AS I WROTE Rebels on the Mountain, I thought back to my infantry training. Lacking any evidence to the contrary, I surmised that the Fidelistas who had been trained in Mexico must have learned many of the same lessons that I did. When they arrived in Cuba, the few who survived the initial ambush and fled into the mountains with Castro, must have used that training to prepare the recruits for battle. After teaching them the basics of marching and following orders, they had to learn how to fight as a team.
Four-man fire team
My research revealed that Castro fought with a force of approximately three hundred men divided into two columns (what we would refer to as companies). His brother, Raúl, and Camilo Cienfuegos were the capitáns of the columns. Che Guevara was the force's doctor and, of course, Fidel himself was the commandante. That left only eight of the surviving Fidelistas who came ashore from the Granma with Fidel to lead the new recruits. Each would command about thirty-five men which is a fair approximation of an infantry platoon. Each platoon could be organized into three squads, each squad into two fire teams of four men.
Fire teams in the rifle platoon evolved with weaponry. During the period when I was enrolled in Advanced Infantry Training, it consisted of a riflemen (M-14), an automatic rifleman (Browning Automatic Rifle) and a grenadier (M-79 grenade launcher). As assault rifles with full automatic firing capability replaced semi-automatic infantry rifles, the dedicated automatic rifle became superfluous. Regardless of their weaponry, the fire team is the most basic infantry unit. It may function autonomously or as a part of infantry squads, platoons, and companies.
Ideally, a fire team is led by a fourth member, a sergeant (three stripes, E5). However, during the troop buildup in Vietnam, there were an insufficient number of non-commissioned officers (sergeants) of all grades, and a fire team might be led by a specialist/corporal, or even a private first class. Thus, in most cases, the team leader how no more training or experience than the men who followed him. Interestingly, the Fidelistas didn't have anyone with any experience in combat except for Fidel and Raúl who had fought poorly in the attack on the barracks at Moncada that led to their arrest, imprisonment, and exile to Mexico. Not an auspicious recommendation.
I'm sure that the Fidelistas had to learn basic team concepts such as fields of fire and fire and maneuver techniques just as we did in Advanced Infantry Training. Thus, I used those descriptions in Rebels on the Mountain.
Fields of Fire
Employing fields of fire is a defensive tactic to insure that all enemies will be engaged along a line of battle. Leaders assign overlapping fields of fire to each riflemen to insure that there aren't any gaps through which an enemy may approach without being fired upon. If riflemen aren't disciplined and begin firing on each others targets, a position could be overrun easily.
Two-man fire and maneuver team
Fire and maneuver is an offensive tactic. A fire and maneuver team of two men, usually led by the senior-most of the two, attacks by having one man fire his weapon to suppress the enemies ability to fight effective, while his partner rushes the enemy position. Typically, the man rushing forward only moves a few paces to the next available cover and the team members switch roles. The forward-most man then fires to suppress the enemy while the other rushes forward. They continue alternating until they are close enough to destroy or capture the enemy.
I had to get creative in Rebels on the Mountain, imagining how the Fidelistas could have passed this training on to the recruits that joined them in Cuba. American Army training centers have well designed and constructed facilities to provide venues for recruits to learn and practice combat skills. The Fidelistas would have had to construct field expedients of their own design. It was fun imagining how I would have accomplished it.