The Fence of Doom: War Destroys Humans - It Doesn’t Destroy Human Nature
TRADOC Mad Scientist Project: New Concepts in Warfare Between 2030 and 2050.
Dennis J. Woods
CINPAC message intercept: Urgent/political/opensource. Chaicom, the current insurgent leader recently posted on social media that the Emperor’s Citadel is the Resistance’s new capital. All true followers should occupy by force.
World media attention immediately focused on the historic Citadel city. At the same time, Captain Anderson, an intelligence officer in the Coalition Operations Center, noticed that neither side currently occupied the Citadel. In a snap decision, he determined that the Citadel had just became a political objective up for grabs. It will fall to whomever arrives first with the most, he thought grimly, as he pushed the authorization release button on his battle display map to dispatch the area reserve. This will be an armed race for the political high ground. Eighteen months into the First Trans-Pacific War, Megacities had become the new battlefield. Once avoided by armies, it was now the new normal.
Traveling at speed, 3rd Platoon raced through the sprawling cityscape hovering just below the roof line, above the garbage-strewn streets below. Something about this high-speed approach to the citadel reminded Sergeant Simco of stories his Uncle Dax, a veteran of Americas Longest War, used to tell.
Dax had advised Simco before he left for the Citadel, “Employ the city’s terrain as a manmade canyon of fire. Limit your attackers by limiting those who can see and hear you.” Simco knew from his uncle’s stories that battle in dense urban areas would simply be an extension of battles throughout history. The human dimension does not change regardless of changes in culture and technology. The battle for key terrain, physical and political, will continue. Dax’s words echoed in his mind as he sped through the city enroot to the release point, “Remember, war destroys humans; it doesn’t destroy human nature.”
From the start of this war, the outnumbered Allied forces prevailed through narrow technological advantages, such as the Hover Organizational Reconnaissance Surveillance Equipment (HORSE). The HORSE was basically a military-grade compressed gas and electric hover bike. Of all the Allied Tec employed at the onset of war, the HORSE’s maneuverability was the one thing for which the insurgents hadn’t developed a counter. However, that was changing; the insurgents were starting to leverage the Allies’ political structure as a shield. Activist groups back home were advocating that use of the HORSE constituted an unfair advantage. Gaining leverage among political opportunists, rumors were spreading that HORSE units may soon be grounded. For Simco, that was a problem for tomorrow; today he had to secure the Citadel. Using a prearranged signal, he directed all units to switch to electric drive so the only sound emitted was that of shrouded turbofans. Now practically silent, third Platoon didn’t exist at ground level.
Closing on the citadel about 2,000 meters out, Simco issued his second command, “Starburst!” At that command, the Platoon broke off into individual squads to infiltrate from different directions. The support squad traveled behind the Platoon on HORSE devices twice the size of standard sport models, carrying twice the load. Manned by mechanics and logisticians, the support squad kept everything 3rd Platoon needed close at hand, which often determined success or failure in this war. Having a technological advantage, Simco reflected as his platoon landed, only matters if the technology works.
In the steaming heat of another fading Pacific sunset, the 3rd Platoon’s Citadel landing and occupation occurred just as it had in the virtual trainer, except for the support squad. Landing last, support squad leader Sergeant Day, decided to land 20 meters short of his assigned position because the terrain surrounding the citadel was different from what he expected. The older inner city they departed from was more cluttered. The Emperors Citadel was different, as it had long open lines and congested areas. As the dust settled, Day started establishing the squads defensive position. Off by about 20 meters he could hear Simco’s curses and damnation over his headset. Simco was upset that Day had altered the plan as rehearsed.
Day’s chosen location was in a courtyard backed by a five-story building with two smaller buildings on either side. The courtyard opening was closed by a short vine-covered fence, the only barrier between the taller building he would occupy and the city at large. Day planned to reinforce that fence with the squad’s limited wire wall assets to construct a second fence line behind it, forming a hidden obstacle.
Before he could dismount his HORSE though, Simco had crossed 300 meters of ground and was already in Johnathan’s face. Simco was an accomplished verbal admonisher. In a booming voice, he began, “Orders are going to be followed! Standards enforced!” With what felt to Day like buckets of spit and garlic breath, Simco laid down the Ebola equivalent of a verbal argument so vile that civilian passersby reacted as if they, themselves, were guilty of some offense.
When Simco finished, Day simply pointed to his position and the wire wall fence being erected by the squad. “Captain Anderson’s assigned location left me exposed on three sides,” Day explained over Simco’s outrage, “In my current position, I can cover my assigned sector with only one exposed side.”
At that Simco harrumphed, “Good idea. No rest until the fence is up and ensure that this area is added to the Drone Deception Encryption.” The DDE, a transmitter that spoofed common drone observation, prevented unaffiliated drones traversing coalition areas from recording the presence of coalition forces. The area would appear devoid of military activity to the insurgent drone operators.
As night fell, the 3rd Platoon settled into their defensive positions, while civilian drones began circling overhead. Simco checked the DDE transmission status and made his perimeter checks. Still unhappy with the defensive situation, he directed virtual squad live-fire rehearsals throughout the citadel There was no rest for the wicked that night as the Citadel’s residents were awakened by the sound of team and squad weapons drills, along with live-fire zeroing of weapons. At around 2300 the drills ended and 3rd Platoon switched to 50% security. With a single radio command from Simco, soldiers started rotating to sleep.
As the soldiers dropped their body armor and settled in, they began looking for an escape from the oppressive heat and humidity. In the citadels interior stairwell, someone had set up a small fan during the building’s occupation. Around that fan soldiers crowded in to get some relief; their proximity and combined body heat though only made it worse. The building’s interior, closed off from any potentially cooling night breezes, was in the high 90s so the fan made no difference at all. It merely stirred the stagnant air.
Trying to create some mental break from this misery, Simco started recounting his uncle Dax’s war stories. He had learned to adapt Dax’s stories as performance review lessons for the previous day’s action. While everyone knew what he was doing, performance improvement in a story format was always more entertaining. New soldiers listened intently, focusing on the actions and mannerisms of their leaders, who had seemed at odds with one another hours earlier, but now acted like old friends. In reality, they were old friends; classmates before this war started. But for one extra military science class, Day would have the same rank as Simco, and possibly his own Platoon. Both were from military families of America’s Warrior Class, which arose when Americas Longest War was fought with a fraction of its citizens. New soldiers drawn from this class often arrived with the knowledge and leadership attributes of seasoned soldiers and rose through the ranks quickly as a direct result.
Simco was telling a story about an event from the war 30 years ago that correlated with a similar incident 30 minutes before when suddenly, a heavy machine gun opened fire. Its heavy sound was sending seismic waves through the building. Simco had about a millisecond to figure out what was happening. ‘If it’s a heavy machine gun firing from another rooftop it could penetrate the walls. If it’s firing from the ground, the concrete floors could stop it.’ On the second burst, he discerned it was 3rd Platoon’s heavy machine gun on the roof. The blast of automatic recoil reverberated within the cinderblock walls, with a bone-jarring thudding fracas. The Emperors Citadel was under a surprise attack and this was the opening round.
Simco quickly pulled his body armor back on, armed himself, and rushed up the stairwell to the top floor entrance. There he paused allowing his eyes to adjust to the light change. As he repositioned his helmet, several bullet holes appeared in the door above his head. He crouched and threw open the roof door to a scene filled with violence. Soldiers were standing and kneeling, firing upon a heavily-armed enemy vehicle several blocks away traveling in their direction.
Simco scanned the area and saw movement in the doorway of a building across the street, on the other side of a traffic circle roughly 150 meters away. From it, armed men were sprinting in the direction of the short fence line, executing a rush attack that threatened the support squad’s and his own position.
“Hey,” he shouted, gaining the attention of the riflemen firing at the vehicle, “The armed vehicle is a diversion: the real threat is that assault team.” He pointed down and to the left, directing the fire of his soldiers. Simco knew this assault force, if unchecked, could gain entry to the building forcing the support squad into a short-range, high-risk fight. However, earlier in the evening, 3rd Platoon had conducted a virtual live-fire rehearsal anticipating a heads-on assault in this manner. The rehearsal helped the Soldiers calibrate their in-helmet heads up data displays to determine the correct aim points for firing upon ground troops from the roof, as shooting men from five stories up requires a different trajectory than ground level. To the enemy’s misfortune, their rush attack fulfilled the exact situation the 3rd Platoon had planned against.
The enemy assailants could not see that the support squad had emplaced a new wire wall behind the vine-covered cyclone fence from their vantagepoint. Because of the DDE, their drones could detect no activity outside the initial chance sighting of the support squad arriving in the screened courtyard. They assumed they could sprint across the road between two low buildings, hop the fence, and rush the last 10 yards to the first-floor windows of the five-story structure where the support squad was confined with all their supplies. Supplies which could be used to their advantage in this urban war.
The Soldiers held their fire, as rehearsed, focusing their in-helmet displays on the multiple targets.
The enemies continued their rush across the street and leapt or climbed the vine-encumbered fence. What they discovered as soon as they landed on the other side was a row of mesh concertina wire set back about four feet that spanned the gap between the two-low building’s and blocked them into a fire box. Stymied with this unexpected obstacle, they paused within the fire box between the two fence lines. Their hesitation cost them their lives. Within seconds they were shot through while confused as to what to do. The arterial spray of their final moments indicated the bullet trajectories and speed of impact as their blood seeped into the dirt peppered and pockmarked by bullets during the rapid-fire onslaught.
With the close-in targets destroyed, Simco directed massed fire against the vehicular targets, which had multiplied during the ground assault. Everyone seemed to enjoy shooting at the vehicles blocks away, using it as additional target practice. Simco and Day soon found themselves getting caught up in the excitement. As the vehicle targets were destroyed, Simco directed fire against distant dismounted insurgents 300 to 400 meters away. With machine guns, rifles, and grenade launchers plunking out round after round; 3rd Platoon continued to bring the pain on their attackers.
Standing on the roof with soldiers shooting armed enemy targets below, Simco felt the familiar sensation of spent brass thunk-thunk-thunking off his helmet. He looked to his left to see Day firing at the same targets with his rifle. Days hot brass was bouncing off Simco’s helmet and into the collar of his armor. ‘I can’t get into a gunfight without this guy burning me!’ he thought as the searing metal melted his skin. “Damn it, Day!” Simco roared, fishing the rounds out of his collar. “This is the second time this week you’ve dumped hot rifle brass on me during a fire fight!” Day grinned and shrugged.
The concentrated insurgent attack was over but 3rd Platoon couldn’t rest on their laurels just yet. The attack quickly disintegrated as enemy riflemen scattered for protection. Some began taking potshots from around the corners of civilian-occupied buildings. This action limited 3rd Platoon’s response based on the rules of engagement. The effect of these potshots, though, was that unchecked, they might find a target in the 3rd Platoon or a civilian.
As Simco strategized his next move, Sergeant Harrell, a supply sergeant under Day, arrived on the roof with a 40mm grenade launcher. He had just run up five flights of stairs in full armor carrying the launcher and two ammo boxes. The blast effect of Harrell’s grenade launcher could kill men within 15 feet of its point of impact. It was for all intents and purposes, the perfect weapon at the perfect time. This fight needed some small yield area fire weapons to mitigate the threat to civilian life.
Across the street, a gunman was using a walled, four-way intersection for protection. He would pop around the corner, take a few shots, then duck behind the wall. According to Simco’s heads-up display, the intersection was 215 meters away. Harrell could clear this threat if he could hit the intersection with a grenade. Simco directed Harrell to place a high explosive round in the intersection stating, “Shoot that man!”
Simco could see the dilation in his eyes, but Harrell drew his breath, steadied himself, and fired. As soon as he fired, though, Simco realized with a jolt, ‘We didn’t practice down-angle shots with a grenade launcher from five stories up. We only did that with rifles. He is my supply sergeant not my gunnery sergeant: I never trained him on the effects of elevation on range with something this large.’
The grenade shot was going to be long. As he watched the grenade, large and slow enough to be observed in flight, Simco thought fleetingly, ‘If that hits a civilian, I’m under investigation.’ Harrell’s round though flew straight over the intersection and impacted a tall palm tree beyond the intersection.
The neat little one-pound blast sent showers of torn metal fragments and tree debris down and out across the area. A man with a long rifle fell headfirst out of the top of the decimated palm tree. Most likely it was a sniper system: Insurgent gunmen scattering from below the sniper’s nest were most likely a screen. At a distance behind this screen, 3rd Platoon could not have detected the sniper. Operating from an elevated position on top of the tree the sniper had overcome the shooting difficulties encountered when engaging elevated targets. Harrell had apparently killed a sniper that no one knew was there. He turned to Simco in amazement, his eyes as wide as saucers. After picking off the remaining insurgent gunmen one-by-one, other soldiers now stared at Harrell; socially, this was somehow an odd moment in war. Simco tore his gaze from the distant palm tree and the dying enemies around it, “Good job, Harrell, now go get some more ammo.”
Confident that the enemy assault was defeated, Captain Anderson radioed in a command for a local security sweep to run down the insurgent survivors and dominate the Citadel’s battle space. The number of soldiers clamoring to be on this operation exceeded Simco’s need. Since the beginning of this war, many of the soldiers who once rarely fired their weapons had become frequent and expert shots. In fact, so many had converted to shooters that it was difficult to keep them supplied. This presented a new problem in which members of the 3rd Platoon might act too aggressively and regard the rules of engagement too little.
To counter this possibility, Simco organized two patrols: one mounted and the other dismounted. He placed the more aggressive soldiers on foot patrol to mitigate poor decision-making during the security sweep. He knew from experience and his uncle Dax’s stories that the fatiguing action of walking under armor was effective at curbing the high emotions and risky behavior typical after a successful gunfight. Both patrols’ movements needed to remain within sight and range of Day’s heavy machine guns based on the appearance of the enemy sniper system. 3rd Platoon could not afford to become decisively engaged on these patrols, as no one was in sector who could assist them if they were pinned down. They were, for all intents and purposes, alone in the Emperors Citadel city. Simco called out the sweep coordinates and dispatched the HORSE patrol with the command of “To Horse” as he stepped off on the foot patrol.
As Simco walked off with his soldiers, a warning was relayed over the radio net from Battalion: “We have reports that a Drone-Borne Explosive Device (D-BED) is in the area. Secure your perimeter and location. As Simco coordinated with Day for support from the machine gun atop the Emperors Citadel, 3rd Platoon first cleared the road of assailants on foot, then the vehicles used by the mounted insurgents. For some reason lost to Simco, the men loved to shoot at vehicles and were excited at the prospect of encountering a D-BED. But first they had to clear a building down the street in which the on-foot enemy had exited.
Cautiously approaching the building, Simco peered through the empty doorway. The front of the building was just a façade opening to a courtyard. The enemy assaulters could have come from anywhere on this block or the ones beyond. The only thing certain was that these particular enemies would never come back as they were all dead!
As the HORSE-mounted patrol circled the Citadel in a clockwise manner, Simco’s patrol walked counterclockwise. They were searching for the enemy dead and dying. Some soldiers were distracted at the prospect of explosive vehicles and drones and wanted to focus on those solely. At that Simco had to reiterate, “Your orders are to complete this security sweep first,” At that the mood of the patrol changed from an excited, ‘let’s go!’ attitude to a collective pout. ‘Walking with these soldiers’ Simco thought, ‘this feels like being the father of disgruntled children at Disney-verse. I’m basically telling them that they can’t ride the rides until their chores are done.’ For some reason lost to Simco, everyone loved detonating D-BEDS and V-BEDS.
Walking back through the traffic circle was a sight to behold. Amazingly, the locals were quick to recover their dead based on local traditions. The organization of the operation was quite impressive as their tools were primitive. They operated with nothing more than rusty wheelbarrows with stumpy little wooden handles bleached white by the sun and now stained ocher red with the blood of man.
3rd Platoon let them carry off their own dead by design for many reasons; chief among them was to counter the citizens’ internal propaganda. Many were told and believed that if martyred, their bodies would glow like gold and that they would smell of a thousand roses. When they gathered their dead comrades, Simco saw their faces crumple when they realized that they were duped. Their friends weren’t glowing; in fact, they looked shrunken and smelled only of their last bowel movement, either before or after death.
Considering the report, he would have to send to Captain Anderson, Simco compiled an unofficial tally. Counting the men shot at the Fence of Doom, vehicle gunmen, the ill-fated tree climber and his team, and on-street and in-courtyard assailants, Simco estimated 20-25 enemies killed in action locally by the 3rd Platoon. No reliable count would be available, given the rapid citizen cleanup operations. Simco had no idea off-hand how many were killed or wounded in the long-range engagements, but could check the drone footage. Other than some blisters on his neck afflicted by his old friend “Hot Brass” Day, the engagement cost 3rd Platoon nothing in the form of Americans killed or wounded.
As Simco sat down to write his report to Captain Anderson, he reflected, ‘This engagement highlighted a gap in our institutional training between our navigation and verbal communication.’ The coalition didn’t have a common reference language when identifying skyline targets and map reading didn’t include the city skyline. The city’s skyline geography needed to be added to map reading manuals. The skyline was a separate battleground from the streets below, and therefore, needed a common reference language understood by all.
The digital DDE, however, was a resounding success. Based on enemy actions at the second fence line, the insurgent assault force only had knowledge of what they could see from the outside of the 3rd Platoon’s compound and had no idea what was inside.
Reading over his completed report, Simco realized that he now had his own “Uncle Dax” lessons-learned story, concerning small arms employed against small groups in urban warfare, and knowing the difference between city and urban sprawl.
In the older parts of Pacific Rim Megacities, the terrain was more cluttered with building. In an insurgency, it favored the attacker: small groups could launch hit-and-run attacks against a larger group. They could attack the limited flanks of a larger force by dodging in and out of alleyways, doors, and windows. They would often use civilians as human shields. The hardened structures offered almost full protection from small arms fire. In contrast, 3rd Platoon’s need to avoid civilian death and collateral damage limited its response. In fact, it allowed the enemy to strike first. It was essentially unrestrained small groups against restrained small groups.
The terrain in the Emperors Citadel was different. It featured a combination of long-open lines and close terrain. This combination favored the defender. 3rd Platoon could engage at a distance with accuracy as well as dominate close range fights once the enemy exposed itself. In effect, the enemy tactics of the inner city did not translate well into the fight in the Citadel. Based on 3rd Platoon’s defense, it was small attacking groups against a large platoon. The enemy’s inability to read the differences in terrain, as well as the 3rd Platoon’s high-technology assets, significantly contributed to the enemy’s higher loss rate.
New Concepts in Warfare Between 2030 and 2050
- Identifying and classifying changing dense urban environments.
- Dual drive hover bikes for increased mobility.
- Modifications to communication within a city for directional control placed in source manuals and taught as a battle drill.
- Deployable virtual rehearsal kit that employs local terrain in real time.
- In-helmet heads up data display.
- Digital deception encryption, that feeds sanitized images through the enemy’s scout drones (i.e., enemies could see the terrain in real-time; however; images of allied forces would be invisible). Digital deception effects should be like the effects of green screen filming in the movie industry. Note: to attack an enemy drone is to confirm one’s location.
- Flattened command and control = battle captain to mobile reserve. Fewer redundant leadership positions. The first officer position is on Company staff.
- Combat logistic and maintainer support pushed to the Platoon level.
- Maintainer formations that are combat ready first, support second.
- Targeted recruiting of future soldiers from military backgrounds that shortens the initial military training timeline.
- Portable, collapsible wire wall obstacles suited for urban warfare.
- Small yield indirect fire assets for urban warfare.
- War destroys humans; it doesn’t destroy human nature. An understanding of past conflicts and soldier’s actions is relevant in any age.
Richard Minitner, Losing Bin Laden, (1994) Regnery Publishing, INC.
Dennis Woods, Black Flag Journals, (2016) Kohler Books. On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.