LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - With over half the world’s climbing population living in cities, the future of urban warfare is inevitable. Consequently, the same military strategies used in desert and forest terrains will no longer suffice.
Urban warfare is complex. Its challenges involve crowded city streets, high-rise buildings, interconnected subterranean structures like subways and parking garages, tapered air and harbor routes, and civilian population concerns.
That’s why the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division developed the U.S. Army’s first formal course to prepare leaders and planners to execute large-scale combat operations in such dense terrain.
The Urban Operations Planner Course, established in 2021, aims to close the training and education gap for brigade and division-level planners to develop the skills to succeed in such challenging environments.
“The course gives them the tools for how to deal with dense urban operations and how to perform large-scale combat operations in a dense urban environment,” said U.S Army Brig. Gen. Robert T. Wooldridge, deputy commanding general-operations, 40th ID, and director of the 40th ID’s Urban Warfare Center and Urban Operations Planner Course.
The seven-day course hosted roughly 30 resident students and virtual participants May 14-21, including Army Active-Duty, Reserve and National Guard students, joint partners from the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and international allied military personnel.
“The diversity of the students is really a strength of the course,” Wooldridge said. “We have allies from multiple different countries, NATO and non-NATO, and they bring a richness to the discussion that wouldn’t otherwise be there.”
A student in the course, Sgt. Maj. Matthew Malinowski, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Hawaii National Guard, said training alongside ally partners is critical because large-scale combat operations are typically joint or multinational operation environments.
“It’s important for us to work with our allies in learning and training on the same methodologies,” Malinowski said.
The instructors are world-class urban warfare experts from organizations such as the Modern War Institute at West Point and the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“We brought in urban warfare experts from the United Kingdom, Canada and throughout the United States,” Wooldridge said.
Students participated in interactive discussions and practical exercises that explored urban fundamentals, legal aspects of urban operations and civilian harm mitigation, the history of underground conflicts, operational approaches, and warfighting functions.
The course enables military personnel to examine past conflicts and current global struggles that simulate the complexities and challenges of large-scale urban combat operations with top experts.
“It really is about the interaction between these urban warfare experts, masters of their fields, and the students,” Wooldridge said.
Malinowski said that because of the course, he has new tools to bring back to his unit.
“This course has provided an in-depth look at warfighting functions, and the key takeaways are the tools and planning considerations for planning large-scale combat operations in an urban environment and how we can apply that within our brigade,” Malinowski said.
Wooldridge said graduates from the 56-hour course will be able to plan, direct and sustain large-scale combat operations in dense urban environments.
“Some people think that urban is just the same as the desert or the plains or the forest, but they couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Wooldridge said. “There are very special considerations for operating in large-scale urban combat operations that you don’t see anywhere else.“