Enemy in the Assembly Area

This month's featured ShadowBox scenario is a re-purposed Tactical Decision Game (TDG).

Welcome to our featured scenario of the month! We use this format to share a unique scenario that highlights an interesting problem, an emerging topic, or a new scenario format. As you read through the scenario, think carefully about how you would handle the situation – what stands out to you, what do you think is going on, and what would your priorities be if you found yourself in this situation? We suggest recording your choices and decision rationale so that you can compare your decisions with the experts at the end of the scenario.

This month’s featured ShadowBox scenario is a re-purposed Tactical Decision Game (TDG). TDGs were popularized in the Marine Corps in the 1990s as a way to improve tactical skill and decision making ability. Read on to find out how your tactical fortitude stacks up against expert decision makers.

The Situation

You are the commanding officer of a tank-mechanized infantry battalion with four companies (A through D) and a motorized scout platoon on four armored cars. For our purposes, consider all the companies interchangeable, with each consisting of some combination of tanks and mechanized infantry on armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Friendly forces hold the bridge and the river line to the west. (Intelligence reports the river is unfordable.) Friendly reconnaissance elements are operating west of the river. Tomorrow morning the division begins a major offensive west across the river, with the division’s main effort in your regiment’s zone. Your battalion will spearhead the regiment’s attack. You are to occupy the assembly area south of Hamlet to make final preparations for the morning attack across the river commencing at 0500 hours.

You are moving toward the assembly area as shown. At 1945 hours, your scout platoon, which is forward reconnoitering the route, reports enemy infantry occupying your assembly area in strength and continuing to reinforce. The scout platoon commander estimates the size of the enemy force to be at least a company.

Further, he reports he has just linked up with an allied reconnaissance team that was operating west of the river but has been forced east across the river under fire. The reconnaissance team leader reports there is no sign of friendly forces holding the bridge and that enemy infantry with some light vehicles and tanks has been moving across the bridge for at least 30 minutes.

Just then, you hear the sound of machine guns coming from the direction of your scout platoon.

What now, colonel?

Decision Point #1

What is your assessment of the situation? 

Rank the following options, with 1 being the answer that most closely describes your own assessment of the situation and 3 being the answer that least describes your assessment:

a. This is a major disaster. The enemy has gained the initiative by seizing a bridgehead on our side of the river. Our attack across the river will have to be scrubbed as we revert to the defensive to contain the enemy penetration.
b. This is a highly uncertain situation. We need to figure out what is going on so we can give our regimental commander some options.
c. This is not a major problem. An enemy company is not a major threat to a battalion. We can deal with the enemy company in the assembly area and be ready to kick off the attack at 0500.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

Decision Point #2
Where is the key terrain in this situation? (Refer to the above diagrams for terrain names)

Rank the following options in order of importance, with 1 being the most important terrain and 5 being the least important:

a. The assembly area.
b. Hills 158 and 164.
c. The bridge.
d. Hamlet.
e. Engmont Farm.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

Decision Point #3
What are you going to do? 

Rank the following options 1-5, with 1 being the best course of action and 5 being the worst:

a. Seize Hills 158 and 164 with A and B companies to contain the enemy in the assembly area. Engage the enemy there by fire, but do not get into a close fight. Report the situation and await further instructions.
b. Fix the enemy in the assembly area with A company and attack to seize the bridge with the rest of the battalion on the axis Shaffer Farm-Engmont Farm-Mill Corner.
c. Withdraw the scout platoon. Take up defensive positions. Report the situation to higher headquarters and await instructions.
d. Attack immediately to destroy the enemy in the assembly area with A Company reinforced by B Company. Continue the attack to seize Hamlet.
e. Fix the enemy in the assembly area with A Company and swing B and C Companies around to the south and attack the enemy via Wharton Farm.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.