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Battle command is the art of battle decision making, leading, and motivating soldiers and their organizations to accomplish the mission. It includes the responsibility for health, welfare, training, and discipline of assigned personnel. The unique character of battle command of military operations is that it must be effective under extraordinary stress of battle--in confusing situations and under emotional stress caused by personnel and materiel losses.


The primary duty of a leader is mission accomplishment. Leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation in preparing for and executing combat operations. Leadership is based on knowledge of men, equipment, and tactics.

A leader must be technically proficient in the use of all of his equipment, able to determine the military importance of terrain, and understand the capabilities of the enemy. He also must be tactically and technically proficient in the employment of his men and equipment in conjunction with the terrain and weather to accomplish his mission. At platoon and squad level, leadership by example is key. Leaders must--

  • Set a positive example.
  • Lead from where he can control all elements, either physically or by radio.
  • Move to critical locations to influence the action personally when necessary.
  • Make sound, quick decisions.
  • Execute decisions forcefully.

The battlefield is a stressful and fatiguing environment. The first days of battle can be particularly hard as leaders and soldiers adapt to the reality of fighting. The platoon and squad must be prepared to operate 24 hours a day. Leaders make every effort to minimize the effects of stress and fatigue. Soldiers who are well-trained and confident react better during stress and fatigue. Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) that are mastered help men and units endure. Sleep and rest are critical aspects of maintaining individual and unit proficiency and must occur during lulls in operations. Rest must be accomplished while maintaining security.



Leaders begin rest periods (catnaps or longer) before fatigue becomes debilitating. Soldiers should not go longer than 24 hours without sleep. Leaders should recognize signs of fatigue and act to diminish it. For continuous operations without prolonged sleep, leaders should aim for four hours uninterrupted hours of sleep and "cat naps" when available, to prevent fatigue.

Soldiers should rest or sleep when possible while a buddy remains awake. In tasks requiring alertness (surveillance, communication), personnel are rotated frequently. If possible, after prolonged periods of minimal rest or sleep (2 to 4 days), a long period of uninterrupted sleep (12 to 24 hours) is needed. If awakened ahead of time, a period of reduced responsiveness can be expected.


The battlefield is characterized by fluid, nonlinear chaotic situations. Confusion is further aggravated by degraded communications. Achieving tactical objectives in this environment largely depends on a clear command and control process.

The goals of mission-oriented command and control are to--

  • Allow units to function when out of contact with higher headquarters or time-space considerations preclude centralized decisions.
  • Decentralize decision making during execution of a centralized concept of operation, which maintains focus on mission accomplishment.
  • Provide maximum freedom of action so subordinates can act in a timely manner within the framework of higher headquarters concept.

In order for mission-oriented command and control to work, there must be a focused effort understood by the entire force. This is gained by unity of command using the concept of the operation.

Requirements for mission-oriented command and control are:

  • The leaders share a basic understanding of how our Army fights. Army doctrine emphasizes the application of the principles of war to generate combat power at the decisive place and time. Command understanding of the principles enhances their proper application.
  • The estimate of the situation is the U. S. Army's method of tactical decision making. Understanding the estimate provides leaders the ability to reach sound decisions based on the best information available.
  • Leaders must be tactically and technically proficient. They must understand and use the common doctrinal language and display sound judgment.
  • There must be trust between seniors and subordinates.


The troop-leading procedures (TLP) are the processes by which a leader receives, plans, and executes a mission. Troop leading is the mental process a leader goes through to prepare his unit to accomplish a tactical mission. Troop leading requires time: the more time, the greater the leader's ability to plan and prepare in depth; the less time, the more reliance the leader must place on SOPs. Leaders must use the procedures outlined, if only in an abbreviated form, to insure that their element and soldiers understand and are prepared for mission accomplishment.

The process is a continuous cycle. It begins when the unit is alerted for a mission. It starts all over again when a new mission is received. In combat, there may not be available time to go through each step in detail. However, a good leader will habitually check each step off in his mind or refer to a leader's notebook/checklist to ensure that he has not forgotten anything. Troop leading must be an instinctive and a familiar way of operating. The troop-leading steps and their sequence are not rigid. They are modified to meet the mission, situation, and available time. Some steps are conducted concurrently while others are continuous throughout the operation.

Step 1: Receive The Mission. A mission may be received in a warning order, operations order (OPORD), or as a fragmentary order (FRAGO). As soon as the leader receives the mission, he analyzes it using METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time). If the leader does not fully understand the mission, he seeks additional guidance. The platoon leader must determine the time available and use only one-third of it to prepare his plan. At least two-thirds of the available time should be used for preparation. The leader should use the backward planning technique. Determine when the mission starts and plan back from there, ensuring there is enough time allocated for each task/step. Below is an example:

0720: Ready time
0715: Check assembly area
0600: Inspect squad/rehearse
0505: Issue order to squad
0500: Complete squad order
0405: Reconnoiter with platoon leader/receive order
0350: Issue warning order to squad

Step 2: Issue a Warning Order. Initial instructions are usually in an warning order. In the warning order, the leader provides enough information for his unit to begin preparations for the mission. The platoon leader issues the warning order to the platoon sergeant and the squad leaders. Each squad leader in turn issues a warning order to his squad. Unit SOP should prescribe the actions for all soldiers to take once a warning order is received; for example: PMCS (preventive maintenance checks and services) vehicle, check water and fuel cans, check ammunition and ration levels, and so forth. The warning order should contain, at a minimum--

  • Mission/nature of the operation.
  • Who is participating in the operation.
  • Time of the operation.
  • General location of the operation.
  • Time and place the order will be issued.
  • Any special instructions.

Step 3: Make a Tentative Plan. Based on METT-T, the leader develops a tentative plan for supporting the assigned mission. The tentative plan gives the leader a starting point from which to coordinate, reconnoiter, organize, and move. During his planning, the leader takes into account the following--

  • What is the platoon's mission? (Example: We must create a smoke screen to conceal the movement to objective Red or we must establish a smoke line NLT 0400).

  • What enemy troops oppose us? (What size units and where are they? What type weapons do they have?)

  • How can we use the terrain to our advantage? (Analyze the terrain using OCOKA - observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, obstacles, key terrain, and avenues of approach).

  • What is the availability of troops for this operation? (What is the number of systems fully operational? Is there a shortage of personnel?)

  • How much time is available for planning and preparation and how long do we need to smoke?

The leader considers each of these factors and compares alternatives. From his analysis, he draws a conclusion that forms the basis for his plan of action, which will become his order.

Step 4: Start Necessary Movement. During steps 3 through 8, the platoon leader may be forward completing his plan. If there is a distance between the platoon and where the mission must be conducted, the platoon sergeant may bring the platoon forward to save time. This particular step may be omitted, occur in a different sequence, or be done concurrently with another step.

Step 5: Reconnoiter. If time allows, the leader makes a personal reconnaissance to verify his terrain analysis, adjust his plan, confirm the usability of routes, and time any critical movements. When time does not allow, the leader must make a map reconnaissance.

Step 6: Complete the Plan. Based on the reconnaissance, the leader completes his plan using the five paragraph field order as his guide.

Step 7: Issue the Complete Order. The leader issues his order orally following the five-paragraph field order format. If possible the order should be issued from a vantage point overlooking the terrain the unit will be operating on. If that is not possible, the leader should use a terrain map (sand table) or sketch to help explain his plan. At the end of the order, each subordinate leader should copy the necessary graphics onto his map. If time allows, the platoon leader should conduct his own rehearsal.

Step 8: Supervise. After the order is issued, leaders direct the preparation. The platoon must conduct rehearsals and backbriefs. The platoon leader should attend the supported unit's rehearsal.


No matter how much planning time is available, there are essential elements of a smoke plan. These essential elements provide the level of planning detail required for the smoke operation to support the unit's scheme of maneuver and the commander's intent for the mission.


The commander's intent for using smoke must be clearly identified and understood. The smoke planner must answer this question: What does the commander want the smoke to accomplish? The commander must provide this information in his initial planning guidance.


The mission statement is a clear, concise statement of who, what, when, where, and why smoke will be used to support the operation. The type of smoke desired is included in the mission statement: smoke haze, smoke blanket, visibility of no less than 50 meters, and so forth.


The exact locations that must be smoked are identified as smoke targets and objectives. A smoke target is a specific point on the ground that must be obscured, such as a bridge or fixed facility. Smoke objectives are large areas that must be obscured. Other control measures assist the smoke unit leader in controlling the placement of smoke on the battlefield: primary smoke line, alternate smoke line, contact point, passage point, route, rally point, and so forth. The platoon leader acquires a majority of this data from the leader's recon. Graphics of the supported unit's operation are also added to the platoon's graphics.


The plan must identify the responsible individual(s) for triggering the execution of indirect smoke fires and the starting/stopping of generated smoke. The use of codewords is a preferred method for quickly disseminating instructions: ROSE = start smoke, VERMONT = stop smoke.


Smoke generator units are limited by two key factors: wind direction and a finite number of platforms. The employment of all smoke assets must be considered and an integrated plan developed. Indirect fire systems may be used to build the initial screen or blind enemy gunners while the smoke unit maneuvers into position. Vehicle engine exhaust smoke system (VEESS) use complements smoke generator operations during maneuver.


The physical placement of smoke on the battlefield is not an instantaneous event. For projected smoke munitions, the time to process the fire mission, time of flight of the munition, the time to build an effective smoke screen, and the average burning time are considered in the plan. When planning the employment of smoke generators, consider the time required to move and establish the smoke line and the time for the smoke to develop within the desired area (based on wind speed). The movement speed of the task force or the closure speed of the enemy are other critical factors when synchronizing the smoke with the maneuver plan.


When smoke generator units are actively producing smoke, they are extremely vulnerable to enemy air, ground, and artillery attacks. Depending on the positioning of the smoke unit, the supported unit should provide a security element for protection.


Routes, contact points, and passage points are designated when the smoke unit must pass through another unit to occupy a smoke position. The smoke platoon must coordinate it movement on the battlefield. Coordination between the two units will prevent fratricide. The platoon leader should also coordinate with units who may be affected by the smoke as it crosses over units boundaries.


The plan must clearly identify the command/support relationship. The command/support relationship will dictate what the type of logistical support the smoke platoon can expect from the supported unit. The availability and sustainment of required and on-hand smoke material (fog oil, smoke pots, for example) is a primary limiting factor of any planned smoke operation.


Squads and platoons must be able to effectively communicate to control and coordinate movement, send and receive instructions, request logistical or fire support, and gather and distribute information. There are many ways to communicate. The primary types of communications available at platoon level are messenger, wire, visual, sound, and radio, A backup means of communicating should always be planned in case the primary method fails. The means of communication chosen depends on the situation and available communications assets.


Using a messenger is the most secure means of communicating and usually the best way to send long messages that cannot be delivered personally by a commander. It is the slowest means of sending information and is vulnerable should the messenger be delayed, captured, or killed. Messages sent by a messenger should be clear, concise, and complete. No unnecessary words should be used. If there is a chance the messenger might be captured, the message should be encoded, using the operational code in the SOI.


Use wire communications whenever the platoon expects to stay in one place more than an hour. When possible, tie the whole platoon together by a wire net. The wire net consists of field wire laid among vehicles. There are several ways the platoon wire net can be set up, depending on whether the platoon is totally mounted or partially dismounted.


When mounted, lay the wire from vehicle to vehicle. On the M1059, connect the wire to the terminals on the right rear of each vehicle. Because TA-1 telephones (which are sound powered) are being used, one strand of the wire must be cut, the insulation stripped away, and the wire ends attached to the wire terminal connectors on the right rear of the M1059. Connect the TA-1 to the terminals on the inside of the vehicle by using a short length of wire.


The platoon occupies a position and has dismounted positions/OPs. The wire net would be made by connecting all the platoon vehicle and dismounted positions.

In mechanized units, the dismount positions will use TA-ls, one strand of wire must be cut, the insulation stripped back, and the wires attached to the binding posts of the TA-1 to connect the dismounted positions to the wire net Because one strand of the wire must be cut, the wire net is in series. This means that if the wire is broken or disconnected, the whole wire net will cease to function.

  • Connect vehicle crews to the wire net by stripping the insulation from the end of the strands of wire and inserting the wire ends into the binding posts of the AM/1780 audio frequency amplifier.

  • T-Splice this wire into the wire net by cutting one strand of the wire, stripping back the insulation from the ends, and splicing the ends to the wire from the AM/1780. Use this method for vehicles that connect to the wire net between the ends of the wire net. If the wire net starts at a M1059, connect the wire to the binding posts of the AM/1780. The AM/1780 must be turned on while in the wire net. If it is turned off, the wire net will not work. Wire should be tied off to the hull to prevent damage to the AM/1780 if the vehicle moves.

NOTE: A communications check must be made to ensure the wire net works. The C-2298 control box must be set in the ALL position. Set the AM/1780 for normal operations. If a fighting vehicle crew cannot communicate with the rest of the teams, reverse the strands of wire in the AM/1780 binding posts and make another check.

For motorized units, lay the wire between the vehicles and the dismounted positions. To do this, the telephones must be both in the vehicle and the dismounted positions.

After wire has been laid to all vehicles, it should be buried several inches deep or strung overhead. This prevents vehicles damaging the wire or soldiers tripping over it. Before a vehicle moves more than a few feet, the vehicle commander should ensure the wire is disconnected.

When a position is vacated, recover the wire, unless impractical due to enemy activity.


Visual signals are the most common means of communicating in squads and platoons. Arm-and-hand signals, flags, flashlights, and pyrotechnics allow rapid transmission of messages and instructions. Disadvantages in using visual signals is that smoke may obscure these signals during smoke operations. The enemy may also see and understand the visual signals. But if the terrain is used properly, there is less chance these signals will be seen by the enemy. Another consideration is visual signals require visual contact between the sender and the receiver, and often the signals are misunderstood. To overcome this, every man must be able to send, receive, and understand messages using visual signals. Squads and platoons must practice these signals every chance they get.

Arm-and-Hand Signals

Arm-and-hand signals are the basic way of communicating within squads and platoons when visibility is good. They are essential during periods of radio-listening silence.


Flag signals are easier to see and understand at greater distances than arm-and-hand signals. Each vehicle should have a set of three flags--red, green, and yellow. They may be used to--

  • Control movement. Flags serve as an extension of arm-and-hand signals.
  • Mark vehicle positions. For example, a quartering party member uses flags in an assembly area to mark vehicle positions.
  • Identify disabled vehicles.
  • Warn friendly elements of an advancing enemy. For example, an observation point (OP) member uses a flag to signal a platoon to move to its fighting position.


Pyrotechnics can be used as signals any time of the day. In daylight and in conditions of limited visibility, such as fog, rain, or falling snow, they are less effective. Pyrotechnic signals are usually prescribed in the SOI. Squads and platoons cannot improvise and use their own pyrotechnic signals. They may conflict with the SOI and confuse other units. Pyrotechnic messages must be confirmed as soon as possible because the originator cannot be sure the signal was seen and understood. Supplying pyrotechnics is also a logistical consideration.


Other Signals

Mirrors, headlights, and panels are other means of visual communication but are difficult to use on the move. See FM 21-60 for a complete list of visual signals.


Sound communications include such simple devices as whistles, horns, gongs, and explosives. Sound signals are used mainly to attract attention, transmit prearranged messages, and spread alarms. Sound signals work, but only for short distances. Battle noises, specifically smoke generators, cut down the range and reliability of sound signals. They are also open to enemy interception, so their use maybe restricted for security. To avoid any misunderstanding, sound signals must be simple. They are usually prescribed by unit SOP and the SOI.


Enemy forces may have an extensive radio intercept capability. Use radios within the platoon only when messages cannot adequately be sent by other means. If a radio transmission is intercepted, the enemy usually can find out where a unit is and what it is doing. When radios are used, keep transmissions short and to the point. The sender must know what he wants to say before he transmits. This helps keep messages short and the radio net open. It also reduces vulnerability to enemy intercept. FM communications require proper authentication procedures. When using SINCGARS radios, the platoon must load "hop" and "lockout" sets of the supported unit.

A platoon may have the following radio equipment :

  • AN/VRC-91. The AN/VRC-91 is a long-range vehicle radio with dual-net capability. One of the radios is dismountable and has accessories for man-pack configuration. The platoon leader's and platoon sergeant's vehicle have the AN/VRC-91.
  • AN/VRC-87. The AN/VRC-87 is a vehicle-mounted, short-range, single-net radio.
  • AN/PRC-126. The platoon is authorized one AN/PRC-126 squad radio per vehicle.

NOTE: Radio discipline must be strictly enforced because of the number of radios on the platoon net. To neutralize the enemy's intercept and radio direction-finder capability and to make command and control easier, make only necessary transmissions.

For mechanized units during mounted movement, soldiers should wear the CVC helmet in place of the soldier's helmet. Before the soldier dismounts, he hangs his CVC helmet on a hook by his intercom system control box. Soldiers using headset wear their helmet over the headset. Before he dismounts, he removes the headset and places it on a hook by his control box. This is done to prevent soldiers tripping over a CVC cord or headset cord or damaging the equipment. Tape the CVC quick-disconnect to the spaghetti cord. It is disastrous for a vehicle commander to lose communications with his driver.

Radiotelephone Procedures

Certain commonly used procedural words (prowords) have distinct meanings. They shorten the time used in voice communication and avoid confusion. They are used when talking on the radio. Table 3-1 lists the most frequently used prowords.

The following rules apply for radio and wire communications:

  • Listen and think before transmitting (sending).
  • Make the message short and clear.
  • Speak clearly, slowly, and in natural phrases; pronounce each word distinctly. If the receiving operator must write, allow him enough time for writing.
  • If jammed (using-radio), use the methods listed in the discussion on communications security (below).
  • When using the radio or wire, personnel should not waste time. Send the message and get off the net.


Communications security (COMSEC) denies or delays unauthorized persons from gaining valuable telecommunications information. COMSEC includes--

  • Using correct authentication procedures to ensure the other communicating station is friendly.
  • Using only approved codes.
  • Enforcing net discipline and radiotelephone procedures. All stations operating in a net must use authorized call signs and prowords and limit transmissions to necessary official traffic.
  • Restricting the use of radio transmitters, while monitoring radio receivers (radio-listening silence).
  • Using terrain to mask radio communication from the enemy (place a hill or other terrain feature between the transmitter and the enemy).
  • Using directional antennas when possible. (See FM 24-33.)
  • Using low-power when possible, especially when smoke points are in close proximity to each other.
  • Keeping antennas tied down.

Electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) prevent or overcome enemy electronic warfare. ECCM taken by a platoon consist of mainly using proper signal security and anti-jamming techniques.

Radio operators must use anti-jamming procedures to reduce enemy jamming efforts. They are recognition, continued operations, and reporting.


When an operator's radio indicates interference, he first tries to find what is causing the interference. He should not immediately assume jamming, because jamming signs often are like other types of interference. Removal of the receiver antenna can help determine if the interference is being produced internally by the receiver. If interference decreases when the antenna is removed, the problem is jamming.


Once jamming has been identified, normal radio operations should be continued so the enemy cannot determine the jamming effects. The rule is: during jamming, continue operation unless ordered to shut down or switch to an alternate frequency.


All operators must report jamming to their next higher headquarters by another means of communications; for example, wire or messenger. At a minimum, the meaconing, intrusion, jamming, and interference (MIJI) report contains--

  • Date and time of jamming.
  • Frequencies affected.
  • Type and strength of jamming signal.
  • Designation of the unit making the report.


Smoke control is essential to the success of any smoke mission. Smoke is affected by any number of physical and tactical conditions on the battlefield. It is nearly impossible for the smoke unit leader to observe how effective his smoke is from the smoke line. An observation point that can clearly see the target area is necessary for the control of the smoke operation. The smoke control point must maintain communications with both the smoke unit and the supported unit. It is imperative that the supported unit commander or S-3 maintain contact with smoke platoon to advise them if there is too much or too little smoke on the target.

Controlling mobile smoke operations requires the platoon leader to maintain communications with the supported unit. The supported unit must inform the smoke platoon leader if the smoke screen is ineffective. The platoon leader may not have visual observation of the supported force and the smoke screen. It may not be possible for the platoon leader to occupy a vantage point.

The platoon leader or smoke control point can use cardinal directions to shift the position of the platoon to maintain smoke coverage. In these circumstances, smoke unit leaders face a rapidly changing situation and must respond accordingly. Cardinal directions may be used with compass point orientation: for example, "All elements, north, 300 meters," or by clock orientation, "All elements, three o'clock, 300 meters."

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