Three Block War

Last updated

The Three Block War is a concept described by U.S. Marine General Charles Krulak in the late 1990s to illustrate the complex spectrum of challenges likely to be faced by Marines on the modern battlefield. In Krulak's example, Marines may be required to conduct full-scale military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid within the space of three contiguous city blocks. The thrust of the concept is that modern militaries must be trained to operate in all three conditions simultaneously, and that to do so, leadership training at the lowest levels needs to be high. The latter condition caused Krulak to invoke what he called "strategic corporals"; low-level unit leaders able to take independent action and make major decisions.


The term has been referenced by then-CENTCOM commander (later Secretary of Defense) General James Mattis, and has also been adopted by the British, Israeli and Singaporean military, including former Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson and former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, [1] and also by former Canadian Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier. [2]

"Strategic corporal"

The strategic corporal is the notion that leadership in complex, rapidly evolving mission environments devolves lower and lower down the chain of command to better exploit time-critical information into the decision making process, ultimately landing on the corporal, the lowest ranking non-commissioned officer, typically commanding a fire team of 4 individuals or a squad of 12 individuals (three fireteams). In very rapidly evolving mission situations, obtaining mission instructions from remotely located command may result in mission failure, or in casualties to both force personnel and civilians. Conversely, misusing this kind of responsibility may result in personal liability for the team leader: a decision executed to respond to situational needs may result in later prosecution as the team leader's actions are reviewed by higher authorities.

The term "strategic corporal" was coined by General Charles C. Krulak in the title of an article in Marines Magazine about the "Three Block War," an increasingly important arena of military operations characterized by engagement with hostile, neutral and friendly forces, all at the same time, in a very geographically limited area, e.g., three blocks. [3]

This concept requires forces to apply an appropriate type of response in a timely manner relative to the immediate context. Complex rules of engagement are needed that will minimize collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure. However, training "strategic corporals" requires time and money above and beyond what is considered normal infantry or military police training.[ citation needed ]

The U.S. Army has used the Strategic Corporal term for their plan to equip ordinary squad leaders with advanced laser rangefinders to plot artillery fire. [4]


The need to conduct operations in this situation has significantly emphasised the importance of low level tactical leaders and led to the term strategic corporal being devised.

One of the adjustments in the USMC is to move coordination of artillery down from the battalion to the company level. [5]


In the Battle of Mogadishu, as detailed in the book and film Black Hawk Down , small-unit leaders on the ground continually had to make crucial decisions which had major impacts on not only the forces initially deployed on the mission, but to follow on forces as well.

See also

Related Research Articles

Charles C. Krulak 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps

Charles Chandler Krulak is a retired United States Marine Corps officer who served as the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps from July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1999. He is the son of Lieutenant General Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was the 13th President of Birmingham-Southern College after his stint as a non-executive director of English association football club Aston Villa.

Finnish Defence Forces combined military forces of Finland

The Finnish Defence Forces are responsible for the defence of Finland. A universal male conscription is in place, under which all men above 18 years of age serve for 165, 255, or 347 days. Alternative non-military service for all men, and volunteer service for all women are possible.

Defense Forces of Georgia combined military forces of Georgia

The Defense Forces of Georgia, or Georgian Defense Forces, known as the Georgian Armed Forces until December 2018, are the combined military forces of Georgia, tasked with the defense of the nation’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. They consist of the Land Force, Air Force, National Guard, and Special Operations Forces. The Defense Forces are under overall leadership of the Minister of Defense of Georgia and directly headed by the Chief of Defense Forces.

Military doctrine is the expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.

Military rank Element of hierarchy in armed forces

Military ranks are a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces, police, intelligence agencies or other institutions organized along military lines. The military rank system defines dominance, authority, and responsibility in a military hierarchy. It incorporates the principles of exercising power and authority into the military chain of command – the succession of commanders superior to subordinates through which command is exercised. The military chain of command constructs an important component for organized collective action.

Fireteam small military unit of infantry

A fireteam or fire team is a small military sub-subunit of infantry designed to optimise "bounding overwatch" and "fire and movement" tactical doctrine in combat. Depending on mission requirements, a typical fireteam consists of four or fewer members: an automatic rifleman, a grenadier, a rifleman, and a designated team leader. The role of each fireteam leader is to ensure that the fireteam operates as a cohesive unit. Two or three fireteams are organised into a section or squad in co-ordinated operations, which is led by a squad leader.

Non-commissioned officer Military officer without a commission

A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not earned a commission. Non-commissioned officers usually obtain their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. In contrast, commissioned officers usually enter direct from a military academy, and are often expected to have a university degree.

Sergeant Military rank

Sergeant is a rank in many uniformed organizations, principally military and policing forces. The alternative spelling, serjeant, is used in The Rifles and other units that draw their heritage from the British Light Infantry. Its origin is the Latin serviens, 'one who serves', through the French term sergent.

Corporal is a military rank in use in some form by many militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. Within NATO, each member nation's corresponding military rank of corporal is combined under the NATO-standard rank scale code OR-3 or OR-4. However, there are often differences in how each nation employs corporals. Some militaries don't have corporals, but may instead have a Junior Sergeant.

A military staff is a group of officers, enlisted and civilian personnel that are responsible for the administrative, operational and logistical needs of its unit. It provides bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units.

Mission-type tactics, is a form of military tactics where the emphasis is on the outcome of a mission rather than the specific means of achieving it. Mission-type tactics have been a central component of the military tactics of German armed forces since the 19th century. The term Auftragstaktik was coined by opponents of the development of mission-type tactics. Opponents of the implementation of mission-type tactics were called Normaltaktiker. In today's German army, the Bundeswehr, the term Auftragstaktik is considered an incorrect characterization of the concept; instead, Führen mit Auftrag is officially used, but the older, unofficial term is more widespread.

European Union Military Staff Directorate-General of the European External Action Service

The Military Staff of the European Union (EUMS) is the directorate-general of the European Union's (EU) External Action Service (EEAS) that contributes to the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) by providing strategic advice to the High Representative (HR/VP) and commanding operations through its Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) operational headquarters. Presently the MPCC may only run non-executive operations. By the end of 2020 the MPCC will also be capable of running executive operations of up to 2500 troops, i.e. the size of one battle group.

Marine Corps University University for the U.S. Marine Corps

Marine Corps University is a professional military education university system of the United States Marine Corps. It is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Master's Degrees.

Deep operation, also known as Soviet Deep Battle, was a military theory developed by the Soviet Union for its armed forces during the 1920s and 1930s. It was a tenet that emphasized destroying, suppressing or disorganizing enemy forces not only at the line of contact, but throughout the depth of the battlefield.

Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO)

Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) is an airborne fire support and liaison unit of the United States Marine Corps. The mission of ANGLICO is "To provide Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Commanders a liaison capability to plan, coordinate, and conduct terminal control of fires in support of joint, allied, and coalition forces." Per this mission statement, ANGLICOs are not designed to support U.S. Marine Corps maneuver elements. Instead, the doctrinal purpose of ANGLICO is to provide fire support and coordination in support of units adjacent to the MAGTF.

Victor H. Krulak United States Marine Corps general

Victor Harold Krulak was a decorated United States Marine Corps officer who saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Krulak, considered a visionary by fellow Marines, was the author of First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps and the father of the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, Charles C. Krulak.

Organization of the United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps is organized within the Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). The most senior Marine commissioned officer is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, responsible for organizing, recruiting, training, and equipping the Marine Corps so that it is ready for operation under the command of the unified combatant commanders. The Marine Corps is organized into four principal subdivisions: Headquarters Marine Corps, the Operating Forces, the Supporting Establishment, and the Marine Forces Reserve.

Estonian Defence Forces combined military forces of Estonia

The Estonian Defence Forces is the unified armed forces of the Republic of Estonia. The Estonian military is a defence force consisting of Land Forces, Navy, Air Force, and a paramilitary organization Defence League. The national defence policy aims to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area, territorial waters and airspace and its constitutional order. Its main goals remain the development and maintenance of a credible capability to defend the nation's vital interests and development of the defence forces in a way that ensures their interoperability with the armed forces of NATO and European Union member states to participate in the full range of missions for these military alliances.

Joint warfare in South Vietnam, 1963–1969

In the Vietnam War, after the assassinations of Ngo Dinh Diem and John F. Kennedy in late 1963 and the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 and the continuing political instability in the South, the United States made a policy commitment to begin joint warfare in South Vietnam, a period of gradual escalation and Americanization, involving the commitment of large-scale combat forces from the United States and allied countries. It was no longer assumed the Republic of Vietnam could create a desirable situation without major external assistance. This phase of the war lasted until the election of Richard Nixon, and the change of U.S. policy to Vietnamization, or giving the main combat role back to the South Vietnamese military.

Enlisted Professional Military Education

The term Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME) is a general term used by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces to describe the formal system of education each branch provides to its enlisted personnel. Each branch has its own system and sequence of courses, with the overall focus on leadership and management. Education generally increases in intensity and level of knowledge as individuals progress in rank and assume broader leadership roles. EPME is distinct from the technical training service members receive for their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), or Navy Rating.


  1. Fox, Robert (27 June 2004). "Regiments face the axe in defence overhaul". The Independent . Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  2. "The Rise and Demise of the “Three Block War”" Canadian Military Journal.
  3. Charles C. Krulak (1999). "The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War". Marines Magazine. Air University . Retrieved 2006-11-23.
  4. Wales, Derek. "DemonEye- Equipping the Strategic Corporal for COIN." U.S. Army, 6 May 2011.
  5. Lamothe, Dan. "New training puts distance between HQ and units." Marine Times, 24 May 2011.