Adonis Diaries

Rainbow over the Levant (continue 11)

Posted on: October 6, 2008

Chapter 6

The organization of a voluntary army

One of the first tasks for the new government was the organization of a national, united and centralized army.  Since the number of the population was small it was decided to invest on a quality army from the people with attractive incentives for land shares at the end of the commission.  Once the insurrection consolidated its hold on power Antoun decreed that every citizen could own and raise horses.  At the time, he was responding to the trend set by many families who could afford buying a horse, regardless of their class status, which reminded him of his adolescent passion and years of frustration.  This decree which satisfied the implicit dreams of his people for riding horses was returning the favor for the peasants’ support to his regime and it never occurred to him that this decision was the key factor to forming a viable cavalry regiment by permitting society to offering its potentials.

To face these immediate armed hostilities Antoun Fares organized his army in phalanxes.  A phalanx was composed of 36 infantrymen of 4 columns and 9 rows.  All the infantry men carried small swords.  The main weapon for the first 3 rows in the phalanx was a long and heavy kind of ram, ending with a wide semi circular flat scythe shaped head and a large shield with many holes to see through affixed to it; thus, three soldiers in each column carried and handled the ram with the first soldier in charge of directing the attack.  This weapon called the “ram” was designed not to penetrate and pierce a body but to slash, or overturn or scatter enemy lines and be removed easily from the wounded enemy if cut badly; this new weapon was carried by three soldiers on their shoulders in order to ram harder on enemy lines and to stand cavalry attack if necessary.  The fourth row of soldiers was trained to replace the felled members in the teams of rammers; the fifth row was to defend the rear of the phalanx and the last four rows were to protect the flanks of the ramming columns on each side when the attack was in progress. All the infantrymen with the exception of the rammers were equipped with small shields so that when engaged a phalanx would front eight columns if necessary.

The final scheme of four ramming columns was adopted after several test training exercises demonstrated that this formation was best at keeping cohesion among the columns, preventing splitting it in two which would leave the rammers defenseless and also because it allowed the supporting columns in the phalanx to better control and exterminate the enemies in narrower space sections. Every phalanx was supported by eight archers to scatter enemy infantry compact advance or cavalry interference. In the battle field the unit of the army was the “core” of three phalanxes and its supporting cavalry and small catapult units and headed by a Captain. Twenty one cavalry men armed with light long spears to drive back any enemy trying to infiltrate and disturb cohesion were attached to a “core”, 9 horsemen in the rear and teams of 6 at each side outflanked the “core” to prevent encirclement in quick maneuvers and allowing time for reinforcement to come to the rescue. Three small catapults manned by four soldiers each were part of a “core”. The small catapult had 70 meters range and spread 50 gravel sized stones per shot at a rate of three shots per minute to raise enough dust and confuse the enemy line; they were efficiently activated on flat chars for opening routes in enemy lines ahead of the “core” thrust.  The total number of a “core” was thus of 170 soldiers, including the cavalry, archers, Captain and Lieutenants.  

At 35 meters behind each “core” stood a phalanx without ramming columns and 9 cavalrymen to envelop, support and stop any retreat. Depending on the battle tactics a second line of cores could be deployed 150 meters behind to relieve the first line or to prepare for a defensive position if a temporary retreat was sounded. 

A battalion was constituted of three “cores” and headed by a Major and strong of its main and separate cavalry unit of 48 knights trained to archery effective within 40 meters before engaging the body of enemy cavalry.   A unit of heavier caliber catapults of 250 meters range was part of the cavalry unit and took position on higher grounds between the infantry and cavalry.   Whenever a higher ground was not available the army would install ready made platforms that could be assembled within two hours or dismantled in a shorter time for these heavy catapults; the Major of the battalion would have a deeper view of the war maneuvers from these elevated platforms and could command about 600 soldiers.  Nine cavalrymen and a ramless phalanx were assigned to help and protect the heavy catapults redoubts.

This formation of the Army was barely modified for 9 years so that a Colonel commanded three battalions called a division and a General would head two divisions of about 4000 soldiers called a “corps” among them an additional special 300 cavalry unit.  With the exception of the small artillery units and cavalry attached to “cores” to preserve their cohesion the highest ranking commander in the battle field could combine and maneuver all the cavalry units and heavy artillery under his possession according to his plan of attack.  

The Metn managed to raise a cohesive and well trained army of 2 corps within three years and invested freely on small catapults for Antoun knew how to concentrate their power on the most dangerous divisions of his enemies and gain critical leverage in any battle.  At its inception, the army was to be of learned soldiers educated to reading and writing in at least the national Arabic language.  Antoun invested dear time in selecting the officers who enjoyed reading and believed in educating their subordinates by scheduling hours for learning the language within the daily routine; he met individually with the officers and encouraged them to submit to him an education program to eradicate illiteracy in the armed forces and to solicit their subordinates to evening reading sessions within a family environment and form a library with input from the whole phalanxes and cores of the army.

The military research center was immediately enacted; professional soldiers and war specialists were hired with substantial enticements. The purpose of this center was to design equipment and garments that fit the capabilities and limitations of the local soldiers.  The main criterion was to enhance mobility by reducing the mass that need to be carried by a soldier and procuring comfortable and adequate clothing for the two major seasons.  Metal vests were replaced by vests made out of reed one centimeter thick and lined with cotton fabric, allowing a venting space between the body and the vests.  Closing garments were to be worn over the vest. This newly designed vest allowed full flexibility for the arms and was very adequate for both cold and hot seasons: it trapped body heat in winter and permitted the skin to be kept dry much longer in warm seasons.  In addition, the vest proved to prevent 80% of fatal injuries and was as effective as the inconvenient metal vests. Special care was taken for designing foot wear which are the most essential element for infantry men, a fact which was understood but never acted upon previously in order to maintain cast differences among the army units. On the inauguration of the first special center for research and development Antoun delivered in front of the high ranking officers this succinct speech:

“My brothers and sisters officers of our young Metn army; the wind of change is being heard around us; our revolution could not have succeeded if our people were not ready to seek a transition, from a long tradition of injustice, slavery and semi-slavery and the entrenchment of a privileged class of fortunate feudalists at the expense of the hard earned labor of our peasants for subsistence, into a fair society where every citizen feels a natural right to live in security and enjoy life within law and order.  Many neighboring powerful and young nations are waking up and organizing themselves into unified societies and our lot could not maintain its cherished freedom and liberty in our own way of life if we fail to unite as a vigorous nation.”

“This center for military research is meant to provide our soldiers with the means to win in battle fields when the time of reckoning demands from all of us to respond to the call of preserving freedom and liberty. This center is created to learn to survive as a steadfast people, to sustain the hardship of training, long marches, physical privation and mental resistance to emotional pressures with minimum damage, injuries and suffering.  When you graduate as officers of the Levantine army you must retain the motto of our military force:  “Power is courage in dignity until it is used recklessly, then its purpose is wasted”.  I urge you to remember that when military force is engaged against our citizens then the dignity of this government is tarnished and it is a sign of our failure in our duty and responsibilities to maintaining law, order and justice.”

“Power is meant never to have to be demonstrated unless it is directed toward evil purposes targeting the rights of our people to live in peace and prosperity. Every time an officer uses force against his own citizens then all the training and money invested in forming a capable army are then lost because they were invested to the wrong goal.  We are forming an army of the people, from the people and to the benefit of the people and any other deviation from the high moral grounds are tantamount to generating a bunch of murderers trained to kill and abuse the innocents and consequently, the severest punishments will befall the officers who deviate from the purpose of the army.”

“Your strength is in your disciple and organization as an educated and trained group for the well being of our people. All officers have to understand that the army is the nucleus of our society and represents its best elements: Therefore, every soldier has to learn to read and write and be able to present to the citizens the values and image that the army is trying to convey.” 

“Officers of the Levantine Army, you have to transmit to our citizens that education is the cornerstone to our survival and they should strive to acquire what is needed to overcome our weaknesses and the poor state of our economy and social development. Any time a community rises against the local leaders then you must assume that their claims for justice have strong basis and remedies must be provided. As officers of the people you are to refrain from attacking your people until fair negotiations are conducted and a majority of the hearts is won to the cause.  Your disciplined presence should be only a deterrent force against those ready to use force after refusing fruitful negotiations.”

“Officers of the Metn army; you are responsible for helping the people, serve justice and consolidate the dignity of the power lent to you.  It is a huge responsibility that you are shouldering and your duty is to constantly prove your own worth and value toward the people you are serving.”

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October 2008

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