- FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The U.S.
Army used to avoid operating in cities. Urban warfare guaranteed large
numbers of casualties, military and civilian; war plans called for big
battles out on the open plain.
- "Even a small town can consume a large unit very
quickly," said Maj. Mike Kasales, operations officer with the 1st
Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis.
- But after engagements in the Balkans, Haiti and
and now in Afghanistan, military planners say future conflicts will require
U.S. forces to work in urban areas.
- That's one of the big drivers behind the Army's push
to create new medium-weight combat brigades, the first of which - the 3rd
Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - is under construction at Fort
- The brigade put the scouts and intelligence gatherers
of the 1-14th through intense urban warfare training on the base recently.
The new unit's success will depend on the ability of soldiers in Kasales'
squadron to collect information and find targets in cities where they're
- One training scenario called on the scouts to infiltrate
a town and talk with the locals to find an extremist group said to be armed
with a "super weapon."
- The "mayor," the "police chief" and
others in the made-up town of "Gereshk" were glad to see the
American troops. But they wanted soldiers to stay and defend the town,
lock up political enemies, bring food and perform other services.
- "They're going to ask for all kinds of things the
Army is not going to want to do," said Chief Warrant Officer Philip
Brown, an intelligence specialist who played the role of mayor.
- The scouts must learn as much as they can from sources
they cultivate in the town but avoid becoming sucked in and stay focused
on their mission, Brown said.
- One soldier carefully questioned Brown and his
chief," Warrant Officer Brian Hagen, to learn they were holding -
and planning to execute - a Russian nuclear scientist. They arrested him
in a local hotel with pornographic pictures and drawings of a bomb. The
U.S. soldiers quickly persuaded their hosts to let them question the
about the "super weapon."
- But later, another scout erred by telling police that
a local man named "Wadi" had revealed he was an arms dealer,
and had sold weapons to the extremists. The police promptly stormed out
and arrested Wadi and planned to execute him.
- "I hope we did the right thing by telling him,"
the startled soldier told a partner as the local authorities dragged Wadi
screaming to a jail cell. "I guess we'll find out ..."
- Out of earshot of the training troops, Brown confirmed
the soldier later would hear about his actions in the after-action
- "He shouldn't have told us that," Brown said.
"The arms dealer could've provided them with a lot of information
about the other side."
- It wasn't always easy for participants in the
to keep a straight face. But in a squadron equipped with an array of
intelligence gathering equipment - from unmanned aerial vehicles to
and radar sensors to satellite links - it's important to hone face-to-face
skills, too, officials said.
- "I've been in military intelligence units that
put the same amount of emphasis on training their human intelligence assets
as they do here," Hagen said.
- In other recent exercises, the scouts practiced sneaking
into town to set up an observation post, a skill they might use to track
the comings and goings from a building or to watch an influential
- Training with live ammunition, they approached mock
in two three-man teams and fired at dummy soldiers they found going room
to room. Then, their position compromised by the racket, they practiced
retreating under fire.
- In the coming months, Kasales said, the scouts will go
through more complex training. They'll practice "shoot,
drills like those conducted by civilian police forces.
- To meet its long-term need for better urban training
facilities, Fort Lewis expects to build a $22 million mock city in
- Meantime, the training schedule won't let up for the
soldiers, who have at least another year of training before the Army
themt ready for duty.
- Two Fort Lewis brigades, and five more to be transformed
later at other installations, are designed to be bigger and stronger than
light infantry, but leaner and more mobile than heavy armor. Every unit
in the brigade, down to each Humvee, will be tied into the Army's most
sophisticated wireless communication network.
- Senior Army leaders say the new brigades would be ideal
for the kind of warfare being waged in Afghanistan.
- While senior officers look for ways to transform the
3rd Brigade more quickly, soldiers at the live-fire exercise said they
just want to make sure it's done right.
- "The worst thing we could do is rush to