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The tempo of operations demands that smoke units supporting maneuver forces spend a lot of time moving. All smoke platoons will spend more time moving than generating smoke. Moving carelessly may cause a unit to make contact with the enemy and suffer needless casualties.


To survive on the battlefield and provide smoke support to maneuver forces, leaders must exercise command and control, maximize the use of terrain, and apply the following fundamentals of movement:

  • Move on covered and concealed routes.
  • Do not move directly forward from covered and concealed positions.
  • Avoid likely ambush sites and other damager areas.
  • Enforce camouflage, noise, and light discipline.
  • Maintain all-round security including air guards.

The smoke platoons and squads must follow these guidelines:

  • Use terrain for protection. Terrain offers natural cover and concealment from enemy observation and cover against fire. Using terrain to protect vehicles is difficult; so, terrain driving must become a habit. Use it when in contact with the enemy and when contact is possible or expected. Vehicle commanders and drivers should use any available depressions and trees to avoid enemy ATGM fire.
  • Avoid possible kill zones. Platoons and squads must avoid wide open spaces, especially where high ground dominates, or where cover and concealment is available to the enemy. When moving to a new position, the driver should make use of speed whenever possible. When a danger area must be crossed, use the appropriate overwatch technique, dispersion, and speed.



Leaders place themselves where they can best command and control. Their location is governed by the situation, movement formation, movement technique, and if the unit is making smoke. The selection of the movement formation is based on the factors of METT-T and element control technique. The distance between vehicles varies according to the terrain and enemy. Each vehicle crew is responsible for a different sector to provide all-round security while on the move. Leaders direct movement by using arm-and-hand signals. Radios should be used only as a backup means of communicating, and only on low power when possible.


Despite the movement technique to be used, the platoon leader issues the platoon an order that explains the what and how for each element. This becomes more critical as the chance for enemy contact increases or the unit must make smoke on the move.

Leaders must be able to give almost all orders for movement techniques by pointing, using arm-and-hand signals, and following SOP. With practice, the platoon and squads will learn the different techniques and formations under various terrain conditions.

The platoon leader, when possible, should issue clear and complete orders to the various elements within the platoon (bounding and overwatch) from the intended overwatch position. This is also true for mobile smoke operations. When this is not possible (such as in fast-moving situations), the platoon leader will direct a specific element to bound or move for a specified distance or time. Example: 1st Squad bound forward 500 meters, 2d Squad provide overwatch; or 1st Squad move north for 5 minutes making smoke, 2d Squad move north-east for 5 minutes making smoke.


Movement techniques are methods of traversing terrain used by units. They are traveling, traveling overwatch, and bounding overwatch. The likelihood of enemy contact determines which technique is used.

Movement Technique

Likelihood of Contact


Not likely

Traveling Overwatch


Bounding Overwatch



Do not confuse movement techniques and formations with mobile smoke techniques. Mobile smoke techniques are addressed in a later section.


Traveling movement technique is employed when enemy contact is not likely and speed is necessary. The unit moves in column with a 50 to 100 meter interval. Vehicles move continuously at a maximum safe sped When the column stops, all vehicles herringbone. The unit moves along covered and concealed routes using terrain masking. The unit automatically contracts and expands, based on terrain and visibility. The unit maintains local security according to its SOP. Each vehicle posts an airguard. The unit leader is located where he can best control.


Traveling overwatch movement technique is employed when enemy contact is possible. Unit moves in column with a 50 to 100 meter interval between vehicles and with designated lead and trail elements. Lead element moves continuously, following covered and concealed routes using terrain masking. The lead element is approximately 100 to 400 meters ahead of the trail element, depending on terrain and vegetation. The trail element moves at varying speeds, stopping as required to overwatch the lead vehicle. Visual contact is maintained with the lead element at all times. The trail element overmatches at such a distance that should the enemy engage the lead element, it will not prevent the trail element from firing or moving to support the lead element. In wooded areas or restricted terrain, the unit will reduce speed and interval. In adverse weather conditions, the crew of the lead vehicle dismounts to verify the trafficability of the route. The vehicle following provide overwatch. The unit maintains local security according to its SOP.


Bounding overwatch movement technique is employed when enemy contact is expected. Lead element bounds forward following a covered and conceded route using terrain masking. The bounding element may be a single team for a squad movement or the entire squad for a platoon movement. Overwatching teams cover the progress of the bounding vehicles from covered and concealed positions offering observation and fields of fire against suspected enemy positions. Visual contact is maintained at all times. The length of the bound is based on terrain analysis and the ranges and fields of fire from the overmatching vehicles. When cresting a hill, entering an open area, exiting a defile, or moving through any other restrictive terrain, the smoke generator operator dismounts from the vehicle. He moves forward on foot to a point where he can observe all suspected or likely enemy firing positions. The unit maintains local security according to its SOP.


There are five formations for mounted movement at the platoon level: column, line, echelon, vee, and wedge.


Use the column formation for road marches, for movement during limited visibility, and when passing through defiles or other restrictive terrain. The platoon can deploy rapidly from the column formation into other formations. The column simplifies control and provides good security.

The staggered column is used for rapid movement across open terrain (figure 4-l). It affords all-around observation and fields of fire. The platoon leader positions himself where he can best control the platoon. The staggered column formation is used by a squad or platoon-size units. Vehicles should maintain a 25 to 100 meter interval and lateral dispersion. The vehicle commander of each vehicle maintains observation of his designated sector. The exact distance between the vehicles is METT-T dependent. Weather conditions and visibility are also important considerations.


The line formation is used primarily for rapid movement when time is limited and enemy contact is not expected. This formation provides little flank security.


An echelon formation provides good security coverage to the front or flank (figures 4-2 and 4-3). It provides flexibility and speed. This formation does not provide sufficient security if enemy contact is possible or expected.


The vee formation affords good security, speed, command, and control (figure 4-4). The split vee can be used when the two squads are operating on different routes. These formations are used when contact is possible but speed is desirable. The lead vee element moves along covered and conceded routes for protection. The trail element moves at variable speed, continually overwatching and providing security. The trail element will always maintain visual contact with the lead element and may stop periodically to provide for better observation.


The wedge formation is used by squad or platoon size elements (figure 4-5). It allows for security and facilitates positive command and control. Vehicle dispersion and intervals are again dependent on METT-T and weather visibility. When "spreading out" in open flat terrain, at a minimum each vehicle must maintain visibility of the vehicle to its front. When moving in platoon wedge, the platoon leader positions himself where he can best control movement of the entire platoon. The track commander of each vehicle maintains observation of a designated sector. This formation is used when enemy contact is possible.

The column of wedges is one of the most frequently used platoon movement formations (figure 4-6). It allows for optimum flexibility and security and good command and control. It is best employed when traveling or traveling overwatch techniques are warranted. Vehicle dispersion and intervals between squads are METT-T dependent, but the lead vehicle of the trail squad generally needs visual contact with the lead squad. This formation allows squads to deploy into other formations most rapidly should the tactical situation warrant.


There are two security formations that are used when the vehicles are not moving: herringbone and coil.


Use the herringbone (figure 4-7) to disperse the platoon during a halt when traveling in the column formation. This formation is also used during air attacks. It lets the platoon move to covered and concealed positions off a road or from an open area and establish all-round security without detailed instructions being issued. The vehicles are repositioned as necessary to take advantage of the best cover, concealment, and fields of fire. Crew members dismount and establish security per SOP.


Use the coil formation (figure 4-8) to provide all-round security and observation when the unit is occupying an assembly area. It is also useful for tactical refueling, resupply, and issuing platoon orders. Because this formation presents an easy target, do not use it for long periods during daylight. Post security to include air guards and dismounted personnel. There are two methods used to form a coil.

  • The first method, when visibility is limited, requires the platoon leader to form the coil by leading his platoon in-a circle. When the circle is complete, all vehicles stop, adjust for cover and concealment, turn 90 degrees outward, and post security.

  • In the second method, by the platoon leader signals, quickly moves his vehicle into position, and stops. The other vehicles move directly to their assigned positions, as stated in the platoon SOP, seek cover and concealment, and post security. This technique is used during daylight or whenever speed is essential.


To successfully make smoke while moving, positive control must be maintained. Controlling a mobile smoke mission requires a high degree of planning and orchestration. The smoke the vehicles produce can hamper the ability of the smoke platoon leader to effectively control his own unit. This loss of control places the platoon and mission accomplishment at risk. This requires the use of workable control measures to limit the risk and promote mission success. Mobile smoke operations should only be conducted when there is no other means of accomplishing the mission.

The smoke platoon must rehearse smoke on the move techniques while not making smoke. Develop standard procedures that are not dependent on seeing other vehicles. Establishing a single speed for these procedures is critical. If the platoon does not train to work without visual contact, the likelihood of accidents and mission failure increases.


The smoke target or objective maybe stationary or moving. If the platoon is to screen a moving target, then the platoon will assume a formation depending on the wind direction (table 4-1), The vehicles will produce smoke and move with the target. However, smoke system can never move faster than the wind speed or a gap in the smoke cloud will occur. Wind speed has impact on risk analysis in terms of security and vulnerability. The platoon leader must, if possible, move to a vantage point to assume smoke control. The platoon leader must have commo with the moving force to insure that it is adequately screened Each vehicle will maintain visual observation on the vehicle to their front. The lead vehicle is responsible for matching the speed of the target. The lead vehicle also will warn the vehicles following of danger areas or enemy contact. Coordination is required during planning process for additional security assets.


The back-and-forth technique is used when the target is stationary and the number of smoke platforms in the platoon are insufficient to occupy a static smoke line. In the back-and-forth technique the vehicles line up perpendicular to the wind direction and drive straight for a distance based on target size and distance to target (figure 4-10). The vehicles continually repeat this process, staying within their assigned lanes. It also can be performed by driving in an orbital or figure eight pattern. Using the back-and-forth technique allows the smoke platoon to cover a larger target by spreading the smoke around. However, the source of the smoke is plainly visible, since this technique provides little or no concealment for the smoke vehicles. During the leader's recon, the platoon leader will identify fighting positions, withdrawal routes, and resupply routes.


The rapid pace of hasty smoke missions, particularly when smoke platoons support maneuver forces, often dictate the movement of the smoke platoon from established smoke lines. When forced to displace to maintain smoke coverage, the platoon should use the bounding technique. The bounding technique involves two or more elements successively moving forward of each other. The elements may be squads or individual vehicles. Squad movement is controlled by the smoke control point. Individual vehicle movement is controlled by the squad leader. The stationary element is responsible for providing security for the moving element if possible. Constant communication is critical throughout. The stationary element continues to make smoke while the other element moves. The moving element may or may not produce smoke while moving. This technique allows the smoke unit to support a maneuvering force while retaining a high state of security.

Squad Bounding

The squad bounding technique (figure 4-11) could be used to isolate enemy forces or objectives. The screen is made using two squads, one stationary squad and one bounding squad. The stationary squad makes smoke while the bounding squad and moves to its next position. Upon arrival, both squads make smoke until further bounding is required. The dispersion between squads is 500 to 1,000 meters. This allows for slow movement of the screen. Once the bounding squad is in position, they continue or begin making smoke to conceal the movement of the other squad. The disposition of enemy forces will determine whether the bounding element makes smoke on the move.

Leap Frog Variation

The leap fog variation (figure 4-12) is similar to the bounding technique. It is used with a cross or quarter wind. The platoon executes the leap frog while stationary. The platoon is in a line or echelon formation. The last vehicle in line moves up to the front of the line, continuing to make smoke as it moves. Once in position it notifies the last vehicle in line, which repeats the leap frog movement on order. The platoon continues to move forward by successive leap frogs. This variation can be reversed by having the vehicles leap frog from the front to the rear of the formation.


Similar to the back and forth technique, the race track technique (Figure 4-13) can be executed using one vehicle or multiple vehicles. This technique requires extra coordination to avoid collision. However, it is beneficial in reducing friendly vulnerability. By executing the maneuver on the outside perimeter of the smoke line, stationary vehicles are concealed and the smoke from the moving vehicle(s) helps supplement the rest of the mission. Discipline, constant speed, and no stopping are critical.

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