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Planning a CSS Live-Fire
Exercise in Korea
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Planning a CSS Live-Fire
Exercise in Korea

Conducting a live-fire exercise (LFX) may seem routine for most conventional combat and combat support units, but for combat service support (CSS) units, such an exercise can be challenging. LFXs are not emphasized in CSS units as much as they are in other units of functional branches. The fateful experiences of U.S. troops such as the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq have generated a new emphasis on the importance of realistic live-fire training for CSS units.

The ability to react to enemy contact and engage weapon systems in response to convoy attacks and ambushes is essential to the overall success of any operation. Logistics plays a vital role in the combined arms fight, so it is imperative that CSS units be trained to survive on the battlefield and continue to provide supplies and services to the front lines.
The environment can play an important role in a unit’s ability to survive on the battlefield, and Korea offers a realistic and challenging training environment. The 2d Forward Support Battalion (FSB), which supports the 2d Brigade Combat Team at Camp Hovey, Korea, is responsible for leading logistics units in LFXs in the 2d Infantry Division Support Command (DISCOM). With the ongoing political dialogue and threat of conflict with North Korea, it is imperative that the battalion live up to the division’s motto: “Ready to Fight Tonight.” The following chronology

of events leading up to and through a successful LFX conducted by the 2d FSB is presented as an example that may help in equipping other CSS units to survive on the battlefield.


In his fourth quarter fiscal year 2002 training guidance, the 2d FSB commander directed the battalion to conduct a squad-level defensive LFX in conjunction with a battalion field training exercise. After a thorough mission analysis, the battalion executive officer and S–3 developed a precertification checklist and training plan for the battalion’s subordinate companies. Precertification tasks were developed following the Infantry Company’s mission training plan and the mission-essential task list (METL) directive to “Conduct a platoon defense.” Subject-matter experts from the 2d Brigade Combat Team also provided guidance during the development of the training plan.

As a lead-in to the squad defensive LFX, training was conducted during weekly sergeants’ time training and as part of company- and platoon-level situational training exercises. This training focused on troop-leading procedures, precombat checks and inspections, weapons familiarization, and fire-control and -distribution methods. Preliminary training also was conducted in the Camp Hovey Engagement Skills Center to give squad leaders and their teams confidence in engaging targets and controlling fires.

Resourcing the LFX was our first problem. The Standards in Training Commission (STRAC) typically does not allocate a significant amount of ammunition for CSS units to conduct training other than basic weapons qualification at category II levels (group headquarters, headquarters and headquarters company, and battalion-support units). (STRAC was established in 1982 by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to determine the quantities and types of munitions essential for soldiers, crews, and units to attain and sustain weapon proficiency.) We worked around this constraint by reallocating the unused division ammunition that was available after the year-end closeout.

Our second challenge was finding a range facility suitable for conducting an LFX. The Korean Training Center (KTC), also known as Rodriguez Range, is the only U.S. multipurpose range complex on the Korean peninsula. As such, the KTC is occupied, or in a “hot” status, more than 300 days of the year. Priority for use goes to armor, mechanized infantry, and cavalry units. As a result, it is hard to find time to conduct CSS defensive training. However, through coordination, we found that two of the KTC’s larger range facilities were available between gunnery cycles—the Infantry Squad Battle Course for blank-fire operations and Cherokee Valley for live-fire operations.


Our LFX training was conducted in three phases: crawl, walk, and run.

Crawl. The crawl phase, which was really the precertification phase, took place during July, August, and September 2003. During that time, squad and platoon training focused on the METL directive to “Defend assigned area.” Battalion training events also were incorporated in a division artillery external evaluation, a mechanized infantry battalion gunnery, and a company field training exercise. The battalion staff’s military decisionmaking process conducted during this time set optimum conditions for the LFX. The conclusion of the crawl phase was a movement rehearsal and an LFX concept brief to the DISCOM commander and the assistant division commander for support.

Walk. The walk, or execution, phase of the LFX began with the deployment of the battalion from Camp Hovey and the establishment of a brigade support area (BSA) at the KTC. Once the BSA was established, the battalion S–3, in conjunction with the battalion commander, executive officer, and range officer in charge, conducted a tactical exercise without troops (TEWT) with the company commanders, first sergeants, platoon leaders, and platoon sergeants. The purpose of the 2-day TEWT was to familiarize all leaders with the concept of training, the LFX scenario, and range safety procedures. During the TEWT, the 2d FSB command sergeant major also conducted a hands-on noncommissioned officer (NCO) development program on how to establish a squad defensive perimeter. The purpose of the program was to refresh fieldcraft skills such as constructing individual and crew-served fighting positions to standard, establishing communications, and developing a sector sketch. The walk

phase concluded with blank- and live-fire iterations with squad observer-controllers (platoon leaders and platoon sergeants) and the battalion quick-reaction force to validate the LFX course.

The run phase began with validation of the units for live fire. Each squad was tested over a 2-day period. The squads were staggered so four iterations of blank and live fires could be conducted each day. The blank and live fires were preceded by dry-fire rehearsals that were conducted in the BSA by the squad leaders and validated by the company commander. The squad leaders rehearsed receiving the warning order or fragmentary order, conducting precombat checks and inspections, moving to a new area of operations, establishing a defensive perimeter, and reacting to enemy threats to the squads or platoons.

Once certified by the company commander, each squad trained on troop-leading procedures and prepared for the next day’s deployment to the blank- and live-fire ranges. At 0600 the next morning, the squad leader deployed with his squad from the BSA to the blank-fire site. There, the range safety officer briefed the squad on range safety and the squad leader trained the troops on tactical dismounted movement to the tactical assembly area (TAA).

At the TAA, the squad rehearsed actions on the objectives and their battle drills and moved to the ready line, where construction and barrier materials were preconfigured in order to establish a defensive perimeter quickly. When the defensive perimeter was established, the squad was issued blank ammunition, and the platoon leader reported an inbound enemy threat to the squad leader by radio.

The squad then began its defense against an attack, which was simulated by pop-up targets. The senior observer-controller programmed the target scenario to escalate or deescalate the attack based on how well the squad reacted to the enemy threat. For blank fires, each squad was outfitted with Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System transmitters. The targets had laser target interface device “thumpers” that signaled enemy hits, which enhanced the soldiers’ confidence with their assigned weapons. The pop-up targets also were equipped with smoke and artillery simulators that randomly detonated to replicate battlefield effects.

After all of the ammunition was expended, the proper situational awareness reports were sent to higher headquarters, the scenario changed to an enemy withdrawal, and a cease-fire was ordered. The squads cleared their weapons, safety checks and reports were completed, and the squad leaders and the battalion commander conducted an after-action review. The soldiers then moved on to the live-fire site, Cherokee Valley.

At Cherokee Valley, the soldiers again received a range safety briefing and began live-fire rehearsals. Then each squad leader certified to the battalion commander that his squad was prepared to conduct live-fire operations. The battalion and company commanders signed the certification checklist and risk assessment authorizing the squad to conduct live fires.

Once the squad established its defensive perimeter and was in position, the squad leader called in an occupation report and the observer-controllers issued live ammunition to each squad leader for distribution to his squad. The squad leader received an imminent threat warning order and, when directed by the
observer-controller, ordered his squad to lock and load ammunition. The target scenario began with detonation of grenade and artillery simulators and activation of the pop-up targets. Based on squad reactions and fire control, the scenario can be adjusted to replicate small-unit-, squad-, or platoon-level threats.

When the units met their training objectives or all of their ammunition was gone, weapons were cleared, a cease-fire was called, and, as in the blank-fire training, the squad leaders met with the battalion commander for an after-action review and the squad redeployed to the BSA.

Lessons Learned

A total of 16 squads from our supply, maintenance, and medical companies conducted LFXs to standard over a 5-day period. Squads left the weapons range more confident in their weapon systems and combat capabilities and with the following lessons for follow-on squads—

• Identify needed resources early. Plan LFX events 12 to 18 months in advance to make sure that ammunition and ranges for training are resourced. To be successful, platoon-level LFX scenarios (convoy, react to contact, and military operations on urban terrain) often require large, multiecheloned training areas, various quantities of ammunition, and training aids.
• Involve NCOs and subject-matter experts. Their experience is critical in the planning and risk-mitigation phase of live-fire training. Units in the continental
United States often have convoy and CSS LFX training lanes set up on post. The experience of the NCOs with these lanes is essential in Korea, where lane scenarios are often built from scratch.
• Make training realistic and battle focused. Every aspect of the training must be tactically oriented and focused on daily CSS missions. Incorporate other training, such as mounted land navigation, communications training, and convoy procedures, into the scenario whenever possible.

The enemy threat in Korea, as well as in other contingency theaters around the world, requires that CSS elements, such as LOGPACs (logistics packages), ammunition exchange points, and maintenance collection points, be able to defend themselves in either mobile or static scenarios. We can no longer assume that we will have combat arms or military police assets for force protection. Every soldier must be a rifleman by necessity.

Live-fire training for the CSS community emphasizes this mentality and complements the warrior ethos, which is the driving force for training in the 2d Infantry Division. The training model outlined above probably can be modified in many ways, but here’s the bottom line: Warfighters depend on logisticians for fuel, arms, and supplies. Logisticians must be able to defend against and defeat the enemy in order to support the warfighters.

Major Leon G. Plummer is the Executive Officer of the 2d Forward Support Battalion, 2d Infantry Division Support Command, at Camp Hovey, Korea. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University. he is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

Captain Eric A. McCoy is the Commander of E Company, 702d Main Support Battalion, at Camp Casey, Korea. When this article was written, he was the Battalion S–3 of the 2d Forward Support Battalion. He has a bachelor’s degree in mental health from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.
Planning a CSS Live-Fire
Exercise in Korea
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