By Kristin Molinaro, Fort Benning Public Affairs OfficeOctober 12, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 12, 2011 -- The conventional Infantry squad still faces a fair fight against the current enemy despite advances in technology and the "digital comfort" this generation of Soldiers is born into. To overmatch the enemy, leaders must focus on bringing the nine-man squad into the 21st century, said Maj. Gen. Robert Brown in a briefing to senior military leaders, coalition forces and industry representatives Tuesday.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence commander from Fort Benning, Ga., rolled out the concept plan, dubbed Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force, at the 2011 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Fort Benning is home to the Infantry and Armor schools.
Brown moderated a seven-member panel of research, acquisitions, technology, leader development and training experts.
"At the squad level is where it's too fair of a fight. The enemy's strategy is to bleed us by a thousand cuts. The squad level is where casualties are the greatest because it's the first element to come into contact with the enemy," Brown said.
By reducing gaps and using measures of effectiveness to determine what is working and what isn't, the initiative will boost the squad's ability to beat the enemy, he said.
Rather than a typical technological approach, the initiative will focus on training and leader development -- the human dimension -- while taking advantage of the ease with which today's Soldiers use digital applications by pulling new technology into the picture in the form of simulations and networking solutions.
"(Squads) are strategic in what they do and the effect they can have. With the way the world has adjusted to technology. Soldiers come in today with a digital comfort. They are digital natives and we take them out of their comfort zone by taking their cell phones away," he said.
"It's not just materiel additions," Brown said. "People look at items to give squads, but it's the human dimension, training, leadership and many other factors that will lead to overmatch."
"We are looking at how to determine human capacity and limits within competencies outlined in the Army Concept 2015," said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, Fort Benning's senior enlisted advisor. "The squad has not changed that much over time but what we expect the squad to do today has changed. It's pretty tremendous. There's a lot of responsibility that we heave upon their shoulders when they're out there alone."
The complexities of the contemporary and future operating environments have elevated the squad's impact, making the squad the centerpiece of the tactical fight. Yet, it is at this level that there is no appreciable overmatch capability against the current threat, Brown said.
While the Army experiences technological advancements to individual Soldier weapons and equipment, dismounted squads remain unable to network horizontally and vertically like their mounted counterparts. This leads to a lack of situational awareness.
One example Brown gave to evidence this gap is the remarkable story of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who was awarded the Medal of Honor Nov. 16, 2010. Giunta, then 22, saved three of his comrades and prevented one from being taken by the enemy after the squad walked into an ambush in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, the night of Oct. 25, 2007. Two Soldiers died in the firefight.
"It was incredibly brave what he did in those conditions, but he should've never been put in that position'" Brown said. "We should've been able to tell them there were groups prepared to ambush that squad right over the next hill," he said.
"It's about establishing favorable conditions while retaining the squad's ability to react -- more proactive, less reactive'" he said. "Seventy-five to eighty percent of the time we are reacting to the enemy. We can do better than that."