Tactics 101: 024 – The Attack of a Built Up Area
5. Clear the Objective – You are there, now it is time to take care of business. In regards to clearing the objective, you first need to know the time constraints and purpose you are working with. This will determine if you are conducting a systematic house to house, room to room clearing (we will cover this in detail in future articles) or are only concerned with clearing key areas allowing you to accomplish your mission (rapid advance). In regards to the latter, you may be ordered to seize the objective quickly, or the enemy is weak, or the urban terrain does not permit an immediate systematic clearing. The key ingredient in any clearing is momentum. Bad things happen once a unit begins to get bogged down. As in any seizing of an objective, a unit greatly increases their chances of success with detailed planning, rehearsals, workable graphics, ensuring every Soldier understands the mission completely, and decentralized command and control. Again, we will cover this phase in great detail in future articles.
An example of systematic clearing. In this mission, subordinate units are assigned sectors.
6. Consolidate and Reorganize – The period right after clearing the objective is critical. It is not the time to exchange high fives and rest on your laurels. The task of consolidation and reorganization is probably even more critical in an urban environment than in any other. As a reminder, lets define consolidate and reorganize.
To consolidate is the process of organizing and strengthening a position or objective you have just seized so you can defend it against a potential enemy counterattack. These actions include conducting recon, establishing security, repositioning forces, adjusting your fire plan, emplacing obstacles etc….
To reorganize is to take measures to maintain the combat effectiveness of your unit or return it to a specific capability. These actions include cross-leveling supplies and ammunition, reforming smaller units, replacing key leaders, treating casualties etc….
As mentioned above, it is vital a unit begin consolidation and reorganization actions as soon as the tactical situation allows it. With the distances so close in urban fighting, it is highly likely an enemy force will counterattack if they lose key urban terrain. A force must be prepared for these counterattacks. Additionally, while preparing for a potential counterattack, a force must prepare itself for future operations. As always, if you sit back and do not conduct this preparation it is time you will never get back. Below you will find some basic actions that should occur during consolidation and reorganization:
• Cover potential counterattack and infiltration routes. Pay close attention to enemy mouseholes between buildings, underground routes that could lead to the basement of the building you are currently occupying, and routes that interconnect rooftops.
• Assume hasty defensive positions.
• Position observation posts and early warning forces.
• Ensure all Soldiers are briefed on current operations and task and purpose.
• Develop indirect and direct fire plans.
• Emplace hasty obstacles where required.
• Ensure adjacent units know location of your unit.
• Resupply Soldiers in needed classes of supply.
• Redistribute ammunition among Soldiers.
• Redistribute Soldiers among units to balance units.
• Redistribute equipment among units.
• Treat wounded personnel – evacuate Soldiers if required.
• Treat prisoners of war. Process them and move them to rear area when tactical situation allows it.
• Re-establish chain of command if there has been casualties to leaders.
• Segregate and safeguard civilians.
• Conduct training for follow-on missions.
• Disseminate lessons learned from past mission.
7. Prepare for Future Missions – Time is a precious commodity. You can never get back wasted time. Once the mission is complete, the prudent commander will quickly begin preparations for his next mission. Hopefully, his higher headquarters has given him a warning order as to what he should prepare for. This will enable him to conduct some early rehearsals, acquire needed supplies and ammunition specific to the upcoming mission, and make coordination with units that may assist him in accomplishing the next mission.
We hope this month we have provided you a general overview of offensive urban operations. As history as exhibited, there may be no more difficult thing to do in combat than to attack a built-up area. The urban area possesses so many variables that can limit the options an attacking force can do when trying to defeat an enemy. Yet, as we have seen in current operations, a well-trained, disciplined force can truly achieve success in this difficult environment
With a good general background of urban offensive operations, we can now get more specific. Our next article will key on attacking a built-up area with a battalion task force organization. Subsequent articles will look at offensive urban operations conducted at the company and platoon level.