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It's more than urban ...

"It is dam hard to find a vacant lot to hold a war in ... and in this new era of warfare, that's the last thing the enemy wants anyway."

--Patrick M. Hughes (Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Retired)

The war in Iraq is being fought primarily in urban terrain. Gone are the days when the Army could bypass built-up areas to avoid getting bogged down in a difficult fight. Yet the challenge of Iraq and the future is more than mastering urban operations. Current and potential foes have studied us; becoming learning and adaptive opponents using asymmetrical strategies, tactics and tools to mitigate the Army's maneuver, targeting and standoff-fires advantages. While current operations in Iraq have focused on the urban fight the Army must dominate in all types of complex terrain, anticipating evolving threat tactics adaptations and variations.

To address the broader challenge, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army (CSA) recently established two new Focus Areas to address Irregular Challenges and Stability and Reconstruction Operations, as well as Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) G3 and G2 co-led efforts to examine Complex Terrain and Cultural Awareness issues. As these initiatives progress, cross-fertilization and perhaps consolidation will occur. This article focuses on Complex Terrain.

Defining Complex Terrain

Currently there is no Army definition for Complex Terrain. The DA G2 working definition is:</p> <pre> Complex Terrain are those areas that severely restrict the Army's ability to engage adversaries

at a time and place of its choosing due to natural or man-made topography, dense vegetation or civil populations, including urban, mountains, jungle, subterranean, littorals and swamps. </pre> <p>In some locales, such as the Philippines, all of these features can be present within a ten kilometer radius.

Differences in Complex Terrain

What is different in complex terrain? Situational understanding encompasses not only what is in front of you, but also what is behind, above, and below you, with specific differences in these categories: Communications; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); Time; and Lethality.


* The enemy has numerous communications capabilities available to employ in a tailored manner, avoiding the communications means most easily collected by our Cold War systems.

* Standard Blue Force Communications may be degraded or neutralized by the physical environment.

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

* With the "home court advantage," the enemy often uses ingenious, if sometimes less technically advanced, human-based intelligence collection. However, adaptive use of commercial technology must be anticipated.

* Blue Force sensors and other technology-based collection capabilities may be degraded or neutralized by the physical environment. HUMINT collection may be difficult to achieve among the native, often tribal population.

Time (The Fourth Dimension)

* The tempo may be excruciatingly slow, but killing happens at an accelerated pace and at close range (within 30 meters).

* Decision time is reduced from minutes to seconds.


* Reduced lines of sight severely degrade situational awareness and engagement ranges.

* "One shot, one kill" scenarios are the norm--the enemy will not take the shot or detonate the improvised explosive device (IED) unless they believe they can kill you!

Heading Army Intelligence Initiatives

Army Intelligence is addressing the Complex Terrain challenge through the following initiatives. Leaders and soldiers must fight for knowledge and intelligence as an integral part of every operation. Gone are the days of waiting for intelligence in order to act. Sometimes operations will be conducted solely to gain intelligence. As part of this cultural change, the Army must provide the capability and inculcate a mindset that Every Soldier is a Sensor (ES2) as they likely have the best local knowledge of the situation. Unfortunately, the same soldiers often have the worst global knowledge or understanding of impacting factors outside the local area of operations (AO). This must change: We do not accept latency in reporting threats to our pilots. The same standard needs to apply for our soldiers.

To accomplish this, the Army is connecting the soldier to the network and providing personal digital assistants (PDAs) that enable soldiers to digitize and input their reporting at the point of origin, as well as receive critical alerts and intelligence from operational and national level analysts. In addition, we are training soldiers to be better observers and reporters through the use of video-gaming technology such as the Every Soldier a Sensor Simulation (ES3) currently being used in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. (1)

The soon-to-be-realized Joint Intelligence Operations Center-Iraq (JIOC-I) will establish a network that enables collaboration and analysis, sensor tipping and cueing, and better national to tactical ISR integration leading to the realization of a Tactical Overwatch capability. The goal is to create a multidiscipline, all source fusion center that leverages national, theater, and tactical capabilities in support of maneuver brigades and battalions, and eventually down to the squad and individual soldier.

Two scientific and technical (S&T) efforts now supporting Operation IRAQI FREEDOM complex terrain operations are the Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS) and the Persistent Surveillance and Dissemination System-of-Systems (PSDS2):

* PTDS is a persistent, wide field-of-view, aerostat-based surveillance system that can "slew-to-cue" elevated electro-optical and infrared optics from numerous air and ground sensors. PTDS geolocates and captures video and imagery of threat activity and allows near-real time dissemination. This G2 quick reaction capability first deployed in October 2004 and has been effective in responding to direct and indirect fire threats.

* PSDS2 links existing sensors within a selected AO to turn an avalanche of uncoordinated sensor data into one picture to enable rapid visualization and dissemination of actionable intelligence. Initial operational capability is projected for 30 May 2005.

In recognition of the critical role of Military Intelligence, the Army authorized an increase of 9,000 soldiers in the branch. In recognition of the critical role of HUMINT in complex environments, 3,000 will be HUMINT soldiers.

Lastly, the people and their culture are a critical feature, if not the key terrain, in a complex battlespace environment. The Army recognizes culturally literate soldiers understand cultural differences that impact military operations. The Army is examining Cultural Awareness issues that will affect military cultural education. Expect to see changes that will include cultural factors in the Army's military education system from basic training through War College.

Stay tuned.

"The Army does not currently dominate the complex terrain/ urban battlespace."

--TRADOC Pamphlet 525-66, Military Operations: Force Operating Capabilities, 30 January 2003.


(1.) For ES3 access information E-mail For more information on the ES3 application, see Major Ray's article "Every Soldier Is a Sensor (ES2) Simulation: Virtual Simulation Using Game Technology" in the January-March 2005 issue of MIPB.

Brad T. Andrew (Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired) is the HQDA G2 Action Officer for Complex Terrain. His active duty assignments included Commander, 303d MI Battalion (Operations), 504th MI Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; Deputy Director of Operations, 718th MI Group, Bad Aibling, Germany; J2 JTF-Bravo, Soto Cano, Honduras; and Force Integration Staff Officer, HQDA ODCSOPS G3. He has a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from U.S. Military Academy. He is also a graduate of the National Security Agency (NSA) Junior Officer Cryptologic Career Program and earned a Space Operations specialty at Peterson Air Force Base, CO. You may contact him at or (703)-695-4188.
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Title Annotation:CSA's Focus Area 16: Actionable Intelligence; Army Chief of Staff's guidelines on complex terrain and cultural awareness during military operations
Author:Andrew, Brad
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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