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Resources for Convoy Battle Drills

Every unit deployed to Iraq has developed a list of convoy battle drills that worked in its particular situation. Units in Iraq have learned through experience that what worked in the open terrain between Samarra and Tikrit proved to be completely dysfunctional in the urban conditions of Baghdad. The need to be aggressive and the ability to take the fight to the enemy are constants in all effective battle drills. Merely closing up and running away may minimize casualties today, but, in the long run, leaving attackers alone will encourage them and ultimately result in increased friendly casualties. A commander also has to accomplish his convoy’s mission. The problem facing commanders is deciding which battle drills will be most effective for the local terrain and road conditions they face.

To provide a framework for evaluating which battle drills are more suitable to a particular convoy mission, commanders should consider four principles. These principles are not listed by priority; different tactical situations will determine their relative importance for each mission. An effective convoy battle drill is one that, for a specific situation, will—

  • Minimize friendly casualties.
  • Maximize enemy casualties.
  • Leave no abandoned equipment.
  • Allow the convoy to accomplish the mission.

So what factors should a convoy commander consider in deciding which battle drills apply to his mission that day? Some factors that influence the effectiveness of a particular battle drill can be determined by asking the following questions—

  • How many vehicles and Soldiers are in the convoy?
  • How many crew-served weaponsómounted and hand carriedódoes the convoy possess?
  • Does the terrain allow the convoy (both cargo trucks and gun trucks) to drive off the paved surface?
  • Does the convoy have the means to communicate while dismounted?
  • Is the terrain the convoy will traverse flat and open, rolling hills, or urban?
  • How critical is it to the receiving unit that the supplies the convoy is delivering reach it on schedule?
  • Where along the route can the convoy commander call for help, and where are the communications dead spots?
  • How proficient in their various battle skills are the Soldiers in the convoy?
  • How skilled are the leaders and Soldiers at recognizing which battle drills they should execute for any given situation?

What should be apparent is that a single convoy may need three or four different battle drills to be prepared to react to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small arms fire, depending on the conditions along its route.

Soldiers in a convoy must have a clear vision of the expected hazards along different portions of the route. The convoy commander must communicate to the Soldiers in the convoy which battle drills will apply and when each will be in effect. It is the job of commanders and staffs to make sure that the Soldiers in a convoy have the knowledge and equipment they need to be successful. Soldiers in a convoy have the best chance of success if the staff of each unit involved in the convoy does its part in a coordinated brigade operation.

To help commanders and staffs obtain information they can use to improve their convoy battle drills and operations, I offer on the following pages my assessment of some Web sites that provide convoy tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Captain Christina A. Polosky is the senior logistics analyst for the brigade support battalion trainers at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. She has bachelor’s degrees in history and political science and a master’s degree in teaching from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.