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Soldiers Explain Army Urban Warfare Doctrine

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27, 2002 – When it comes to military operations of the future, enemy forces will not be in for a "fair fight," a senior Army officer said in a Pentagon press briefing Nov. 26.

Col. Paul Melody, director of the Army's Combined Arms and Tactics Directorate, said that despite the U.S military's advanced training, firepower and weapons, future battles will be fought in urban areas, where the rules of engagement have changed.

"The philosophy is that if we are forced to fight, it's not a level playing field. We want to go in with an unleveled advantage to put the war in our favor," he said. "It's not an attritional approach where you go in and clear everything. You attack what is vital, you strike hard, if necessary strike simultaneously throughout the depth of the enemy's defense."

Melody, an infantry officer and military history teacher, described the future of U.S. warfighting strategy, explained the evolution Army doctrine and its role in land warfare, and detailed how joint forces will conduct military operations on an urban battlefield.

That doctrine addresses a full-spectrum approach to land operations and calls for Army forces to be able to deploy quickly into an area of operations, and deter adversaries and potential enemies from establishing their forces and gaining an operational advantage.

The goal is to defeat the enemy, end the conflict on terms that achieve national objectives, and establish self- sustaining post-conflict stability, Melody said.

"The approach is not to overwhelm the enemy with numbers but to overwhelm him with distributed effects at a time that basically prevents his organized resistance against us," Melody said. "This doesn't mean there won't be tough fighting, but the approach is not to get into a 'slugfest' way of fighting."

The "full spectrum of land operations" in today's terms translates into the Army's sudden emphasis on getting soldiers and units trained in what the military calls "Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain," or MOUT. The Army explains this focus to soldiers in Field Manual 90-10- 1, An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas.

This strategy came about after a National Defense Panel review in December 1997 revealed the Army lacked the firm requirements for urban operations, which may have been the case in Somalia where 18 U.S. service members where killed during a firefight in the streets of Mogadishu.

Noting the challenges U.S. conventional forces would face in a war not fought on open terrain, the panel urged the military to expand its research and development to focus on urban warfare issues.

Somalia was not the first time the U.S. military has faced the difficulties of urban warfare. From as far back as World War II, U.S. soldiers have seen close combat on city streets.

Melody said that since the end of the Cold War, the Army's thinking was the enemy wouldn't want to fight in cities any more than American soldiers did.

"However," he said, "one of the big lesson learned was since World War II was that we needed come up with a doctrine so that Army forces in the future would be better prepared for this type of war fighting."

In recent years, the Army has been preparing units for the challenges of urban warfare at its new $34-million state- of-the-art MOUT training facility at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. The mock city has three sites and about 40 buildings spread over seven acres. The site, which can support light and heavy operations from squad to brigade, in addition to air/land, air assault and limited airborne operations, provides units with a realistic feel of combat through a sophisticated smoke and sound system.

The Army has similar sites, although not as advanced, at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and in Europe. The service is also planning to construct up to 80 new MOUT sites by 2009.

Each year the Fort Polk facility trains up to 11 Army light-infantry brigades and National Guard units how to clear fortified buildings and engage enemy forces embedded behind city walls.

Maj. Perry Beissel, officer in charge of Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain and executive officer of the Live Fire Division at the center, said soldiers are trained in "every conceivable" combat scenario over a four- week period, often under live-fire conditions.

"Essentially, we are where the rubber meets the road," Beissel said. "You're not going to get a free ride. You basically have to fight your way into the town and fight your way back out."

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