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The immediate purpose of defensive actions is to resist, defeat, or destroy an enemy attack and gain the initiative for the offense. Defensive actions alone may not be decisive—they must be combined with or followed by offensive action. As part of higher echelon's defensive operations, the SBCT may defend, delay, withdraw, or counterattack. It may also perform security tasks. The SBCT may defend as part of the higher headquarters's MBA, as a separate brigade, or it may conduct autonomous defensive operations or stability operations within an SSC. The higher headquarters conducts operations to create the conditions for the SBCT's success by controlling the introduction of enemy forces into the MBA and weakening the enemy prior to close combat.


This section discusses the fundamentals of the defense in the context of the SBCT's particular operational style.


The main purpose of the defense is to force or deceive the enemy into attacking under unfavorable circumstances, defeat his attack, and regain the initiative. The defending commander seeks to dictate where the fight will occur by preparing the terrain and the conditions to his advantage while simultaneously denying the enemy adequate intelligence. Defense is a temporary measure used to identify or create enemy weaknesses. Use of the defense provides the opportunity to change to the offense. In general, the SBCT defends to—

  • Defeat or destroy an attacking enemy.
  • Increase the enemy's vulnerability by forcing him to concentrate his forces.
  • Gain time.
  • Deny enemy entry into an area or retain terrain.
  • Economize forces in one area to apply decisive force elsewhere.
  • Prepare to resume the offensive.
  • Develop favorable conditions for offensive actions.
  • Reduce the enemy's capability for offensive operations.


The SBCT normally organizes defensive battlefields in a contiguous manner with forces arrayed in a security area, main battle area, and rear area (Figure 5-1).

Figure 5-1. Typical organization of a defensive battlefield.

Figure 5-1.  Typical organization of a defensive battlefield.

a.   Security Area. As the enemy attack approaches the AO, the SBCT commander and staff monitor the situation via ISR operations and the COP to anticipate the enemy's arrival and the timing of other friendly events such as passages of lines and battle handover. The commander may also make final adjustments to his defensive plan during this time. When the higher echelon establishes a security force, the SBCT's security forces assist the rearward passage of lines for these forces and accept battle handover. Security forces maintain contact with advancing enemy forces and report critical information. The SBCT often uses security forces, fires and effects, and obstacles within the security area to disrupt the enemy's momentum and weaken his forces. As the enemy advances into the SBCT's security area, MBA forces make final preparations for the ensuing battle.

(1)   Specific Guidance and Tasks. No matter what task organization he implements, the SBCT commander should provide the force with specific guidance and tasks. These may include—

  • Duration of the mission.
  • Results to be achieved against the enemy.
  • Specific CCIR with associated NAIs and TAIs.
  • Avenues of approach to be monitored with PIR and last time information is of value (LTIOV).
  • CS and CSS.
  • Disengagement and withdrawal criteria and rearward passage coordinating instructions.
  • Follow-on tasks or missions.

(2)   Simultaneous Missions. Using SBCT resources to establish a security area while simultaneously requiring the SBCT to defend the MBA is risky and divides the attention of the commander. Whenever possible, this should be avoided.

b.   Main Battle Area. The battle is fought in the MBA. The SBCT uses defending forces and reserves supported by obstacles, fires, and a viable deception plan to cause the enemy attack to culminate within the MBA.

(1)   Defending MBA forces normally identify the enemy's main attack, reduce his combat power, and shape his advance. Reserves are used to counterattack or contain enemy penetrations. Depending on the purpose of the defense, success is achieved by retention of a designated area or by the defeat and or destruction of an enemy force. In a delay, success is achieved by controlling the enemy advance, causing him to repeatedly deploy and maneuver, and inflicting maximum damage on his force. Friendly forces immediately reorganize and prepare for an enemy counterattack or follow-on missions upon conclusion of a successful defense.

(2)   The SBCT and its battalions deploy the bulk of their combat power in the MBA. The SBCT MBA extends from the FEBA to the forward battalions' rear boundaries. Battalion main battle areas are subdivisions of the SBCT's MBA. The FEBA marks the foremost limit of the areas in which the preponderance of ground combat units deploy, excluding the areas in which security forces are operating.

(3)   The SBCT commander assigns the battalion MBAs by establishing unit boundaries. SBCT and battalion commanders establish areas of operation, battle positions, or strong points to implement their concepts of operations. As in all operations, commanders promote freedom of action by using the least restrictive control measures necessary to implement their tactical concepts.

c.   Rear Area. The rear area of any SBCT is where the majority of the echelon's sustaining operations occur. The SBCT commander designates a rear area regardless of whether he has organized his AO into contiguous or noncontiguous subordinate AOs.

(1)   When designated in the context of contiguous areas of operation, the rear area for any particular command is the area extending forward from its rear boundary to the rear of the area assigned to the next lower level of command. This area is provided primarily for the performance of support functions (FM 3-0).

(a)   The SBCT commander designates an individual responsible for conducting his sustaining operations within the rear area after considering the factors of METT-TC. He provides that individual with the necessary command and control resources to direct the echelon's sustaining operations. Doctrinally, that individual will be the brigade support battalion commander.

(b)   Regardless of the specific sustaining operations performed by an organization occupying the rear area, its focus on other than combat operations leaves them more vulnerable than combat organizations in close areas. Commanders may protect rear areas with combat forces to defend CS and CSS units and facilities. Geography or other circumstances may cause the commander to designate a noncontiguous rear area; however, this increases the challenge associated with providing rear area security due to the physical separation from combat units that would otherwise occupy a contiguous area.

(2)   On the noncontiguous battlefield typical of most SSC operations, the rear area may be difficult to define. A commander has a noncontiguous area of operations when one or more of his subordinate forces' areas of operation do not share a common boundary (FM 3-0).

(a)   In essence, a rear area exists wherever combat forces are not present within the SBCT's defensive AO. During the MBA fight, protection of rear areas is necessary to ensure freedom of maneuver and continuity of operations. The threat to the rear area is even more important in a noncontiguous area when the SBCT may be forced to defend in a nonlinear fashion.

(b)   The commander must employ some elements of the cavalry squadron (RSTA) and other ISR assets to ensure the viability of moving counterattack forces upon the interior lines of his area defense. When analysis reveals the threat in the "rear area" to be significant enough to threaten the C2 INFOSYS infrastructure, the SBCT may be forced to constrict the defense and utilize some of its own combat forces to provide protection.


Much like offensive operations, the SBCT in defense differs from its more traditional counterparts only in its operational style. The characteristics of the defense remain largely unchanged. Due to its advantages in information, lethality, and mobility, the SBCT can defend in linear as well as nonlinear frameworks (Figure 5-2). The ISR capabilities within the SBCT structure enable the SBCT to locate and discern the enemy's decisive and shaping operations and the means by which he will conduct these operations. Preparation, security, disruption, massing effects, decentralized operations, and flexibility continue to characterize SBCT defensive operations.

Figure 5-2. Linear and nonlinear operations.

Figure 5-2.  Linear and nonlinear operations.

a.   Preparation. Against an opponent operating in a more conventional style, the SBCT commander determines likely enemy avenues of approach, likely enemy schemes of maneuver, where to kill the enemy, unit positioning, integration of both obstacles and indirect fires, and he assigns missionsaccordingly.

(1)   The S2, S3, and BOS representatives execute the MDMP under the XO's supervision for the commander's approval. The C2 INFOSYS architecture allows the commander to circulate on the battlefield while issuing guidance and approving products throughout the process. C2 INFOSYS capability allows the staff to access higher echelon's sophisticated computer analyses of enemy COAs and friendly plans.

(2)   Defensive preparations include the following:

  • Enact force protection measures, which involve action against conventional threats (preparation of fighting positions, digging in C2 INFOSYS nodes, and so forth) as well as asymmetric threats (terrorist attacks and WMD employment).
  • Designate a reserve.
  • Conduct rehearsals.
  • Position forces in depth, whether the defense is in a contiguous or noncontiguous AO (Figure 5-3). They may have operational combinations of both linear and nonlinear in a contiguous and noncontiguous AO (Figure 5-4).
  • Reinforce terrain to favor the defender.

Figure 5-3. Contiguous and non-contiguous areas of operation.

Figure 5-3.  Contiguous and non-contiguous areas of operation.

Figure 5-4. Operational combinations.

Figure 5-4.  Operational combinations.

b.   Security. Since a force defends to conserve combat power for use elsewhere or at a later time, commanders must secure the force. The SBCT secures the force through integrated security operations tied to the cavalry squadron (RSTA) and ISR assets. The SBCT ensures security by employing reconnaissance elements throughout the depth and breadth of its assigned AO. The cavalry squadron (RSTA), sensor, and HUMINT assets at the SBCT level conduct reconnaissance to define and confirm the threat spatially (at extended ranges) and in terms of time and manner. Deception and information operations confuse the enemy as to the SBCT's manner of defense and aid in securing the force.

c.   Disruption. Defenders disrupt an attacker's tempo and synchronization by countering his initiative and preventing him from massing overwhelming combat power. Disruption attacks the enemy's will to fight. Deep precision fires, scatterableminefields (SCATMINEs), unexpected defensive positions, decentralized operations, local counterattacks at all levels, as well as deliberate or hasty attacks delivered by a highly mobile reserve force combine to disrupt the enemy's attack and break his will to continue offensive operations. Repositioning forces, aggressive local force protection measures, random employment of roadblocks, ambushes, checkpoints, and information operations combine to disrupt the threat of asymmetrical attack. Priority targets for deep fires include the enemy's indirect fire systems, breaching and bridging assets, and C2 INFOSYS. Attacks on these disrupt enemy efforts to fight as a combined arms team. Maneuver units deceive the enemy as to the nature of their defense and employ local combined arms counterattacks to break the tempo of his attack. The SBCT's integrated ISR capability produces dominant information that allows the commander to see and prevent the enemy from fully preparing his attack.

d.   Massing Effects. The SBCT shapes and decides the battle by massing the effects of overwhelming combat power. Effects should be synchronized in time and space and be rapid and unexpected so that they break the enemy's offensive tempo and disrupt his attack. The commander employs integrated ISR to shift the effects of fires and maneuver forces so that they are repeatedly focused and refocused to achieve decisive, destructive, and disruptive effects upon the enemy's attack. The commander must be bold in achieving overwhelming combat effects at the decisive point by employing dominant SU to take acceptable risks in other areas.

e.   Flexibility. The defender gains flexibility by sound preparation, disposition in depth, retention of reserves, and effective command and control. The defense is characterized by rapid simultaneous and collaborative planning with flexible execution. Contingency planning permits flexibility. Flexibility also requires that the SBCT commander "see the battlefield" to detect the enemy's scheme of maneuver early. IPB determines likely enemy actions, and security elements verify which actions are occurring.


There are three types of defensive actions: area defense, mobile defense, and retrograde operations. (See Section III for a discussion of retrograde operations.) Each of these types of defensive actions contains elements of the others and usually contains both static and dynamic aspects. Battalions serve as the primary maneuver elements or terrain-controlling units for the SBCT in all types of defensive operations. They may defend AOs or positions or may serve as security forces or reserves as part of a synchronized defense by a higher headquarters.


The area defense concentrates on denying an enemy force access to designated terrain for a specific time. Outright destruction of the enemy may not be a criterion for success. The focus is on retaining terrain where the bulk of the defending force positions itself in mutually supporting positions, controlling the terrain between positions. The defeat mechanism is fires into engagement areas, usually supplemented by intervention of a reserve. The commander uses his reserve force to reinforce fires, add depth, block penetrations, restore positions, or counterattack to destroy enemy forces and seize the initiative. Area defenses are conducted when—

  • The mission requires holding certain terrain for a specific period of time.
  • There is enough time to organize the position.
  • The battalion or SBCT has less mobility than the enemy.
  • The terrain limits counterattacks to a few probable employment options.
  • The terrain affords natural lines of resistance and limits the enemy to a few well-defined avenues of approach, thereby restricting the enemy's maneuver.

a.   The SBCT commander selects one of two general positioning techniques for an area defense: forward or defense in depth. However, the higher commander may define the general defensive scheme for the SBCT. The specific mission may impose constraints such as time, security, and retention of certain areas that are significant factors in determining how the SBCT will defend.

(1)   Forward Defense. The intent of a forward defense is to prevent enemy penetration of the defense. Due to its lack of depth, a forward defense is the least preferred form of maneuver. The SBCT deploys the majority of its combat power into forward defensive positions near the FEBA (Figure 5-5). The SBCT fights to retain its forward position and may conduct counterattacks against enemy penetrations or to destroy enemy forces in forward engagement areas (EAs). Often, counterattacks are planned forward of the FEBA to defeat the enemy. A forward defense is used when—

  • Terrain forward in the AO favors the defense.
  • Strong existing natural or man-made obstacles, such as a river or a rail line, are located forward in the AO.
  • The assigned AO lacks depth due to the location of the area or facility to be protected.
  • Cover and concealment in the rear portion of the AO is limited.
  • Higher headquarters directs the SBCT to retain or initially control forward terrain.

Figure 5-5. Example of a forward defense.

Figure 5-5.  Example of a forward defense.

(2)   Defense in Depth. An in-depth defense is the preferred form of maneuver. It reduces the risk of the attacking enemy force quickly penetrating the defense. The enemy is unable to exploit a penetration because of additional defensive positions employed in depth. The in-depth defense provides more space and time to defeat the enemy attack. It provides the commander more time to gain information about the enemy's intentions and likely future actions before decisively committing to a plan of his own (Figure 5-6). An in-depth defense is used when—

  • The mission allows the SBCT to fight throughout the depth of the AO.
  • The terrain does not favor a defense well forward and there is better defensible terrain deeper in the AO.
  • Sufficient depth is available in the AO.
  • Cover and concealment forward in the AO is limited.
  • WMDs may be used.

Figure 5-6. Defense in-depth.

Figure 5-6.  Defense in-depth.

b.   Planning. The commander must consider all the factors of METT-TC in order to determine how best to concentrate his efforts and economize forces. Detailed analysis of terrain may be the most important process that the commander and his staff complete. A successful defense relies on a complete understanding of terrain in order to determine likely enemy courses of action and the optimal positioning of the SBCT's assets to counter them. The commander's keys to a successful defense are—

  • Capability to concentrate effects.
  • Depth of the defensive area.
  • Security.
  • Ability to take full advantage of the terrain.
  • Flexibility of defensive operations.
  • Timely resumption of offensive action.
  • Support.

c.   Preparation. During preparation, the commander and staff monitor preparatory actions and track the higher and adjacent unit situations and the enemy situation. They must update and refine plans based on additional reconnaissance and updated intelligence information. They conduct much of the preparation phase simultaneously with security operations, continuing even as forward-deployed forces gain contact with the enemy. The SBCT and higher headquarters' staffs must assure that battalions defending maintain a highly accurate view of the enemy, the environment, and significant civilian factors. Some sensors and their downlinks may be directly assigned for these operations. Elements of the SBCT reconnaissance and higher echelon aviation assist the SBCT in defending large AOs, assuming responsibility for specified enemy forces as the situation develops. Maintaining contact with the enemy and sustaining surveillance of every part of the SBCT's area of interest is of special importance in a defense. The loss of reconnaissance coverage demands immediate attention.


The mobile defense is a type of defensive operation that concentrates on the destruction or defeat of the enemy through a decisive attack by a striking force (FM 3-0). A division or corps most frequently conducts a mobile defense, but the SBCT is also capable of doing so.

a.   Depth. A mobile defense requires considerable depth in the area of operations in order for the commander to shape the battlefield, causing the enemy to extend his lines of communication and support, expose his flanks, and dissipate his combat power. The terrain must allow the commander to maneuver to attack an enemy flank or rear. Mobile defense focuses on destroying the attacking force by permitting the enemy to advance into a position that exposes him to counterattack and envelopment. The commander holds the majority of his available combat power in a striking force for his decisive operation, a major counterattack. He commits the minimum possible combat power to his fixing force that conducts shaping operations to control the depth and breadth of the enemy's advance. The fixing force also retains the terrain required to conduct the striking force's decisive counterattack.

(1)   The factors of METT-TC may dictate that a unit conducts a mobile defense when defending against an enemy force with greater combat power but less mobility. A commander may also employ a mobile defense when defending a large area of operations without well-defined avenues of approach such as flat, open terrain. The mobile defense is preferred in an environment where the enemy may employ weapons of mass destruction because this type of defense reduces the vulnerability of the force to attack and preserves its freedom of action.

(2)   FBCB2 improves the ability of the friendly force to gain and maintain a COP, which reduces the risk associated with this type of defense.

b.   Striking Force. The mobile defense concentrates on the destruction or defeat of the enemy through a decisive counterattack. The focus is on defeating or destroying the enemy by allowing him to advance to a point where he is exposed to a decisive counterattack by the striking force. The striking force is a dedicated force composed of the bulk of the combat power and weighted with the majority of the available combat multipliers.

c.   Fixing Force. A fixing force shapes the battlefield and the enemy, setting the conditions for the striking force. (See Chapter 4 for a discussion on offensive operations.) The SBCT most often conducts a force-oriented attack against a stationary enemy that has been stopped by the area defense and reserve. The SBCT may conduct a force-oriented attack against a moving enemy if the area defense cannot stop the enemy's advance. During these attacks, the SBCT or its battalions may act as the security, main body, or reserve force.


The commander can employ the perimeter defense as an option when conducting an area or mobile defense. A perimeter defense is a defense oriented in all directions (Figure 5-7). The SBCT uses it for self-protection. The SBCT establishes a perimeter defense when it must hold critical terrain in areas where the defense is not tied in with adjacent units. The SBCT may also form a perimeter when it has been bypassed and isolated by the enemy and must defend in place.

Figure 5-7. Perimeter defense.

Figure 5-7.  Perimeter defense.

a.   Planning Considerations. While in a perimeter defense, the SBCT should consider—

  • Providing as much depth as the diameter of the perimeter allows through the location of security elements and reserve.
  • Planning obstacles to fix or block the enemy so he can be engaged effectively.
  • Maintaining an antiarmor heavy reserve.
  • Controlling surrounding areas to a range beyond that of enemy mortars and rockets and direct fire weapons.
  • Providing mutual support between defending forces to allow integration of observation, surveillance, prearranged indirect fires, and sensors.
  • Positioning of reserves to permit reaction to any threat.
  • Use of natural defensive characteristic of the defense.

b.   Retention of Key Terrain. The SBCT retains terrain that is key to facilitating future operations such as linkup, extraction, or breakout. The commander employs a security force outside the perimeter for early warning.

c.   Command and Control. If the SBCT forms the perimeter because of isolation, then combat, CS, and CSS elements from other units come under the tactical command of the senior combat commander in the perimeter. The commander assigns missions to these elements based on support capabilities.

d.   Combat Service Support. CSS elements may support from inside the perimeter or from another location depending on the mission and status of the SBCT, the type of transport available, the weather, and the terrain. All CSS assets inside the perimeter should be in a protected location from which they can provide continuous support. Because resupply is often by air, the position should include or be near a landing or drop zone. The availability of landing zones (LZs) and drop zones (DZs) protected from the enemy's observation and fire is a main consideration in selecting and organizing the position. Since aerial resupply is vulnerable to weather and enemy fires, commanders must emphasize supply economy and protection of available stocks.

e.   Reserve. The reserve is a force that is withheld from action in order to be committed at a decisive moment. It provides the commander with the flexibility to exploit success or deal with a tactical setback and the flexibility to respond in situations where there is a great deal of uncertainty about the enemy. Situational obstacles, fires, CAS, and attack aviation will increasingly be used to augment reserve forces.

(1)   The choice of a force designated to be a reserve depends upon the factors of METT-TC.

(2)   The reserve's likely tasks are issued as planning priorities and may include one or more of the following:

  • Counterattack locally.
  • Defeat enemy air assaults.
  • Block enemy penetrations.
  • Reinforce a decisively engaged battalion.
  • Secure high-value assets.

(3)   During defensive preparations, the SBCT commander may employ his reserve in other tasks such as security operations, defense of a portion of the second line of defense behind the perimeter elements, or rear area security. The reserve must have the mobility to react to enemy action in any portion of the perimeter. It is positioned to block the most dangerous avenue of approach and is assigned on-order positions on other critical avenues. If the enemy penetrates the perimeter, the reserve blocks the enemy penetration or counterattacks to restore the perimeter. After committing the reserve, the commander must decide whether to designate a new reserve force based on METT-TC. The commander must balance the need for additional reserves with the constraints that will incur upon a subordinate commander's requirement to conduct his mission.

(4)   The commander and staff must determine where and under what conditions the reserve force is likely to be employed in order to position it effectively and give it appropriate planning priorities. The reserve force commander must analyze his assigned planning priorities, conduct coordination with the SBCT and ensure coordination has been conducted with units that will be affected by his maneuver and commitment, and provide information to the commander and staff on routes and employment times to designated critical points on the battlefield.

f.   Counterattack. The SBCT may conduct local counterattacks to restore or preserve defensive integrity. Unless defensive operations have left the SBCT largely unscathed, the SBCT may lack the ability to conduct a significant counterattack by itself. Within the context of the higher echelon's operations, the SBCT may execute a counterattack to support the defensive posture, or as part of a larger force seeking to complete the destruction of the enemy's attack, or as part of a transition to offensive operations.


A retrograde operation is a forced or voluntary movement away from an enemy force or to the rear. Retrograde operations are conducted to improve a tactical situation or to prevent a worse situation from developing. SBCTs normally conduct retrogrades as part of a larger force but may conduct independent retrogrades as required, such as when conducting an area or point raid. In either case, the SBCT's higher headquarters must approve the operation. Retrograde operations—

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


The three forms of retrograde operations are delay, withdrawal, and retirement.

a.   Delay. This operation trades space for time and preserves friendly combat power while inflicting maximum damage on the enemy.

b.   Withdrawal. A withdrawal is a planned, voluntary disengagement from the enemy, which may be conducted with or without enemy pressure.

c.   Retirement. A retirement is an operation in which a force that is not in contact with the enemy moves to the rear in an organized manner.


Maintenance of morale is essential among subordinate leaders and troops in a retrograde operation. Movement to the rear may seem like a defeat or a threat of isolation unless soldiers have confidence in their leaders and know the purpose of the operation and their roles in it.

5-8. DELAY

In a delay, the SBCT trades space for time and inflicts maximum damage on the enemy. Inflicting damage is normally secondary to gaining time. The SBCT may execute a delay when it has insufficient combat power to attack or defend or when the higher unit's plan calls for drawing the enemy into an area for a counterattack. Delays gain time to—

  • Allow other friendly forces to establish a defense.
  • Cover a withdrawing force.
  • Protect a friendly force's flank.
  • Function as an economy of force effort to allow other forces to counterattack.

a.   Two Forms of Delay. Based upon the commander's intent and METT-TC factors, a delay mission can have essentially two forms: delay within an area of operations or delay forward of a specific control measure.

(1)   Delay within an Area of Operations. The SBCT may be assigned a mission to delay within an 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 SBCT or higher headquarters area of operations.

(2)   Delay Forward. Delay forward is used to slow an enemy advance for a specific period of time or defeat specified enemy formations within an area to support the higher commander's concept of operations. It often involves the decisive engagement of a part of, or the entire, unit. Delay forward presents a high risk to the unit. The SBCT may be assigned a mission to delay forward of a specific control measure for a specific period of time. This mission would be assigned when the higher headquarters or SBCT 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, with the likelihood of part of the SBCT 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.

b.   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.

c.   Delay Organization. Unless operating independently, the SBCT organizes its forces based on the factors of METT-TC. It normally organizes into a security force, main body, and reserve, but a wide AO may preclude the use of SBCT-controlled security forces and reserves. In this case, the SBCT may direct its battalions to organize their own security, main body, and reserve forces. The SBCT commander can designate a battalion as the security or reserve force for the SBCT.

d.   Delay Planning Considerations. The delay requires close coordination of forces and a clear understanding of the scheme of maneuver and commander's intent by subordinates. The potential for loss of control is high in delay operations, making cross-talk and coordination between subordinate leaders extremely important. Subordinate initiative is critical, but it must be in the context of close coordination with others. Plans must be flexible, with control measures throughout the AO allowing forces to be maneuvered to address all possible enemy options.

(1)   General Considerations. The commander determines the end state of the delay based on the higher commander's intent and specific parameters of the higher headquarters' delay order. The commander considers the factors of METT-TC, especially the effects of the terrain, to identify advantageous locations from which to engage the enemy throughout the depth of the AO. Specific delay planning considerations the commander and staff must determine include—

  • Force array and allocation of combat multipliers, particularly fires and obstacles.
  • Where and when to accept decisive engagement.
  • Acceptable level of risk for each subordinate force.
  • Form of delay and control measures (companies delay in sector, control by battle positions, or some other method).
  • Integration of obstacle intent and essential fires and effects tasks (EFETs).
  • Likely subsequent mission, transition point(s), and conditions.

(2)   SBCT Order. The SBCT order must clearly articulate the parameters of the delay mission. It specifically addresses subordinate missions in terms of space, time, and friendly strength. It also provides directions for actions if the subordinate unit is unable to meet the terms of its delay mission. Table 5-1 gives an example of the parameters of a delay mission order issued to a subordinate battalion.

Table 5-1. Example of the parameters of a delay.

Table 5-1. Example of the parameters of a delay.

(3)   Effects of Terrain. The staff analyzes the effects of terrain and the anticipated enemy situation to identify positions that offer the best opportunity to engage, delay, and inflict damage on the enemy force. As the staff develops delay positions and control measures, it calculates enemy closure rates and compares them to friendly displacement rates between positions. Time and space factors dictate the amount of time subordinate units have to engage the enemy and move before becoming decisively engaged; these factors are calculated for each avenue of approach. The staff should develop triggers for displacement to positions in depth.

(4)   Enemy Vulnerabilities. The staff analyzes the terrain and expected enemy situation to identify advantageous locations from which to engage the enemy at existing obstacles such as chokepoints or urban or complex terrain. They also consider possible locations to plan counterattacks. Situational and event templates must tell the commander and staff where the enemy is likely to be at certain times. This helps them decide where to emplace obstacles, where to mass fires, and if or where decisive engagement is likely or required.

(5)   Maneuver Considerations. The staff considers maneuver actions, fires, obstacles, and the employment of other supporting assets necessary to degrade the enemy's mobility and support friendly forces' disengagement to subsequent positions. This is especially critical at locations and times when battalions or the entire SBCT may become decisively engaged with the enemy. As the staff develops and refines the plan, it develops decision points for key actions, including triggers for the employment of fires and situational or reserve obstacles; displacement of subordinate units to subsequent positions; and movement of indirect fire assets, C2 INFOSYS facilities, and CSS units. The staff also selects routes for reinforcements, artillery, CPs, and CSS elements to use and synchronizes their movements with the delaying actions of forward units.


The scheme of maneuver must allow the SBCT to dictate the pace of the delay and maintain the initiative. The commander selects positions that allow his forces to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, support their disengagement, and enable their withdrawal. He may choose to delay from successive or alternating delay positions, depending on the strength of the battalions and the width of the AO.

a.   Areas of Operations. Areas of responsibility are defined by establishing AOs or battle positions (BPs) for each battalion and developing control measures to ensure adequate control while supporting decentralized freedom of action. Deep, parallel AOs are normally assigned to delaying battalions. AOs are assigned in the same manner as discussed previously in Section I. Each enemy avenue of approach is assigned to only one subordinate unit. Boundaries are used to define battalion AOs. When boundaries are drawn, terrain that provides fields of fire and observation into an area is assigned to the unit responsible for that AO or BP. Contact points and other control measures are established to support flank unit coordination. The commander and staff make provisions for coordinated action along avenues of approach that diverge and pass from one subordinate AO to another

b.   Control Measures. The SBCT's battalions organize their maneuver in a similar fashion. The SBCT commander may decide to add additional control measures, to include phase lines, battle positions, engagement areas, or attack-by-fire positions that allow the SBCT commander to direct the fight more closely and give subordinates a clearer picture of how he envisions fighting the delay.

c.   Delay Positions. When determining the scheme of maneuver, positions should incorporate as many of the following characteristics as possible:

  • Good observation and long-range fields of fire.
  • Covered or concealed routes of movement to the rear.
  • A road network or areas providing good cross-country trafficability.
  • Existing or reinforcing obstacles to the front and flanks.
  • Maximum use of highly defensible terrain.


Delay positions should be on terrain that controls likely enemy avenues of approach, allows engagements against the enemy where his movement is most canalized, and facilitates maximum delay with minimum forces. Long-range direct fires are highly desirable because they force the enemy to deploy and move carefully and because they reduce the likelihood of unintended decisive engagement of companies and platoons. Integrating force positioning and movement with terrain, fires, and situational obstacles helps inflict maximum damage on the enemy while allowing friendly freedom of maneuver and disengagement. If not constrained by commander's guidance and rules of engagement, the cover and movement restrictions of urban areas should be extensively exploited if they cannot be readily bypassed.


Engagement at maximum ranges of all weapons systems causes the enemy to take time-consuming measures to deploy, develop the situation, and maneuver to drive the delaying force from its position. An aggressive enemy commander will not deploy if he correctly determines that friendly forces are delaying; he will use his mass and momentum to develop sufficient pressure to cause friendly forces to fall back or become decisively engaged. Therefore, the delay must include the deadly integration of direct and indirect fires and situational obstacles to make the enemy doubt the nature of the friendly mission and leave him no choice but to deploy and maneuver.


A key to a successful delay is to maintain a mobility advantage over the attacking enemy and avoid decisive engagement. The SBCT seeks to increase its mobility while degrading the enemy's ability to move. The SBCT improves its mobility by—

  • Maintaining contact with the enemy, maintaining reconnaissance and security on flanks, and coordinating with adjacent units to prevent forces from being isolated.
  • Reconnoitering routes and BPs.
  • Improving routes, bridges, and fording sites between delay positions, as time and resources permit.
  • Using indirect fires and obstacles to support disengagement and to cover movement between positions.
  • Task-organizing and positioning breaching assets within subordinate formations to breach enemy obstacles rapidly.
  • Using multiple routes.
  • Controlling traffic flow and restricting refugee movements to unused routes.
  • Keeping logistical assets uploaded and mobile.
  • Caching ammunition on rearward routes. Ensure that units know the locations of these supply points (create a supply point icon in FBCB2). If possible, the supply point should be guarded and prepared for destruction if not used by delaying forces.
  • Task-organizing additional medical and equipment evacuation assets to the battalions to increase their ability to disengage and displace rapidly.
  • Positioning available air defense assets to protect bridges and choke points on rearward routes.

The SBCT degrades the mobility of the enemy by—

  • Maintaining continuous pressure on the enemy throughout the area of operation.
  • Attacking logistics as well as maneuver and fire support assets.
  • Occupying and controlling chokepoints and key terrain that dominate high-speed avenues of approach.
  • Destroying enemy reconnaissance and security forces, which blinds the enemy and causes him to move more cautiously.
  • Engaging at maximum ranges.
  • Employing a combination of directed situational and reserve obstacles.
  • Employing indirect fires, smoke, and CAS, if available.
  • Using deception techniques such as dummy positions.
  • Attaching enemy engineer assets.


An order for a delay mission must specify certain parameters.

a.   The order must direct one of two alternatives—delay throughout the depth of the AO or delay forward of a specific line or area for a specific period of time.

(1)   A mission of delay within an AO implies that force integrity is a prime consideration. In this case, the battalion delays the enemy as long as possible while avoiding decisive engagement.

(2)   If the delaying force is ordered to hold the enemy forward of a given phase line (PL) for a specified time, mission accomplishment outweighs preservation of the force's integrity. Such a mission may require the force to defend a given position until ordered to displace.

b.   The order must specify acceptable risk. Acceptable risk ranges from accepting decisive engagement in an attempt to hold terrain for a given period of time to avoiding decisive engagement in order to maintain the delaying force's integrity. The depth available for the delay, the time needed by the higher headquarters, and subsequent missions for the delaying force determine the amount of acceptable risk.

c.   The order must specify whether the delaying force may use the entire AO or whether it must delay from specific BPs. A delay using the entire AO is preferable, but a delay from specific positions may be required to coordinate two or more units in the delay.

d.   The SBCT order and commander's intent should define for the battalions what the scheme of maneuver is, what the priorities are, and how much freedom the subordinate leaders have in maneuvering their forces. During delay operations, the SBCT commander usually gives the battalions very little freedom. Unless the battalion is delaying on an avenue of approach that is essentially isolated, he specifies constraints on maneuver and requirements for coordination. The SBCT commander defines the criteria for disengagement, movement to subsequent positions or areas, checkpoints, or phase lines from which, or forward of which, the company must fight.


If during planning the commander chooses to delay using battle positions, he can use either alternate positions or subsequent positions. In both techniques, the delaying forces maintain contact with the enemy between delay positions. Table 5-2, shows the advantages and disadvantages of the two techniques.

Table 5-2. Comparison of methods of delay.

Table 5-2. Comparison of methods of delay.

a.   Delay by Alternate Positions. In a delay by alternate positions (Figure 5-8), two or more units in a single AO occupy delaying positions in depth. As the first unit engages the enemy, the second occupies the next position in depth and prepares to assume responsibility for the operation. The first force disengages and passes around or through the second force. It then moves to the next position and prepares to reengage the enemy while the second force takes up the fight. Both the SBCT and battalion can use this scheme of maneuver. At the SBCT level, if the AO is narrow, the SBCT employs battalions in depth occupying alternate positions. This enables the SBCT to develop a strong delay, with forces available to counterattack or assist in the disengagement of the battalion in contact. At the battalion level, using alternate positions helps maintain pressure on the enemy and helps prevent platoons or companies from being decisively engaged. A delay from alternate positions is particularly useful on the most dangerous avenues of approach because it offers greater security and depth than a delay from subsequent positions. However, it also poses the highest potential for fratricide and vulnerability as units pass through or near each other.

Figure 5-8. Delay by alternate positions.

Figure 5-8.  Delay by alternate positions.

b.   Delay by Subsequent Positions. The battalion uses a delay by subsequent positions (Figure 5-9) when the assigned AO is so wide that available forces cannot occupy more than a single tier of positions. This is the more common form of a delay operation given the expanded AOs in which the SBCT and battalions normally operate. In a delay from subsequent positions, the majority of forces are arrayed along the same PL or series of BPs. The forward forces delay the enemy from one PL to the next within their assigned AOs. At battalion level, this is the least preferred method of delaying since there is a much higher probability of forces becoming isolated or decisively engaged, particularly if the delay must be maintained over more than one or two subsequent positions. Additionally, the battalion has limited ability to maintain pressure on the enemy as it disengages and moves to subsequent positions unless the battalion has been allocated additional (and adequate) indirect fire support.

Figure 5-9. Delay by subsequent positions.

Figure 5-9.  Delay by subsequent positions.


For a delay mission to be successful, the SBCT will need to use the discrete capabilities of its supporting units.

a.   Fire Support. Key considerations for the fire support plan include the following:

  • Attack the enemy throughout the AO.
  • Engage the enemy with fires to inflict casualties and disrupt his approach before he gets to friendly delaying positions. Plan final protective fires (FPFs) for each series of delaying positions to support disengagement.
  • Mass fires on high-payoff targets and canalizing terrain to limit the momentum of the enemy's attack.
  • Ensure fires are tied to obstacles.
  • Plan and designate priority targets along routes from one delaying position to the next.
  • Mass all available fire support (and effects) to support disengagements.
  • Use smoke to screen friendly movements and for deception.

b.   Engineer Support. Key considerations for the scheme of engineer operations include the following:

  • When operating in a wide AO, task-organize countermobility assets to the companies, decentralizing control and execution.
  • Task-organize mobility assets to companies to support mobility requirements. Consider logistical requirements and support of CSS assets in task-organizing mobility assets.
  • Develop the obstacle plan to support disengagement of delaying forces and to shape the enemy's maneuver to meet the commander's intent.
  • Consider countermobility requirements for all delaying positions throughout the depth of the AO.
  • Integrate SCATMINEs at delay positions to support disengagement and movement to subsequent positions.
  • Consider the impact of the obstacle effort on the movement of friendly forces and future operations.
  • Develop obstacle restrictions, establish lanes and guides, and employ obstacles to support mobility requirements.
  • Provide for closing lanes behind friendly forces with scatterable or hand-emplaced mines.
  • Develop clear criteria for execution of reserve and situational obstacles and Integrate decisions for their execution in the decision support template.
  • Construct survivability positions in depth, as required, to support repositioning forces.

c.   Air Defense. Key considerations for the available air defense plan include—

  • Synchronize the movement and positioning of air defense artillery assets with the delaying forces.
  • Plan for adequate air defense coverage of friendly forces during movements from one delaying position to another.
  • Consider protection along movement routes, chokepoints, and bridges that friendly forces intend to use.

d.   Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Support. SBCT planning defines NBC operations in the delay. Battalions may coordinate for reconnaissance assets if available in the SBCT. Decontamination operations in the delay focus on individual and crew operational decontamination procedures until the conclusion of the operation, when thorough decontamination can be accomplished. If smoke generators are available, the battalion may employ them for deception, obscuring movement and positions, or obscuring portions of the battlefield to reduce enemy visibility and ease of movement.

e.   Combat Service Support. CSS for a delay is particularly complex. Communication within the CSS system, accurately tracking the battle, and anticipating support requirements are especially important. Key planning considerations include—

  • Keep the CSS assets mobile and supplies uploaded.
  • Request heavy equipment transports (HETs) to support rapid evacuation of damaged equipment.
  • Emphasize maintenance support forward with short evacuation times; use all available assets (to include firepower-damaged vehicles) to evacuate damaged vehicles to the rear.
  • Synchronize refueling and resupply operations with the scheme of maneuver and the anticipated enemy situation to ensure continuity of support.
  • Increase emergency Class III and V supplies positioned forward.
  • Do not coordinate for throughput too far forward; doing so might cause assets to be caught in the fight or add to route congestion. Depending on the situation, this may not apply during the initial preparations for the delay.
  • Plan routes for CSS assets that do not conflict with maneuver elements.

f.   Health Service Support. Providing HSS for the delay may also be difficult since enemy actions and the maneuver of combat forces complicate forward area acquisition of patients. Planning considerations for HSS should include—

  • Positioning a Stryker medical evacuation vehicle (MEV) with each of the companies and requesting medical evacuation augmentation support from the brigade support medical company (BSMC).
  • Integrating the evacuation routes with the obstacle plan.
  • Marking CCPs and evacuation routes for day and night operations.
  • Positioning treatment elements forward but to the rear of the maneuvering forces.
  • Identifying alternate treatment, casualty collection point (CCP), and ambulance exchange point (AXP) sites with triggers to reposition.
  • Planning for the use of both standard and nonstandard evacuation platforms.
  • Rehearsing casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) procedures using nonstandard platforms and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) procedures with standard platforms.
  • Observing time and the means available to remove patients from the battlefield. In either a stable situation or in the advance, time is important only as it affects the physical well-being of the wounded. In a delay, time is important. As available time decreases, the use of nonstandard evacuation platforms will increase, and companies must be prepared to withdraw, moving their casualties with them.
  • Integrating the effective use of air assets into the MEDEVAC plan is essential.


Defensive planning considerations discussed in Section II also apply as the SBCT prepares to conduct the delay.

a.   Inspections. The commander inspects planning and preparations of his subordinate units to ensure—

  • Maneuver, fire, and obstacle plans are consistent with his intent.
  • Flank coordination between delaying battalions is conducted to maintain cohesion and mutual support during the delay.
  • Defensive preparations are proceeding according to established timelines.
  • All leaders have a clear understanding of the scheme of maneuver and the commander's intent.

b.   Rehearsals. When conducting a rehearsal for a delay, key leaders practice the operation against all feasible enemy COAs to promote flexibility of decision-making, plans, and execution. The SBCT commander examines each subordinate unit commander's plan as he fights the delay during the rehearsal and pays close attention to the following:

  • Direct and indirect fire instructions.
  • Timing of movements and delaying actions from one position to the next with special attention paid to the disengagement criteria.
  • Means and methods of disengaging from the enemy and maintaining contact with the enemy as the force moves to subsequent positions.
  • Execution of situational and reserve obstacles to include closure of lanes.
  • Movement times, routes, and positioning of CS and CSS assets.

The SBCT commander also rehearses plans to deal with potential reverses, enemy penetrations, and unanticipated decisive engagement. The rehearsal serves to further synchronize the movement of combat forces, CS, and CSS units. It is especially important to portray movement times and required routes realistically during the rehearsal to identify potential conflicts.


The SBCT moves key forces and support to prepare for the delay. This initial movement includes movement into the security area and MBA.

a.   Security Area Actions. The SBCT deploys security forces forward of the initial delay positions to give early warning and reaction time of the enemy's approach. The security force normally detects and destroys enemy reconnaissance and security elements without risking decisive engagement. The security force relies heavily on indirect fires and CAS to engage enemy forces, screen movements, and support disengagement. Forward battalions are normally responsible for conducting the forward security mission. As the enemy approaches, security forces detect the attack and report enemy maneuver and locations. Enemy information is entered into the COP, which enhances the capability of the entire force. The commander uses this information, combined with other available intelligence about the enemy, to determine the enemy's composition, strength, and direction and rate of attack.

b.   Main Battle Area Engagement. The SBCT forces the enemy to deploy and attack by its use of fires and obstacles, massing effects quickly for a short period to inflict the maximum damage on the enemy at the maximum range. To avoid decisive engagement, the SBCT must disengage before the enemy can breach obstacles or mass effective fire on the delay position. Observers positioned to the flanks in depth continue to observe and shift indirect fires as forces delay to subsequent positions. Companies may move by bounds within the SBCT or battalion to maintain direct fires on the enemy and cover movement. Short, intense engagements at near maximum range with sustained indirect fires and covering obscurants are the key to successful delay operations.

c.   Controlling the Delay. The SBCT commander must closely control the disposition, displacement, and maneuver of his forces in order to maintain the cohesion of the delay operation and keep the entire SBCT synchronized with the remainder of the higher headquarters. FBCB2 represents a major advantage in force tracking. Given the potential for loss of positive control, it is critical that the SBCT commander clearly establish parameters for displacement.

(1)   As it executes the delay, the SBCT and battalion commanders must continually assess their situation and requirements to displace with the following considerations:

  • What are the size, activity, and location of attacking enemy forces? Are elements of the SBCT threatened with decisive engagement or bypass?
  • What is the status of adjacent units?
  • Are supporting assets, particularly artillery and mortars, postured to support movement? If not, how long will it take them to be ready?
  • Are the obstacles supporting the present position still intact and effective?
  • Are direct and indirect fires effective?
  • How strong is this position in relation to other positions the force might occupy?
  • What is the ammunition status?
  • Are displacement routes clear?

(2)   The SBCT must always make decisions about displacement and timing in the context of the higher echelon commander's intent and priority for the delay (for example, is time more important than force preservation, or vice versa). In many instances, the SBCT or elements of it must accept decisive engagement to execute the mission and then break contact as the situation permits or in conjunction with another force's counterattack.

d.   Counterattacks. The SBCT can rarely execute a substantial counterattack during a delay by itself unless it is part of the higher headquarters scheme of maneuver. Generally, counterattacks executed by the SBCT in its own scheme of maneuver are company- to possibly battalion-size counterattacks designed to support disengagement of forces or to destroy penetrations. Whenever possible, the SBCT executes counterattacks to counter penetrations, to gain a temporary degree of initiative or freedom of action, and to avoid a predictable pattern of operation.

e.   Decisive Engagement. The SBCT and battalions avoid becoming decisively engaged except when necessary to prevent the enemy from reaching a specified area too early or when a part of the force must be risked to protect the entire force. If elements of the SBCT are threatened with decisive engagement or have become decisively engaged, the SBCT commander may take actions to support their disengagement. In order of priority, he may do any of the following:

  • Allocate priority of all supporting fires to the threatened unit. This is the most rapid and responsive means of increasing the unit's combat power.
  • Employ CAS or attack helicopters to suppress the enemy and restore freedom of maneuver to the SBCT.
  • Reinforce the unit. In a delay mission, particularly over a wide AO, the SBCT may not be able to do this quickly enough with ground maneuver forces.
  • Conduct a counterattack to disengage the unit.

Once forces have become decisively engaged, they must not break contact without adequate measures by the SBCT to prevent the enemy from rapidly pursuing and destroying the force piecemeal.

f.   Terminate the Delay. A delay mission ends with another planned mission such as a defense, withdrawal, or attack. Ideally, an SBCT that has been delaying conducts a rearward passage of lines through the established defense of another friendly force. Digitized C2 INFOSYS make this difficult operation far less dangerous than it is with analog means. The battalion executes its actions in the context of the SBCT's actions. If it defeats the enemy attack during the delay, the SBCT may—

  • Maintain contact while another force counterattacks.
  • Withdraw to perform another mission.
  • Transition to the offense.

In all cases, the commander must plan for the expected outcome of the delay based on the situation and the higher commander's plan.


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, 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 if withdrawing under enemy pressure. As the unit withdraws, the detachment left in contact disengages from the enemy and follows the main body to its final destination.


As with the delay, the SBCT normally organizes into a security force, main body, and reserve. It may elect to use a single battalion or elements of a battalion as the security or reserve force. It may also organize a detachment left in contact or stay-behind forces if required by the enemy situation. If operating independently, the SBCT organizes itself in the same manner. FBCB2 is a major asset in withdrawals, and the SBCT should plan for its continuous operations before withdrawals.

a.   Security Force. The security force maintains contact with the enemy until ordered to disengage or until another force takes over the task. It simulates the continued presence of the main body, which requires additional allocation of combat multipliers beyond that normally allocated to a force of its size. When withdrawing under enemy pressure, the security force establishes or operates as a detachment left in contact to provide a way to break contact from the enemy sequentially. When conducting the withdrawal without enemy pressure, the security force acts as a rear guard because the most probable threat is a pursuing enemy.

b.   Detachment Left In Contact. The detachment left in contact (DLIC) is an element that is left in contact as part of the previously designated (usually rear) security force while the main body conducts its withdrawal. Its purpose is to remain behind to deceive the enemy into believing the SBCT or battalion is still in position while the majority of the unit withdraws. The detachment left in contact should be one of the strongest of the subordinate units with the most capable leadership. It will be the unit under the greatest pressure, and the success of the withdrawal often depends on its effectiveness. The commander must establish specific instructions about what to do if the enemy attacks and when and under what circumstances to delay or withdraw. The SBCT organizes a detachment left in contact in one of three ways (Figure 5-10).

Figure 5-10. Detachment left in contact.

Figure 5-10.  Detachment left in contact.

(1)   Single Battalion. A single battalion operates as the detachment left in contact. This is the most effective option since it provides for effective task organization and C2.

(2)   DLIC Element Formed from Each Battalion. Each battalion provides forces for the detachment-left-in-contact mission. The resulting DLIC element then operates under the SBCT's control. This is the least desirable option since it complicates C2 and task organization and requires significant changes to the communications architecture. The SBCT most commonly uses this option when the subordinate battalions have lost significant portions of their command and control capabilities.

(3)   Battalion Control of Separate DLICs. Each battalion establishes and controls its individual DLIC. The SBCT uses this option when it is operating over a wider area or one with multiple corridors in the withdrawal AO. It allows for effective dispersion of forces while maintaining standard C2 relationships.


Because the force is most vulnerable if the enemy attacks, the commander and staff normally plan for a withdrawal under enemy pressure. It also develops contingency plans for a withdrawal without enemy pressure.

a.   Planning Considerations. During planning, the commander and staff specifically consider the following:

  • Disengagement criteria (time, friendly situation, enemy situation).
  • Plan for a deliberate break in contact from the enemy.
  • Plan for deception to conceal the withdrawal for as long as possible.
  • Rapid displacement of the main body, safeguarded from enemy interference.
  • Selection and protection of withdrawal routes and alternates.
  • Siting of obstacles behind the DLIC to complicate pursuit.

b.   Commander's Intent. The commander develops his vision of the battle based on withdrawing under enemy pressure. He must determine the composition and strength of the security force, main body, and reserve. The commander must clearly define how he intends to deceive the enemy as to the execution of the withdrawal; how he intends to disengage from the enemy (use of maneuver, fires, and obstacles); and the final end state of the operation in terms of time, location, and disposition of forces.


A withdrawal may be assisted or unassisted and may take place with or without enemy pressure (Figure 5-11). The plan considers which of the variations the SBCT faces based on the higher headquarters' order and the enemy situation.

a.   Assisted Withdrawal. In an assisted withdrawal, the staff coordinates the following with the assisting force:

  • Actions of the assisting security force that the battalion will pass through or around.
  • Reconnaissance of withdrawal routes.
  • Forces to secure choke points or key terrain along the withdrawal routes.
  • Elements to assist in movement control, such as traffic control points.
  • Required combat, CS, and CSS to assist the withdrawing battalion in disengaging from the enemy.

b.   Unassisted Withdrawal. In an unassisted withdrawal, the SBCT establishes its own security and disengages itself from the enemy. It reconnoiters and secures routes that it uses in its rearward movement while sustaining itself during the withdrawal.

c.   Withdrawal under Enemy Pressure. In a withdrawal under enemy pressure, all units other than the rear guard or DLIC withdraw simultaneously when available routes allow. The following factors influence the decision to withdraw simultaneously:

  • Subsequent missions.
  • Availability of transportation assets and routes.
  • Disposition of friendly and enemy forces.
  • Level and nature of enemy pressure.
  • Degree of urgency associated with the withdrawal.

(1)   Transition. The element that will be the DLIC or rear guard must transition to cover the SBCT's AO. Simultaneously, the SBCT must prepare its CSS assets and the remainder of the force to begin a rapid withdrawal to the rear. The SBCT should seek to move on two routes to gain speed and shorten formations. Using more than two routes exceeds the ability of the SBCT to maintain security. Often, only a single route will be available.

(2)   Breaking Contact. The SBCT commander has essentially two options for breaking contact: break contact using deception and stealth or break contact quickly and violently under the cover of supporting fires reinforced by obstacles to delay pursuit. He bases his choice on the factors of METT-TC.

d.   Withdrawal without Enemy Pressure. When conducting a withdrawal without enemy pressure, the commander can focus the plan on the best method to displace forces rapidly. He has the option of taking calculated risks that increase his force's displacement capabilities. He may order the main body to conduct a tactical road march instead of moving in tactical formations, or he may move on as many routes as are available with reduced security in order to gain speed.

Figure 5-11. Types of withdrawals.

Figure 5-11.  Types of withdrawals.


The commander prepares the SBCT for the withdrawal through inspections and rehearsals in the same fashion as discussed with other defensive operations. Inspections for this mission focus on subordinate unit preparations to ensure a clear understanding of the scheme of maneuver and his intent. During an assisted withdrawal, the SBCT commander ensures adequate coordination for battle handover and passage of lines. The focus of the rehearsal for the withdrawal is actions to maintain security, disengagement from the enemy, and the movement of forces. When possible, key leaders or liaisons from the assisting force should attend the rehearsal. The commander ensures control measures, to include fire support coordination measures, fully support the withdrawal. Leaders rehearse the plan against the full range of possible enemy actions. They rehearse contingencies for reverting to a delay, commitment of the reserve, and enemy interdiction of movement routes.


Execution of the SBCT withdrawal essentially follows this pattern:

  • Task-organizing and positioning security and deception forces.
  • Reconnaissance of withdrawal routes and subsequent positions.
  • Preparation of obstacles to support the DLIC and withdrawal.
  • Preparing wounded soldiers and damaged equipment and nonessential supplies for movement.
  • Moving nonessential CS and CSS units to the rear.
  • Positioning MPs and other assets for traffic control.
  • Initiating movement, leading with forward security forces.
  • Breaking of DLIC's contact and movement as a rear guard.


The first priority is to conceal the withdrawal from the enemy. As the SBCT initiates the initial movement of forces, measures must be taken to maintain OPSEC. The following actions assist in maintaining OPSEC:

  • Use military deception, to include feints and demonstration, to cause the enemy to believe the SBCT intends to attack or defend.
  • Maintain communication and information security.
  • Avoid establishing patterns of movement that may indicate friendly intentions.
  • Establish security focused on destroying enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Use multiple withdrawal routes.
  • Move during limited visibility and along covered and concealed routes.


The security force remains in position and maintains a deception while the main body moves as rapidly as possible rearward to intermediate or final positions. After the main body withdraws a safe distance, the SBCT commander orders the security force to begin its rearward movement. Once the security force begins moving, it assumes the duties of a rear guard. The security element must balance security and deception with speed as it disengages. It maintains tactical movement and security techniques until it is clear that the enemy is not pursuing and contact has been broken; it then withdraws as rapidly as possible. The main body moves rapidly on multiple routes to designated positions. It may occupy a series of intermediate positions before completing the withdrawal. Usually CS and CSS units, along with their convoy escorts, move first and precede combat units in the movement formation. The staff enforces the disciplined use of routes during the withdrawal. Despite confusion and enemy pressure, subordinate units must follow specified routes and movement times.


Security forces counter any enemy attempts to disrupt the withdrawal or pursue the SBCT. If the security force and the reserve cannot prevent the enemy from closing on the main body, the SBCT commander commits some or all of the main body to prevent the enemy from interfering further with the withdrawal. The main body delays, attacks, or defends as required by the situation. In this event, the withdrawal resumes at the earliest possible time. If the enemy blocks movement to the rear, friendly forces shift to alternate routes and bypass the interdicted area. Alternatively, they may attack through the enemy.


Once the SBCT successfully disengages from the enemy, it normally has the following options:

  • Rejoin the overall defense.
  • Transition into a retirement.
  • Continue moving away from the enemy and towards its next mission area.

The higher headquarters defines the next mission. Follow-on missions are normally planned as the withdrawal is being planned or executed.


A retirement is a retrograde operation in which a force that is not in contact with the enemy moves to the rear in an organized manner. The battalion conducts a retirement as part of the SBCT to reposition for future operations.

a.   Organization. The commander and staff develop a movement plan based on the terrain and enemy situation. They develop the movement formation and order of movement to balance the need for security and speed. Security forces are established to protect the main body from surprise, harassment, or attack by any pursuing enemy forces. Each march column normally maintains an advance guard, rear guard, and flank security (Figure 5-12). The main body may organize into an approach march or tactical road march if speed is most important and the need for security is low.

DRAFT Figure 5-12. Retirement operations.

DRAFT Figure 5-12. Retirement operations.

b.   Planning Considerations. The commander and staff develop a movement plan based on the terrain, friendly situation, commander's guidance, and enemy situation. They develop the movement formation and order of movement to balance the need for security and speed. Security forces protect the main body from surprise, harassment, or attack by any pursuing enemy forces. Each march column normally maintains an advance guard, rear guard, and flank security, depending on the situation with adjacent friendly forces and the likelihood of enemy interference. The main body may organize into an approach march or tactical road march if speed is most important and the need for security is low.

c.   Preparation. During preparations, the SBCT and subordinate units conduct rehearsals and prepare for the movement. OPSEC and security operations are maintained. Advance priorities and quartering parties are dispatched as required.

d.   Execution. During a retirement, the SBCT and its subordinate units normally move to assembly areas to prepare for future operations. Battalions move in accordance with established movement times and routes. Strict adherence to the movement plan is essential to avoid congestion. The staff closely supervises the execution of the movement plan. CSS and CS units usually move to the rear first.


This section contains planning considerations applicable for defensive operations. Sections II and III contain additional considerations specific for area defense and retrograde operations.


Planning a defensive operation is a complex effort requiring detailed planning and extensive coordination.

a.   Commander's Vision. The first step is the expression of the SBCT commander's visualization of anticipated enemy actions integrated with the staff's IPB. The IPB should not differ significantly between the SBCT commander and his higher headquarters, but it should provide the SBCT commander and staff with a clear understanding of how the higher headquarters commander envisions the enemy will fight and his plan for the operation. From that, the SBCT commander and staff refine the IPB to focus on the details of the operation in the SBCT AO. The higher commander normally defines where and how the SBCT will defeat or destroy the enemy. The SBCT commander defines how he envisions the SBCT will execute its portion of the higher echelon fight.

b.   How and Where to Defeat the Enemy. The SBCT commander and staff base their determination of how and where to defeat the enemy on where they believe the enemy will go, the terrain, and the forces available. The SBCT commander may define a defeat mechanism that includes use of single or multiple counterattacks to achieve success. The subordinate commander and staff analyze their unit's role in the SBCT fight and determine how to achieve success. In an area defense, the SBCT usually achieves success by massing the cumulative effects of obstacles and fires to defeat the enemy forward of a designated area, often in conjunction with a higher echelon counterattack. In a delay operation, success is achieved by combining maneuver, fires, obstacles, and the avoidance of decisive engagement until conditions are right to achieve the desired effect of gaining time or shaping the battlefield for a higher echelon counterattack.

c.   Forces and Assets Available. The commander and staff analyze the forces and assets available, paying particular attention to the obstacle assets and fire support allocated by the SBCT. The staff must define the engineer and fire support allocation in terms of capability. For example, they should define engineer capability in terms of the number of obstacles of a specific effect engineers can emplace in the time available. Fire support analysis should include the number of targets that can be engaged with an expected result at what point in the battle.

d.   Effects. With a definitive understanding of the assets available, the SBCT commander and staff determine what effects forces, fires, and obstacles must achieve on enemy formations by avenue of approach and how these effects will support the SBCT's defeat mechanism. They define the task(s) and purpose for subordinate units and establish priorities for CS and CSS. They develop obstacle and fire support plans concurrently with the defensive force array, again defining a task and purpose for each obstacle and target in keeping with the commander's stated essential fires and effects tasks and intended obstacle effects. The desired end state is a plan which defines how the commander intends to mass the effects of direct and indirect fires with obstacles and use of terrain to shape the battlefield and defeat or destroy the enemy.


As with all tactical planning, IPB is a critical part of defensive planning. It helps the commander to define where to concentrate combat power, where to accept risk, and where to plan potential decisive actions. The staff integrates intelligence from the higher echelon's collection efforts and from units operating forward of the SBCT. This includes intelligence from spot reports (SPOTREPs), tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (TUAVs), JSTARS, and other higher-level collection assets. Early warning of enemy air attacks, air mobile insertions, and infiltration also are vitally important to provide adequate reaction time to counter these threats as far forward as possible. To aid in the development of a flexible defensive plan, the IPB must present all feasible enemy courses of action. The essential areas of focus are—

  • Terrain analysis.
  • Determination of enemy force size and likely COAs with associated decision points.
  • Determination of enemy vulnerabilities.

a.   Terrain Analysis. The staff determines ground and air mobility corridors and avenues of approach to determine where the enemy can maneuver to reach his likely objectives and to identify limitations on friendly maneuver and positioning. Identification of terrain such as chokepoints that create potential enemy vulnerabilities and opportunities for friendly attack is critical. The SBCT engineer can provide terrain analysis products utilizing the DTSS, which can help in identifying critical terrain and in positioning weapons systems and intelligence assets. Once they receive their area of operation for reconnaissance or preparation, subordinate units can conduct their own terrain analysis using physical reconnaissance and the line-of-sight analysis function in FBCB2. The terrain analysis must achieve a level of fidelity that allows for effective positioning of direct fire weapons systems and observers. It must identify intervisibility lines, fields of fire, and dead spaces and integrate the effects of weather. The higher headquarters staff can assist the SBCT staff by supplying weather impact on trafficability, visibility, and systems operations through data generated by the integrated meteorological system (IMETS) at higher echelons. The result of the terrain analysis should be modified combined obstacle overlay (MCOO) and identification of defensible areas. The SBCT staff should transmit results of the analysis digitally to subordinate units. When it has analyzed the SBCT's assigned AO, the staff should expand its analysis to adjacent AOs and areas forward and to the rear of the SBCT.

b.   Determine Enemy Force Size, Likely COAs, and Decision Points. The staff determines the size of enemy force that each avenue of approach and mobility corridor can support. The expected size of the enemy force drives determination of friendly force allocation, fires, and obstacle efforts. It also assists the commander and staff in understanding how the enemy will utilize his forces and the terrain. The enemy COAs developed must be feasible and reflect the enemy's flexibility and true potential. All COAs should define the following:

  • Likely enemy objectives.
  • Enemy composition, disposition, and strength.
  • Schemes of maneuver, to include routes, formations, locations and times the enemy may change formations, possible maneuver options available to the enemy, and key decision points.
  • Time and distance factors for the enemy's maneuver through the area of operation.
  • Likely employment of all enemy combat multipliers including artillery, air defense, obstacles, chemical strikes, dynamic obstacles, and attack aircraft.
  • Likely use of all enemy reconnaissance assets and organizations to include likely reconnaissance objectives, reconnaissance avenues of approach, times to expect enemy reconnaissance, and likely locations of enemy observers and observation posts.
  • Identification and likely locations of enemy HVTs, such as artillery formations, reserves, and C2 INFOSYS nodes.
  • Likely locations, compositions, strength, employment options, and time and distance factors for enemy reserves and follow-on forces.
  • Locations of enemy decision points that determine selection of a specific course.
  • Likely breach sites, strike areas, and points of penetration.

The staff should graphically portray the results of this IPB step on a situation template with a COA statement and appropriate notes. The S2 and staff use this to develop the initial ISR plan that initiates reconnaissance and security operations. As planning progresses, they must update the plan to include fire support operations, resulting in a complete ISR plan. The staff should distribute all products digitally to the entire staff and subordinate units to support parallel planning.

c.   Determine Enemy Vulnerabilities. The staff identifies potential enemy vulnerabilities based on the enemy's tactics, friendly and enemy capabilities, the terrain, and the weather. To engage the enemy where the terrain puts him at a disadvantage, the staff identifies—

  • Restrictive terrain that may slow the enemy's attack, cause a separation of forces, create difficulties in command and control, or force the enemy to conduct defile drills (for example, narrow valleys, passes, or urban areas).
  • Chokepoints or natural obstacles that may cause a loss of momentum, a potential fragmenting of forces, or a vulnerable concentration of forces (for example, rivers and canals).
  • Terrain that canalizes enemy formations into areas that provide defending forces good fields of fire, observation, and flanking fires.
  • Areas dominated by key or defensible terrain that allows massing of fires.

To be successful at providing IPB products to support the commander and subordinate units, the entire staff must participate as a whole. They must be knowledgeable in friendly and enemy capabilities and terrain analysis and be able to execute the process rapidly. The results must be detailed, legible, and disseminated quickly to support planning at all echelons.


The following paragraph focuses on specifics of COA development for defensive operations. (FM 101-5 discusses the planning processes in detail.)


This process is often abbreviated depending on the situation and the commander. Frequently, the commander may develop the course of action himself and have the staff focus on war gaming and synchronization.

a.   Analyze Relative Combat Power. The commander and staff analyze friendly and enemy combat power to gain insight on capabilities, limitations, and weaknesses associated with both forces. They consider the elements of combat power (maneuver, firepower, protection, leadership, and information) along with the effects of combat multipliers (smoke, chemical, IEW, and logistical capabilities). In the defense, they pay particular attention to the potential created by the terrain and the SBCT's countermobility and survivability capabilities and to the enemy's actual ability to employ forces in each defended area. They analyze each avenue of approach. This analysis, coupled with higher commander's intent and analysis of the terrain, often determines whether the SBCT defends forward in the AO or integrates delay actions into the defensive scheme in order to shape the battlefield and maintain adequate force ratios.

b.   Generate Options. Defensive COAs must account for all possible enemy actions and must provide for the full extent of the SBCT fight. Since the defender cedes the initiative at first and generally fights at a numerical disadvantage, full utilization of available combat power can be a major concern. The following guidelines can help generate defensive options.

(1)   Ensure the entire staff understands the mission and the results of the mission analysis process.

(2)   Determine the desired end state of the mission in terms of the higher and SBCT commander's intent, concept of the operation, and the factors of METT-TC. The end state may focus on retention of terrain or defeat of an enemy force, depending on the purpose of the defense.

(3)   Study the terrain and feasible enemy COAs to determine where and how to defeat the enemy attack. This should result in—

  • Determination of the MBA, security area, and rear area.
  • Determination of the defeat mechanism (main effort), including task(s) and purpose.
  • Identification of the enemy's probable decisive and shaping operations required to create conditions for his successful attack. This includes fires and obstacles and must include the task(s) and purpose(s).
  • Determination of key terrain the SBCT must retain or control.
  • Determination of where to engage enemy formations.
  • Determination of areas of risk.

c.   Array Initial Forces. The commander and staff array forces within the MBA, security area, and rear area, starting with the main effort followed by each supporting effort. Some guidelines for this process include the following:

  • Based on the probable size enemy force on each avenue of approach, identify the required combat forces, the EFETs, and the obstacle effects required for each effort (main or supporting) to accomplish its task.
  • Allocate the number and type forces required by each effort to accomplish its task and purpose. Allocate only the minimum combat power to ensure that the decisive operation has overwhelming combat power.
  • Balance the required combat forces, EFETs, and obstacle effects with available capabilities based on the commander's guidance and the most likely enemy COA.
  • Array battalion-size maneuver units, usually against brigade-size avenues of approach. Consider allocation of maneuver companies.
  • Array CS and CSS assets based on requirements, not sizes of units.
  • Allocate the types of forces to each effort that make best use of the forces' capabilities and available weapons systems.
  • Weight the decisive operation with sufficient combat power to ensure it can achieve its task and purpose.
  • Allocate minimum combat power required for supporting efforts to achieve their assigned tasks.
  • Array and allocate reconnaissance and security forces.


The SBCT can overcome shortfalls in combat power by modifying the COA, changing task organization, increasing the use of combat multipliers, or using economy of force elsewhere.

d.   Develop the Scheme of Maneuver. The commander and staff develop the scheme of maneuver by refining the initial array of forces to coordinate the operation and showing the relationship of friendly forces to each other, the enemy, and the terrain. They develop and refine other supporting plans, such as fire support and engineer support, simultaneously. It is critical that the plan developed is sufficiently flexible to succeed against all feasible enemy COAs and is capable of defeating major enemy efforts along unlikely avenues of approach or against supporting efforts. The scheme of maneuver also must address how to exploit defensive success. A fully developed defensive scheme—

  • Identifies where and when the commander will accept risk.
  • Identifies critical events and, if required, phases of the operation.
  • Designates the main effort with associated task(s) and purpose(s), by phase.
  • Designates supporting efforts with associated task(s) and purpose(s), defining how they support the main effort.
  • Designates the reserve and its planning priorities.
  • Defines reconnaissance and security operations.
  • Provides for withdrawal of the security force.
  • Outlines the movement and positioning of forces.
  • Describes the concept of fires.
  • Integrates obstacle effects with maneuver and fires.
  • Establishes the priority of support for CS and CSS units.
  • Identifies the maneuver options that may develop during execution.
  • Identifies means and mechanisms for exploiting defensive success.

e.   Assign Headquarters. With the scheme of maneuver developed, the commander and staff determine the task organization and C2 INFOSYS arrangement of subordinate headquarters. The task organization must account for the entire battlefield framework and include arrangements for special operations such as passage of lines. The assignment of headquarters must pay particular attention to the impact on the tactical internet and the requirements to move unit affiliations within the communications architecture.

f.   Prepare COA Statements and Sketches. The staff develops a COA sketch and explanatory statement for each completed COA. All COAs must meet the criteria of suitability, feasibility, acceptability, distinguishability, and completeness as defined in FM 101-5. The staff should develop supporting plans (fire support, engineer, air defense) simultaneously.


As the commander and staff plan a defensive mission, they generally consider preparation and execution. Preparation normally consists of occupation and establishment of security and defense preparation and continued security operations. Execution consists of security area engagement, MBA engagement, and follow-on missions. The following general sequence of operations applies to planning and executing all defensive operations.


The commander and staff must plan how the SBCT will move into its AO and establish security. The SBCT may assume a defensive mission at the conclusion of an offensive operation or may move into an area to prepare for an anticipated enemy attack. The SBCT may conduct a movement to contact, approach march, or tactical road march to occupy the AO. The enemy situation and time available are the driving factors in this decision. The establishment of security is the first priority. Commanders should consider the impact of local populations on security and work (in conjunction with CA teams) with local civil-military authority to reduce or negate that impact. Normally, the higher headquarters has established some form of security before the SBCT moves into the area. However, the unit must still provide for it's own security, especially on expanded or complex terrain. If transitioning from an offensive operation, the SBCT establishes the security area well beyond the desired main battle area in order to prevent the enemy from observing and interrupting defensive preparations and identifying unit positions. If it cannot push the security area forward to achieve this, the SBCT may have to hold its position initially as it transitions and then withdraw units to the defensive main battle area, establishing a security force in the process.

a.   Movement into Unsecured Area of Operation. The commander and staff must plan, supervise, and resource defensive preparations to build the strongest possible position prior to the enemy's attack. Defensive preparations include setting the communication architecture and digital network, positioning weapon systems, positioning ISR assets, constructing obstacles, developing fire plans, fortifying positions, maintaining routes, and rehearsing plans. During this phase, the SBCT maintains security through the use of forces conducting screen, guard, and or area security missions. OPSEC, information security, obstacle protection, and air defense are also vital to the overall security effort. The preparation phase may last from a few hours to days, depending on the enemy situation. After clearing the SBCT's rear area and the area where the battalions will be positioned, the security force should position itself to—

  • Prevent enemy observation of defensive positions.
  • Defeat infiltrating reconnaissance forces.
  • Prevent the enemy from delivering direct fires into the SBCT defenses.
  • Provide early warning of the enemy's approach.

b.   Positioning of Forces. In contiguous or linear defenses, the SBCT commander normally organizes and defines the security area forward of the FEBA, assigning the battalions their own AOs or BPs to prevent gaps in the SBCT security. The key is to integrate operations at the higher echelons and again at the SBCT level, using all available resources to execute security operations.

c.   Leaders' Reconnaissance. When feasible, the commander and subordinate leaders conduct a reconnaissance of the AO to develop most of the plan based on their view of the actual terrain. The commander and staff develop a plan for the leaders' reconnaissance that includes provisions for security, leaders and key staff members required to participate, designation of a recorder, areas to be reconnoitered, and time allocated for the reconnaissance. When available, the SBCT commander may use aviation assets to conduct the leaders' reconnaissance.


Preparation of the defense includes planning and plan refinement, positioning of forces, constructing obstacles, planning and synchronizing fires, positioning logistics, and conducting inspections and rehearsals. Throughout the preparation phase, security operations must continue without interruption. Security forces may be assigned any combination of screen, guard, and area security missions. The cavalry squadron (RSTA) as well as higher headquarters assets may be positioned to screen and provide early warning along most likely enemy avenues of approach, reinforced in depth with sections or platoons from the companies.

a.   Security. Security is a consideration throughout the area of operations. The SBCT must array security forces in depth to provide protection and to reduce the potential for enemy infiltration. It must also secure the main battle area to prevent enemy reconnaissance, reduction of obstacles, targeting of friendly positions, and other disruptive actions. Companies must secure obstacles, battle positions, and hide positions. Elements in the SBCT rear area must provide their own security, augmented by vehicles that are being repaired. With extended lines of communication, the SBCT may also secure logistical elements moving forward from the BSA to support the SBCT.

b.   Dispersion. Forces should be widely dispersed and hidden to reduce vulnerability and to aid in OPSEC.

c.   Integration. Integrate reconnaissance and ground maneuver units in the security forces. Utilize reconnaissance forces primarily to locate enemy elements and attack them with indirect fires but not to engage in direct fire attack except in self-defense. Clearly establish the C2 headquarters and communication architecture for the security force (this can be one of the most challenging missions in terms of tactical internet management).


As the enemy attack approaches the AO, the commander and staff monitor the situation via ISR operations and the COP to anticipate the enemy's arrival and timing of friendly events such as passages of lines and battle handover. The commander may also make final adjustments to his defensive plan during this time. When the higher headquarters establishes a security force, the SBCT's security forces assist the rearward passage of lines for these forces and accept battle handover. Security forces maintain contact with advancing enemy forces and report combat information. The SBCT often uses security forces, fires (lethal and non-lethal), and obstacles within the security area to disrupt the enemy's momentum and weaken his forces.

a.   As the enemy advances into the SBCT's security area, MBA forces make final preparations for the ensuing battle. The SBCT normally establishes a security area to provide early warning and reaction time, deny enemy reconnaissance efforts, and protect the MBA. The forward security mission is normally executed as a guard or screen. There are three general options for organizing the security force (Figure 5-13):

  • Forward defending battalions establish their own security areas.
  • Battalions provide security forces that operate with the cavalry squadron (RSTA) under the SBCT's direct control.
  • A battalion operates the SBCT's security force.

b.   The higher echelon commander defines the depth of the SBCT's security area through control measures and his concept of operations. The SBCT's security area extends from the FEBA to the SBCT's forward boundary. Depth in the security area provides forces in the MBA more reaction time and allows the security force more area in which to detect and engage enemy forces. A very shallow security area may require more forces and assets to provide the needed reaction time. The SBCT commander must clearly define the objective of the security area. He states the tasks of the security force(s) in terms of time required or expected to maintain security, results to achieve against the enemy, disengagement and withdrawal criteria, and follow-on tasks. He identifies specific avenues of approach and NAIs that the security force must cover. Security forces also assist the rearward passage of lines of higher echelon security forces at the battle handover line (BHL).

Figure 5-13. Options for organizing the security area.

Figure 5-13.  Options for organizing the security area.

c.   Transition. As security area engagements transition into the main battle area, security area forces withdraw to initial MBA or reserve positions. Some elements may maneuver to the flanks to maintain surveillance on enemy avenues of approach, providing early warning and execution of fires against following enemy forces.


The MBA is where the SBCT deploys the bulk of its combat power against the enemy.

a.   The SBCT's MBA extends from the FEBA to the forward battalions' rear boundary. The commander selects his MBA based on the higher commander's concept of operations, IPB, initial ISR results, and his own estimate of the situation. The commander assigns responsibilities within the MBA by assigning boundaries to subordinate battalions. If the commander does not assign boundaries to subordinate battalions, the SBCT is responsible for terrain management, security, clearance of fires, and coordination of maneuver within the entire AO. The commander may control his forces by assigning battalions an AO, BP, or strongpoint.

b.   An AO gives battalions freedom of maneuver and fire planning within a specific area. A defense in the AO allows the battalion commander to distribute his fires to suit the terrain and anticipated enemy situation. Battalion AOs are situated against enemy brigade-sized avenues of approach. A battalion's AO must provide adequate depth based on its assigned tasks, the terrain, and the anticipated size of the attacking enemy force. An AO requires continuous coordination with flank units for security and to maintain a coherent defense. The commander cannot allow subordinate battalions total freedom to develop their defenses if the SBCT's defense is to remain cohesive. Control measures such as PLs, EAs, obstacle belts, and BPs are used to coordinate battalion defenses within the MBA (Figure 5-14). During defensive preparations, the commander and staff use confirmation briefs, back briefs, inspections, and supervision to ensure battalion defenses are coordinated and that unacceptable gaps do not develop.

Figure 5-14. Example control measures used to coordinate defense by AO.

Figure 5-14.  Example control measures used to coordinate defense by AO.

c.   The commander assigns a battalion a BP when he wishes to control its fires, maneuver, and positioning. Boundaries are normally still assigned to provide space for battalion security, CS, and CSS elements that normally operate outside a BP. When the commander does not establish unit boundaries, the SBCT is responsible for fires, security, terrain management, and maneuver between positions of different battalions. The BP prescribes a primary direction of fire by the orientation of the position. Battalion BPs are positioned and oriented on well-defined enemy brigade-size avenues of approach. A battalion BP must provide sufficient space for dispersion and depth of weapon systems, supplementary and alternate positions, and flanking fires, if possible. The commander defines when and under what conditions the battalion can displace from the BP or maneuver outside it. The use of prepared or planned BPs with the associated tasks of prepare or reconnoiter also provides flexibility to rapidly concentrate forces and adds depth to the defense.

d.   A strongpoint is a heavily fortified BP tied into a natural obstacle or restrictive terrain to create an anchor for the defense. A strongpoint implies retention of terrain with the purpose of controlling key terrain and or blocking, fixing, or canalizing enemy forces. Defending units require permission from the higher headquarters to withdraw from a strongpoint. Strongpoints are prepared for all-around defense.


Following a successful defense, there may be a period of confusion that the defender can exploit. Given the information-gathering capabilities of the SBCT, counterattacks based on branches and sequels to the plan can be executed quickly before the enemy can secure his gains or organize a defense. METT-TC and the higher commander's concept of operations dictate the SBCT's follow-on mission. If the situation prevents offensive action, the SBCT continues to defend. As in the initial establishment of the defense, gaining an area in which to conduct security operations is critical. Even if the SBCT is to maintain the defense, a local counterattack can provide space for a security area and time to reorganize. Any attack option must pay particular attention not only to the terrain and enemy, but also to friendly obstacles (and their self-destruction times or neutralization times, if applicable) and areas where dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) or bomblets have been used. If it cannot counterattack to gain an adequate security area, the SBCT may have to direct one battalion to maintain contact with the enemy and guard the AO while others move to reestablish the defense farther to the rear. Whether continuing to defend or transitioning to offensive operations, the SBCT must quickly reorganize


Much of the strength of a defense rests on the integration and construction of reinforcing obstacles, exploitation of existing obstacles, and actions to enhance the survivability of the force through construction of fighting positions and fortifications. The commander's intent focuses mobility/survivability (M/S) planning through his articulation of obstacle intent (target, relative location, obstacle effect) and priorities and establishment of priorities for survivability and mobility. Guided by that intent, the SBCT engineer develops a scheme of engineer operations (SOEO) that includes engineer task organization, priorities of effort and support, subordinate engineer unit missions, and M/S instructions for all units. Chapter 10 contains information on engineer systems and capabilities.


The commander and staff develop the obstacle plan concurrently with the fire support plan and defensive scheme, guided by the higher commander's intent. They must integrate into the intelligence collection plan the use of intelligent minefields such as intelligent munitions systems (IMS), if allocated. The commander's intent for countermobility should contain three elements: target, effect, and relative location.

a.   Target. The target is the enemy force that the commander wants to affect with fires and tactical obstacles. The commander identifies the target in terms of the size and type of enemy force, the echelon, the avenue of approach, or a combination of these methods.

b.   Effect. This is the intended effect that the commander wants the obstacles and fires to have on the targeted enemy force. Tactical obstacles produce one of the following effects: block, turn, fix, or disrupt (Table 5-3). In order for the obstacle(s) to achieve their desired effect, they must be covered by observed indirect and direct fires. The obstacle effect drives integration, focuses subordinate fires, and focuses the obstacle effort.

c.   Relative Location. The relative location is where the SBCT commander wants the obstacle effect to occur against the targeted enemy force. Whenever possible, the commander identifies the location relative to the terrain and maneuver or fire control measures to integrate the effects of obstacles with fires.

Table 5-3. Obstacle effects.

Table 5-3. Obstacle effects.

d.   Tactical Obstacles. Obstacles are force-oriented combat multipliers. The SBCT employs tactical obstacles to attack the enemy's ability to move, mass, and reinforce directly. Tactical obstacles are integrated into the scheme of maneuver and fires to produce specific obstacle effects. Obstacles alone do not produce significant effects against the enemy; obstacles must be integrated with fires to be effective. The engineer section in Chapter 10 provides information on engineer capabilities. The following are the three types of tactical obstacles.

(1)   Directed Obstacles. The SBCT directs obstacles as specified tasks to the maneuver battalion through the use of obstacle groups. The battalion may use the same technique, but more likely will be specific about the location and type of obstacle. The commander may use directed obstacles or obstacle groups to achieve specific obstacle effects at key locations on the battlefield. In this case, the staff plans the obstacle control measures and resources and determines measures and tasks to subordinates to integrate the directed obstacles with fires.

(2)   Situational Obstacles. Situational obstacles are obstacles that the SBCT or battalion plans and possibly prepares before an operation; however, they do not execute the obstacles unless specific criteria are met. Situational obstacles are "be-prepared" obstacles and provide the commander flexibility for employing tactical obstacles based on battlefield developments. The commander may use engineer forces to emplace tactical obstacles rapidly, but more often he relies on scatterable mine systems. The SBCT staff normally plans situational obstacles to allow the commander to shift his countermobility effort rapidly to where he needs it the most, based on the situation. Execution triggers for situational obstacles are integrated into the decision support template. (See FM 90-7, Chapter 7.) Situational obstacles must be well integrated with tactical plans to avoid fratricide. Given the changes in engineer force structure, tactical concepts, and capabilities, situational obstacles are increasingly used in lieu of conventionally emplaced obstacles.

(3)   Reserve. Reserve obstacles are obstacles for which the commander restricts execution authority. These are "on-order" obstacles. The commander specifies the unit responsible for constructing, guarding, and executing the obstacle. Examples of reserve obstacles include preparing a bridge for destruction or an obstacle to close a lane. Units normally prepare reserve obstacles during the preparation phase. They execute the obstacle only on command of the authorizing commander or when specific criteria are met. (See FM 90-7, Chapter 6.) It is critical for the unit to understand and rehearse actions to execute reserve obstacles.


In addition to tactical obstacles, units also employ protective obstacles. Protective obstacles are a key component of survivability operations, providing friendly forces with close-in protection. (See FM 90-7.)

e.   Tactical Obstacle Planning. Detailed obstacle planning begins during COA development. The engineer focuses on the following five specifics in his SOEO for the obstacle plan.

(1)   Direct and Indirect Fire Analysis. The direct and indirect fire analysis examines how engineers can best use obstacles to enhance the direct and indirect fire plan. The engineer must have a fundamental understanding of the direct and indirect fire and maneuver plans and the SBCT's organization of the EA to integrate obstacles effectively. The engineer must consider SBCT and battalion EAs, target reference points (TRPs), indirect fire targets, unit locations, enemy formations, avenues of approach, and the higher commander's obstacle intent in order to effectively integrate obstacles. Synchronization of direct and indirect fires with obstacles multiplies the relative effect on the enemy.

(2)   Obstacle Intent Integration. The engineer plans directed obstacle groups during the COA development process. Obstacle groups integrated into the COA sketch graphically depict the commander's obstacle intent to support the maneuver plan. Obstacle groups target specific enemy elements based on the SITEMP. The engineer generally allocates an obstacle group against a battalion-sized avenue of approach with respect to the EAs, TRPs, indirect fire targets, unit locations, enemy formations, and AAs assessed during the direct fire analysis. This process parallels the staff's placement of a company against the same size enemy force. The intent of the obstacle groups supports subordinate unit task and purpose. The engineer recommends specific obstacle group effects to the commander based on terrain, resources, time available, and the SBCT commander's obstacle intent.

(3)   Obstacle Priority. The staff determines the priority of each obstacle group. The commander's intent and the most likely enemy COA clearly influence the priority. The obstacle priority should reflect the battalion's most critical obstacle requirement. The battalion engineer considers flank protection, weapons types and ranges, and the overall commander's intent for the entire force before placing obstacle priority on the main EA. Priorities assist the engineer in allocating resources and ensuring that the most critical obstacle groups are constructed first.

(4)   Mobility Requirements. The engineer identifies the SBCT mobility requirements by analyzing the scheme of maneuver, counterattack (CATK) options, reserve planning priorities, CS and CSS movement requirements, and adjacent and higher unit missions, maneuver, and movement. The engineer integrates this analysis into obstacle group planning and avoids impeding friendly maneuver whenever possible. Because the bulk of the engineer force is committed to countermobility and survivability during defensive preparation, the SBCT commander uses clear obstacle restrictions on specific areas within the SBCT AO to maintain mobility. If obstacles must be constructed along a mobility corridor that primarily supports friendly movement, a lane or gap (and associated closure procedures) must be planned and rehearsed. These lanes or gaps may be closed with situational or reserve obstacles.

(a)   Beyond preparing and marking lanes and gaps through obstacles, engineers normally perform mobility tasks once defensive preparations are complete. Mobility assets may then be positioned to counter templated enemy situational obstacles or be task-organized to the reserve, CATK force, or any other unit that must maneuver or move subsequent to the execution of the defense. To do this effectively, the engineers and the supported maneuver unit must integrate, prepare, and rehearse. Since this manner of mobility support is critical to the success of the maneuver plan, timely linkup and coordination must be factored into the overall defensive preparation timeline.

(b)   Sometimes the SBCT may require significant mobility support during defensive preparation. Examples may include route clearance, road repair or maintenance, and LZ and pick-up zone (PZ) clearance. SBCT engineers are adequately resourced to perform this type of mobility support, but they clearly cannot concurrently prepare the defense and execute these tasks. Thus, the SBCT requires augmentation from a divisional multifunction engineer battalion. These engineers perform general engineering tasks, leaving the SBCT engineers available to construct the SBCT defense.


Survivability operations in support of ground maneuver elements are increasingly limited given force structure and tactical concepts. Digging in combat vehicles is a technique that still has value in many situations, but the increasing need for mobility in defensive operations and the proliferation of precision munitions reduce the effectiveness of static, dug-in forces. Survivability efforts within the SBCT should focus on protection of assets that must remain relatively static (such as communication nodes), support of logistical and decontamination operations, and survivability for defending dismounted infantry.


During the planning for the defensive battle, the SBCT commander and staff must discern from the higher headquarters operations order what the follow-on missions will be and how they intend to achieve them. They must set the conditions for successful transition before the defensive battle is joined. The SBCT reorganizes after the battle and normally exercises one of two options: continue the defense or attack. The period immediately after a successful defense can be a period of confusion and vulnerability for both enemy and friendly forces. This period is a contest for the initiative and control of the situation. Both forces will attempt to regain balance, reorganize, and resume coordinated operations. The SBCT normally attempts to exploit the situation through offensive action. The enemy will likely attempt to consolidate, hold gains, and defend. If the SBCT is able to attack prior to the enemy being able to consolidate, the enemy is kept off balance and reactive to the SBCT. However, if the SBCT is unable to consolidate and establish a defense, the enemy gains a significant tactical advantage. The force that ultimately gains the initiative and control of the situation is the one that reorganizes and acts the quickest. Therefore, it is imperative that the SBCT develops plans early in the planning cycle for exploiting success through immediate offensive action.


The SBCT must quickly reorganize to continue the defense or transition into follow-on missions. Reorganization includes all measures taken to maintain the combat effectiveness of the SBCT or return it to a specified level of combat capability. All units undertake reorganization activities during the defense, as the situation allows, to maintain their combat effectiveness. More extensive reorganization is normally conducted after the SBCT defeats an enemy attack. The following tasks normally are included in reorganization:

  • Establish and maintain security.
  • Destroy or contain enemy forces that still threaten the SBCT.
  • Reestablish a coherent defense. This may include moving forces, adjusting boundaries, changing task organization, and coordinating with flank units.
  • Replace or shift reconnaissance assets and observers.
  • Reestablish the SBCT chain of command, key staff positions, and C2 INFOSYS facilities lost during the battle.
  • Treat and evacuate casualties.
  • Conduct emergency resupply operations.
  • Recover and repair damaged equipment.
  • Send relevant logistics and battle reports by FM voice and digital means (if so equipped).
  • Process EPWs as required.
  • Repair or emplace additional obstacles and construct additional fighting positions.


In a successful defense, the enemy reaches his culminating point within the MBA. The defensive plan must address missions following successful operations and how the SBCT commander envisions the transition to the offense. The higher headquarters' follow-on missions for the SBCT govern this plan. The staff must begin planning for future offensive operations as it develops defensive and obstacle plans. The commander and staff must develop maneuver plans, control measures, obstacle restrictions, and CSS plans that enable the SBCT to quickly transition to follow-on offensive missions. Once minimum reorganization activities are completed, the commander orders his forces to attack key objectives that are the most damaging to the enemy and that posture the SBCT for future operations (Figure 5-15). As the objective of the attack is reached, the SBCT consolidates and continues more extensive reorganization to prepare for future operations.

Figure 5-15. Exploiting success.

Figure 5-15.  Exploiting success.

5-41. DEFEND

The SBCT continues to defend when follow-on enemy forces are continuing to attack or when the SBCT's strength prevents resumption of the offense. It may be necessary for the SBCT to reestablish its defense deeper in the AO, or the SBCT may reestablish its defense along its original positions. The time available and condition of the SBCT normally dictate which defensive option the SBCT will employ. The commander (aided by his staff) develops branches and sequels during the initial planning process that prepare the SBCT for the eventuality of continued enemy attacks. The commander transmits the refined plan via a FRAGO, and the SBCT then consolidates, reorganizes and prepares to continue the defense.

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