Pershing in Mexico: A Case Study in Limited Contingency Operations
Technical Report,01 Jun 2015,01 May 2016
Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States
Pagination or Media Count:
In the early morning of 9 March 1916, Pancho Villa led five hundred men in an attack on Columbus, New Mexico and neighboring US Army Camp Furlong manned by the 13th US Cavalry Regiment. The raid only lasted about three hours but resulted in much of the town destroyed and seventeen US soldiers and civilians dead. President Woodrow Wilson did not trust the Carrancista government, the current power in Mexico, to capture the raiders and instead directed newly promoted Brigadier General John Pershing to command an expedition into Mexico in order to break up Villas band. Pershings 4,500 strong force set out on its mission only six days after the Villa raid to achieve its limited objective within in an inhospitable, foreign country. The 1916 Punitive Expedition is a historical example of what modern doctrine calls a limited contingency operation. The military conducts these operations to achieve limited policy goals in order to protect US interests or prevent further conflict. A commander of a limited contingency operation must control the scope of the conflict and primacy of policy considerations in order to maintain the limited nature of the conflict. Pershing managed the scope of the operation by controlling the rate of escalation and informed policy makers by recognizing significant changes in the operational environment. Pershing accomplished all of this within a strategic and operational environment that reflects in the environment todays leaders envision for the near future.