I have learned more about small-unit infantry tactics from the “Close Combat” simulation than I have from fourteen years of Marine Corps infantry experience.http://www.2ndbn5thmar.com/dm/CCMWorkbookMcBreen2002.pdf
“Close Combat” is a computer combat simulation published by Atomic Games. The focus of the simulation is on infantry combat at the small-unit level.
I am an infantry major with fourteen years commissioned service, seven years with 5th Marines, three years in schools, and three years as an infantry training officer with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. I have deployed overseas with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines four times. I have commanded two infantry platoons and one rifle company. I have served as a battalion operations officer and regimental operations officer. I am a student of tactics. I have taught NCOs and officers infantry tactics. I have participated and led tactical decision training.
None of these activities or learning experiences can match the effective and focused tactical learning that I have experienced through repetitive fighting of the small unit scenarios in “Close Combat.”
“Close Combat” permits a player to fight hundreds of scenarios, make thousands of tactical decisions, experiment with different tactics, and learn from his mistakes. I would be a far more qualified platoon commander now than I was twelve years ago. Through fighting the “Close Combat” simulation, I have internalized significant platoon-level tactical lessons:
•Long unsupported assaults are deadly. Assault for short distances, against a lightly armed or well-suppressed position. A single enemy soldier can destroy a squad across 100 meters of open ground.
•A long covered approach is always better than a short open route. Be careful of covered approaches that cannot be covered by an overwatching unit.
•Every unit needs obscuration. Smoke save lives. Every assault and every withdrawal should use smoke.
•Fire and maneuver is the key tactic. Use the majority of your force to overwhelmingly suppress the enemy, and a small assault unit to rapidly close on the objective.
•It's all about suppression. Fire without maneuver is wasteful and indecisive. Effective suppression is the basis for all infantry tactics.
•Units without mutual support are doomed. Mutually supported units protect each other from being fixed or assaulted.
•Mortars are inherently inaccurate. Area suppression is NOT destruction. Rounds are limited. Use them well. Don’t waste mortars on bunkers or buildings.
•Concentrate your fire.
Fire control insures decisive action. In contact, men will disburse their fire. Sequentially destroying targets with point fire is more effective than distributing ineffective fires.
•Every unit—squad, platoon, and company—needs antitank capability when facing tanks.
An infantry unit with no organic antitank weapon is either retreating or overrun.
Tanks can only be fought in close terrain.
•For anti-tank positions, deep and narrow sectors of fire with defilade on both sides are best. The best sector of fire allows you to engage only
one tank at a time.
•Defensive positions are temporary. All units need multiple positions and the ability to withdraw.
•For machinegun positions, deep and narrow sectors of fire, with defilade on both sides, are best. Primary and secondary sectors separated by frontal protection are better.
•Cover is life. Move from one covered position to another. Good cover is relative to a single enemy position. Mutually supporting enemy positions can overcome the protection of your cover.
•Use bounding overwatch to move. A squad in contact needs immediate suppression from another unit. The measure of success is the number of units that can immediately bring suppression to bear upon enemy contact.
Good Marine leaders know all of these lessons. They have been taught, they have read, they have trained to do them. But I, and those Marines who have fought “Close Combat,” know these lessons in our bones. We know the penalty for mistakes, for misreading the situation, for making decisions too late. Hundreds of simulated men have died in botched assaults, poorly laid positions, and as a result of unexpected enemy actions in order to teach these lessons. We have examined the ground, checked the line-of-sight, positioned the units, and supervised the units in contact so many times that the key tactical principles have become ingrained as second nature.
I have defended three hundred road intersections.
Not just the first step of putting a defensivescheme on paper, but all the way through to initiation of combat, falling back to secondary positions under pressure, and sometimes being overrun by the enemy because I failed to protect my machine gun positions. I cannot walk across a street now without seeing in my mind the intersection occupied: “An anti-tank weapon tucked into thatlow position with an oblique field of fire and good defilade, machineguns here and here, one squad forward with a alternate position near the guns, one squad on the corner in case they put infantry down that alley.”
The historical methods for teaching tactics, walking the ground, working through the examples in the manuals, tactical decision games, and actual field exercises, are important and must be done by all leaders. Schools and units must focus on real leaders, real units, and real ground.
To augment this practical training however, leaders need to experience the chaotic challenges of combat hundreds of times. As an inexpensive and easy-to-use tool to teach a Marine leader the dynamics of tactics, the “Close Combat” simulation is matchless.
Brendan B. McBreen
"True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same."
- Robert E. Lee