US Army Training For
Urban Warfare
By Michael Gilbert
Tacoma News Tribune

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 Mogadishu, 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 Lewis.
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 deployed.
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 "police 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 scientist 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 review.
"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 role-playing to keep a straight face. But in a squadron equipped with an array of high-tech intelligence gathering equipment - from unmanned aerial vehicles to ground-movement 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 didn't 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 person.
Training with live ammunition, they approached mock buildings 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, don't-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 2003.
Meantime, the training schedule won't let up for the soldiers, who have at least another year of training before the Army certifies 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 failure," Kasales said.
This Site Served by TheHostPros