Battalions consist of two or more company-sized units and a headquarters. Most battalions are organized by branch, arm, or service and, in addition to a typical compliment of three to five operational companies, contain a headquarters company that gives them the ability to perform some administrative and logistic services.

A battalion has either a headquarters and headquarters company [HHC] or a headquarters and headquarters detachment [HHD], based upon the size of the organization. If the headquarters element is not large enough to be considered a company it's called a detachment. This includes the battalion staff and the support structure for that battalion staff, such as a company (or detachment) commander and a first sergeant and a supply [section] and an armorer and those kinds of things. It is is a small unit, with an authorized staff of about 50 or 100 people. This is the group of soldiers that provide the command and control structure, the battalion headquarters for these units.

In many cases in the Guard and Reserve the Battalion staff doesn't have an habitual relationship with the subordinate teams. Building a relationships with the other units following mobilization requires learning personalities; strong points and weak points of units; the level of training in each of those units; the differences in SOPs [standing operating procedures]; differences in methods of operation. Each of those organizations does their normal weekend drills and they go to summer camp and the do their own training. But standards are different in each organization. Priorities are different so there are a wide variety of levels of performance. What is important in one unit may not be important in another. So there's a team-building process that has to go on so that everyone starts operating on the same set of priorities. That's part of the challenge with the Battalion headquarters, to establish what those priorities are and then get all the units operating in the same direction.

Combat arms battalions are designed to perform single tactical missions as part of a brigade's tactical operations. Battalions attack, defend, delay, or move to assume new missions. Field artillery battalions fire in support of any of these missions. Maneuver battalions can be reinforced with other combat and combat support companies to form task forces for special missions, to tailor the force to match the mission. Field artillery battalions can be reinforced with batteries of any kind to form artillery task forces.

Engineer, ADA, and signal battalions assigned to or supporting divisions normally operate throughout the division area of operations. Their commanders also perform additional duties as division special staff officers (for example, the military police battalion commander is also the Division Provost Marshall). Combat support and combat service support battalions vary widely in type and organization. They may be separate divisional or non-divisional battalions but, in any case, they normally perform functional services for a larger supported unit within that unit's area of operations.

All battalions, regardless of type, have at least two things in common: they are capable of at least limited, short-term self-defense and they are all generally commanded by Lieutenant Colonels. The maneuver battalions have similar organizational structures which vary only to fit their individual roles. The battalions are tactically self-sufficient and each battalion is of essentially one combat arm; e.g., infantry in the mechanized infantry battalions. The battalions are capable of cross-attachment of companies of different types to form battalion-level task forces for particular missions. As such, armor and mechanized battalions can cross-attach tank and mech companies. A similar capability exists at the company level. In such instances, battalions and companies need to tailor some CSS (mainly maintenance) pieces to go along with the cross attached company.

The number and type of maneuver battalions vary with the nature of the divisions. Normally, an armored division will have more tank battalions than mechanized infantry battalions, while a mechanized infantry division will have a greater proportion of mechanized infantry battalions. An infantry division consists predominantly of infantry battalions with some tank battalions and mechanized infantry battalions, as required. Any division, however, could have all three types of battalions if the mission and operational environment so required.

The Battalion is the lowest echelon at which firepower, maneuver, intelligence, and support are combined under a single commander. Battalions normally fight enemy forces they can see and engage--this defines an area of operations extending from less than 100 meters in forests, urban areas, or close terrain, out to about 5 to 6 kilometers from the battalion's direct and indirect fire weapon systems. During the offense, the battalion task force is expected to defeat a defending enemy company. During the defense, the battalion task force is expected to defend against and defeat a threat regiment. The battalion has no deep fight, but may be charged with the execution of the fight against follow-on enemy battalions. The battalion normally designates a company-size reserve as a counterattack force.

A tank or mechanized infantry battalion consists of pure companies under the command of a battalion headquarters.

The capability of the tank and mechanized infantry battalions is increased through task organization. Based on his estimate of the situation, the brigade commander task-organizes tank and mechanized infantry battalions by cross-attaching companies between these units. As a rule, cross-attachment is done at battalion, because battalion has the necessary command and control and support capabilities to employ combined arms formations. The brigade commander determines the mix of companies in a task force.

Light Infantry Battalion. This is the most austere conventional combat battalion; its organization differs most from that of the light armor battalion. This battalion has only three rifle companies and a headquarters company. The light infantry battalion is an austere combat unit whose primary strengths are its abilities to operate under conditions of limited visibility and in close combat. The primary weapon of the light infantry battalion is the M16. There are 65 M203 grenade launchers, 18 M60 machine guns, and 18 Dragons in the battalion. The Dragons are being replaced with the Javelin which is in its Full Rate Production stage. There are four TOWs, four 81-mm mortars, and six 60-mm mortars. The battalion has 27 HMMWVs and 15 motorcycles. There are no 2-1/2 ton or larger trucks in the battalion. There were 42 AN/PRC-77 radios. These have all been replaced by SINCGARS radios, which are the primary means of communication within the battalion. There are no redundant radios.

When attached, the light infantry battalion may come with a 105-mm howitzer battery from the infantry brigades direct support FA battalion. The differences among this battalion and air assault and airborne battalions are greatest in the organization of support and logistics. The battalion has no trucks larger than its 27 cargo high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs). There is no mess team in the battalion; Class I supply is prepared by brigade. There is only one mechanic in the entire battalion; repairs are conducted at brigade level. The battalion has only 18 long-range radios. The light infantry battalion has limited antiarmor capability: a HMMWV-mounted tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missile (TOW) platoon at battalion level and a Dragon (Javelin) section at company level.

Air Assault Battalion. The air assault battalion and the airborne battalion are similarly organized with three rifle companies, an antiarmor company, and a headquarters company. Tactical movement for both usually is a combination of air insertion and foot marches. A major difference, however, is in the number and types of wheeled vehicles in the air assault battalion. The battalion has six 5-ton cargo trucks and 45 HMMWVs. There is a mess section and a 17-person maintenance platoon. Communications are served by 29 long-range radios. Antiarmor capability of the line company is decentralized down to each rifle squad.

Airborne Battalion. Once inserted, the airborne battalion tactically performs much like a light infantry battalion; walking is a principal means of transportation. It does have 10 2-1/2-ton trucks and 36 cargo HMMWVs, and it can move nontactically by truck. It has a mess section and a 16-member maintenance platoon. The airborne battalion has 30 long-range radios. Its rifle squads also have antiarmor capability.

Field Artillery Direct Support Battalions in Light Divisions Primary weapons system is the M102, 105-mm towed howitzer. This is currently being replaced by the M119, 105-mm, British Light Gun

Field Artillery Direct Support Battalions in Heavy Divisions Primary weapons systems is the M109, 155-mm, self-propelled howitzer. The Paladin howitzer, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer is replacing the M109.

Field Artillery General Support Battalions in Light Divisions: Primary weapons system is the M198, 155-mm towed howitzer.

Field Artillery General Support Battalions in Heavy Divisions: Primary weapons system is the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Field Artillery Battalions of the Heavy Field Artillery Brigades (Corps Artillery): The Multiple Launch Rocket System; the M109, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer; and the Paladin, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer.

Field Artillery Battalions of the Light Field Artillery Brigades: Primary weapons systems are the M198, 155-mm towed howitzer and the Multiple Launch Rocket System.

The Attack Helicopter Battalion (ATKHB) is employed only as a battalion size force. Companies are not separately employed away from the battalion for C2 and logistical reasons. Mission is to destroy armor and mechanized targets with mobility, firepower and shock effect. The Battalion consists of a HHC, an aviation maintenance company, and three attack companies (6 AH-64).

The basic TOE unit of the engineer system is the battalion. Although engineer battalions normally have a fixed organization, they may also be tailored for specific requirements. Battalions are employed when it is desirable to assign a unit with the complete control of a task or an area. There are four basic types of engineer battalions, plus a variety of different types of separate companies:

  • Combat Engineer Battalion (Divisional)
  • Combat Engineer Battalion (Corps)
  • Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy)
  • Engineer Topographic Battalion
  • Separate Engineer Companies

Combat Engineer Battalion (Divisional) -- Under provisions of the Engineer Restructure Initiative (ERI), each heavy division has an Engineer Brigade with three organic divisional engineer battalions organized and equipped to provide combat engineer support. These battalions will support the ground maneuver brigades of armor and/or mechanized infantry and consist of four engineer companies. The other divisions will have only one organic engineer battalion composed of four or five engineer companies. Regardless of structure, these battalions perform the primary combat engineer missions in the division's sector and forward.

Combat Engineer Battalion (Corps) -- Corps combat engineer battalions are normally assigned to a corps' engineer brigade (i.e. V Corps in Europe contains the 130th Engineer Brigade consisting of three engineer battalions and a number of separate companies). Most corps combat engineer battalions in Europe have been converted into tracked units (i.e. squads are transported in armored personnel carriers). Somewhat larger than the divisional engineer battalions, the corps combat engineer battalions provide combat and sustainment engineering support in the corps and division sectors. They may reinforce divisional engineer battalions and execute infantry combat missions when required.

Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) -- The combat heavy engineer battalion is normally assigned to an engineer brigade within a corps or theater army. The combat heavy engineer battalion has equipment and personnel skilled in earthmoving and construction. The battalion primarily works in rear areas on sustainment engineering tasks. However, its earthmoving capabilities may be effectively used to provide combat support in forward areas when not under direct fire (i.e. tank ditches, etc.). Missions include the construction of roads, airfields, structures and utilities for the Army and Air Force.

Engineer Topographic Battalion -- Engineer topographic battalions are assigned to the senior engineer headquarters of a theater army. These units provide topographic engineer and terrain analysis support to all units. It does not have the capability to accomplish infantry combat missions.

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