Patrols are missions to gather information, conduct combat operations, or establish a presence in an area of operation. Successful execution of these tasks demands detailed preparation.
Essential and supporting tasks include:
- Establishing security or surveillance.
- Movement to an objective rally point (ORP).
- Setting up a command post (CCP).
- Providing reentry through friendly lines (RLP).
The leader physically reconnoiters routes whenever possible.
The PL is responsible for the tactical direction of the platoon. He sets the example and standards for his subordinates. He understands the commander’s intent two levels up (company and battalion).
He works to develop situational understanding through a process of four elements: he knows what is happening in terms of friendly, enemy, neutral, and terrain situations; he determines how to get from the current state to the end state, representing mission accomplishment; he assesses risk throughout.
A SL also trains and directs his team leaders, manages the squad’s administrative/maintenance needs (i.e., requests for rations, water, fuel, and ammunition), and communicates effectively with higher headquarters. He is ready to assume the company commander’s or executive officer’s duties if required.
During operations, the SL identifies and lays down indirect fire support objectives to ensure they accomplish the company and/or battalion commander’s intended battlefield purpose. This includes target refinement and determining how to employ indirect fires to eliminate any unexpected threat or impediment.
He synchronizes squad weapons systems to support the company maneuver. This typically involves coordinating with the company’s XO or first sergeant to request support for mortar, artillery, or aviation. He also manages the unit’s combat load before and during operations, ensuring the squads have enough resources to fight until resupply is possible.
Leaders use troop-leading procedures to prepare the platoon for combat. They analyze the factors of METT-T and use them to plan for the assault or defense of a position. They also determine how to deploy and use key weapons, position obstacles to tie in fires, rehearse and synchronize counterattacks. In addition, they plan and execute defensive security elements to prevent envelopment and flank attack by enemy armored vehicles or motorized units.
The squad is organized into two four-man fire teams, with each team having a leader and three automatic riflemen or grenadiers. This structure allows the commander to move the squad and place fires more effectively in the course of an operation. The teams maintain their integrity even when the commander moves, allowing them to provide suppressive fire and maneuver against the enemy.
During an assault, the team leader is responsible for planning the assault and coordinating with the squad leader. After the squad and commander reach their objective, they occupy the position, establish security with supplementary positions and obstacles, and secure the area. The commander keeps his eyes and ears open for the enemy and informs the platoon sergeant, squad leaders, and other key personnel of his actions.
On the defense, the squad must locate the enemy by knowing how he fights, analyzing terrain in light of this knowledge, and patrolling. Then, it must exploit the enemy’s weakness with fire and maneuver. The platoon must carefully coordinate and rehearse all counterattacks and reorganize rapidly to prevent follow-on enemy attacks.
The platoon is the heart of the infantry battalion. It provides fire support, identifies the enemy, and maneuvers to assault. It also provides logistical and administrative support. Its leader sets the example, defines the standards, and teaches the basics of the infantry mission.
During offensive operations, the platoon leader directs the initial positioning and maneuver of the rifle squads and weapons squad to gain tactical fire superiority. He decides where to attack or establishes a point of contact (POC) based on the commander’s intent and the situation. He may then assault the POC or maneuver the rest of his force to a position from which they can assault.
When attacking a fixed enemy position, the platoon leader establishes effective suppressive fires to prevent friendly losses, then moves to the enemy’s flank or rear. During limited visibility, the leader uses ground-burst illumination and a thermal TRP to mark enemies. He also disseminates situation reports to his subordinates.
During defensive operations, the leader focuses his efforts on preserving his unit’s fighting potential. He takes active and passive measures to protect the platoon from surprise, observation, detection, interference, espionage, or sabotage. He also takes care of his soldiers to promote morale through personal hygiene, physical conditioning, and rest plans. He uses formations and signals to control maneuver and maintains accountability of soldiers and equipment.
A noncombat operation is any mission other than an ambush. The platoon conducts a variety of these operations, including reconnaissance and presence patrols. It may also deploy a security element to provide additional protection and support. During these operations, the platoon is typically mobile and requires additional ammunition. The platoon leader plans for these additional resources by determining the amount of ammunition required for each operation, predicting enemy movement, and selecting covered and concealed locations where the platoon can prestock its supplies.
The leader must know the exact location of each prestock site, as it is a potential target for enemy attack. He physically reconnoiters to select these sites if possible and confirms their locations during reconnaissance or rehearsals. The leader must have a plan for removing and destroying these supplies if they are captured by the enemy.
In active air defense, the platoon avoids engagement of enemy aircraft unless necessary for the success of an offensive operation. When the platoon must engage enemy aircraft, it uses the “volume of fire” technique. This is the principle that the more bullets a unit puts into the sky, the better chance it has of hitting an enemy plane.
The platoon also provides initial care to wounded in action (WIA). This is conducted by the platoon medic at the casualty collection point (CCP). The CCP is normally set up in a covered and concealed location behind the platoon position. The platoon medic administers self-aid and buddy aid and performs enhanced first aid through the use of combat lifesavers.