Supporting the LAR screen

By Capt Terry L. Branstetter


You are the CO of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 10th Marines. Your battalion is the fires element to 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (2d MEB), which has been operating in a high desert environment (terrain is restricted to vehicle traffic off roads and severely restricted above the first contour line, see map) against a mechanized enemy. 2d MEB is tasked to prevent disruption of JTF units arriving to the south.

Today, Battalion Landing Team 3/2 (BLT 3/2) 2d MEB’s ground combat element (GCE) attacked a strongpoint at Checkpoint 21 (CP 21 ). The remnants of an enemy reinforced meth company, believed to be the advance guard of a mechanized brigade, withdrew to the west after the 3/2’s successful attack.

BLT 3/2 is now establishing defensive positions at CP 21. The Light Armored Reconnaissance Company (LAR Co) was pushed west to screen as shown on the map. Your battery, with a detachment of the BLT’s Combined Antiarmor Team (CAAT) (two TOWS and three heavy machineguns), was sent forward to provide suppressing and disengagement fires to LAR Co. A host nation mechanized platoon is screening the MEB’s left flank (south of the map).

2d MEB expects the enemy will attack to the south tomorrow morning. The LAR Co is tasked to destroy the enemy’s recon elements/advance guard and slow the main body advance. Once your battery fires the disengagement fires for LAR, it will rapidly displace to its previous firing position east of the GCE engagement area.

You are currently in position to support LAR. The CART detachment is augmenting your local security. Because you pushed forward, before you could be resupplied with ammunition, you have only a third of your daily allocation of 155mm ammunition. The remainder of the GCE’s artillery can range to vicinity of CP 43 from positions to your east. The MEB fire support coordination centers are located some 25km to your east.

After a few hours sleep, you check on the status of the early morning’s events. All reports indicate that things are progressing according to plan, except one. Communicators give you a report timed 0440 stating that a recon team to your south reported vehicle movement. It is unclear whom the report came from.

Attempts to inquire about the report fail. Your communications chief reports that the net is down. He says that it will probably not be up until the sun comes up, 45 minutes from now. You talk to the CO of the LAR Co who knows nothing of the possible enemy to the south, but he reports that his scouts see dust clouds to the west. As he prepares to fight his battle, he reports, “My forward observer will be setting the time on target for the first series soon.”

You tell the fire direction officer to continue with the plan. Your XO reports that he has the rear road guard post on the landline and that it reports vehicle movement a few miles to the south.


In a time limit of 5 minutes, make your plan and issue your orders to deal with your current situation. Then provide a sketch and explanation of your plan. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #00-8, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134 or fax 703-630-9147.

For more detailed information on the structure of Marine Corps units, Marine Corps equipment, and symbols used in TDG sketches, see MCG, Oct94, pp. 53-56 and the modification reported in Jan95, p. 5.

Ambushed En Route

You are the commander of a Marine artillery battery of eight M198 howitzers. Your battalion is part of a brigade-sized task force exploiting past a defeated enemy defending force. The brigade’s mission is to seize a strategic enemy city, which is presently lightly defended. Additional elements of the Marine division are to follow within 24 hours. It is expected that any available enemy will converge on the objective and your route to prevent this, so time is of the essence. The route to the objective is a well-paved highway, which zigzags through a marshland. Much of this marsh is drained for fields and is crisscrossed by drainage ditches and dikes, and dotted with small villages and occasional patches of high ground. Secondary roads lead off the main route. You know from experience that these can either be useful alternate routes or dead ends. They are not accurately marked on the map. The terrain has confined the brigade to the main highway for this movement. The brigade is led by a tank-heavy mechanized element, followed by the remainder in a column. Your battery is several kilometers behind the lead element, sandwiched between miscellaneous support units. Although your battery is moving as a single unit, the liaison section is not present. Other artillery batteries are well behind you in the column or in firing positions to the rear.

Several hours after starting the move a nuclear weapon is detonated at high altitude and a considerable distance away in the direction of the division’s main body. This causes no casualties in your battery, and damages little radio equipment, but subsequent heavy static effectively jams the entire frequency range preventing any further radio communication.

Shortly after nightfall the column in front slows to a halt. Your map spot places you 9 kilometers from the objective. On the left an empty field extends into the darkness. On the right a substantial looking road intersects the main highway. You become aware of small arms fire about 2,000 meters ahead. Mounting the cab of the lead gun truck, you can see fires that appear to be several burning vehicles, occasional lines of tracer ammunition, and flares. Another check of the radio frequencies proves fruitless.

Confronted with this uncertain situation you give the order for personnel to dismount and take defensive positions along the road. The firing ahead fades twice, only to pick up again each time. After a few more minutes a HMMWV emerges from the darkness ahead, rapidly picking its way through the column of (rucks. It stops near you, and a major dismounts and identifies himself as the commander of the combat service support detachment unit ahead. He quickly explains that the truck-mounted infantry ahead of him came under enemy fire, and they are presently attempting to defend against repeated attacks. There is no sign of support from the mechanized group that was leading the brigade. The attacks, which he judges to be of at least battalion size, seem to be originating from the village, which he indicates on your map. He has moved back along his column ordering all but his drivers to dismount and move forward to support the infantry. Far ahead you notice a large quantity of mortar fire building up.


In a time limit of 5 minutes decide on the course of action you would take and prepare the frag order you would issue to your battery. Justify your decision and order on the basis of the mission assigned the task force and the present situation. Include an overlay sketch and provide a brief discussion of the rationale behind your actions. Submit your solutions to Marine Corps Gazette, Tactical Decision Game #922, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish the author’s and other solutions in the April 1992 issue.