UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!




The SBCT infantry rifle company has the flexibility to defend in both restricted and unrestricted terrain through the use of its infantry forces and the precision direct fires of its MGS platoon. When defending against a mounted threat in open terrain, it uses its dismounted AT weapons and MGS to destroy enemy vehicles while its infantry protects its AT assets from a dismounted assault. However, this unit defends best in restricted terrain using light infantry decentralized tactics. This chapter covers specific considerations for use of vehicles (both the MGS and the ICV) in defending restricted terrain. It also addresses the defensive employment of MGS vehicles below the platoon level.


The immediate purpose of defensive actions is to resist, defeat, or destroy an enemy attack and gain the initiative for the offense. Defensive operations defeat an enemy attack, buy time, economize forces, or develop conditions favorable for offensive operations. Defensive actions alone are not decisive; they must be combined with or followed by offensive action. Though the outcome of decisive combat derives from offensive actions, commanders often find that it is necessary, even advisable, to defend. Once they make this choice, they must set the conditions for the defense in a way that allows friendly forces to withstand and hold the enemy while they prepare to seize the initiative and return to the offense. A thorough understanding of the commander's intent is especially critical in defensive operations, which demand precise integration of combat, combat service, and combat service support elements.


As part of the SBCT defensive operations, the company may defend, delay, withdraw, or counterattack. The company also may perform security tasks. The company normally defends as part of the battalion's defense in the SBCT's main battle area (MBA). The three types of defensive operations are--


  • Area Defense. Concentrates on denying the enemy access to designated terrain for a specified time, rather than the outright destruction of the enemy. The SBCT infantry rifle company, with its enhanced mobility, has the capability to perform an area defense.
  • Mobile Defense. Orients on the destruction of the enemy through a decisive attack(s) by a striking force. The SBCT infantry rifle company participates in a mobile defense as the striking force or as part of a larger striking force.
  • Retrograde Operations. Forced or voluntary movements to the rear or away from the enemy. The SBCT infantry rifle company normally participates in retrograde operations as part of a larger unit.


The immediate purposes of all defensive operations are to defeat an enemy attack and gain the initiative for offensive operations. The SBCT infantry company also may conduct the defense to achieve one or more of the following purposes:


  • Gain time.
  • Retain key terrain.
  • Support other operations.
  • Preoccupy the enemy in one area while friendly forces attack him in another.
  • Erode enemy forces at a rapid rate while reinforcing friendly operations.


The characteristics of the defense--preparation, security, disruption, mass, concentration, and flexibility--are planning fundamentals for the SBCT infantry company. There are two defensive patterns outlined in FM 3-90: area and mobile. (See FM 3-90 for further discussion on mobile and area defenses and the characteristics of the defense.)


The defender arrives in the battle area before the attacker. He must take advantage of this by making the most thorough preparations for combat possible in the time he has. By analyzing the factors of METT-TC, the SBCT infantry rifle company commander gains an understanding of the tactical situation and identifies potential friendly and enemy weaknesses. He then war-games friendly and enemy options and synchronizes his concept of the operation with all available combat multipliers.


The goals of the company security effort normally include providing early warning, destroying enemy reconnaissance units, and impeding and harassing enemy main body elements. The company continues its mission until directed to displace.


Defensive plans vary with the circumstances, but all defensive concepts of operation aim at disrupting the attacker's synchronization. Counterattacks, indirect fires, obstacles, and retention of key or decisive terrain prevent the enemy from concentrating his strength against portions of the defense. Destroying enemy command and control vehicles disrupts enemy synchronization and flexibility.


The defender must concentrate combat power at the decisive time and place if he is to succeed. He must obtain a local advantage at points of decision. Offensive action and the use of surprise and deception are often the means of gaining this advantage. The defender must remember that this concentration refers to combat power and its effects--not just numbers of soldiers and weapons systems. To concentrate combat power, the defender normally must economize in some areas, retain a reserve, and maneuver to gain local superiority. Local counterattacks may be needed to maintain the integrity of the defense. Indirect fire can shift to critical points to concentrate destructive effects rapidly.


Flexibility is derived from sound preparation and effective C2. The defender must be agile enough to counter or avoid the attacker's blow and then strike back effectively. Flexibility results from a detailed mission analysis, an understanding of the unit's purpose, aggressive R&S), and, when applicable, organization in depth and retention or reconstitution of a reserve. Flexibility requires that the company commander "see the battlefield"--physically and through the COP as well as timely and accurate analog reports. Supplementary positions on secondary avenues of approach may provide additional flexibility to the company commander. After a good analysis of the terrain and enemy, reserves can be positioned to allow the company commander to react to unanticipated events.


As part of a larger element, the SBCT infantry rifle company conducts defensive operations in a sequence of integrated and overlapping steps. The following paragraphs focus on the tactical considerations and procedures involved in each step. This discussion illustrates an attacking enemy that uses depth in its operations, but there will be situations where a company must defend against an enemy that does not have a doctrinal operational foundation. Such a situation requires a more flexible plan that allows for more centralized combat power rather than spreading it throughout the company's area of operations.


Security forces must protect friendly MBA forces and allow them to continue their defensive preparations. When possible, these security forces work in conjunction with the SBCT's RSTA squadron. The enemy will attempt to discover the defensive scheme of maneuver using reconnaissance elements and attacks by forward detachments and advance guard elements. He also will attempt to breach the SBCT battalion's tactical obstacles.

a.   Security Force. The goals of the SBCT battalion security force normally include providing early warning, destroying enemy reconnaissance units, and impeding and harassing enemy main body elements. The security force continues its mission until directed to displace. The SBCT battalion commander also may use security forces in his deception effort to give the illusion of strength in one area while positioning his true combat power in another. While conducting this type of security operation, the SBCT infantry rifle company may simultaneously have to prepare battle positions (BPs), creating a challenging time management problem for the commander and his subordinate leaders.

b.   Guides. During this step, the SBCT infantry company may need to provide guides to pass the security force and may be tasked to close the passage lanes. The company also may play a role in shaping the battlefield. The SBCT battalion commander may position the company to deny likely enemy attack corridors to enhance flexibility and force enemy elements into friendly engagement areas. When it is not conducting security or preparation tasks, the company normally occupies hide positions to avoid possible chemical strikes or enemy artillery preparation.


During this step, the company reconnoiters and occupies its positions. This usually includes movement from tactical assembly areas to the actual defensive AO, led by a quartering party that clears the defensive positions. The brigade and battalion establish security forces during this step, and remaining forces begin to develop engagement areas and prepare BPs. Operational and tactical security is critical during the occupation to ensure the company can avoid detection and maintain combat power for the actual defense. Soldiers at all levels of the company must thoroughly understand their duties and responsibilities related to the occupation; they must be able to execute the occupation quickly and efficiently to maximize the time available for planning and preparation of the defense.


As this phase begins, the SBCT engages the enemy at long ranges using indirect fires, electronic warfare, and close air support (deep fight). The goal is to use these assets, along with disrupting obstacles, to shape the battlefield, to slow the enemy's advance, and to disrupt his formations. As the enemy's main body echelon approaches the SBCT battalion engagement area, the battalion may initiate indirect fires and CAS to further weaken the enemy by attrition; at the same time, the SBCT's effort normally shifts to second-echelon forces. Friendly forces occupy their actual defensive positions before the enemy reaches direct fire range; they may shift positions in response to enemy actions or other tactical factors.


Long-range fires may be withheld in accordance with a higher commander's intent.


During this step, the enemy deploys to achieve mass at a designated point, normally employing both assault and support forces. This may leave him vulnerable to the combined effects of indirect and direct fires and integrated obstacles. The enemy may employ additional forces to fix friendly elements and prevent their repositioning. Friendly counterattack forces may be committed against the enemy flank or rear, while other friendly forces may displace to alternate, supplementary, or subsequent positions in support of the commander's scheme of maneuver. All friendly forces should be prepared for the enemy to maximize employment of combat multipliers, such as dismounted infantry operations, to create vulnerability. The enemy is also likely to use artillery, CAS, and chemical weapons to set the conditions for the assault.


As the enemy's momentum slows or stops, friendly forces may launch a counterattack. The counterattack may be launched purely for offensive purposes to seize the initiative from the enemy. In some cases, however, the purpose of the counterattack is mainly defensive, such as reestablishing a position or restoring control of the sector. The SBCT infantry company may participate in the counterattack as a base of fire element (providing support by fire for the counterattack force) or as the actual counterattack force.


The company must secure its sector by repositioning forces, destroying remaining enemy elements, processing EPWs, and reestablishing obstacles. The company conducts all necessary CSS functions as it prepares to continue the defense. Even when enemy forces are not actively engaging it, the SBCT infantry company must maintain awareness of the tactical situation and local security at all times during consolidation and reorganization. The company then must prepare itself for possible follow-on missions.


The battlefield operating systems (BOS) are a listing of critical tactical activities that provide a means of reviewing preparations or execution. The synchronization and coordination of activities within each BOS and among the various BOSs are critical to the success of the SBCT infantry rifle company.

5-14.   MANEUVER

Maneuver is the foundation for the employment of forces on the battlefield. It is defined as the use of movement in combination with fire (or fire potential), employed to achieve a position of advantage with respect to the enemy and to facilitate accomplishment of the mission. In the defense, effective weapons positioning is critical to the company's success. The goal of effective weapons positioning is to enable the company to mass fires at critical points on the battlefield and to enhance its survivability. To do this, the company commander must maximize the strengths of his weapons systems while minimizing the company's exposure to enemy observation and fires. The following paragraphs focus on tactical considerations for weapons positioning.

a.   Depth and Dispersion. Dispersing positions laterally and in depth helps to protect the force from enemy observation and fires. If the terrain allows for the development of a company engagement area (EA), the positions are established in depth, allowing sufficient maneuver space within each position to establish in-depth placement of vehicles, weapons systems, and infantry elements. Fighting positions should be positioned to allow the massing of fires at critical points on the battlefield.

b.   Flank Positions. Flank positions enable a defending force to bring fires to bear on an attacking force moving parallel to the defender's forces. An effective flank position provides the defender with a larger and more vulnerable target while leaving the attacker unsure of the location of the defense. Major considerations for successful employment of a flank position are the defender's ability to secure the flank and his ability to achieve surprise by remaining undetected. Effective fire control and fratricide avoidance measures are critical considerations in the employment of flank positions. See Appendix H for a more detailed discussion of direct fire planning and control.

c.   Displacement Planning. Disengagement and displacement allow the company to retain its operational flexibility and tactical agility in the defense. The ultimate goals of disengagement and displacement are to enable the company to maintain standoff range and to avoid being fixed or decisively engaged by the enemy. The commander must consider several important factors in displacement planning; these include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • The enemy situation (for example, an enemy attack with two battalion-size enemy units may prevent the company from disengaging).
  • Disengagement criteria.
  • Availability of direct fire suppression that can support disengagement by suppressing or disrupting the enemy.
  • Availability of cover and concealment, indirect fires, and smoke to assist disengagement.
  • Obstacle integration, including situational obstacles.
  • Positioning of forces on terrain that provides an advantage to the disengaging elements (such as reverse slopes or natural obstacles).
  • Identification of displacement routes and times when disengagement or displacement will take place. Routes and times are rehearsed.
  • The size of the friendly force that must be available to engage the enemy in support of the displacing unit.
  • Location of remount points, times allocated for remounting, and maneuver considerations for conduct of a remount in contact.

While disengagement and displacement are valuable tactical tools, they can be extremely difficult to execute in the face of a rapidly moving enemy force. In fact, displacement in contact poses such great problems that the company commander must plan for it thoroughly and rehearse displacement before the conduct of the defense. He then must carefully evaluate the situation at the time displacement in contact becomes necessary to ensure it is feasible and will not result in unacceptable personnel or equipment losses.

d.   Disengagement Criteria. Disengagement criteria dictate to subordinate elements the circumstances under which they will displace to an alternate, supplementary, or subsequent BP. The criteria are tied to an enemy action (such as an enemy unit advancing past phase line DOG) and are linked to the friendly situation (for example, they may depend on whether artillery or an overwatch element can engage the enemy). Disengagement criteria are developed during the planning process based on the unique conditions of a specific situation; they should never be part of the unit's SOP.

e.   Direct Fire Suppression. The attacking enemy force must not be allowed to bring effective direct and indirect fires to bear on a disengaging friendly force. Direct fires from the base of fire element, employed to suppress or disrupt the enemy, are the most effective way to facilitate disengagement. The company may receive base of fire support from another element in the battalion. In most cases, however, the company establishes its own base of fire element. Having an internal base of fire requires the company commander to carefully sequence the displacement of his forces.

f.   Cover and Concealment. Ideally, the company and subordinate platoons should use covered and concealed routes when moving to alternate, supplementary, or subsequent BPs. Regardless of the degree of protection the route itself affords, the company and platoons should rehearse the movement. Rehearsals increase the speed at which they can conduct the move, providing an added measure of security. The commander must make a concerted effort to allocate available time to rehearse movement in limited visibility and degraded conditions.

g.   Indirect Fires and Smoke. Artillery or mortar fires can assist the company during disengagement. Suppression fires, placed on an enemy force as it is closing inside the defender's standoff range, slow the enemy and cause him to button up. The defending force engages the enemy with long-range precision direct fires from the MGS platoon and then disengages and moves to new positions. Smoke can obscure the enemy's vision, slow his progress, or screen the defender's movement out of the BP or along his displacement route.

h.   Obstacle Integration. Obstacles must be integrated with direct and indirect fires. By slowing and disrupting enemy movement, obstacles provide the defender with the time necessary for displacement and allow friendly forces to employ direct and indirect fires effectively against the enemy. The modular pack mine system (MOPMS) also can be employed in support of the disengagement, either to block a key displacement route once the displacing unit has passed through it or to close a lane through a tactical obstacle. The location of obstacles in support of disengagement depends in large measure on METT-TC factors. A major consideration is that an obstacle should be positioned far enough away from the defender that he can effectively engage enemy elements on the far side of the obstacle while remaining out of range of the enemy's massed direct fires.

i.   Vehicle Employment. Traditionally, vehicles are not employed below section level; however, if defending in restricted terrain, the SBCT infantry rifle company commander may consider a different task organization to accomplish his mission. For example, the commander's concept may lead him to incorporate ICVs within the defense concept or to task-organize a single MGS vehicle under the control of an infantry platoon leader. The commander must consider the best employment of his company assets to accomplish his mission. He must address the security of the vehicles in his plan if vehicles are not incorporated into the defense.

(1)   Vehicles. The SBCT infantry company commander has several options when employing his vehicles in the defense:


  • Incorporate ICVs as part of the defense.
  • Dismount the weapon system from the ICVs and incorporate the weapon into the defense. Use ICVs as CASEVAC platforms.
  • Prepare a separate battle position for a platoon's ICVs.
  • Prepare MGS positions within platoon battle positions.
  • Use the vehicles to mount a strike force.

(2)   Vehicles in Support of Infantry. There are special considerations in employing the vehicles in support of the infantry fight:


  • The commander must consider the vehicles' security if they are employed below platoon level.
  • When dismounting the weapon system, the commander must consider the manning of the weapon system and ICV. The commander must analyze the need for increased firepower and the consequences of decreased mobility.


For the indirect fire plan to be effective in the defense, the unit must plan and execute fires in a manner that achieves the intended task and purpose of each target. Indirect fires serve a variety of purposes in the defense, including the following:


  • Slow and disrupt enemy movement.
  • Prevent the enemy from executing breaching operations at turning or blocking obstacles.
  • Destroy or delay enemy forces at obstacles using massed fires or pinpoint munitions.
  • Disrupt enemy support-by-fire elements.
  • Defeat attacks along infantry avenues of approach with the use of final protective fire (FPF).
  • Disrupt the enemy to allow friendly elements to disengage or conduct counterattacks.
  • Obscure enemy observation or screen friendly movement during disengagement and counterattacks.
  • Use smoke to separate enemy echelons, to screen friendly displacement, or to silhouette enemy formations to facilitate direct fire engagement.
  • Deliver scatterable mines to close lanes and gaps in obstacles, to disrupt or prevent enemy breaching operations, to disrupt enemy movement at choke points, or to separate or isolate enemy echelons.
  • Provide illumination as necessary.
  • Execute suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions to support CAS, attack aviation, and high-payoff targets.

a.   Fire Support Assets. In developing the fire plan, the company commander must evaluate the indirect fire systems available to provide support. Considerations include tactical capabilities, weapons ranges, and available munitions. These factors help the company commander and FSO determine the best method for achieving the task and purpose of each target in the fire plan.

b.   FIST Positioning. The company's fire support personnel contribute significantly to the fight. Effective positioning is critical. The company commander and FSO must select positions that provide fire support personnel with unobstructed observation of the area of operations. In addition, the FSV should receive high priority for a position with enhanced survivability.


The focus of the air defense plan is on likely air avenues of approach for enemy fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs. Air avenues of approach may or may not correspond with the enemy's ground avenues of approach. ADA assets that are available to the SBCT infantry rifle company are positioned based on METT-TC factors and the SBCT infantry battalion commander's scheme of maneuver. For example, ADA assets are usually positioned about 2 kilometers apart to maximize the Stinger's capabilities in the defense. The Stinger then becomes the primary killer of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, with combined arms air defense (small arms and vehicle-mounted weapons systems) for close-in defense. In another situation, the SBCT battalion S2 and the supporting air defense commander or leader may determine that the air defense systems should be positioned independent of the friendly ground maneuver elements. These systems also are frequently used to protect friendly counterattack forces against aerial observation or attack. Another factor in air defense planning is resupply of Stinger missiles, which places unique demands on the company and requires detailed planning and consideration. It may be necessary to pre-position Stingers in the company area to facilitate timely resupply.


Mobility focuses on preserving the freedom of maneuver of friendly forces. Survivability focuses on protecting friendly forces from the effects of enemy weapon systems. Countermobility limits the maneuver of enemy forces and enhances the effectiveness of fires.

a.   Mobility. Initially during defensive preparations, mobility operations focus on the ability to resupply, reposition, and conduct rearward and forward passage of forces, material, and equipment. Once defensive preparations are complete, the focus normally shifts to supporting the company reserve, local counterattacks, and the higher HQ counterattack or reserve. Priorities set by the SBCT battalion may specify routes for improvement in support of such operations. Normally, all or most of the available engineer assets are allocated to the survivability/countermobility effort until defensive preparations are complete. At a designated time or trigger, engineers disengage from obstacle and survivability position construction and begin preparing for focused mobility operations.

b.   Survivability. The SBCT engineer company is extremely limited in organic earthmoving equipment. It is capable of preparing hasty fighting positions and improving reverse-slope positions during the transition to a hasty defense, but to construct survivability positions for a deliberate defense, the SBCT requires equipment augmentation from a divisional engineer battalion. Thus, it is critical that SBCT infantry battalions and companies maximize the effects of terrain when selecting positions for key weapons and vehicles.

(1)   Survivability positions are prepared in BPs or strongpoints to protect infantry elements, weapons systems, and vehicles. Positions can be constructed and reinforced with overhead cover to provide infantry and crew-served weapons with protection against shrapnel from air bursts.

(2)   The commander prepares the company area for the arrival of the high mobility engineer excavators (HMEE) by marking positions and designating guides for the engineer vehicles. If time is available, vehicle positions are constructed with both hull-defilade firing positions and turret-defilade observation positions. In addition, the company may use digging assets for ammunition caches at alternate, supplementary, or subsequent BPs or in individual vehicle positions. In the event that the company is defending as part of a battalion defense, the process of digging all the SBCT infantry battalion assets will require many "blade hours."

(3)   With limited organic engineer assets, the SBCT allocates specific equipment, by type and time, to battalions and companies. The SBCT infantry rifle company commander must know the number of blade hours and positions (vehicle and individual) he requires, understand the number of blade hours and positions allocated to him, and prepare a prioritized plan based on his analysis of "required" versus "available." For example, the company commander may have time to dig in only the positions that have the least amount of natural cover and concealment. Soil composition also should be a consideration in BP selection; sites to be avoided include those where the soil is overly soft, hard, wet, or rocky. However, placement to support the direct fire plan must be the main consideration.

(4)   It is critical that all leaders understand the survivability plan and priorities, that one leader within the company is specifically designated to enforce the plan and priorities, and that completion status is accurately reported and tracked.

c.   Countermobility. To be successful in the defense, the company commander must integrate individual obstacles into both direct and indirect fire plans, taking into account the intent of each obstacle group. At the SBCT level, obstacle intent consists of the target of the obstacle group, the desired effect on the target, and the relative location of the group. In addition, like artillery and mortar employment, obstacle emplacement must have a clear task and purpose. The purpose influences many aspects of the operation, from selection and design of obstacle sites to actual conduct of the defense. Normally, the battalion or SBCT designates the purpose of an obstacle group. (Refer to FM 90-7 for additional information on obstacle planning, siting, and turnover.)

(1)   Tactical Obstacles. The SBCT battalion designs and resources tactical obstacle groups and assigns them to companies. The battalion commander provides obstacle planning guidance, in terms of obstacle intent, to company commanders and the engineer. Obstacle intent includes the target (enemy force), the desired effect (on the target), and the relative location (relative to terrain, enemy, and friendly) of the company's assigned obstacle group. For example, the battalion commander might specify this purpose: "We must deny the enemy access to our flank by turning the northern, first-echelon motorized rifle battalion (MRB) into our engagement area, allowing Companies B and C to mass their fires to destroy it." Due to the nonlinear, highly mobile nature of SBCT operations, the force relies heavily on scatterable minefield systems and sub-munitions as primary tactical obstacle construction means. These systems, with their self- and command-destruct capability, optimize flexibility and better support rapid transitions between offensive and defensive operations than do conventional mines and other constructed obstacles. The force constructs conventional minefields and obstacles only when preparing a deliberate, long-term defense. In this situation, the SBCT battalion and companies are usually augmented with assets from a divisional engineer battalion. Table 5-1 shows the symbology for each obstacle effect and describes the purpose and characteristics inherent in each.

Table 5-1. Obstacle effects.

Table 5-1. Obstacle effects.

(2)   Protective Obstacles. SBCT infantry rifle companies are responsible for planning and constructing their own protective obstacles. To be most effective, these should be tied into existing or tactical reinforcing obstacles. The company may use mines and wire from its basic load or receive additional materiel (including MOPMS, if available) from the battalion Class IV or V supply point. The company also may be responsible for any other required coordination (such as that needed in a relief in place), for recovery of the obstacle or for its destruction (as in the case of MOPMS).

(a)   In planning for protective obstacles, the commander must evaluate the potential threat to the company's position and then employ the appropriate system to counter that threat. For example, MOPMS is predominantly an antitank system best used on mounted avenues of approach, but it does have some antipersonnel applications. Wire obstacles, on the other hand, may be most effective when employed on dismounted avenues. FM 90-7 provides detailed planning guidance for protective obstacle emplacement.

(b)   Protective obstacles are usually located beyond hand grenade distance (40 to 100 meters) from the soldier's fighting position, and may extend out 300 to 500 meters to tie into tactical obstacles and existing restricted terrain. As with tactical obstacles, the commander should plan protective obstacles in depth and attempt to maximize the effective range of his weapons.

(c)   When planning protective obstacles, the company commander should consider the amount of time required to prepare them, the burden on the logistical system, the soldiers' loads, and the risk of the enemy detecting the obstacles and the resulting loss of surprise.

(3)   Wire Obstacles. There are three types of wire obstacles (Figure 5-1): protective wire, tactical wire, and supplementary wire.

(a)   Protective wire may be a complex obstacle providing all-round protection of a platoon perimeter, or it may be a simple wire obstacle on the likely dismounted avenue of approach (AA) into a squad ambush position. Command-detonated M18 Claymore mines may be integrated into the protective wire or used separately.

(b)   Tactical wire is positioned to increase the effectiveness of the company's fires. It usually is positioned along the friendly side of the machine gun final protective lines (FPLs). Tactical minefields also may be integrated into these wire obstacles or may be used separately.

(c)   Supplementary wire obstacles are used to break up the line of tactical wire to prevent the enemy from locating friendly weapons (particularly the machine guns) by following the tactical wire.

Figure 5-1. Protective wire obstacles.

Figure 5-1. Protective wire obstacles.

(4)   Obstacle Lanes. The company may be responsible for actions related to lanes through obstacles. These duties may include marking lanes in an obstacle, reporting locations of the start and end points of each lane, manning contact points, providing guides for elements passing through the obstacle, and closing the lane.


In addition to the CSS functions required for all operations (Chapter 11), the SBCT infantry rifle company commander's planning process should include the considerations highlighted in the following paragraphs.

a.   Pre-Positioning and Caches. The commander's mission analysis may reveal that the company's ammunition needs during an upcoming operation exceed its basic load. This requires the company to pre-position ammunition caches. The caches, which may be positioned either at an alternate or subsequent BP or with the ICVs and MGSs, should be both dug in and guarded.

b.   Position of Train.. The company trains normally operate one terrain feature to the rear of the company to provide immediate recovery and medical support. The commander also must ensure that all elements know the locations of the SBCT battalion's combat trains and main aid stations and that they plan and rehearse casualty evacuation procedures.


The company commander's analysis determines the most effective measures for every mission. This section describes the techniques and planning considerations available to the company commander as he prepares his defense.


The company normally defends using one of these basic defensive techniques:


  • Defend in sector.
  • Defend a BP.
  • Defend a strongpoint.
  • Defend a perimeter.
  • Defend in a linear defense.
  • Defend in a nonlinear defense.
  • Defend on a reverse slope.

The control measures for the defense are sectors, battle positions, or a combination of these measures. There are no set criteria for selecting the control measures, but Table 5-2, provides some basic considerations.

Table 5-2. Selecting control measures.

Table 5-2. Selecting control measures.


A sector is the company control measure that provides the most freedom of action to a platoon. It provides the platoon with the flexibility to operate in a decentralized manner while still ensuring sufficient control exists to prevent confusion and to synchronize the company's operation. In restricted terrain, where dismounted infantry forces prefer to work, it is difficult to achieve mutual support between the company's platoon battle positions. It is also very difficult for the commander to see and control the fight throughout the company sector.

a.   Company Disposition. The company disposition may consist of platoon sectors, a series of mutually supporting BPs on restricted terrain, or a combination of the two (Figure 5-2). Positions are arrayed in depth. The strength of the sector comes from its flexibility. This defense normally orients on the enemy force and not on retaining terrain. It is effective because it allows the enemy to expose his flanks and critical C2 and CS assets through his own maneuver into the depth of the defense.

Figure 5-2. Company defense in sector, with a platoon in a BP.

Figure 5-2. Company defense in sector, with a platoon in a BP.

b.   Decentralization. By assigning platoon sectors, the company may fight a defense in sector very similar to a nonlinear defense. This decentralized technique for conducting a defense in sector requires greater initiative and delegates more of the control to subordinate leaders. The small-unit actions are very similar to the nonlinear defense. When required, squads or platoons may disengage independently and move to another location within the sector to continue the fight. Considerations for the company R&S plan and employment of a reserve also are very similar to the nonlinear defense.

c.   Platoon Battle Positions. When fighting a company defense in sector from platoon battle positions, the concept is to defeat the attacker through the depth of his formation by confronting him with effective fires from mutually supporting BPs as he attempts to maneuver around them. Infantry positions, patrols, mines, and other obstacles cover gaps that, due to terrain masking or heavy woods, cannot be covered effectively by direct fire. Units remain in place except for local or internal movement to alternate or supplementary positions. If certain platoon positions become untenable during the battle, the company commander may withdraw the platoons according to prepared plans.

(1)   One technique is to allow the enemy to move into the EA and destroy him with massed fires. Another technique is to engage the attacker at maximum range with fires from tactical aircraft, attack helicopters, field artillery, and mortars, then to engage with organic antiarmor weapons positioned to deliver fires at maximum effective ranges from the flanks and rear. As the enemy closes, antiarmor weapons may move to alternate or supplementary firing positions within the BP to continue firing and avoid being bypassed.

(2)   The company defense in sector from platoon battle positions generally requires the company commander to be able to see and control the battle. It also requires good fields of fire to allow mutual support. If the terrain or the expected enemy course of action prevents this, the defense may be more effective if control is more decentralized and the platoons fight in sector.

(3)   A significant concern, particularly when fighting from BPs, is the enemy's ability to isolate a part of the company and then fix and destroy or bypass them. Without effective mutual support between the BPs, this is likely to occur. Even with mutual support, responsive and effective indirect fire support may be critical to defending the BPs. Without immediately available fire support, a capable enemy will quickly concentrate combat power against any BP that is identified.


A battle position is a general location and orientation of forces on the ground from which units defend. The platoon is located within the general area of the BP. Security elements may be located forward and to the flanks of the BP. Platoons defending a BP may not be tied in with adjacent units; thus, the requirement for all-round security is increased. When assigning BPs, the commander assigns his platoons sectors of fire and primary positions to defend. Each position must contribute to the company's accomplishment of its assigned task and purpose within the battalion commander's concept of the operation. A commander also may assign alternate and supplementary positions to platoons, depending on the situation.

a.   Alternate Position. An alternate position is a position to the front, flank, or slightly to the rear of the primary position (Figure 5-3). It must allow the platoon to cover the same sector of fire as the primary position. If it is to be occupied during limited visibility, it may be forward of the primary position. The alternate position may be occupied if the platoon is driven out of the primary position by enemy fire or by assault, or it may be occupied to begin the fight to deceive the enemy of the platoon's primary position.

Figure 5-3. Alternate position.

Figure 5-3. Alternate position.

b.   Supplementary Position. A supplementary position is to the flank or the rear of the primary position. It allows the platoon to defend against an attack on an avenue of approach not covered by the primary position (Figure 5-4). It can be assigned when the platoon must cover more than one avenue of approach. A platoon moves from its primary, alternate, or supplementary position only with the commander's approval or when a condition exists that the commander has prescribed as a reason to move.

Figure 5-4. Supplementary position.

Figure 5-4. Supplementary position.

c.   Centralized Technique. Fighting from battle positions is a more centralized technique and also may be more linear at the company level (Figure 5-5). Even so, it should not be a static defense. Battle positions should be positioned to achieve surprise and to allow maneuver within and between BPs. Defense from BPs is effective in concentrating combat power into an engagement area. It prevents the enemy from isolating one part of the company and concentrating his combat power in this area. Normally, platoons are assigned mutual supporting battle positions that cover the enemy's likely avenue of approach. These BPs are located on terrain that provides cover and concealment and restricts vehicular movement.

d.   Achieving Surprise. The commander's concept for fighting this defensive technique should concentrate on achieving surprise for each of the BPs. This is accomplished by conducting an effective counterreconnaissance effort to prevent the enemy from locating the BPs and by initiating fires from one BP and waiting for the enemy to react to this engagement prior to engaging from the other BPs (Figure 5-5). Fighting in this manner confuses the enemy and disrupts his C2 process.

Figure 5-5. Defense from mutually supporting platoon battle positions.

Figure 5-5. Defense from mutually supporting platoon battle positions.

(5)   When the terrain provides a large EA and the commander's concept allows most of the enemy into the EA, the company may engage with massed fires from all platoon BPs. A disadvantage to this technique is that if there are still uncommitted enemy forces outside the EA, they will know the locations of the BPs and will attempt to isolate and concentrate against them. Contingency plans to disengage from these BPs and reorganize to continue the fight must be developed. This may involve displacing to alternate BPs or disengaging to conduct counterattacks or spoiling attacks against identified enemy C2, CS, or CSS assets.

(6)   Instead of one company EA, multiple EAs may be identified to provide flexibility to the plan (Figure 5-6). The plan must clearly state which platoons must reorient fires into the alternate engagement area and when they must do so.

Figure 5-6. Multiple engagement areas.

Figure 5-6. Multiple engagement areas.


A company may be directed to construct a strongpoint as part of a larger SBCT infantry battalion defense (Figure 5-7). In order to do so, it must be augmented with engineer support, more weapons, and CSS resources. A strongpoint is defended until the commander directing the defense formally orders the unit out of it.

a.   The specific positioning of units in the strongpoint depends on the company commander's mission analysis. The same considerations for a perimeter defense apply, in addition to the following:

(1)   Reinforce each individual fighting position (to include alternate and supplementary positions) to withstand small-arms fire, mortar fire, and artillery fragmentation. Stockpile food, water, ammunition, pioneer tools, and medical supplies in each fighting position.

(2)   Support each individual fighting position with several others. Plan or construct covered and concealed routes between positions and along routes of supply and communication. Use these to support counterattack and maneuver within the strongpoint.

Figure 5-7. Company strongpoint.

Figure 5-7. Company strongpoint.

(3)   Divide the strongpoint into several independent, but mutually supporting, positions or sectors. If one of the positions or sectors must be evacuated or is overrun, limit the enemy penetration with obstacles and fires and support a counterattack.

(4)   Construct obstacles and minefields to disrupt and canalize enemy formations, to reinforce fires, and to protect the strongpoint from the assault. Place the obstacles and mines out as far as friendly units can observe them, within the strongpoint, and at points in between where they will be useful.

(5)   Prepare range cards for each position and confirm them by fires. Plan indirect fires in detail and register them. Also plan indirect fires for firing directly on the strongpoint using proximity fuses.

(6)   Plan and test several means of communication within the strongpoint and to higher headquarters. Possibilities include radio, wire, messenger, pyrotechnics, and other signals.

(7)   Improve or repair the strongpoint until the unit is relieved or withdrawn. More positions can be built, tunnels and trenches dug, existing positions improved or repaired, and barriers built or fixed.

b.   A strongpoint may be part of any defensive plan. It may be built to protect vital units or installations, as an anchor around which more mobile units maneuver, or as part of a trap designed to destroy enemy forces that attack it.

c.   Mold the strongpoint to the terrain and use natural camouflage and obstacles. Existing obstacles can support formidable strongpoints, providing cover, concealment, and obstacles. Complex and urban areas are also easily converted to strongpoints. Stone, brick, or steel buildings provide cover and concealment. Buildings, sewers, and some streets provide covered and concealed routes and can be rubbled to provide obstacles. Telephone systems can provide communications.


A perimeter defense allows the defending force to orient in all directions (Figure 5-8). In terms of weapons emplacement, direct and indirect fire integration, and reserve employment, a commander conducting a perimeter defense must consider the same factors as for a strongpoint operation. The SBCT infantry rifle company may be called upon to execute this type of defense under a variety of conditions, including the following:


  • When it must hold critical terrain in areas where the defense is not tied in with adjacent units.
  • When it has been bypassed and isolated by the enemy and must defend in place.
  • When it conducts occupation of an independent assembly area or reserve position.
  • When it begins preparation of a strongpoint.
  • When it is directed to concentrate fires into two or more adjacent avenues of approach.

a.   Preparations. The SBCT infantry company prepares a perimeter defense when there are no friendly units adjacent to it (Figure 5-8). A perimeter defense may be used in a reserve position, in an assembly area or patrol base, on a follow-on decentralized company operation, during resupply, or when the company is isolated. The following actions constitute setting up a perimeter defense:

Figure 5-8. Company perimeter defense.

Figure 5-8. Company perimeter defense.

(1)   Preparing a perimeter defense is like preparing any other position defense, but the company must disperse in a circular configuration for all-round security (the actual shape depends on the terrain). The company must be prepared to defend in all directions.

(2)   The commander assigns the infantry platoon covering the most likely approach a smaller sector than the other platoons. He prepares alternate and supplementary positions within the perimeter.

(3)   If available, Javelins and MGS vehicles cover likely armor approaches. They may use hide positions and move forward to fire as the enemy appears. The commander should assign several firing positions to Javelins and MGS vehicles. If there are few positions for them, they are assigned a primary position and are dug in.

(4)   Keep the mortars near the center of the perimeter so their minimum range (70 meters) does not restrict their ability to fire in any direction. They should be dug in and have covered ammunition storage bunkers. They communicate by phone (the wire is buried). The fire direction center (FDC) is dug in with overhead cover.

(5)   If possible, hold at least one mounted rifle squad in reserve. The company commander assigns a primary position to the rear of the platoon, covering the most dangerous avenue of approach. He also may assign the rifle squad supplementary positions since it must be prepared to fight in all directions.

(6)   Prepare obstacles in depth around the perimeter.

(7)   Plan direct and indirect fire as for any type of defense. Plan and use fire support from outside the perimeter when available.

(8)   Counter enemy probing attacks by area fire weapons (artillery, mortars, Claymores, and grenade launchers) to avoid revealing the locations of fighting positions.

(9)   If the enemy penetrates the perimeter, the reserve blocks the penetration and covers friendly soldiers while they move to their alternate or supplementary positions. Even though the company's counterattack ability is limited, it must strive to restore its perimeter.

(10)   CSS elements may support from within the perimeter or from another position. Supply and evacuation may be by air. Consider the availability of landing zones and drop zones (protected from enemy observation and fire) when selecting and preparing the position.

b.   Y Variation. The Y-shaped perimeter defense is a variation of the perimeter defense that uses the terrain effectively. This defense is used when the terrain, cover and concealment, or the fields of fire do not support the physical positioning of the platoons in a circular manner. The Y-shaped perimeter defense (Figure 5-9) is so named because the platoon battle positions are positioned on three different axes radiating from one central point. It is still a perimeter defense because it is effective against an attack from any direction. The Y-shaped defense provides all-round perimeter fires without having to position soldiers on the perimeter. It is most likely to be effective in mountainous terrain, but it also may be effective in a dense jungle environment due to limited fields of fire. All of the fundamentals of a perimeter defense previously discussed apply, with the following adjustments and special considerations:

(1)   Although each platoon battle position has a primary orientation for its fires, each platoon must be prepared to reorient to mass fires into the EAs to its rear.

(2)   When no most likely enemy approach is identified, or during limited visibility, each platoon may have half its soldiers oriented into the EAs to the front and half into the EAs to the rear. Ideally, supplementary individual fighting positions are prepared to allow the soldiers to reposition when required to mass fires into one EA.

Figure 5-9. Y-shaped perimeter defense.

Figure 5-9. Y-shaped perimeter defense.

(3)   When a most likely enemy avenue of approach is identified, the company commander may adjust the normal platoon orientations to concentrate fires (Figure 5-10). This entails accepting risk in another area of the perimeter. The company security plan should compensate for this with additional OPs, patrols, or other measures.

(4)   The positioning of the company CP, mortars, a reserve, or any CSS assets is much more difficult due to a lack of depth within the perimeter.

Figure 5-10. Modified Y-shaped perimeter defense.

Figure 5-10. Modified Y-shaped perimeter defense.

(5)   The most difficult aspect of the Y-shaped perimeter defense is the fire control measures required. To safely fight this defense without casualties from friendly fire, the leaders must ensure the limits of fire for each weapon do not allow fires into the adjacent platoon position. In a mountainous environment, firing downward into the EAs may make this more simple. Some measures to consider include:


  • Position machine guns near the apex of the Y to allow an FPL that covers the platoon front while firing away from the adjacent platoon.
  • Cover the areas of the EAs closest to the apex with Claymores, other mines, or obstacles to reduce the need for direct fires in these areas.
  • Identify those positions at most risk to friendly fires and prepare the fighting position to protect the soldier from fires in this direction.
  • The loss of one platoon position may threaten the loss of the entire company. To prevent this, plan and rehearse immediate counterattacks with a reserve or the least committed platoon.
  • Consider allowing the enemy to penetrate well into the EAs and destroy him as in an ambush.
  • Be aware that if a Y-shaped defense is established on the prominent terrain feature and the enemy has the ability to mass fires, he may fix the company with direct fires and destroy it with massed indirect fires.


This technique allows interlocking and overlapping observation and fields of fire across the company's front (Figure 5-11). The bulk of the company's combat power is well forward. Sufficient resources must be available to provide adequate combat power across the sector to detect and stop an attack. The company relies on fighting from well-prepared mutually supporting positions. It uses a high volume of direct and indirect fires to stop the attacker. The main concern when fighting a linear defense is the lack of flexibility and the difficulty of both seizing the initiative and seeking out enemy weaknesses. When the enemy has a mobility advantage, a linear defense may be extremely risky. Obstacles, indirect fires, and contingency planning are key to this maneuver. The company depends upon surprise, well-prepared positions, and deadly accurate fires to defeat the enemy. The reserve is usually small, perhaps a squad.

a.   Terrain Considerations. A linear defense may be used when defensible terrain is available in the forward portion of the company's sector or to take advantage of a major linear natural obstacle. It is also used when the enemy is mainly infantry, when the company conducts a security mission such as counter-infiltration, or when directed by battalion.

Figure 5-11. Linear defense.

Figure 5-11. Linear defense.

b.   Obstacles. Minefields and other obstacles are positioned and covered by fire to slow the attacker and to inflict casualties on him. Initially, engage him at long range by supporting fires (tactical air, attack helicopters, and field artillery) to disrupt the momentum of his attack. Use fires from mortars, machine guns, and small arms as he comes into range. If he penetrates the defense, block his advance with the reserve and shift fire from the forward platoons onto the enemy flanks. Then counterattack (either by the company reserve or the least committed platoon) with intense fires to destroy isolated or weakened enemy forces and regain key terrain.

c.   Counterreconnaissance. The counterreconnaissance effort is critical when fighting a linear defense to deny the enemy the locations of the company's forward positions. If the enemy locates the forward positions, he will concentrate combat power where he desires while fixing the rest of the company to prevent their maneuver to disrupt his attack. This effort may be enhanced by initially occupying and fighting from alternate positions forward of the primary positions. This enhances the security mission and deceives the enemy reconnaissance that may get through the security force.


The nonlinear defense is the most decentralized and dynamic defense conducted by an SBCT infantry company. It is frequently used when operating against an enemy force that has equal or greater firepower and mobility capabilities. This type of defense is almost exclusively enemy-oriented and is not well suited for retaining terrain. It depends on surprise, offensive action, and the initiative of small-unit leaders to be successful (Figure 5-12). It is a very fluid defense with little static positioning involved.

Figure 5-12. Nonlinear defense.

Figure 5-12. Nonlinear defense.

a.   Company Focus. Normally, SBCT battalion directs this defensive technique when the battalion concept does not focus the company. An example is when the battalion assigns the company a sector and a mission that focuses the company on the enemy force. Mutual support is achieved solely through the linkage of purposes in the mission statements. The company commander may decide to conduct a nonlinear defense when he finds it difficult to identify a single decisive point that allows the company to concentrate combat power and achieve its purpose. Nonlinear defense may also be appropriate in terrain that prevents mutual support between platoons or against an enemy force capable of directing overwhelming firepower against identified friendly positions.

b.   Reconnaissance and Security. The reconnaissance and security plan for this defensive technique focuses on avoiding detection by the enemy's reconnaissance assets. Operating in smaller units supports this requirement. Preparation and activity along likely reconnaissance routes must be closely controlled. Ideally, the company allows the enemy reconnaissance to move through the area before destroying him.

c.   Platoon Sectors. The company commander assigns platoon sectors and may also identify likely ambush positions and rally points for each platoon. He identifies a main effort and assigns the supporting efforts missions that provide mutual support and degrade the enemy's ability to generate combat power against the main effort. The main effort may be weighted by assigning priority of fires; by the allocation of mines, barrier materials, and other supplies; and by locating the company CP, casualty collection point (CCP), and most of the caches in their vicinity.

d.   Event-oriented Synchronization. The platoons conduct numerous squad and platoon ambushes, raids, and counterattacks, but they avoid decisive engagement. Before the enemy is able to react and concentrate against these small units, they disengage and seek out another enemy weak point. The synchronization for this defense may be event-oriented or accomplished by assigning ambush locations and initiating times or signals. The event-oriented synchronization involves identifying key enemy assets or vehicles that, if destroyed or disrupted, will have the greatest detrimental effect on the enemy.

e.   Company Reserve. A company reserve is normally quite small. Due to the extended distances over which the company and platoons operate, the timely employment of the company reserve in a decisive action is not likely. Generally, the platoons are able to employ resources more effectively. A squad-sized company reserve with ICV support could be employed under the control of the 1SG as a logistics squad, for CASEVAC, or as a reaction force to support the main effort.

f.   Other Considerations. Other concerns include the difficulty of conducting resupply operations and casualty evacuation when defending in this manner. Resupply can be accomplished through pre-positioning of the critical supplies. CASEVAC requires detailed planning and battalion support. Platoon CCPs must be identified well forward to support each platoon. Litter teams moving on routes that avoid the enemy normally conduct the evacuation from these points to the company CCP. If possible, vehicular evacuation begins at the company collection point or as far forward as possible. Treatment teams from the BAS should be positioned at the company collection point, particularly if casualties may need to be held until darkness for evacuation.


An alternative to defending on the forward slope of a hill or a ridge is to defend on a reverse slope (Figure 5-13). In such a defense, the company is deployed on terrain that is masked from enemy direct fire and ground observation by the crest of a hill. Although some units and weapons may be positioned on the forward slope, the crest, or the counterslope (a forward slope of a hill to the rear of a reverse slope), most forces are on the reverse slope. The key to this defense is control of the crest by direct fire. The MGS platoon is located on the counterslope to maximize its standoff.

a.   General Considerations. These considerations generally apply when defending on a reverse slope.

(1)   The crest protects the company from direct fire. This is a distinct advantage if the attacker has greater weapons range than the defender. The reverse slope defense can eliminate or reduce the standoff advantage of the attacker. It also makes enemy adjustment of his indirect fire more difficult since he cannot see his rounds impact. It keeps the enemy's second echelon from supporting his first echelon's assault.

Figure 5-13. Company defense on a reverse slope.

Figure 5-13. Company defense on a reverse slope.

(2)   The enemy may be deceived and may advance to close contact before he discovers the defensive position. Therefore, the defender may gain the advantage of surprise.

(3)   The defender can improve positions, build obstacles, and clear fields of fire without disclosing his positions.

(4)   The defender may use dummy positions on the forward slope to deceive the enemy.

(5)   Resupply and evacuation (when under attack) may be easier when defending on a reverse slope.

(6)   Enemy target acquisition and jamming efforts are degraded. Enemy radar, infrared sights, and thermal viewers cannot detect soldiers masked by a hill. Radios with a hill between them and the enemy are less vulnerable to jamming and direction finders.

(7)   Enemy use of CAS and attack helicopters is restricted. Enemy aircraft must attack defensive positions from the flank or from the rear, which makes it easier for friendly air defense weapons to hit them.

(8)   A counterattacking unit has more freedom of maneuver since it is masked from the enemy's direct fire.

(9)   The thinner armor on top of armored vehicles may be left open to antiarmor shots.

(10)   The crest can provide protection from the blast effect of a nuclear explosion.

b.   Special Considerations. These considerations may apply when defending on a reverse slope.

(1)   Observation of the enemy is more difficult. Soldiers in this position see forward no farther than the crest. This makes it hard to determine exactly where the enemy is as he advances, especially when visibility is poor. OPs must be placed forward of the topographic crest for early warning and long-range observation.

(2)   Egress from the position may be more difficult.

(3)   Fields of fire are normally short.

(4)   Obstacles on the forward slope can be covered only with indirect fire or by units on the flanks of the company unless some weapons systems are initially placed forward.

(5)   If the enemy gains the crest, he can assault downhill. This may give him a psychological advantage.

(6)   If OPs are insufficient or improperly placed, the defenders may have to fight an enemy who suddenly appears in strength at close range.

c.   Feasibility. A defense on a reverse slope may be effective when--

(1)   The enemy has more long-range weapons than the defender.

(2)   The forward slope has little cover and concealment.

(3)   The forward slope is untenable because of enemy fire.

(4)   The forward slope has been lost or not yet gained.

(5)   There are better fields of fire on the reverse slope.

(6)   It adds to the surprise and deception.

d.   Plans. The fundamentals of the defense apply to a defense on a reverse slope.

(1)   Position forward platoons within 200 to 500 meters of the crest of the defended hill or ridge and site them so they block enemy approaches and exploit existing obstacles. They should permit surprise fire on the crest and on the approaches around the crest. Forward fighting positions should have rear and overhead cover to protect friendly soldiers from fratricide.

(2)   Position OPs, including FIST personnel, on the crest or the forward slope of the defended hill. At night, increase OPs and patrol units to prevent infiltration. Machine guns may be attached to OPs.

(3)   Position the platoon in depth or reserve where it can provide the most flexibility, support the forward platoons by fire, protect the flanks and the rear of the company, and, if necessary, counterattack. It may be positioned on the counterslope to the rear of the forward platoons if that position allows it to fire and hit the enemy when he reaches the crest of the defended hill.

(4)   Position the company CP to the rear where it will not interfere with the reserve or supporting units. The company commander may have an OP on the forward slope or crest and another on the reverse slope or counterslope. He uses the OP on the forward slope or crest before the battle starts when he is trying to determine the enemy's intentions. During the fight, he moves to the OP on the reverse slope or counterslope.

(5)   Plan indirect fire well forward of, on, and to the flanks of the forward slope, crest, reverse slope, and counterslope. Plan indirect FPF on the crest of the hill to control the crest and stop assaults. Put the company commander's mortar section in defilade to the rear of the counterslope.

(6)   Reinforce existing obstacles. Protective obstacles on the reverse slope--just down from the crest where it can be covered by fire--can slow the enemy's advance and hold him under friendly fire.

(7)   The commander normally plans counterattacks. He plans to drive the enemy off the crest by fire, if possible. He must also be prepared to drive the enemy off by fire and movement.


The engagement area is where the company commander intends to destroy an enemy force using the massed fires of all available weapons. The success of any engagement depends on how effectively the commander can integrate the obstacle plan, the indirect fire plan, the direct fire plan, and the terrain within the engagement area to achieve the company's tactical purpose. Beginning with evaluation of METT-TC factors, the development process covers these steps:


  • Identify all likely enemy avenues of approach.
  • Determine likely enemy schemes of maneuver.
  • Determine where to kill the enemy.
  • Emplace weapons systems.
  • Plan and integrate obstacles.
  • Plan and integrate indirect fires.
  • Rehearse the execution of operations in the engagement area.

The following paragraphs outline planning and preparation procedures the company commander may use for each of these steps.

a.   Identify Likely Enemy Avenues of Approach. The following procedures and considerations, as illustrated in Figure 5-14, apply in identifying the enemy's likely avenues of approach:

(1)   Conduct initial reconnaissance. If possible, do this from the enemy's perspective along each avenue of approach into the sector or engagement area.

(2)   Identify key and decisive terrain. This includes locations that afford positions of advantage over the enemy as well as natural obstacles and choke points that restrict forward movement.

(3)   Determine which avenues will provide cover and concealment for the enemy while allowing him to maintain his tempo.

(4)   Evaluate lateral routes adjoining each avenue of approach.

Figure 5-14. Identify all likely enemy avenues of approach.

Figure 5-14. Identify all likely enemy avenues of approach.

b.   Determine the Enemy Scheme of Maneuver. The company commander can use the following procedures and considerations, which are illustrated in Figure 5-15, in determining the enemy's scheme of maneuver:

(1)   Determine how the enemy will structure the attack. In what formation will he attack? How will he sequence his forces?

(2)   Determine how the enemy will use his reconnaissance assets. Will he attempt to infiltrate friendly positions?

(3)   Determine where and when the enemy will change formations and establish support-by-fire positions.

(4)   Determine where, when, and how the enemy will conduct his assault and breaching operations.

(5)   Determine where and when he will commit follow-on forces.

(6)   Determine the enemy's expected rates of movement.

(7)   Assess the effects of his combat multipliers.

(8)   Determine what reactions the enemy is likely to have in response to projected friendly actions.

Figure 5-15. Determine the enemy's scheme of maneuver.

Figure 5-15. Determine the enemy's scheme of maneuver.

c.   Determine Where to Kill the Enemy. The following steps (Figure 5-16) apply in identifying and marking where the SBCT battalion and company will engage the enemy:

(1)   Identify TRPs that match the enemy's scheme of maneuver, allowing the company to identify where it will engage enemy forces through the depth of the sector.

(2)   Identify and record the exact location of each TRP.

(3)   Determine how many weapons systems must focus fires on each TRP to achieve the desired effects.

(4)   Determine which platoons will mass fires on each TRP.

(5)   Establish engagement areas around TRPs.

(6)   Develop the direct fire planning measures necessary to focus fires at each TRP.

Figure 5-16. Determine where to kill the enemy.

Figure 5-16. Determine where to kill the enemy.


In marking TRPs, use thermal sights to ensure visibility at the appropriate range under varying conditions, including daylight and limited visibility (darkness, smoke, dust, or other obscurants).

d.   Emplace Weapons System.. The following steps apply in selecting and improving BPs and emplacing the company's vehicles (ICVs and MGSs), crew-served weapons systems, and dismounted infantry positions (Figure 5-17):

(1)   Select tentative platoon BPs. (When possible, select these while moving in the engagement area. Using the enemy's perspective enables the commander to assess the survivability of the positions.)

(2)   Conduct a leader's reconnaissance of the tentative BPs.

(3)   Drive the engagement area to confirm that selected positions are tactically advantageous.

(4)   Confirm and mark the selected BPs.

(5)   Ensure that BPs do not conflict with those of adjacent units and that they are effectively tied in with adjacent positions.

(6)   Select primary, alternate, and supplementary fighting positions to achieve the desired effect for each TRP.

(7)   Ensure that platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, vehicle commanders, and dismounted infantry squad leaders position weapons systems so that the required number of weapons, vehicles, and platoons effectively covers each TRP.

(8)   Ensure that positions allow MGS vehicle commanders, gunners, and assistant gunners (as applicable for each vehicle) to observe the engagement area from the turret-down position and engage enemy forces from the hull-down position.

(9)   Site and mark vehicle positions in accordance with unit SOP so engineers can dig in the positions while vehicle commanders supervise.

(10)   Proof all vehicle positions before engineer assets depart.

Figure 5-17. Emplace weapons systems.

Figure 5-17. Emplace weapons systems.

e.   Plan and Integrate Obstacles. The following steps apply in planning and integrating obstacles in the company defense (Figure 5-18):

(1)   Understand obstacle group intent.

(2)   Coordinate with the engineers.

(3)   Site and mark individual obstacle locations.

(4)   Refine direct and indirect fire control measures.

(5)   Identify lanes and gaps.

(6)   Report obstacle locations and gaps to higher headquarters.

Figure 5-18. Plan and integrate obstacles.

Figure 5-18. Plan and integrate obstacles.

f.   Plan and Integrate Indirect Fires. The following steps apply in planning and integrating indirect fires (Figure 5-19):

(1)   Determine the purpose of fires and the essential fire support task (EFST) that supports it.

(2)   Determine where the purpose can best be achieved.

(3)   Establish the observation plan, with redundancy for each target. Observers include the FIST, as well as members of maneuver elements with fire support responsibilities (such as platoon sergeants).

(4)   Establish triggers.

(5)   Obtain accurate target locations using lasing devices.

(6)   Refine target locations to ensure coverage of obstacles.

(7)   Adjust artillery and mortar targets.

(8)   Plan FPFs.

(9)   Request critical friendly zones (CFZs) for protection of maneuver elements and no-fire areas (NFAs) for protection of OPs and forward positions.

Figure 5-19. Integrate direct and indirect fires.

Figure 5-19. Integrate direct and indirect fires.

g.   Conduct an Engagement Area Rehearsal. The purpose of this rehearsal is to ensure every leader and soldier understands the plan and all elements are prepared to cover their assigned areas with direct and indirect fires. Although the company commander has several options, the most common and most effective type of rehearsal is to replicate the threat. One technique for the rehearsal in the defense is to have the company trains, under the control of the company XO, move through the EA to depict the enemy force while the commander and subordinate platoons rehearse the battle from the company BP. The rehearsal should cover these actions:


  • Rearward passage of security forces (as required).
  • Closure of lanes (as required).
  • Movement from the hide position to the BP.
  • Use of fire commands, triggers, and maximum engagement lines (MELs) to initiate direct and indirect fires.
  • Shifting of fires to refocus and redistribute fire effects.
  • Emplacement of scatterable mine systems.
  • Preparation and transmission of critical reports using frequency modulated (FM) and digital systems (as applicable).
  • Assessment of the effects of enemy weapons systems.
  • Displacement to alternate, supplementary, or subsequent BPs.
  • Cross-leveling or resupply of Class V.
  • Evacuation of casualties.


The company commander should coordinate the rehearsal with the battalion to ensure other units' rehearsals are not planned for the same time or location. Coordination leads to more efficient use of planning and preparation time for all battalion units. It also eliminates the danger of misidentification of friendly forces in the rehearsal area, which could result in fratricide.


Priority of work is a set method of controlling the preparation and conduct of a defense. SOP should describe priority of work to include individual duties. The commander changes priorities based on the situation. All leaders in the company should have a specific priority of work for their duty position.

a.   Although listed in sequence, several tasks may be performed at the same time. An example priority of work sequence is as follows:


  • Establish the company R&S operation.
  • Post local security.
  • Position Javelins, MGS vehicles, machine guns, and soldiers; assign sectors of fire.
  • Position other assets (company CP, mortars, and vehicles).
  • Designate FPLs and FPFs.
  • Clear fields of fire and prepare range cards and sector sketches.
  • Adjust indirect fire FPFs. The firing unit FDC should provide a safety box that is clear of all friendly units before firing any adjusting rounds.
  • Prepare fighting positions.
  • Install wire communications, if applicable.
  • Emplace obstacles and mines.
  • Mark (or improve marking) for TRPs and direct fire control measures.
  • Improve primary fighting positions such as overhead cover.
  • Prepare alternate and supplementary positions.
  • Establish sleep/rest plan.
  • Reconnoiter movements.
  • Rehearse engagements and disengagements or displacements.
  • Adjust positions and control measures as required.
  • Stockpile ammunition, food, and water.
  • Dig trenches between positions.
  • Reconnoiter routes.
  • Continue to improve positions.

b.   Routine priorities for various duty positions are listed below.

(1)   Company Commander. Many of these duties can be delegated to subordinates, but the commander must ensure they are done. The commander must--


  • Establish local security. Set up OPs if not already done and establish an SBCT infantry company perimeter.
  • Conduct a leader's reconnaissance with the platoon leaders and selected personnel. Confirm or deny significant deductions or assumptions from the mission analysis. Designate primary, alternate, and supplementary positions for platoons, sections, and supporting elements. Require platoons to conduct coordination. Designate EAs, designate and integrate obstacles, designate the general company CP location, and position key weapons.
  • Check the company CP and brief the 1SG and XO on the situation and logistics requirements.
  • Upon receipt of the platoon sector sketches, make two copies of a defensive sector sketch and a fire plan. Retain one copy and forward the other to the battalion (Figure 5-20). Ideally, this is accomplished through FBCB2.
  • Confirm the platoon positions before digging starts. Coordinate with the left and right units.
  • Check with the battalion commander for any changes or updates in the orders.
  • Finish the security, deception, counterattack, and obstacle plans.
  • Walk the company positions after they are dug. Confirm clear fields of fire and complete coverage of the sector of fire of all key weapons. Look at the defensive plan from an enemy point of view, both conceptually and physically.
  • Check dissemination of information, interlocking fires, dead space, and security.
  • Correct deficiencies immediately.
  • Report obstacle locations.

Figure 5-20. Company defensive sector sketch.

Figure 5-20. Company defensive sector sketch.

(2)   First Sergeant and Executive Officer. One of them must--


  • Establish the company CP and ensure that wire communications link the platoons, sections, and attached elements if applicable.
  • Establish casualty collection points, company logistics release points, and EPW collection points.
  • Brief platoon sergeants on the company CP location, logistics plan, and routes between positions.
  • Assist the company commander with the sector sketch.
  • Request and allocate pioneer tools, barrier material, rations, water, and ammunition.
  • Walk the positions with the company commander. Start supervising emplacement of the platoons and sections, and check range cards and sector sketches.
  • Establish routine security or alert plan, radio watch, and rest plan. Brief the company commander.
  • Supervise continuously and assist the commander with other duties as assigned.

(3)   Fire Support Officer. The FSO must--


  • Assist the commander in planning the indirect fires to support the defense.
  • Advise the commander on the current status of all firing units and on the use of smoke or illumination.
  • Coordinate with the SBCT infantry battalion FSO, firing units, and platoon leaders to ensure the fire plan is synchronized and fully understood.
  • Ensure the indirect fire plan is rehearsed and understood by all.
  • Ensure all FPFs are adjusted in as soon as possible.
  • Develop observation plan.
  • Coordinate and rehearse any repositioning of observers within the company sector to ensure they can observe targets or areas of responsibility.
  • Develop triggers.
  • Report battlefield intelligence.
  • Ensure redundancy in communications.

(4)   Mortar Section Leader. He must--


  • Choose tentative firing position(s) and OP(s) and complete his portion of the fire plan based on the company OPORD, coordinated with the FSO and his own analysis.
  • Take part in the company leader's reconnaissance. Confirm or adjust the firing position, select OPs, and coordinate the indirect fire plan with the company FSO.
  • Issue FRAGOs to the mortar squads. Conduct a section leader's reconnaissance with squad leaders. Require squad leaders to coordinate with platoons and squads for security and logistics support.
  • Direct the mortar section to begin digging.
  • Establish internal and external wire communications, if applicable.
  • Assist the FSO in completing the fire plan and overlays.
  • Register and adjust the FPF.
  • Inspect the mortar position.
  • Reconnoiter routes to alternate firing positions.

(5)   Communications Specialist. He must--


  • Supervise setting up wire, radio, voice, and digital communications with the battalion, platoons, and sections.
  • Organize a radio watch.
  • Supervise the performance of preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) on the radios.
  • Assist the 1SG and XO, as required. Help organize local security for the company CP, dig fighting positions, and assist in OPORD production.

(6)   NBC NCO. He must--


  • Assist the commander with an updated MOPP analysis.
  • Ensure that chemical detection and monitoring procedures are established and maintained.
  • Coordinate for decontamination support.
  • Coordinate smoke support.
  • Supervise decontamination operations.
  • Provide guidance on operations in NBC conditions.


The ultimate goal of adjacent unit coordination is to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the SBCT's and SBCT infantry battalion's missions. Items that adjacent units must coordinate include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Unit positions, including locations of command and control nodes.
  • Locations of OPs and patrols.
  • Overlapping fires (to ensure that direct fire responsibility is clearly defined).
  • TRPs.
  • Alternate, supplementary, and subsequent BPs.
  • Indirect fire and encryption information.
  • Obstacles (location and type).
  • Air defense considerations, if applicable.
  • Routes to be used during occupation and repositioning.
  • CSS considerations.


The retrograde is a type of defensive operation that involves organized movement away from the enemy (FM 3-0). The enemy may force these operations or a commander may execute them voluntarily. In either case, the higher commander of the force executing the operation must approve the retrograde (FM 3-90). Retrograde operations are conducted to improve a tactical situation or to prevent a worse situation from developing. Companies normally conduct retrogrades as part of a larger force but may conduct independent retrogrades (withdrawal) as required, such as when conducting a raid. Retrograde operations accomplish the following:


  • Resist, exhaust, and defeat enemy forces.
  • Draw the enemy into an unfavorable situation.
  • Avoid contact in undesirable conditions.
  • Gain time.
  • Disengage a force from battle for use elsewhere in other missions.
  • Reposition forces, shorten lines of communication, or conform to movements of other friendly units.
  • Secure more favorable terrain.

There are three types of retrograde operations:


  • Delay. This operation allows the unit to trade space for time, avoiding decisive engagement and safeguarding its elements.
  • Withdrawal. The commander uses this operation to break enemy contact, especially when he needs to free the unit for a new mission.
  • Retirement. This operation is employed to move a force that is not in contact to the rear.

5-30.   Delay

A delay is a series of defensive and offensive actions over subsequent positions in depth. It is an economy of force operation that trades space for time. While the enemy gains access to the area (space) that is vacated, friendly elements gain time to conduct necessary operations and retain freedom of action and maneuver. This allows friendly forces to influence the action; they can prevent decisive engagement or postpone action to occur at a more critical time or place on the battlefield.

a.   Types of Delays. There are two types of delay missions:


  • Delay in sector.
  • Delay forward of a specified line or position for a specified time.

b.   Components of Successful Delay. For either type of delay mission, the flow of the operation can be summarized as "hit hard, then move." A successful delay has three key components:


  • The ability to stop or slow the enemy's momentum while avoiding decisive engagement.
  • The ability to degrade the enemy's combat power.
  • The ability to maintain a mobility advantage.

c.   Delay within a Sector. The company may be assigned a mission to delay within a sector (area of operations). The higher commander normally provides guidance regarding intent and desired effect on the enemy, but he minimizes restrictions regarding terrain, time, and coordination with adjacent forces. This form of a delay is normally assigned when force preservation is the highest priority and there is considerable depth to the battalion or SBCT's area of operations.

d.   Delay Forward of a Specified Line for a Specified Time. The company may be assigned a mission to delay forward of a specific control measure for a specific period of time. This mission is assigned when the SBCT or battalion must control the enemy's attack and retain specified terrain to achieve some purpose relative to another element, such as setting the conditions for a counterattack, for completion of defensive preparations, or for the movement of other forces or civilians. The focus of this delay mission is clearly on time, terrain, and enemy destruction. It carries a much higher risk for the battalion, with the likelihood of all or part of the unit becoming decisively engaged. The timing of the operation is controlled graphically by a series of phase lines with associated dates and times to define the desired delay-until period.

e.   Culmination of the Delay. Delay missions usually conclude in one of three ways--a defense, a withdrawal, or a counterattack. Planning options should address all three possibilities.

5-31.   PLANNING

In preparing for the delay operation, the commander uses planning considerations that are identical to those for a defense in sector, varying only in their purpose. Planning for the delay must cover several areas related to hindering enemy movement and maintaining mobility. These considerations include the following:


  • Use of existing terrain and obstacles, enhanced as necessary by employment of reinforcing obstacles.
  • Designation of positions from which the friendly force can harass or impede the enemy without risking decisive engagement itself; this is especially applicable for a delay in sector. When a battalion is delaying in sector, companies are normally assigned a series of specific BPs to enhance command and control across the sector. Likewise, in a company delay in sector, the commander will assign a series of specific BPs for each platoon.
  • Assessment of opportunities to conduct limited counterattacks to disrupt enemy actions.
  • Designation of high-speed avenues of withdrawal.
  • Rehearsal of operations anticipated for the delay; these may include engagement of the enemy and maneuver through the delay area.


In executing either a delay in sector or a time-related delay, the commander can choose from the following techniques:


  • Delay from subsequent positions or phase lines.
  • Delay from alternating positions.

a.   Delay from Subsequent Positions or Phase Lines. This delay technique normally is used when the sector is so wide that available forces cannot occupy more than a single line of positions.

(1)   The commander must be aware of several factors that may put his unit at a disadvantage during the delay:


  • Lack of depth at any particular time.
  • The possibility of inadequate time to prepare subsequent positions.
  • Decreased security during disengagement.
  • The possibility of gaps between units.

(2)   When the unit receives the order to conduct the delay from its initial positions, one element (such as a company in a battalion delay or a platoon in a company delay) displaces and occupies its subsequent BP. The remainder of the unit maintains contact with the enemy until the first displacing element is in position to engage the enemy from the subsequent position. The first element then provides overwatch or base of fire as other elements displace to their subsequent positions. Figure 5-21, illustrates a company conducting a dismounted delay from subsequent positions.

Figure 5-21. Example company dismounted delay from subsequent positions.

Figure 5-21. Example company dismounted delay from subsequent positions.

b.   Delay from Alternating Positions. This method of delay may be used when the delaying element has sufficient forces to occupy more than a single line of positions (normally in a narrow sector). The delaying battalion or company arrays one or more of its subordinate elements in the initial delay positions. This first echelon then engages the enemy while the rest of the unit occupies and prepares second-echelon delay positions.

(1)   The unit then alternates fighting the enemy with movement to new positions. The elements in the initial delay positions engage the enemy until ordered to displace or until their displacement criteria have been met. They then displace, moving through the second-echelon delay positions to their own subsequent positions (which become the third echelon of the delay).

(2)   Elements in the second echelon overwatch the displacing units' movement and assume responsibility for engaging the enemy. This sequence continues until the delay operation is completed. Figure 5-22 illustrates a company delay from alternating positions.

Figure 5-22. Example company delay from alternating positions.

Figure 5-22. Example company delay from alternating positions.

5-33.   Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a planned operation in which a force in contact disengages from an enemy force. Withdrawals may or may not be conducted under enemy pressure. The two types of withdrawals are assisted and unassisted.

a.   Assisted. The assisting force occupies positions to the rear of the withdrawing unit and prepares to accept control of the situation. It can also assist the withdrawing unit with route reconnaissance, route maintenance, fire support, and CSS. Both forces closely coordinate the withdrawal. After coordination, the withdrawing unit delays to a battle handover line, conducts a passage of lines, and moves to its final destination.

b.   Unassisted. The withdrawing unit establishes routes and develops plans for the withdrawal and then establishes a security force as the rear guard while the main body withdraws. CSS and CS elements normally withdraw first followed by combat forces. To deceive the enemy as to the friendly movement, the SBCT or battalion may establish a detachment left in contact (DLIC) if withdrawing under enemy pressure. As the unit withdraws, the DLIC disengages from the enemy and follows the main body to its final destination.

5-34.   PHASES

Withdrawals are accomplished in three overlapping phases, which are outlined in the following paragraphs.

a.   Preparation. The commander dispatches quartering parties, issues warning orders (WARNOs), and initiates planning. Nonessential vehicles are moved to the rear.

b.   Disengagement. Designated elements begin movement to the rear. They break contact and conduct tactical movement to a designated assembly area or position.

c.   Security. In this phase, a security force protects and assists the other elements as they disengage and or move to their new positions. This is done either by a DLIC, which the unit itself designates in an unassisted withdrawal, or by a security force provided by the higher headquarters in an assisted withdrawal. As necessary, the security force assumes responsibility for the sector, deceives the enemy, and protects the movement of disengaged elements by providing overwatch and suppressive fires. In an assisted withdrawal, the security phase ends when the security force has assumed responsibility for the fight and the withdrawing element has completed its movement. In an unassisted withdrawal, this phase ends when the DLIC completes its disengagement and movement to the rear.


In an unassisted withdrawal, the unit conducting the withdrawal establishes the DLIC to maintain contact with the enemy and or to deceive him.

a.   Battalion Withdrawal. In a battalion withdrawal, the DLIC may consist of an element from each company (under leadership of the company XO or a platoon leader), with the battalion S3 as the overall DLIC commander. As an alternative, a company may serve as the DLIC for the rest of the battalion. The company commander has several deployment options. He can reposition elements across the entire battalion frontage. Another option is to position the company to cover only the most dangerous enemy avenue of approach; other avenues into the sector are covered with observation from additional security elements provided by the battalion, such as the reconnaissance platoon.

b.   Company Unassisted Withdrawal. The commander has similar options in an unassisted company withdrawal. He may designate one platoon to execute the DLIC mission for the company, or he can constitute the DLIC using elements from the three rifle platoons and the MGS platoon, with the XO as the DLIC commander. Figure 5-23 illustrates an example of an unassisted withdrawal.

Figure 5-23. Example of an unassisted withdrawal.

Figure 5-23. Example of an unassisted withdrawal.


In an assisted battalion withdrawal, the SBCT normally will provide a security element to maintain contact with and deceive the enemy while the battalion conducts its withdrawal. Likewise, in a company withdrawal, the battalion provides the security force. The security force establishes defensive positions behind the withdrawing unit and conducts preparations for a rearward passage of lines. The withdrawing force disengages from the enemy and conducts the rearward passage through the security force to assembly areas in the rear.


Retirement is a retrograde operation in which a force not in contact with the enemy conducts organized movement to the rear. It is normally done during periods of limited visibility. The company conducts a retirement as part of a larger force.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list