Tactical Decision Game 07-23: Trouble in the Archipelago

You command a rifle company. You find yourself on Big Island. Big Island and Little Islands 1-12, along with a few thousand other islands, make up the territory of Ally. Ally is an archipelagic country located within the weapons engagement zone (WEZ) of Adversary. Ten months ago, Adversary sought to annex Island Nation 100 NM east of their coast. This act of aggression led to our engagement in a costly 57-day war with Adversary over Island Nation that also involved Ally. Currently, all parties are signatories to a tentatively negotiated cease-fire. Adversary still maintains a foothold on Island Nation.  

Ever since the cease-fire, the expeditionary strike group has been busy ensuring continued logistical support to special operation forces (SOF) in the theatre. Our maritime freedom of movement has depended upon Ally’s ability to maintain sovereignty over its archipelago. We helped Ally hold the archipelago when Adversary attempted an invasion during the short war to open another flank on Island Nation. While Adversary cannot forcibly remove us from the archipelago, for fear of openly violating the terms of the cease-fire, they continue to explore other ways to make us reconsider our commitment to Ally and the terrain Ally has permitted us to occupy as stand-in forces.  

Coincidentally, Ally now has an insurgent problem made up of violent extremists. Intel reports indicate that the insurgent ambitions, armories, and coffers have been propped up through covert help from Adversary. Additionally, tensions with Adversary, who has been known to respond to what they perceive as violations of the negotiated cease-fire with long-range precision strikes, remain high. Key terms of the cease-fire limit the number of troops in the region. For this reason, perceived increases and build-ups inside the WEZ are heavily scrutinized. While our staff judge advocate tells us that our numbers and movements are permitted, one misunderstanding could lead to catastrophic consequences. Therefore, signature management inside of the WEZ remains important as it not only protects us from insurgent forces but more importantly protects us from Adversary’s persistent and ubiquitous targeting efforts. Simply put, if Adversary can make us leave the archipelago, they can further limit our logistical support to our SOF and further position themselves for success if hostilities resume. 

The battalion landing team’s (BLT) mission is to conduct security operations on this key maritime terrain with our archipelagic ally to ensure our continued control of sea lanes that Adversary seeks to contest.  

Two weeks ago, a host-nation commando squad was destroyed on neighboring Little Island 4 (5 NM north of your current location on Big Island) when an insurgent small UAS tracked the motorized unit long enough to execute an ambush. This ambush was initiated with a swarm of loitering munitions and ended when a few trucks equipped with NSV 12.7mm machineguns rolled up on the ambush site and finished off the remnants of the squad. One week ago, locals on Little Island 7 reported fishing vessels unloading what appeared to be 82mm mortars under cover of darkness. Meanwhile, you and your Marines have been distributed across Big Island supporting host-nation commandos while also emplacing, calibrating, and monitoring sea and ground sensors.   

The BLT has now tasked your company with linking up with SOF elements on Little Island 4 to prepare for the BLT’s establishment of a larger presence throughout the archipelago. Upon occupying Big Island, the BLT intends to distribute more squad-sized elements throughout Little Islands 1-12 to further the mission. For the last 48 hours, you have been preparing to depart the Big Island by way of a Light Amphibious Warship and Land Craft Utilities. Your plan is to join two of your platoons as they displace north to Little Island 4 to link up and reinforce SOF elements already in the vicinity of Little Island 4 and keep your most experienced platoon on Big Island to act as an advance party for additional reinforcements from the BLT.   

1st and 2d Platoons will embark aboard the connectors from the Blue River Docks at the port of Ubeda while 3d Platoon remains in overwatch in the town of Secliso.  Secliso is mostly mud huts with thatched roofs and is home to about 400 local nationals. Green Creek separates Secliso from North Ubeda. Ubeda is the most contemporary city on Big Island, made up of concrete buildings and home to about 3000 locals. South Ubeda is separated from North Ubeda by the Blue River. Blue River can only be passed at the Bridge.  Blue River Docks sits on the banks of North Ubeda. 

You have established a company command post in a concrete building in North Ubeda. You left your mortars in the company arms room on ship twenty-two days ago. However, you still maintain elements of the company fire support team alongside you in the command post. You have a section of Amphibious Combat Vehicles attached to the company. One of the battalion’s four scout sniper teams is currently in direct support of your company to assist with the extract. They have placed themselves in the vicinity of Loma Linda. They are outstanding in recon/counter-recon and maintain working proficiency in close air support and joint fires. A HIMARS battery resides on Little Island 6, 22 NM NE of Big Island. Their employment requires clearance at the one-star level. There is also a section of AH-1Z SuperCobras on a ten-minute strip alert on the Landing Helicopter Dock. The fact that the Landing Helicopter Dock is constantly steaming in and out of the WEZ remains a constant source of consternation for you as there are times it is as far as 60 NM from Big Island.   

3d Platoon is foot-mobile and has been in the vicinity of Secliso in overwatch for the past eight hours. 1st Platoon is in the vicinity of North Ubeda and has been in place for six hours. Amphibious Combat Vehicles are co-located with the 1st Platoon. While the 1st Platoon and the company command post have aggregated within the bounds of Ubeda proper, the 2d Platoon is conducting an infiltration north along Route 3 toward Ubeda for the purpose of extract.  Your company has nine man-packed loitering munitions (three per platoon), each with a range of ten km or ten minutes, a cruising speed of 100km per hour, and each carrying a 40mm warhead. Each platoon has two Carl Gustav 84mm Recoilless Rifles, two medium machineguns, and limited small UAS assets.  

2d Platoon is foot-mobile and moving slowly to maximize security. Thirty minutes ago, the 2nd Platoon reported gaining visual of South Ubeda. The Land Crafts Utility and Light Amphibious Warship should begin arriving in 45 minutes. 

Ten minutes later, the scout snipers on Loma Linda observed at least three generic quadcopters moving south along Route 3 moving toward your position before losing visual. No one else has reported gaining visual of the quadcopters.  

Six minutes later, you hear two faint explosions to your northeast in the vicinity of Secliso.   

Forty seconds later, your third platoon commander reports that one of his overwatch positions was just hit with what he can only believe were 40mm grenades dropped from a loitering munition. He reports one routine, two urgent casualties, and one priority. He is requesting that you send the Amphibious Combat Vehicles for the urgent MEDEVACs.   

Suddenly, you hear six distant pops to your south across the Blue River: mortars. The volume makes you believe the enemy must be very confident in their accuracy for some reason to drop that many mortars in the first salvo. You brace for the impact as rounds slam into the vicinity of 1st Platoon in Ubeda. Outside of the command post, you can hear at least two Marines screaming for a corpsman and plenty of commotion. 

Twenty seconds later, 2d platoon commander reports over comms that the lead trace of his infiltration squads saw several puffs of faint smoke in the vicinity of South Ubeda at the time the mortars were fired. That same squad now sees seven to nine men moving across the road and in and out of buildings in the vicinity of the smoke. 2d platoon commander is requesting permission to engage the men he sees in the vicinity of South Ubeda. 

With all this radio traffic you begin to become concerned with your electromagnetic signature. More radio traffic: scout snipers at Loma Linda report one of the Route 7 ground sensors was tripped 30 seconds ago. Snipers reoriented southeast of their position and now have observation of four to five pick-up trucks rapidly moving west on Route 7 toward Secliso.  

In a time limit of three minutes: 

  • What is the enemy trying to do to you? 
  • As the company commander, what can you affect in this fight?  
  • What are your orders? 
  • What do you tell higher? 

After Action Report:   

  • How did you get into this mess?   
  • What must you learn from this action? 

Tactical Decision Game #23-04: Hide and Seek

The year is 2031 and the world is at war. You are the squad leader for 1st Squad, Alpha Company, 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. You are tasked with maintaining a low signature sensing cell on the small island of Pamitinan in the Philippine archipelago. Enemy ships frequent the straight between your island and the island approximately nine kilometers to the north. Although remaining undetected to protect sensing capabilities is the primary mission, your squad is equipped with one squad deployment missile system which has eight missiles as well as two unmanned aquatic vehicles each carrying sixteen surface-to-surface launched missiles. Your weaponry allows you a last line of self-defense if spotted and enables a strike capability in case of a high-priority target as designated by the fleet commander.  

You have been on the island for 57 days and are quickly approaching the end of your 60 days of rations and logistical sustainment. Resupplies have been planned for your squad twice in the past three weeks but have fallen through due to unexpected enemy movement in the area that could reveal your positioning or down the incoming aircraft. Three days ago, your 1st fire team leader, Cpl Snow, developed a high fever. He has been vomiting, in and out of consciousness, and recently finished the last IV bag. A medevac for Cpl Snow and a logistical resupply is now a necessity. To avoid detection, you are limited to one randomly generated comm window a day that lasts for two minutes. During the last window, it was passed that an MV-22 Osprey would be landing at your LZ at 0900 with a medical crew for an extract of Cpl Snow and a logistical resupply of 60 days of sustainment.  

As you are preparing the second fireteam to move to the LZ and rendezvous with the Osprey a Marine from your squad grabs you to tell you to look at the radar. You look to see your sensor has picked up not one but two enemy ships. To your northeast is an enemy sensing ship capable of picking up any transmissions that use SATCOM, HF, and VHF within seconds and pinpointing its location for precision-strike capabilities to act on. To your northwest heading toward the other ship is an enemy battleship capable of ship-to-air and ship-to-shore precision-ballistic strikes. It would take approximately 36 of your organic missiles to overwhelm the battleship’s defense capabilities and 24 for the sensing ship. The Osprey that is inbound is only minutes from being within range and is currently flying dark on comms only able to be reached by an emergency VHF net that you could contact to call them off. A strike from the enemy destroyer would be on target within 90 seconds with an attack from the nearest enemy-held island being 5 minutes. The time is 0852, what do you do? 

>GySgt McGrorty-Hunter is a Cyber Network Chief and is currently serving as a Faculty Advisor at the Staff Non-Commissioned Officers Academy aboard MCB Quantico. He is also the founder of the Quantico Warfighting Society. His most recent assignment prior to serving at Quantico was with ¼ MAR where he deployed twice in support of the 31st and 15th MEUs. 

Part VII: Deal or No Deal


You are the Company Commander, A Company, 1st Bn, 1st Marines. It has been two days since the two families of squatters living in COP Ritz hastily left their rooms in the outpost after a visit from two of their “cousins.” You have taken a team of three MUGA commandos, including Sgt Chef Benazzi. His seniority and experience remind you of an old-school infantry gunnery sergeant, and he has also proven to be one or your most savvy interpreters. You have been outside the wire since dawn meeting with Imam Mehmet Binouadoud, the Imam of the Al Mumeet Mosque, and Mkuu (chief) Uhuru Honore, the leader of the Albu Xuzuri tribe. You are determined to build on your relationships with these two very different local leaders to get to the bottom of the sudden departure of the squatters and to shore up local security in the neighborhood.

Your reports, based on many engagements over the past months, have helped confirm multi-source intelligence analysis findings that the leaders of the Albu Xuzuri tribe may be ready to openly support the MUGA and the CJTF. Your battalion CO has also “read you in” regarding diplomatic efforts at the U.S. mission in the capital, Minna Sultan Usween, to bring the Nuzuris into the MUGA. The Nuzuris are numerous and heavily armed, but they are a minority in the country. They have been historically ostracized as the descendants of enslaved mainland Africans brought to the country by the French in the 18th century. The Nuzuri are further stigmatized due to their unorthodox interpretation of Sufi Islam influenced by tribal and Christian practices. In response, they have developed a strongly self-reliant and isolated warrior culture with a reputation for violence, revenge, and criminal enterprises.

The three of you, along with Sgt Chef Benazzi, are all sitting on the floor of one of the offices on the third floor of the Imam’s compound due east of the mosque, drinking sweet tea. Your commandos, the Imam’s mosque police, and the Mkuus personal guard are posted outside. Soon after the noon call-toprayers, you hear two explosions and heavy small arms fire. You see smoke rising from the northern boundary of the COP, but you cannot make contact with your Marines on the company radio. More automatic weapons fire and several smaller explosions follow, now you are able to see smoke rising from north of the COP. You cannot see the action north of the COP and have no idea how many attackers are involved, what has caused the explosions, or what actions your Marines are taking.

You are still unable to raise your 3d Platoon Commander, 1st Lt Przyby, who you Iert in charge at the COP. As you silently recite the “mantra” of tactical reporting-“What do I know? Who needs to know? Have I told them?”- you use your local network cell phone to call the battalion’s CMOC (civil-military operations center) and, after a brief exchange with one of the contracted interpreters, you provide a “Flash” SITREP to the Battalion Operations Officer: “40-plus enemy; attacking COP Ritz from the north; time: now; automatic weapons and IEDs; COP in danger of being overrun.” You deliberately create a number of attackers to “work the system” the CFACC (combined force air component commander) uses to authorize CAS requests when there is a tactical unit in contact, or “TIC.” You know 30 enemy is the CJTF Commander’s threshold to immediately pull attack aircraft plus either rotary-wing or a UAS terminal controller from one of the “stacks” managed by the CFACC from their palatial combined air operations center at the international airport in the capital. Further, you add a “worse case” assessment about COP Ritz being overrun to ensure your Marines have the best chance for immediate support. As you finish your call, you hear the familiar sound of a .50 cal machingun and the crum-crump-crump of a MK19. You had been expecting the S-4A with a resupply convoy, and it sounds as if he has arrived and is joining the fight.

The Mkuu turns to you and, in heavily accented but perfect English, says, “My men can help you. My Militia is here protecting us at this meeting, and they are ready to fight and kill the terrorists attacking your Marines. I know you are only a captain, but at least you are here with us. I also know you understand what I am offering, and your generals and colonels will listen to you. You will make your reports, and you will see to it that 1 meet with the general of your ‘see jay tee eff.'”

He goes on to tell you that he has 30 militiamen with rifles and RPGs spread between the large, 4-story apartment building north of the Mosque and the COP. Mkuu Honore assures you that his men will support your Marines and help you get safely back to the COP. He goes on to report that the Albu Nuzuri are “blood enemies” of the terrorists and the tribes who support them, and that they are ready to secure this part of the city for the MUGA. Sgt Chef Benazzi and the Imam have been conferring Arabic, and while clearly caught off guard, they both appear pleased.

Suddenly, the Mkuu calls in one of his personal guard who is carrying a Styrofoam cooler held together with duct tape and wire. With obvious pride, he declares “to prove my point…” and opens the cooler to show you the severed heads of the two “cousins” who had visited the squatters at COP Ritz two days ago. Sgt Chef Benazzi starts cursing in Arabic, and Imam Binouadoud reels in shock. The commandos, mosque police, and Nuzuri Militia start screaming at each other in the hall way. You fight back the nausea and lean in to the Mkuu.

Realizing what this means to the CJTF and your battalion, do you accept his offer of support? “Deal, or no deal?”

If you do accept, how do you want to employ the militiamen in the apartment building between you and the COP? What are your instructions, and how do you communicate them?

If your ploy to get immediate CAS to support your Marines is successful, and with degraded communications, how do you plan to ensure effective terminal control of these aircraft?

Where do you put yourself in this fight? Do you get back to the COP as fast as possible, or do you “embed ” with your new allies?

How and when do you tell your battalion commander that your SITREP included deliberate fabrications?

Do you do something completely different?


In 5 minutes or less, write your decision, providing a brief discussion of the rationale behind your actions. Submit your solutions by email to gazette@???marines.org or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 09-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.

Cache Search

by Capt Jason Topshe



You are 3d Squad Leader, 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, deployed to Farah Province, Afghanistan. Your squad was tasked with finding and destroying a suspected Taliban weapons cache reported to be located somewhere in the village of Wadi Zai.

The last reported activity involving U.S. forces in the area is from an Army patrol which conducted a route clearance mission almost seven months ago. That patrol identified a possible IED on the road in vicinity of Building A5. However, when they dismounted their vehicles to investigate, one soldier stepped on a pressure plate IED located near the southeast corner of Building A4. A second soldier moved to provide first aid, but he also stepped on a pressure plate IED along the eastern wall of Building A3. In the ensuing minutes, both of them died of their injuries. The possible IED in vicinity of Building A5 was later confirmed and rendered safe.

During mission planning, through the use of sensors provided by unmanned aerial systems, and through reliable reports from intelligence sources, you have identified four possible IED locations in the village. These are marked by a red “X” on the map.

The remainder of your platoon is located 2km south at Forward Operating Base Driftwood. As your squad patrols into the village from the South, your Platoon Commander comes over the radio with the following information: “Intel reports indicate a high probability the enemy weapons cache is located in Building A3. Get there ASAP and search that building.”

As you approach Building A3 on foot from the south, you notice disturbed earth in three locations surrounding the building, specifically in locations that you identified as likely IEDs during mission planning. Your interpreter is also talking to a local man who claims to live in Building B1. He nervously tells you that you should not go in there because the entire compound is filled with “bombs.”

You report the situation back to your Platoon Commander and request explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) support to further investigate and render any IEDs safe before entering the compound. He comes on the radio with this reply: “Negative. EOD currently unavailable. Find another way to get into that compound. You need to find that cache.”

The compound walls are about six-feet high, and you know your Marines can scale them with the help of a buddy. Through your interpreter, you ask the local man if he knows of a safe way to get into the compound while avoiding IEDs, but he says that he is not sure. He adds that the Taliban used to use the building, but they do not go in it anymore because they forgot where the “bombs” are. After you spend a few minutes talking with the local man, your Platoon Commander comes over the radio and says the following: “Quit delaying. Search that building or I’ll put someone else in charge of your squad who will.”

Troops and Fire Support Available

  • (1)Rifle Squad with (15) Marines
  • (1)Interpreter
  • 155mm howitzer battery located 5km west
  • Squad-sized QRF with (4) MRAPs located 2km South at FOB Driftwood.


  1. How do you respond to your Platoon Commander?
  2. In three minutes or less, develop a plan and give orders to your squad.


What are the potential risks and benefits associated with obeying your Platoon Commander’s order to search the building? What are the potential risks and benefits of disobeying him?

T&R ITS Links

  • INF-ASLT-4003: Conduct a breach (T&R pg 7-10)
  • INF-FSPT-4001: Integrate fires (pg. 7-11)
  • INF-INT-4001: Conduct Tactical Site Exploitation (TSE) (pg. 7-12)
  • INF-MAN-4213: Conduct a cordon and search (pg. 7-31)
  • INF-MAN-4301: Conduct a combat patrol (pg. 7-32)
  • 0300-PAT-2007: Lead a unit in reaction to a detonated Improvised Explosive Device (IED) (pg. 8-82)
  • 0300-PAT-2008: Lead a unit in reaction to a undetonated Improvised Explosive Device (IED) (pg. 8-83)
  • 0311-MOUT-1003: Execute lower-level entry (pg. 11-15)
  • 0311-MOUT-2001: Lead a squad in urban operations (pg. 11-36)
  • 0311-OFF-2002: Lead a squad in offensive operations (pg. 11-38)
  • 0311-OFF-2005: Direct the employment of an assault team in offensive operations (pg. 11-41)

Tactical Decision Game 94-6*

Here we present a Tactical Decision Game from the pages of the June 1994 Gazette along with previously published solutions.  Your mission is to critique the solutions.  You may point out what you see as flaws in the proposed solution, highlight relevant tactical concepts, identify the effects new weapons or technology on the course of action or offer your own solution.

Click here to view TDG 94-6

Click here to view the solutions

Diesel Dilemma


You are the Commanding Officer, Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th MEU. The MEU was sent to Nangarhar Province (capital city Jalalabad), Afghanistan, in support of NATO forces during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. You have been incountry almost 3 months now. Approximately 45 days ago your company was assigned to the eastern sector of the area of operations (AO), a sector that includes the main road from Jalalabad to Pakistan through the Khyber Pass. Your company’s tasks include defeating anticoalition/insurgent/Taliban forces, halting the illegal flow of arms and explosives, and strengthening local government, police, and army forces. All of these tasks are executed in order to increase local stability and promote legitimate economic growth in the AO.

You decided to assign one platoon to work with the Basawal Police and one platoon to work with the Hazar Police. The 3d Platoon in your company is assigned as a quick reaction force (QRF) in Hazar. The weapons platoon is currently reinforcing your maneuver platoons, and the BLT has provided one combined antiarmor team (CAAT) as the Basawal QRF under operational control to you. Company mortars are in general support of the company, currently with you at your headquarters in Basawal.

Over the last 45 days your company has been very successful in deterring insurgent activity in your AO, and your platoon commanders report success in building the professionalism and tactical proficiency of the Afghan police force in these two cities. Approximately 2 days ago, demonstrations in the town of Hazar resulted in several injuries to civilian and local police forces, as well as the seizure of local fuel trucks that were recovered 6 hours later minus the fuel they were carrying.

Yesterday, you completed movement of the company command post (CP) to the town of Hazer and temporarily reassigned the CAAT to Hazar as a company reserve. You then ordered security patrols and a curfew in coordination with the Afghan Police. While order is being restored, several tribal leaders of both the Qizilbash and Pashtun tribes have accused police and military forces of stealing fuel from local vendors. Local police (a mix of Tajik and Pashtun tribes) did not deny this, stating that their vehicles need fuel, the government will not provide it, and they will pay for what they have taken when the funds become available. What now?


In a time limit of 20 minutes, issue your orders to your subordinate units, actions you will take, and what reports, recommendations, and requests for support you will give to battalion.

Issues for Consideration

1. What do you believe is the BLT or MEU intent in this area?

2. How do your actions and orders support this intent?

3. What is the focus of effort for your company in this situation?

4. What is your priority in this situation? What do you think is the civilian priority in this situation?

5. How do you employ the local police force?

6. What actions do you take to defeat civilian motivation to riot:

* While in the area?

* After you move your CP back to Basawal and return the CAAT to Basawal?

* Over the next month?

7. How can information operations support your actions to defeat civilian motivation to further resist?


The Debrief


You were the 11th MEU S-3A (assistant operations officer) but have been reassigned as the team leader of an advisor/liaison team assigned to 15 th Afghan Infantry Battalion. Approximately 4 months ago the MEU was sent to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in support of NATO forces during Operation ENDURING Freedom. The 15th Afghan Battalion completed basic training prior to your arrival. At this point in their training, they can conduct limited independent operations at the company level and often require coalition assistance for vehicle maintenance, logistics planning, and operational planning. The 15th Battalion’s area of operations is a stretch of land between Jalalabad and Kabul, the regional home of the 15th. Their primary mission has been interdiction of Taliban and insurgent weapons and personnel between Kabul and Jalalabad.

Last night 2d Company conducted a night ambush of an insurgent convoy. You were in Kabul with the battalion commander coordinating a resupply and maintenance budget for the battalion’s vehicles. You assigned your staff sergeant who is a subject matter expert in helicopter observations to observe the company’s ambush, a mission he has done before. The 2d Company has small arms capability similar to a Marine rifle company; however, its communications and night vision equipment is limited. The following morning, the 2d Company returned to the battalion headquarters riding in what you suspect are captured vehicles. You attend the company commander’s debrief to his battalion commander and members of his staff. Following are the company commander’s comments:

“My rifle company, with two medium machinegun teams and two assault teams attached (armed with rocket propelled grenades), was ordered to conduct a night ambush on a known enemy supply route. As the company commander, I had a night vision monocular. We did bring trip flares and six antitank mines along with several antipersonnel pressure mines. Our communications net enabled me to speak with my battalion headquarters and locally to each platoon leader.

“Intelligence reports indicated that enemy supplies are transported by trucks with the occasional armed jeep or light armored car acting as an escort. The trucks generally have an infantry platoon (minus) as local security as well. Convoys are six to eight vehicles long.

“The company was dropped off by helicopters (provided by the MEU aviation combat element) at Landing Zone Bravo at 0135, some 5 kilometers from the ambush site. The terrain was mountainous, with rocky outcroppings and low scrub. Nighttime temperatures were near or below freezing. The unit marched in column, keeping to a counterlevel below the crest, to the ambush site. Once there a platoon conducted a reconnaissance and then we assumed the fighting positions as outlined on this map. We kept radio talk to a minimum using runners or chemical light signals when able. While it was still dark, the enemy convoy approached from the village as anticipated. No jeeps or armored cars were visible from my position.

“The convoy entered the kill zone, and the company opened fire with the headquarters initiating the ambush. The enemy was hard pressed to react, but some of the infantry managed to return fire aided by a heavy machinegun (HMG) from a jeep in the middle of the convoy, but then they were overwhelmed. We suffered only four lightly wounded, one seriously wounded, and one killed in action.

“While medical attention was given to the wounded, we conducted a quick sweep of the enemy in search of items of intelligence value. We found none but did notice we destroyed a jeep with HMG. Following this search, we discovered that most of the vehicles were still operational. We cancelled the scheduled helicopter extract and returned with a large motor pool. We left the mines in place in the hopes the enemy might set them off later when picking up their dead.”

After hearing the last sentence you glance over at your staff sergeant, who smiles and nods. This is your signal that he did not know that the mines were left in place. He also tilted his head slightly, an indication that the company commander is telling the truth as far as he could observe.

The company commander turns to you and asks, “The mission was clearly a success. Don’t you agree, Captain?”


In a time limit of 10 minutes, write what you would say in front of the battalion staff and what you would say privately to the battalion and company commanders. Describe what actions you would take. Be prepared to provide a rationale for your comments and provide a sketch if you believe that the concept of operations should be different.

Issues for Consideration

1. Would you critique the mission in front of the battalion commander, pull the company commander aside, or a combination? Why?

2. In regard to the minefield, what is your team’s responsibility in this matter?

3. What are some ways that the Afghan battalion can defeat the Kajura population’s will to resist government rule?

4. Will the action of 2d Company help defeat the enemy resolve? Explain?

5. Do the actions of 2d Company further the objectives of the MEU commander? Explain.

6. What do you do if you find out the convoy that 2d Company ambushed was a local militia vice Taliban or alQaeda?


3d Platoon’s Pickle


You are the platoon commander of 3d Platoon (foot-mobile), Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th MEU. Last month, after completing operations in Nangarhar Province, the MEU was sent to support NATO forces in B armai District of neighboring Paktika Province. Two weeks ago, B armai District witnessed dozens of small-scale battles. The fighting has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, most of them victims of NATO air and artillery strikes. Because of this, several once pro-NATO villages have begun providing the Taliban with intelligence, supplies, and even men.

Your battalion commander finds this situation alarming and wants to strengthen relations between his Marines and the remaining pro-NATO villages in the battalion area of responsibility. To this end, he has sent each of his companies to billet on the edge of – or if granted permission, within – a large pro-NATO village. Each company has the same mission: protect the villagers and improve their quality of life. Your company was assigned to Soor.

When Fox Company arrived in Soor, your company commander met with the village elders. Impressed by his knowledge of Pashto (and promises of food and medical supplies), they invited the Marines to stay in the village. A few days later, an Afghan National Army (ANA) infantry platoon arrived to augment your force and facilitate cooperation between the Marines and villagers. Consisting of three light infantry squads, the Afghan platoon is highly motivated but knows only the most rudimentary skills of soldiering, and except for its Soviet-era weapons, it is poorly equipped. The Afghan soldiers lack body armor and night vision devices.

Since the Marines came to Soor, the village and its environs have been free of enemy activity. The villages where your sister companies are stationed, however, have seen daily (and sometimes nightly) company-sized attacks by the Taliban. Often poorly coordinated, the attacks have cost the enemy hundreds of dead, the Marines dozens, and the villagers few.

Today you and your men spent the afternoon instructing the Afghan infantry platoon in ambush techniques. With the training over, your platoon began readying itself for a night patrol. Then, around 1700, you received new orders from your company commander. “Lieutenant,” he began, “we just received word from battalion: 20 minutes ago an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) discovered a convoy of 8 pickup trucks a few hours northeast of here. Intel says they’re Taliban, about 50 in number, who came across the border from Pakistan sometime this morning. The trucks appear to be carrying at least a dozen crew-served weapons. And there’s a good chance that the leader of Taliban forces in Barmal District is among the passengers. Higher headquarters wants the convoy taken out for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, we won’t have the aid of the UAS. It’s been sent to help friendly forces caught in an ambush. Now because there are so few good roads in the area, the convoy must pass through Checkpoint Chesty, about 3!/2 klicks northeast of Soor. Ambush it there. I’m giving you three assault teams and a machinegun squad (two teams) for the mission. Since you just finished training the ANA platoon in ambush techniques, I’m sending two of their squads along. You also get the forward air controller (FAC). Two Cobras (AH-IW) are on call, so if you need them, they’re there. At its present rate the convoy should reach the checkpoint a little over an hour from now. As you know, the terrain between here and there is relatively flat and easy to travel, so you should have plenty of time to set up the ambush. Move out within 15 minutes.”

You give a quick patrol order to your subordinate leaders, conduct final equipment checks, and move out. You deploy your force in column formation, with the assault teams, machineguns teams, and ANA squads interspersed between your three rifle squads. 1st Squad is on point.

As the lead elements of the ambush force near Checkpoint Chesty, you hear explosions coming from Soor. You try contacting your company commander on the radio, but he does not respond. You then direct the FAC to check with the battalion air officer. The FAC does so and learns that Soor is taking heavy mortar fire. To make matters worse, the FAC informs you that at least two groups of Taliban (strength unknown) are moving to assault the village from the southwest. Just then, 1st Squad radios in. They report seeing 13 vehicles in the distance. The convoy is fast approaching. Night is falling. What now, Lieutenant?


Within 5 minutes, give your solution in the form of a frag order to your subordinates. Be sure to include your intent, an overlay sketch of your plan, and the rationale for your decision.

> Editors Note: This TDG was originally submitted by Damien O’Connell with comments and suggestions by Bruce Gudmundsson and Timothy Jackson.


Tactical Decision Game

You are the commander, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company.

General Situation

Company A is on the far right (northern) flank of the battalion as it clears from east to west in order to (IOT) prevent the Centraban Resistance Force (CRF) from destabilizing the Centraban government. The CRF has been conducting a guerrilla campaign that has been marked by small units operating independently to strike government forces quickly and then withdrawing. The CRF has occasionally massed to company strength to conduct deliberate attacks. CRF forces have occasionally conducted deliberate defenses when they can muster significant strength, and the area defended is critical to their operations. The CRF has been operating in this area for approximately 1 year and is seeking to prevent us from advancing westward into their key territories. 1 st Platoon is on the far right (northern) flank of Company A and is the northernmost unit in the battalion. The company is approximately 2.5 kilometers to the south of 1st Platoon. Since your attack will take place prior to the main efforts attack, you will have priority of fires for the company 60mm mortars until the main efforts attack commences.


You arc currently located in Assembly Area Silver in Area ol Operations White (AO White). The map shows the entirety of your AO. The Deep River is swiftflowing and crossable only where there are bridges. North and South Bridges are identical footbridges of wood construction. The Western Swamp is mired in chest-deep mud in almost all areas except for some footpaths that are known to the locals and are nearly invisible. Visibility in open areas is 100 meters, 50 meters in the swamp, 50 meters in the thinner tree line, and 25 meters in the thick tree line. Visibility from the high ground is 100 to 200 meters, but essentially stops at the tree line and 100 meters into the swamp. Within the tree line next to the river, visibility is 25 to 50 meters. Sunrise tomorrow is at 0620, sunset today is at 1726, end of evening nautical twilight today is at 1801, moonrise is at 2106 tonight, illumination will be 50 percent tonight, beginning morning nautical twilight tomorrow is at 0532. It is early winter in the Quantico Highlands and the temperature tonight will be 43 degrees Fahrenheit with light cloud cover and no precipitation. Your probable rate of march in the Eastern Forest is 1 kilometer per hour.


Enemy: Composition, disposition, and strength: Intelligence reports indicate that a squad of CRF in green camouflage utilities is present in AO White and a platoon may be present 10 ro 20 kilometers to the south. The squad is reportedly armed with at least 1 PKM, one or two RPG 7s, and AK-74s. They may have a single antiquated Soviet 50mm mortar system with a maximum range of 800 meters. They are communicating via cellular phones and handheld radio systems with a maximum range of 5 kilometers. They do not have night-vision capabilities.


1st Platoon: You are [SE3]- No later than 2000, destroy the enemy in AO White IOT prevent them from interfering with die company’s main-effort attack in AO Black.

2d Platoon: You are the main effort. On order, destroy the enemy squad on Company Objective A IOT protect the battalion’s right flank.

3d Platoon: You are [SEI]. On order, destroy the enemy listening posts/observation posts on Company Objectives B and C TOT prevent them from interfering with the company’s main effort attack on Company Objective A.

Weapons Platoon: You arc [SE3]. On order, support by fire 2d Platoon TOT allow them to close with and destroy the enemy on Company Objective A.

Time is now 1600.

On Watch


You are the S-3A (assistant operations officer) and battalion watch officer (as well as battalion landing team (BLT) training officer and education officer) of BLT 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1 1 th MEU. Recently, the MEU was sent to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in support of NATO forces during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. You have been in country 1 month and have been assigned to the northeast sector of the area of responsibility, Nangarhar Province. Recently, the MEU has been focusing on the southern sector of the area of operations intercepting arms and explosives flowing from Pakistan into Afghanistan through the mountains of tribal Pakistan into the Tora Bora region. This region has three major tribes in the area – the majority Pashtun, the Wakhi, and the Tajik tribes. The tribes are further divided by clans, led by family patriarchs, that fight each other, regardless of tribe, over water rights, territory, and trade rights. The MEU has started to establish allies and informants in the area.

Acting on intelligence from a local tribe, the BLT commanding officer (CO) has tasked Echo Company, a helicopterborne company, to conduct a cordon and search operation in the village of Alikhel on the Afghan istan- Pakistan border in order to interdict insurgents and weapons flowing into the country. With BLT and MEU CO approval, Echo Company first deployed scout/sniper teams into the area in order to detect weapons and insurgent activity prior to commencing the cordon and search. Once the sniper teams detect insurgent activity, they are to report to the combat operations center (COC) and then the COC notifies the Echo Company CO (also heliborne unit commander) who then deploys into the area 2 hours after sniper reporr. If the sniper team is compromised, the MEU has a helo team on standby to retrieve the sniper team. It will take the helos 30 minutes to reach the extract landing zone. It is 1 1 30 and two sniper teams have been in place southwest of Alikhel since 2300 last night. Currently the CO is in a meeting with the MEU CO, and the S-3 and executive officer (XO) are out of the office but can be reached by cell phone to inform them they have to come to the COC, but no other information can be passed by phone.

You overhear one of your radio transmission operators (RTOs) talking to the sniper teams and wander over to his position. The RTO turns to you and says, “Sir, Dagger 1 has contact.” You grab the radio, identify yourself to the sniper team, and receive the report.

Approximately 20 enemy armed with clubs and rifles are attacking a local family. Estimate 2 minutes before they slaughter the family. Am engaging pending your orders. Both teams will need evac in 40 minutes. Over.


In 10 minutes, explain what order you give to the sniper team leader; what action you take in the COC; what you report to the S-3, XO, and/or CO; what actions you recommend higher headquarters take; and what actions you recommend Sniper Team 2 take.

Issues for Consideration

1. If you order the team leader not to fire, do you think he will obey you?

2. What do you believe is Sniper Team l’s intent?

3. How do his actions relate to that intent?

4. Do you believe his actions are in keeping with the MEU COs intent? Why?

5. Are the sniper team leaders actions in keeping with the rules of engagement? Why?

6. Do your actions and order support the troops on the ground? Why?

7. What are the potential consequences of Sniper Team 1 s actions?