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Fighting Columns in Small Wars: An OMFTS Model

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Research paper

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The colonial war flying column concept provides an effective model for MEU and MEB level OMFTSSTOM operations. This monograph examines the feasibility of MEU and MEB level STOM operations in the 2014 timeframe. It concludes that specially organized, trained, and equipped MAGTFs can conduct STOM versus objectives up to three hundred miles inland. Specific MEU and MEB models, based on the proven concepts inherent in various historical flying column operations, are proposed. Required shifts in doctrine, organization, training, and equipment are identified. The study also illustrates the utility of battalion and brigade level MAGTFs at the operational level by analyzing a case study, Operation Modular. In 1987 in southeastern Angola the South African Defense Force employed a three thousand man mobile strike force to defeat a combined AngolanCuban division size force intent on destroying the UNITA resistance movement. The campaigns military outcome convinced the Soviets and Cubans to settle the twenty-three year Angolan border war and the political future of Namibia in a diplomatic venue rather than by force of arms. Operation Modular highlights the potential of small, mobile, hard-hitting fighting columns in a small war environment. Most OMFTSSTOM analysts have thus far advocated either infestation or vertical envelopment tactics. Few recommend using surface battle groups with significant organic CS and CSS capabilities. This study suggests that fighting columns, heavy by Marine standards in armor, artillery, and logistic support, provide the most flexible and powerful STOM employment option. It concludes that a combination of robust, mobile CSSDs and aerial resupply can furnish the supplies, particularly Classes I, III, and V, necessary to fight and win.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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