Secure border for a supply route – 19 kilometres or 12 miles wide
As can be seen in the diagram, the border perimeter defences are much the same whether you are securing a railway or a road.
Diagram features. Explained for secure Afghanistan supply routes.
- Dangerous ground Enemy forces such as the Taliban, Afghan warlords or Iranian proxies may be attacking the supply route from here
- Vehicle barrier – deep trench / giant boulders / steep slope – so that truck bombs cannot be driven onto the route
- STOP – Police check-point – police check civilians are unarmed and those in police or military uniform are genuine. Needs to be very robust so as to survive an enemy truck bomb.
- Barbed wire – enough to keep out people and larger animals – so more than a horse can jump or cattle can trample over
- No Pedestrians! Cleared ground Target zone for the machine gunners. A hostile intent should be assumed if an intruder is seen here and the intruder should be shot. The ground needs to be cleared of cover so that intruders can be easily spotted and cannot sneak their way past the machine gunners.
- GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes 3 man crew. Armour should be able to withstand an RPG hit and contains one machine gun with an effective range to 1000 metres, such as PKM or better. One every 1000 metres on both borders should be manned 24/7. Binoculars, automatic rifles such as AK47 and night vision for 3. Two or more other gun positions per 1000 m on each border are normally unmanned and don’t need the expense of real guns sitting there all the time. Such extra positions confuse attackers and serve as firing positions for mobile reaction teams to occupy in emergencies and who can bring additional weapons with them.
- Access road Where authorised traffic and people can access or leave the supply route.
- Mortar teams’ ground Defender mortar teams arriving from mobile response depots should set up somewhere here to fire at the enemy in the dangerous ground. The mortar teams’ ground should have features to help to win mortar duels with the enemy such as observation points on higher ground or tall structures to serve as observation towers.
- Safe building ground Somewhere relatively safe to build a heliport, runway, supply store or other facility or base.
- Supply route The road and / or railway we are defending
- Crossing Where the access road crosses a supply route railway
- Station – Railway station to load and unload supplies and people onto and off the supply trains.
- Cross-roads – A four-way junction where the access road crosses the supply road.
- Mobile reaction depot – contains single armoured fighting vehicle. This is also where the off-duty mess is so that soldiers are available to react to sustained attacks anywhere along the supply route. One every 2km. Contains additional infantry weapons and ammunition such as additional machine guns, automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, mortars and the rest.
- Armoured personnel carrier Such as an up-armoured humvee. Most mobile reaction depots have one of those. To transport soldiers to the proximity of the enemy attack where soldiers dismount to fight.
- Infantry fighting vehicle or armoured combat vehicle. With stronger armour and able to fire on the enemy from enhanced weapons mounted to the vehicle, as well as able to perform the soldier transport role of the APC. Ideally the defenders would prefer the more powerful IFVs to the battle taxi APCs but fewer mobile reaction depots house IFVs because IFVs cost more and so fewer are available to the defenders than the lower performing APCs.
Secure supply route protection force
I am proposing a dedicated force within the Afghan army to secure main supply routes through Afghanistan.
Ranks in increasing order of seniority –
- Master Gunner
- Team Leader
- Shift Officer
- Depot Commander
- Reaction Captain
Duties of the ranks.
1. Gunner – infantry soldier, serves as a member of a 3-man team which serves on one GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes position normally for an 8-hour shift.
A Gunner performs other routine duties for an hour or two each day in addition to his 8-hour shift at the gun position at the nearest Mobile reaction depot under the supervision of his Team Leader, Shift Officer and Depot Commander at which location he has quarters in the depot mess.
A Gunner can also be called to emergency duty when required.
Gunners must be able to
- operate the machine gun
- fire accurately
- reload the machine gun,
- use the guns’ optical sights and night sights
- use the binoculars and night-vision equipment
- be comfortable in a GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes position,
- point out where the No Pedestrians! Cleared ground is and where it ends and where allowed ground behind the gun positions is,
- understand that he is forbidden to enter onto the No Pedestrians! Cleared ground on or off duty, even if ordered to do so by anyone in his team because he may be shot if he does so,
- understand that he is ordered on and off his duty shift at the GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes position only by his own Shift Officer and own Depot Commander and he cannot be relieved of duty by his Team Leader nor by a more senior ranking Master Gunner, nor by any other Shift Officer nor Depot Commander nor by any more senior officer whom he does not know.
- understand that while on duty he is not to surrender his personal assault rifle (such as an AK47) to any person, even to someone in his own team. Therefore his Team Leader cannot relieve him of duty nor demand that any Gunner surrender his personal weapon,
- understand that it is the Gunner‘s job when on duty, his job, to shoot on sight anyone on the No Pedestrians! Cleared ground coming or going, even someone dressed in Afghan army uniform, of whatever rank who could be an intruder dressed in disguise or even be a colleague who is deserting in that direction. If he is not manning the machine gun at the time he is to use his personal assault rifle to shoot the person on the No Pedestrians! Cleared ground if they are in range, but he is not to follow in hot pursuit anyone onto the No Pedestrians! Cleared ground because again he may be shot.
- perform other duties as supervised by the higher ranks.
2. Master Gunner – skills-based promoted ranks for Gunners with additional specialist skills such as
- weapons maintenance,
- binocular and night-vision maintenance,
- vehicle driving and basic maintenance – checking and maintaining tyre pressure, fuel and oil levels, etc.
- infantry fighting vehicle specialist
- mortar team skills,
- first aid,
- communications – operating telephone (landline and mobile / cell ) and radio.
Master Gunners get an appropriately and differently designed skills badge and salary increment for each specialist skill learned. So typically that would be a badge with a machine-gun icon for weapons’ maintenance, a badge with an APC-icon for vehicle driving and basic maintenance and so on. A Master Gunner with more badges and skills outranks a Master Gunner with fewer badges and skills.
3. Team leader A promoted post. The most experienced and able Gunner in each team of 3 on a GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes position.
Team leaders should have multiple specialist skills and in particular the communications specialist skills is one of the required skills to be eligible to become a Team Leader. Team leaders are always the senior ranking members in every 3-man team irrespective of badges and skills. So a Master Gunner with, say, 5 skill badges does not outrank a Team Leader with, say, only 4 skills badges.
4. Shift officer – normally on duty back at the Mobile reaction depot and in command and in radio, mobile (cell) or land-line telephone contact with 4 teams, which is 12 men, on duty for an 8-hour shift. The shift officer acts as a deputy commander for the shift for 4 GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes and for the Mobile Reaction Depot.
The Shift Officer is also in radio, mobile (cell) or land-line telephone contact with Shift Officers in neighbouring Mobile reaction depots. The Shift Officer decides whether or not to consult the Depot commander in response to a request for assistance from any of the 4 teams under his command or to a request for assistance from a Shift Officer in a neighbouring Mobile Reaction Depot.
5. Depot commander – in command of one Mobile reaction depot , the vehicle, weapons and everything therein. Commands the 3 Shift officers and 12 teams which totals 39 men under his command. He can declare a depot emergency, and call the off-duty shifts in the mess back on emergency duty.
The Depot Commander can order the depot’s vehicle and men to attend and to defend the GUN – Fortified machine gun nests / pillboxes under attack or order mortar teams into action from the Mortar teams’ ground.
In an emergency, the Depot Commander notifies his immediate superior officers, the Reaction Captains who are the reaction director and deputy reaction director assigned command responsibility for his Mobile Reaction Depot.
6. Reaction Captain
- has some command responsibility for the reactions of 8 neighbouring Mobile Reaction Depots
- is the reaction director for the central 4 depots of these 8 neighbouring depots
- is the deputy reaction director for the peripheral 4 depots of these 8 neighbouring depots.
The diagram illustrates how the command responsibility of neighbouring Reaction Captains is organised.
Mobile Reaction Depots 1 & 2
– the reaction director is Reaction Captain C
– the deputy reaction director is Reaction Captain A
Mobile Reaction Depots 3 & 4
– the reaction director is Reaction Captain A
– the deputy reaction director is Reaction Captain C
Mobile Reaction Depots 5 & 6
– the reaction director is Reaction Captain A
– the deputy reaction director is Reaction Captain D
Mobile Reaction Depots 7 & 8
– the reaction director is Reaction Captain D
– the deputy reaction director is Reaction Captain A
This overlapping organisation ensures that emergencies which are declared at any Mobile Reaction Depot can be supported if needs be by Reaction Captains with responsibility for the depot under attack ordering neighbouring depots on either side to react to the emergency.
A vehicle is assigned to each Reaction Captain who routinely drives to visit the 8 Mobile Reaction Depots for which he has command responsibility for daily meetings with the Depot Commanders and with the other 2 Reaction Captains he shares depot command responsibility with.
The Reaction Captains can arrange to receive a salute at attention from each off-duty shift twice a week with an opportunity for the Reaction Captains to boost morale by reminding the Gunners that every Reaction Captain has 8 Mobile Reaction Depots and 320 soldiers under his command and that the 2 Reaction Captains with command responsibility for a particular depot have between them 480 soldiers under their command.
So in emergencies the Secure Supply Route Protection Force is well organised to defeat any attack the enemy dares to try against any part of the supply route. They shall not pass! (No passeran!)
The Reaction Captain has a captain’s office and quarters adjacent to one of the 4 Mobile Reaction Depots for which he is the reaction director and the Depot Commander of that particular Mobile Reaction Depot also serves as the Reaction Captain‘s secretary to take telephone calls to the Reaction Captain‘s Office if he is out of his office and quarters at the time.
Being so mobile in his daily routine, the Reaction Captain must be contactable via radio or mobile (cell) telephone when he is out of his office.
In the event of a major attack, the Reaction Captain will set up a tactical command headquarters at his office to direct the battle and call for further reinforcements from neighbouring Reaction Captain‘s offices if required.