Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zumbelay Withdraw - Part 3

Wherein I discover my movement plan to be a poor choice, and nearly get bogged down in a major firefight.

This is a continuation of my AAR of the CMSF scenario "Zumbelay Withdraw."  This scenario portrays an historical engagement involving C Company 3 PARA in the village of Zumbelay in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on June 27th, 2006.  The scenario was developed by Karl White, who has authored several other interesting historical Afghanistan and Iraq scenarios for CMSF.  Part 2 of the AAR can be found here.

I realize I'm rattling on longer than normal for one of these AARs, but a) this is a long scenario, and b) some interesting things are starting to happen, at least in my read of the situation that I felt might also be interesting to my handful of readers.

When we last left C Company 3 PARA, we had made use of an irrigation ditch to reach the west bank of the Nahr-e-Seraj canal.  We need to make our way to the canal crossing point to the north of our current position.  Our movement is being over watched by the C Company Fire Support Group (FSG), which now has a clear line of sight on our entire intended movement path.  There are just under two hours left in the scenario, and about one hour before estimated twilight.

I decide to send sniper teams to either end of the nearest complex of buildings, to scout and set up overwatch.

Sniper team with the mosque under observation.  I'm supposed to avoid collateral damage to the mosque, but it does look like a good sopt to park a sniper team on the roof...

View from the Mortar Controller Team toward the village and C Company line of advance.

We believe the Taliban have mortars, and I was feeling too clumped up.  A few minutes later I've started to disperse my troops to protect them from indirect fire casualties while moving through the ditches along the canal.

With a sniper team in overwatch, a team from 3 Section advances on the mosque.  I feel I should at least secure the building a make sure the Taliban aren't using it for an FO or something.

The 3 Section Paras prepare to deploy smoke and enter the building.

Meanwhile, the expected mortar fire begins to fall.  While not very accurate, the rounds are marching in a direct line for the end of this ditch where the journalists and company FO team are sheltering.  Time to have them double-time out of there!

As my teams bound toward the next building compound along the canal, I move a sniper team forward along a path with really no cover, that is in sight of an irrigation ditch that runs along the back of the compound.  The team of Paras I moved at the same time moved from good cover (a ditch) to a concealed position (brush) along a path with LOS blocked by the compound wall.  I honestly have no idea what possessed me to move this sniper team this way, in such an exposed manner.  I was fixated on getting eyes on the compound, and just didn't consider the route.  Of course I paid for the mistake in blood, as it turned out that the trench was occupied by a Taliban fire team.

I want to avoid any more unnecessary casualties and get some fire on that ditch. I also want to get the survivor of that sniper team out of harm's way.  The sniper team pops smoke to mask their escape - I'll come back for the casualty once we've suppressed or eliminated the Taliban threat.  I move one team under cover into a better firing position on the right, and move another team via a ditch and some brush into a safer firing position on the left.

Better yet, I'm going to drop mortar fire on their heads.  It's a stretch of my self-imposed ROE, but I'm beginning to get the feeling that these buildings are full of OPFOR.  My desired movement path crosses right through this group of buildings, and I can't let the enemy block my advance like that!

Half of the vehicles of the FSG also open up on the buildings with machine gun and grenade launcher fire. Time to smoke out those Taliban...

The Taliban observe as the sniper's smoke grenades being to blanket the area.

The sniper team parked on the roof of the mosque observes movement and a long-range shot takes down a Taliban and forces the rest of the team to go to ground.

At the same time the team from 3 Section clears one of the buildings adjacent to the mosque.  I'd decided for some reason that I needed to clean these out, despite the complete lack of any tactical significance to the mission.  Of course, one of my soldiers is wounded in doing so, and I expend most of the team's ammo in suppressing the nearest building.  Honestly, I wasn't drinking.  For some reason in my head this turned into a MOUT exercise and not an evasion and withdraw scenario.

Mortar rounds, grenades, machine gun and small arms fire tear into the canal-side compound.  It begins to dawn on me that I'm probably attracting a lot of unfriendly attention while expending a lot of ammunition.

3 Section troopers clear the building that they took fire from.  It sheltered a Taliban machine gun team.  A machine gun team that obviously didn't have a good field of fire on any of my troops until I waltzed up next to their hiding place.  At this point it really hits me that I've lost focus on my actual mission, and am just wandering around shooting at stuff.

Our orders clearly call for bypassing enemy concentrations.  I shouldn't be trying to clear the canal-side compound so I can use the ditch to get closer to the canal crossing.  I should suppress any enemy there using the FSG, and maneuver to bypass the enemy, rendering his forces ineffective.  My head has somehow become lodged firmly in attrition warfare mode.

A more sensible plan is to use the cover of the nearby ditch and the cover of the treeline some of my men are sheltering in to move to the west of the compound while the FSG keeps the enemy's heads down.  The abortive firefight and building clearing fiasco not only cost me two WIA, but burned through nearly all of 1 Section's ammunition and most of the ammunition carried by half of 3 Section.

I was feeling pretty dumb at this point.  I admit this was completely gratuitous.  I dismounted a Javelin team and fired two missiles at the buildings in the compound.


No more building for Taliban to hide in.  A waste of good missiles, but it made me feel better.  Probably encouraged any remaining bad guys to keep their heads down a bit longer while I made my move to the west.

Far to the south, some Taliban attempt to reach the canal.  Fire from the FSG pretty much puts an end to that plan.

While all this has been going on, wildly inaccurate Taliban spotting rounds for their mortars have been falling.  It looks like they're trying to target the sniper team on the roof of the mosque, so I move them out.  I want to use them to help scout my new route of advance anyway.  Several minutes later the near-sighted mortarman finally gets his tube dialed in and begins dropping rounds on the mosque.  That'll probably not help my VP total, either.

After an half hour of confusion and wasted effort, the company is back on track, maneuvering around the fortress-like compound on the canal bank.  C Company HQ and the FO team observe the forward elements of 9 Platoon advance through the concealment of some heavy brush.

The situation at 1800. It should be dusk in another 30 minutes, which will be to our advantage. The Taliban don't have night vision gear and we do. Hopefully, we'll see some air support soon as well. My intent is to continue to skirt the buildings by moving north from our present position, stay under cover until dusk, and approach the crossing point from the west. As C Company nears the built up area around the crossing point the FSG, perhaps with some air support, will suppress any enemy forces in the vicinity. The 81mm mortar section will provide smoke to mask the crossing point and will also suppress the buildings.

All this should work, as long as I remember the mission...