"It's no high-diddle-diddle, right-up-the-middle anymore. It's trap plays, bowl battles, bushwhacks and downslopes."

The speaker is not the local football coach. It is Lt. Col. Robert E. Wagner, the red beret-topped commanding officer of the U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment here. He is giving a lecture on "how to win when you're outnumbered," or, in other words, how to beat the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact if its forces ever come rolling across the East German and Czechoslovak borders into Western Europe.

The forces of the NATO alliance - including the 200,000-man U.S. 7th Army - are outnumbered in men by about 150,000, in tanks by about 2.5-to-1, in artillery by an even higher ratio, and in airplanes.

But Wagner believes that certain advantages accrue to the defender and that some of the numerical disadvantage can be made up by spirit, technology, ingenuity and training.

He calls himself "the battle-damage king of Bavaria," a reference to the frequency with which his tanks roll over the pleasant hills of southern Germany and along the eastern border on training exercises that cost extra money and sometimes make West German farmers rich when damage to their land is reimbursed.

As Wagner and other armor commanders in West Germany see it, the premium nowadays is on moving fast into areas where the ration of combat power is more favorable.

It means, Wagner says, operating on the flanks and at an enemy's rear, reinforcing natural terrain with obstacles that force attacking armies into certain patterns and catching Russian tanks, whose guns don't elevate very high, on the down side of hills.

The pact forces, they believe, while formidable, are at least somewhat more vulnerable on this side of the border, where things such as a lack of detailed maps and gasoline supplies, limited communications and perhaps less flexibility to maneuver in unanticipated situations could be important.

Nobody in Europe expects a war. But the Army must plan for one. The major element of its defense strategy today, as far as can be determined from the outside, is to produce as violent at the outset, using conventional weapons.

"The idea seems to be to fight like hell for two weeks, kill as many of them as we can, and then get over run," comments an artillery officer. "Nobody seems to have thought much beyond two weeks or what do we do if we are winning."

Those views, other offices say, are too cynical. Yet the two-week point seems crucial: IF the allies can hold that long in West Germany, then presumably negotiations would be under way. Reinforcements would come from the United States and other countries that eventually could turn the tide of battle. If the alliance looked like it would overrun after two weeks, then it is generally assumed nuclear weapons would be used.

With equipment currently on hand here, the West could not sustain a long war.

The key to everything, however, lies in the warning time of an impending attack. "Two days would be a bitch," says Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, 7th Corps deputy commander. "With 30 days, we're in great shape."

Though officially the Army must be prepared for only 48 hours of warning, few commanders believe it would be that short. Most think it would be closer to two to four weeks.

"I don't see how a highly mechanized force like the one we face can move without tipping us off," Patton says, "and an attack with no warning might be less than all-out."

Gen. George S. Blanchard, the top Army commander in Europe, points out, however, that he must also consider "authorization time." That is the time it would take Washington and other allied governments to authorize him to move troops toward the border after warning of impending attack.

"If I take the warning time that I believe I'll get . . . and I'm convinced the intelligence community can deliver . . . and assume authorization to move, then I'm confident we can get our covering forces and our main battle forces into position," he says.

Time is crucial for several reasons. It would allow the 495,000-man West German forces to mobilize much of an additional million-man reserve. It would allow one, two or three additional U.S.-based divisions to arrive here within a week to 10 days, pick up prepositioned equipment and move forward.

Most important, however, it would let the army that is already here get to the front.

The renewed U.S. Army focus on Europe has reacquainted the service with a 40-year-old problem. The U.S. Army, though it may be in better shape now than in previous years, is largely in the wrong place. Its bases are still where it stopped at the end of World War II. It is still positioned as an occupier with many units 100-200 miles from the eastern border.

The strongest U.S. corps, the seventh, is in southern Germany, opposite the Czechoslovak border, while the most likely Soviet route of attack is across the North German plains, into the Ruhr and toward the English Channel.

The United States has just placed a new 4,000-man armored brigade in northern Germany for the first time. But the chances of relocating much more of the 7th Army are slim. Real estate is too scarce and movement too expensive.

Furthermore, huge U.S. depots with stockpiled equipment for reinforcements are on the western side of the Rhine and Main rivers, which would have to be crossed.

Ammunition dumps also are sometimes 100 miles or so behind the lines. More ammunition is being moved forward and now and Blanchard says U.S. units are carrying live ammunition in their vehicles wherever local mayors will allow.

The new focus on Europe also has started a debate in the Army over whether it is better to bring over still more equipment to pre-position in Germany for additional troops to be flown over in a crisis. Some officers think this is a good idea, that the equipment can be protected and it will send another signal of resolve to the East.

Patton, however, says "I'd put my money on the intelligence side," meaning an investment in developing more warning time, "rather than a whole lot of forward deployment, though some restationing must take place."

The new emphasis on European defense has prompted the Army to dust off plans for evacuation of civilian dependents in a crisis. One result of an all-volunteer Army is that it is much more a married man's army. Almost 50 percent of the enlisted force today is married, in comparison to 25 percent years ago, according to personnel officers.

Roughly 175,000 military dependents and another 25,000 government civilian workers live in Europe, mostly in West Germany. In the last two months, there have been two exercises involving two communities. About 300 people were alerted, loaded on buses, taken to an airfield and put onto waiting C130 transports.

The idea is a real emergency would be to take advantage of Jets carrying U.S. troops to Europe and load them with dependents for the return flight. West Berlin and areas near the eastern border would be given top priority for evacuation, Blanchard says.

Whether the strategy of U.S. field commanders will work is of course impossible to tell. Much is based on thousands of antitank missiles being pumped in here. NATO estimates by the end of this year that 193,000 anti-tank missiles will be in Western arsenals.

The latest U.S. weapon is the Dragon, which is guided by a wire and rides a beam to the target that a soldier keeps riveted on the enemy tank. The Dragon, says 7th Corps commander Lt. Gen. David D. Ott, "is accurate, reliable and very lethal, but it has one significant problem: it's slow."

In other words, it takes a while to reach its target and during that time the position of the soldier who fired it and who is trying to keep the enemy in his sights is exposed. This also is a problem with older wire-guided TOW missiles.

But in the field, the Army is adjusting. Capt. Dave Gross says in his armored company he won't deploy Dragon or TOW with his tanks because of fear they will give them away. In Gross' company, the missiles will be fielded by foot soldiers farther away.

Is that approved tactics? he was asked. "At my level," said Gross, "you can do anything you want as long as you win."