The Battle of Taji and Battle Command on
AS BATTLES GO, it was a small victory, but
for U.S. Army command and control (C2), the implications of the
Battle of Taji might be far greater than the historical significance
of the engagement itself. The battle began as the Bradley fighting
vehicles and Abrams tanks of the 4th Infantry Division's (ID's)
1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, and Task Force (TF) 1-8 seized
their objectives at Taji Airfield, Iraq, on 16 April 2003. Just
miles away, the 4th ID's commanding general sat in his newly modified
Bradley command vehicle, watching the action unfold and coordinating
the division's effort. Although it might not have appeared singularly
unique, battle command in the 4th ID at Taji was exercised in a
technically new style that foreshadows the future of land combat.
Nicknamed "Battle Command on the Move"
(BCOTM), the new division command architecture is a radical departure
from command arrangements the U.S. Army formalized during the early
1960s. In effect, in BCOTM, the division's commanding general is
no longer tied to functionally staffed headquarters in fixed locations.
Also, he does not have to travel to different fixed locations within
the division area to command the division. The headquarters and
its associated information, planning, and execution capabilities
come to the commander wherever he might be on the battlefield.
The evolution of the division and corps during
the Napoleonic era introduced a new dynamic into the tactical command
of troops in battle-the relocation to the rear of higher commanders,
distancing them from their traditional frontline locations. This
was an organizational imperative made necessary by the ever larger
armies fielded by continental military systems during the 19th century.
As the 20th century approached, command at division and corps levels
evolved into an increasingly complex mosaic of commanders supported
by a staff system that gathered information and transmitted orders
to forward elements. Having efficient staff procedures was of as
much concern as was actual command ability. One of the main difficulties
of the system was the inability of commanders to locate themselves
at the decisive point to be able to command their formations effectively.
During World War I, command at division and
corps levels was generally exercised from rear command posts (CPs)
tied by landlines and runners to forward elements. Because these
systems were vulnerable and frequently became inoperable, commanders
initially sought to retain control through complex orders and rigid
procedures. When this method of command proved unable to break the
deadlock of trench warfare, the Germans and, later, the Allies turned
to more decentralized command arrangements based on mission-type
There are notorious examples of commanders
simply losing touch with the real conditions at the front. British
officer Sir Ian Hamilton has been criticized severely for failing
to go ashore in the early hours of the ill-fated Gallipoli invasion
in Turkey. Likewise, British Field Marshal Douglas Haig was famously
out of touch with the frontline situation. The Germans also had
problems with situational awareness, especially the German Army's
premature wheeling (when executing the Schlieffen Plan maneuver),
which resulted in a right hook short of Paris.
Ineffective situational awareness also affected
the Ludendorff offensives in spring 1918. Later, even as decentralized
tactical command evolved and partially broke the tactical deadlock,
the problem of situational awareness at division and higher levels
persisted. Large headquarters systems evolved that brought more
and more information to fixed sites in rear areas, especially in
intelligence, fire support planning, and logistics data that supported
operations. This arrangement increasingly tied commanders to their
During the 1930s, radio and signal communications
provided a partial solution to the problem of command. The German
Army exploited this technology in its C2 capabilities for its new
Panzer arm. Many historians and students of military history can
recall the famous photograph of a smiling General Heinz Guderian
leading his corps from a radio-filled halftrack in France during
the 1940 blitzkrieg. Guderian, a signals specialist, pioneered the
concept of bringing the information flow to the commander, instead
of the commander being forced to go to a fixed location where the
information flow terminated. Bringing information to the commander
freed the commander from the tyranny of having to lead from the
rear and allowed him to exercise command from a forward location.
Other German generals, notably Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, proved
adept at adapting to this new style of command. U.S. commanders,
such as General George S. Patton, Major General Raymond O. Barton,
and Brigadier General Robert E. Wood proved even more skilled at
managing their units from forward locations. In a general sense,
a wave of heroic frontline fighting generals seemed to emerge from
this transformation in command architecture.
The reality of leading from the front was much
less heroic in a functional sense. By moving forward, World War
II commanders disassociated themselves from the detailed planning
and forward thinking that a fully staffed headquarters allowed.
Efficient chiefs of staff who maintained the flow of staff work
supported many of the more successful commanders, but most commanders
experienced logistic and support difficulties at one time or another.
Several were notorious for their willful neglect of logistic matters.
Herein lay a challenge all division and corps commanders faced from
1940 until today-where to position oneself on the battlefield to
be able to effectively influence both the current and the future
U.S. combat divisions were restructured in
1963 under the Reorganization of Army Divisions (ROAD) concept.
ROAD was a massive reorganization of the entire army from the battle-groupbased
division of the 1950s to the contemporary brigade-based division.
The associated command architecture for ROAD divisions continues
in the Army today. At division level there are three tactical command
elements to exercise command and control of the division in combat.
Corps-level headquarters mirror this arrangement, which essentially
breaks up the division headquarters into functional elements that
specialize in various areas of command.
In contemporary U.S. command architecture,
the close battle or current fight is the responsibility of the division
tactical (DTAC) command post. The deep battle; intelligence analysis;
coordination functions, with flank and higher formations; and future
plans are the responsibility of the division main (DMAIN) headquarters.
Logistics, maintenance, and support functions are the responsibility
of the division support element (DSE), which is also called the
division rear (DREAR) headquarters. Structurally, the DTAC is small,
armored, and highly mobile, and it is supervised by an assistant
division commander for maneuver. The DMAIN is large, softskinned,
and is nominally the command center of the commanding general and
his general staff. Finally, the DSE is a large collection of support
elements that manages repair shops; fuel and ammunition dumps; and
field hospitals and is supervised by an assistant division commander
for support. Many commanders also have individual personal command
posts that allow them to remain in touch as they roam the battlefield.
The U.S. Army fought in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf using this
command architecture, which remains a highly successful model for
effective battle command. In the last analysis, however, the commander
still had to travel to functional headquarters to participate in
the three basic areas of battle command: the close fight; the deep
fight and future plans; and combat support functions. BCOTM breaks
this traditional paradigm and paves the way for the delivery of
information and function to the commander wherever he might be on
Command in the 4th ID
The 4th ID at Fort Hood, Texas, is developing
a dynamic method of command based on emerging technologies. The
4th ID has been at the forefront of the Army's digitization effort
and represents the most technically advanced large-scale tactical
command. In many ways, it is the descendent of such famous testbed
organizations as the 11th Air Assault Division, which pioneered
air mobility tactics, and the 1st Cavalry Division (Triple Capability
[TRICAP]), which linked combat aviation brigades with heavy armored
divisions. As part of the Army's Force XXI program, the 4th ID was
a visionary organization that fielded, tested, and leveraged advanced
computer technologies into the tactical array of systems. This multilayered
design is not limited to information and microcommunications, it
is inclusive of all types of manpower-saving enhancements.
After taking command in 2001, Major General
Raymond T. Odierno steered the division's mindset from an experimental
and test viewpoint back toward a readiness and deployablity viewpoint.
He also looked seriously at restructuring the 4th ID's tactical
command architecture to enhance his personal situational awareness
of the battlefield. This initiative resulted from observing the
tremendous advances in the division's capability to track units
and individual elements using terrestrial tracking systems. In theory,
the systems could deliver such information to any point in the division's
area of responsibility. And, although not originally staffed or
funded to experiment with advanced tactical C2 systems, Odierno
tasked his staff to begin developing a highly mobile, state-of-the-art
command post built around a Bradley fighting vehicle. His concept
eventually became the BCOTM. Formally, BCOTM is titled the assault
command post (ACP).
The ACP concept was placed into the hands of
the division's force modernization officer, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)
Rocky Kmiecik. The basic concept was to modify a Bradley fighting
vehicle and to build around the idea of bringing the division's
information systems into the vehicle itself. The new hybrid command
vehicle, called the M7 BCOTMBradley, has a communications suite
that includes tactical satellite and three FM nets. The BCOTMBradley
also brings a message processing unit that can run any combination
of the following: maneuver control systems (MCS) (heavy or light);
allsource analysis system (ASAS); Advanced Field Artillery Tactical
Data System (AFTADS); Air and Missile Defense Work Station (AMDWS);
and Force XXI battle command brigade and below (FBCB2) system.1
These capabilities give the vehicle similar situation capabilities
that division tactical command centers enjoy. Because the preliminary
design looked so promising, the division received authorization
to issue a contract to build four vehicles.
Communications and information display suites
filled the already cramped fighting vehicle, so the division fielded
an associated M1068 command track (a rebuilt M577) to accompany
the new command Bradley. The M1068 is a greatly improved and enhanced
command vehicle that adds complementary systems such as international
maritime satellite, Iridium, C2 personal computers, SECRET Internet
Protocol Network, and high-fidelity radio. The communications suite
also includes Blue Force tracking, a new space-based information
system in use in other Army divisions, but not in the 4th ID. This
was necessary should the division go into combat side by side with
conventional Army brigades and divisions.
The M1068 also provides power-generation for
the command post. In tandem, the vehicles create a complementary
and complete package of C2 capability that is armored, highly mobile,
and can take an informed commander to any point on the battlefield.
The four specially modified Bradleys, completed and delivered to
the division in the first weeks of January 2003, were just in time
for deployment to the Middle East for combat operations in Iraq.
In addition to the two command vehicles, the
ACP included a security element of two Abrams tanks and a Bradley
with its infantry squad, supervised by the division command sergeant
major (CSM); two military police sections with armored high-mobility,
multipurpose, wheeled vehicles; a line-of-sight communications team
and a satellite-based secure, mobile, antijam, reliable tactical-terminal
communications package; and an aviation section of two Blackhawk
helicopters complete with divisional communications packages of
their own. These assets provide the commander with a high level
of security and mobility.
The Battle of Taji
Although the 4th ID was initially notified
for deployment to Turkey, political decisions forced it to deploy
into the combat theater through Kuwait. The division arrived about
a week after hostilities began. The commanding general's untested
and untried M7 BCOTM-Bradley was in one of the first ships to arrive
and was immediately rushed to Camp New Jersey to join the headquarters
in time to march north with the division's first combat elements.
From Kuwait, the tracked portion of the ACP
package was loaded on heavy-equipment transporters (HETs) for tactical
movement to an assembly area near Baghdad on 13 April 2003. The
vehicles were assigned to the first convoy going north, which carried
the ground elements of the 1st Battalion, 10th Cavalry Regiment,
from the division's 4th Brigade. The DTAC was also placed in the
first convoy going north but in a follow-on serial. After a 2-day
road march through the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, the tracked vehicles
were unloaded in Tactical Assembly Area Iron Horse, 25 kilometers
south of Baghdad, and they proceeded to Baghdad International Airport.
These were the first 4th ID formations to transit Baghdad through
the 101st Airborne Division and 3d ID areas of operations. Odierno
and his personal battle staff arrived by helicopter shortly thereafter
and established command and control with the 1st Brigade's tactical
CP in the forward area.2 Meanwhile,
the 1-10 Cavalry, as well as the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, moved
to attack positions along the Samarra Canal north of Baghdad in
preparation for an assault on the Iraqi-held airfield at Taji.3
The attack on the airfield was scheduled for
0900 on 16 April 2003. In the few hours remaining, after unloading
its vehicles from HETs and before crossing the line of departure
(LD), the 4th Brigade completed precombat checks and final preparations.
The 4th ID DTAC, unexpectedly delayed by congested roads, never
arrived in time to set up or to establish command and control. Important
to note here is that the DTAC, itself an expanded command post that
included fire support, intelligence, and planning packages from
the DMAIN, was still en route to forward areas.4
Thus, as LD time approached, Odierno was unexpectedly and perhaps
prematurely forced to exercise battle command from his untested
ACP. In its final but ad hoc configuration, the ACP included three
officers, who acted as battle captains; the division G3; and the
division command sergeant major.5 Brigadier
General David Rodriguez, the assistant division commander for maneuver;
Colonel Kevin Stramara, the division artillery commander; and Colonel
Michael Moody, the 4th Brigade commander, positioned themselves
at the BCM to deconflict and coordinate aviation operations and
The absence of the DTAC in the forward area
meant that the ACP was forced, on its own merits and capabilities,
to command the first combat operation undertaken by the 4th ID in
over 30 years. Fortunately, vision, funding, and hard work provided
an immediate situational awareness of the battle area that enabled
Odierno to exercise effective command of the attack.
The DTAC arrived at 0600 but was not set up
and operational until later. The ACP's presence in the forward area
enabled the division to launch its attack on schedule and to connect
in space and time to the commanding general. The ACP's absence would
have delayed the 1st Brigade's attack by as much as 9 hours. Of
note is that the division launched the attack from a forward assembly
area that was over 230 miles from the DMAIN, which had remained
A mere 18 hours from HET download, the 1-10
Cavalry and the 1-8 Infantry task forces crossed the LD and advanced
north toward Taji Airfield. Resistance was light, but isolated pockets
of Iraqi soldiers fought the U.S. advance. The fight was over quickly,
and the airfield was declared secured at 1221. There were no U.S.
casualties, and the 4th ID captured a rich store of enemy documents,
including operational computers, weapons, and munitions. In a larger
sense, the Battle of Taji vindicated the concept of delivering effective
C2 to the commanding general wherever he might be on the battlefield
and represented a breakthrough in the control of Army divisions
in combat. After the battle, Odierno noted that the ACP had performed
better than expected and that it was quick and easy to bring into
action to exercise effective operational control.6
The March Upcountry
In the 5th century B.C., the great Athenian
mercenary general Xenophon led 10,000 Greeks up the Tigris River
valley from Babylon (near modern Baghdad) to its headwaters and
then to Sinop on the Black Sea. He later wrote Anabasis, or the
March Up Country, about his experiences.7
The Tigris valley is much-fought-over ground that has seen the armies
of the Macedonians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and British. In 2003,
it was America's turn.
On 17 April 2003, the ACP jumped forward twice,
first to Taji Airfield and then to Sihab Abahr Military Complex,
to prepare for the next phase of tactical movements north. The 4th
ID was immediately tasked to maintain its momentum and to clear
the routes north to Tikrit. The ACP jumped again on 18 April across
the Tigris River to another military complex. Finally on 19 April,
the ACP occupied the Presidential Complex in Tikrit itself, where
it linked up with U.S. Marine Corps TF Tripoli. The tactical situation
was changing almost by the minute as rapid U.S. advances followed
the regime's collapse. A newly arrived battalion task force (1-66)
was ordered to drive on Mosul to add combat power to the light U.S.
forces airlifted there scant days before. The 4th ID was being stretched
like a rubber band. Over half of its combat power, its main headquarters,
and most of its support elements were still in Kuwait, and its forward
elements were almost in Mosul. The division was operating over lines
of communications in excess of 400 miles. Effective communications
between the division's front and rear elements were being extended
to the thinnest margin.
Other division objectives were even farther
away, and the rubber band was close to snapping. However, the division
was entering a period of several days of reduced conventional threat
wherein the commander could take risk in a somewhat lower level
of command and control. To support the complex operations that would
immediately follow the occupation of the division area, Odierno
needed to bring the DTAC and the DMAIN (over 80 and 300 miles away,
respectively) into forward operating areas. He ordered the DTAC
forward on 20 April, and the DMAIN began to disassemble and load
up the same day. Both CPs were effectively out of the division command
net. Once again, the tiny ACP, located at Saddam Hussein's New Palace
that overlooked the Tigris River from a promontory in the city of
Tikrit, carried the C2 burden for the entire division. The ACP simultaneously
coordinated and executed the 4th ID's relief-in-place of TF Tripoli.
The ACP's capabilities enabled Odierno to maintain visibility of
the widely deployed forces while the two larger tactical CPs caught
up with the rapidly moving forward elements. Not having a capable
ACP would have substantially delayed the deployment to the forward
area of the division's principal tactical command headquarters.
The DTAC closed on the Main Palace at Tikrit on 20 April, and the
DMAIN closed there on 23 April. As the 4th ID entered a critical
phase of regime change in the stronghold of the Ba'ath Party, division
headquarters was fully prepared to execute its mission.
In May 2003, the 4th ID conducted two widely
separated political-military operations using the ACP. The first
operation included a series of delicate diplomatic talks with the
leaders of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). Odierno, on behalf of coalition
forces, negotiated MEK's disarmament and movement to protected locations.8
During this operation the ACP was moved directly to the negotiation
site, which allowed the 4th ID negotiating team immediate access
to higher headquarters and provided the ability to maintain continuity
of operations throughout the 3-day period. Later, the ACP jumped
to Kirkuk, where the division conducted a sensitive, extended selection
process to establish an interim provincial government. Again, the
ACP enabled Odierno to participate directly in critical operations
far removed from the tactical and main headquarters.
The division learned several things from the
Battle of Taji. First, the battle was fought with no FM communications
between the division and brigade commander, and there were no landlines.
Moreover, there were no paper maps or graphical overlays.9
Second, the BCOTM concept appears sound. The
ACP was completely operational within 15 minutes of occupation and
established connectivity and tight control immediately thereafter.
Its presence at Taji enabled the brigade to attack on time with
effective division-level command and control.
Third, at Taji, the difficulty of trying to
integrate information systems of different generations became apparent
when it proved difficult to merge the 4th ID situation, which used
a terrestrial tracking system, with adjacent units, which used the
newer Blue Force tracking system. Information was displayed on separate
monitors, and Odierno had to integrate the information visually
on the spot.
Fourth, the employment options the 4th ID developed
for the ACP are based on the degree of control required for operational
employment of the division and are as summarized in the table.
As the U.S. Army advances into the 21st century,
it must continue to capture, leverage, and exploit technologies
that multiply its combat effectiveness. The BCOTM concept creates
a highly mobile, secure environment that contains a uniquely complete
situational-awareness capability. The enhanced Bradley/M1068-equipped
ACP gives the division commander unusual flexibility in deciding
when and where to position himself during combat and postcombat
operations. BCOTM is a proven, workable model that will continue
to evolve and mature as an integral part of the Army's C2 architecture;
it is the way forward.
The MCS creates and automates the distribution of the common tactical
picture as well as integrating the Battlefield Functional Area C2
System and the Battle Command System; ASAS; AFTADS; and AMDWS, and
The 1st Brigade, 4th ID, which commanded the 1-10 Cavalry and TF
1-8, conducted the attack on the Taji Airfield.
Taji Airfield was the home of the Iraqi aviation and air defense
Although the DTAC was scheduled to arrive much earlier, it was substantially
delayed en route by an unexpectedly large Muslim Haj (pilgrimage)
that put thousands of Iraqis directly on the division's march routes
The three officers in the ACP who acted as battle captains were
LTC Rocky Kmiecik, LTC J.T. Thomson, and CPT Colin Brooks. The division
G3 was LTC J.B. Burton. The division CSM was Chuck Fuss.
Xenophon, Anabasis, or the March Up Country. See on-line at <www.fordham.edu/
The MEK is an Iranian-backed paramilitary organization operating
in central Iraq.
9. The authors believe
that the Battle of Taji might be the first electronic (paperless)
battle fought by a U.S. infantry division.
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