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FO vs FIST vs Fire Control Teams


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In the US Army Forward Observers used to be embedded with an infantry company, and would usually be with the Company Commander to provide fire support calls. That's how things were in WW2, and in Korea and Vietnam. Post Vietnam (mid-70s-ish) the FIST came about. FIST stands for Fire Support Team. The idea was to provide FOs down to platoon level. In the 82d, a FIST would have a 2LT (FIST Chief), SSG (FIST Sergeant), and SP4/PFC RTO (all 3 with radios) as its HQ unit and they would be with the infantry Company HQ. By TOE an E5 SGT + PFC (RTO) would be with each infantry PLT leader. The FIST provides a more responsive fire support element. (We never had the 3 RTOs that were suppose to go to the platoons and most of our E5 FOs were E4s). 

In a mech unit it's a bit different. They have their own vehicle, and could detach one of the personnel down to platoon level, but the FIST vehicle allows them to be mobile so that's not as necessary (and doesn't work with armor unless they want to ride on top 🙂  The FIST vehicle provides all the radio nets they need to monitor and use, plus a laser target designator. Having an FO down to platoon level in a mech unit would be most useful if they were dismounted, I would think, and not so much when mounted.

Artillery battalions also deploy Fire Support Officers, who are usually CPTs or senior 1LTs (and they come with a SSG/SFC and a PFC) to infantry brigade HQs as a Fire Support Team to do fire support planning with the infantry brigade (now Brigade Combat Teams but in SF2 days a brigade). 

Back in WW2 you'd just get a 2LT Forward Observer, usually down to company level. But in general, things were more compact then. In a modern battlefield platoons tend to be spread more than they were in WW2, and the FIST is a way to have the artillery be more responsive.

Hope that helps.

Dave   (ex US Army, FIST Chief, Battery Fire Direction Officer, Brigade Fire Support Officer, FA Bn Asst S-3, FA Bn Fire Direction Officer).  All Airborne so my knowledge of the mech units is a little less detailed.

Edited by Ultradave
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16 hours ago, Ultradave said:

In the US Army Forward Observers used to be embedded with an infantry company, and would usually be with the Company Commander to provide fire support calls. That's how things were in WW2, and in Korea and Vietnam. Post Vietnam (mid-70s-ish) the FIST came about. FIST stands for Fire Support Team. The idea was to provide FOs down to platoon level. In the 82d, a FIST would have a 2LT (FIST Chief), SSG (FIST Sergeant), and SP4/PFC RTO (all 3 with radios) as its HQ unit and they would be with the infantry Company HQ. By TOE an E5 SGT + PFC (RTO) would be with each infantry PLT leader. The FIST provides a more responsive fire support element. (We never had the 3 RTOs that were suppose to go to the platoons and most of our E5 FOs were E4s). 

In a mech unit it's a bit different. They have their own vehicle, and could detach one of the personnel down to platoon level, but the FIST vehicle allows them to be mobile so that's not as necessary (and doesn't work with armor unless they want to ride on top 🙂  The FIST vehicle provides all the radio nets they need to monitor and use, plus a laser target designator. Having an FO down to platoon level in a mech unit would be most useful if they were dismounted, I would think, and not so much when mounted.

Artillery battalions also deploy Fire Support Officers, who are usually CPTs or senior 1LTs (and they come with a SSG/SFC and a PFC) to infantry brigade HQs as a Fire Support Team to do fire support planning with the infantry brigade (now Brigade Combat Teams but in SF2 days a brigade). 

Back in WW2 you'd just get a 2LT Forward Observer, usually down to company level. But in general, things were more compact then. In a modern battlefield platoons tend to be spread more than they were in WW2, and the FIST is a way to have the artillery be more responsive.

Hope that helps.

Dave   (ex US Army, FIST Chief, Battery Fire Direction Officer, Brigade Fire Support Officer, FA Bn Asst S-3, FA Bn Fire Direction Officer).  All Airborne so my knowledge of the mech units is a little less detailed.

Speaking as a former mech soldier, there is one FO per platoon plus a FIST team at company level. The platoon FOs are usually SPCs, and the Company FIST team comprises a LT, a SSG and a PFC/SPC RTO, who ride in a M7 Bradley FIST/V.

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4 hours ago, Splinty said:

Speaking as a former mech soldier, there is one FO per platoon plus a FIST team at company level. The platoon FOs are usually SPCs, and the Company FIST team comprises a LT, a SSG and a PFC/SPC RTO, who ride in a M7 Bradley FIST/V.

Do the mech FOs ride with the PL vehicle?

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18 hours ago, Ultradave said:

Do the mech FOs ride with the PL vehicle?

In my old company, yes. That was D Co 4/7 Inf (Mech). The FO rode with the PL, The Medic rode with the PLT SGT. Fun Fact: Our entire Company FIST team, lived in our barracks and stored their vehicle in our motor pool, but were actually on paper assigned to our brigade artillery.

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4 hours ago, Splinty said:

In my old company, yes. That was D Co 4/7 Inf (Mech). The FO rode with the PL, The Medic rode with the PLT SGT. Fun Fact: Our entire Company FIST team, lived in our barracks and stored their vehicle in our motor pool, but were actually on paper assigned to our brigade artillery.

Interesting. I don't know how it works in the 82d now. When I was there we had brigades. We always supported the same brigade, each battery supported the same infantry battalion all the time. And as FIST we supported the same company. Today however, there is the more integrated BCT organization, which while essentially being the same people doing the same jobs, all the support units are more integrated into the brigade team. Long story - don't know who lives with who today.

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In Russian army, an artillery fire spotter is allocated at the company level. In platoons, platoon commanders are ready to direct artillery, but usually a few more soldiers are trained to correctly direct artillery, this difficulty was encountered in Syria when it became clear that more artillery spotters were needed. As a result of Syrian campaign, a couple of years ago, forward air controller began to be allocated to the company level, usually these are guys who once flew but they were written off due to various diseases, but there are already those who were trained in military schools.

Honestly, I would also like to have a trained artillery fire spotter at platoon level.

Edited by HUSKER2142
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 10/29/2020 at 9:41 AM, Erwin said:

Am encountering all three types in a CMSF mission.  They all have the same symbol and quick arty call times.  What is the difference and are they employed differently?  

It has to do with 'Danger Close' during a MOUT operation inside a BFiST Bradley you can call arty in relative safety. Also, you can employ inside an armored formation.  LOS is quickly lost during the game Key Terrain is relative. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/23/2020 at 8:32 AM, Erwin said:

That's good to know re "Danger Close" use for FiST.  Thanks.

Something else if you have gunships you don't need LOS from your BFiST Bradley.  1 or more units spot various AFV's you call in your gunships on heavy inside an area. It makes sense as all your troops have PDA's. It worked in my last British game with 2 Harriers they took out 3 T55's dug in this time just with a. FO

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On 10/30/2020 at 5:44 PM, Ultradave said:

Every time you post all kinds of cool TOE info (especially in Beta forums), I'm reminded of the line from one of the Batman movies. "Where DOES he get all these cool toys"  (Penguin? Can't remember 🙂 )

Jack Nicholson as 'The Joker', 'Batman', 1989.  ;)

And I agree with your sentiment 100%.

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Works only with choppers, fighter bombers are a different story. If you give them an area it is as good as. Three different units spotted various Syrian armored units. I gave the spotter an area and the Harriers took out the armor. The forward observer didn't spot any tanks, but he was able to stipulate the area. I play on Iron and I would say this was taking the PDA's into account. The scenario was UK Armored Assault.  

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Fighter Bombers: Various units have LOS with various targets, see which units have Laser Pointers eg snipers, among others. The FO-has data with which he can determine the area of operations for the fighter bombers. He doesn't need a LOS himself you will see the fighter bombers will take out the targets spotted by others. This tactic worked with 'UK Armoured Assault. The water tower is a dilemma it is an excellent position for the Syrians to place an FO it makes also an excellent reference point for your FO to plot Area of Operations for your air assets. 

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