BASIC PATROLLING – The Essential Information Applied to NPT Requirements

Long Post - So take it in sections...

Originally posted on the old blog, pre-nuke, sometime in ’18.

The following provides the basic academic information necessary to learn the art and science of patrolling.  It does NOT, however, take the place of training under the guidance of a skilled instructor.  So, if you don't know what to do, or you only have watched youtube videos, get yourself registered for a patrolling course with someone you’ve checked out.  No matter where you are, there are good, knowledgeable men out there ready to train you properly.  Yes, it will cost you some money.  You get what you pay for.....just sayin'.  Here’s the thing with timing, though:  You’ve got about 2 nanoseconds left to get some basic skills if you don’t have any.  All the folks I know who’ve been ringing the bell for years and years on learning it while it’s easy are probably going to ‘pop smoke’ once the really sportiness begins.  And then it’ll be too late to get some good oversight in your quest for skills.  Trust me, OJT in these skills really sucks.

During a WRoL or SHTF situation, keeping your area secure will, by necessity, involve patrolling.  You need to know how to do it, and do it well.  If you just set in your home, waiting for the ‘zombies’ to come, they will, and as you are static (for the uninitiated, this means, you’re not out and about), they will have the initiative.  They will be able to attack at their leisure, take you, your women, children, and supplies, and then burn your hose to the ground, taking from the ashes what they will.

So, if you choose not to let that happen, read on.

Let me first credit the various quotes, statements and facts that I’ll use in this repetition of a many times written about subject to the many US Army, Air Force and USMC training manuals which provide the lion’s share of source documentation, my personal experience, cross training in the field with various US Army, Marine, and Air Force units over the span of an active duty career that provides the “fill in” information from which I constructed this piece.  

Additionally, more recent articles by soldiers, airmen and marines have flavored it with a touch of “modernization” to tried and true methodology.  Lastly, H. John Poole, author of “The Last Hundred Yards” and “The Tiger’s Way”, among others, has lent his perspective of Maneuver Warfare (MW) to the mix.  In my opinion, and I've read MANY authors on this subject, Poole is one of the best out there.  The reader should note that no matter the terminology or source, five basic principles of successful warfare have never really changed from time immemorial and never have been more essential to the execution of a successful patrol:  Speed, Surprise, Deception, Violence of Action, and Decisive Leadership.  These principles, when used to govern every aspect of a patrol’s preparation, execution, and follow up activity, go a long, long way in determining the probability of its success for the men on the patrol.  That out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the subject,

The first thing we need to do for this discourse is define the term, “Patrol”. What is a patrol?  The textbook definition answers the question well:  “A patrol is a detachment sent out by a larger unit to perform an assigned mission of reconnaissance, combat, or a combination of both.  A patrol may be as small as a buddy team (two people) or as large as a company (150 or more members)”.

Size notwithstanding, a patrol, like any other organization, not only has a purpose but also has an organizational structure.   Somebody has to be in charge.  It’s decidedly not a committee.  Additionally, unlike many other organizations, each member of a patrol must know his place in the hierarchy for mission continuation.  No matter the size of the patrol, the last man in the chain of command must know that if there are only two men left from the original patrol, the other guy is in charge and will make the command decision regarding continuing the mission.  Now, that may seem to be a facetious statement, but nevertheless it’s true.  Take a step back for a moment and think about the implications of trying to survive without organization.  Your chances go way, way down.  So, here’s the basic command structure of a patrol:

  • Patrol Leader (PL)
  • Assistant Patrol Leader (APL)
  • Assigned Support Team Leader  (STL)
  • Assigned Team Leaders by Seniority (FTL)
  • Rifleman by Seniority (RM)

You may only have a PL and you.  Or, if you’re the PL, you have you and the RM.  As you grow the patrol in size, the various teams, by necessity and purpose of the mission, will come into play.  Aside:  A buddy-team is an excellent starting point to learn how to conduct a patrol in today's environment.

The PL is really the key to a successful patrol, even if it entails only a couple hundred yard walk to check out a seemingly innocuous event.   He will be the one to set the standard of behavior and coordinate the actions of the patrol when contact occurs (the term, ‘coordinate’ is used rather than ‘control’ purposely, because a team or group trained in MW does not need more than general ‘control’ when contact occurs).  A good PL will also ensure his APL (which might be the only other patrol member) has the same information he does so that if the PL is taken out of action, the APL will “Charlie Mike” or continue the mission demonstrating the principle that “nobody is indispensable”.

To be an effective PL, the first thing you must understand (and this goes for the novice and serves as a reminder to the professional as well) even if you’re familiar with and can recite chapter and verse of FM 7-8 or 21-75 or the Ranger Handbook or whichever source you’d care to cite, is that apathy is ruthless and can seep into your operational habits if you’re not careful.  Once apathy takes hold, your probability of success and survival is reduced in direct proportion to the amount of apathy within your patrol or your own mind.  Just remember, a patrol is never “routine” nor should it be treated that way.  Every patrol, no matter how simple it may seem at first glance must be treated as a “movement to contact”.  To do otherwise is to invite disaster.  Therefore, the first concept that must be understood is that of the “Winning Mindset”.  The patrol leader must have this mindset to ensure the success of the mission and to minimize casualties.  Once this mindset is achieved, the patrol leader will believe in himself, his men, his available weapons, his unit, mission, and most of all, his will to win!

With a winning mindset in his possession, the PL now needs to get the following information from his unit so that he knows:

  • The Threat:  The PL planning the patrol must assume that any/all patrols will be opposed by enemies who may vary from local people with relatively primitive weapons when compared to the patrol to highly trained troops equipped with sophisticated weapons and support equipment.  The enemy of your patrol may have the following capabilities:
    • Detect any movement into their Area of Operations (AO).
    • Cover gaps in their manned defensive locations with Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Night Observation (including thermal imagery) (STANO) devices.
    • React quickly to discovered intrusions with stand off weapons, air, and armored forces.
    • Locate, by detection devices, your patrol moving within his AO
    • Disrupt patrol communications through radio jamming.  Don’t plan on having comm. with your base unit.
  • The Situation:  PL’s must analyze currently known enemy capabilities that will jeopardize the mission success probability and choose, then effectively employ patrolling techniques that counter those techniques.
  • The Patrol Category:  There are two:  Reconnaissance and Combat.  It must further be noted that all patrols, no matter their purpose, are reconnaissance patrols.  All information gained must be brought back to the friendly area for further use.
    • Reconnaissance Patrol (Point, Area, or Zone):  Collect information or confirm or disprove the accuracy of information previously gained.
    • Combat Patrol (Ambush, Raid, or Security):  Provide security and harass, destroy, or capture enemy troops, equipment and installations.  The also collect and report information, whether related to their mission or not.  You may find that the most often used patrol in a WRoL/SHTF situation is the Security Patrol, in that this patrol is what might dissuade an enemy from attacking.
  • The Mission:  Patrols are only given one primary mission, but may have one or more secondary missions.  For example, a patrol may have a primary mission of destroying an enemy position, with a secondary mission of destroying or capturing a particular target of opportunity such as a high ranking officer or leader found in the position attacked.
    • The mission must be clearly stated, thoroughly understood by not only the PL, but all members of the patrol, and within the capabilities of the unit assigned.
    • It must include information about Who, What, When, Why, and Where.  A typical patrol mission might state:  “Your patrol (who) will conduct a reconnaissance (what) on or about 15 October but not later than 2400, 17 October (when) to confirm the presence of the Zombie Leader (why) at the heretofore abandoned train station located at grid 45128765 (where).
    • The PL prepares his instructions to his patrol by referring to a standard 5 paragraph operations order (OPORD).  The PL will prepare a Patrol Warning Order and a Patrol Order, both will be issued orally to his patrol members.  (More information on constructing a patrol order later…)

So, where does the PL get his mission from?  The command element (could be the elected leader of the Neighborhood Protection League) that is dispatching the patrol is responsible for formulating the mission, giving the necessary orders to the PL, debriefing the PL at the conclusion of the mission, control measures to be employed, and disseminating any information gained by the patrol.  Once the mission and orders are received, the PL is responsible for the following:

  • Detailed planning and preparation.
  • Conducting the patrol and accomplishing the mission.
  • Prompt and accurate reporting of mission results.

The patrol isn’t something that only the unit commander and PL deal with:  there are many levels of coordination that are required to get the patrol past initial concept to effective execution.  Command support from the unit staff (beans, bullets & intelligence) which includes control measures the local command element & PL can and want to use, such as:

  • Time of departure and return.
  • Phase lines
  • Check points
  • Routes
  • The communication plan
  • Objectives

Support and coordination for a patrol also includes the provision of a rehearsal area as well as any specialized personnel or equipment that the unit may have at its disposal that will enhance the performance of the patrol.  Now, in a WRoL/SHTF situation, your basement might be that area, but even so, rehearse and discuss the mission as much as possible to ensure success and a return alive from the mission.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) also come into play.  Standard uniform and items carried by each patrol member (which is why you should be organizing, equipping, stockpiling and training now) as well as conducting common patrolling tasks will also heavily impact a patrol’s preparation.

One of the most important preparatory items that should never be forgotten is to plan for the emergency assumption of command at any time during the patrol.  This is where the chain of command comes into play—from the squad leader down to the most junior member of the patrol.  Every patrol member knows who is in charge when the person in command is wounded in action/killed in action (WIA/KIA).  As coarse as it might be, that plan might be to abandon those categories if retrieving puts mission success in jeopardy.  When assuming command, the patrol member doing so must:

  • Establish Security—This depends on enemy activity and proximity to enemy weapons balanced against the location, disposition, and activity of the patrol as well as the terrain they are operating in.
  • Re-establish the Chain of Command—Take a count of who is still effective and make adjustments as necessary including redistributing the manning of key weapons (this also underscores the necessity of weapons cross training within the patrol).
  • Confirm the Patrol’s Location—Check the map and confirm your position with other patrol members, and send out a small reconnaissance patrol to verify your position against terrain features, contact with your unit, or any combination of these that provide the required information.
  • Get the PL’s Equipment—Take anything and everything that is useful from the previous PL to do the PL’s job.  These items could include any or all of the following:
    • Map
    • Notebook
    • Flashlight
    • Flares
    • Whistle
    • Mirror
  • Meet with Subordinate Leaders—If the situation makes it inadvisable to meet with every remaining patrol member, meet with key subordinates and tell them you have assumed command.  Then, orient them to any mission changes or modifications, and instruct them on maintaining security.  Issue a FRAG order based on Mission, Enemy, Terrain, weather, and Troops (METT) available.  If feasible, move the patrol to a more secure location, establish a patrol base, and then plan in more detail.  If you can move, your initial FRAG order will be for movement to this location. And lastly, allow time, once your FRAG is issued, for your subordinate leaders to issue instructions to their team members.

Finally, note that all preparation for the patrol is planned and supervised by three tiers of command:  Command, the PL, and support staff, each of which ensures their participation starts and stops at appropriate areas.  Micromanaging patrol preparation will set a bad precedent and will not help the patrol be successful—it will have the opposite affect.  Each patrol member, from the PL to the most junior member of the patrol has a distinct and important function to perform—it is wisdom to let them do their jobs with as little interference as possible.

In Part I, we covered the definition of what a patrol is, its missions, organization, responsibilities of the PL, APL, supporting teams, its members, command and control, and how the patrol is organized to provide the best chance of mission success no matter the changes in the field situation.   Our focus will now move to the tasks to be accomplished before the patrol can go on its way.

The key ingredients to the success of any patrol are thorough planning, reconnaissance, rehearsals, preparation, and effective leadership once deployed.  Every patrol member must direct his efforts toward accomplishing the mission.  Simply put:  Mission first, everything else is lower priority.  Once you’ve committed yourself as part of a patrol, everything you do must be focused on making that patrol a success.  The lives of everyone on the patrol will depend on how well everyone else on the patrol is doing their job.

So, to get started, once the PL is selected (and it shouldn’t be someone who’s never done it before if at all possible), the first thing the PL should do is issue the necessary instructions to subordinate leaders (or individual members if the patrol is small) so that the patrol will be better able accomplish its assignment.  A wise PL will match the complexity of the instructions given to the level of command the individual or team has in the patrol.  A good rule of thumb is this:  Individual riflemen only need to know their specific duties as they relate to the overall mission.  He does not need to know the why’s, wherefores, and other incidentals that the patrol leader may have knowledge of from command briefings to be successful.  Don’t weigh your patrol down with non-essential information.  Keep it simple, direct, and to the point while at the same time ensuring each member has enough information to be successful.  Pulling this off requires the kind of PL’s that can turn a mission execution, alerting, or warning order into action supporting the overall plan of the command.

Typically a patrol has little time to prepare for combat operations.  They must be ready to execute a new mission in a matter of minutes, or at most, a few hours.  Efficient use of available time to adequately prepare is vital!  PL’s can respond to new mission requirements and direct or redirect their patrols quickly if they have mastered the following troop leading procedures and follow them instinctively.  These steps are common, by the way, at all levels of command, up and down the chain.  The reader should note that while these steps are very important, they are not rigid.   The PL should follow them instinctively, modifying them as necessary to fit the current mission, situation, and available time.  (Remember, these steps may be condensed as time and mission dictate, do not fall into the trap of rigidity.)  These steps are:

  • Receive the mission – Unless you’re the HMFIC in your Neighborhood Protection Group, there’s going to be someone that suggests or tells you what needs to be done.  So, you’re going to have to receive that mission.  If the word, ‘mission’ doesn’t set well with you, ‘job’ will suffice.  In any case, someone’s going to give you something to do in either a written or oral form.  In the military, this comes as either an operations order (OPORD) or fragmentary order (FRAGO).  The patrol’s mission will usually be stated in terms that are specific as to who, what, when, where, and how.  For a Neighborhood Protection Team, the same format (WWWWH) can be used because it works.  Once the PL receives the order, he analyzes his mission to be absolutely sure he understands what is to be done and plans the use of available time.  Time is typically the most critical resource the PL has at his disposal, especially time measured in available daylight hours for preparation.  The PL must never waste time which should be used by subordinate leaders or patrol members for reconnaissance and planning or personal preparations of their own, if required.  A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 1/3 of the available time for planning and leave 2/3 for the subordinate leaders’ use.  So, if a PL is given 6 hours to prepare for a mission, he uses no more than 2 hours and provides at least 4 hours for his subordinates.  One of the best tools available to assist the PL in maximizing the use of available time is the “Backwards Planning Schedule”.  For those not familiar with backwards planning, it’s fairly simple, but extremely effective.  The PL makes a time schedule starting with execute time/day of the patrol’s debriefing and works backwards to the current time/day, allotting necessary time for each milestone on the patrol  Here’s an example:

TIME                                         TASK

0230                                      Debriefing

0200                                      Return to friendly area

2330 – 0200                        Movement enroute

2300 – 2330                        Accomplish mission – reorganize

2230 – 2300                        Leader’s Recon

2000 – 2230                        Movement Enroute

1945 – 2000                         Movement in friendly area

1930 – 1945                          Final Inspection

1845 – 1930                          Night Rehearsals

1800 – 1845                          Rest

1745 – 1800                          Inspection

1700 – 1745                          Meal

1515 – 1700                          Subordinate Leader planning

1400 – 1445                         Complete detailed planning

1315 – 1400                         Conduct Recon

1300 – 1315                         Issue Warning Order

1100 – 1300                        Receive Mission/Planning Time

  • Make a tentative plan – The PL needs to determine his concept of operations.  How are you going to accomplish your mission?  The complexity of the tentative plan is determined by the complexity of the mission and the amount of available time for planning.  When given a mission once deployed in the field, the PL will know as much about the known or potential enemy as he can under current circumstances, knows his overall mission and what it requires, and add all of this to the terrain his patrol will encounter within his mission AO.  From this knowledge, he develops his tentative plan and it becomes the basis for coordination, patrol movement, organization, and reconnaissance.
  • Issue the Warning Order – The Warning Order is ‘militarese’ for ‘Heads up, we’ve got a job to do’.  The PL should issue his Warning Order as early as possible – typically upon receipt his own Warning Order or immediately following the receipt of an order from those running the show.  How does he issue his Warning Order?  Usually it is orally given to the assembled men, and informs them of: 
      • The Situation
      • The Mission
      • General and Specific Instructions

The format follows this outline:

      • Situation
      • Mission
      • General Instructions
        • Chain of Command
        • Organization
        • Common uniform/clothing (if appropriate) and equipment
        • Weapons & ammo requirements with any special equipment needs
        • Time Schedule (Backward Planning Model)
        • Time, place, uniform and equipment for receiving the Patrol Order
        • Times and places of inspections and rehearsals
      • Specific Instructions 

·        Coordinate – This is continuous throughout the planning and preparation phases of the patrol.  Some items may be pre-coordinated for the PL through or by a higher command, such as the initial coordination passage out of and into friendly areas (such as other Neighborhood Protection Group AO’s.  Other items will most likely be left for the PL to coordinate; as much as possible should be accomplished at the location the PL receives his OPORD.  Typically this location is NPG command areas because communications may be better at these locations and there are key personnel present to help the PL.  Sometimes, if the patrol is large enough, to save time, the PL may assign various coordination tasks to his subordinate leaders who are required to report back to him the results of their activities.  Here’s a list of some of the routine tasks/items to be coordinated for a patrol (the reader should note that this is aimed at neighborhood protection groups, therefore, some items such as fire support are left out as they will most likely not apply in today’s world:

      • Intelligence  requirements that include:
        • Patrol ID
        • Changes in the known enemy situation
        • Weather, sunrise & sunset times
        • Special equipment requirements
        • Other NPG activity in the AO
        • Essential elements of information (EEI)
      • Operations requirements that include:
        • Changes in the friendly situation
        • Route selection, insertion/extraction points
        • Friendly unit link up procedure
        • Transportation availability & type
        • Re-supply availability & procedure
        • Signal plan (flares (if any), smoke, etc)
        • Departure & re-entry of friendly area (when/where/how)
        • Adjacent NPGs operating in the AO
        • Rehearsal areas
      • Forward unit coordination (if applicable – if not, these items may already be dealt with under Operations Requirements) units may include:
        • Patrol         ID & size
        • Times         & places of departure and return
        • General         AO
        • Terrain/Vegetation/Urban Structure/Street Grid information
        • Known or suspected enemy positions/obstacles
        • Possible enemy ambush sites
        • Latest enemy activity
        • Relevant details on friendly positions
        • Any support that can be furnished (sometimes you're going to be on your own - no cavalry will be coming....)
        • Availability of guides (Always an 'ace in the hole' if you can get one for the area you're going into...)
        • Communications
        • Available reaction force (the cavalry, if you will)
        • Call signs & operating frequencies
        • Challenge and password
        • Emergency signals/code words
      • Rehearsal Coordination tasks may include:
        • Patrol ID & mission
        • Available terrain similar to objective site
        • Availability of aggressors/role players (if time permits)
        • Time the area is available
        • Coordination with other patrols who may be using the area
      • Vehicular Movement Coordination tasks may include;
        • Patrol ID & supporting unit ID
        • Number and type of vehicles available (in NPG operations, be prepared for a LOT of walking!).  As an example, the ubiquitous 'mini-van' is ideally suited for transporting a small patrol to an insert point or picking up one from a pre-planned extraction point.
        • Embarkation point
        • Load/Departure time
        • Preparation of vehicles for movement (fortifying if applicable)
        • Driver responsibilities
        • Patrol responsibilities
        • Availability of vehicles for rehearsals (getting in and out of a vehicle should have a set plan and purpose, as well.)
        • Routes (primary/alternate)
        • Check points
        • Disembarkation points (primary/alternate)
        • Vehicle interval & speed  (remember, the more vehicles you have in train, the more attention you will gather from potential or real enemies looking for you - it would be better suited to have multiple vehicle transports take individual routes to the insertion points and have the patrol link up)
        • Rendezvous points & signals if separated
        • Communications & signals
        • Emergency procedures  (Remember 'Murphy'....) 
  • Conduct Reconnaissance – For the PL to make the best use of his available men and maximize the effects of his available weapons, the PL must study the terrain he will be operating in extensively!  During this reconnaissance, the PL will either confirm or modify his tentative plan.  Ideally, the PL should make an on-the-ground recon of the AO, but this is not usually feasible for most patrolling missions, and the PL will have to resort to aerial photography, topographical maps, other’s knowledge of the area, or if he’s really fortunate, an actual aerial reconnaissance so that he has the most information about his target area as possible.  In these days of technological advances, a NPG with its own drone capability would be golden! 
  • Complete the plan – Once the PL has issued his Warning Order, conducted his reconnaissance, and while his patrol members are preparing themselves and their equipment, the PL completes his plan.  Based on all the gathered information and coordination task results, he may or may not modify his plan.  His main focus will be on the actions at the objective and he will carefully assign his subordinate leaders specific tasks for all phases of the patrol, making sure that all actions fit together seamlessly and effectively. 
  • Issue the complete OPORD or Patrol Order – The order is issued in standard Patrol Order format.  As much as possible, the PL should use terrain models, sketches, and chalk/white boards to illustrate the plan and highlight important details such as: 
      • Routes
      • Any planned targets of opportunity (after accomplishment of the primary        mission)
      • Actions at the objective
      • Actions at danger areas

Sketches to show planned actions can also be drawn in the sand, dirt, or snow.  Remember, this doesn’t have to be fancy; it only must effectively communicate the information each patrol member needs to do the job successfully.

  • Inspect, Rehearse & Supervise – The importance of these tasks cannot be understated:  they reveal the patrol members’ physical and mental state of readiness.  A member who is not mentally or physically ready to go on the mission should not be taken as the results could be disastrous!  This is also where the patrol members must subordinate their personal preferences to the dictates of the mission and the need to do everything possible to increase the probability of success and returning alive from the mission.  The PL should not be flexible at all when it comes to ensuring the patrol members are properly prepared to go on the hike.  When inspecting your patrol members, check for the following:
      • Shine on equipment
      • Tie down & rattles
      • Miscellaneous  noise (canteen sloshing, magazine ‘clinking’, etc)
      • Special equipment required is present and functional (this could be a digital camera, for example)
      • Properly applied camouflage paint
      • All weapons are clean and serviceable (if appropriate, test fired)
      • Applicable amount of ammo is present and magazines are loaded
      • Randomly question patrol members on their knowledge of:
        • The patrol plan
        • What his job is and when he does it
        • What others are to do as far as their actions concern him
        • Challenge & passwords, codes, call signs, frequencies, report times and other relevant information

Make sure you have one final inspection just prior to departure to ensure any discrepancy found during the initial inspection has been corrected.  Don’t be surprised in the field!

When conducting your rehearsals, remember that they are designed to ensure proficiency in assigned tasks.  Rehearsals should be thought through, well directed, and realistic so that your patrol members become thoroughly familiar with their actions during the patrol.  If your patrol is going out at night, rehearse in both daylight and at night.  Rehearsing actions at the objective is the most essential task to perform during rehearsals!!  Always rehearse this portion of your patrol without fail!

A good way to rehearse is for the PL to talk the patrol through each phase of the patrol describing the actions of each element and of each man in the patrol and then have the teams and men perform those actions as a “dry run”.  Another method is the “talk-through/brief back”.  The PL talks the patrol through and then has the subordinate team leaders and members brief the PL on their responsibilities and tasks.  Lastly, if there is no time for rehearsal, the minimum requirement is for the PL to conduct a talk-through.  After enough practice, with a well trained group, a talk-through may be all your patrol needs, depending on the mission.  Just remember, shortcuts don’t cut it all the time, and apathy is a ruthless bitch and will kill you the first chance it gets!

The PL and subordinate leaders must supervise all facets of the operation whether during planning, rehearsing, or executing the mission.  Remember, effective supervision does not mean being a tyrant or micromanager!  Let your people do their job, step in to help when you need to, and always always always lead by example!

Remember to safeguard all your information to prevent mission compromise.  Mission compromise can occur no matter who you are working with.  NPG’s, by definition, are indigenous, so it should be a way of life, and it probably will be, later on after SHTF.  But remember, not everyone is a dependable as the next guy.  If the chance exists that you have an informer in your group, only give out information on a need to know basis, and only that information that is absolutely essential.  Always think Operations Security (OPSEC) and Communications Security (COMSEC)!  Consider conducting rehearsals as far away from the operational AO as possible—the hills, fields, trees and buildings may have eyes and ears!  In addition, ensure your patrol members know not to discuss the specifics with their families.  ‘Somebody talked’ is a poor consolation for a destroyed patrol.  A NPT’s ability to recruit is not going to provide a line of endless replacements.

Lastly, be flexible as you may also be involved in a patrol that is required by the situation to plan actions at the objective from information gained while moving to the objective area.  You may have to set up your Objective Rallying Point (ORP) and perform a reconnaissance of the objective and situation to determine the correct execution method for your mission.  If this occurs, and it is very feasible that it could, as much as possible, follow the troop leading procedures outlined at the beginning of this installment.  Organize as you need to, but attempt to keep your organizational changes to the original patrol organization to an absolute minimum to maximize the use of already established lines of command and communication within the patrol.

Foot Movement – Section A

In Part II, we reviewed in depth how a patrol prepares to execute its mission from start to finish.  We learned it takes a lot of team work as well as focused effort from the PL through basic riflemen assigned to the patrol.   This installment moves our focus forward to how the patrol moves while executing its mission from the time it departs friendly area until it reaches the objective area.  Foot Movement is the primary method with which a patrol doe its job—sometimes, on occasion, vehicles can be used to get the patrol to an insertion point.  But that’s about all vehicles are good for when it comes to patrolling in a WRoL/SHTF situation.  There are other methods used, namely air and water insertion or extractions, they are normally not available due to cost and complexity and therefore will not be covered in-depth if at all.  Depending on the region of the country you live in, you may have the assets available, and in so having, will need to determine if they can, in fact, be effective in helping your patrol succeed.

There are three primary principles a PL must adhere to when moving a patrol on foot to be successful in the mission.  They are:

  • Have People Who Can Navigate:  Without these, all the planning and preparation previously conducted is worthless if your patrol can’t find its objective, or worse yet, stumbles onto it because of poor navigation, or worst of all, becomes hopelessly lost (not to worry, however, your enemies will find and destroy it, eventually).  If at all possible, have two competent compass men and pace men per patrol.  If it’s a two man patrol, both should have a compass and protractor and know how to use them (DTG is conducting a Land Nav Course in March:  Remember the old adage, “Two is one and one is none”.  Additionally, consider using any aid to navigation that is currently available to cross reference your tried and true method of map and compass navigation such as GPS.  Remember, GPS units are great, but they are susceptible to blackouts, battery drain, and breakage; they are a superb back up, but should never be used as your primary navigation tool on a patrol.  To do so is to gamble your patrol’s survival chances in unfamiliar territory.
  • Avoid Detection:  The patrol must move by stealth and exploit all available cover and concealment of the terrain it is operating in.  Moving when visibility is reduced by darkness, rain, fog, haze, or any condition that helps the patrol move just a tad more silently and makes the patrol just a bit more difficult to detect.  Swampy, rough, or heavily vegetated terrain will help the PL hide the patrol from enemy observation.  If operating in an urban environment, exploit unlit or ‘blighted’ areas.  Exploit any known weaknesses in the enemy’s detection capabilities and plan your movements to coincide with any other operation that may be diverting his attention—however, for a NPG(s), this may not be something that is feasible, which makes the basic tenets of patrol movement even more important.  If you're caught in a WRoL/SHTF scenario, you will most likely end up the the people in the photo below.
  • Maintain Constant Security:  Even with well thought out plans for movement, the PL must ensure that both active and passive security measures are employed at all times.  Give men and sub-units responsibility for security en route, at danger areas, at clandestine patrol bases (which could end up being you and your RM sitting back to back while concealed), and most importantly, in the objective area.

Patrols are very vulnerable while moving on foot in enemy controlled areas, and to do so successfully, it must use effective movement techniques and employ security measures constantly to avoid unplanned enemy contact.   The following foot movement techniques or movement considerations must be dealt with by the PL on every patrol taken out.

  • Technique of Movement for Small Units:  Patrols use conventional movement techniques based upon the terrain and situation as well as the size of the patrol.
    • Formations:  The best all around ‘formation’ for a small patrol from 2 to 13 people is a file formation moving in and out of their objective area and most likely throughout the course of the patrol, especially if at night.  Terrain and situaiton dependendent, a PL may choose to use wedge formations and the techniques of traveling, traveling overwatch, or bounding overwatch.  Remember, though, the more       complex you make your formations, the greater the use of control methods become, the slower your patrol will move, and the great the chance you have of a patrol member becoming ‘lost’.  In  any case, no matter the formation, every member of the patrol must be aware of his interval between other patrol members and be highly sensitive of the area he has been assigned to observe.

Remember, the PL may place positions where he sees the need at any time.  Interval is determined by terrain and other tactical considerations.  Positions can be added, modified, or deleted from the patrol as needed.  (Various tasks within the patrol require members to where more than one ‘hat’ the smaller the patrol size.  So, with only 2 people, you’ve got a lot to do and will be multi-tasking your ass off.)  Areas of responsibility are assigned and the patrol members concentrate on that area.  In my own experience, it was found that the ‘old school’ method requiring patrol members to vary their weapons to cover an area of responsibility made those members less able to bring their weapons to bear when needed when they were carried on the weak side as opposed to carrying strong side and observing an area of responsibility.  It may look good in a photograph, but unless the PL has an even amount of right and left handed or ambidextrous patrol members, it’s not too practical.  Some will choose to continue the practice – old habits are hard to break.  (Bottom line is this:  Whatever a patrol member has as an area of responsibility, it’s up to him to cover it effectively.  The RM will see what’s out in his area better than you can, because you’re watching your own.  Remember that.)

    • Visual Contact:  Each patrol member must also keep their eyes constantly moving so that any signal given by a member of the patrol will be seen and reacted to instantaneously by the other patrol      members.  Hand and arm signals are essential for silent operations, and should be developed and practiced so that they are second nature by the patrol prior to executing its mission.  If teams are separated because of terrain necessity or due to traveling or bounding techniques, the subordinate leaders must maintain visual contact with opposite teams and enough distance between teams so that if any team becomes engaged, the rest of the patrol can maneuver or execute pre-planned actions on enemy contact.
    • Navigation Security:  Depending on the size of the patrol, the lead team secures the front and is assigned the job of navigation.  The lead team should be the one best qualified to navigate and provide forward security of the patrol while en route.  For long movements, the PL should certainly consider rotating the duty to provide rest and varied duty based upon current situation factors.
    • Varying Movement Techniques:  The PL should constantly vary the techniques used to move the patrol based upon the terrain, weather, and current situation as it impacts the mission.  No schedule will work—this is where the PL’s judgment and experience become essential.  Danger area crossing, open terrain, and rapidly changing terrain (sharp increase/decrease of  hills or open areas in short distances or missing/burned out buildings) are a few examples of where the PL may need to vary the technique used.
    • Leader placement:  The PL, APL, and other subordinate leaders move in their formations where they can best coordinate and control their teams and do their job.  They can shift their men around to meet the current situation.  For example, a PL may  want a pace man to walk next to him so that he can get an accurate distance report quickly.
    • Movement to Contact:  When moving to contact, the PL needs to keep any specialized weapons with him for quick employment (in the case of a NPG, it might be a rifle with a drum magazine for use as a base of fire).  However, during movement of the patrol to the objective area, the PL may place them differently.

Leaving and Re-Entring Friendly Areas:  Every patrol always has an actual start and end, so remember that when you’re initiating and completing the patrol’s execution, the patrol will be required to depart and re-enter friendly areas.  This is accomplished by use of an Initial Rally Point (IRP) and a Reentry Rally Point (RRP).  The IRP is where the patrol conducts its final staging and awaits a guide to lead them through friendly positions, perimeter barriers, or enemy area denial traps.  It is important to remember that the patrol should not move without the guide.  Once crossing from a friendly position or perimeter into unsecured areas, and after the APL counts each man coming out of friendly positions to ensure everyone is accounted for, the PL will stop the patrol for a short time to allow each man to adjust to the new sights, sounds, and smells of the battle area.  This is also a good time to let everyone’s night vision become as enhanced as possible.  This halt is conducted well beyond the friendly area’s Final Protective Line (FPL).

The Patrol’s reentry of friendly area or perimeter is conducted in the following manner:

  • Establish and occupy the Patrol’s RRP.
  • Send designated personnel to locate and guide the patrol to the Entry Point.
  • Establish  and maintain RRP and Entry Point security.
  • Meet the guide at the reentry point and establish patrol ID through sign/countersign.
  • APL  counts each man reentering friendly area to preclude infiltration.
  • Provide spot report to friendly area command element on information that affects his area.

Choosing the Right Path:  The PL’s selection of the patrol’s route is an absolutely essential for successful mission execution--without it, the patrol is doomed to failure, meaning it may be destroyed.  When selecting routes, choose those that will avoid contact if at all possible with enemy forces, local inhabitants, built up areas (unless that’s your neighborhood) and natural lines of drift.  Unless your mission is to attack all targets of opportunity, route selection should be such that the patrol reaches the objective without being detected.  (Remember, you’re not a conventional or Spec-Ops unit:  You’re a Neighborhood Protection Group, and as such, you don’t want to engage unless you’re absolutely sure you can win.)  More importantly, once the objective is met, the patrol should reach friendly lines without detection.  Stealth is the name of the game here.  (Coming home with OPFOR on your ass is not a fun activity.  They will try to cut you off and destroy your patrol, and, if they want maximum psychological impact, all within sight and/or sound of your secure area.)  The following principles should be employed by the PL:

  • Make a terrain analysis:
    • Walk  the ground if at all possible (but NOT in the vicinity of the objective)
    • Study topographical maps and aerial photographs as available
    • Analyze the terrain for:
      • Observation & fields of fire - Both for chance contact and enemy positions
      • Cover & Concealment – Essential to avoiding contact
      • Obstacles to the patrol – Note any obstacles that the patrol can use to block enemy attack or pursuit
      • Key terrain – Expect the enemy to have it occupied or covered by fire
      • Avenues of Approach – Avoid the likely ones.  Choose the ones that you wouldn’t think an enemy would use to penetrate your area.
  • Tactical Considerations:
    • Nature of the mission, time limitations, or the size and type of patrol will influence the selection of the patrol’s routes.
    • Avoid all known and suspected enemy locations on the way to the objective as these will most likely compromise the patrol’s mission.
    • Do not choose a route parallel to enemy positions as this will increase the chance the patrol will be discovered.
    • Avoid roads and trails as they are danger areas that are wonderful ambush magnets.
    • Avoid all built up areas regardless of the  sympathies of the local inhabitants.  (Unless, of course, your mission is within that built up area as in the case of urban residents performing a security patrol.)
    • During daylight, use routes concealed by heavy vegetation to protect the patrol from enemy observation.  During darkness, use a route which affords silent movement.
    • Natural obstacles such as swampy areas or cliffs can hinder the speed of a patrol’s movement, but are wonderful tools that can help the patrol gain surprise at the objective if the enemy concentrates his defense on more likely avenues of approach.  Be aware that while the enemy may not have concentrated forces near obstacles such as this, they will most likely have a presence to one degree or another, which may cause the patrol to engage or avoid possible sentries if close enough to the objective depending on the situation.
    • Choose routes that will most likely avoid enemy sensory equipment (STANO).  Choose to execute the patrol in weather that will help defeat any STANO equipment (heavy fog, no moon, heavy rain, heavy cloud cover, etc).
  • Navigational Considerations:  Prominent terrain features along the route selected should be identified and their locations memorized by the PL (and the patrol members once the route is finalized if time and the situation permits, but minimally, by all subordinate leaders).  These features can be used as checkpoints and help the PL divide the patrol route into legs that are manageable—neither too long nor short.    The terrain expected to be encountered by the patrol is also a major consideration when determining the length of a leg.  A leg only requires a terrain feature, not necessarily an azimuth change.
  • Navigational Techniques:  Two helpful techniques the PL can use when planning the patrol’s route to the objective are: 
    • The Offset Compass Method:  Also called, “Aiming Off” or “Deliberate Offset.”  This is a planned deviation to the right or left of a straight azimuth to the patrol’s destination.  By using this technique, the PL will know whether he is to the right or left of his  destination as the patrol moves.  It is important to note that for each degree the PL offsets the patrols route, for every 1000 meters (klick) traveled, the patrol will be 17 meters right or left of the objective's exact  coordinate.  Example:  The PL plans a 3       degree right offset and the patrol must travel 8 klicks (approximately 5 miles) to reach the objective.        When the patrol reaches its ORP, it will be 408 meters (3 degrees X 17 meters X 8 klicks) to the right of their objective—an acceptable distance for the establishment of an ORP.   If the distance from the ORP to the objective seems too long or too close to the PL, he can always plot a deviation on one of the legs to bring him in a bit closer or take him farther away from the objective, depending on his requirements.
    • The Box-Method:  Not to be confused with the land navigation technique of 'boxing' an obstruction on a route such as a small lake or pond).  Boxing in this case is when the PL uses natural or  manmade features such as roads or streams which form boundaries for a route.  By referring to these boundaries, any large deviation from the planned route can be recognized and corrected while moving.
  • Route Selection in Different Types of Terrain:  The following considerations listed apply to the terrain found in the Michigan area—if operating in other areas, consult your friendly field manuals relating to patrolling for further information.
  • Mountains:  When traversing mountainous terrain, weigh the added security of ridges and cliffs against the disadvantage of tiring the patrol through the arduous task of climbing and descending steep terrain while carrying heavy packs.  The major disadvantage of operating in mountainous terrain is that natural lines of drift such as ridges, draws, and streams (all characteristic of the mountains) are difficult to avoid and will most likely be covered by enemy observation or fire.  The mountains in Michigan are basically foothills and are on the extreme Western edge of the Upper Peninsula.  This is included only because the IronMountains are, in fact, in Michigan. 
  • Swamp:  Normally, a patrol must use dead reckoning in navigating a featureless swamp.  Plan the route to take advantage of “swamp islands” which can be used for clandestine patrol bases.  Cross rivers and streams at points below where branch streams join to avoid numerous crossings of the same stream.  Cross rivers and streams under the cover of darkness. 
  • Heavy Snow Areas:  As a rule in arctic like terrain, follow features which are easiest to walk.  Understand that walking in deep snow is extremely tiring, even with snow shoes, so the fitness of patrol members again comes into play.  Your patrol can fail by becoming a survival situation very, very easily.  That said, consider the following when selecting routes in heavy snow areas:
    • Open Terrain – When feasible, break trail along a tree line so shadows will help conceal the trail and the troops moving on it.  Rough ground will also provide usable shadows to conceal tracks and troops.  Remember, when you have a wood line, you most likely have traversable woods (even in farm lands that have “shelter belts” of trees surrounding fields) and if you have woods, you don’t have to be in open terrain!
    • Covered Terrain – Whenever possible, the PL should choose a route through wooded or covered terrain to provide protection against observation and mission compromise.  One thing to note, however, is that areas containing thickets and heavy windfall of trees are difficult and noisy to traverse and should be avoided.  (Also consider camouflage:  Most people will choose to wear white top covers and green/brown pants.  This is exactly reversed for effectiveness while moving in coniferous woods or mixed hardwood areas.  Have the overwhite pants on and brown/green coats.  Your people will blend in much better.)
    • Hilly Terrain – Valleys and frozen rivers most often provide the easiest route in snow covered areas.  If a valley cannot be used, the trail may be broken on the lee side (away from the wind) of a ridge line or hiss mass that dominates the valley.  Use gentle inclines (mostly what can expected to be encountered in Michigan) when climbing or descending.
    • Water Routes – Tree lined frozen lakes, rivers and creeks ease navigation and offer suitable routes in heavy snow covered areas.  For protection and concealment, the patrol should move close to the bank to permit quick movements into the wooded areas on shore.  Make sure to check the thickness of the ice before using any ice route.  The minimum thickness for one rifleman on skis or snowshoes is 2 inches; for a patrol in a single file on foot, it’s 4 inches.  Warm water springs, which can be encountered but are not prevalent in the Michigan area, may present unexpected hazards to patrol movement.
  • Alternate Route Selection:  As a rule, select one route to the objective, another different route to return to friendly areas to reduce the chance of ambush, and one alternate route which may be used either to or from the objective.  Doing this will add flexibility to meet a change in the tactical situation.  Use the alternate route when the patrol has had contact with the enemy on the primary route or when the PL knows or suspects that for some other reason the patrol has been detected.  Here are a few essentials for selecting alternate routes:
    • It must have the same tactical and navigational characteristics as the primary route.
    • It must be far enough away from the primary route so that movement on both routes cannot be detected from one position.
    • It must be coordinated the same way and time as the primary route.

Land Navigation:  The PL must be able to maintain his orientation on the ground to find his way to the objective and back again.  The PL is ultimately responsible for the successful navigation of the patrol while executing its mission.  He can use two methods:  The general azimuth method (combined with Terrain Association) and the dead reckoning method.

  • The General Azimuth Method:  To employ this method, the PL uses a means other than a straight line azimuth for maintaining the direction of movement.  The PL may pick terrain features such as a ridge, stream or the edge of a body of water to guide on during movement, associating the terrain seen with the terrain features  on the map.  However, the PL must keep the patrol oriented on the map and check his general direction frequently to ensure an unacceptable variance in the route has not been adopted.
    • Advantages – It speeds movement, avoids fatigue, and often simplifies navigation as the terrain feature followed is a constant checkpoint.
    • Disadvantages – Following known terrain features can be dangerous as doing so may put the patrol on a natural line of drift.  This is especially true between enemy and friendly lines or any place where the enemy has tight security.
  • The Dead Reckoning Method:  The PL should use this method to aid navigation when recognizable terrain feathers do not exist (as in a swampy or large flat areas such as farmland) or when they cannot be seen (as in heavy forest or heavy fog/rain/snow).  This method is used to move from one checkpoint to another or for an entire movement if checkpoints are not available.  This method consists of 3 parts:  an azimuth, a distance in meters, and a known starting point.  All that is required to employ this method is a working compass and a means of measuring distance such as a pace man who can use either home made or pre-manufactured pace count beads in determining distance traveled.  A map, however, is essential for confirming terrain.
    • The PL must make absolutely sure the starting point is pinpointed exactly.  A short reconnoiter may       be necessary to do this.
    • Distance traveled must be recorded.  Use of pace count beads and notes the distance traveled to the PL when requested.  Using two pace men and averaging their counts is also an efficient method of determining  distance traveled.
    • Control the direction traveled.   The lead  team (who has the compass man) is told the azimuth to follow and the direction of travel is validated by the compass man in the PL’s team.  The PL tightly controls the direction of travel to avoid even slight deviations in the azimuth that can lead to large problems over an extended distance (17 meters per degree per klick traveled).
    • Maximize the use of checkpoints as discussed earlier.
    • Compare the patrol’s exact position with the check point location when arriving  at each checkpoint.  Example:  A patrol using the dead reckoning method for 2 klicks on the first leg of its route intersects a trail.  The PL checks the direction of the trail and its contour against his map to determine if the patrol intersected it where they had planned. If not, he adjusts the route based on his known location.


Foot Movement – Section B

In Foot Movement – Section A, we reviewed in depth the primary principles of movement a PL must adhere to, techniques of movement, leaving and reentering friendly areas, route selection and land navigation considerations as related to patrolling.  In this installment, we’ll tackle “the rest of the story” on movement.  Buckle your seatbelts, get a good cup of coffee, and get ready for some fun!

The PL has many tasks and responsibilities once ordered to conduct a patrol.  As we’ve seen in preparation and rehearsing as well as in movement of the patrol to its objective.  While on the move, the PL must always be aware that the success of the patrol, meaning the mission, will depend in large part on how well the PL controls its actions.  He must control its direction, speed of movement, the starting, stopping, or shifting of fire.  He must also be able to order immediate actions to either engage or break contact with an enemy and have instantaneous response from the patrol members.  To do this, he establishes and employs control measures.  The following are some of the types available to the PL:

  • Signals – Audio, visual, and physical signals all can work to the advantage of the PL and the patrol      depending on the immediate tactical situation.  It is imperative that the PL and that patrol employ the appropriate signal at the appropriate time to avoid mission compromise and/or discovery by an enemy.
    • Audio:
      • Voice is a very good means of communication, but must always be kept to a whisper.  Remember, sound travels fast and long, especially at night and especially when you don’t want anyone to hear you.   So, if you use voice, keep it very low, and whisper right into the ear of your listener.  It has been said (and it's true) that on world-class patrols, no voice is used  whatsoever – just visual signals, so factor that into your training.
      • Radios are good for control, especially in a large patrol, but remember to maintain and enforce good radio discipline.  You can be “DF’d” (have your transmissions intercepted and then have the patrol found by Direction Finder technology and subsequently enemy troops) very easily if you       transmit anything more than the shortest possible times!  Additionally, the PL must count on the  RTOs (Radio/Telephone Operators) to use the radio only when absolutely necessary.  Radios are superb for conducting raid operations because the PL can signal support element teams to execute their tasks instantaneously.  Remember, radio discipline is vital, and once a fight is joined, the need for short, unobtrusive transmissions has not necessarily passed, especially if your enemy has a stand-off weapon capability in conjunction with DF equipment.  During a fight, the radio needs to be used as aggressively as necessary to assist the patrol in breaking contact or winning the fight, if that’s the mission.  Just know that you may have to ‘hit and git’.
      • Whistles are great secondary means of signaling such actions as withdrawal from an ambush or raid site or other objective.  Obviously, it’s not a good device to use when stealth or secrecy is required.  It can also be difficult to hear over the sound of weapons fire and therefore may be ineffective in shifting or halting fire.  The best whistles out there that we’ve found at DTG are the old school USGI green whistles.  They’re loud, they work all the time, and when you can find them, are relatively inexpensive.  As with other signals, you must work out what the various blasts mean and the patrol members must memorize them.  Be cognizant of the possibility that if your enemy can figure out what the signals mean, they can mimic them causing your patrol to take an action out of sequence or compromise their position.
    • Visual:
      • Pyrotechnic devices such as flares are good for signaling, but they attract everyone in the area’s attention and can be seen for a long way away helping an enemy to pinpoint your objective.   If he can do that, he can project your possible routes of withdrawal and make getting back to friendly areas very difficult.  Even so, when used, they should be of varying types and used with no pattern.
      • Light from weapon mounted or hand-held lights can also be used, but have some drawbacks as well.  If these are to be used, try to have small, LED type lights possessing colored lenses that may not be picked up as quickly as a white light signal.  Just as with whistle blasts, the signal meanings must be worked out in advance with the patrol members.
      • Arm and Hand signals should be used whenever possible instead of voice or radio, especially when close to any known or suspected enemy position.  In addition to standard hand and arm signals, the PL should encourage his men to devise any additional hand and arm signals that   make communication more clear providing they are easily learned and are universal among the patrol members.
      • Luminous tape on a patrol cap or bush hat can be used for more than just identification of swimmers and non-swimmers, as well as the luminous markings on a  compass can be used at night, over short distances, as signals.  Be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.
      • If available, and the NPG can afford them, infrared sending and receiving devices such as commercially available night vision scopes or monocular or even an infrared flashlight filter can be used to send and receive signals.  Take the same precautions with this kind of signal as you would with radio and pyrotechnics, because if you have an infrared receiver, you can bet an     enemy will.


      • Tug lines are a reliable and secure method of signaling.  By tying a string, cord, rope or wire        from one man to another, signals can be passed along quickly and quietly by pulling on the wire in a prearranged code.  Tug lines are difficult to install but in a static position, such as a semi-permanent patrol base or ambush site (24 to 36 hours), they can be very effective as a control measure.
      • Units of time, or specific times are a good secondary means of control.  By giving a precise time schedule for certain actions, the PL can control their execution.
      • Personal alertness of each patrol member and actively passing signals and instructions on to others is also a good control measure.  Subordinate leaders moving with and controlling their elements  are also good control measures.  Don't become so controlling, however, that you're telling your patrol members what individual movement techniques to use when executing their assigned mission tasks.  Leave that up to them; they're the ones dealing with what's in front of them.
  • Accounting for Troops – An important aspect of control is the accounting for troops when a patrol is moving over long distances toward or away from an objective.  The PL must not lose any of his men!       The PL should account for each man after crossing danger areas, after enemy contact, after crossing obstacles, after halts, and periodically while moving.  If a man becomes separated, and after determining that actions designed to pick up a separated patrol member haven’t worked, the PL must make the command decision to either delay or abort the mission to find the missing man, or continue the mission without the missing man.  Each choice has its pros and cons; this is why the PL should be experienced in both patrolling and      leadership.  The mission must always come first.
    • During Night Movement – Depending on the size of the patrol , the PL may find it necessary to order a halt and have his subordinate leaders make a report.
    • During Day Movement – Another method that may be used, depending on terrain, interval, and the tactical situation is 'counting off' by having the last man in formation move up to the next closest man, tap him on the shoulder, and whisper or signal with pre-arranged hand/arm signals, “one”.  The man tapped moves up and taps the next man and says/signals, “two”.  This continues until all men have been counted, and the report is given  to the PL.  The PL can also pre-arrange times or at various RP's to subordinate leaders on when to send up the count so the PL doesn’t have to ask for it.
  • Control of the Point Man      or Team – This is essential for frontal security.  If the point man/team is KIA without the knowledge of the PL, the patrol will be subjected to ambush and possibly subsequent annihilation.  The point team has two primary missions; both of which can be executed simultaneously to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the mission and the capabilities of the patrol:
    • Provide Frontal Security       – The Point Team Leader (if there is a full fire team functioning as point) can be responsible for navigation of the main patrol body.  If there is only 1 or 2 point men, the frontal security they can provide is limited due to their limited armament and manpower.  However,       they provide initial scouting and security of rally points when the PL  orders their establishment, danger area crossing points when encountered, and other missions as related to their function and the PL’s       instructions.
    • Provide Early Warning – This is executed by placing the point man/team far enough ahead of the patrol so that when the point man/team warns the patrol of danger or comes into contact with the enemy, the patrol has sufficient room to  maneuver during the engagement or to break contact.

Maintaining control of the point team is primarily accomplished through visual contact between the point man/team and the main patrol body.  Through hand and arm signals, the PL can pass instructions to the point man/team.  Additionally, the point man/team may have radios with which to receive their instructions.  It cannot be stressed enough that radio contact should only be used in emergencies due to potential enemy radio direction finding equipment that could easily pin point the patrol and compromise its mission.  Rally points, phase lines, and check points coupled with time requirements are also a method of controlling the point man/team if he/they are out of visual contact with the patrol.

Selection and Use of Rally Points (RP), as mentioned previously, is one method of controlling the patrol or elements within the patrol.   When defining exactly what a rally point consists of, one must understand that a RP is a place where the patrol can:

  • Reassemble and reorganize if dispersed
  • Temporarily halt to reorganize or prepare prior to action at the objective or prior to re-entry to friendly areas

Additionally, a RP should have the following characteristics:

  • Be easily recognizable
  • Have cover and concealment
  • Be defensible for the amount of  time the patrol must occupy it
  • Be located away from natural lines of drift

When planning a patrol, the PL makes a thorough map reconnaissance to pick areas containing potential RP’s.  The following types of RP’s are designated in the patrol order and then used in the execution of a patrol:

  • Initial Rally Point (IRP) -   The place within friendly areas the patrol will depart from to travel to the friendly area departure point.  Again, whether or not the  situation provides for the IRP’s use, all patrol members must know of its  location.
  • Objective Rally Point (ORP) – The place the patrol halts, reorganizes, and prepares to execute its      mission.
  • Rally Point Enroute RPE) – There may be one or more of these rally points designated in the patrol order depending on the length and distance of the patrol.  RPE’s may be used for reorganization and picking up patrol members who may become separated from the patrol, reorganization points when the patrol breaks contact with the enemy, such as after experiencing an ambush, and so on.
  • Reentry Rally Point (RRP) – This RP is just outside the friendly area and is where the patrol will wait until a guide is contacted to bring them inside either the perimeter or other friendly area boundaries.

The following principles should be employed with all rally points:

  • All patrol members should know where all RP’s are located
  • Tentative RP’s are designated if the patrol is dispersed and unable to assemble  at a previously designated RP
  • If the enemy precludes the use of the last designated RP, the patrol reverts to the previously designated RP as its alternate.
  • RP’s are usually designated by their outstanding terrain features that allow for easy identification by patrol members.
  • In any case where tentative RP’s or RPE’s have not been designated, the ORP will be used as the rally point for reassembly & reorganization if the patrol becomes dispersed.
  • If any separated patrol members reach a designated RPE after the time limit has elapsed for the use of the RPE, he should make all attempts to meet the patrol at the ORP moving in such a manner as not to compromise the mission, his position, or the patrol’s presence (this is why a good working knowleddge of map and compass are essential to a successful patrol for all members.)

The following techniques should be employed for designating and informing all patrol members of rally point designations (remember, these techniques can be modified as the PL sees the need):

  • If visibility permits, the PL designates rally points by hand and arm signals.  This is an optimum technique for small patrols.
  • If the patrol is spread out so that not all patrol members can see the PL’s hand/arm signals or other visibility factors make the use of the PL’s hand/arm signals impractical, the following technique may be used:      
    • The PL stops the patrol and recalls the point team leader and the APL to his location.
    • The PL informs the point team leader and the APL that he has designated the spot as a RPE location.
    • The APL stays at the position and informs the patrol members as they pass through his position that the location is now a RPE.
    • The point team leader returns to his team and informs them of the RPE designation.

Usually, RPE’s and known danger area RP’s are planned for and designated while moving.

Danger Areas – Types and Crossing Techniques:  There are four types of danger areas the patrol must be concerned with:

  • Linear – Characterized by roads, trails and small streams where the flanks of the patrol are exposed to      narrow fields of fire.  At night, these linear danger areas can be used by observing enemy as 'false horizons' that will help to silhouette crossing patrol members.
  • Small Open Areas – Characterized by size that would indicate an enemy could hit the patrol in one flank or from the front.
  • Large Open Areas – Characterized by size that would place the lead team of the patrol beyond the effective fire of the overwatch element while crossing or when the lead team arrives on the far side of the area.
  • Combined Series – Similar in character to a large open area, but can be made up of several small area or linear areas in sequence and proximity so that the patrol is never completely invulnerable while crossing.

Crossing a danger area, like all other patrol tasks, is executed by completing a series of sub tasks:

  • The PL designates near and far side RP’s if not already designated in the Patrol Order.
  • The PL directs reconnaissance and securing of the far side of the danger area.  Depending on enemy activity,      terrain, and the PL’s judgment, the PL may opt for a visual reconnaissance rather than sending men to the far side.
  • Remove evidence that the patrol has crossed the danger area (footprints).

The reader should note that there are many other tasks to crossing danger areas and they modifications to techniques are limited only by the ingenuity, skill and intelligence of the PL and his subordinate leaders.  It is useful to develop these 'plays' in your standard training, and incorporate them into the patrol rehearsal.

Additionally, actions at the objective will depend on the patrol’s mission, time available, fire support, adjacent unit activity, and other mission factors.  For those who are just learning, this series has been just the start of the journey to be taken in learning effective, successful patrol execution.  To the experienced, this series will have met the requirements for a light refresher.  To all:  The preceding parts of “Basic Patrolling” have all been presented from the “text book” perspective; the trick for you and your group will be to modify your current Attrition Warfare (top-down group lock-step blind obedience, supply chain, reinforcement, suppression fire dependent) mindset to one of Maneuver Warfare that once your people master the “basics” of tactics, encourages self-initiative and judgment and requires group critique of anything put into the rehearsal “play book”.  A couple of good references on this subject is, “The Tiger’s Way” and “The Last Hundred Yards” by H. J. Poole.




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