Military Studies: Small Unit Organization and Tactics

Discussion in 'Arts and Sciences' started by Loz, May 15, 2018.

  1. Loz

    Loz LBer

    In this series I will be lecturing on small units primarily in accordance with United States Army doctrine. We will begin by defining several terms in order to lay the groundwork for the lecture, and then over the course of several days we will discuss simple small unit tactics. Let's begin.

    Small Unit Tactics: The application of Army Doctrine for the deployment of Platoon sized elements and below.

    Fire-team: 3-5 soldiers led by a Sergeant.

    Squad: 4-10 soldiers, typically consisting of two fire-teams led by a Staff Sergeant.

    Platoon: 16-42 soldiers, typically consisting of four squads. The Platoon is led by a Sergeant First Class and a Second Lieutenant.

    Platoon Sergeant: The Platoon Sergeant is the senior most non commissioned officer in the Platoon. It is his duty to advise the Platoon leader, lead the platoon in his absence, and maintain the welfare of the soldiers in the Platoon.

    Platoon Leader: The Platoon leader is the only officer in the platoon. He is responsible for everything the platoon does, and does not accomplish. This includes tactical employment, training, admin, management, and logistics.


    Travelling: Small Units will use the traveling movement technique when contact with the enemy is not expected, and speed is necessary. While traveling 10 meters will be left between individual soldiers, and 20 meters will be left between squads.

    Traveling Overwatch: Small units will use traveling overwatch when enemy contact is possible. While in traveling overwatch the lead squad stays between 50 and 100 meters in front of the rest of the platoon. Additionally the lead squad maintains 50 meters between teams, and 20 meters between soldiers. The remainder of the platoon uses the normal traveling technique. The purpose of this is so that the lead squad can detect and engage the enemy before the enemy observes the main unit. The distance between the lead squad and main element also allows the main element to maneuver and flank the enemy.

    Bounding Overwatch: Small Units will use bounding overwatch when contact is likely or when crossing a known danger area. The Platoon will execute either successive or alternating bounds. Soldiers will attempt to leave 20 meters between themselves. Distance between squads will be determined by terrain and available cover and concealment.

    Successive Bounding: One element moves to a position, and then the overwatching element moves to a position on line with the first element.
    Alternating Bounds: One element moves to a position, and then the overwatching element moves to a position in front of the first element.

    Platoon Formations:

    PLT LDR=Platoon Leader
    PLT SGT=Platoon Sergeant
    RTO=Radio Telephone Operator
    FO=Forward Artillery Observer
    WPNS SL=Weapons Squad Leader
    SL=Squad Leader
    TL=Team Leader
    AR=Automatic Rifleman
    MG Crew=Machine Gun Crew

    Platoon Column: One of the most common movement formations. In the Platoon column formation the Platoon Leader is situated behind the first squad and in front of the first Machine gun team. The Platoon Sergeant is situated behind the second squad and in front of the second machine gun team. In this way leadership and mass casualty producing weapons are distributed evenly throughout the formation. The individual squads are organized in wedges so that no two soldiers are on line. By doing this soldiers can shift fire to either side of the formation without risk of fratricide.

    Platoon Vee: This formation allows a platoon to deliver a heavy, and sustained volume of fire upon making contact with the enemy. With two flank squads, the trial squad is able to either maneuver or provide overwatch.

    Platoon Wedge: The Platoon wedge is the opposite of the Platoon Vee. The Platoon Wedge has two trail squads and a single lead element. This allows for ease of maneuver of the trail squads, and rapid transition into bounding overwatch.

    Platoon File: The Platoon File is used only in traveling when moving through difficult terrain, or when speed is necessary. Distance between soldiers is less than normal in order to allow the passing of messages up and down the file.

  2. Malphe

    Malphe Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Citizen

    Very interesting stuff, I appreciate that you've taken the time to include images too.
  3. Loz

    Loz LBer

    My pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you continue to follow the series!
  4. Loz

    Loz LBer

    In yesterday's lecture we covered general terms relating to small unit tactics, and how a platoon conducts movement in an operational environment. Today I would like to dive more in depth into the elements that make up the platoon, and how the platoon functions while stationary.

    As I began to discuss yesterday, we typical explain the composition of a platoon using the 42 soldier model. Four squads of ten soldiers, the Platoon Sergeant(SFC), and the Platoon Leader(2LT). While a platoon is rarely perfectly 42 soldiers this model is useful in explaining the function of each squad. Each squad of the Platoon has a specific function. In a typical line Infantry Platoon there is a squad designated for Assault, Support by fire, Security, and Weapons. 1st and 2nd squads tend to be assigned to Assault and Support. 3rd is usually the Security element, and the weapons squad possesses the Platoon's most casualty producing weapons. The placement of the weapons squad is also unique in the platoon. Rather than act as one unified squad during movement, the weapons squad machine gun crews are disbursed throughout the platoon as can be seen in our reference photo for the platoon column. This ensure that the platoon has sufficient firepower in all direction if ambushed while moving. The weapons squad leader is also the most senior of the squad leaders, and is typically third in command of the platoon.

    The Patrol Base:

    A patrol base is a place where a platoon halts for an extended period of time, although a patrol base should never be occupied for more than 24 hours, and no location should be used twice. A patrol base should be as hidden as is possible and thus the Platoon leader must take many things into consideration when planning his primary and alternate sites for the Patrol Base. Things to consider include: Is the patrol base on land that is of tactical value to the enemy, is the patrol base near a line of drift(a trail or road), is the patrol defensible, etc. As such this means that patrol bases tend to be in places such as swamps and brambles. The worse the terrain, the less likely the enemy is to find you.

    Occupation of the patrol base:

    The proper occupation of a patrol base is an incredibly complex process, so for our purposes I will be covering the general outline of steps involved. The occupation of the patrol base begins with the platoon leader calling for a security halt before even reaching the site. The Platoon leader will bring his security element and reconnoiter the site. If the site is usable the PL will leave a security element at the site and return with the rest of the soldiers to the halted platoon. Once the PL has returned, the platoon will begin movement to the Patrol Base. Once near enough the site the platoon will file, and move into the patrol base at a 90 degree angle in order to minimize traceable signature(see reference figure). From this point the PL and PSG will move to the front. The PL will begin leading in the squads in order into the patrol base while the PSG counts each soldier. The shape of a patrol base is a triangle, and the PL creates this triangle by leading the squads at the 6 o' clock apex and moving counter-clockwise. In order to ensure maximum security, the machine gun teams are placed on all three apexes of the triangle in the 6, 2, and 10 o'clock position.


    Patrol Base Operations:

    Once the Platoon Leader is confident the Platoon was not followed, and the Patrol base secure the platoon can begin priorities of work. The first priority of work is security. Squad leaders will endure that their soldiers have clear sectors of fire, and have dug hasty fighting positions roughly 18" deep. Following security come the other priorities of work, including: Comms maintenance, weapon maintenance, drill rehearsals, sleep, water, food etc. At no point however should the platoon lack security. All priories of work are done a rotating schedule in the patrol base to ensure that the platoon has the requisite security for the situation. At dawn and dusk the platoon will conduct stand to. All work will stop, and the base will assume 100% security. This practice dates back to the mid 1700s when Major Robert Rogers famously said " Don't sleep beyond dawn. Dawn is when the French and Indians attack." These times remain to this day extremely dangerous for platoon on patrol.

    Patrol base operations are extremely complex, however in order to make this lecture accessible I left out many of the finer points. If anyone would like to know more about the nuance, please feel free to ask questions below.
  5. El Fiji Grande

    El Fiji Grande LBer Citizen

    Thanks for taking the time to share this!
  6. Loz

    Loz LBer

    My pleasure :) I'll be continuing this at some point!