Spearhead Magazine article
from Kim Wortham, 3AD PA0
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No tanks ... and heavy on computers

For Maneuver Map

  Above: 3AD PAO photos during REFORGER 1990 with CG Maj. Gen. Paul Funk at center. Soldier at right is partially identified as "Altizer."



From the Editor of Spearhead Magazine, January, 1990 ...

The last couple of months have been a 'rush' for the Army - the invasion of Panama - budget cutbacks - proposed base closures, and on top of that, a lot of Warsaw Pact countries seem to be out of control with their need to reform economically and politically.

Now, if any time, this is the perfect time for an exercise like REFORGER. Why now? Because with all the chaos that's going on in Europe and the rest of the world; we can be sure that the Soviets are watching us closely. Let's face it, when you take the wrapping off, REFORGER is modem-day 'saber rattling.' It's kind of like saying, 'Look, you Soviets, the USA is READY to fight if we have to; WILLING to fight if we have to; and more then CAPABLE of fighting if we have to.' That's the bottom line!

But, REFORGER goes deeper than just a show for the Soviets. REFORGER is training our commanders and their staffs - from corps down to battalion levels. It's like an SQT for generals and colonels - one of the few opportunities that they get to maneuver their units over real terrain and learn from it. However, the REFORGER 'learning curve' doesn't just apply to generals - privates are in the picture as well. Then you've got the inter-service aspect - the Allied aspect - the National Guard and Reserve component - as well as the practice for sea, land and air transportation for both units and equipment. Add on computer simulation and you've got an interesting situation.

It's real easy to use catchy slogans like 'train smarter,' but unless we look realistically for 'lessons learned' from the exercise, we could end up training a lot - and not doing it any smarter.

During week one, while we were in the attack, one soldier told me, "If I see an enemy HMMWV roll past my position at 50-miles-an-hour, I can't tell if it's a HMMWV taking out chow or if it's a platoon of tanks thai just broke though our perimeter." Sure, he can do a SALUTE report on the vehicle type and panel number to his 'higher,' but be real, it takes time for the Intel guys and umpires to process this report into information and get it back down to the soldier's commander. This is just one example of what could be a lesson learned.

We've got plenty of smart young soldiers and officers throughout the division who have great suggestions on how to do simulation better and end up truly training smarter. Any training method that's worth using has got to be evaluated and refined, and any lessons learned should be lessons shared with others in the division.

Where we are now is a lot further than we were when the Army used to use logs as artillery pieces and Model T's as tanks. All and all, 'the new and improved' REFORGER concept is a good one with a mixture of men, computers and machines. REFORGER shows the Soviets our determination and pride - and that's what keeps them an arm's distance away.

K.M. Shimko, Editor
January, 1990

REFORGER 1990 - "Centurion Shield"
(Week Two to be posted on this site late in 2004 with photos)
K.M. Shimko
For Maneuver Map


When 3d Armored Division soldiers moved into the Bavarian countryside to take part in REFORGER '90 (Return of Forces to Germany) - exercise Centurion Shield - in a way they stepped into an area filled with military history. The maneuver area for this year's REFORGER has seen many battles. In just one battle in 1704, south of the town of Donauworth, the English Duke of Marlborough completely destroyed the Bavarian Army of 17,000 men in the Blenheim campaign of the War of the Spanish Succession.

"The REFORGER box we're playing in has been the site of numerous military battles throughout history," said Maj. Russell Glenn of G-3 Plex. "During the Thirty Years' War in 1634, there was a large battle just south of Nordlingen. Then there was Marlborough's battle in 1704 of Blenheim, and Napoleon campaigned the area a century later."

Today, though not at war, modem armies still operate and train in the same area on the same terrain that soldiers armed with matchlock weapons and pikes fought over. This time, American military armed with the latest equipment and computer technology cross the same territory for training.

Shortly after the Christmas holidays, in early January, nearly 6,000 Spearhead soldiers deployed to participate in this year's REFORGER - a V Corps against VII Corps exercise held just south of Nürnberg. While 500 Spearhead soldiers became umpires for the exercise, 1,150 soldiers from outside the division were attached or fell under operational control of the 3d Armd Div for the battle.

This REFORGER was quite different from the previous 21 exercises that have been held almost annually for the past two decades. This exercise involved fewer troops, fewer tracks, no tanks and lots of computers. The total number of participants for this REFORGER was 55,000 troops; compared with the 97,000 soldiers that took part in the 1988 REFORGER, troop involvement this year has been cut by 47 percent.

Along with troop reduction, the overall number of vehicles involved was also decreased. Whenever possible, wheeled vehicles were used in lieu of tracks. The division railoaded 294 tracked vehicles and convoyed over 2,700 wheeled vehicles into the maneuver box.

Overall, light tracked vehicle numbers went from 7,000 in 1988 down to 2,000, and tanks were not used at all this year. There were over 1,000 tanks on REFORGER '88.

The decrease in vehicles and troops reflect the lessons learned from the first tested exercise of this type - CARAVAN GUARD '89. That exercise gave way to the innovative concept of 'training smarter' by using a combination of men, machines and computer simulation, thereby decreasing the number of troops and vehicles with a training focus on commanders and staffs instead of small individual units. This REFORGER provides the most realistic training for upper echelon commanders at a lower cost than the more traditional approaches used in the past.

Most of the division's units participating were in a Command Field Exercise (CFX) mode, except for the 4th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 533rd MI Bn, and the 143rd Sig Bn. The majority of the division's combat support units were in a Field Training Exercise (FTX).

By Sunday, January 14th, all of the division's units were in position in the 'box.' Long Range Surveillance teams from the 533d MI were forward behind enemy lines and the 4th Bn, 7th CAV was conducting a final battle rehearsal on a farm near Eichstatt. The weather was bitter cold and the sun appeared every once in awhile between breaks in the cloudy sky.

DAY 1, Monday, January 15th, 1990:

The 3d Armored Division's mission was to occupy Forward Assembly Areas (FAAs) NEW SCANLON and NEW COLUMBIA, then conduct a forward passage of lines through the 11th ACR. As the V Corps' main effort, 3d Armd Div's plan was to attack and to seize Objectives HOOD NORTH and SOUTH. The 1st Bde, 3d Armd Div and 1st Bde, 8th Inf. Div. led the division's attack, 1st and 3rd Brigade followed in reserve. The division's aviation assets were grounded at homestation due to weather and most of the Close Air Support (CAS) had to be diverted to alternative targets. By the end of the first day, after a 'push-pull' fight for ground between the V and VII Corps forces, Objective HOOD had not been secured.

DAY 2, Tuesday:

The battle continued with the mission for the 3d Armd Div to attack and seize Objective HOOD. The concept of the battle plan was for 3d Armd Div to attack with two brigades forward and one in reserve, which would follow and assume the main attack on order. The main effort, 4th Bn. 7th CAV was to continue to maintain contact between the leading brigades.

The 1st Brigade, 3d Armd Div made up the main effort and headed west toward Objective HOOD and 1st Brigade, 8th Inf Div advanced toward the southern portion of Objective HOOD. Third Brigade passed the llth ACR and followed the lead brigades. This gave 3d Armd Div the potential to continue to exploit a penetration by either 1st Bde, 3d Armd Div or st Bde,. 8th Inf Div. By the end of the day's action, Objective HOOD was close to falling to the Spearhead attack.

DAY 3, Wednesday:

The plan of action for the 3d Armd Div was to complete the takeover of Objective HOOD and continue attacking the enemy to seize Objective JACKSON, which was just south of the town of Schwäbisch Gmund. First Brigade was to conduct the main effort attack and take Objective HOOD NORTH, while 1st Brigade, 8th Inf Div executed a supporting attack to seize the southern part of Objective HOOD. Meanwhile, the 3d Brigade mission was to move west to Assembly Area BIG SKY and act as a reserve as the 4th Bn, 7th CAV screened the division's northern flank.

The battle action for the 3d Armd Div came down to a 'tug-of-war contest' as the enemy's defenses lightened up, with neither force getting the upper hand. The V Corps Forces fought their way into the area, north and south on Objective HOOD but were halted by the VII Corps. By the day's end, many of the aviation assets had 'leap-frogged' through holes in the weather from homestation to the maneuver box. This included 3rd Bn, 227th AVN with attack helicopters and much of the 4th Bn, 7th Cav's air troop.

DAY 4, Thursday:

Objective HOOD fell quickly and Objective JACKSON was the next mission for the 3d Armd Div. They remained the Corps' main effort with the 1st Brigades leading in the division's zone and 4th Bn, 7th Cav conducting a RECON in zone and screening the division's northern flank. This left 3rd Brigade defending Battle Position (BP) Chicago against a VII Corps counterattack from the south.

The battle went like this: The 1st Brigade, 8th Inf Div made way toward Objective JACKSON EAST and 3d Armd Div's 1st Brigade made a significant penetration into the enemy's defenses. Around noon, the enemy started a counterattack from the south to the northeast near the Nordlingen Bowl which continued throughout the day. As the day closed, the skies had cleared and all of the division's aviation assets were on station and ready for the next day's battle.

DAY 5, Friday:

Third Armd Div made a passage of lines and secured assembly areas on the last day of battle. The offense for 3d Armd Div was to seize Objective JACKSON on Phase Line WOOD and continue the fight to take over Objectives MONTANA, BEAR and TIGER to the west. The 1st Brigade, 8th Inf Div was to make a supporting attack in the south as 3d Armd Div's 1st Brigade attacked in zone as the main effort. The Thundering' Third Brigade continued to occupy its battle position. After passing through the 156th French Armored Division, the 3d Armd Div was to prepare to occupy its defensive sector by moving to and occupying TAAs.


The North Army Group (V Corps higher headquarters) directed the 3d Armd Div to pass the 156th Armd Div through their lines and they secured Assembly Areas for further offensive or defensive operations. By this time the V Corps Forces had surpassed its commanders' expectations by gaining much of the territory up to Phase Line GOODWILL and in some places beyond it. The aviation assets finally arrived during Wednesday's battle but didn't take part in the offense until the 4th day. The 4th Bn, 7th Cav's aircraft, mostly OH-58 Ds, were screening a mission along the north flank; 3rd Bn, 227th Aviation supported the division's operations with attack helicopters; while Task Force Viper used Electronic Warfare birds for their support.

"We have gained much of the territory we expected and in some cases we have even exceeded our expectations," said Glenn. "Now we move into assembly area to prepare for future offensive or defensive operations and develop a plan of action for week two."

Fifth Corps Forces pushed from Eichstatt and went as far west as Schwäbisch Gmund in the first week of battle in the offense. During the offensive drive, there were several brilliant penetrations made by the V Corps Forces during their advance.

"There were a couple of significant penetrations made by the 3d Armd Div and 1st Brigade of 8th Inf Div soldiers. In reality these could have been penetrations that turned into exploitations or pursuit had we been fighting a real war. However, with reconstitution, where the enemy comes back to life every four hours or so, he could get back up and block us again so we couldn't accomplish that," Glenn explained. "We did extremely well in demonstrating the violence and shock action that would have penetrated the enemy's lines and allowed us to exploit that penetration."

The division commander, Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk, summed up the first week experience quite well: "Lots of learning took place. The D-Main, D-TAC and the D-Rear worked out well. The soldiers are doing a great job."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is based on the first week of REFORGER. The 2nd Week will be in the February (1990) issue. References and sources for this story include: Maj. Russell Glenn and Capt. Dwayne Hynes, G-3 PLEX, Operation orders; and the book "War in the Modern World" by Theodore Ropp.]

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