CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Participating Units and Command Structure

Monday, November 08, 2004

Participating Units and Command Structure

The NYTimes has a new graphic of the advance and the forces involved on their front page. The graphic identifies six different units: 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment:This battalion has been located in and responsible for Fallujah since August. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment: This battalion was probably shifted from Ramadi. 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, US Army Cavalry: This unit has been chosen for its armor, which is most likely split between the two previous Marine battalions. All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 1st Marine Regiment. 1st Battalion, 8th Marines: This battalion has been shifted to Fallujah from the far west of Al-Anbar province. The battalion website notes that it deployed from the east coast with reinforced command and control and logistics assets - perhaps it alone completely replaced 7th Marines in the West. 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment: This is the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. It is based in Okinawa. The MEUs are being used. 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, US Army infantry: This battalion could be the one that The Black Watch relieved in place last week. All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 31st MEU. This reporting indicates that the forces which seized the bridges and the hospital were merely blocking them off and no advance is being made across the Euphrates. The 31st MEU (REIN) and the 1st Marine Regiment (REIN) are now driving into the northern part of the city, and if insurgents flee, they'll have to cross the highway running through the heart of the city, or perhaps travel along it. The highway is most likely a free-fire zone for US air assets. The plan could be to force the insurgents to either fight (and die) in their fortified positions in the north, or flee to the south where there is less advantage to them (and be attrited by air in the process). Also, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's homepage is showing that the Black Watch is falling under the operational control of the 24th MEU. This makes sense geographically, as the 24th MEU is in Babil Province. The 24th MEU's mission, reinforced with the Black Watch, is likely Rear Area Security, and possibly to act as an anvil, though I am beginning to waver on this point. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Homepage states that the 11th MEU is in the Najaf - Diwaniyah area. Perhaps they are merely continuing to pursue security and stabilization operations. The update on the page is a week old though. All three deployed MEU's in one theater at a time is highly unusual -- another sign they've been planning this for months. MEU's are strategic assets, and their movements are called by folks VERY HIGH up the totem pole. Other probable Marine unit locations: 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines: Northern Babil province, reporting to the 24th MEU. 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines: Al Asad, watching the western portion of Al-Anbar province. 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: Ramadi, probably under the control of the Fifth Marines HQ. Tomorrow, perhaps we can roll all of this into an org chart and post it.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son is with Weapons Co., 2/24 Marines. Any idea what they're up to?

November 9, 2004 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger DC said...

Thanks for your great work and for keeping my buddy Dan out of trouble.

Semper Fi

November 9, 2004 at 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in addition to the task organization, here are some comments:

1st Bn, 7th Marines (1/7) is out west, vicinity al Qaim. That Battalion is under the operational control of Regimental Combat Team 7. 1/8 did not "completely replace 7th Marines in the West." That Battalion is under operational control of 7th Marines Regimental Combat Team. 1/23 (a reserve unit) is also opcon to RCT-7.

So, what Chester is saying here is that the task organization for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force for the fight in Fallujah is something like this:

1 MEF (LtGen Sattler)

Air Combat Element:

3d Marine Air Wing (Forward)

Combat Service Support:

Force Service Support Group

Ground Combat Element:

1st Marine Division (REIN) (Maj Gen Natonski)

Regimental Combat Team 1 (Col _______)
3d Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1)
3d Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5)
2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, US Army Calvary
(questions:
1. are the units above cross attached down to Company Level Mech-Infantry Teams?
2. Are the Marine Infantry Units meched up in AAVs?
3. Do the Marine Infantry Units have Combat Engineers attached? -- almost certainly

31st MEU (Col ____) (under operational control of the MEF because the MEU, which is a self sufficient Marine Air Ground Task Force, would come under the doctrinal operational control of the MEF, which is also a MAGTF)
1st Battalion, 8th Marines (1/8)
1st Battalion, 3d Marines (1/3) (Battalion Landing Team 1/3 is the Ground Combat Element of 31st MEU, which leads to Chester's conclusion that the MEU is the operational headquarters of 1/8, 1/3, and 2-2 US Army)
2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, US Army
questions: same as above
4. How is Light Armored Recon (LAR) cross attached with the above units? One article (Christian Science Monitor) describes a light armored recon unit attached to 1/3.

Other Units and possible Missions:

Light Armored Recon -- 1st Mar Div owns 2 LAR Battalions, which are probably cross attached to the assault force, and/ or establishing the cordon (the optics on the LAV-AT would be perfect for his, as well as the general thermal vision capability of LAV family of vehicles).

Recon Battalion and Force Recon -- When the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for this fight are studied, I bet this is where the most significant lessons learned are. There have been reports of precision bombing in Fallujah from the end of August. These are all probably "observed fires." This means that 1st Recon Battalion (and Force Recon, and SOCCOM assets, or CIA) have been spotting the bombing and artillery in the 3 month run up to this Fallujah Operation. Those types of units with typically 6 Marines are always armed with sniper rifles (M-40A3, M-82 Barret .50 cal, and reports indicate the special operators are using the CheyTac .408, which has an intermediate range).

I notice in pictures of the fighting that almost every Marine rifleman has a M-16A4 with ACOG optical scopes. These scopes give the average rifleman the ability to hit targets out to 700m according to reports that I have seen. That's every individual Marine with the ability to hit a man sized target at 700m. That's just tremendous, especially when compared to the average insurgent with a AK or RPK in terms of small arms accuracy and effective range.

Also, each fire team leader of 4 Marines now seems to have a Personal Radio (PR) which allows that lance corporal or corporal to talk to his squad leader, platoon commander, and maybe company commander in the thick of the fight. That would include the ability to call for fire on specific targets from Company level 60mm, Battalion level 81mm, and Division level 155mm fire support (question: do the Regiments have 120mm mortars on line? That would probably be a great weapon for this fight). That level of ability to coordinate the supporting arms fight down to the small unit level is unprecedented.

Also, the average fire team leader, who carries a M-16A4 with a M-203, now has the option of also carrying infrared aiming lights (which can only be seen by someone wearing infrared goggles). This would allow a small unit leader to designate targets with those aiming lights instead of using 40mm smoke grenades to designate a target. This is starting to put capabilities for semi-independent, highly sophisticated operations into the hands of the average Marine Corps fire team and squad leader. These skills were normally reserved for Marines in Surveillance Targeting and Acquisition (STA), Regimental- or Division-Recon, or Force Recon.

The changes towards the capability to conduct "distributed operations" (a hot topic in the Marine Corps Gazette) is happening right there on the battlefield.

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