Fires | The Final Argument of Kings: The Field Artillery in a World of Nonlethal Fires

The Final Argument of Kings: The Field Artillery in a World of Nonlethal Fires

by CPT Andrew D. Cotter


Soldiers assigned to C Battery, 29th Field Artillery, 2nd Battalion, 1st Armored Division and Airmen with the 312th Airlift Squadron, 349th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., conduct a STRAT Air movement with two M109A6 Paladins and a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy at Biggs Army Airfield on Fort Bliss, Texas, March 28, 2015. The 1st Armored Division Artillery in conjunction with 2-29 FA conducted a low-cost training event allowing both units to refine readiness in a STRAT Air movement, while solidifying a relationship with the 66th Weapons School located at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Photo by SSG George Gutierrez, U.S. Army.

Much has been written over the past several years about the increasing marginalization of the Field Artillery as a branch. Most famously, in 2007, four maneuver commanders collaborated to write, “The King and I,” a white paper on the identity crisis within the Field Artillery Branch and the atrophy of skills and core competency affecting it’s officers, non-commissioned officers, and Soldiers. The White Paper, as it soon became known within the branch, spurred a flurry of articles in professional journals and proved to be the genesis for an Army-wide discussion on the future of the Field Artillery as a branch within the larger Army. What the White Paper did not do, however, was change the non-standard missions that artillery battalions would be tasked to do in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND). As a result, the problems identified in 2007 by the White Paper have only compounded in the following years. In addressing the problem of an officer corps that has operated outside of its assigned mission, and with an increasingly deteriorating skill set, one solution has not yet been proposed. This paper will show that the establishment of a functional area dedicated to the delivery of non-lethal Fires is a viable solution to this problem, and will increase the ability of artilleryman to focus on the delivery of lethal Fires and increase to capacity of the Army to focus on the implementation of non-lethal Fires across the battlefield.

The mission of the Field Artillery, as stated in “Return of the King,” the Field Artillery campaign plan drafted under the supervision of then commandant of the Field Artillery MG Peter Vangjel, is to “destroy, defeat, or disrupt the enemy with integrated Fires to enable maneuver commanders to dominate in unified land operations.” Put simply, the Field Artillery’s mission is what is has always been; to support maneuver. To that end, the artillery branch of the last 10 years of continued conflict has lived up to its mission statement. Although operating outside of its core competency, artillery units have performed all manner of missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan with a large degree of success. The legacy of those missions, however, is a generation of officers that have not been tasked with providing indirect fire in support of maneuver commanders on any kind of regular basis.

Multiple Launch Rocket Systems from C Battery, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division fire rockets during a cross-boundary live-fire March 25, near Cheorwon, South Korea. The live-fire was part of a larger combined joint exercise with elements from the U.S. Marines and Air Force, as well as the Republic of Korea Army and Air Force. Photo by SGT Brandon Bednarek, U.S. Army.

Concurrent with the re-tasking of artillery units to non-standard mission has also come an overreliance on artillery officers filling roles as effects coordinators conducting effects based targeting. As the requirement for indirect Fires in both Iraq and Afghanistan decreased with the implementation of a counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, the requirement for more nonlethal Fires increased dramatically. Field Artillery officers who had once been coordinating air and surface Fires for full spectrum operations were now coordinating information operations messaging, humanitarian assistance, and key leader engagements. Moreover, a single artillery officer may have had to conduct coordination for both the lethal and non-lethal Fires at the same time. Artillery officers were asked to live in two worlds simultaneously, one of lethal Fires and one of non-lethal Fires. The result of which were artillery officers who were no longer an expert at providing lethal indirect Fires and who lacked the experience and training to master the effective delivery of non-lethal Fires. In short, artillery officers had become generalist in two disciplines and experts at neither.

Artillery commanders have done much over the last several years to address this growing problem. LTC John Mountford, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery of the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., has stated that over the course of his almost two years in command of the battalion there has been a large refocus on the core mission of the Field Artillery. Although the battalion has been performing a role as a regionally aligned force with units throughout the African continent, the battalion has conducted two full gunnery cycles and a full-spectrum rotation at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Calif. MAJ John Sandor, an artilleryman working in the Fires section of the National Training Center stated that this shift back towards more traditional artillery training has been seen in the performance of artillery battalions across the Army as a whole. In his capacity as an evaluator, of individual battalions conducting live-fire exercises while at NTC, Sandor has said that there has been vast improvement shown over the last several years. Young artillery Soldiers and more junior non-commissioned officers have shown a rapid acclimation back to their artillery mission set. Company-grade officers and more senior non-commissioned officers, however, have proven to have much more difficulty refocusing on an artillery-specific mission set. The career track of a Field Artillery captain over the past 10 years has been a story in competing priorities. The Field Artillery Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Okla., continues to focus its curriculum on the two key positions a young artillery officer will likely fill. Half of the course is dedicated to company-level fire support, and half of the course is dedicated to battery-level fire direction. Second lieutenants leaving the basic course leave with a skill set enabling them to plan for and integrate Fires into maneuver and to compute requests for fire into fire orders that meet all five of the requirements for accurate predictive Fires. In many cases the basic course is the last time an artillery officer will see gunnery and fire support till they return to Fort Sill for the Captain’s Career Course. The Basic Course does provide students with some very brief classes on other areas that a young artillery lieutenant may require. Classes on maintenance of equipment, property accountability, and even officer and NCO relationships are given. What is not covered in the course are the assets available or the employment techniques required for the proper implementation of non-lethal Fires at any level.

In order to understand where the Field Artillery is today, and better understand the solution proposed by this paper, one must examine exactly what non-lethal Fires are. In a paper published by the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth by COL Dewey Granger, Granger proposes a definition of non-lethal Fires. “Nonlethal Fires are concerned with those instruments aimed at modifying or disrupting and adversary’s ability to operate effectively while also changing his behavior using nonlethal means.” Granger goes on to state that “nonlethal Fires change perceptions while shaping conditions… both [lethal and nonlethal] are necessary in the realm of full spectrum operations.” As a point of contrast, Joint Publication 1-02 defines Fires as “the use of a weapon to create a specific lethal or nonlethal effect on a target.” Granger’s definition, while accurate, is nonetheless nebulous. Understanding exactly how Fires can change perceptions and shape conditions is a difficult problem; one that young artillery officers have been faced with solving. An examination of the tools available to someone attempting to utilize nonlethal Fires as defined above is also revealing. Information Operations (IO) messaging to a large civilian population is a tool, but how, where, and when to employ IO is challenging. Humanitarian assistance and infrastructure improvement can both be useful in changing perceptions and both present unique challenges and problems in employment. Engaging local key leadership has proven to be vitally important when operating in the COIN environment in disrupting an enemies ability to operate effectively, but again, how, where, and when to do so may not be readily apparent to a young artillery officer.

A U.S. Army Soldier assigned to 2-11 Field Artillery, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducts Field Artillery training on Warrior Base, New Mexico Range, Republic of Korea, March 15, 2015. The training was a part of joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015 between the U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) Armies. Photo by SPC Steven Hitchcock, U.S. Army.

What is readily apparent is that the implementation of nonlethal Fires in today’s modern operating environment is a challenge. Artillery officers leaving the basic course are ill-equipped to combat the ever-evolving challenges posed by utilizing nonlethal Fires in a COIN environment. Moreover, as been noted by evaluators at NTC and numerous professional articles regarding the subject, artillery officers have been spread too thin and have lost their valuable skill set. A solution, therefore, is not to divorce the concept of lethal and nonlethal Fires as being linked, but to change the manner in how those Fires are coordinated. Currently, there are 14 functional areas within the Army ranging from force management to space operations and counter nuclear proliferation. I submit that a new functional area is required: a functional area dedicated to the delivery of nonlethal Fires, across the full spectrum of operations. Individuals within the functional area would have their own professional military educational curriculum focused on the means available for nonlethal Fires and the proper employment of those assets. Much like other functional areas, officers within this proposed functional area would have their own professional pipeline unique to their designation and would leave their previous branch for the remainder of their military career. Such a functional area would allow Field Artillery officers to disassociate themselves with their branch and to fully commit to the study and mastery of the delivery of nonlethal Fires without the competing priorities currently imposed by the Field Artillery Branch.

When proposing any new program in the Army, especially one that involves extensive educational and institutional changes, there is an obvious counter argument to be made. The current fiscal realities make the creation of a new functional area challenging. New doctrine would be required, specialized instruction with expert instructors would also be needed; all of which at a financial cost. Given the cuts in funding already in place can the Army responsibly accepts any more risk to the readiness of its forces by diverting what precious funding it does have to a program that is of yet untested and unproven. I submit that this paper, and the last decade of continued war have shown that the wars of the future will not be fought in the sky with astronomically expensive aircraft, or underwater with ever increasingly costly submarines. The wars of the future will be fought as all the previous wars have been fought; on the ground with real people. Funding designated to make the Army better at that very skill is funding well spent.

One of the lasting legacies of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that in stability and COIN operations, local populations must be engaged. All manner of Fires, both lethal and nonlethal, must be part of all phases of an operation and must continue to be brought to bear against our adversaries. Lethal Fires may not always be as effective in combating an entrenched adversary as humanitarian aid. The United States Army cannot allow the valuable and hard fought lessons of the past 10 years to be pushed aside in favor on returning artilleryman to their historical role of only providing indirect, lethal Fires. Additionally, we cannot continue to stress our young artillery officers beyond the capabilities of their training and experience. The creation of a functional area dedicated to the delivery of nonlethal Fires, that is both separate and autonomous of the Field Artillery, will allow for more well trained and capable artillery officers and more capable and well trained nonlethal Fires effects coordinators. Louis the XIV had the words ‘Ultimo ratio regum’ inscribed on all of the cannons of the French army. In Latin, it translates to the final argument of kings. If the Field Artillery as a branch can acknowledge its limitations and push for real and attainable solutions to correct those limitations, the Field Artillery can and will continue to be the final argument in battle.


Captain Andrew Cotter attended Texas A&M University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science in 2008. Following completion of initial entry training and Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery in 2009. Upon completion of BOLC II and the Field Artillery officer basic course at Fort Sill, Cotter was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, 2ABCT, 1ID. While serving as a platoon leader and later battery executive officer in B Battery, Cotter deployed to Baghdad Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn in 2010. Upon redeployment in 2011 he served as the battalion logistics officer (S4) and later as the aide-de-camp to the senior commander of the 1st Infantry Division. In 2013 Cotter attended the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Va. Following completion of the year-long course, Cotter was assigned to the Field Artillery Squadron of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck, Germany where he currently serves as the a regimental fire support officer.