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Battle Command

Battle command is the process that leaders use to assimilate thousands of bits of information and then to visualize the battlefield, assess the situation, and direct military action required to achieve victory. Thinking and acting are simultaneous activities for leaders in battle.

The actions inherent in the command and control of combat elements on the modern battlefield are the biggest challenges faced by combat leaders. Command involves directing elements; control entails the steps taken to ensure that the directions are carried out. The greatest tactician in the world would be ineffective if he did not properly use the methods available to direct and control his combat elements. Command and control must be kept extremely simple to be effective.

The scout platoon leader leads his platoon and is assisted by the PSG. He uses a variety of techniques to plan operations, issue orders, employ the platoon, and communicate. At platoon level, effective use of command and control is a function of several critical factors: leadership, training, a sound and thoroughly understood standing operating procedure (SOP), and the tactically sound employment of control measures and communications equipment and techniques.

As noted, the scout platoon's primary functions are to gather information (reconnaissance) and perform limited security missions. Except when it is operating as a part of a larger force, the platoon is not organized and equipped to undertake operations that entail a significant offensive component, such as counterreconnaissance, armed reconnaissance, reconnaissance by fire, reconnaissance in force, or target acquisition. The unique information-gathering capabilities of the scout platoon at the task force level should be preserved by limiting direct contact with the enemy force to that necessary for self-defense.

Section 1 Command Relationships
Section 2 Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
Section 3 Troop-Leading Procedures
Section 4 Situational Awareness
Section 5 Navigation
Section 6 Communications



In an armor or mechanized infantry battalion, the scout platoon performs several critical tasks in support of the battalion commander's concept of the operation. The success or failure of the scout platoon often has a direct impact on the success or failure of the main force. As the eyes and ears of the battalion, the scout platoon leader must stay in communication with the battalion tactical operations center (TOC). This is necessary to keep the platoon informed of the battalion and brigade situation as well as the current enemy situation and to ensure information gained by the platoon is transmitted to the battalion in a timely manner.

The battalion commander must make his intent clear to the scout platoon leader. The commander must ensure that his initial operation order (OPORD) and any following fragmentary orders (FRAGO) focus the scout platoon on its mission by telling the platoon leader what is expected of the reconnaissance or security effort in each phase of the operation. The intent includes the commander's criteria for recovering the scouts. He must make it clear whether he intends for the scouts to conduct stay-behind operations after the enemy main body has passed their locations or to pass through friendly lines before the arrival of the enemy main body.

The commander also specifies priority intelligence requirements (PIR), covering the information for which he has an anticipated and stated priority in his task of planning and decision-making. Often stated in question form, PIR are the tactical and operational considerations that are the foundation for development of the battalion reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) plan.

In turn, the scout platoon leader needs to understand how he and his platoon fit into the R&S intelligence collection process. He works closely with the S2, who is a key player in the development of the R&S plan and the intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process. The S2's planning for R&S and IPB is further enhanced through an integrated staff effort to ensure that all R&S assets, including the scout platoon, receive adequate support to accomplish their missions. (NOTE: Refer to Section 2 of this chapter for a discussion of the IPB process, including the role of PIR.)

The battalion executive officer (XO) and S4, as well as the headquarters company commander and XO, must monitor the maintenance and logistical status of the scout platoon. To help sustain the platoon's operational capability, they should ensure that the scouts receive top priority for repair and resupply. They should specifically address medical evacuation and vehicle recovery. They must ensure that the battalion has a detailed and workable plan to support the platoon's requirements in Classes I, III, and V during the conduct of its mission.


The command relationship of the scout platoon in a cavalry troop is similar to that of other platoons in a company-size organization. The scout platoon responds to its platoon leader, who receives guidance from the troop commander rather than from a battalion staff.

The primary difference in cavalry troop operations is the role of the troop XO. Unlike the "fighting XO" in the tank company, the troop XO is a battlefield manager for the troop commander. He operates from an M577 command post; this vehicle gives him the communications capability and facilities to receive, collate, and pass to higher headquarters the routine reconnaissance information processed by the troop's scout platoons. In this system, most of the routine reports are sent to the troop XO rather than to the troop commander. The troop commander's role is to monitor the routine actions, receive high-priority information to transmit on command nets, and fight the troop once contact is gained.


IPB is a systematic, continuous process of analyzing the effects of the threat and the environment on the unit. It is a dynamic staff process, driven by the commander, that continually integrates new information into the unit's operational framework.


IPB identifies facts and clarifies assumptions about the enemy and the battlefield environment. The commander and his staff use the IPB process to analyze the enemy, weather, and terrain to determine and evaluate the enemy's capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action (COA). The resulting information serves the following purposes:

  • It facilitates staff planning and development of potential friendly COAs for the operation.
  • It provides the basis for directing and synchronizing the R&S effort that supports the commander's chosen COA.
  • It contributes to thorough staff synchronization and successful completion of several staff processes.
  • In turn, it helps the commander to selectively apply and maximize his combat power at critical points in time and space on the battlefield.

The most critical mission of the scout platoon is to gather information on enemy forces that the S2 then uses to assess enemy disposition and intentions. IPB is a disciplined staff procedure that provides the scout platoon leader with formal guidance in the form of reconnaissance objectives and PIR, as contained in the R&S plan; the platoon leader then applies this information in accomplishing the platoon's assigned reconnaissance tasks.

Figure 2-1 illustrates the various phases and components of the information-gathering process, including IPB.

Figure 2-1. The information-gathering process.


The first step of the IPB process is to define the battlefield environment. This step focuses the staff on the requirements of the initial R&S effort. During this step, the S2 takes the following actions:

  • Identify battlefield characteristics, such as terrain and weather, that will influence friendly and enemy operations and that require evaluation through the IPB process.
  • Establish the area of interest (AI) to focus the IPB analysis and the R&S effort.
  • Identify gaps in current intelligence holdings that become the initial information requirements.

Step 2 is to define the battlefield's effects. This step identifies general limitations that the environment imposes on friendly and enemy forces, as well as the tactical opportunities it offers. IPB products developed during this step focus on these effects; they include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Population status overlay.
  • Overlays that depict the military aspects and effects of terrain (such as the factors of OCOKA).
  • Weather analysis matrix.
  • Integrated staff products such as the modified combined obstacle overlay (MCOO).

Step 3 of IPB is to evaluate the threat; it includes analysis of current intelligence holdings to determine how the enemy normally organizes for and conducts combat operations. The results are portrayed using threat models that depict how the enemy fights; these are the only products associated with this step. Although they usually emphasize graphic representation of the enemy situation (such as doctrinal templates with high-value targets), threat models sometimes entail use of matrices, simple narrative descriptions, and depictions of enemy obstacle systems.

Step 4 is to determine threat COAs. This step integrates the results of the first three steps of IPB into a meaningful summary of likely objectives and COAs available to the enemy. IPB products, which are valid only if the S2 establishes a solid foundation during the first three steps, include these:

  • Models that depict the enemy's available COAs. These are normally produced in the form of situation developments; they may include associated matrices and/or text descriptions.
  • Event templates and related matrices to focus the R&S effort.


During threat COA development, the staff concurrently develops friendly COAs based on the facts and assumptions identified during IPB and mission analysis. Incorporating the results of IPB into COA development ensures that each friendly COA takes into account the opportunities and limitations related to the environment and the threat situation.

During the war-gaming session, the staff fights the set of threat COAs, developed in step 4 of the IPB process, against each potential friendly COA. Targeting conferences often accompany or follow the war-gaming session to refine selected high-value targets (HVT) from the enemy COA models into high-priority targets (HPT) that support the friendly COAs.

Based on the results of war-gaming, the staff takes the following actions to finalize the COA development process:

  • Construct a decision support template (DST) and its associated matrix.
  • Identify information requirements for each COA.
  • Refine enemy COA models and event templates (and their related matrices), focusing on the intelligence required to execute the friendly COAs.
  • For each threat COA, determine the probability that the enemy will adopt it.
  • Identify the most dangerous threat COA.

After deciding on a COA and issuing orders, the commander approves a list of information requirements; he identifies the most important of these as the final PIR. During execution of the operation, emerging intelligence will confirm or deny the assumptions and information identified during the initial IPB.

The S2 continues to evaluate the situation and update the commander and staff. As necessary, he performs parts of the IPB process to support new iterations of the decision-making process. Refer to Figures 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4 for examples of the templates developed during IPB and the war-gaming of friendly COAs.

Figure 2-2. Example situational template.

Figure 2-3. Example event template.

Figure 2-4. Example decision support template.

Development of the R&S plan

The key purpose of the R&S plan is to organize the collection of information the commander needs to fight and win the battle. A maneuver brigade and its assigned battalions will all produce R&S plans. The brigade plan will task the subordinate battalions, and these tasks will be incorporated into the battalion plan. Figure 2-1 shows how the R&S plan is developed within the overall information-gathering process.

From the decision support template, the S2, in coordination with the S3, prepares the detailed battalion R&S plan, which graphically depicts where and when reconnaissance elements should look for enemy forces (see Figure 2-5). The S2 should brief the R&S plan to the scout platoon leader, ensuring that the platoon leader understands all R&S objectives.

Figure 2-5. Example reconnaissance and surveillance plan.

The S2 uses an R&S tasking matrix to coordinate all available assets for R&S operations (see Figure 2-6). The R&S plan must direct specific tasks and priorities to all R&S elements, including company teams, scout platoons, GSR, and patrols.

Figure 2-6. Example R&S tasking matrix.

R&S tasking, which is handled by the S3, can take the form of a warning order, OPORD, R&S tasking matrix, or R&S overlay. The S3 translates the R&S plan into operational terms and graphics. For example, in preparation for reconnaissance operations, the S3 designates NAIs in terms of reconnaissance objectives for the scout platoon. The scout platoon leader designates checkpoints as control measures to guide his platoon's movement to these objectives.

NOTE: The R&S plan is developed very early in the planning process because it is important to integrate the scout platoon with other information-gathering assets, such as ground surveillance radar (GSR) and engineer reconnaissance teams. Because reconnaissance is a continuous and dynamic process, the scout platoon is committed as soon as possible in accordance with the commander's intent and reconnaissance objectives. Deployment of the scout platoon should not be delayed until the R&S plan has been formulated.

Role of staff and supporting elements

Battalion S3. The S3 should brief the scout platoon leader on disposition of friendly forces and the battalion scheme of maneuver. To support additional graphics and FRAGOs, the S3 provides the platoon leader with current (and projected) R&S and operational graphics and terrain index reference system (TIRS) points. (NOTE: Use of TIRS is an optional technique.) If the commander does not personally brief the platoon leader, the S3 must ensure that he accurately portrays the commander's intent and that platoon leader fully understands the intent.

In briefing the scout platoon leader, the S3 should cover employment of the scouts through the entire course of the mission. He should provide guidance on when the platoon will report, what actions it will take on enemy contact, and what CS assets are available. The S3 also reinforces the S2's guidance. The scout platoon leader should receive the S3's briefing before he departs the battalion area for his mission. He may also receive it as a FRAGO over the radio or from a messenger sent by the commander.

Fire support. To ensure it can provide responsive fire support to the scout platoon, the fire support element (FSE) stays abreast of what the platoon is doing throughout the conduct of the mission. The scout platoon leader should coordinate with the fire support officer (FSO) to discuss his mission and the platoon's unique fire support requirements. The platoon leader finds out what support is available, where supporting units are located, and what fire support restrictions exist. He will then recommend preplanned targets and target priorities to be incorporated by the FSO into a scout platoon fire support plan. The platoon leader should depart the FSE with an approved target list and/or overlay.

Signal. The battalion signal officer (S6) must conduct additional coordination with the scout platoon leader if the mission requires communications support. The scout platoon leader must request retransmission (retrans) or relay support from the battalion signal platoon if the mission dictates. Scouts should not perform relay duties as their primary platoon mission.

Other elements. The scout platoon leader also coordinates support with any attached or assigned elements; examples include engineer reconnaissance teams, air defense artillery (ADA), combat observation lasing team (COLT), GSR, and aeroscouts. This support is normally coordinated by the S3, but the platoon leader should be aware of how changes to the organization affect his platoon. Ideally, linkup with support elements should occur at the TOC in daylight with sufficient time to conduct thorough briefings and rehearsals.


When the scout platoon leader leaves the TOC area to prepare for his mission, he should, as a minimum, have the following materials:

  • Operational and R&S graphics.
  • The situational template, event template, and notes on the current enemy situation.
  • Fire support overlay.

Once in the vicinity of its mission objectives, the scouts confirm or deny the templated information. Additionally, if they find the enemy, the scouts look for possible weaknesses, gaps, and flanks of the enemy position. During screening operations, the S3 directs the scout platoon leader to report enemy activity at designated NAIs. The scout platoon leader uses OPs to observe and report on these areas of command interest. The scouts must rapidly and accurately report all information related to the commander's critical information requirements (CCIR) that they find during either reconnaissance or screening operations.



Decisions are the means by which a commander or leader translates the information available to him and his vision of the desired end state of an operation into the actions necessary to achieve that end state. Decision-making is a conscious process for selecting a COA from two or more alternatives. As noted in FM 101-5, it is a learned skill of knowing if to decide, then when and what to decide. The process includes an understanding of the consequences of each decision.

The military decision-making process (MDMP) is the Army's adaptation to this analytical approach to decision-making and problem-solving. It provides the commander or leader with a valuable tool in developing his estimate of the situation and his plan. Although the process begins with the receipt of the mission, the analytical aspects of the MDMP continue at all levels throughout the operation. Refer to FM 101-5 for a detailed examination of the MDMP.

At platoon level, many actions associated with the MDMP are based on SOPs and standard unit drills; these include evacuation of wounded soldiers, rearming and resupply procedures, and individual crew responsibilities. This allows the platoon to operate quickly and efficiently without constant guidance from the platoon leader. SOPs are especially critical in helping to maintain combat preparedness when leaders are tired as a result of the stress of continuous operations. Because SOPs are so critical, it is absolutely necessary that everyone in the platoon know and understand them. Refer to FKSM 17-98-3 for a sample platoon-level SOP applicable for both the battalion scout platoon and the cavalry troop scout platoon.


Troop-leading procedures are the basis of the dynamic process (illustrated in Figure 2-7) by which units develop plans and orders at every level of leadership. The process, although discussed here with the eight steps in traditional order, is not rigid, and the steps are not necessarily sequential. The tasks involved in some steps (such as initiate movement, issue the warning order, and conduct reconnaissance) may recur several times during the process. Although listed as the last step, activities associated with supervising and refining the plan and other preparations occur throughout troop-leading.

Figure 2-7. Relationship of troop-leading procedures
and the military decision-making process.

Troop-leading procedures begin when the platoon leader receives the first indication of an upcoming operation (often by warning order from higher) and continue throughout the planning, preparation, and execution phases of the mission. The platoon leader maximizes the available planning time by starting as soon as the first bit of information becomes available. He normally uses one-third of the available time to plan, prepare, and issue the order; his TCs then have the remaining two-thirds of the time available to conduct their own troop-leading procedures. This time allocation is known as the "one-third/two-thirds" rule of planning and preparation.

Figure 2-7 lists the eight troop-leading steps and illustrates their role in relation to the MDMP, which plays an important role in the troop-leading process. The following discussion provides a step-by-step overview of troop-leading procedures.

Step 1 - Receive and analyze the mission

The platoon leader normally receives his orders as an oral or written OPORD, as a FRAGO, or as a warning order. Upon receipt of the order, he begins analyzing the mission using the factors of METT-TC: mission, enemy, terrain (and weather), troops, time available, and civilian considerations. Mission analysis is a continuous process. The platoon leader constantly receives information during the planning phase and must decide if it affects his mission. If it does, he then decides how to adjust his plan to meet this new situation.

Initial actions. Although mission analysis is continuously refined throughout the troop-leading process, the platoon leader's initial actions are normally based only on the initial warning order from higher. These include an initial METT-TC analysis covering the terrain and enemy and friendly situations.

The platoon leader may also conduct his initial time analysis, develop an initial security plan, and issue his own initial warning order to provide guidance and planning focus for his subordinates. At a minimum, the initial platoon warning order should cover the enemy and friendly situations, movement instructions, and coordinating instructions such as an initial timeline and security plan. (NOTE: The initial analysis is normally conducted as quickly as possible to allow the platoon leader to issue the initial warning order in a timely manner. He then conducts a more detailed METT-TC analysis after the initial warning order is put out.)

NOTE: The technique of using multiple warning orders is a valuable tool for the platoon leader during the troop-leading process. He can issue warning orders for several purposes: to alert subordinates of the upcoming mission, to initiate the parallel planning process, and to put out tactical information incrementally as it is received (ultimately reducing the length of the OPORD). Refer to FM 71-1 for a discussion of how warning orders are employed at various stages of the troop-leading procedures.

METT-TC analysis. The following discussion covers the six factors of METT-TC in detail. (NOTE: METT-TC factors are not necessarily analyzed sequentially. How and when the platoon leader analyzes each factor depends on when the information is made available to him.)

Mission. After receiving an essential task and purpose, either in a warning order or the OPORD, the platoon leader can then begin the analysis of his own mission. He may use a refined product to better visualize the interrelationships of the terrain, the enemy, and friendly forces. These may include a MCOO and/or the situational template (SITEMP), if available. The platoon leader's goal in this analysis is to clarify what the scout platoon is to accomplish and why the platoon must accomplish it. Key considerations in the analysis include the following:

  • What is my task and purpose for this operation?
  • What is the commander's intent?
  • What are the specified tasks for the operation (those that the commander stated must be accomplished)? (NOTE: In the OPORD, these tasks are outlined in paragraph 3, which comprises the commander's intent, concept of the operation, tasks to subordinate units, and coordinating instructions.)
  • What are the implied tasks for the operation? These are other tasks, not specifically noted by the commander, that must be accomplished during the operation.
  • What are the essential tasks for the operation? These are all tasks, both specified and implied, that are absolutely required to ensure mission success.

Enemy. The platoon leader's analysis of the enemy situation should focus on the areas outlined in FM 71-1 (doctrinal analysis and objectives, composition and disposition, capabilities, weaknesses, anticipated COAs, and factors that can influence these COAs). The analysis can focus on the following considerations:

  • What types of enemy units is the platoon up against?
  • Where are these units?
  • What is the enemy doing?
  • How strong is he?
  • What kind of equipment does he have?
  • What are his capabilities and weaknesses?
  • Where is he vulnerable?
  • Where are his kill zones and fire sacks?
  • What are the enemy's intentions, doctrinal objectives, and most probable COA(s)?
  • What can he do in response to friendly actions?

Terrain (and weather). The platoon leader analyzes the terrain using the factors of OCOKA: observation and fields of fire; cover and concealment; obstacles; key terrain; and avenues of approach. The following discussion focuses on questions the platoon leader can use in his analysis.

Observation and fields of fire. The platoon leader should cover the following considerations in his analysis:

  • Where can the enemy observe and engage my platoon?
  • Where can I establish OPs to maximize my ability to see the battlefield?

Cover and concealment. The platoon leader should include the following considerations in his analysis of cover and concealment:

  • What routes within the area of operations offer cover and concealment for my platoon or for enemy elements?
  • What dismounted routes offer my platoon the best available cover and concealment?

Obstacles. In analyzing the terrain, the platoon leader first identifies existing and reinforcing obstacles that may limit mobility (affecting such features as objectives, avenues of approach, and mobility corridors).

Existing obstacles include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Gullies, ravines, gaps, and ditches over 3 meters wide.
  • Streams, rivers, and canals over 1 meter deep.
  • Mountains or hills with a slope in excess of 60 percent.
  • Lakes, swamps, and marshes over 1 meter deep.
  • Tree stumps and large rocks over 18 inches high.
  • Forest or jungles with trees 8 inches or more in diameter and with less than 4 meters of space between trees.
  • Man-made existing obstacles, including built-up areas such as towns, cities, or railroad embankments.

Reinforcing obstacles include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Minefields.
  • Antitank ditches.
  • Road craters.
  • Abatises.
  • Wire obstacles.

Based on the degree of obstruction posed by obstacles, terrain is further classified in one of the following categories:

  • Unrestricted. This is terrain that is free of any restriction to movement; no actions are required to enhance mobility. For mechanized vehicles, unrestricted terrain is typically flat or moderately sloped, with scattered or widely spaced obstacles such as trees or rocks. This type of terrain generally allows wide maneuver and offers unlimited travel over well-developed road networks.
  • Restricted. This is terrain that hinders movement to some degree. Little effort is needed to enhance mobility, but units may have to zigzag or make frequent detours. They may have difficulty maintaining optimum speed, moving in some types of combat formations, or transitioning from one formation to another. For mechanized vehicles, restricted terrain typically encompasses moderate to steep slopes and/or moderate to dense spacing of obstacles such as trees, rocks, or buildings. Swamps and rugged ground are examples of restricted terrain for dismounted infantry forces. Logistical or rear area movement in this type of terrain may be hampered by poorly developed road systems.
  • Severely restricted. Terrain in this classification severely hinders or slows movement in combat formation unless some effort is made to enhance mobility. This could require commitment of engineer forces to improve mobility or deviation from doctrinal tactics, such as using a column rather than a line formation or moving at speeds much lower than otherwise preferred. Severely restricted terrain for mechanized vehicles is typically characterized by steep slopes, densely spaced obstacles, and/or the virtual absence of a developed road system.

Key terrain. Key terrain is any location or area whose seizure, retention, or control affords a marked advantage to either combatant. The platoon leader's analysis should include these considerations:

  • Where is the key terrain?
  • How can the platoon use key terrain to support the mission?

Avenues of approach. These are areas through which a unit can maneuver. The definition of an avenue of approach is an area that provides sufficient ease of movement and enough width to allow passage of a force large enough to significantly affect the outcome of the battle. The platoon leader's analysis should include these considerations:

  • Where are the most favorable mounted and dismounted avenues of approach for enemy and friendly forces?
  • Where are the best air avenues of approach for enemy forces?

Weather. The platoon leader analyzes weather conditions as part of his evaluation of the terrain. The following considerations should be included in this evaluation:

  • What are the light conditions (including percentage of night illumination) and visibility?
  • What are the times for beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT), sunrise, sunset, end of evening nautical twilight (EENT), moonrise, and moonset?
  • How has recent weather affected the area of operations?
  • Will weather become better or worse during the mission?
  • How will fog, rain, dust, heat, snow, wind, or blowing sand affect both friendly and enemy troops and equipment during the mission?

Troops. The platoon leader's analysis of troops available for an operation includes an assessment of the platoon's vehicles and equipment. Considerations in the analysis include the following:

  • What is the present condition of the platoon's soldiers, vehicles, and equipment?
  • What is the supply status of ammunition, fuel, and other necessary items?
  • What is the state of training of the platoon?
  • What is the state of morale?
  • How much sleep have the men had?
  • How much sleep can they get before and during the operation?
  • Does the platoon need any additional equipment to support or accomplish its mission?
  • What attachments does the platoon have (or require) to accomplish its mission?
  • How many OPs (mounted/dismounted) can be manned with the available assets?
  • How big a frontage can be covered with the available assets?

Time available. The platoon leader's analysis of the time available for an operation begins with the "one-third/two-thirds" rule of planning and preparation discussed earlier in this section. This principle allows the platoon leader to use one-third of planning and preparation time himself, then to allocate the remaining two-third to subordinates. Additional considerations in the analysis should include the following:

  • How much time is available to plan and conduct reconnaissance?
  • How much time is available for rearming, refueling, and resupply?
  • How long will it take the platoon to move to planned OPs, to the line of departure (LD), and/or to the objective?
  • Is there enough time for rehearsals?
  • How much time is available to the enemy for the activities listed in the previous items?
  • How does the potential enemy timeline for planning and preparation compare with that developed for friendly forces?

Civilian considerations. In his analysis of how the platoon will handle situations involving civilians (including stability and support operations), the platoon leader should assess the following considerations:

  • What are the applicable rules of engagement (ROE) and/or rules of interaction (ROI)?
  • What procedures and guidelines will the platoon use in dealing with refugees, prisoners, and other civilians?
  • Will the platoon be working with civilian organizations, such as governmental agencies, private groups, or the media?
  • Will the platoon be tasked to conduct stability operations (such as peace operations or noncombatant evacuation) or support operations (such as humanitarian or environmental assistance)?

Reverse planning and timeline development. After completing his METT-TC analysis, the platoon leader conducts reverse planning to ensure that all specified, implied, and essential tasks can be accomplished in the time available. He develops a reverse planning schedule (timeline), as illustrated in Figure 2-8, beginning with actions on the objective; he works backward through each step of the operation and then through preparation and planning activities to the present time. This process also helps the platoon in making efficient use of planning and preparation time.

Figure 2-8. Example reverse planning timeline.

NOTE: Simultaneous planning and preparation are key factors in effective time management during the troop-leading process. The next five steps (issue a warning order; make a tentative plan; initiate movement; conduct reconnaissance; complete the plan) may occur simultaneously and/or in a different order. As noted, the final troop-leading step, supervise and refine, is on-going throughout the process.

Step 2 - Issue the warning order

After the platoon leader has analyzed his orders and worked out his mission and related tasks, he must quickly pass this information to his subordinate leaders. This is accomplished through the warning order. As a minimum, the following information must be included:

  • Elements and individuals to whom the warning order applies.
  • Enemy situation as stated in the task force order.
  • The time and nature of the operation.
  • The earliest time of movement.
  • Coordinating instructions, including an initial timeline.
  • The time and place the OPORD will be issued.

If possible, the platoon leader should issue an overlay of the area of operations. In the absence of further orders, this gives the platoon an idea of the scope of the operation. Also, the platoon leader should inform his subordinates of the results of his reverse planning process and delegate appropriate preparation tasks to the PSG and to the section and squad leaders. If possible, the platoon leader should also include the task organization of the platoon. In addition to accounting for all required preparatory tasks, the reverse planning schedule should include a sleep plan. All elements should acknowledge receipt of the warning order.

Step 3 - Make a tentative plan

Based on results of his mission analysis, the platoon leader develops a tentative plan that addresses all specified, implied, and essential tasks using the OPORD format (see Appendix A of this manual).

Step 4 - Initiate movement

After issuing a warning order and making a tentative plan, the platoon leader may choose to initiate movement. He may send a quartering party out to a new assembly area, or he may move his whole platoon to set up guides for the battalion movement. Whatever the case, the platoon leader should at least be able to determine when the platoon will move. He announces this in terms of a readiness condition (REDCON); refer to FKSM 17-98-3 for more information on REDCON levels.

Step 5 - Conduct reconnaissance

This step of the troop-leading procedures allows the platoon leader to confirm the validity of his tentative plan and to refine the plan. The platoon leader should conduct the reconnaissance with his subordinate leaders. This will allow them to see the terrain and develop a better visualization of the projected plan. At a minimum, the platoon leader conducts this step as a detailed map reconnaissance. He should at least confirm his initial march route to the LD or start point (SP) and check initial positions. If possible, he should also check some of the area beyond the LD; this may require permission from the commander.

If the platoon leader cannot personally conduct on-site reconnaissance, he should make the most efficient use of available time by tasking his subordinates to accomplish specific reconnaissance requirements. An example of this is tasking a squad leader to reconnoiter and time routes to the SP. The platoon leader must conduct the reconnaissance with an open mind; not everything he sees will match his tentative plan. He must be flexible enough to change and competent enough to work out new plans rapidly.

Step 6 - Complete the plan

The platoon leader refines his plan based on the results of the reconnaissance. He then completes the plan using these results and any new information from the battalion or squadron commander, the higher headquarters staff, and members of his platoon. He should keep the plan as simple as possible, at the same time ensuring that it effectively supports the commander's intent.

Step 7 - Issue the order

The platoon leader should issue his order to all subordinate leaders and vehicle commanders. Once everyone has arrived at the place and time specified in the warning order, the platoon leader or PSG should ensure that everyone has recorded the applicable graphic control measures. The platoon leader should issue the revised operations overlay before he starts; he should have a copy of the graphics for each of his leaders. The PSG ensures that each subordinate leader's overlay matches the platoon leader's overlay. To use his time most efficiently, the platoon leader should use a walk-through rehearsal as part of his briefing of paragraph 3 of the order.

If he can issue the order from a favorable vantage point, the platoon leader can physically indicate the ground over which his scouts will maneuver. If a vantage point is not available, he can use a terrain cloth, sand table, or map as a reference. The platoon leader should have a briefing kit available to build a model of the area of operations; items in the kit might include the following:

  • Nylon rope and nails or spikes.
  • Preconstructed Plexiglas squares for units and equipment (blue for friendly elements, red for enemy forces).
  • "Micro" armor vehicles or other models.
  • Pens and markers.
  • Stakes.
  • Engineer tape.
  • Operational symbol cutouts.
  • Dry eraser board.

The platoon leader issues his finalized order in the five-paragraph OPORD format. He refers to notes to make sure he does not forget anything. He ensures that all subordinate leaders understand the entire plan as well as their particular portion of it. To ensure complete understanding of the operation, the platoon leader should end the order with a brief-back of key points by his leaders.

Step 8 - Supervise and refine

Flexibility is the key to effective operations. The platoon leader must be able to refine his plan whenever new information becomes available. If he adjusts the plan, he must inform the platoon and supervise implementation of the changes. Once the operation has begun, the platoon leader must be able to direct his platoon in response to new situations.

Crew orders, rehearsals, and inspections are essential elements of the supervision process as the platoon prepares for the mission. The following paragraphs discuss these procedures in detail.

Crew orders. The platoon leader and PSG make sure all crewmembers have been briefed by their leaders or vehicle commanders and understand the platoon mission and concept of the operation.

Rehearsals. The scout platoon leader should never underestimate the value of rehearsals. They are his most valuable tools in preparing the platoon for the upcoming operation. Refer to FM 101-5 for a detailed discussion of rehearsal types, techniques, and procedures. The platoon leader uses well-planned, efficiently run rehearsals to accomplish the following purposes:

  • Reinforce training and increase proficiency in critical tasks.
  • Reveal weaknesses or problems in the plan.
  • Synchronize the actions of subordinate elements.
  • Improve each soldier's understanding of the concept of the operation.

Rehearsal types. The platoon leader can choose among several types of rehearsals, each designed to achieve a specific result and with a specific role in the planning and preparation timeline. The following discussion focuses on the five rehearsal types.

Confirmation brief. The confirmation brief is, in effect, a reverse briefing process routinely performed by subordinate leaders immediately after receiving any instructions, such as an OPORD or FRAGO. They confirm their understanding by repeating and explaining details of the operation for their leader. In the scout platoon, the platoon leader should conduct confirmation briefs after his subordinate leaders have received the OPORD, but before other phases of the platoon rehearsal begin.

Backbrief. Leaders perform this type of rehearsal throughout the planning and preparation timeline to help clarify their intent for their subordinates. The backbrief allows the platoon leader to identify problems in his own concept of the operation and his subordinates' understanding of the concept; he also uses the backbrief to learn how subordinates intend to accomplish their missions.

Combined arms rehearsal. This rehearsal is normally conducted by a maneuver unit headquarters, after subordinate leaders have issued their orders, to ensure that subordinates' plans are synchronized and that their plans will properly achieve the higher intent. The scout platoon takes part in combined arms rehearsals as part of a larger tactical element.

Support rehearsal. Support rehearsals are normally conducted within the framework of a single operating system, such as fire support or CSS, or a limited number of operating systems. The goals are to ensure that support elements can achieve their missions within the higher commander's plan and that their support plans are synchronized with the overall maneuver plan. The rehearsals are conducted throughout the planning and preparation timeline.

Battle drill or SOP rehearsal. This rehearsal, conducted throughout the planning and preparation timeline, is used to ensure that all participants understand a technique or a specific set of procedures. It does not necessarily cover a published drill or SOP, giving the commander or leader flexibility in designing the rehearsal. For example, the scout platoon leader could rehearse procedures for marking obstacle lanes or establishing local security.

Rehearsal techniques. The platoon leader can choose among several techniques in conducting rehearsals, which should follow the crawl-walk-run training methodology to prepare the platoon for increasingly difficult conditions. As noted in FM 101-5, techniques for conducting rehearsals are limited only by the resourcefulness of the commander or leader; that manual outlines six basic techniques (full dress, reduced force, terrain model, sketch map, map, and radio). The following discussion covers these techniques, which are listed in descending order in terms of the preparation time and resources required to conduct them. Considerations in selecting a rehearsal technique include the following:

  • Time. How much will be needed for planning, preparation, and execution?
  • Multiechelon. How many echelons will be involved?
  • Operations security (OPSEC). Will the rehearsal allow the enemy to gain intelligence about upcoming operations?
  • Terrain. What are the applicable terrain considerations?

Full dress rehearsal. This rehearsal produces the most detailed understanding of the mission, but is the most difficult to conduct in terms of preparation and resources. It involves every soldiers and system participating in the operation. If possible, units should conduct the full dress rehearsal under the same conditions (such as weather, time of day, terrain, and use of live ammunition) that they will encounter during the actual operation. The scout platoon generally will take part in full dress rehearsals as part of a larger unit.

Reduced force rehearsal. This rehearsal normally involves only key leaders of the unit and is thus less extensive than the full dress rehearsal in terms of preparation time and resources. The commander decides the level of leader involvement. The selected leaders then rehearse the plan, if possible on the actual terrain to be used for the actual operation. The reduced force rehearsal is often conducted to prepare leaders for the full dress rehearsal.

Terrain model rehearsal. This is the most popular rehearsal technique, employing an accurately constructed model to help subordinates visualize the battle in accordance with the commander's or leader's intent. When possible, the platoon leader places the terrain model where it overlooks the actual terrain of the area of operations or is within walking distance of such a vantage point. Size of the model can vary, but it should be large enough to depict graphic control measures and important terrain features for reference and orientation. Participants walk or move "micro" armor around the table or model to practice the actions of their own vehicles in relation to other members of the platoon.

Sketch map rehearsal. Units can use the sketch map technique almost anywhere, day or night. Procedures are similar to those for the terrain model rehearsal. The sketch must be large enough to allow all participants to see as each subordinate "walks" through an interactive oral presentation of his actions. Scout platoon elements can use symbols or "micro" armor to represent their locations and maneuver on the sketch.

Map rehearsal. Procedures are similar to those for the sketch map rehearsal except that the commander or leader uses a map and operation overlay of the same scale as he used to plan and control the operation. This technique is useful in conjunction with a confirmation brief or backbrief involving subordinate leaders and vehicle commanders. The platoon leader uses the map and overlay to guide participants as they brief their role in the operation.

Radio rehearsal. The commander or leader conducts this rehearsal by having his unit conduct critical portions of the operation orally and interactively over established communications networks. The radio rehearsal may be especially useful when the situation does not allow the platoon to gather at one location. Subordinate elements check their communications systems and rehearse events that are critical to the platoon plan. To be effective, the radio rehearsal requires all participants to have working communications equipment and a copy of the OPORD and applicable overlays.

Inspections. Precombat inspections (PCI) allow leaders to check the platoon's operational readiness. They key goal is to ensure that soldiers and vehicles are fully prepared to execute the upcoming mission. The platoon leader makes sure the entire chain of command conducts precombat checks (PCC) and PCIs in accordance with FKSM 17-98-3 or his own SOP. The following are examples of procedures that can be covered in PCCs and PCIs:

  • Perform before-operation maintenance checks and report or repair deficiencies.
  • Perform prepare-to-fire checks for all weapons and report or repair deficiencies. Make sure weapons are boresighted and all sights are referred. Machine guns should be test-fired, if possible.
  • Upload vehicles in accordance with SOP.
  • Conduct resupply of rations, water, fuel, oil, all weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnics, first-aid kits, and equipment batteries (for such items as flashlights, night-vision devices, mine detectors, and NBC alarms).
  • Make radio checks, when possible.
  • Camouflage vehicles to match the area of operations.
  • Make sure crewmembers are in the correct uniform and mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) level.

Situational awareness is the ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of the tactical situation. This picture includes an understanding of both the friendly and enemy situations and of relevant terrain. It also entails the ability to relate battlefield information and events through space and time to form logical conclusions and make decisions that anticipate events. Since the platoon normally operates dispersed as individual sections or squads, it is essential that all scout leaders maintain situational awareness so they can make sound, quick tactical decisions. A critical outcome of situational awareness on the part of all scouts is a reduction in fratricide incidents.


The commander will structure the battlefield based on the conditions of METT-TC and his commander's intent. How he does this affects the scout platoon leader's mission planning and his ability to maintain situational awareness. The framework of the battlefield can vary from a very rigid extreme with obvious front and rear boundaries and closely tied adjacent units to a dispersed and decentralized structure with few secure areas and unit boundaries and no definable front or rear.

Between these extremes is an unlimited number of possible variations. Maintaining situational awareness becomes more difficult as the battlefield becomes less structured. Modern, highly mobile operations with small forces lend themselves to a less rigid framework that challenges the scout's ability to maintain an accurate picture of the battlefield.

To have a clear picture of the battlefield, the scout must have virtually perfect knowledge of the friendly situation one level higher than his own. This means the cavalry scout platoon leader must know the troop situation and the battalion scout platoon leader must know the battalion situation. It is also important that the platoon leader update the section and squad leaders periodically regarding the higher situation. The platoon leader must have a relatively complete knowledge of the terrain, and he must know as much as possible about the enemy. (NOTE: The requirement to maintain a real-time picture of the battlefield one level higher does not relieve the scout of the requirement to understand the situation and commander's intent two levels higher than his own. The difference is that his understanding of the situation two levels higher does not have to be as specific or in real time.)

Most of the information the scout platoon leader needs comes in the form of reports over his FM communication system. He receives many reports based on his platoon's understanding of shared, common graphics. Effective graphics require that the subordinate elements report periodically as they accomplish requirements. The platoon leader must be aware of when his scouts report so he can maintain a current visualization of the situation. If an element does not report in a timely manner, the platoon leader must quickly determine the situation of the overdue element.

Although many reports are not addressed specifically to him, particularly on the higher net, the scout platoon leader must monitor them by eavesdropping on the nets as traffic is sent. How effectively he can accomplish this is, to some degree, experience-dependent; however, there are techniques he can apply to relate the information he is receiving to his map and thereby track the tactical situation.

The scout platoon leader's map is the key to maintaining situational awareness. He should plot all friendly position reports up to one level higher than his own. Information from spot reports should also be plotted. The scout should use different colors for friendly and enemy elements to allow quick recognition. To avoid cluttering the map, he should place a dot or symbol on his map where the element is located and label the point with a number. The same number should then be written in the map margin (or beyond the area of operations) with the complete spot report or unit ID next to it. This notation should also include the time of the report. As positions or reports are updated, the old symbol is crossed off and a new one with a corresponding notation is added; it is critical that updates to previous reports be clearly identified as such during transmission.

This simple system allows all scouts to easily track and monitor the tactical situation. It can be augmented by a formal platoon log, kept on the platoon leader's or PSG's vehicle or on both.


As discussed previously, an accurate picture of the battlefield provides the platoon leader with important tactical information, including friendly and enemy positions and relevant terrain. In turn, complete understanding of the military significance of this picture requires knowledge of the concept of battle space, the key element in the intellectual process of visualizing the battlefield.

At the most fundamental level, battle space is the three-dimensional "bubble" or area in which the platoon can acquire enemy forces and influence them with effective fires. This space is defined by numerous battlefield factors: the locations of friendly forces, including the platoon's individual scout sections, squads, OPs, and patrols; the effects of terrain, weather, and movement; and the ranges of all available platoon weapons and sensing systems. Each scout section or squad has its own battle space; the platoon battle space is the sum of individual section/squad battle spaces (see Figure 2-9). Platoon battle space is not restricted by boundaries; it can overlap with the battle space of adjacent units.

Figure 2-9. Scout platoon's battle space.

Battle space has applications in all phases of mission planning and execution. During the planning process, it is a critical factor in selection of routes and tentative positions. Once mission execution begins, the platoon leader's knowledge of his battle space is critical when he must issue timely and effective orders as the situation changes.

The importance of battle space demands that the platoon leader direct most of his battle command effort toward managing, and enhancing, his space. He must be aware at every moment how battle space is changing as friendly and enemy forces move and as terrain and visibility conditions change (see Figures 2-10A and 2-10B). He must evaluate how these changes affect his scout sections and squads.

Figure 2-10A. Effects of movement on battle space.

Figure 2-10B. Effects of movement on battle space (continued).

As the operation progresses, the platoon leader must take active measures to shape the platoon's battle space to his best advantage. In many situations, he should attempt to eliminate any gaps, or dead space, that exist within the "bubble." The platoon leader can accomplish this in several ways, such as maneuvering scout sections or squads, repositioning OPs, and deploying patrols or remote sensors. He must also ensure that organic and attached assets are positioned to achieve overlapping coverage of critical points within the platoon's battle space.

The purpose of overlapping coverage is to prevent the enemy from overcoming the friendly reconnaissance effort by degrading or destroying a single platform or sensor. It also prevents the enemy from gaining an advantage during periods when environmental or weather conditions, including limited visibility, degrade the platoon's observation capability or sensor performance.

Refer to Figures 2-11A and 2-11B for an illustration of how the platoon leader can optimize his battle space.

Figure 2-11A. Optimizing battle space.

Figure 2-11B. Optimizing battle space (continued).


Recent experience has shown that fratricide is a significant danger to all forces operating on a mobile battlefield where weapon system lethality is significantly greater than identification friend or foe (IFF) capability. Fratricide is the result of many factors, including inadequate direct fire control plans, navigation errors, combat identification failures, and incorrect or inadequate operational graphics. Refer to Appendix F of this manual for an in-depth discussion of fratricide and its prevention.

SPECIAL NOTE: In many situations, the primary cause of fratricide is the lack of positive target identification. To prevent fratricide incidents, commanders and leaders at all levels must ensure positive target identification before they issue commands to fire. In addition, all units must accurately report their locations during combat operations, and all tactical operations centers (TOC) and command posts (CP) must carefully track the location of all subordinate elements in relation to all friendly forces.



The most important role of maps and their accompanying overlays is in helping the platoon to understand and visualize the scheme of maneuver. They are the primary tool the platoon leader uses to organize information concerning the battlefield and to synchronize his assets once the battle begins. They also provide vehicle commanders with a visual reference they can consult as needed. The platoon leader must ensure that each vehicle commander has an updated map with the latest graphic control measures posted on the overlay.

Overlays can be prepared either in traditional fashion or digitally. The platoon leader may receive one or more types of overlays from the battalion or squadron, covering such areas as maneuver, enemy forces, obstacles, fire support, and CSS. All of the information is important; the key for the platoon leader is to combine, augment, and declutter the overlays so the information needed for a specific situation is readily available to the platoon on one simple, combined overlay.


To protect his platoon, the platoon leader must learn to use terrain to his advantage. Land navigation of scout vehicles requires him to master the technique of terrain association. This entails the ability to identify terrain features on the ground by the contour intervals depicted on the map. The platoon leader analyzes the terrain using the factors of OCOKA and identifies major terrain features, contour changes, and man-made structures along his axis of advance. As the platoon advances, he uses these features to orient the platoon and to associate ground positions with map locations.

The intellectual concept of battle space is vital to the platoon's survival during navigation and movement. The platoon leader must constantly be aware of key terrain and enemy fields of observation and fire that may create danger areas as the platoon advances. This allows him to modify movement techniques, formations, and routes and to maintain cross-talk with overwatch elements to ensure the platoon is not surprised by the enemy. (NOTE: Refer to the discussion of danger areas in Chapter 8 of this manual.)

Navigation under limited visibility conditions is especially challenging. Vehicle thermal sights and night vision goggles provide assistance, but leaders nonetheless can easily confuse terrain features and become disoriented. The platoon can employ a variety of techniques and equipment to assist in navigation. These are summarized in the following paragraphs.

Compass and odometer. This method of navigation entails use of a dismounted compass and the vehicle's odometer. Follow these steps:

  • Divide the route or operation into legs or parts, each with a unique direction and distance and a checkpoint at both ends.
  • Measure the map distance of each leg or part.
  • Determine the magnetic azimuth of each leg or part.
  • Develop a chart listing the legs or parts, azimuths, and distances. Write a description of each leg or part. Refer to Figure 2-12 for an example.
  • For each leg or part, move the gun tube to the direction of the magnetic azimuth. Maintain turret stabilization at all times; do not traverse the turret except at the start of the next leg or part. (NOTE: Use of this technique places the vehicle crew and the unit at a distinct disadvantage. It reduces the crew's capability to effectively scan the surrounding terrain and, in turn, can seriously degrade crew and unit security and situational awareness.)
  • Use the odometer to measure the distance traveled for each leg or part.
  • Review the written description of the route to help prevent navigational errors.

Figure 2-12. Route chart for compass and odometer navigation method.

Fires. Using artillery or mortars to fire smoke (during the day) or ground-burst illumination (day or night) can provide a useful check on estimated locations or preplanned targets.

Global positioning systems. Global positioning systems (GPS) receive signals from satellites or land-based transmitters. They calculate and display the position of the user in military grid coordinates as well as in degrees of latitude and longitude.

Most GPS navigation readings are based on waypoints, the known positions entered into the system's memory. The platoon leader identifies points along the route or at the destination and designates them as waypoints. Once waypoints are entered in the GPS, the device can display information such as distance and direction from point to point.

NOTE: In using the GPS, the platoon leader must remember that waypoints are only one of several navigational tools he can use. He must still be prepared to use terrain association and map-reading skills in case satellite or land signals are inoperative or unavailable or his digital systems fail. In addition, the platoon leader must not disregard the effects of terrain on the direction of movement. Terrain features that do not show up on the digital display (such as hills, valleys, and cliffs) may cause deviations in the route the platoon must take to reach the next waypoint.

Shift from a known point. Shifting from a known point is a convenient tool for the platoon leader to use as he maneuvers the platoon and disseminates control measures. The known point is usually a previously distributed graphic control measure, such as a checkpoint or a TRP. Referencing a location from a known point is done in kilometers. For example, 500 meters is given as "POINT FIVE," 1,000 meters as "ONE," and 3,500 meters as "THREE POINT FIVE." Cardinal directions are used. Shifts to the east or west are given first, followed by shifts to the north or south.

As an example, consider the following transmission: "RED SET FROM CHECKPOINT SEVEN - EAST ONE POINT EIGHT - NORTH ONE POINT SEVEN." This means, "We (the Red element) are set at a position 1,800 meters east and 1,700 meters north from checkpoint 7." Figure 2-13 illustrates this example.

Figure 2-13. Example of shifting from a known point.

Shifts from known points are used routinely to control combat operations. They make reporting of current platoon and enemy positions easier. As noted, the platoon leader can report his location by referencing a graphic control measure. The enemy, however, will quickly figure out the known points if they are continually used in the clear on a nonsecure net. The platoon leader should avoid using the same point more than twice. Instead, he should use a different known point to reference the same location.

NOTE: Many units routinely use the TIRS or grid index reference system (GIRS) to make shifts from a known point. TIRS identifies locations based on terrain points previously designated on an overlay; GIRS uses intersections of four grid squares as the known points.


Because of the extended frontages and distances over which the scout platoon operates, it must rely heavily on effective communications techniques. These techniques include not only the means of communications (such wire, visual signals, or radio) and the proper way of using them, but also the correct application of operational terms and effective radiotelephone procedures (RTP). The platoon leader must ensure that all of his soldiers understand communications procedures and the different nets on which the platoon operates.


The scout platoon always has several available means of communications. Whether it is using messenger, wire, visual, sound, or radio signals, the platoon must remain flexible enough to react quickly to new situations. Use of each of these means of communication must be carefully planned to avoid dependence on a single method.

SOPs can help the platoon tremendously in its mission accomplishment. Hand-and-arm and flag signals aid in platoon movement. Clear and concise radio transmissions can reduce transmission times.


This is the most secure means of communications available to the scout platoon. Messenger service is generally very flexible and reliable. In an assembly area, it is the preferred means. On an infrequent basis, members of the platoon may be called on to act as messengers to the parent unit's higher headquarters.


This method of communications is especially effective in static positions or during the conduct of a screening mission. It is very versatile and can be used in many different situations. Using one of the many wire devices available, the scout platoon establishes hot loops to communicate within the platoon, with OPs, and with the parent unit command post (CP) in assembly areas.


Visual communications are used to transmit prearranged messages quickly over short distances. Scout sections or squads may rely heavily on this type of communications. Since the scout platoon rarely operates as a unit over short distances, however, visual signals are seldom used at the platoon level. In those cases when the entire platoon is together, such as in a coil, in an assembly area, or on a road march, all vehicle commanders must stay alert so they can receive visual signals from the platoon leader and pass them on to other vehicle commanders in the platoon.

Whenever visual signals are used, they must be clear enough to be understood by vehicle commanders as they operate in tactical situations. Standard hand-and-arm or flag signals work well during periods of good visibility. Flashlights, chemical lights, or other types of lights are required during periods of limited visibility. The platoon must exercise extreme care when using lights to avoid alerting the enemy to friendly intentions.

Pyrotechnic ammunition can also be used for visual signaling. The meanings of these signals are identified in paragraph 5 of the OPORD and in the unit signal operation instructions (SOI). The main advantage of pyrotechnics is the speed with which signals can be transmitted. Key disadvantages are the enemy's ability to see them and, potentially, to imitate them.


This form of communications is used mainly to attract attention, transmit prearranged messages, and spread alarms. Sound signals carry only short distances; in addition, range and clarity are greatly reduced by battle noise. Since they are open to enemy interception, use of sound signals may be restricted for security reasons. Prearranged meanings for sound signals are outlined in the unit SOP and SOI; they must be kept simple to prevent misunderstandings.


The radio is the platoon's most flexible, most frequently used, and least secure means of communications. The most effective way to use the radio is to follow standard guidelines for effective RTP; these include brevity, proper use of authentication tables, and the use of approved operational terms. Radio signals can be traced by enemy direction-finding units. Once found, the transmitter can easily be destroyed. For this reason, the scout platoon leader must strictly enforce radio discipline regardless of encryption devices; survival of the platoon depends on good radio habits.


Battalion scout platoon nets

The following are the radio nets employed and/or monitored by leaders in the battalion scout platoon. (See Figure 2-14.)

Figure 2-14. Battalion scout platoon nets.

Platoon. This net is used to conduct all platoon operations. All elements within the scout platoon must have the ability to monitor and transmit on this net at all times. Making sure this happens is one of the keys to effective command and control during the conduct of tactical operations.

Battalion command. The battalion command net is the primary net used to direct the tactical operations of the battalion. It is monitored continuously by all subordinate commanders in the battalion, as well as by key staff members and the TOC. As a key maneuver element of the battalion, the scout platoon must monitor this net continuously. The platoon leader and the PSG should both have the capability to monitor and transmit on this net when the battalion is conducting tactical operations.

Operations and intelligence. Many battalions operate an OI net to handle R&S reports and thus make the command net more efficient. This net can also be used to control the R&S effort before the battalion main body begins tactical operations. If the battalion has not begun tactical operations but the scouts are engaged in reconnaissance or surveillance operations, the scout platoon may use this as its primary net. In such a case, both the scout platoon leader and PSG should be able to monitor and receive on this net.

The scout platoon should continue to maximize the use of the OI net to pass information while conducting reconnaissance in support of the main body, even after the main body has begun its operations. The platoon leader can monitor the command net at this time or choose to remain on the OI net. If he continues to use the OI net, he should designate a member of the platoon to eavesdrop on the command net to alert him when the battalion commander needs to communicate directly with the scouts or when critical traffic is being passed over the command net.

Battalion fires. Because rapidly coordinating for and adjusting indirect fires is vital in all R&S operations, the fires net is extremely critical to the success of scout platoon operations. The platoon should have all radios that are not on the higher command net or the platoon net preset to this net. All scouts, whether operating mounted or dismounted and regardless of how many radios they have, must have the ability to quickly change to this net and coordinate indirect fire. The scout platoon leader must coordinate with the battalion FSO regarding the use of the fires net to ensure that the platoon can use it to send voice call for fire messages.

Company team. All scouts must have the ability to rapidly change to any of the battalion company team nets. These nets are used to conduct coordination for handing off enemy targets once the scouts make contact.

Administrative/logistics. The scout PSG will usually monitor the A/L net for the platoon, but the platoon leader must be familiar with it as well. The PSG uses it as required to send routine A/L reports. This net is also used to coordinate resupply operations and evacuation of casualties.

Retrans. When the scout platoon operates at extended distances from the battalion TOC, it may use the battalion retrans net to facilitate effective communications between the scout platoon leader and the TOC. The platoon leader should request use of the retrans net during all missions requiring FM communications at extended ranges.

Cavalry scout platoon nets

The following are the radio nets employed and/or monitored by leaders in the cavalry scout platoon. (See Figure 2-15.)

Figure 2-15. Cavalry scout platoon nets.

Platoon. This net is used to conduct all platoon operations. All elements within the scout platoon must have the ability to monitor and transmit on this net at all times. Making sure this happens is one of the keys to effective command and control during the conduct of tactical operations. All scouts must also have the ability to rapidly change to any other platoon net as required to coordinate contact points or handover of enemy targets.

Troop command. This net is used to maneuver the cavalry troop as well as to process most routine reports. The troop TOC is the net control station (NCS), and the scout platoon leader or PSG sends routine reports to the troop XO. This net can be used by scout and tank platoon leaders to talk to each other and coordinate key tactical actions of their platoons; however, platoon leaders will use each other's platoon nets to pass routine messages not of interest to the commander.

Both the scout platoon leader and PSG must always have the ability to monitor and transmit on this net. All scouts must be able to move to this net to send reports and receive guidance if they are unable to contact their platoon leader or PSG.

Troop fires. Many troops operate a troop fires net. It is used to send calls for fire to the troop FSO or directly to the troop mortars. The scout platoon leader should direct all radios not actively operating on another net to enter this net. All scouts must have the ability to change to this net and coordinate indirect fire.

Administrative/logistics. The PSG will usually monitor the A/L net for the platoon, but the platoon leader must be familiar with it as well. The PSG uses it as required to send routine A/L reports. This net is also used to coordinate resupply operations and evacuation of casualties.


The scout platoon net is the key to command and control of the platoon. The smooth functioning of this net allows accurate information to be passed quickly both to and from the platoon leader. This information flow is critical in maintaining the platoon leader's situational awareness and in enhancing command and control. When contact is made, the volume of traffic on the scout platoon net will increase drastically. The platoon must be organized to control, understand, and process this vast amount of information while engaging the enemy and possibly being engaged in turn. The following guidelines will help to ensure that the information flowing over the net is organized and controlled in a way that permits the platoon leader to both understand it and issue orders in response to it.

Flash traffic

The platoon leader should, in either the platoon order or the unit SOP, establish criteria for flash traffic. For example, the flash traffic criteria could dictate special handling of the platoon's prescribed PIR. When a scout gains information relevant to a critical PIR item, he interrupts any net traffic with a proword such as "FLASH--FLASH--FLASH." The use of such a proword immediately advises all other scouts to get off the net, thus clearing it for the critical traffic to be passed.

Net discipline

The PSG is responsible for net discipline. In this capacity, he will challenge any violation of procedure as it occurs. Improper or inefficient radio procedures, even in routine administrative reports, inhibit effective command and control.

Effective messages

The best way to ensure effectiveness of a radio message is to write it out before it is sent. This procedure yields greater accuracy and ultimately is more timely. It also ensures that the message is sent correctly, completely, and clearly in the shortest possible amount of time. The message is easier to understand, and the duration of the electronic signature of the sending station is minimized.

Radiotelephone procedures

Proper RTPs are the cornerstone of effective command and control in the scout platoon. All scouts must be expert in communications procedures. This not only ensures efficient communications within the platoon, but also allows all members of the platoon to communicate effectively with outside elements such as the battalion, squadron, troop, company, other platoons, and subordinate and/or supporting elements.


The platoon leader and PSG are responsible for ensuring that their scouts understand and adhere to the following guidelines, which can contribute to more effective, more secure tactical communications.

Know the system

Each scout must be an expert at using and maintaining his FM communications system. In particular, he must understand its capabilities and limitations. He must also understand how to maintain the system and how to troubleshoot it whenever he suspects it is not functioning properly.

Minimize duration

All messages sent within or from the scout platoon must be short and informative. The longer the message, the greater the opportunity of enemy elements to electronically determine the scout's location. Message length can be controlled in several ways:

  • Write the message down and then eliminate all unnecessary words from the written message before sending it.
  • Read the message as written when sending it.
  • Use a brevity code that reduces the need to explain the tactical picture in detail.
  • Break long messages into several parts and send each separately.

Minimize signature

When sending a message, every scout must be conscious of the size and nature of the electronic signature that he is emitting. He must consider the following methods for reducing the size of the signature:

  • Use terrain to mask the signature from the direction of the enemy.
  • Set the transmitter power to low if that setting will provide sufficient range (as it often does within the scout platoon, section, or squad).
  • Whenever possible (particularly in stationary operations), use an expedient directional antenna to restrict the enemy's ability to monitor the signal. See Chapter 9 of this manual for instructions on how to construct and use such an antenna.

Use an effective format

A thorough knowledge of report formats is critical in ensuring timely reporting of enemy information, especially in fast-moving tactical situations. Every scout should be familiar with the report formats that are outlined in FKSM 17-98-3 and know how to use them effectively. At the same time, however, they must never delay reports only to assure the correct format; ALWAYS REPORT ACCURATE INFORMATION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!

As a basic guideline, reports of enemy activity should follow the SALUTE format, which covers these factors:

  • Size. This includes the number of sighted personnel, vehicles, or other equipment.
  • Activity. This covers what the enemy is doing.
  • Location. This is usually reported as the grid coordinates of enemy elements.
  • Unit. This covers any indications useful in unit identification, such as patches, signs, and vehicle markings.
  • Time. This item details when enemy activity was observed.
  • Equipment. This includes description or identification of all equipment associated with the enemy activity.



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