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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Some Background

This is Steven Petrick posting.

In response to a few E-Mails.

When I entered service the table of organization and equipment for a light infantry rifle platoon was 43 bodies. (This would change while I was in, but was what was authorized at the time.)

This consisted of (on paper) three rifle squads, each of ten men:
One Staff Sergeant (E6) Squad Leader armed with an M16 rifle and a squad radio set,
two Sergeant (E5) Team Leaders armed with M16s,
two Specialist 4th Grade Grenadiers (armed with the M16/M203 grenade launcher combination),
two Specialist 4th Grade "automatic riflemen" (armed with M16s, but designated as being able to operate their M16s on full automatic and often equipped with a detachable bipod for their rifles), and
three Specialist 4th Grade riflemen (armed with M16s).

There was also a Weapons Squad which consisted (on paper) of ten men:
One Staff Sergeant (E6) Squad Leader armed with an M16 rifle and a squad radio set (this would supposedly be the Senior E6 in the Platoon),
Two Machinegun Teams each of three men: One Machinegunner (armed with the M60 Machinegun and a M1911A1 Automatic), one Assistant Gunner (armed with an M16 and generally supposed to carry the tripod mount and equipment bag), and one Ammo Bearer (armed with an M16 and carrying additional ammunition for the machinegun).
Three Anti-armor specialists (each armed with an M16 and carrying the M47 Dragon Medium Anti Tank missile).

The Headquarters section consisted of three men: One Lieutenant (armed with an M16 and a squad radio set), one Platoon Sergeant (an E7, armed with an M16 and a squad radio set), and one Radio Operator carrying the PRC 77 radio and armed with an M16.

Three of these platoons, plus a weapons platoon and a Headquarters section (which included the Company supply train, an M35A2 2.5 ton truck shared by the Supply Sergeant, Chemical NCO, Signals NCO, and unit armorer, plus a Jeep for the Company Commander and one for the Company Executive Officer) made up a rifle company. (The Weapons Platoon had three 81mm mortars carried by three M561 Gamma Goats and two TOW missile Launchers carried on M151 Jeeps, with two additional Jeeps as ammo vehicles, plus a Jeep for the Weapons Platoon Leader.)

Three of these rifle companies and a Combat Support Company (A heavy mortar Platoon of four 4.2''/107mm Mortars carried by M561 Gamma Goats, an anti-tank platoon of 16 jeep mounted Tows and 16 ammo jeeps, a Scout Platoon mounted on Jeeps, and initially an Anti-Aircraft Platoon of Redeye Missiles, but these last were consolidated up to the Division ADA battalion in 1981) and a Headquarters Company (which included the Maintenance Platoon, the Medical Platoon, the Communications Platoon, and the Staff) made up a Battalion.

As noted, my platoon was woefully understrength. It was organized as just two squads, each with just two NCOs. With so little, each included one machinegun with no designated assistants and carried one of the dragon launchers. The only units that were near full strength were the specialist units (the Weapons Platoons of the Line Companies and the Combat Support Platoons of the Combat Support Companies were kept up to strength, if necessary at the expense of the Line Platoons). Further, most of the Headquarters (except for the various platoon headquarters) were generally overstrength, and were generally trying to steal more bodies from the line platoons than they already had (the 197th Brigade Headquarters was at 200% strength, the Battalion Headquarters of my Battalion and the company headquarters of my company were both at about 150% strength). I know that in the case of my Battalion and my Company, the excuse was the amount of paperwork that had to be done, I am unclear why Brigade needed its manning doubled.

The reason I had only one squad with me in the Exercise (Bold Eagle 80) was because as part of the exercise my platoon was attached to the Armored Cavalry Troop (A/15th Cav) of the 197th Brigade for the first three days. This was because the Cav was also understrength, having barely enough personnel to crew all of its vehicles and man its mortars, and having no "dismounts" to do the foot patrolling. Even with my "platoon" attached, one of the three platoons of the Cavalry wound up operating with no infantry. As the Cav was operating widely dispersed, my Plt Sgt was with one of my two squads, and I was with the other.

Yes, the squad I was with was led by the NCO I had administered the embarrassing defeat to. And yes the men in his squad were the specific individuals who were "killed" assaulting the hill under his command (the men who ultimately refused to attack the hill after seeing the first squad had been wiped out were in the other squad) I was defending.