Reforging the Saber

Slide 1
Figure 1. Sequence of reconnaissance.
Slide 2
Figure 2. Sequence of security tasks..

“Change typifies the modern world. You can either deal with change, or it will deal with you.” –GEN Gordon R. Sullivan

The military as a whole currently finds itself in a period of change. The Army is transitioning from a wartime force focused on its assigned missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to an Army posturing to execute unplanned contingency operations around the globe. Simultaneously, the Department of Defense is reducing the size and budget of the force. With these changes, the Army is seizing this opportunity to address a number of structural, organizational and systemic problems that have developed over the last decade-and-a-half of conflict.

An example is the addition of a third maneuver battalion to the armored and infantry brigade combat teams (BCTs). These changes are necessary and make the Army more capable of executing unified land operations. However, a number of issues remain unaddressed. Chief among these issues are the capability gaps that exist in Cavalry formations.

At present, the problem statement facing our Cavalry formations is as follows: Cavalry squadrons are not led, equipped or properly employed to be able to execute reconnaissance and security operations against a hybrid threat in the current or anticipated operating environment. Also, current Cavalry doctrine is fractured and lacks the detail required to offset the shortcomings of leadership and employment. Recently, a great deal of time, discussion and effort has focused on finding the right balance of manning and equipping for Cavalry organizations.

This article acknowledges the progress underway and proposes ways to augment that progress by ensuring that squadrons are led by experts; guided by clear, consolidated and nested doctrine; and properly employed as the BCT’s proponent for information collection (IC).1

Expert leadership

Cavalry squadrons often lack leaders trained or familiar with the unique mission set inherent in Cavalry operations. At present, there is no forcing function to ensure that leaders assigned to key command-and-staff positions within Cavalry squadrons have the training, expertise or experience necessary for the job. Leaders assigned to Cavalry formations do not regularly attend available functional courses specializing in Cavalry tasks, and few receive mentorship in planning, preparing, executing and assessing Cavalry operations. This lack of institutional training is exacerbated by the shortage of senior leaders with experience gained from assignments in Cavalry formations.

Within the current divisional and BCT construct, no senior leader exists to serve as the primary adviser to the division commander for Cavalry operations or provide mentorship to Cavalry squadrons. Who fulfills this need in the absence of this subject-matter expert (SME)? Who supervises the training and mentors the leaders of the various BCT’s Cavalry squadrons? Who coordinates with higher echelons for more support to conduct reconnaissance and security operations?

Similar shortcomings, with the resulting drop in proficiency among its battalions, were identified within the Field Artillery Branch after the dissolution of divisional artillery (DIVARTY). As such, a U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) implementation order published April 9, 2014, re-established DIVARTY in each of the Active Component divisions.2 According to the supporting whitepaper published by the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, OK, DIVARTY’s role is to “coordinate, integrate, synchronize and employ fires,” as well as to “provide training-certification standardization of all field-artillery units in the division.” Ideally, the DIVARTY is stationed within the division headquarters to provide this supervision.3

We should resurrect the division cavalry (DIVCAV) but model it off the DIVARTY blueprint to address similar issues within the Cavalry squadrons. Like DIVARTY, this organization would be responsible for training and certifying the Cavalry squadrons within the division, while also providing SME on the employment of these organizations to division and BCT commanders. The Cavalry squadrons would still belong to the BCT commanders but would now receive the sorely missed mentorship from a seasoned Cavalry leader.

Also, the DIVCAV would act as the division’s IC-planning proponent if augmented with additional collection assets to answer division priority-intelligence requirements (PIR). A command-select-list colonel would lead the DIVCAV, which would include a headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT) to operate with the division staff.

While acknowledging that the expansion of BCT- or division-level staffs may be an unpopular proposal during an era of drawdown and fiscal uncertainty, the resurrection of the DIVCAV as a component of the division staff would undoubtedly improve the training, management and employment of the Cavalry squadrons within the BCTs.

Secondly, many leaders within Cavalry squadrons have not attended the functional courses available to build the skills required to plan, prepare and execute reconnaissance and security operations. We need to align our various Cavalry functional courses with additional-skill identifiers (ASIs) and tie these to key leadership positions within the squadron by the modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE). For example, a lieutenant assigned to a Cavalry squadron should first attend the Army Reconnaissance Course (ARC), which is tied to the R7 ASI.

Tying these functional courses to ASIs, and subsequently tying these ASIs to duty positions, is currently conducted in other specialized areas of the Army and has several benefits. It allows these skilled positions to be tracked; it drives funding for units to send leaders to their appropriate schools; and, lastly, it can assist Human Resource Command in the assignment process. Captains and majors assigned to Cavalry formations should attend the Cavalry Leader’s Course (CLC), and their positions on the MTOE should reflect an associated ASI.

We cannot fail to address our enlisted leaders as well. Scout-platoon team-leader positions (sergeants) should be aligned with the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader Course (RSLC); section leaders (staff sergeants) and platoon sergeants (sergeants first class) should be aligned with ARC; and noncommissioned officers assigned to squadron staff positions (sergeants first class and sergeants major) should be aligned with CLC. This progression captures the spirit of the lifelong-learning model and ensures that the key leaders within these formations acquire, develop and master the skills required of them within Cavalry squadrons.

In addition to maximizing functional schools, we need to ensure that officer assignments to Cavalry formations are repetitive. Formalizing a Cavalry Branch may not be the answer; however, an officer’s first assignment to a Cavalry squadron should not occur as a field-grade officer. Assigning field-grade officers without prior experience creates a lose-lose situation: the field-grade officers face a very steep learning curve, and we are denying junior leaders a vital mentor with experiential knowledge of how to execute reconnaissance and security operations.

Who serves as the senior mentor and trainer of a scout-platoon leader if his squadron commander has never served in a Cavalry unit? Who trains the squadron staff to conduct planning for reconnaissance and security operations if the squadron commander, executive officer and operations officer (S-3) have never been Cavalrymen or executed these types of operations before? They are the senior trainers of the unit, and only habitual, repetitive assignments to Cavalry formations will develop the experience with reconnaissance and security tasks these leaders need to truly develop the next generation of Cavalry leaders.

Nested doctrine

Developing competent and experienced leaders will systemically remedy many of the issues that exist within Cavalry organizations. To reinforce this position, the Army must also develop clear and concise Cavalry doctrine. Cavalry is an organization specifically designed to conduct reconnaissance and security, and while it possesses the capability to fight for information, it is not designed to close with and destroy the enemy. It bridges the gap between the maneuver and intelligence warfighting functions.

Current doctrine does not clearly state, in one manual, how IC should be planned, integrated and executed by the Cavalry squadron. To illustrate this, imagine for a moment that you are a newly assigned intelligence officer (S-2) or an Army source-selection-supplement in a Cavalry squadron, and you receive notification that you will be executing the military decision-making process (MDMP) for an upcoming mission. You decide to get yourself mentally prepared to execute planning for the Cavalry squadron by brushing up on your doctrine, but where to begin?

Field Manual (FM) 6-0 is the manual for staff operations,4 so that sounds like a logical place to start. Although it doesn’t directly address Cavalry operations, the FM says that the ninth step of mission analysis is to develop an initial IC plan. The manual explains that, together, the intelligence and operations staffs create the information-requirement management tools and IC plan.

From there, it says that more information can be found in FM 3-55, Information Collection (manual change #1).5 FM 3-55 states that the staff must develop several key products to aid IC planning, including an enemy event template and matrix, and an updated intelligence estimate. It goes on to say that the event template helps develop the IC plan to answer the commander’s PIR. Where do you find how to build an event template and then further refine that into information that units identify and report? You suppose it would be explained in detail here in the IC manual, right? Wrong. Instead it says, “See FM 2-01.3 for additional information” (manual change #2).6

FM 2-01.3 addresses how to identify initial IC requirements. This manual explains how to use an event template to further develop an event matrix. With an event matrix, you should be able to go on to refine PIRs into easily digestible information for units to answer. What page is that on? Well, it doesn’t explain that process, so at this point you have hit a dead end.

Since the Cavalry squadron routinely executes this process, you assume that another place to look would be FM 3-20.96, The Reconnaissance and Cavalry Squadron (manual change #3).7 For the sake of brevity, the rest of the story is that you open FM 3-20.96, which only has one page dedicated to IC planning but references FM 2-0 (manual change #4).8FM 2-0 provides you with no new information but references ArmyTactics, Techniques and Procedures (ATTP) 2-01 (manual change #5).9 After opening ATTP 2-01, it is apparent that this manual explains the details of how to plan IC requirements and describes the process of refining PIRs into manageable bits of information for collection assets to identify and report. Unfortunately this ATTP, while useful for planning the requirements, does very little to explain how to plan for the execution of collection by the Cavalry squadron, and it is here that we run into another problem with Cavalry doctrine (manual change #6).

Cavalry doctrine does a sufficient job of explaining what guidance every Cavalry commander needs to give to his units and considerations for planning; however, it does not provide the Cavalryman with a framework for reconnaissance or security.10 In contrast, other maneuver manuals cover the sequence of events for different types of operations. For example, an urban attack has six steps: 1) recon the objective; 2) move to the objective; 3) isolate the objective; 4) secure a foothold; 5) clear the objective; 6) consolidate and reorganize.11 Doctrine uses the same type of sequencing for offensive or defensive operations.12 While there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution, developing a basic framework would give Cavalry staffs a structured way to think through the execution of their plan.

For reconnaissance operations, it could look something like this: 1) plan collection; 2) move/infiltrate; 3) defeat/bypass counter-reconnaissance; 4) collect; 5) conduct handover; 6) transition (Figure 1).

Security sequencing could look something like this: 1) plan security; 2) move; 3) establish screen/guard/cover; 4) observe/defend; 5) conduct handover; 6) transition (Figure 2).

The Army’s new method of developing doctrine, where SMEs from around the force come together in working groups to create draft manuals, shows a great deal of promise. With FM 3-98 currently undergoing vetting from the force, the Cavalry community is hopeful that it will remedy some of the ambiguity in current doctrine. The SMEs who develop the next generation of IC doctrine must ensure that IC planning is not unnecessarily complicated. Intel and Cavalry doctrine must be nested and clearly describe the IC process from start to finish and in enough detail without having to reference multiple manuals.

Cavalry squadron’s role

After ensuring quality control for leaders and adequate doctrine, the Cavalry force will be postured to lead and control the IC process within the BCTs. Doctrine dictates that reconnaissance and surveillance activities support the BCT through four tasks: IC synchronization, IC integration, surveillance and reconnaissance. FM 3-90.6, The Brigade Combat Team, attempts to clarify these processes by identifying how the staff conducts planning to support reconnaissance operations, but unfortunately, that system is complicated and lacks unity of effort.13

IC planning at the BCT-level is conducted by the IC working group. This working group is a temporary organization of designated staff representatives and subordinate units. Members include the BCT executive officer (who chairs the group); the BCT S-3 (or representative); the BCT S-2; the military-intelligence company (MICO) commander; the Cavalry squadron S-3; the BCT chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) officer; and representatives from the remaining staff sections. This ad hoc team, while chaired by the BCT executive officer, relies on only two individuals who, by definition, are educated and trained at IC planning: the BCT S-2 and Cavalry squadron S-3.14 The remaining members split their efforts between IC planning and their normal responsibilities during the BCT’s MDMP.

In a time-constrained environment, the staff is accepting risk in either the IC plan or the rest of the BCT’s MDMP. According to FM 3-90.6, the BCT S-2 synchronizes the collection effort in coordination with the operations officer, MICO officers and other staff elements as required. This effort includes recommending tasks for assets that the commander controls and submitting requests for more support. The BCT S-3 integrates the sensors and other capabilities of the BCT to accomplish this, while the Cavalry squadron’s role is only to obtain information for the BCT commander.15 This ignores a wealth of capability that exists within the Cavalry squadron staff, who are educated and trained to synchronize and integrate IC assets.

By keeping IC planning responsibility purely within the BCT staff, with only minimal augmentation from the Cavalry squadron, most of the BCT’s IC experts are not involved in the process until execution. Two changes to doctrine would fully exploit the capabilities that exist within the squadron staff. First, replace the ad hoc BCT working group with a team from the squadron staff to directly collaborate with the BCT S-2 for IC synchronization. This team, or cell, would have a habitual relationship with the BCT S-2 and scalable capability based on mission variables. This method was used effectively by 2nd Armored BCT, 1st Infantry Division, during National Training Center (NTC) Rotation 13-04.16

Alternately, doctrine could be changed to show a different division of labor where the BCT S-2 is only responsible for developing information requirements, while the Cavalry squadron is entirely responsible for developing the synchronization and integration of all IC assets. This creates unity of effort in the process and allows the BCT S-2 to focus on the analysis of products – using that to support the BCT commander’s decision-making.

Either option puts IC and reconnaissance experts in charge of developing the BCT’s IC plan.

The BCT’s organization further complicates the current process by dividing the four tasks that support its IC activities across the formation. The Cavalry squadron is responsible for combined-arms reconnaissance through synchronizing ground-reconnaissance elements. The MICO, part of the brigade engineer battalion (BEB), is responsible for synchronizing and analyzing unmanned air system, human-intelligence and multisensory information that its organic assets collect. All CBRNE reconnaissance is conducted by a CBRNE recce platoon that is organic to the BEB’s headquarters and headquarters company (HHC). This leaves the BCT S-2 responsible for developing the information requirements, the collection synchronization and the collection integration across the BCT.17

If the current organization were changed to place the collection assets of the MICO under the Cavalry squadron in the form of a “surveillance troop,” it would improve the BCT’s ability to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance activities. This change would create a single proponent within the BCT responsible for the synchronization and integration of IC assets, as well as for the training and development of these formations. By filling this organization with leaders who are experts at reconnaissance and IC, they will be able to manage and accomplish these tasks with a greater focus and unity of effort than the current construct.


Current ongoing efforts across the Army to improve the capabilities of the Cavalry squadron’s vehicles, equipment and organization are necessary to prepare for the battlefields of the future. However, material solutions are only half the equation. New vehicles, optics and organizational structure will all be for naught if Cavalry squadrons are not led, trained and used properly.

Cavalry leaders must be experts through senior mentorship from a DIVCAV commander, by requiring proper professional-military education for their roles and by habitual assignments to Cavalry organizations. IC doctrine must improve; it is imperative to have a nested concept to guide the planning and execution of information collection within an integrated framework for reconnaissance and security operations. Cavalry squadrons must be the BCT’s proponent for IC by making them responsible for IC synchronization and integration, and by consolidating all of the BCT’s IC assets inside the squadron to unify efforts for their training and employment.

The Cavalry’s success on the battlefields of the future requires leaders who are true experts and empowered through doctrine as the BCT’s proponents for IC. For Cavalry to remain relevant in the next conflict, we must reforge the saber.


1 “CSA Cavalry Review_JDS_12MAR14.PDF,” Maneuver Center of Excellence brief to the Army Chief of Staff.

2 FORSCOM DIVARTY implementation order, Fort Bragg, NC, April 2014.

3 U.S. Army Field Artillery School whitepaper, “Field Artillery Brigade, Division Artillery (DIVARTY),”Fort Sill, OK, May 2014.

4 FM 6-0, Commander and Staff Organization and Operations, May 2014.

5 FM 3-55, Information Collection, May 2013.

6 FM 2-01.3, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, December 2010.

7 FM 3-20.96, Reconnaissance and Cavalry Squadron, March 2010.

8 FM 2-0, Intelligence Operations, April 2014.

9 ATTP 2-01, Planning Requirements and Assessing Collection, April 2012.

10 FM 3-20.96.

11 ATTP 3-06.11, Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain, June 2011.

12 FM 3-21.10, The Infantry Rifle Company, July 2006.

13 FM 3-90.6, The Brigade Combat Team, September 2010.

14 FM 2-19.4, Brigade Combat Team Intelligence Operations, November 2008.

15 FM 3-90.6.

16 “5-4 Cavalry End-of-Rotation After-Action Review,” NTC, March 1, 2013.

17 FM 3-90.6.