Maneuver Self Study Program

Armor and Cavalry Heritage, Tactics, and Small Unit Actions

"Armor operations are conducted by fire and maneuver and are combined and controlled to create a preponderance of combat power that culminates in a powerful and violent action at the decisive time and place."

[FM 17-1: Armor Operations, 1966]

"The scout must be capable of finding the enemy and knowing what he sees. He should be able to go forward to find the enemy and have the firepower with and behind him to get out of trouble. Most of all he must be capable of semi-independent operations on the battlefield. He must be the most clever of all fellows. He takes individual actions that are not dictated by the actions of what other squads or platoons are taking; no one is constantly looking over his shoulder."

[COL Crosbie E. Saint, 1977]

"Find the bastards—then pile on."

[11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Vietnam War]

Today's Armor Branch includes cavalry and armored organizations with related but different roles. Cavalry applies the fundamentals of reconnaissance and security to build situational understanding, identify opportunities, and provide the time and space necessary for their parent organization to maneuver and employ decisive combat power against the threat. Armored organizations employ mobile, protected, precision firepower to outmaneuver and eliminate hostile forces. They leverage the situational understanding established by cavalry organizations and employ the qualities of surprise, concentration, rapid maneuver, and audacity to seize and retain the initiative. The capability sets associated with cavalry and armored organizations ensure their versatility in a broad range of operational environments and in combined arms maneuver and wide area security settings.

The ability to exploit effectively the capabilities of cavalry and armored units depends upon soldiers and leaders conversant with these organizations and their employment principles. Self study constitutes one means of achieving this expertise. Together with institutional school house training and unit assignments, it constitutes the foundation upon which the principles of professionalism, leadership, and tactical competency are based. Unlike school programs of instruction and unit training events, the individual determines the structure, thrust, and objectives of self study. The successful self study program requires discipline to implement—there is no forcing function or mandatory tests to pass. Hence the commitment to self study in itself is one of the characteristics of the professional soldier. There is no patch, tab, additional pay, or accelerated promotion associated with self study. Instead, the reward comes from within. It lies in the deeper comprehension of your branch, its evolution, and its capabilities. This knowledge translates into more effective application of those capabilities in all operational environments.

The nature of today's military operations do not afford Armor soldiers the luxury of simply focusing on narrowly defined tactical competencies. These skills are important, but their application in a complex operational environment amid a combined arms and/or joint context requires a deeper understanding of the capabilities associated with Armor organizations and those assets with which they will interact. The varied and evolving nature of potential threats worldwide mandates attention to cultural awareness and historical development of real and possible combatants. However, the range of information available through multiple mediums offers the chance to avoid future deployments overseas in which understanding the enemy occurs as a byproduct of being shot at.

A serious study program needs to incorporate history. Too often in today's society history is understood in the form of trivia, factoids, and entertainment. This perspective obscures the shaping influence of past actions upon today's events. Army doctrine, materiel, training, and concepts of leadership are derived from previous events and examples. The after action review process is an exercise in historical analysis. For the professional soldier, history constitutes an immense data base, freely available, from which can be extracted information, ideas, and insights applicable to current and future deployments. Moreover, historical study forces immersion in real world events that are messy, complex, and completely lacking the artificial constraints of live, virtual, and constructive training environments. Soldiers must cope with this gritty environment every day, determining how to apply doctrinal principles to an unclear situation and develop their own tactics, techniques, and procedures to cover the gray areas. History provides a frame of reference to do so.

There is no single approach to establishing a self study program. To be effective, it must reflect individual interests and needs—and these vary with the person. The first step lies in determining what you wish to achieve from your self study. Is the focus a particular threat, small unit combat leadership, a deeper knowledge of the branch, or something else? Once you have a focus, use the resources indicated in the pages below to identify a start point. The listed items are intended to help introduce you to a subject and provide pointers for additional study. Select an item of interest and read it. Imbibe the information it has to offer. Ask yourself questions. Determine what the source offered and what it did not address. If the item proved not to your taste, identify why it did not. Use those reasons to help guide you in the selection of your next source. Finally, keep seeking sources on the same or related subject until you have met your objective. The key to a success lies in developing a thread of study to pursue. Use your fellow soldiers as sounding boards for ideas you develop and to help you refine your study over time. There is no penalty for experiencing difficulty while honestly pursuing your self study program, but avoiding it all together will undermine your professional credibility.


  1. How do the collective characteristics of cavalry and armored units make them well-suited to operations across the range of military operations in diverse operational environments?
  2. How would you characterize the core competencies of Armor organizations? How can these best be sustained and/or improved to ensure their effective employment against varied threat types on different battlefields?
  3. What constitutes the greatest combat threat to cavalry and armored organizations today? How can this threat be mitigated with the current capabilities, skills, and assets available to the Armor leader?
  4. What additional skills, capabilities, and training would improve the ability of scouts to apply the fundamentals of reconnaissance and security in any operational environment?
  5. What training changes or additions would better instill in soldiers a deeper awareness of the capabilities and limitations of armored units in order to ensure the most effective tactical employment?
  6. What can I do to improve my command of a cavalry or armored unit and the leadership of my subordinates?
  7. How do I enhance my understanding of the role of cavalry and armored organizations in a combined arms, joint, or coalition setting?
Armor and Cavalry Heritage Discussion Linkedin Page

Film and Video

Film and video offer another avenue through which to pursue a self study program. Online media sources provide a growing number of sites with film footage, interviews with combatants, raw footage from combat zones, and more polished television shows. The last category includes a variety of programs that seek to inform and often provide information and perspectives on battles, leadership, and materiel. These sources can provide a less intimidating yet immersive start point for a self study program. Many of the items listed can either be viewed online or purchased as individual episodes in most cases.

  • 20th Century Battlefields
  • Battlefield Diaries
  • Commanders at War
  • Greatest Tank Battles
  • Modern Marvels

Armor Branch History