Monday, May 02, 2005


This pisses me off. Captain's Quarters details a PDF file released by the Italian media that details the soldiers and units involved in the Giuliana Sgrena incident, to include a detailed description of the checkpoints to include assets and grid coordinates. While the Italian press is despicable for publishing such an article, the officers who released it are criminally culpable for releasing operational security information.

Let me explain it to you. The art of military involvement can be addressed at many levels, from long-range strategic planning to basic small unit tactical employment. Information at all levels is held tightly on a need-to-know basis. As a small unit commander (and I have some expertise in that realm) I have to know the precise locations of all my assets. I will share that information with the artillery unit that is firing support for my company, because the fire direction center at battery level needs to know my exact locations to avoid fratracide. As a Company Commander, I will give my Batallion Commander the general grid coordinates of my assets because he needs to know where my assets are located in the big picture of his fire-control plan. He will not get the exact grid, but will know (via grease pencil mark on a map) where my assets are located. The brigade commander will know generally where I am located, but his map will probably only show a small mark revealing the general location of my company, not the precise location of my checkpoints. He doesn't need to know this information precisely. If every company sent that information to the Brigade planners, their maps would become unbelievably complicated and information overload would soon follow.

In a situation such as a permanent checkpoint at an airfield, companies rotate in and out on a routine basis, providing security for the location as part of a larger effort. Those grids need to be known to the company commander and the artillery battery providing fire support for those checkpoints, but don't need to be shared past that level. If the precise grids for a platoon listening post become general knowledge, the enemy can obtain that information and use it to attack our forces with either direct or indirect fires. The Batallion Commander doesn't need to know where my platoon leaders place their listening posts. The Brigade Commander doesn't need to know where my platoon leaders place their listening posts. That is my job as a Company Commander.

The Italian media damn sure doesn't need to know the grid coordinates of my listening posts. The fact that this information has been released is criminal. It puts American soldiers at risk.

However, a smart Company Commander would use this knowledge to give him an edge. If I suspect the enemy has knowledge of my grids, I am going to move those assets, rendering that knowledge obsolete. I am also going to cover those locations with direct fire, so that if the enemy attacks where I am not, I can use the fog of the battlefield to kill him after he attacks those obsolete positions. I'm sure our soldiers are doing that right now.

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