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Infantry Combat – The Rifle Platoon

Infantry Combat – The Rifle Platoon

John F. Antal
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Infantry Combat – The Rifle Platoon by John F. Antal is designed to support the training of officers and NCOs in small-unit tactics and leadership. The author is a retired US Army combat arms officer with a wide range of experience and has written a scenario where the reader is a US infantry platoon leader in a light-role company deployed to the Middle East at short notice in a conventional warfighting scenario.

For those of you old enough to remember the Fighting Fantasy series of books (currently being read by one of my mini untallguys), the format of the book will be familiar. At the end of each section, the reader must make a choice (eg let your soldiers rest or keep them working, deploy the reserve or not) and, based on that choice, you are directed to another section of the book. This is sometimes replaced or enhanced by rolls of the dice (which seem to be weighted against me in my house!) to allow for the luck needed by a soldier.

So far, I have died twice, been captured twice and been wounded three times (once just before being taken prisoner). I am yet to win (which is frustrating) and, to keep my ego balanced, I’m blaming dice rolls for some of my misfortune…as a result of all this, mrs untallguy has been enquiring loudly about the details of her widow’s pension! That said, the problem presented is a challenging one, being based (spoiler alert) on a light-role platoon in defence against an armoured enemy

As a training aid, it’s certainly useful. The author has managed to write a comparatively realistic scenario and provides a useful glossary of terms and weapon systems; he states early on that the book is dated but aim is not to teach you about current weapons but more on small-unit tactics which are relevant then and now. British readers will note the cultural, and at times doctrinal, differences (the siting of defensive positions is done differently in the British Army) but, on the whole, the teaching points transfer across.

I don’t see this making it on to the required reading list for Sandhurst or Brecon, mainly because of the differences between the two armies. That said, it’s a good insight into light-role infantry thought processes and decision-making; it presents some simple leadership problems in a challenging environment. It did force me to review my decisions (and dredge up some training and experience from more than a few years ago) and examine why I had made the choices that I did.

In short, it’s a useful addition to the bookshelf and for those with an interest in such things, being they in the military or not, it is certainly a thought-provoking read, if only to hammer home some of the lessons learnt in training. As long as you remain alive to the differences in US and British doctrine (which are not miles apart) and you can understand how challenging the problem actually is (and therefore allow your ego to be a little bruised), it’s an informative and intelligent read.

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