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The U.S. Army Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force

October 11, 2011

The national security of the United States rests on a comprehensive global strategy of engagement. This engagement takes many forms—ranging from peacekeeping and partnership-building to combat—and many times overlaps all categories. The premier instrument for global engagement is landpower. The nation’s expansive worldwide missions require a broad set of interactions with diverse groups of people in varied environments. The Army is uniquely suited to carry out these missions because, at its heart, the Army is people. For the United States, the Army is the nation’s force for decisive action. The Army’s ability to project and sustain forces for any mission in any location is the foundation of the nation’s strategic flexibility.

The Army’s endurance and flexibility are critical in the fight against hybrid threats—threats that blend conventional, irregular, terrorist and criminal capabilities and apply them against the United States asymmetrically. The fight against hybrid enemies requires sustained, educated and nuanced engagement at the lowest tactical level. Further, the modern media-enabled and mass communications-based environment means that tactical decisions can have strategic implications. Those critical actions fall on the Army’s smallest unit conducting the daily operations and missions on the ground around the world. The squad is the foundation of the decisive force; its actions on the battlefield help achieve the nation’s strategic vision.

The rifle squad is the fundamental organization of Infantry formations, the building block of all higher units. Ultimately, it provides the competitive and tactical edge of the Army’s force. Combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere highlight the importance and centrality of squad successes to overarching tactical, operational and strategic goals. The squad’s ability to close with an enemy on the ground, control territory, establish security for friendly populations and then maintain continuous engagement with those populations creates the conditions for success. To ensure these capabilities are carried into the future, the Army must develop a holistic approach to small-unit development that considers training, equipping and networking in light of the squad’s contribution to the overall mission, treating it as a system rather than a collection of individuals.