7th Infantry Division: Revitalizing the Maneuver Fire Support Integration Program

Posted By: Joseph Brown Professional Content,

7th Infantry Division:

Revitalizing the Maneuver Fire Support Integration Program 

By MAJ Joseph M. Brown (7ID AFSCOORD)

In his 2002 article 82d Airborne Division Maneuver and Fires Integration Program, MAJ John P. Drago addressed negative trends from the Combat Training Centers (CTCs), specifically the integration of fire support with maneuver, by describing a training solution implemented by the 82nd ABN. Now, over 20 years later, many of his recommendations have found their way into doctrine. The Integrated Weapons Training Strategy (IWTS) and TC 3-09.8 taken together lay out nearly the same training glide path as described in the article. However, the negative trends he sought to address persist, causing us to ask why and what can be done to correct this issue. 

“In planning, the importance of using indirect fires is seldom grasped. During rehearsals, calls-for-fire (CFFs) are seldom incorporated or their purpose accurately explained. During execution, communications routinely fail, CFFs are not processed or tactical patience is not practiced. Poor situational awareness causes slow clearance of fires in the company sector, and commonly, units become impatient and maneuver against the enemy without employing their indirect assets.” 

These comments are as relevant today as they were in 2002 and for much the same reason. Our current training does not deliberately integrate fire support into maneuver training until late due to the “stove piped” nature of our maneuver and fire support training glide paths. This effect is further re-enforced by the physical separation of the Fire Support Teams (FIST) from their maneuver commanders and the doctrinal separation between the IWTS and TC 3-09.8. 

Without early integration and emphasis from their higher headquarters, maneuver commanders often choose to assume risk and skip critical training events such as the Fire Coordination Exercises (FCX) to save time and resources for the platoon Live Fire Exercise (PLT LFX) or the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercises (CALFEX). Skipping the FCX robs commanders and fire support Officers (FSO) of the opportunity to practice developing mutually supporting maneuver and fire support plans prior to the LFX. This results in poorly developed plans that often derail the maneuver plan and are subsequently discarded leaving companies to fight as individuals instead of the lethal combined arms teams they are designed to be.     

In Large-Scale Combat Operations (LSCO), the need to address integration of fire support at the Platoon and Company level is paramount. Just as the 82d in 2002, the 7th Infantry Division has instituted the Maneuver Fire Support Integration Program (MFSIP) to deliberately connect the IWTS and the TC 3-09.8 and eliminate the “stove pipes.” This program takes a phased approach to integrate maneuver and fire support training starting at the individual level and culminating with the CALFEX. This enables units to train and certify the “maneuver fires team” so they understand how to fight as a combined arms team before they are evaluated during the CALFEX, tested at a Combat Training Center (CTC) or forced to learn while in direct contact with the enemy.  

Phase 1 focuses on the Individual and squad level training. This includes the fire support certification program as outline in the TC 3-09.8 and the Table I, tactical exercise without troops (TEWT), from the IWTS. Additionally, BN level Fire Support Elements and company level FIST provide classes and Leader Professional Development (LPDs) on fire support topics to their maneuver formations. These serve as the foundational academic education for maneuver leaders as they prepare for collective training and allows maneuver and fire support leaders to discuss how to fight as the combined arms team.   

Phase 2 shifts the focus from academic to hands on training via the Fire Support Planning Exercise (FSPX). This exercise is essentially the Fire Support Table IV: Execute Fires, expanded to include the CO/TRP Commander and the Platoon leaders as part of the training audience, creating the “maneuver fires team.” The FSPX breaks down into 4 parts: planning, brief, rehearse, and follow through. 

During the planning portion commanders and their Fire Support Officer (FSO) will receive the order from the BN. They create their maneuver and fire support plans, conduct any necessary coordination, and prepare a company fire support rehearsal. This portion can be done in a matter of hours or over several days, informed by how the BN wants to execute and what competing tasks they have. The most critical aspect of this phase is the company commander and FSO working together to integrate the fires and maneuver plan.

During the briefing portion, the company commander and FSO will brief their plan to the Maneuver BN commander and FA BN Commander. This allows both commanders to provide feedback on the plan and coach the company “maneuver fires team.” It is critical that both commanders participate so that both plans received adequate attention and to communicate the importance of synchronizing the maneuver and fires plans. After the brief, the commander and FSO make any directed adjustments to the plan and prepare to execute.        

Once the briefing is complete, the company rehearses the plan. Depending on the resources available, this can be completed as a dry fire on the terrain, in a digital environment, and/or on a terrain model/map board. Representatives from the firing elements and the Maneuver BN C2 node replicate the fire mission processing chain and the higher HQs. BN CDRs and/or S3/BN FSO attend the rehearsal and provide feedback to the company. After the company completes the rehearsal, they apply lessons learned, update their Tactical Standard Operating Procedure (TACSOP) and prepare to execute their plan live during the FCX. In total, this portion of the program should take one day of training to complete for a company.

Phase 3 is the transition from training to live fire evaluation, consisting of the FCX and the CALFEX. The FCX is a live fire event focused on echeloning fires while conducting a deliberate company attack and hasty defense. The FCX allows the company leadership to focus on the integration of fire support and the transition from indirect fire suppression to direct fire suppression. Executing live highlights any friction points and the importance of tactical patience; any shortfalls are corrected before they derail the maneuver plan during the CALFEX.

The culminating exercise for the program is the CALFEX. This is where the maneuver plan and the fire support plan come together in full force to qualify the combined arms team.  

The goal of the MFSIP is to build lethal combined arms teams capable of employing all available assets. As a force, we must eliminate the “stove pipes” that prevent us from achieving this level of integration or our companies will learn these lessons while in direct contact with the enemy at the cost of Soldier’s lives. The Maneuver Fire Support Integration Program is not a new concept, but it is a necessary one. We must link our maneuver and fire support training plans and programs down to the platoon level so that we create company level leaders that understand how to fight with the full force of the combined arms team.