By Harry SarlesJanuary 24, 2018
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan.--Several years ago a Command and General Staff College Deputy Commandant said CGSC would probably have to rely on the "Cold War soldiers" who had "AirLand Battle" experience in order to prepare the current generation of field grade officers for future war: conventional, major combat operations, combined arms maneuver, and now Large Scale Combat Operations.
The future is now. Retired Colonel Greg Fontenot, a Cold War armor officer who commanded a tank battalion in Desert Storm and the first brigade to cross the Sava River in Bosnia, brought his experience and knowledge to focus on the Army's newest operational doctrine, FM 3.0 in a presentation at CGSC on Friday (Jan. 19).
Fontenot is a warrior and scholar. In addition to his command assignments Fontenot has led the School of Advanced Military Studies and the University of Foreign Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. One CGSC instructor advised his students "as you transition from the Land Component Command to Division tactics, consider attending Colonel Fontenot's session. He is one of the Army's premier experts on how to fight land force-on-land force. Colonel Fontenot's remarks will help you think through design and the elements of planning, as you move toward tactical execution, as it relates to future Large Scale Combat Operations."
Fontenot's most recent book, "The 1st Infantry Division and the U.S. Army Transformed - Road to Victory in Desert Storm, 1970-1991" is a terrific example of the Army's experience in large scale combat operations. "Experience without critical review is of little use," he explained. He challenged the approximately 100 audience members to "think critically about experiences."
His talk touched on a number of topics that resonate with the themes in FM 3-0 including:
Training and deploying for an expeditionary operation (although the Cold War Army was not an expeditionary force); Conducting an operational deployment from Strategic Distance (8,000 miles from Fort Riley to Saudi Arabia) without an intermediate base; Executing Corps operations in a non-contiguous area of operations; Supporting humanitarian operations and what is now called "return to competition."
Fontenot said his research into the post-Vietnam War Army showed the importance of the training revolution the Army went through and the contributions of some surprising sources including Gen. William Westmoreland. After Vietnam, Westmoreland saw the Army could not continue to depend on conscription to fill the ranks and was one of the early proponents of the all-volunteer Army and of integrating women into the regular Army.
"You can't get to employment until you've finished deployment," Fontenot said. "Logistics. Logistics. Logistics!" He explained that although movement of men, equipment, and materials isn't sexy it is key to being able to fight where, when, and how the U.S. wants to. He talked about how the Big Red One moved a division's worth of equipment by rail from Fort Riley to a port in Texas and by Military Sealift Command assets to Saudi Arabia (look for the gold and blue stripes on the stacks). At the Saudi Arabia port the ships were met by Soldiers who had mostly deployed on Civil Reserve Air Fleet assets and then moved onward to assembly areas in the desert.
Fontenot advised listeners not to equate AirLand Battle with offensive operations as the previous, Cold-War, doctrine was defensive in nature aimed at stopping a Warsaw Pact attack into Western Europe. Leaders must understand their opposition, Fontenot said. "You can't understand anybody without taking time to know what they think." During the question and answer session he added the key to evaluating risk was to ask "What do I know?" and "How does the enemy think?"
When asked how his unit was able to demonstrate the flexibility to go from expected rest as brigade reserve to a night-time passage of lines and assault on a dug-in enemy, his simple answer was training. He said the training revolution the Army went through after Vietnam was indisputable and the reason his unit could undertake difficult maneuvers in combat was they had accomplished the same or similar actions in training.
He left the audience with three thoughts. "Have fun." "Don't be fearful." And, "Don't let people tell you 'It can't be done.'"