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?