by Pvt. James Strine
FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, Sept. 20, 2000) -- The use of technology to enhance urban warfare paid off in a big way, officials said, at the Joint Contingency Force Advanced Warfighting Experiment this week at Fort Polk.
Compared to last year's Military Operations in Urban Terrain experiment at Fort Benning, Ga., friendly casualties in the final MOUT attack here dropped from 28 to 17 percent and enemy losses rose from 55 to 100 percent.
Soldiers and Marines saw those results come to life Sept. 19 and 20 as they participated in the MOUT Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration at JCF-AWE at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry; 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry; 3rd Battalion, 17th Cavalry; and 10th Forward Support Battalion from Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Marines from 2nd Marines Division's K Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, from Camp Lejune, N.C., employed approximately 25 initiatives for the culminating demonstration of MOUT ACTD.
The overnight demonstration consisted of "force-on-force" fire using MILES "laser tag" between Fort Polk's Opposing force and the U.S. "Blue Force" at the simulated war-torn town of Shughart-Gordon.
It was the culmination of an initiative started in 1997 to improve the type of urban warfighting soldiers experienced in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and Haiti, said Maj. Joseph G. Krebs Jr., MOUT officer-in- charge, JRTC.
"It's predicted that 50 percent of today's combat is fought in urban areas," Krebs said. "By the year 2025, it will be approximately 75 percent."
Urban combat is particularly dangerous to U.S. military troops for several reasons. According to Krebs, history has shown a hometown advantage is enough to complicate communication and restrict line of sight. And he said the presence of non-combatants can also restrict lethal firepower. The MOUT program was a direct response to those circumstances, he said, and aims to solve them with training on tactics, technologies, and procedures.
Soldiers involved in this week's demonstration said they considered it a success. The troops road-marched from as far away as 20 kilometers to liberate the $48 million MOUT. They waged a fierce battle that lasted more than seven hours. Soldiers from 1-87 initiated the conflict when they breached the city. Three hours into the battle, heavy forces from 3-17th were called into the town to compete with the OPFOR.
"They had a successful attack," Krebs said. "As they moved through the town, they had infantry securing the tanks, and the tanks provided the fire power forward to get the infantry into the buildings. And that's what we try to teach out here ... they have to fight with combined arms to be survivable and lethal."
The BLUFOR was faced with 78 of the finest trained OPFOR soldiers at Shughart-Gordon and 23 personnel mimicking non-combatant civilians.
Orlando Vega, who played a non-combatant at Shughart-Gordon, said the forces appeared evenly matched. He said the tanks appeared to give the BLUFOR its edge, and the OPFOR fought well because of its hometown advantage.
Lance Cpl. Jason Sperry, K Co., 3-6th Marines, admitted the OPFOR was a formidable opponent, as it knew the town well enough to have effective traps and surprises for the BLUFOR.
Soldiers said they were prepared for that challenge.
"I think we did outstanding, considering Triple Deuce has been training for this for a year at Fort Benning and Fort Drum," said Sgt. Montie Long, 2-22. "I think we had the upper hand on the OPFOR this time."
Long said the MOUT technologies BLUFOR employed for the demonstration helped give it the advantage. He said MOUT gear played an essential part in the urban battle.
Since experimentation began in January 1998 with approximately 128 technologies, the list of initiatives was cut through extensive testing and training with Marines and soldiers to about 25.
Officials selected initiatives that complimented servicemembers' input, and filled the design criteria for some 32 targeted areas of improvement in urban combat, Krebs said. Equipment in the realms of personal protection, powered optics and forced entry equipment were among the highlights of the list.
"How well these initiatives performed here will determine whether or not they will be fielded in full for the military," Krebs said.
"This is put-up time right now. This is what all the officials have their eyes on."
A few of the high-profile initiatives were the Pointer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; a full size ladder, small enough to fit in a rucksack (Quick Step Ladder); and breaching tools like Explosive Cutting Tape for blowing a hole through brick walls. Rifle Launched Entry Munitions, known as RLEM, were used to take down doors, as were simple hand-held tools designed to be lighter than the traditional sledge-hammer and crow-bar combination ("Hooligan" tools).
Last night's results compiled with the MOUT's recent history will be the deciding vote on which equipment will save soldiers' lives in future real-world situations, officials said.
(Editor's note: Pvt. James Strine is a member of the 27th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Drum, N.Y.)