2008/12/12

"Bewegliche Gefechtsführung"

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Some of my favorite books are those of Eike Middeldorf, a German author of the 50's and 60's who was very influential in the early Bundeswehr.
He was responsible for tactical lessons learned at the OKH (German army general staff) in '43-'45, worked in the Amt Blank (shadow defense ministry before Western re-armament) and was responsible for the Bundeswehr manuals for many years.
I recommend all of his books.

One of his often-repeated requirements was that an army (at battalion to brigade level) needs to pursue a bewegliche Gefechtsführung.
This is difficult to translate, maybe "agile combat leadership & execution" fits best. It's in principle also what the Heer teaches.

This wasn't only about road or off road speed of vehicles or units. It's also about reaction times from camp to march, about quick decision-making, about readiness to change your intent according to a changed situation. For Middeldorf it was apparently the hallmark of competent behavior on battalion to brigade level (he focused on Kampfgruppen - regiment-sized combined arms teams - in his second book).

The bewegliche Gefechtsführung includes such a much-discussed concept like the OODA loop as a natural component.

Ultimately, it's about doing the right thing in the situation - not the right thing for a situation long gone.

Quickness helps to evade defeat, to exploit opportunities, to arrive in time to help comrades and to reduce wasteful idle time.

This combination of quickness of the mind, quickness of material and high readiness doesn't seem to receive the well-deserved attention in many armed forces.

A high emphasis on risk reduction, on firepower, on protection or even only on holding/controlling terrain seems to contradict the bewegliche Gefechtsführung mindset.

Sven Ortmann

6 comments:

  1. Quickness is the best defense in my mind. Quickness blunts enemy successes, particularly enemy offensives, and improves morale at the Bde and Bn level.

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  2. EN : Quickness is not going to solve problems on a colossal scale (grand strategy), i.e. Iraq or Afghanistan. MHO.

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  3. It's clearly an important factor at the tactical level, though.

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  4. To expand a little; we can do more with less if all levels of government are responsive. I was thinking in terms of Strategic level. Although, it's entirely possible to stress quickness as part of your grand strategy to deal with uncertainty. That's a tactic for sure, but when you insist on it in your overall approach it sets a certain tone.

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  5. My mistake, I meant screw ups on a colossal scale. No saving the situation.

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  6. 'Ultimately, it's about doing the right thing in the situation - not the right thing for a situation long gone.'

    Well, a good decision today beats the perfect decision tommorow, after all.

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