far left starts to show signs of life; one by one you see the diesel signatures of the engines revving up. You sense it is the moment of truth. . . .

The Requirement

In a time limit of five minutes, describe the actions you will take in the form of the fragmentary order you will issue to your subordinates. Include an overlay and a brief explanation of your plan. Send your solution to the Marine Corps Gazette, care of Tactical Decision Games (90-6), P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish several solutions in two month’s time.