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"Platoon/Company HQ Tactical Doctrine" Topic


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Armitage Shanks01 Nov 2019 7:54 a.m. PST

I have been thinking how or if I should try to represent HQ elements on the tabletop. Wargame rules for other periods allow for morale modifiers for units in close proximity – conspicuous bravery similar to Marshal Ney commanding the rearguard on the retreat from Moscow or Lord Cardigan leading the charge of the light brigade are just a few of the examples that spring to mind. But does the same hold true for the modern period – would a section leader be aware of his superiors gallantry in a 'buttoned up / dug in' environment within a 100m radius ? Is the tactical doctrine of an HQ element primarily command and control – to act as the glue ? Or is it to act as a tactical reserve for the subordinate teams ? Or is there still a place for reckless bravery to inspire the troops assuming the official doctrine does not rule it out for health and safety reasons :-)? Interested to hear people's opinions especially those of service members.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2019 10:10 a.m. PST

No actual military experience, but I always believed they were more for tactical command and control.

I suspect if it looks like pitching in during the heat of battle will work, they could also be a tactical reserve as well, though if it is getting that bad, it might be best to fall back, play for time, and try to regroup, and rally, instead. Aiding with the regrouping and rallying would be the role of the HQ too.

Fingerspitzengefuhl01 Nov 2019 10:38 a.m. PST

I would argue commanders influence the tactical battle in three ways

Allocation of a reserve (and reconstituting a new one).
Allocation of supporting assets, Fire support , mobility support etc.
Personal presence.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Nov 2019 11:52 a.m. PST

I give command and morale bonuses for leaders very close to troops (but not all leaders give bonuses, some are just meh). But that's 6" where an inch is something like 10 yards.

kustenjaeger01 Nov 2019 11:59 a.m. PST

Greetings

Remember that Col H Jones of 2 Para won a (posthumous) VC at Goose Green during the Falklands War in 1982 for trying to break a local deadlock with his Tac HQ. Whether this was a sensible idea has been debated – not only he but three others were killed in the attempt and the battalion 2 i/c took time to take over command and reorganise the assault.

Regards

Edward

Don Perrin01 Nov 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

In the Cold War, I found that at the platoon and company level in the field, you only really saw your own guys around you. A morale bonus from friendlies would come from the sound/presence of friendly vehicles in the area. You can see and hear them far easier than another infantry platoon on the other side of the road/axis of advance, for example. Friendly tanks or helos in your area was always a comforting feeling, when you're boots on the ground!

Legion 401 Nov 2019 2:39 p.m. PST

Being both an Infantry Plt Ldr and then Company Cdr in my youth. And you can be a very positive "influence". Effecting Morale, Tactics and calling for supporting fires, etc. Someone has to be in charge/take charge. Your troops are looking for that from you …

And you can not only command & control those in your LOS near by but over the Radio.

UshCha01 Nov 2019 3:06 p.m. PST

Rommel failed miserably at one point trying to micro manage a small area of a battle and screwing everything else up by not doing his job of co-ordinating the whole battle. The English civil war had similar problems, some generals were up at the front instead of doing their job of co-ordinating the forces.

There is a fine line between inspiring a few men when needed instead of co-ordinating the battle.

Legion 402 Nov 2019 8:08 a.m. PST

At a Plt and Co. level you generally don't have to micromanage if your troops are well trained, motivated and experienced. But at those levels you sometimes may have to lead from the front. Depending on the situation.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP02 Nov 2019 11:07 a.m. PST

Here is a good example for Squad Leaders:
PDF link

From my low-level infantry experience:

Squad Leader: He carries out the orders and attempts to seize the objective assigned by the LT. He's responsible for the proper application of firepower. Each rifleman does not select his own target. The Squad Leader assigns an area to be given covering or suppressive fire. He makes sure the volume of fire is not too heavy or not too light. He coordinates with the maneuver element to keep the objective under fire and lift it so the maneuver element can make their assault. He distributes ammo and makes sure causalities are taken care of.

The LT from the HQ would communicate or send a runner to the Squad Leaders to change orders and coordinate with the other squads.

He coordinates the delivery of other ordinances like grenades as guys are not normally just chucking them at will.

He's responsible for keeping everyone cool, motivated and aggressive. If he's been a good trainer his squad will perform for him.

Wolfhag

Legion 402 Nov 2019 4:00 p.m. PST

thumbs up

Martin Rapier02 Nov 2019 6:05 p.m. PST

WW2 mass conscript Armies took a lot of leading, so I'd expect to see the platoon CO actually leading the assault group, while the platoon seargantvran the fire base. Very, very well trained and experienced platoons might manage to operate as individual squads/sections. There was a reason junior officer casualty rates were as high in WW2 as WW1.

Company CO's, less so, the function is more C3 and Admin. Unless they are Russian, in which case it is back to running out in front of the guys shouting "follow me".

Modern long service regulars are much better at this sort of thing.

Legion 403 Nov 2019 9:56 a.m. PST

Modern long service regulars are much better at this sort of thing.
Very much so ! I'm totally against a Draft just for that reason and some others.

From my experience volunteers/professionals is a better way to go. Especially with all our improved tech and in turn TTP.

Armitage Shanks04 Nov 2019 5:02 p.m. PST

Thank you all for your feedback.

@Wolfhag thank you for the analysis of squad leader actions.

From all of your comments it seems the consensus is that command and control not surprisingly maybe is the primary function with the possible exception of conscript armies where a more visible role of CO leadership is required.

So the next question is how best to model HQ elements and their effect on the tabletop ?
I am not familiar with all the rules systems out there but some ideas I have to abstract it include: if the Co/Pltn HQ is still functional and the subordinate units are within a command radius (a bit subjective this given the use of radio maybe base it on the typical frontage a Co/Pltn occupies ?) then the subordinate units get a positive modifier when firing, assaulting, checking morale or initiative. They simply do things "better" with HQ oversight.

Another idea might be whenever a subordinate unit wishes to perform an action (move,fire,etc.) it has to pass an initiative test with a negative modifier if the HQ element is non functional. The threshold could be tweaked for conscript (harder) and professional (easier) armies. The visible near presence of the HQ element could also be factored in as a positive modifier if leadership by example is worth the risk.

I am sure there are many other ways of simulating this but as always the balance of playability vs "realism" rears its ugly head.

Legion 405 Nov 2019 9:03 a.m. PST

if the Co/Pltn HQ is still functional and the subordinate units are within a command radius (a bit subjective this given the use of radio maybe base it on the typical frontage a Co/Pltn occupies ?)
Command radius is a good concept. Frontage is mainly a function of terrain and situation. In both of those cases it depend in what scale you are fighting. E.g. we only do 6mm …

So e.g.:

Rgt/Bde Cdr Cmd Rg = 90cm. Subordinate Cdrs must be within 90cm.

Co/Bn = 60cm same as Rgt/Bde but with 60cm.

Plt = 6mm

Then it comes down to unit coherency. E.g. Plts – individual stands in a unit must be within 6cm of each other. Like a 6cm "daisy chain". E.g. :

[] = stand

[]< 6cm >[]< 6cm >[]< 6cm >[]

E.g. To get a direct Cmd bonus, as in CQB, any stand must be within 10cm. Of the Cmd unit.

If you use initiative test it again depends on scale. We only roll for initiative at the beginning at each true. And better units have a high modifier to roll.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2019 4:01 p.m. PST

Armitage Shanks,
I'm glad to help.

I think one of the most important factors is training, teamwork and trust that the Squad Leader and LT have instilled in their unit before the battle. I was in an infantry company that at first had horrendous or non-existent leadership. People were going UA, smoking pot in the barracks, etc. One day at the Company formation our new CO read us the riot act and we started living in the field, doing forced marches, etc. and got rid of the riff-raft. Our morale rose and we got some squad leaders with VN experience. That made us feel a hell of a lot better!

Our new CO Capt German was a bastard, unfair and liked to play mind games with us. Like saying we're going on a 20 mile forced march and then at the end of 20 miles congratulating us how well we did and how proud he is of the Company and Motor-T was on the way to take us back. Then he'd tell us to saddle up for another 10 miles but we'd only go 5 or make us stand inspection Saturday morning after being in the field for 10 days. Thankfully he was pushing us.

He always maxed the PT scores and was in the field with us all of the time, ate after we did and made sure we had the essentials. He was always first in the forced marches. He was harsh on the LT's too. When we went overseas I was glad we had him and would do anything for him. He let me slide when he could have busted me in rank but he knew I always put out 100% for the squad. I was real surprised because his Master Sergeant was always after me, and for good reason too.

I guess I'd have to say that the leadership and experience the squad leaders and NCO's have in making a normal or poor unit better. In WWII the 6th Marine Division was the newest one the Marines had and mostly drew from new enlisted that had no combat experience. They might have been rated as Green. However, they were led by officers and NCO's from the disbanded Raider and Parachute Battalions, guys that had been fighting since Guadalcanal. We all know how that "Green" unit performed in their very first combat on Iwo Jima. It was small unit leadership and experience. I'd expect better led units to take fewer causalities too.

Good leaders will get poor units to perform better. I use two rules I borrowed from "G.I. Combat Commander" for Tactical Competence and Aggressiveness Factor to move under fire. If a unit fails it's Aggressiveness Check to move under fire or assault the leader can add his leadership rating to get them to pass but he takes a causality check because he'd be exposing himself to enemy fire or he can attack by himself which was not uncommon. Then the rest of the Squad would follow him if he survived.

I'm not a big fan of stringent command and control rules, I think it's all about communication. IIRC we always stayed within shouting range or you might get lost. The further away you are the longer it will take to communicate with runners. Everyone in the Company should be in range of a modern radio, PRC-25 or SCR-300. The Handy Talkie (wrongly called a Walkie Talkie) came out around Spring 1944 and each Squad could have one. Platoon HQ's normally had 2-4 runners too. It was not unusual for a point Platoon or Squad to advance with a wireman that gave you real time communications with your Platoon HQ via a field phone.

Normally a platoon held one squad in reserve, the HQ or LT would make the decision when to send them in. In a way I think a Platoon HQ has two commanders, the LT and Platoon Sergeant (normally E6). The Platoon Sgt might replace a fallen Squad Leader or LT. If your Squad is having a problem accomplishing their objective the LT would come by. If the Platoon was having a problem the CO or XO may show up in his jeep, evaluate the situation and call for whatever support or reserves he thinks they need.

The Platoon HQ is going to be tied into Company and Company to Battalion support and if they are lucky they'll have an attached FO/ANGLICO for direct arty and air support or it has to go up to the Company HQ which will take longer. The Platoon HQ should be able to call in their own light mortars from the Company Weapons Platoon and may have an FO hooked up with a field phone and able to land a barrage within 60 seconds including the shells flight time. In some circumstances the mortar team could have direct sight to the target and be extremely quick and effective but exposed to enemy fire. Yes, 2LT were expected to lead from the front, that's what motivation and leadership is all about.

By the way, this is all Marine stuff so not universal.

Wolfhag

Legion 406 Nov 2019 8:04 a.m. PST

thumbs up Generally much of that is applicable to my experiences in the US ARMY, '79-'90. But as a Mech Co. Cdr I was not as "mean" as Wolf's CO CPT German ! huh? wink

And as I have said before, the most powerful weapon in the Plt & Co. is a Ldr's radio. To call-in supporting fires from mortars, FA, CAS and if available Naval Fire Spt.

UshCha07 Nov 2019 2:57 a.m. PST

OK so with this excellent outline what soet of thing command does. The question is how to get at least some of it into a usefull but playable game.

Well went the Sargrunt and possibly Advanced Squad leader way. The PC is there to get things moving.

So In our rules the PC (or upto Coy Cmd) can hand on extra moves to his direct subordinates. This is automatic if he is in shouting range and radio with a dice throw. Radio is given a bit of a disadvantage as the commanders situational awareness is less if he can't see and needs a longer "chat". Phone calls are never as good as face to face meetings.

The commanders other job even if suppressed is to provide data and call for support like Artillery via whatever channels you have allowed, batalion Mortars FDF, FAO, spaculative fire,even a flare for FDF.

Basicaly we consider this approach gives a good, crude but effective actual use for the command structure (and its models) to function in a plausible way. We do not have XO's as we decided it added complexity we did not want to model. too many rules and too many die slows the game and ruins the simulatio overall. XO's are simply there to pick up the "reigns" quicker if the CO "gets it". If a battlefield promotion is neccessary it takes time and he is not as good.

The best I can say is that our radio calls are generally but not always effective. I can't give usefull values as Maneouvre Group is a fully integreted system not quite like others so a simple port of proabilituies would be misleading/unhelpful.

Legion 407 Nov 2019 12:55 p.m. PST

The question is how to get at least some of it into a usefull but playable game.
You mean like this ?


Command radius is a good concept. Frontage is mainly a function of terrain and situation. In both of those cases it depend in what scale you are fighting. E.g. we only do 6mm …

So e.g.:
Rgt/Bde Cdr Cmd Rg = 90cm. Subordinate Cdrs must be within 90cm.
Co/Bn = 60cm same as Rgt/Bde but with 60cm.
Plt = 6mm
Then it comes down to unit coherency. E.g. Plts individual stands in a unit must be within 6cm of each other. Like a 6cm "daisy chain". E.g. :
[] = stand
[]< 6cm >[]< 6cm >[]< 6cm >[]
E.g. To get a direct Cmd bonus, as in CQB, any stand must be within 10cm. Of the Cmd unit.
If you use initiative test it again depends on scale. We only roll for initiative at the beginning at each true. And better units have a high modifier to roll.

This is automatic if he is in shouting range and radio with a dice throw. Radio is given a bit of a disadvantage as the commanders situational awareness is less if he can't see and needs a longer "chat
You still use your radio even if you can see the other element(s) you are trying to talk to. They may be too far away to yell at, but you can still see them. E.g. the desert.

The best I can say is that our radio calls are generally but not always effective
The only time we really roll of successful radio calls is for first missions. Otherwise it's a given.

UshCha08 Nov 2019 2:21 a.m. PST

I have never seen command radious as other than a poor simulation, particularly at higher levels. The artillery battery you are calling could easily be a couple of miles away if its artillery. At the FEBZ the recon could be several km ahead of the main HQ to which it is attached, to name but a few. Ranges can be extended by repaeater stations if neccessary.

The US air support in Normandy went through a base in England. On that basis after platoon commanders it can be very problematic just applying an arbitary value.

If the last cover for a Tank is 2km away an an attached ITV coveing it would need to stay in that cover and not leave because of Command radius. Hence at higher than Platoon level command radius can lead to absurd situations and hence we rejected it.

Legion 408 Nov 2019 8:09 a.m. PST

We are talking 6mm now … not any other scale. With units being Plt or maybe Section strength/size.

And when a calling for fire support it probably won't go directly to the firing Battery or even the FAC. Plus if it is too easy to call in fire you won't have much of a game. Because in many cases it isn't that easy.

E.g. Both Infantry and Tanks Bn have a Hvy Mortar 4.2in Plt. So that may be your best quickest "instant" support. But limited in range and fire power. The 4.2in mortar only has 4 Tubes.


Where a 155mm Bn has 24 tubes. In either 4 Btys of 6 or later 3 Btys of 8.

A Bn may have a FA Battery or even Bn in Direct Support, or Direct Support Reinforcing or General Support.

An FA BN may also be tasked with supporting other units as well. Not just 1 Inf or Tank Bn. Or even just a Squad Patrol could have some FA e.g. a Gun Plt in Direct Support.

Also larger Heavier FA Bns e.g. 8in. would be Div or Crops Cdrs assets. So only a Bde or Div Cdr would use those thru the TAC/ to the FDC, to support a Maneuver Bn. Rarely if ever a Bn wll get those big guns in Direct Support.

So basically your support may always not be there.

Note I was an RTO as a cadet, as my Cousin who was in a USN Tac Air Control Squadron. After he got out he taught me the Phonetic Alphabet and radio procedures. So in many case the CPT or MAJ made me their RTO on exercises, etc.
So I know all about radios, etc. Even as a Co Cdr sometimes I'd carry my own Radio/PRC-77.


Radios have a tenancy to not work all the time. I've even as an Air Op Ofc, have to relay messages for the BC in the air to the other units in the command as he could not talk to them directly. Didn't know why ?

Many times the message would come across the net, "You are coming in broken & distorted. Moving to higher ground Over…" Which in fact might only be 50-100yds/m away.

Terrain and weather, along with power of signal based on batteries, etc., all effect the both the transmitting and receiving stations/radios. Not to mention radios can be
jammed. It happened to my Inf Bn in Panama from Russian Spy Trawlers off the coast.

So Command Ranges can reflect an number of things going on.

If the last cover for a Tank is 2km away an an attached ITV coveing it would need to stay in that cover and not leave because of Command radius. Hence at higher than Platoon level command radius can lead to absurd situations and hence we rejected it.
We again use Plts/Sections. So the ITV may be attached to a Tank Co. But would not have to be in Cmd Rg. It's an independent unit. You as the gamer/Cdr of that Company, those ITVs would not have to come under Cmd Rgs unless e.g. it losses it's Ldr.

The Cmd Rgs generally only come into play if a Ldr is lost. Other than that the Plt/Section units only has to stay within 6cms of another unit in the that Plt/Sec. For unit cohesion, morale, etc. As I explained in another post.

Many things effect C3 … if it is always 100% that is not very realistic. Or much of a game. And again, I'm talking 6mm scale … game scale vs. real scale makes a difference in of many of the rules.

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