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Chapter 10

Offensive and Defensive Operations

The whole of military activity must relate directly or indirectly to the engagement. The end for which a soldier is recruited, clothed, armed, and trained; the whole object of his sleeping, eating, drinking, and marching is simply that he should fight at the right place and the right time.
Army doctrine considers the full range of operations from war to MOOTW. An operation is a military action or the carrying out of a military mission needed to gain the objectives of any battle or campaign. Offensive and defensive operations normally dominate military operations in war and in some smaller-scale contingencies. An offensive operation is aimed at destroying or defeating the enemy and imposing our will on him for a decisive victory. Defensive operations defeat an enemy attack, buy time, economize forces, or develop conditions favorable for a counteroffensive that regains the initiative and defeats the enemy.


10-1. The offense is the decisive form of battle. Offensive campaigns and major operations are designed to achieve operational and strategic objectives quickly and decisively at the least cost. Offensive operations combine the terrain and the force to achieve the objective. The main purpose of the offense is to defeat, destroy, or neutralize the enemy force. Offensive operations are characterized by a rapid shift in the main effort to take advantage of opportunities by momentum and simultaneous destruction of enemy defenses.

10-2. The immediate purpose of defensive operations is to defeat an attack. Military forces defend only until they can gain sufficient strength to attack. Commanders choose to defend when they need to buy time, to hold a piece of terrain, to facilitate other operations, or to erode enemy resources at a rapid rate while reinforcing friendly operations. The ARFOR conduct defensive operations as part of major operations and campaigns and in combination with offensive operations (see FM 3-0).


10-3. MP support to offensive operations varies according to the type of operation being conducted. The MP functions support each echelon commander based on METT-TC. In the offense, MP priorities are often placed on MMS, I/R, and AS operations. Regardless of the offensive effort, MP leaders supporting an offensive operation must-

  • Understand the commander's intent and his concept of operations.
  • Anticipate that selective elements of the offensive force may need to pause, defend, resupply, or reconstitute while other forces attack.
  • Anticipate changes in the operational tempo and prepare to weight the MP effort to meet the maneuver commander's intent.
  • Provide MP support within the context of linear and nonlinear operations. They must understand how both types of operations affect the security of rear areas and LOC, the protection of C4I, the means of sustainment, and the land force's mobility.
  • Support the maneuver commander's intelligence efforts by conducting the PIO function. The MP must observe, identify, and report information.
  • Assist maneuver forces to mass. The MP protect C2nodes such as the CP that orchestrates the mass efforts and resources that sustain the offensive move. The MP must deny incursions by enemy reconnaissance forces into the AO. They also maintain surveillance, provide early warning, and impede and harass the enemy with supporting and organic fires.
  • Speed the commitment of follow-on forces and reserves. They must also conduct MMS operations to assist the commander in a smooth and quick shift of forces to support the main effort.
  • Anticipate the pursuit and exploitation by positioning MP forces that can support continuous operations. The MP support as far forward as possible while protecting resources needed to seize the opportunity. The EPWs/CIs are collected as far forward as possible. The MP coordinate the treatment of dislocated civilians and refugees with the HN or foreign forces.
  • Tailor the MP support based on the unit being supported (corps, divisions, and brigades).
  • Consider the location and composition of response forces and the TCF and the strength of rear-area threats.
  • Integrate a force into the offensive plan that is capable of conducting aggressive combat operations against designated targets.

10-4. During offensive operations, MP support provided by teams, squads, and platoons provide the commander with an agile, flexible, versatile, and capable force ready to contribute to the overall mission success.


10-5. The MP support defensive operations consistent with the commander's intent and priorities. They support a defending force by assisting subordinate elements in the execution of different, yet complementary actions. For example, the MP may support the maneuver of an attacking unit by conducting MMS operations while simultaneously providing AS for a defending unit in a base cluster. The MP support reflects the maneuver commander's focus-destroying an attacking force, retaining or denying key terrain, moving away from an enemy force, or a combination of the aforementioned. However, despite the intent of the defensive operation being conducted, MP leaders must-

  • Conduct MMS operations to help a force maneuver and mass. The MP must anticipate the shift from the defense to the offense and assist the forward movement of reserves.
  • Conduct AS operations to deny information to enemy reconnaissance elements seeking out the exact location of the defending force. The MP are positioned where they can control key terrain or improve the defensive capability of bases and base clusters. The MP conduct aggressive R&S to locate and deny enemy access to critical logistical facilities.
  • Protect sustainment resources while supporting the lateral, forward, and rearward movement of forces.
  • Consider the type and size of the AO, the LOC security, the rear threat, and the number of EPWs/CIs and dislocated civilians to determine how they may affect the movement of forces.

10-6. The success of MP operations in the defense depends on the MP leader's situational awareness, the commander's intent, and the precise employment of MP resources when and where they are needed. In the defense, the MP perform their five functions to assist the defending commander by providing a lethal mobile force that allows him to concentrate his efforts and resources in fighting the next battle.

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