Observation posts are positions from which soldiers watch and listen for enemy activity in a designated area. OPs provide security and intelligence for the platoon. OPs are normally designated to observe critical areas for the platoon or as the company commander directs.
1. Considerations. When planning an OP, the platoon leader must consider the following:
a. Location. Normally the platoon leader identifies the general location, and the squad leader selects the site for the OP. OPs must be sited to allow for maximum observation of the designated area. They should also be sited to take advantage of natural cover and concealment to provide protection for the soldiers manning it. OPs should be within the range of the platoon's direct-fire weapons when manned by a dismounted element (except in reverse-slope defense).
b. Observation. When he identifies the general location for the OP, the platoon leader must also indicate the area to be observed and any specific instructions covering what soldiers are to look for or be alert to. Mounted or dismounted OPs should require minimal repositioning for limited visibility conditions.
c. Cover and Concealment. Sometimes the requirement for fields of observation may make it difficult to achieve cover and concealment. Some techniques include:
- Avoiding obvious terrain such as hilltops.
- Avoiding easily identifiable terrain features such as water towers, church steeples, tallest buildings, lone buildings or trees, or isolated groves.
- Avoiding routes or positions that skyline soldiers and vehicles.
- Selecting a covered and concealed route to and from the OP .
d. Communications. Soldiers must be able to report what they see and hear. Wire is the primary means of communications between the OP and the platoon. If possible, the OP should have radio communications as a backup. A soldier may be added as a messenger if no other means of communication is available. The platoon SOP should specify how often OPs routinely check communications. When the platoon loses wire communications with the OP, the leader always details at least two soldiers to check and repair the line--one for security, one for repair. Soldiers checking for breaks in wire should always approach the OP with caution in case the enemy has captured and occupied it.
e. Manning. At least two soldiers must man each OP. A fire team may man the OP if it will remain in place or not be relieved for long periods. All soldiers prepare fighting positions at the OP for protection and concealment.
f. Additional Instructions. In addition to the intelligence and security reporting requirements, the squad leader also briefs the soldiers manning the OP on the challenge and password, the running password, when to engage and when not to engage the enemy, conditions when the OP can withdraw, when to expect relief, and contingency plans for loss of communications.
g. Equipment. Special equipment for the OP includes flags, binoculars, maps, a compass, night vision devices (goggles or an antiarmor thermal sight), trip flares and other alert devices, a field phone, paper and pencil, and a watch.
h. Thermal Sight Surveillance. Thermal sight surveillance can be used during unlimited and limited visibility conditions. Image intensifiers, thermal sights, and binoculars should be used together to maximize the OP's ability to observe the area of responsibility. BFVs can be positioned forward with OPs to take advantage of the BFVs' thermal sights. If positioned forward, the BFVs should be employed in pairs. To preserve batteries and fuel, the BFVs alternate operation as designated by the platoon leader or IAW SOP. If the BFVs are positioned forward with the OPs, the surveillance plan must include specific instructions on when and how they should be moved back to the main defensive position to avoid the friendly unit's position from being compromised.
2. Actions at the Observation Post. Once the squad leader has positioned and briefed the soldiers at the OP site, one soldier always observes and records while the remainder performs the actions listed below:
- Establish security. Install trip flares and noise-making devices.
- Prepare positions to include range cards. Record data for use in requesting and adjusting fire; for example, azimuths and ranges to TRPs.
- Check or report communications, as required.
- Rotate duty as the observer every 20 to 30 minutes. An observer's efficiency quickly decreases after that time.
- Brief relieving soldiers on any information or special instructions before departing the OP. The frequency of reliefs for OPs depends on the physical condition of the soldiers, weather conditions, morale, the number of soldiers available for relief, and the requirements of the next operation. As a guide, OPs should be relieved every two to four hours.
- Withdraw as directed or to avoid capture. Soldiers manning the OP advise the platoon leader that they are returning and request support (direct or indirect) if needed. Leaders must alert all soldiers in the platoon when reliefs move to or from the OP, and when it withdraws.
3. Squad-Sized Observation Post. A squad including its mounted element may be given an OP mission. This affords the OP more firepower, armor protection, and mobility. If manning the OP with the mounted element is not feasible, it can occupy hide positions and prepare to support the OP with fires. The vehicles can also be used to move soldiers between OPs and patrol between them.
4. Visual Terrain Search. A visual terrain search involves the two steps discussed below. OP personnel report all information quickly, accurately, and completely. They make sure that the report answers the questions WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. It is best to use the SALUTE format when reporting information.
a. Step 1. The observer makes an overall search of the entire area for obvious targets, unnatural colors, outlines, or movement. To do this quickly, he raises his eyes from just in front of his position to the greatest range he wants to observe. If the sector is wide, he observes it in sections. (Figure 2-121.)
Figure 2-121. Overall Search.
b. Step 2. He observes overlapping 50-meter wide strips, alternating from left to right to left until he has observed the entire area. (Figure 2-122.) When he sees a suspicious spot, he searches it well.
Figure 2-122. Overlapping 50-meter Search.
Table of Contents