In the year 2004, the September issue of the Marine Corps Gazette came with a copy of Close Combat Marines. Yup, the very Close Combat we have been playing for a while made it to the USMC as a training tool.
Close Combat Marines also had a workbook, which is available online. The workbook features a series of engagements covering a syllabus oriented to small unit leaders. The first module is about the importance of controlling fires. This is a topic that is rarely mulled upon but even the most able war gamer out there. The simplicity by which this topic is presented in the workbook and how it encourages the student to develop a sensible plan is astounding.
Despite the obvious leaning towards a classroom, multi-player setting, the workbook is worth a ride from a single player (and of course non-professional in my case) perspective. I always saw the USMC doctrine and training focused on learning not what to do but rather how to think.
And that's where I found myself working out the first module. The encounter is simple enough. I decided to use just one squad instead of a platoon, just to spice up things. I deployed my key weapon (a medium machine gun) in a keyholed position south of two main buildings in the center of the built-up area. I don't want my Marines to be on those buildings and exposed to fire from multiple directions. My decision to deploy my squad back requires the tremendous responsibility of not allowing the enemy to effectively deploy on those two main buildings. I should have picked up another squad ...
The enemy shows up. All my fire teams and MMG are ordered to hold fire until my command (the good old Close Combat "ambush" order). I wait until I have a rewarding amount of targets.
An enemy fire team is carefully moving toward the center building. I must avoid them from getting to the center building. I have only one fire team with their sights on them ... To the hell with it ... Fire! The enemy team is neutralized, but the follow on enemy teams take aim and with a sizeable amount of rocketry kills one Marine. The MMG shifts its position in the rubble to gain sight of the enemy. The end result is a conveniently bunched up group of Marines ripe for the plucking by hazards of the RPG variety. It's hard to watch ...
My west teams make contact shortly there after. No less than 4 enemy fire teams are hooking the center of the town from the west. Lots of targets ... Fire! In an obvious show of tactical distress, the enemy drops smoke and it looks like the west flank is going to be the anchor for success.
And out of nowhere, an RPG misses my west fireteams and finds a target in an abandoned fuel truck just behind my Marines. The explosions are devastating, the killing and mauling bankrupts my chances of pulling this mission out.
Under the cover of smoke one lone survivor (the commander of the MMG team) pulls out of the killing grounds. I just lost the day.
Fires and explosions, out of control.