Each table had a map on it, and each pair of students looked over the map trying to read the terrain for advantages as to where to put their machine guns.
"Time's up." The instructor yelled. "Everybody back away."
One by one the instructor went to each map, and made each set of students explain why they had chosen to place the guns on the top of a hill, at the base of a hill, or in the middle of a hill.
"In this class there is no correct answer." The instructor reminded a student after he had gotten red faced when his answer of "plunging fire on the valley below" was met with, "ok, plunging fire on to a valley filled with trees that block your line of sight?"
The student who got the most praise chose to split his guns, one at the top of the hill and one at the base, providing "grazing fire" along the road through the valley using the gun on the hilltop as security for the gun providing grazing fire. "Sir, I know that it sucks running up hill with a machine gun, so having some cover fire makes that task a little easier."
A new map was passed out to each pair of students. This time it was an urban map, and the assets were "Demolitions Team: Anti-Tank", "Sniper Team" and and "Fire Team." The task assigned was to optimally place the assets an ambush with emphasis on lethality and survivability from return fire and reinforcements. "Everybody understand? Five minutes, go" and the ancient mechanical stopwatch started ticking.
Students argued with their partners, but each unit was placed. Some students chose to initiate the ambush with the Anti Tank team, some chose to initiate the ambush with the fire team. "And....Stop" The instructor said, "By show of hands, who initiated with the Anti Tank team?" Half the class raised their hands. "Conversely, who initiated with the Sniper Team?" a quarter of the class raised their hands. "And I assume the rest initiated with the fire team."
"All right, I want everyone to break off into the group they raised their hands with, and you get ten minutes of discussion time to come up with the best defense of your choice." The instructor raised his stopwatch. "Go."
"And...stop" The instructor clicked the watch. "Fire Team initated group, explain your choice."
A tall blond man with brown eyes nodded. "The fire team is equipped with grenades. By setting up the Anti Tank team on the likely avenue of approach they can detonate against the reinforcements coming to assist the enemy in the kill zone. By setting up the sniper team to act as overwatch on both teams they can maintain situational awareness. This strikes a good balance between lethality and survivability."
"Excellent points." The instructor smiled. "Who would like to rip that defense apart?" Several hands shot up.
"Jean Michael, go ahead." The instructor sat back and listened.
"In this scenario the fire team must engage with grenades, and grenades may not incapacitate a vehicle unless thrown precisely, which means very close. Very close means that your fire team will be inside the "anti ambush" bubble of the thugs in the vehicle if they are on their toes, and relying on the enemy to be stupid is a poor plan."
"Excellent points as usual." The instructor nodded. "Now defend your choice, initiating contact with the Anti Tank Team."
"By attacking with our most lethal asset first we maximize our chances of dominating the engagement. We placed our sniper team as an observer with a clear line of fire into the kill zone as well as the high speed avenue of approach from the nearest thug reinforcement location. The fire team is co-located with the ATT to exploit the confusion post blast with grenades and small arms fire."
"And who covers your retreat?" The blond man asked, ready to get a few licks in at the teacher's pet.
"The sniper team provides early warning against reinforcements and precision fire into the kill zone allowing the fire team and ATT to disengage." Jean Michael smiled and pointed to the map. "Routes of egress follow main arteries to alleyways to basements and tunnels.
"And rendesvous points?" The instructor prompted. "The 'go to hell' plan?"
"My apologies." Jean Michael responded.
"All right class, I think I've made my point clear that there are no truly wrong answers, only those that are well thought out and those that are not. The manuals will teach you the theory and practice of how to set up an ambush, but only thinking will tell you where to put it, and when to use it." The instructor continued. "Our next session will be on fire superiority, and how to choose the appropriate mix of weapons to achieve the effect you desire on the enemy."
"To get you thinking, let us look at the rates of fire for the German K98, G43, and MG42." The Instructor smiled. "If we assume that we need 800 rounds fired against the enemy in one minute, we could use one MG42, sixteen G43's, or eighty K98s to achieve that effect. This is based on a premise though, anyone care to explain the premise?"
The students murmurred amongst themselves, then the blond man raised his hand. "The premise is that the number of rounds fired will achieve an effect."
"Exactly!" The instructor smiled. "Military thinkers have made this mistake for centuries because it is an easy mistake to make. Much easier to think that X number of rounds will achieve this or that effect. Our German example is a great way to say that one MG42 is not the equal of 80 riflemen armed with k98s, no matter how the 'bullet math' seems to add up."
The instructor put away his stopwatch and pulled out an ancient briar pipe. The students knew that when that happened the class was transitioning into lecture mode, and they took their seats.
"Several years ago, when most of you were very young or not born yet, a Palestinian terrorist killed an Israeli Defense Force fire team with nothing more than an ancient K98 Mauser." The instructor tamped down the tobacco and lit it with a match, for some reason the pipe always tasted better when lit with a match. Two puffs to get the cherry lit and the instructor continued.
"The mix of advantageous terrain, and accurate fire, demonstrated yet again that a single rifleman can dominate an engagement, even when facing five highly trained IDF Soldiers armed with the worlds premier Infantry Rifle, the M16 at the time." The instructor puffed happily on his pipe. "Of course all this was written down as fiction years before, a lone man with a Mauser against a battleship, but in that story he too had the advantage of terrain."
"But getting back to the K98/G43/MG42 issue, you can maneuver with two or more elements, and while you can maneuver with a machine gun, it is something that only the extremely proficient teams do very well." The instructor blew a smoke ring and paused to admire it. "The truth is that I personally would rather command 16 men armed with G43's than either a lone MG42 or the 80 man Company of K98 wielding Soldiers. But that is from a viewpoint that balances the logistic needs of 16 men verses 80 men, and the tactical utility of how I could employ them."
"So class, when would 80 men with K98's be better than 16 men with G43's?" The instructor asked.
"In the defense." Jean Michael piped up immediately.
"As area security" The blond man answered immediately on Jean Michael's statement.
"As a screening force." Answered a third.
"Ah, and when would a single MG42 be better than either 16 men with G43's or 80 with K98s?" The instructor enjoyed these little impromptu q and a sessions, challenging his students to think.
"In canalizing terrain where you can't get 16 or 80 men into position to fire into the avenue of approach." The blond man said.
"When you need a lot of firepower with a small logistic footprint." Jean Michael responded with a thougtful tone.
"Yes, very good." The instructor smiled as he dumped the ashes from his ancient pipe. "So now we will continue on that vein, and add combat math to our exercises. Everyone go to Map Alpha, sector Charlie, and plan a defense with a Fire Team, MG Team, and ATT, and calculate how long you can defend based on an average load, and be prepared to discuss how to extend that time. You have fifteen minutes, Go." And the pipe was replaced by a ticking stopwatch.
"And...stop." The instructor smiled. "How many people expanded their defense time by giving up terrain?" Half the hands shot up. "and how many expanded their defense time by locking the enemy into a terrain feature?" And the rest of the hands shot up.
"Break into two groups, you have five minutes to defend your choice, Go" and the stopwatch began to tick.