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Senior Leaders Focus on Urban Fight

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2005 – Senior defense and government leaders gathered at Fort McNair here today to consider challenges the U.S. military faces operating in urban environments and to discuss strategies to make them as effective in cities as in open terrain.

The Urban Operations Senior Leader Review, sponsored by U.S. Joint Forces Command, focused on better ways to fight an enemy that's increasingly moving into urban areas to plan and launch its attacks.

"Military operations in urban terrain," or MOUT, has been part of the military vernacular for decades. But traditionally, MOUT involved attacking a city from the outside and moving on, not conducting extensive operations within that city, explained David Ozolek, director of the Joint Urban Operations Office. Similarly, traditional MOUT operations viewed local populations more as obstacles to work around rather than partners in the fight.

"Five years ago, the thought was that we were never going to do urban operations. The idea was basically that you'd blow up the city or go around it," said Duane Schattle, deputy director of the Joint Urban Operations Office. "But the war on terror changed that. The enemy knows they can't compete against us in the open, so they are moving to the cities."

Cities offer terrorists an environment in which they can blend easily with the local population as they plan and carry out attacks, explained retired Army Brig. Gen. Mike Hall, a senior concept developer for the Joint Urban Operations Office.

All indications are that the type of enemy U.S. troops face today and are likely to face for the foreseeable future will continue using cities as their battlefields of choice, Hall said. Joint Forces Command is shepherding DoD's efforts to ensure troops engaged in urban operations have the best equipment, tactics and intelligence they need to carry out their mission. Today's session brought together people involved in developing these assets and policies with the decision makers who will ultimately get them to people operating in an urban setting, said Janet Tucker, chief of strategic engagement for the Joint Urban Operations Office.

But operating in build-up areas requires "more than just better gadgets and mousetraps," Hall said. "We need to learn to think differently."

Today's session focused on improving battle-space awareness and visualization to help troops "find the enemy faster than he can find us," Ozolek said.

Leaders also considered better ways to encourage local residents to help support military operations under way in their cities, either actively, by helping advise U.S. troops, or passively, by not interfering with their operations, Ozolek explained. That includes figuring out how to make munitions more precise and using them with the proper amount of firepower so they don't inflict excessive collateral damage that angers local residents, he said.

Today's seminar also included discussions about ways to improve coordination among U.S. agencies and allied militaries to better support urban operations. Representatives from NATO's Allied Command Transformation and numerous coalition militaries participated in the session.

Many of the concepts discussed today are already in use in Iraq or on the drawing boards, being readied for implementation. "We're trying to move as quickly as possible so we can get these developments to the guys in the theater," Schattle said.

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