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The Combined Action Platoon and its Applicability in Future Conflict

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Research paper

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General William Westmoreland tried the conventional approach to defeating an insurgency in Vietnam and failed miserably. He is but one example of a commander who failed to see what really allowed an insurgency to succeed. To win victory in counterinsurgency, a multifaceted strategy must be employed that solves the socioeconomic problems that led to the insurgency as well as roots out and kills the hard core insurgents. One of the key elements required to defeat an insurgency is the will of the people. In the words of General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the North Vietnamese Army, Without the people we have no information... They hide us, protect us, feed us, and tend to our wounded. For the military, the most important issue is having a population that will not protect, hide, or support the insurgents. This presents a challenge that may seem new to a conventionally trained U.S. military, but it is something that the United States has been dealing with for some time. The Philippines, the Banana Wars, and Vietnam are but a few examples of irregular warfare that America has engaged in within the last century. Among these conflicts, one method experimented with that seems to have had some success in garnering the support of the population and defeating the insurgency was the Combined Action Platoon CAP concept that the Marines used in Vietnam. As we move forward this concept may be an option for how the U.S. military deals with insurgencies in the future. This paper will explore the concept of CAP during Vietnam, why it was employed, how it was structured, and what type of success it enjoyed. The author then discusses the differences between the insurgency the United States faced in Vietnam and the one it faced now, early attempts of the 1st Marine Division to employ a version of CAP during Operation Iraqi Freedom II, how that CAP was structured and any success it may have enjoyed, and recommendations for the future.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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