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The Ronin

Mar 24, 2017
By Colonel Husain Muhammad Masihur Rahman, SPP, afwc, psc


Evolution in doctrine, organization, tactics and concept of operation for different armies occurred following different tracks. Great armies defeated adversaries by unique tactics, innovative procedures and superior maneuver. Muslim army of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) won battle of Ahzab using unique ‘ditch’ in the battle of ditch. Napoleonic Army’s victory was unique, for they used maneuver. German Army almost defeated the allied forces during WWII by their ‘Blitzkrieg’. Vietnam defeated two great powers (1) by its unique guerrilla warfare (2) . Bangladesh Army is no different; it continually seeks to develop its capability to defend the country and excel further in military operations other than war.

Ever since the emergence, Bangladesh Army’s performance both home and abroad has always exceeded the expectations: Army is maintaining high standard of professionalism. Army’s present preparedness is based on erstwhile British doctrine, augmented recently with US style of war fighting. It has been felt that, Army’s readiness should be of own blend to bring uniqueness in all performances. There had been directives to formulate defence policy incorporating Bangladeshi style of fighting (‘Juddho Khetre Deshoj Drishtibhongi’) (3).

Army has also taken steps to reorganize units with ‘quality over the quantity’ (4) since 1999. The restructuring of units (5) was done focusing primarily the infantry units. Some more innovations like the concept of Unconventional Warfare, introduction of Kill House, Viper training, confidence training for new soldiers, etc. are incorporated in the Army, yet there need to be many more. Tactical employment of the units remains as it was in the past, albeit the operational method remains a vintage.

In order to bring efficacy in operations, formations need winning formula and commanders need winning mentality. Present operational pattern of infantry brigades appears static and predictable. There is lack of novelty in operational training. Even with the given flexibility, little innovation is practiced by commanders at different levels, demanding innovative discourse in operational domain.

From this point, the paper first focuses on brigade defence operations of different countries. Then the weaknesses of brigade operations in Bangladesh are discussed. Finally imperatives are delineated for Bangladesh Army to be a force with cutting-edge in modern military operations. The study is focused to Infantry Brigade’ Operations in Bangladesh Army.

Tactical Level Operations – Comparison with Few Armies

Core Competence of Future Land Forces. Operational pattern depends mainly on core competence. Considering the emergence of Information Warfare, operations in the Electromagnetic spectrum and development of different new military thoughts, different nations are revising the core competence of their militaries. Core competences of some of the armies (6) are as follows:


Redefined core competence and resultant restructuring of different armies suggest that, future battlefield would be operated mainly by lighter forces. Brigades would replace ‘Divisions’ and may even operate as the main formation at operational level. Besides, there is a clear preference of smaller outfits, modular units and flat command-control structures. Smaller force is better in dealing with threat in limited wars, their deployment is quicker and lesser expensive.

Lighter force would improve flexibility in operational employment and increase efficiency in deployment. Modular force would perform diversified tasks. Flatter structure is to take the advantage of networks and command-control assets. Because of these factors, Russian army has transformed its motorized divisions to motorized brigades, reducing their strength to 50%. US army is in the process of reorganizing its army into 73 Brigade Combat Team and 226 modular brigades. Chinese Army has reduced its 5 command levels (7) to 3 levels (8).

Defensive Operations – An Overview on Some of the Armies in the Asian Region.

It is at times unwise to compare the organization, doctrine, weaponry, tactics, etc. amongst different armies of the world because the comparison risks to ignore the threat perception, terrain and geopolitical context. However, there are certain aspects like organization, defensive framework, maneuver elements, etc. which are common ignoring the dissimilarities of threat, terrain and defence expenditure. With this backdrop an overview of tactical operations, mostly defensive, and the organization of the maneuver elements of a Brigade/ Battalion are stated below:

a. Chinese Army. Chinese Army shares the typical defensive layout like Bangladesh except the framework of the defensive operation and organization. The bayonet strength of an Infantry Battalion is less than that of Bangladesh Army. More emphasis is given on tankhunting than that of Bangladesh Army.

b. Myanmar Army. Similar to the Bangladesh, Myanmar follows the same layout of a Brigade Defence with two forward Battalions and a depth Battalion. However, at the Battalion level, Myanmar Army keeps the fourth company as committed reserve in the depth for launching the local counter attack. The defence is organized keeping three/ two companies at the front. There is a 'last man last bullet' defence in Myanmar.

c. Pakistan Army. Pakistan Army differs from Bangladesh as the number of mechanized battalions are more than the light infantry. However, the major difference can vividly be observed in the field of reconnaissance where even the UAVs are employed at Brigade level. Use of modern gadget is proportional to the defence expenditure, but the essence of reconnaissance/ battle field awareness at tactical level can be an aspect that Bangladesh Army may consider basing on the above discussion.

d. Sri Lankan Army. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are fairly different in terms of geography. However, the concept of an wide frontage at the Battalion level with 3 companies at the front and attrition of the enemy by fire fairly ahead of the main defence are the doctrinal differences. Those can be counted for Bangladesh Army.

e. Nepalese Army. Nepalese Army is similar in case of layout of a Brigade Defence, but seldom utilizes two companies as depth in the battalion defence. Usually three companies are deployed at the front. Further, uncommitted reserve at battalion level is also practiced in the recent years considering the difficulties of employing the Brigade reserve due to terrain configuration. Hilly terrain is the primary determinant in Nepal army defence.

Maneuver Elements of Different Armies. A tabulated summary of the maneuver elements of different armies within and beyond the Asian Region is stated below:


Criticism on Brigades’ Operations in Bangladesh Army

Battalion Commanders’ Psyche.

a. General. Light infantry battalions’ total strength was around 800 in different armies in the past. This was reduced to about 470 persons in Chinese army and to 525 in US Army. Infantry battalions’ strength in Bangladesh though reduced from 850 to 740, yet the commanders’ mind-set remains passive.

Battalion commanders are yet to believe that much more can be done with four companies with 740 persons. If an infantry battalion with 470 strength can defend an area taking the advantage of favourable terrain (9), infantry battalions in Bangladesh must be able to do even better; to hold and to recapture that land when needed. This calls for changing the overt defensive mentality.

b. Imperatives. Battalion commanders may be stimulated to plan deploying three companies in ground defence and his fourth company or part thereof may be allowed by Brigade commanders to employ as reserve.

World War II (WW II) Vintage Tactics.

a. General. Tactical training on conventional warfare in many countries remains as backdated as that of WWII. Operational doctrine of the British army still forms unalterable basis of our operations and training. Pattern of Defence and attack at both battalion and Brigade level are at status-quo since long. Battalion defence, which stands on four pillars (represented by four companies-two companies forward and two companies in depth), is static both at physical and cognitive levels: defence with two companies up and one company in the depth with the 4th company as battalion reserve seems not an acceptable option.

Though there is no restriction on deploying three or four companies in battalion defence, there is no literature in support of such practice either. Similarly the attack organization of both the battalion and brigade level remains routine and obvious. There is no variation and innovation in the preparation and methods of attack.

b. Imperatives. Boldness and innovation is the key to success in modern day’s operations. Brigade and battalions may be given more intelligence and reconnaissance capability, more maneuver options and more flexibility for organizing their outfits. Commanders need to be trained to be more assertive and given more flexibility for employing their units, through detailed doctrinal leverages on such aspects.

Organizational modification would be excellent, yet optimum utilization of present organization can do a lot better. With available resources, brigades may organize reconnaissance and strike group to provide situational awareness, organize annihilation fire to apply concentrated fire while enemy advances, develop and employ Anti-tank Group to kill tanks in Tank Killing Area and form Deep Strike Group to conduct deep operations.

Thus, in defence, brigades’ maneuver elements would include Reconnaissance and Strike Group, Advance Position, Anti-tank Group, Deep Strike Group, Main Defence and Reserve. These entire elements may be formed or task-organized within present strength.

In the attack, Brigades may organize Reconnaissance and Strike Group to provide situational awareness, Deep Strike Group to penetrate deep in enemy defence. Through appropriate training and practices, Fire Base must focus on application of fire both from static and moving positions. Protection of own information domain and incapacitating the enemy’s one should be focused by strengthening the capability.

Approach to Intelligence and Reconnaissance.

a. Intelligence at Brigade Level. Intelligence is one of the most important battlefield operating systems. There is no intelligence outfit at the brigade level, though there are provisions for intelligence coverage from division resources.

Present battlefield environment, especially the introduction of Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligence (C4I) system in Bangladesh Army and digitization of the forces demand each battalion to have own intelligence collection capability, while infantry brigade must have dedicated intelligence processing assets. Possibility of inclusion of UAVs with brigade may also be studied.

b. Approach to Reconnaissance. Mechanized Infantry Battalions, Division Support Battalions and Armoured Regiments have reconnaissance platoons. Their employment concept has not yet been formalized. While brigade commander is to ensure the whole brigade sector is kept under surveillance (10), there is no dedicated force for reconnaissance in the brigade (11).

Our practice of reconnaissance seems to have a narrow meaning i.e. moving to the enemy locations and return to prepare for the operation plan. Static reconnaissance from Spotter, Anchor Observation Posts, etc. are also there in scattered practices. Continuous feeding of information by Reconnaissance Force at brigade level is very precious for any operations and is practiced by many armies.

Reconnaissance in force and armour sweep is also conducted by modern armies, used latest by US army during the Iraq war. Hence, organization and employment of reconnaissance force for the brigades need to be practiced to gain situational awareness of the battlefield.

c. Probable Options. Situational awareness capability is a prime requirement of a modern force. For the least, infantry brigades in Bangladesh must have dedicated intelligence and medium range reconnaissance (upto 15-30 km) capability. In an Infantry Brigade, there are about 33 dedicated intelligence personnel (12), who are not utilized for actual intelligence duties.

These persons are employed either as map marking assistant or as operations room staff instead. Necessary organizational modification may be made for the infantry brigades to have situational awareness capability. Dedicated or task-organized intelligence outfit from own resources may also solve intelligence and reconnaissance issue.


d. Imperatives. Dedicated intelligence outfits or task-organizing intelligence sections of battalions, brigade headquarters and the designated intelligence assets from the division intelligence unit needs to be done for effective brigade reconnaissance. These intelligence sections/assets may not necessarily be grouped for unified intelligence actions; rather they may be employed through appropriate intelligence training and planning from brigade level.

These persons may be given well-structured combat intelligence training (may be combined with the viper training (13) as per their appointment. Clerks may be trained to assist officers in map marking in the command posts. Along with intelligence and reconnaissance tasks, brigades will be able to conduct strike and sabotage acts on selected targets with this force.

Planning and Execution of Anti-tank Efforts.

a. Present Approach to Anti-tank Battles. Anti-tank warfare has been incorporated in the doctrines (14) since the inception of tanks. Purpose of anti-tank warfare is to countermand the shock effects of tanks on infantry; preventing tanks to destroy the ground defence. In offensive operations, tanks are the first element, followed by mechanized infantry to arrive at defended locality.

Conventional tactical maneuver of some armies ‘advance lead by armoured/mechanized force till main defence is met, suggests that, threat offensive forces move in speed and stop only when faced with the main defence. If enemy can reach the defended locality with full tank strength, battalion defence is sure to face more troubles.

Hence, defenders must try to strike the enemy mechanized column well ahead of main defence and throw the first major blow to enemy plan. Keeping all the anti-tank weapons at the defended localities, including at the depth, would be a waste during battles as these weapon system may not be able to utilize their longer range remaining within the defended localities. Our doctrine suggests destroying enemy armour at the greatest possible range (15) but we have neither planned for it, nor have we that in our practices.

b. Imperatives. Killing tanks should be a priority task for the defenders. In our terrain, there will be few tank-able spaces in the brigade defended area. Enemy tanks may be killed in Tank Killing Areas, which should be developed ahead of the defended localities, similar to the arrangement of killing zones. (16) Within the available assets, Brigade Tank Killing Group may be organized along the likely axis of tank advance.

Sixty percent of the total long range Anti-tank weapons (17) of the brigade would make about 20 ATGW systems, with which one or two Brigade Tank Killing Areas may be organized along the likely axis of tank advance between advance position and battalion screens. Planning for employing anti-tank group may be done at the brigade level, while the execution may be decentralized to the battalions. The operations may be conducted in the form of ambush or as a separate phase of operations.


Information Warfare.

a. Enemy would invariably strike first on the command-control system in future conflicts, either through physical operations or by electronic means. As the information technology advances, armies are fielding newer tactics and weapon system. Invention of soft-kill weapons and their employment would make brigade operation more vulnerable. Most of the armies, for example Chinese Army, put a lot of importance on information warfare as they consider information attack to take place during the preparation time of any operation.

Brigades must have appropriate training to protect from such attack and be able to disrupt enemy’s information weapons as much as possible. Protection of information domain from enemy attack must be integrated with the brigades by providing appropriate training and by strengthening the brigade communication units. (18) Besides, group training on information warfare is necessary to succeed in future battlefields.

b. Imperatives. Information warfare Training must be incorporated in our group/combined training system. Besides, Jamming/anti-jamming capability may be achieved at least upto infantry/Mechanized/Armoured brigade level.

Transforming Fire Support into Fire Strike.

Fire support of different outfits in Bangladesh Army has been methodical and procedural, but has not been used as effective fighting element- it has the status of support element. Commanders at all levels need to realize the efficacy of fires and optimize it during engagements.

a. Status of Fire. Application of firepower is the essence of fire units. Joint operation increases the fire power of a force. Modern armies plan to reduce enemy strength by at least forty-percent employing different forms of fire before committing ground troops (19). US Army uses the technique of ‘attack by fire’ (20) while Chinese army uses ‘fire assault’ (21) and ‘annihilation fire’ (22) during attack and defence respectively. Modern armies are developing and applying fire power to augment maneuvering forces. While brigade areas are supposed to be ‘covered by pre-arranged fire’, only ‘Defensive Fire (23)’ is not enough in modern defence.

b. Imperatives. Concept of fire support may be reoriented to fire attack as done by many armies. Infantry brigades may integrate the concept of ‘attack by fire’ or ‘fire strike’ with maneuver which will add more aggressive mentality in planning and execution. In addition, ‘annihilation fire’ may also be organized, developed and applied with available indirect fire assets including fire from Navy, Air force and other strategic assets on the enemy avenue of approach, similar to the use of Killing Zone.


Deep Strike Force.

a. Necessity of Having a Deep Strike Force. Infantry units/formations fight in close, main, reserve, deep and rear area operations. When fighting along the frontline goes on, a strike deep at the enemy, both during attack and defence, would divert his attention inwards.

When enemy is compelled to look back, his main efforts would get weaker and would offer opportunity for defeating him. Hence infantry brigades may organize a dedicated or taskorganized deep strike group from own resources.

b. Probable Options. Deep strike group may be organized by implementing and augmenting Army’s plan of 2011. Divisions may have a commando company and infantry battalions may have a commando platoon. The three well-trained commando platoons in the brigade would enable the brigade commanders to task-organize a deep penetration force for conducting deep operations.

During the attack, such a force would act like a sword in the stomach of enemy commanders. These outfits would be great assets in low intensity conflict too. These APC borne special platoon would enhance battalion commander’s confidence greatly.


c. Imperatives. Specially trained platoons in all battalions will add extra capability for the battalions and brigades in both conventional and low intensity conflicts. As the commando training facility is meager, this may initially be implemented by training 9th (24) or 12th platoon of each infantry battalion as commandos in accordance with the plan.

Till the commando training capability is enhanced, one platoon each form all infantry battalions may be given ‘Viper Training’. Brigades may be allowed to group these platoons together when the situation demands or else battalions may employ them in both defensive and offensive operations.

Brigade Organization for Attack.

a. Attack organization of infantry brigades is probably the most obvious pattern an enemy can expect. Occupation of FUP, Fire Base square to the objective, Two-Up attack, Follow-Up and Reorganization is the least an enemy commander would appreciate and remain prepared to counter. If the enemy commander may only determine the direction of attack, it is easier for any defender to repulse our attack. Hence, brigade attack need to be more offensive and challenging; novelty is the key in our attack.

b. For brigade attack, adequate intelligence must be gathered and situational awareness must be obtained by employing reconnaissance assets. As dedicated resources are available, this element may be task-organized from available assets as described in paragraph 10. Alongside this element, plan for deep strike by brigade element can do wonder for brigade attack.

While the fighting at Start Line to objective is ongoing, a deep strike at the depth of enemy defence would work like a knife in the stomach. It would create dilemma and challenge in the minds of the enemy to face/tackle the situation. This will help divide enemy’s efforts and thus will facilitate to capture the objective. Deep strike element can be organized as discussed.

c. Fire Support and Fire Base for Attack.

(1) Fire Supports Attack by Fire. Our fire support and fire base needs more focus. Reorientation of our thought process on fire attack or attack/assault by fire may be done as discussed.

(2) Fire Base. Effective application of fire on the enemy is the main objective of forces. But our concept of fire base square to the objective seems to be considered by many as a dictum than a guideline. In the open terrain, firebase square to the objective is an ideal arrangement but due to the presence of foliage along the line of fire, there is hardly any ideal terrain for that.

Again the establishment and functioning static fire base right in front of the nose of the enemy main defence may not be easy at all. A Battalion may suitably position fire base, either static or moving, from where it can apply fires, not necessarily fire base is square to the objective only.

Necessities for Future Operations - Bangladesh Army

Forces Development Trend. In accordance with the revolution in military affairs and the trend of world armies, it is obvious that brigades would be the main tactical outfits sooner or later. For better maneuverability and more effective operations, Bangladesh Army may study reorganizing its forces into brigade size modular force to function independently.

All maneuver Brigades may be made Leaner, Modular and Self-Operating (independent operation ability) basing on detailed study. Till the restructuring is done, modifications and rearrangements of Battlefield Operating System at brigade level may be done for making brigade operations more effective as outlined in subsequent paragraphs.

Change of Psyche. Commanders need to function with novelty. Through doctrinal leverages, training and exercises, commanders may be encouraged to be bold and innovative. Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC) may gather and study new ideas as they may come from any sources. Battalion commanders may be allowed to plan for deploying three companies and may be allowed by Brigade commanders to employ his fourth company or part thereof as reserve.

Information Warfare. Appropriate attention must be paid to the revolution in military affairs, especially on the information domain. Information War Training must be incorporated in our group/combined training system. Besides, Jamming/anti-jamming capability may be achieved at least up to infantry/Mechanized/ Armoured brigade level.

Brigade Defence: Brigade defence should be organized by deploying appropriate resources. Within present strength, infantry brigade defence pattern can be two battalions in the forward, one battalion in depth and a brigade reserve.

Besides, intelligence and reconnaissance group, deep operations group and anti-tank group may be organized for effective brigade operations. For that, battalions’ defence layout may be reviewed. Fires from arty and other services may be more coordinated and should be used more actively.

Use of Fire: Concept of ‘Attack by Fire’ or ‘Fire Strike’ may be ordained in operations at Brigade Level. Brigade attack need to be made more offensive and challenging; novelty needs to be a key in attack. Brigade must acquire adequate intelligence and situational awareness capability for attack.

More so, tactical teachings may be studied further so that Battalions may suitably position its fire base, either static or moving, from where it can apply fires, not necessarily the fire base is square to the objective only.

Provision for Deep Strike Force: Brigades may achieve deep operation capability by organizing the 9th or 12th platoon of each infantry battalion as commandos or Vipers.


Bangladesh Army has been advancing remarkably since the Liberation War. It has been a beacon both home and abroad. Performance of Bangladesh Army in operations, non-operations and Peacekeeping Operations is attributed to its professionalism. In the time of technological advancement, it needs to adjust itself to the challenges the Information Technology offers. Hence, professional discourse should be encouraged and attended appropriately.

Tactical innovation and refined methods of operation are the foundation of successful force preparedness for a force to maintain the cutting-edge. Study of the modern force-development trend and operational pattern of some armies suggests innovation and modification of tactics, techniques and procedure.

It’s always better to have a lighter but optimum force. Again innovative maneuver and doctrinal novelty coupled with professionalism can bring success in all situations. There are scopes to do that.

Brigades in Bangladesh Army can perform even better with little modification of tactics, techniques, procedures and maneuver. Organization of dedicated intelligence assets for brigades, provision of anti-tank group and deep operations group would be very effective in brigade operations. Attention to the proper application of fire and arrangement of reserve at brigade and battalion level is a necessity of time and need to be attended from appropriate command level.

Among the imperatives, there are certain things that can easily be applied while certain measures need further study. It is expected that the ideas formulated in this paper will be studied by appropriate mechanism and then a decision will be taken on those. This may go a long way in enhancing attention to the professional discourse in Bangladesh Army.


Following recommendations are made basing on the above discussions:

a. Formation Commanders may encourage the Battalion Commanders to organize defence keeping in mind the future challenges of the battle field incorporating innovative tactics and deployment pattern.

b. Military Operations / Training Directorate and ARTDOC may study the feasibility of organizing an effective intelligence functioning group at brigade level within the existing structure of Bangladesh Army with a view to efficiently employing the intelligence outfits of the infantry battalions.

c. ARTDOC may conduct research on the existing defensive layout of the infantry brigades and suggest the ways forward to employ anti-tank weapons more effectively, and engage the enemy fairly ahead of the main defence.

d. ARTDOC may study the feasibility of incorporating the concept of ‘Attack by Fire’ or ‘Fire Strike’ within Bangladesh Army’s doctrine in order to employ the fire assets as a manoeuvre element for both defensive and offensive operations.



1 Vietnam defeated in 1954 and USA in 1963-75.
2 Vietnam Guerrilla War was unique, though Mao Tse Tung was the first practioner.

3 Bangladesh Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence Affairs has directed Armed Forces Division in 2010.

4 General Mustafiz Bir Bikrom, former Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh Army expressed his vision in these words many a time for force structuring.

5 Infantry units’ strength has been reduced to 470 from 800.

6 Su Kai Hua, Professor (Senior Colonel), Armed Forces Development Studies Department at Nanjing Army Command College, China- Class presentation of Force construction for Joint Operations under Information Condition on July 08,2016.

7 Previous 5 layered command levels in Chinese Army are: Central Military Commission, Service Headquarters, Military Theatre, Army Corps and Division (and below).

8 New 3 layered command levels of PLA are; Central Military Commission, Joint Command, Army component.

9 Bangladesh is known as defenders paradise.

10 GSTP 0040, Infantry Brigade in Battle, Section 28 paragraph 1.

11 GSTP 0040, Infantry Brigade in Battle, Section 1 paragraph 2 and annex A

12 There are 09 intelligence persons in each infantry battalion totaling 27 (including three officers) and more 06 intelligence persons are available at the Brigade HQs.

13 Viper training has been organized in 24 Infantry division from 2012 and in 403 Battle Group in 2015. Through this commando type training, individual soldiers’ capacity has been built to very high level.

14 Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_warfare, accessed on 10 July 2016. 15 Infantry Brigade in Battle Section 28 paragraph 49.

16 Though this is within present doctrine, appropriate anti-tank group is not being organized at any level. Tank Hunting Parties are being employed, but the anti-tank group needs to be far stronger, well-planned and more coordinated, even be employed by the brigade.

17 Three battalions’ total 24 ATGW system and additional minimum 8 ATGW systems from the division resources are available in the brigade. Fifty percent of these would make 18 -20 ATGW system available for Anti-tank efforts.

18 Presently this is performed by Brigade signal companies.

19 Chinese army uses this as doctrinal teaching for launching ground troops.
20 In US Army attack by fire is the Fires employed to destroy the enemy from a distance, normally used when the mission does not dictate or support occupation of the objective.

21 Fire assault is the planned application of indirect fires on the enemy. This is done by Chinese Army during the attack operations by utilizing the ground and technical reconnaissance to bring fires on enemy.

22 Annihilation Fire is the fire organized on a particular area ahead of forward defended locality to bring coordinated fire. This is done by organizing and developing the area, deploying reconnaissance assets and concentrate guns on the enemy when he is in the area.
23 GSTP 0040, Infantry Brigade in Battle, Section 27 paragraph 1.

24 Providing special training to 9th platoon would be preferred to 12th platoon, as 4thcompanies are sometimes employed as brigade reserve or advance position.


1. GSTP 0038, Infantry Division in Battle.
2. GSTP 0040, Infantry Brigade in Battle.
3. GSTP 2621, Infantry Battalion in Battle.
4. Operation of War Volume I.
5. US Army Field Manual 100-5.
6. Chinese Army Manual on Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Defensive Operations.
7. Chinese Army Manual on Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Offensive Operations.

Source- Bangladesh Army Journal 60th Issue, 2016

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