The U.S. military has been fighting the Global War on Terror (GWOT) for more than two decades now. This means that for the first time in American history a servicemember can have both enlisted and retired during an active war. Further, at no time in its history has the U.S. sustained urban combat for this length of time.

Seemingly, with America’s presence in the GWOT winding down, the U.S. military needs a number of steps to ensure that its warfighting capabilities don’t get stale. Legimitate questions arise over whether the U.S. military should focus its training on urban warfare, since that has been its bread and butter over the past two decades, or, focus more on air capabilities and ensuring control of the skies.


Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

As with most things in life, likely the best approach would be to train each individual skill to competence, while then training specific units to near-perfection. The U.S. also needs to ensure that military branches, such as the Marine Corps and the Army, are highly trained and ready for future ground combat, regardless of whether that future combat is in the mountainous terrain of Kandahar or the Wild-West-like city of Ramadi.

When this author enlisted into the Marine Corps in February 2000, brief training in MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) was given. This was fairly revolutionary for the time. Seeing the MOUT facility at Camp Pendleton, for the first time was impressive; it looked like a perfect city made for war training smack in the middle of a Marine Corps base.

Yet, more impressive was that the facility existed at a time when urban combat was essentially a fairy tale for modern warfighters. With the exception of the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu seven years prior, the thought of going house-to-house or down a heavily trafficked city street for combat wasn’t considered as a likely avenue for war.


21st Century Combat

Marines train in urban warfare
MOUT training in USMC Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. (Photo by Cpl. Todd Michalek/USMC)

Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley recently said about urban warfare,