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Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Is A Good Read

Basic Patrolling Tactics

Basic Patrolling Tactics

By: Richard Oathkeeper Waite

Even on the modern high-tech world, patrols are vital - to gather intelligence, dominate ground, and destroy enemy forces.

The versatility of having good men on the ground must not be underestimated. All patrols, no matter what size or composition, will have a specific aim - usually falling into one of the following three categories:

To obtain information about the enemy and the ground....

* To dominate ground
* To destroy or disrupt enemy forces

The size, operating procedures and equipment carried by the patrol will be specific to the task.

Types of Patrol

There are many different types of patrol, but they all fall into one of the following classifications:

* Fighting
* Escort
* Recon
* Standing

Fighting patrols

Fighting patrols are the largest type of patrol, normally 16 men (two sections plus HQ). They are usually heavily armed so as to allow them to carry out their task. The type of tasks tackled by fighting patrols are wide ranging, but some examples are:

To carry out raids and capture prisoners; to prevent the enemy gathering intelligence or gaining the initiative by aggressive patrolling and ambushing; harassing or disrupting enemy work parties; anti-personnel and anti-armour ambushing.

Standby or quick-reaction patrols are another form of patrol, used for following up on contacts among other tasks.

Escort patrols

These are used to take in specialists who are able to do a task or action which cannot be carried out by normal troops. Size and composition vary depending on the tactical situation. This is the rarest form of patrol.

Recon patrols

Recon patrols normally consist of four men who use stealth and good drills to gain information on the enemy without his knowledge. Good communications are essential to allow rapid passage of 'hot int'. Equipment should be kept to a minimum to allow silent movement. The reduced weight also reduces fatigue, and so prolongs alertness.

Weapons should be small, light and potent, allowing the patrol the maximum firepower available - M203s and Claymores provide a useful edge. (If available) Improvises things like snap lines, (fireworks, legal in NH) work as a warning.

Some of a recon patrol's tasks could be:

* Locating enemy positions
* Obtaining details on enemy positions, obstacles and minefields
* Gaining information on enemy equipment, habits and movement
* Collecting information on the ground for updating maps
* Locating areas contaminated by nuclear or chemical weapons

Standing patrols

Standing patrols are usually as small as possible, typically 2-8 men, with 4 being the norm. They are used to provide warning of enemy approach or movement. Their tasks therefore include:

* Covering dead ground around defended positions
* Covering minefields and obstacles not covered by main positions
* Establishing long-term surveillance OPs

Standing patrols operate with stealth to avoid detection, but they must be armed well enough to give them a chance if compromised and forced into a firefight or a 'hot extraction'. Often LAWs or LSWs are the only extras available. Ideally, though, weapons such as M203 40mm grenade launchers and M18A1 Claymore mines should be carried. These increase small unit firepower substantially, and are good 'force multipliers'.

Due to their positions, standing patrols are ideal for controlling artillery and mortar fire. Good communications are obviously essential.


Whichever type of patrol you are engaged in, there are a number of points to bear in mind for your own security and that of the patrol:

* Good personal discipline - maintain spacing and vigilance, observe arcs.
* Stick to drills - don't cut corners.
* Avoid leaving sign - anything that reveals your presence.
* Avoid telegraphing your presence - move with stealth.
* Don't use tracks - they are prone to ambush.
* Don't halt or move on topographical features - if they're easy to use, the enemy may use them too.
* Don't form routines - vary routes and techniques.
* Don't switch off - it could be the last thing you ever do.

Four-man patrols

Four-man patrols carrying out covert observation and reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines are the most demanding of all patrol tasks. Usually separated from quick or direct support, they rely on stealthy drills and skills of the highest order. Their strength lies in remaining covert - avoiding compromise by the use of well thought-out techniques. These patrols are normally associated with special forces. The duties within such a patrol could be as follows:

Lead scout

Normally armed with M203 or shotgun for aggressive reaction to 'contact front', he is the second most experienced patrol member, but must be rotated with the rear man so as to rest. Lead scout is a physically and mentally demanding position, especially in close country or jungle.
Lead scout's duties:

* To select the safest and easiest route along a line of travel
* Maintaining frequent visual checks with patrol commander
* Preparation of minor demolitions and booby traps as ordered
* Servicing of patrol demolition equipment
* Detecting enemy mines and booby traps on route

Patrol commander

The patrol commander is the most experienced member of the patrol, having done time in each patrol skill/appointment. He will, however, consult patrol members on operational matters, having a 'Chinese parliament', but his decision is final. Armed with rifle such as M16A2 or CAR15.
Patrol commander's duties:

* Conducting all tasks as ordered from above
* Welfare and admin of patrol
* Secondary signaller
* Navigator and pacer
* Thorough knowledge of all SOPs and drills


The signaller is usually the newest patrol member - he gets the heaviest kit to carry! He will be familiar with all the comms used, and is the 'lifeline' to higher formations at bases etc. He must destroy all used codes etc. He carries a rifle, and possibly extra grenades to destroy signals kit if close to capture.

Signaller's duties:

* Operation, servicing and distribution of all patrol signals equipment
* Maintaining communications with higher formations
* Ensuring correct encoding and decoding of all messages, in conjunction with patrol commander
* Have full knowledge of report formats and procedures
* Security of all codes and crypto
* All patrol members must know location of codes for quick retrieval in emergency (ie signaller dead)
* Check pacer


The medic is expected to be able to sustain a trauma injury for at least 24 hours, as well as the day-to-day tasks of dispensing routine treatment such as plaudrine tablets to prevent malaria in the jungle, etc.
Medic's duties:

* Health of patrol
* Servicing of patrol medical pack
* Secondary lead scout
* Check navigator
* Carries GPMG or M249 if applicable

General duties

As well as the specific duties and equipment outlined above, patrol members are responsible for other items of patrol equipment such as Passive Night Vision Goggles, TACBE radios, etc.
The members are also expected to possess skills over and above the norm. For example, the signaller may be able to transmit and receive morse code at speeds of 12-18 words per minute, and the medic should be familiar with minor field surgery and dentistry techniques. Patrol members may also have knowledge of languages suitable for the theatre in which they are deployed - Spanish might be useful, for instance.

More Patrolling Fundamentals

The patrol order will be a briefing that includes all of the details and contingencies. It will provide the instructions that everyone needs to do their job. It will begin with the boarding of the helicopters/trucks/aircraft/submarine and end with the debriefing. You must include every conceivable contingency and allow time for training and rehearsals.

What do you do if you are discovered on the LZ upon insertion? If you will break your team into two elements for some reason, what are you going to do if one of the elements is discovered/captured/killed/ or for some reason doesn't return at the prearranged time?

If you are walking along and are ambushed what are you going to do? Break the patrol down into phases and spend a lot of time discussing each phase with your people. Identify all areas of concern and plan for them. You should rehearse everything as best you can. If you can locate an area to rehearse in that has similar terrain, practice moving into your ORP (Objective Rally Point)/Patrol Base at night. Make sure each person knows what sector he will be responsible for and can set up in the dark without talking. Rather than give a lengthy narrative on all of this, why don't we discuss some specific techniques and then go over the phases of a patrol and discuss how these techniques are integrated into the mission.

Much of these texts concern small clandestine patrols. Small clandestine patrols avoid contact with the enemy. They do not have the firepower to engage, and frequently operate beyond the range of rapid reinforcement. A large, powerful, and heavily armed combat patrol on a mission to seek out and destroy the enemy doesn't give a darn whether they make noise or not. They want the enemy to try and mess with them. They know that if the enemy does, they are going to kick some ass.

Vietnam was a war, not a movie. I don't doubt that with constant rotation of personnel, and a lot of young lieutenants, that some of the silly things you see in Vietnam-era War movies actually took place. Point is not a job for some green kid because he's more expendable. Point is the most important job in the patrol. I suppose if your patrol is undisciplined, noisy, high on drugs, listening to portable radios, and stumbling along through the jungle loaded down with comic books and all kinds of other crap there is [b]VERY GOOD CHANCE[/b] you are going to get ambushed. In the movies these patrols put cherries on point because they know they are going to get hit. This is the stupidest, most screwed up, irresponsible wad of worms I can think of. If you think you are doing anyone any good by running a unit in this manner you should be court martialled and tried for treason. You go on patrol for a lot of reasons, but you don't do it to kill off your own people. Your job is to give the enemy the best opportunity that you can to die for HIS country. It's not the other way around.

Other things you see in movies that would get you slapped for trying on a patrol:

* If the uniform include helmet, wearing it with the chinstrap unhooked and dangling. Cigarettes, LSA, Bug Juice, playing cards, or anything else stuck into the band.
* Decorating the camouflage cover of your helmet with peace signs, slogans, or anything else.
* Rolling your sleeves up for any reason.
* Wearing camouflage paint in some silly "war paint" design.
* Carrying your weapon on your shoulder.
* Sauntering along like you are on a nature hike.
* Not wearing camouflage at all times.
* Stumbling, falling, tripping, making noise of any kind.
* Dropping anything on the ground.

It should be noted that if I found you in possession of unauthorized items mentioned above (cigarettes, playing cards, and comic books) the punishment would be most severe. This is because the only way you could have gotten them would have been to sneak back and get them after the APL inspected you and your gear. If the APL let you bring any of the items he would probably be relieved immediately and charged with dereliction of duty.

Phase of Patrol (Modified for our sample warning order)

* Planning & Preparation
* Insertion
* Movement to the Objective
* Reconnaissance
* Setup our 'hides' and shoot people
* Movement to the LZ
* Extraction
* Debriefing

Fundamental Concepts


When moving at night you will be very close to each other. 'Ranger Eyes' are sewn onto the back of your cap. These are two small strips of luminescent tape. In very dark places (like in a triple canopy jungle) you may have to hold onto the man in front of you. The worst sin a man can commit (along with coughing, sneezing, and stumbling) is to break contact with the man in front of him. DON'T DO THIS. People who are wont to break contact have no place on a patrol. Movement formation should be such that the PL can control all of the patrol elements. Remember that you must be able to control teams in a variety of emergency situations. If you are strung out to far, your patrol can be cut in half by an ambush. If you are too close to each other, one mortar or artillery round can kill you all. You should organize your little patrol into a point element, headquarters, and rear security. (This is only for our small sniping mission) Patrols are usually organized according to the mission. While moving, people are organized into 'maneuver elements' and each has a team leader. In battle, the patrol leader will maneuver these teams against the enemy.

Point Element

While moving your patrol should have a point element. A point element is composed of a Point man and a slack man. Their mission is to provide security, NOT to navigate. The point team should not stray too far ahead. The PL must be able to control their direction and see them at all times. The point team must be very alert for booby traps, ambushes, and enemy patrols, positions, etc. The point man walks in front and the slack man moves behind him about 20 meters depending on terrain and vegetation. The slack man must watch the point man in his peripheral vision. When the point-man looks to the right, the slack man 'takes up the slack' by looking to the left. They must work together to provide constant 270 degree surveillance and check back to the patrol to get guidance on direction. If the point team does not keep an eye on the patrol, and the patrol stops for any reason, they will break contact. The point team is the patrols primary defense against ambush. They must be able to spot an ambush before the patrol gets within the kill zone. They will communicate by hand and arm signals. At night, or in dense vegetation, or rocky terrain, the point team will close up to the patrol. Tired men have a habit of looking at the ground in front of them. It is difficult to concentrate for long periods of time in a high-pressure situation like point. The point team should not be in place for longer than one hour. 30 minutes is a better time period. That way your point team will always be alert. If your patrol is not large enough to rotate the point, or you have other reasons, make sure that your point team is a good one.

Headquarters Element

Your HQ element will be the Patrol Leader (PL), APL, and RTO (Radio Telephone Operator). If you were taking a medic, the medic would be part of the HQ element. For movement purposes the APL will be at the rear of the patrol. He will watch for litter, broken branches, tracks, and pull rear security. In a small patrol you may want to alternate the position of RTO so that each man can have a respite from point. It really depends on how well each person can operate the radio. Assuming everyone can operate the radio with a high degree of competence it is OK to do this, if not you may have to use a dedicated point team. You will have to make the decision, it is important to have a competent radio operator at all times. It is also important to have an alert point team at all times. Remember this, combat success is measured by the degree your unit can move, shoot, and communicate. Without communication, both within your patrol, and with field artillery and air support, you are dead in combat. A patrol leader must be able to maneuver his men, talk to HQ, fire support, and display leadership, all under a hail of bullets and other weapons. A good RTO must be able to encode and transmit messages fast. Once you are in contact with the enemy, the enemy knows where you are; it is acceptable to talk in the clear. This means it is no longer necessary to encrypt messages when time is of the essence. If you are in danger of being overrun you cannot waste time encoding. The "gun bunnies" love this stuff. When they hear you under fire and the urgency in your voice, they really earn their pay. They will load and fire like their lives depend on it. Every man in your patrol must be able to call for fire, quickly, and accurately. Part of your patrol order should cover fire missions.

Sniping Element

If you and the APL are snipers then you are also the sniping element. You will not be sniping during the movement phase, so it is acceptable to perform other jobs during this phase of the patrol. It is no different from any other special purpose team, demolitions, snatch, POW search and handling, river crossing, all must perform security and be ready to fire and maneuver in contact with the enemy.

All weapons must be kept on safe. Everyone will keep his finger on the selector switch. Since you will be behind enemy lines, and outnumbered by virtually any enemy unit in the area, you must not have an accidental discharge. You must hide and or run from anyone we meet if at all possible. The moment anyone fires an M16 or .308 you are compromised. This danger can be minimized somewhat by using sound suppressors. Would it make sense for everyone except snipers to carry enemy weapons? Could we get resupply if necessary? What are the chances of being re-supplied instead of extracted? Is everyone trained and competent with enemy weapons? Are sound suppressors available for the weapon you want to carry? Sound suppressors are essential pieces of equipment for all weapons.

Familiarity is one thing and competence is another. How you will perform with the equipment when suddenly ambushed, pinned down, or in a serious firefight is quite another. Dime store novels have commandos carrying all sorts of exotic weapons.

I'm saying that you are better off carrying the standard weapons everyone regularly carries. If everyone is competent with foreign weapons you may consider it. Remember that you don't want to fire your weapons, and resupply will be difficult if you are carrying non-standard items. The fact that the area is crawling with the enemy cannot be overlooked. The odds of a shoot-out at some point are likely and you want to survive it first, and then escape. If you can survive the fight with enemy weapons and you are sure of it, then your odds of escape are somewhat enhanced. Everyone within earshot will have heard their own weapons being fired, they will know their comrades are shooting at something, but won't know what.

This uncertainty can work in your favor. If the troops guarding the rear area are not seasoned combat soldiers, i.e., MPs, or other green troops, they will be more likely to wonder what the ruckus is about and wait for someone to tell them what to do. They will know that certain weapons sounds don't sound like theirs, even if they don't immediately recognize the source. If they don't hear strange weapons, they may think someone is qualifying or practicing! Notice I'm using a lot of 'less likely', 'apt to', 'odds are" 's. You must consider these things and make your decisions, there are no guarantees. What will happen may be something else entirely.

Weapons always follow your eyes. As you scan an area to your flank, your weapon's muzzle follows. It should always be pointed wherever you are looking.

Each man in the patrol has a sector to watch as you move. Stagger this so that you alternate from right to left. One man looks right, the man behind him looks left, and so on all the way back through the patrol.

All of your men should be able to qualify right & left handed with their weapons.

The basic indivisible unit is a 2-man buddy system. You should never leave a man alone for any reason. You will not be forgiven for a tragedy befalling someone under your command when it could have been avoided.

You should not use radios unless absolutely necessary. The enemy can determine where you are transmitting from and they will fire upon your location. You should work out a system of squelch breaks to communicate. When you separate for recon purposes, each team should have a small, low-power radio.



a. a detailed map study should be made; the route mentioned and terrain features selected for orientation;

b. the use of difficult terrain must be considered in route planning. Impassable terrain is very rare;

c. an "offset" in the route should be planned when applicable. An offset is a planned magnetic deviation to the right or left of the straight line to an objective. It should be used to verify the location right or left of the objective. Each mil offset will move a person one meter to the right or left for each 1000 meters traveled;

d. when the patrol is to infiltrate the enemy area, an alternate rendezvous must be selected;

e. taking weapons requiring different types of ammunition must be avoided as much as possible;

f. all weapons must be cleaned, checked, and test fired before departure. The weapon must not be cleaned after test firing. Individual weapon cleaning equipment should be carried on all patrols;

g. gloves should be carried to protect the hands;

h. at least two flashlights and two each of such critical items as binoculars, wire cutters and fuse crimpers must be carried;

i. Ponchos can be used to make litters, construct rafts, conceal lights, and as shelters. Also each man should carry two canteens on long patrols;

j. every man should carry an extra pair of socks;

k. a length of rope can be used for binding prisoners, climbing or descending obstacles and crossing streams;

l. friction tape can be used to secure rifle swivels, slings, and other items which might rattle. It should be used also to tie back loose clothing;

m. camouflage the back of the neck, behind the ears, and back of the hand;

n. a sharp knife should be carried;

o. security must be provided by assigning every man an area of responsibility;

p. at least two pacers should be detailed and the average of their individual counts should be used;

q. maps must be folded before departing so they can be more easily handled when checking. Maps must not be marked;

r. compasses should be preset before departing. More than one should be preset for each setting required;

s. a list of questions to be used at friendly positions with which the patrol will coordinate should be prepared;

t. leaders should be taken on reconnaissance;

u. all signals to be used should be simple, prearranged and rehearsed;

v. time for the patrol members to obtain their night vision must be planned (45 minutes);

w. available visual aids should be used in issuing the patrol commander's order. The use of a blanket, board, blackboard, or a sketch on the ground is helpful;

x. the patrol should be inspected carefully before rehearsals and before departure. Men should be questioned to check their knowledge and understanding of the actions planned;

aa. all human habitation should be avoided;

bb. plans to utilize ridge lines for movement in mountainous terrain should be made whenever possible. The skyline should be avoided;

cc. a garrote can be used for killing a sentry or capturing a prisoner. An insulated wire should be used if the prisoner is to be captured;

dd. luminous tape, worn on the back of the collar, greatly aids in control and movement on dark nights. The collar should be turned down if close to enemy;

ee. using the password forward of friendly positions should be avoided;

ff. radio communications should be checked before departing;

gg. a weapons sight should be carried;

ii. binoculars increase visibility at night;

jj. the desire for personal comforts should not be allowed to endanger the patrol and the accomplishment of the mission; and

kk. it is too late to consider planning and preparation when the patrol is in no man's land.


a. on small patrols, the count should be sent up automatically after each halt or passage of a danger area. In large patrols, a chain of command should be used to account for men;

b. navigation should be checked frequently. The patrol commander is responsible;

c. on long patrols, the point and compass men should be changed occasionally;

d. weapons are always carried at a ready position. The patrol must be able to return fire instantly;

e. enemy wire should be cut only when necessary. A reconnaissance should be made first;

f. take advantage of any noises such as wind, vehicles, planes, battle sounds and even sound caused by insects;

g. there should be no movement on roads and trails unless absolutely necessary;

h. movement can be aided in daylight, especially in dense terrain, by using night compass settings;

i. do not move across the enemy's front;

j. over short distances such as the width of a road, the compass can be used for signalling at night. a piece of luminous tape can also be used;

k. crossing roads in enemy territory is a matter of common sense. Each situation may dictate a different method. Established procedure will not be violated if a proper reconnaissance is conducted before crossing an obstacle. Adequate security should be established and movement should be silent and quick to avoid. detection. A main point of consideration in any road crossing is control of the patrol. Crosses should be tried at a curve. Some of the accepted methods for crossing roads are:

(1) patrol can form a skirmish line and move quickly and quietly across the road,
(2) the entire patrol can form a file, following the footsteps of the men in front in order to minimize footprints, and
(3) men cross the road a few at a time until patrol is across.
l. when necessary to leave a wounded man to be picked up on the return trip, another man should be left with him. Walking wounded can return on their own to friendly areas. When the enemy is near, the wounded should be removed from the immediate area before applying first aid;

m. enemy positions or obstacles should be by-passed by offsetting;

n. the patrol's location should be known at all times. This is particularly important when there is a change of direction or the patrol is transported by air or water. A relatively slight error can cause a missed objective;

o. security must not be jeopardized by letting ear flaps and hoods interfere with the hearing ability of the patrol;

p. talking should be kept to a minimum. Arm and hand signals should be used to the maximum;

q. when enemy positions are being reconnoitered, a covering force must be kept within supporting distance of the reconnaissance element;

r. trash must never be thrown on the ground while on patrol. It should be buried and camouflaged to prevent detection by the enemy;

s. when friendly agents such as partisans are contacted, the entire patrol must not be taken to make contact with them. One man should make the contact and he should be covered;

t. a unique and disposable patrol password should be used forward of friendly positions;

u. at halts and during movement, odd numbered men observe to the left, and even numbered men to the right;

v. when men have difficulty staying awake on security and at halts, the number of halts should be minimized, and the men should assume a kneeling rather than prone position;

w. men should be allowed to sleep on long patrols when possible, but proper security should be maintained;

x. to aid in navigation stars should be used but it should be remembered that they move. The patrol's location should be confirmed on a compass;

aa. smoking must not be permitted;

bb. the method of finding the North Star must be known and also the watch and sun method of finding North; and

cc. during halts the communicator should position himself to the left of the patrol commander in order that the handset can be held in the patrol commander's left hand.

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