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Chapter 5

Onward Movement

Overwhelming combat power is achieved when all combat elements are violently brought to bear quickly, giving the enemy no opportunity to respond with coordinated or effective opposition.

FM 100-5, Operations

Onward movement is the process of moving units and accompanying materiels from reception facilities and staging areas to the TAA or other theater destinations; moving arriving non-unit personnel to gaining commands and moving sustainment materiel from reception facilities to distribution sites.


  5-1. Personnel and equipment reassembled as combat-ready units must be onward moved to TAAs based on the JFC's priorities. Onward movement is a joint/multinational effort using capabilities and organizational structures of other Services, Allies, Host Nation and other governmental entities. It is an iterative activity in which units advance from one LOC node to another. Onward movement occurs when units move from ports to theater staging bases or forward to the TAAs. There are three primary factors affecting onward movement:
  • Movement Control.
  • Transportation Infrastructure.
  • Security and Enemy Interdiction.


Inadequate control of movement, whether into or within the theater, results in waste, reduced logistic efficiency and consequently, a loss of potential combat power

Joint Pub 4-0

  5-2. Movement control is defined as planning, routing, scheduling, and control of personnel (units) and cargo over lines of communication, while maintaining in-transit visibility and force tracking. This is not a passive activity. Successful movement control requires continual analysis of requirements, capabilities, shortfalls, alternatives, and enhancements. Bottlenecks within the theater must be identified and possible interruptions to the flow minimized. One of the biggest challenges of movement control is rapidly adjusting to changes in battlefield conditions and the commander's priorities. The challenge of a theater movements program is to merge the JFC's concept of operations and priorities in a movements plan and execute them. This challenge can be met by employing an adequate number of movement control resources to anticipate and improvise. Efficient movement control enables the commander to redirect forces and rapidly overcome disruptions in the LOC. Movement control is discussed in detail in Appendix I.
  5-3. The total transportation infrastructure-modes, routes, control factors, host nation assistance, and specialized handling requirements-must be coordinated to maximize speed of movement. Capabilities of the transportation network must be balanced against movement requirements, so that modes and routes are neither saturated nor underused.
  5-4. In most cases, other Services and allied forces will use the same networks as Army units. Invariably, there will be areas of congestion, some of which cannot (or will not) be overcome. Planners should expect simultaneous demands on limited infrastructure, difficulties in communications, and differences in transportation capabilities.
  5-5. During onward movement, mode selection (rail, HET, barge, and so forth) is an operational issue, as it determines whether the commander of the unit in transit maintains control or whether control is lost and further staging required. Ideally, rail HET should transport tracked vehicles and wheeled vehicles should convoy.
  5-6. Operation Joint Endeavor illustrates problems arising from reliance on a single mode for onward movement.

Operation Joint Endeavor

At the time of execution, the rail deployment plan was based on an unvalidated deployment rate (20 trains per day). At the planned rate of movement, the division could deploy the bridge opening package, open the ground lines of communications, accomplish the transfer of authority, and begin enforcement of the Zone of Separation by D+30. As the deployment began, it rapidly became apparent that the rail LOC would only throughput about half of the planned deployment rate. As a result, ad-hoc force tailoring decisions had to be made to compensate for the reduced rail lift capacity.

Initial Impressions Report
Operation Joint Endeavor


  5-7. Establishment of CSC and TTP along MSRs and other support centers at temporary airfields, rail sites and waterway drop off points, further aids onward movement. These allow units and line haul drivers to rest, eat, perform vehicle maintenance, and contact unit/movement control personnel to receive updates in operational priorities and diversions.
  5-8. Loading unit containers and other sustainment cargo on theater trailers for movement into corps and division areas is an efficient method of onward movement. There is, however, a twofold challenge: have MHE forward to download containers and getting the trailers back into the transportation system.
  5-9. The onward movement phase can provide the enemy with numerous opportunities to inflict serious losses and delay the build-up of combat power by exploiting vulnerability of units in transit from the TSB to the TAA. Planners should assume that interdiction of lines of communication will form an integral part of enemy strategy.
  5-10. Enemy interdiction of onward movement, with an asymmetrical threat or with weapons of mass destruction, presents special challenges to the commander. To minimize disruption, commanders should plan using multiple LOCs. Alternative routing and mode substitution must be integrated into operational plans; air, sea, and inland waterway LOCs may supplement ground LOCs.
  5-11. Security of all LOCs should be established at a minimum cost to committed combat units, through exploitation of geography, host nation and allied civil and military security forces, uncommitted combat units, as well as assets of other Services. It may be necessary to conduct a major operation to secure the LOCs over which onward movement is conducted, to guarantee incremental build of combat power.
  5-12. Due to proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles among potential US adversaries, it may be necessary to establish air defense sites around critical choke points, such as bridges, tunnels, ferries, and rail yards. Because these missiles may be armed with weapons of mass destruction, they represent a potential source of massive casualties. Moreover, nuclear and chemical warheads have potential to disrupt or interdict a LOC for extended periods. Mobile, en route air defenses may also be required in cases where the enemy has a significant force of attack helicopters, or in the event that air superiority is contested.
  5-13. Enemy special operations forces represent yet another threat to onward movement. The ability of small forces exploiting surprise along extended lines of communication cannot be underestimated. Convoy escort may be required whenever the enemy has a credible special operations capability, especially if the units must travel on transporters (or by rail), rather than in a tactical mode. This may, in turn, require the commitment of other combat units, thereby delaying the build-up of combat power at the TAAs. Tradeoff analyses must be conducted to determine the appropriate size of the security force, given the potential for long-term disruption of LOCs.

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, an Israeli commando team of 12 men and a jeep-mounted recoilless rifle (RCL) were inserted at 2,400 hours along the Baghdad-Damascus Highway about 100 km north of Damascus, near a bridge crossing a steep ravine. The bridge was rigged for demolition, ambush positions were laid out covering the bridge approaches, with hasty minefields covering the ambush positions. At dawn, an Iraqi tank brigade, moving on transporters, began crossing the bridge. After several vehicles had crossed, the bridge was destroyed, and the exits from the bridge approaches interdicted by the RCL, thus isolating the convoy on the road. The immobilized vehicles were then destroyed by aircraft on-call, and by commandos using satchel charges. In this manner, approximately 50 Iraqi tanks were destroyed, and the road remained closed for several days (during a critical period in the war), due to fear of additional ambushes.

1973 War Lessons Learned

  5-14. Korea provides an excellent example of the onward movement challenge (see Figure 5-1). It is approximately 180 miles from the major fixed port facility at Pusan to TAAs around Seoul.
  5-15. The primary MSR from Pusan to Seoul features 176 bridges and 11 tunnels, many of which cannot be bypassed. During an attack, North Korean forces will attempt to interdict many of these choke points, in order to delay or disrupt the flow of reinforcements northward from Pusan. Ensuring uninterrupted flow of forces requires a multi-modal approach to onward movement. Army watercraft, for example, could augment the surface transportation capability in Korea, maximizing use of small ports, while concurrently reducing the demand for road space on the primary MSR.
  5-16. Security measures such as minesweeping and clearing (tasks requiring cooperation with US and allied naval forces) may be needed before smaller ports can open.


  5-17. Enhancing speed and efficiency of onward movement requires development of three capabilities:
  • Robust communications sufficient to allow ITV and communications with units in transit.
  • Joint/Multinational procedures to ensure unity of effort and uninterrupted flow.
  • Movement control to allow the most effective routes and modes.

Figure 5-1. Onward Movement Challenges


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