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Tactical enabling operations are specialized missions. They are planned and conducted to achieve or sustain a tactical advantage and executed as part of an offensive, defensive, stability, or support operation. The fluid nature of the modern battlefield increases the frequency with which the SBCT must plan, prepare for, and execute tactical enabling operations such as passage of lines, relief, obstacle reduction, linkup, river crossing, breaching, troop movement, and assembly area operations. At the SBCT level, the C2 INFOSYS facilitate the planning, preparation, and execution of these often complex and decentralized operations. This chapter establishes techniques that may be applied to these specialized missions.


The purposes of security operations are to provide early and accurate warning of enemy operations, to provide the protected force with time and maneuver space to react to the enemy, and to develop the situation to allow the commander to employ the protected force effectively. SBCT units may conduct these operations to the front, flanks, or rear of a larger force. Security operations provide reaction time, maneuver space, and protection to the main body. Security operations are characterized by aggressive reconnaissance aimed at reducing terrain and enemy unknowns, gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy to ensure continuous information, and providing early and accurate reporting of information to the protected force. Units conducting security operations orient in any direction from a stationary or moving force. Security operations refer to any attempt to use aggressive attack to defeat enemy reconnaissance units and to deny the enemy intelligence information concerning the SBCT. Security operations contain both passive and active elements and normally include combat action to seek, destroy, or repel enemy reconnaissance units.


The SBCT conducts security operations by assigning security missions to its subordinate units. It employs forces in screen, guard, and area security missions; it typically will not employ a subordinate unit as a covering force.

a.   Screen. A screen is a form of security operation that primarily provides early warning to the protected force. A screen is appropriate between units, exposed flanks, or the rear of stationary and moving forces. It may also be used to the front of a stationary formation. It is used when there is little likelihood of enemy action, when the expected enemy force is small, or when the main body needs only a little amount of time to react effectively once it is warned. Designed to provide minimum security with minimum forces, a screen is an economy of force operation based on calculated risk. All SBCT units routinely conduct screens of their exposed flanks and gaps between forces. In some cases, the SBCT may direct a battalion, with attached ISR assets, to provide a screen in a specific area, or the cavalry squadron (RSTA) may be used to conduct a screen mission. If a significant enemy force is expected or a significant amount of time and space is required to provide the required degree of protection, the commander should assign a guard.

b.   Guard. The SBCT employs a guard when enemy contact is expected and additional security beyond that provided by a screen is required. The purpose of a guard is to protect the main body by fighting to gain time while also observing and reporting information and to prevent enemy ground observation of and direct fires against the main body. There are three types of guard operations conducted in support of either a stationary or moving friendly force (Figure 7-1). A guard can be conducted when the SBCT is stationary or moving. A guard differs from a screen in that a guard force contains sufficient combat power to defeat, repel, or fix the lead elements of an enemy force before they can engage the main body with direct fires. The guard force's exact size and composition is METT-TC dependent. An advance guard is usually assigned to at least an SBCT infantry battalion while company-size units may provide flank and rear guards. A guard force uses all means at its disposal, including decisive engagement, to prevent an enemy element from penetrating its security area.

Figure 7-1. Rear, flank, and advance guard operations.

Figure 7-1.  Rear, flank, and advance guard operations.

c.   Area Security. The SBCT conducts area security missions to protect friendly forces, installations, and actions in a specific area. Area security missions may be offensive or defensive in nature. During offensive and defensive operations, area security missions are normally an economy of force measure designed to ensure continuity of operations. During stability operations, area security missions assist the SBCT commander to achieve area presence within his AO. Subordinate forces conduct area security as part of protecting rear areas or as an implied part of a support operation. Area security includes maintaining security for routes and convoys. The SBCT commander may assign an area security mission to a subordinate force, his reserve, the cavalry squadron (RSTA), or as a task to another committed force. When deciding to commit forces to area security, the SBCT commander must weigh the risk of enemy actions directed towards his sustainment operations against the loss of combat power forward.


The SBCT, as a part of division-, corps-, or JTF-level operations, may be assigned area security, guard, screen, or cover missions. It may provide security for a moving or stationary force. The SBCT is most often employed as an area security force during a stability (or support) operation but on some occasions may be an advance guard or a covering force for a division and or corps during offensive operations.

a.   Stability and Support Operations. As an early entry force in a stability operation, the SBCT can expect to operate in a nontraditional environment. These types of conflicts do not necessarily call for a military force to seize ground and destroy the enemy. The SBCT commander must know not only his enemy (who may be very elusive and hard to discern) but also the culture and people within the nation where the operation is being conducted.

b.   Guard. The SBCT may provide a guard for its higher headquarters during offensive or defensive operations. In both cases, the SBCT develops the situation while preventing direct fires against the higher headquarters main body. During defensive guard missions, the SBCT defends or delays in accordance with the intent of the higher commander. The brigade may be the advance guard during the higher unit's movement to contact. It may conduct the movement to contact with two infantry battalions abreast to cover the axis of advance of the main body with one infantry battalion in reserve, while the cavalry squadron (RSTA) provides flank security. The advance guard is responsible for clearing the axis of advance of enemy elements to allow the main body to move unimpeded, to prevent the unnecessary delay of the main body, and to defer deployment of the main body for as long as possible. When necessary to accomplish the mission, the advance guard engages the enemy in offensive actions. The SBCT commander determines whether the guard mission requires an attack, a defense, or a delay based on information he receives and the factors of METT-TC. For example, if the SBCT has sufficient combat power to defeat an enemy force, it may conduct an attack. If the advance guard has encountered an enemy force that it cannot stop from interfering with the main body, the SBCT commander reports and verifies the enemy's presence to the higher headquarters by the available common INFOSYS. The SBCT then establishes a defense, continues reconnaissance and surveillance operations to augment its C2 INFOSYS information input, and prepares to pass elements of the higher headquarters main body forward.

c.   Cover. An SBCT with a covering force mission normally operates well forward of the higher headquarters main body in the offense or defense or the rear for a retrograde operation. A covering force operates outside supporting range of the higher headquarters main body to promote early situational development as it deceives, disorganizes, and destroys enemy forces. This provides the SBCT's higher commander with maximum early warning and reaction time. As a covering force, the brigade (or portions of it) may become decisively engaged with enemy forces. A covering force mission is executed as a defense, delay, zone reconnaissance, or movement to contact within a designated security area. The SBCT will require significant augmentation to conduct a covering force mission.


As an offensive covering force, the SBCT develops the situation via its C2 INFOSYS and its numerous ISR assets. Unless a higher headquarters' commander orders otherwise, the SBCT performs specific tasks within its capabilities. If the SBCT does not have the time or other resources to complete all these tasks, it must inform the higher headquarters and request guidance on which tasks to complete or the priority of tasks. The following are offensive covering force tasks:

  • Perform zone reconnaissance along the main body's axis of advance or within the (AO).
  • Deny the enemy information about the strength, composition, and objective of the main body.
  • Clearing or bypassing enemy forces within the AO in accordance with bypass criteria.

a.   Stationary Enemy. Covering force tasks against a stationary enemy are—

  • Penetrate the enemy's security area to locate enemy main defensive positions.
  • Penetrate the enemy's security zone to locate the enemy's main defensive positions.
  • Determine enemy strengths and disposition.
  • Locate gaps or weaknesses in the enemy's scheme.
  • Defeat, fix, or repel enemy forces as directed by the SBCT's higher commander.
  • Deceive the enemy into thinking the higher commander's main body has been committed and cause him to launch counterattacks or commit reserves prematurely.
  • Fix enemy forces to allow the SBCT main body to maneuver around or through weaknesses.

b.   Moving Enemy. Covering force tasks against a moving enemy force are—

  • Destroy enemy reconnaissance, advance guard or security force, and lead elements of his main body.
  • Determine the location of enemy assailable flanks.
  • Fix enemy forces to allow the higher commander's main body to maneuver decisively.

c.   Execution. The covering force advances on a broad front, normally with its subordinate battalions abreast (except for the reserve). Small antiarmor reserves are normally maintained at the SBCT level. Artillery units are usually positioned forward to permit long range fires. Firing units of the artillery battalion and any other reinforcing artillery often are widely dispersed within the SBCT's formation to maintain responsive fires for all units. Engineers are kept well forward within the lead battalion formations. Supporting CS and CSS assets often are attached to subordinate battalion forces. Control measures governing the rate and direction of movement are established. The SBCT uses successive march objectives, checkpoints, and phase lines to control the rate of movement. Boundaries are established between battalions to assign areas of responsibility.

(1)   The SBCT clears enemy security forces while penetrating into the enemy's main defense or main body. Once the covering force develops the situation and contact is made, the SBCT keeps its higher headquarters informed of the friendly and enemy situation. The SBCT fixes and then destroys encountered enemy forces. The SBCT does not bypass enemy forces without the permission of the higher commander.

(2)   If the SBCT discovers a gap in the enemy's main defense, it exploits the weakness and disrupts the cohesion of that defense. The SBCT commander immediately reports this to the higher commander so that he can divert main body forces to support the penetration. The SBCT quickly develops a penetration while fixing adjacent enemy forces. The SBCT continues to expand the area of penetration as it advances deeper into the enemy's defense. When the SBCT can advance no further, it consolidates, defends, and assists the follow-on passage of the higher headquarters main body. It continues to reconnoiter enemy positions and maintains pressure on enemy forces through limited objective attacks and fires.


A defensive cover prevents the enemy from attacking at the time, place, and combat strength of his choosing (Figure 7-2). Defensive cover is intended to gain time for the division, enabling it to deploy, move, or prepare defenses in the MBA. The covering force makes the enemy deploy repeatedly to fight through defensive positions in depth. Defensive covering forces perform the following tasks:

  • Prevent the higher headquarters main body from being surprised and becoming engaged by enemy direct fire weapons.
  • Maintain continuous surveillance of high-speed avenues of approach into the security area.
  • Defeat all enemy reconnaissance formations before they can observe the higher headquarters main body.
  • Defeat enemy advance guard formations or lead security formations.
  • Cause the deployment of the enemy main body.
  • Determine the size, strength, composition, and direction of the enemy's main attack.
  • Destroy, disrupt, or defeat enemy forces within their capabilities.
  • Divest the enemy of his fire support and air defense umbrellas or require him to displace them before he attacks.
  • Deceive the enemy regarding the location of the MBA.
  • Avoid being bypassed.

Figure 7-2. Example SBCT covering force plan.

Figure 7-2.  Example SBCT covering force plan.


A relief in place is a tactical enabling operation in which, by the direction of higher authority, all or part of a unit is replaced in an area by the incoming unit. The incoming unit assumes responsibility for the mission and the assigned area of operation. A relief-in-place may be conducted at any point during offensive or defensive operations. Relief operations are normally executed during limited visibility to reduce the possibility of detection. The C2 INFOSYS enhance the planning and execution of relief operations. This greatly reduces fratricide potential and expedites forward movement since the relieved force can monitor the progress of the relieving (linkup) force. The relieved force can provide protective fires or adjust fire control measures predicated on the speed with which the linkup force is moving. To ensure successful operations, the linkup and relieved force commanders and staffs exchange as much information as possible to prevent the inadvertent engagement of friendly forces by either direct or indirect fire systems during relief operations. Digitally equipped units (battalion and below) can pass this information through an exchange of FBCB2 overlays that clearly define friendly positions, fire support control measures, obstacles, linkup points, and signals. Analog units should exchange this information through liaison personnel and conventional acetate overlays. Collocation of command and control nodes for both digital and analog units is recommended.


Upon receipt of the order to conduct the relief, the incoming SBCT commander and staff establish continuous liaison with the stationary unit through an exchange of liaison personnel and or a digital exchange of information pertinent to the relief operations. SBCT commanders and staffs emphasize communications, reconnaissance, and transfer of command. If possible, the incoming unit's tactical command post should collocate with the main CP to facilitate continuous information exchanges relative to the occupation plan, fires and effects plan, and intelligence updates that include past, present, and probable enemy courses of action. Although digitization allows coordination without physically locating together, face-to-face coordination reduces potential misunderstandings related to relief preparation or to forthcoming operations. Before contact with the stationary unit, the relieving (linkup) force digitally receives the maneuver graphics, fire plan, and current enemy situation by way of FBCB2 or MCS overlays. Responsibility for the area is transferred as directed by the senior common commander, normally when the incoming unit has a majority of its fighting force in place and all communications systems (voice and digital) are operating. When planning the relief, the staff determines the most appropriate method for executing the relief by using one of the following methods. Adjustments may need to take place based on the relieved or relieving units not having the same table of organization and equipment (TO&E).

a.   Sequential Relief. This method is the most deliberate and time-consuming. It involves sequentially relieving battalions one at a time. Separate routes to the rear of the relieved battalion's locations are planned for each battalion, and these routes are placed on the operations overlay. To avoid cluttering the FBCB2 or MCS display, only the routes of the relieving force are included on the operations overlay. Routes are labeled sequentially and correspond to the order in which the company team executes them during the relief. When the lead battalion reaches its release point (RP), its subordinate companies move to the positions they are occupying. Platoons and crews exchange range card and fires and effects information, and the relieved unit then moves to the rear or to its next location. When the battalion is in position, the next battalion moves along its designated route to relieve its counterpart, repeating the relief process. This process repeats until each company has been relieved. If transfer of supplies from the relieved unit is directed, the SBCT S4 coordinates a transfer point to execute the exchange.

b.   Simultaneous Relief. This method of relief is the fastest, but it risks revealing friendly unit intentions. To expedite the relief, the in-place unit prepares FBCB2 or MCS overlays to depict current friendly graphics, fires and effects control measures, and the latest enemy situation update. They then pass these overlays to the relieving force before the two forces make contact. Once the two command groups collocate and exchange plans, relief occurs at the same time at each location. The units simultaneously execute a move along different routes. Relieved units withdraw as soon as they are relieved and do not wait for other units to be relieved. The control measures for relieving units at the same time at the SBCT level are identical to those used for a sequential relief (one unit at a time).

c.   Staggered Relief. This technique requires sufficient terrain to accommodate positioning of two like-sized units at the same time. In this case, the relieving unit must locate where it can observe and provide protective direct and indirect fires for the relieved unit using that unit's direct fire and fires and effects plans. This procedure requires that relieving battalion and SBCT commanders conduct a detailed personal reconnaissance of the position with their counterparts from the in-place unit. They enter information gathered from the personal reconnaissance (for example, BPs, TRPs, and routes into and out of the area) on FBCB2 or MCS operations overlays and share them throughout the relieving unit during planning and preparation. Table 7-1 outlines other considerations for conducting a relief in place.

Table 7-1. Relief-in-place considerations.

Table 7-1. Relief-in-place considerations.


The execution of the relief follows one of the three previous techniques. During the relief, the SBCT command group and the staff in the main CP monitor the progress of the relief through the C2 INFOSYS. To facilitate uninterrupted fires and effects to support the relief, indirect fire assets should be the last units relieved regardless of the relief technique used. Throughout this process, the SBCT may have to observe radio-listening silence, using only FBCB2 and MCS, until control of the position passes to the commander of the relieving force. When the infantry battalions are set and the relieved unit withdraws from the position, infantry battalion commanders send the SBCT S3 a report indicating that the battalion is defending.


If either force gains direct fire contact with an enemy force, it immediately notifies the other unit and the higher headquarters by way of FM voice communications. It then follows this voice report up with a contact or SPOTREP so that the precise location of the enemy force (enemy icon) is displayed on FBCB2 or MCS. If responsibility for the sector has not passed, the relieving unit becomes OPCON to the relieved unit. The assets and staff of the relieved unit become OPCON to the relieving unit when the responsibility for the sector has passed to the relieving brigade.


Battle handover is a coordinated operation to sustain continuity of the combined-arms fight and to protect the combat potential of both forces involved. Battle handover is usually associated with the conduct of a passage of lines.


Battle handover may occur during either offensive or defensive operations. During defensive operations, it is normally planned and coordinated in advance to facilitate execution and usually involves a rearward passage of lines. In the offense, it is situation-dependent and often initiated by a FRAGO. Battle handover in the offense normally occurs when one unit passes through or around another unit. Tactical and digital SOPs containing clear, simple, standardized procedures and control measures enhance a unit's ability to coordinate and synchronize actions quickly without experiencing a corresponding loss in momentum.

a.   Battle Handover Line. The battle handover line is a designated phase line on the ground where responsibility transitions from the stationary force to the moving force and vice versa. The SBCT commander establishes this line in consultation with both stationary and passing unit commanders. The stationary unit commander normally determines the BHL location. This line is forward of the FEBA in the defense or the FLOT in the offense. The BHL is located where elements of the passing unit can be effectively overwatched by direct fires or supported by indirect fires of the forward combat element of the stationary unit until the battle handover is completed.

b.   Execution. The battle handover operation begins on order of the higher headquarters commander of both units involved or when a given set of conditions occurs. Defensive handover is complete when the passing unit is clear and the stationary unit is ready to engage the enemy. These actions may occur at the same time. Offensive handover is completed when the passing unit crosses the BHL. The BHL is normally considered the line of departure for the attacking unit. Until the handover is completed and acknowledged by the commanders, the unit commander in contact is responsible for the fight.

c.   Coordination. Coordination for battle handover flows from the unit commander out of contact to the unit commander in contact. The coordination for a battle handover overlaps with the coordination for a passage of lines, and coordination for both should be accomplished at the same time. The tactical standing operating procedure (TSOP) should outline these coordination requirements to facilitate their rapid accomplishment.

d.   Digital Systems Application. Digital systems assist the SBCT staff in its coordination and synchronization efforts for the operation. Each unit transmits or delivers a complete copy of its OPORD and overlays by either digital (FBCB2 or MCS) or conventional (hardcopy and acetate overlay) means. Any changes made after initial distribution are updated immediately. The coordination effected between the two commanders includes—

  • Establishing digital and FM voice communications.
  • Providing updates of both friendly and enemy situations (digital, voice, and graphical).
  • Coordinating passage points and routes and ensuring these are displayed on operational overlays (digital and conventional).
  • Colocating C2 and exchanging liaison personnel (if required).
  • Coordinating fires and effects and control measures (direct and indirect) and ensuring these are displayed on operational overlays (digital and conventional).
  • Determining the need for and dispatching contact point representatives.
  • Establishing and coordinating recognition signals (conventional).
  • Exchanging locations of obstacles and related covering fires.
  • Exchanging route information to include waypoints.
  • Determining CS and CSS requirements.

e.   Digital vs Analog Voice Communication. Due to the fluid nature of a battle handover, digital coordination may be challenging to accomplish. Commanders determine how to best use digital systems (C2 INFOSYS) to speed planning, coordination, and execution. FM voice may be the most prudent method of coordinating and executing battle handovers.


A passage of lines is a tactical enabling operation in which one unit moves through another unit's positions with the intent of moving into or out of enemy contact. It is normally conducted when one (or more) METT-TC factor does not permit the bypass of a friendly unit. A passage of lines is a complex operation requiring close supervision and detailed planning, coordination, and synchronization between the unit commanders of the unit conducting the passage and the unit being passed. The primary purpose of a passage of lines is to transfer responsibility for an area from one unit to another. The SBCT or its subordinate units execute a forward or rearward passage of lines (Figures 7-3 and 7-4). A passage of lines may be conducted to—

  • Continue an attack or counterattack.
  • Envelop an enemy force.
  • Pursue a fleeing enemy.
  • Withdraw covering forces or MBA forces.

Figure 7-3. Forward passage of lines.

Figure 7-3.  Forward passage of lines.

Figure 7-4. Rearward passage of lines.

Figure 7-4.  Rearward passage of lines.

a.   Planning. The SBCT's higher headquarters plans and conducts a passage of lines. SBCT units involved in a passage of lines must conduct detailed coordination to ensure they maintain positive control to avoid fratricide, speed the passage, and reduce vulnerability to enemy attack. The SBCT S2, with assistance from other staff members, conducts the IPB, and the SBCT S3 prepares the tentative plan based on stationary force restrictions, the IPB, and the SBCT commander's intent and concept. The S3 of the passing unit and the stationary unit coordinate routes, checkpoints, linkup points, and passage points through C2 INFOSYS or through conventional means. Table 7-2 outlines the responsibilities of the stationary and passing force.

Table 7-2. Stationary and passing forces responsibilities.

Table 7-2. Stationary and passing forces responsibilities.

b.   Planning Considerations. Planners must evaluate the following basic considerations and integrate them into the planning process.

(1)   Terrain Management and Control Measures. Terrain management is critical to successful completion of a passage of lines. Terrain is controlled through the sharing of digital overlays that contain the following:

  • Routes (primary and alternate).
  • Checkpoint data.
  • Friendly and enemy unit locations and status.
  • Passage points.
  • Fires and effects control measures.
  • Marked lanes and bypasses.
  • Obstacle types and locations.
  • CSS locations and descriptions.

(2)   Liaison. Stationary and passing battalions exchange information by way of extensive, detailed coordination and liaison before mission execution.

(3)   Communications. The C2 INFOSYS, recognition signals, and communications procedures and requirements must be synchronized and integrated into the plan. Communication ensures units share data, combat information, and relevant information and maintain a COP.

(4)   Mission Transition. The conduct of the passage must facilitate transition to the subsequent missions of both the passing and stationary units.

(5)   Exchange of Control. Control of the zone or sector passes from one unit to the other at a time and place directed by the higher common commander or as mutually agreed upon by the stationary and passing unit commanders.

(6)   Routes. The passing unit moves on multiple routes through the stationary unit and avoids the use of assembly areas. It does not halt within the stationary unit's forward positions.

(7)   Employment of Deception and Smoke. Deception and smoke operations can deceive the enemy as to actual unit locations and passage points.

(8)   Control Measures. Establish graphic control measures to ensure positive control of both the stationary and passing units.

(9)   Location of Stationary Units and Obstacles. The location and obstacle emplacement of the stationary brigade may impact planning and execution of the forward passage of lines.

(10)   Mobility and Countermobility. These are of major concern and must be evaluated to ensure that existing obstacles do not hinder the maneuver of the passing unit during the passage of lines.


The terrain and the number of passage lanes determine the speed and disposition of the passing unit as it crosses the line of departure (LD). When conducting a forward passage in preparation for a deliberate attack, it may be important to create passage lanes with sufficient width to allow the passing force to move in a tactical formation appropriate to the operation, such as a company wedge.

c.   Fires and Effects Activities. The SBCT's deputy effects coordinator reviews the fires and effects plan of the stationary unit and conducts direct coordination to ensure that a clear understanding exists between the passed and passing units on the established fire support coordination measures. He does this through the transfer of digital fire support overlays between the two FECCs via advanced field artillery tactical data system (AFATDS). Procedures to establish fires and effects, battle handover, or transfer of control are also identified and approved by the SBCT commander. Terrain and route management for artillery batteries and their support assets are especially important due to potential terrain limitations. All artillery units, to include reinforcing units, must be positioned to support the passage if enemy contact is possible during the operation.

d.   Maneuver Support Activities. A passage of lines may require either the reduction of some obstacles or the opening and closing of lanes through friendly obstacles. It may also require the manning of traffic control points to facilitate the movement of the SBCT to the passage point. The passing unit maneuver support coordinator must coordinate with the stationary unit maneuver support coordinator through C2 INFOSYS or face-to-face meeting. As a minimum, this coordination must address the following:

  • Location and status of friendly and enemy tactical obstacles.
  • Routes and locations of traffic control points, lanes, and bypasses through friendly and enemy obstacles.
  • Transfer of obstacle and passage lane responsibilities.

e.   Air and Missile Defense Activities. During the conduct of a passage of lines, units participating in the operation present a lucrative target for air attack. The passing commander coordinates any assigned AMD protection with the stationary force commander for AMD coverage during the passage of lines. This method allows the passing force's supporting air defense assets to conduct a move at the same time. If the passing force requires static air defense, it must coordinate the terrain with the stationary unit's S3. To ensure any AMD assets of the passing force are incorporated into the stationary force's air defense early warning net, the stationary force uses forward area air defense command, control, and intelligence (FAADC3I) for AMD coordination. If the stationary unit is not equipped with FAADC3I or Sentinel radars, both commanders should consider positioning these assets in the stationary unit area to provide more effective early warning and air defense.

f.   Combat Service Support Activities. The CSS plan is integral to a successful passage of lines. CSS assets are positioned to support the passage. Unit maintenance collection points (UMCPs) and emergency refueling points are positioned where they can best keep lanes open and vehicles moving. Figure 7-5, shows a CSS plan for a rearward passage of lines.

g.   Health Service Support Activities. The passage of lines presents a challenge to health service support planners and medical elements in support of units involved in the passage of lines. A number of medical evacuation assets will be using the same air corridors and road networks. Coordination and synchronization are essential if confusion and over-evacuation of patients are to be avoided. If the units of the force manning the line are at a battalion size, it should provide area medical support to the unit passing through. If the unit manning the line is company size, it should provide casualty evacuation for the unit passing through. This allows continued mobility for the moving force.

Figure 7-5. Combat service support plan for rearward passage of lines.

Figure 7-5.  Combat service support plan for rearward passage of lines.


If a forward passage of lines is conducted as part of an attack, both the stationary and passing unit commanders must be aware of the passing unit's objective. This awareness is especially important if the stationary unit must provide supporting fires. The stationary unit and forward passing unit share data needed to effect a passage of lines in a timely and safe manner.

a.   On receipt of an order, the passing unit commander begins preparing his passage of lines plan by conducting a reconnaissance while concurrently updating the information received from the stationary unit. For example, the passing unit receives an FBCB2 or MCS operations overlay that delineates routes to the contact points as well as the location of the actual linkup site. The unit commander and staff of the passing unit meet representatives from the stationary unit at designated contact points to conduct coordination. During the personal reconnaissance, the S3 from the passing unit updates the initial operations overlay, incorporating information received from the stationary unit by adding pertinent control measures. Upon completion of the reconnaissance, the S3 forwards this overlay to the main CP. Based on this overlay and the S3's input, the staff completes development of the plan. Upon approval by the commander, additional control measures are added to the operations overlay as necessary to complete the plan.

b.   The main CP forwards the validated operations overlay update from the stationary and passing units, SBCT higher headquarters, and subordinate units to the liaison teams. This technique allows the S3 and SBCT commander to develop their scheme of maneuver for the passage of lines on a digital overlay concurrent with reconnaissance. At the conclusion of the reconnaissance and subsequent coordination with the stationary unit, the revised SBCT plan is distributed through MCS to subordinate units and higher headquarters.


Typically, a rearward passage of lines occurs within a defensive framework in which elements of the covering force operate forward of the MBA. MBA forces are the stationary unit in a rearward passage of lines. The covering force withdraws through them, handing off control of the fight at the BHL.

a.   To facilitate a rearward passage of lines, the stationary force commander designates—

  • The BHL.
  • Contact points forward of the BHL.
  • Passage points along the FEBA.
  • Lanes to the rear of the MBA.

b.   Once he prepares the overlay, the stationary commander transmits it and any relevant information to the passing force commander through the C2 INFOSYS.

c.   During a passage of lines, unit density in a relatively small maneuver space may cause problems with the commander's ability to maintain a COP in relation to both the passed and passing units. The stationary and passing commanders should determine the best method of exercising C2 to avoid slowing the tempo of the operation and to reduce fratricide potential.


During the rehearsal, the SBCT commander ensures that each organization understands when and where to move as well as how to execute the required coordination. Digital communications checks ensure connectivity and interoperability. Other rehearsal items include—

  • Fires and effects observation plan, target execution, communication linkages, and mutual support operations. Confirm FSCMs. Review unit routes and positioning.
  • Locations and descriptions of obstacles, traffic control points, lanes, bypasses, and markings. Confirm locations of any engineer stockpiles.
  • Air defense weapons locations, early warning communications, air threat, and weapons control status.
  • Passage points, routes, and recognition procedures. Confirm these and review numbers of vehicles by type expected at each passage point. Rehearse route management, contact points, and use of guides.
  • Locations for and movement of CSS units. Rehearse these, along with mutual support arrangements and any transfer of supplies.
  • Locations of aid stations, ambulance exchange points, and casualty evacuation procedures.


Linkup operations are a meeting of friendly ground forces, which occur in a variety of circumstances. Linkup operations are conducted to—

  • Complete the encirclement of an enemy force.
  • Assist breakout of an encircled friendly force.
  • Join an attacking force with a force operating in the enemy's rear area.
  • Make contact with other forces on a noncontiguous battlefield.

Before commencing a linkup operation, the headquarters elements of the stationary force and linkup force must share information to include—

  • Command relationship and responsibilities of each force before, during and after linkup.
  • Communications security (COMSEC) procedures.
  • Digital graphic overlays.
  • A COP.
  • Primary and alternate linkup points.
  • Checkpoints and waypoints information.
  • Unit disposition and activity (friendly and enemy).
  • Location and type of obstacles.
  • Coordination for fires and effects support before, during, and after linkup to include FSCM.
  • Recognition signals and communication procedures to use.
  • Linkup method.
  • Operations to conduct following linkup.


The stationary and linkup force commanders must maintain positive control and situational understanding during linkup operations to prevent inadvertent fratricidal engagements. They use the C2 INFOSYS as required to share information and a COP to positively identify friend from foe. It is imperative that both the linkup and stationary units conduct pre-combat communications checks before the linkup operation to ensure that connectivity and interoperability between digital systems has been established and is maintained.

a.   The S6 from each of the two units is integral to successful linkup operations when both units are equipped with C2 INFOSYS. They must ensure that units address both primary and alternate forms of communication during planning and that they synchronize both manual systems and C2 INFOSYS used in support of the linkup operation and integrate these into the linkup plan.

b.   Special requirements related to digital operations must be identified. The following are examples:

  • Exchange of unit IP address databases.
  • Single channel ground and air radio system (SINCGARS) and EPLRS hop set data.
  • COMSEC requirements.
  • Positioning of EPLRS position server links.
  • Modifications to the C2 INFOSYS infrastructure.


Linkup operations take place under two conditions: linkup of a moving force and a stationary force or linkup of two moving forces.

a.   Linkup of a Moving Force with a Stationary Force. To ensure that the forces join without engaging one another, linkup points are selected at locations where the axis of advance of the linkup force intersects the security elements of the stationary force (Figure 7-6). These points must be readily recognizable to both forces and should be posted on both digital overlays and conventional maps in case of digital communication loss. Alternate points are chosen so the units are prepared in case enemy activities cause linkup at places other than those planned. The number of linkup points selected depends on the terrain and number of routes used by the linkup force.

Figure 7-6. Linkup of a moving force with a stationary force.

Figure 7-6.  Linkup of a moving force with a stationary force.

(1)   The C2 operations section is critical to linkup operations. Digital communications are used to transmit and share information and a COP. However, use of digital means depends on METT-TC factors and the ability to maintain digital linkages between the moving unit and stationary unit.

(2)   To facilitate a rapid passage of lines and to avoid fratricide, personnel in each linkup force must be thoroughly familiar with recognition signals and plans. As required, stationary forces assist in the linkup by opening lanes in minefields, breaching or removing selected obstacles, furnishing guides, providing routes with checkpoints, and designating assembly areas.

(3)   When linking up with an encircled force, the SBCT carries as much materiel as possible during the linkup operation. This materiel includes Classes I, III, V, and VIII. If an enemy force has encircled the stationary force, the SBCT carries additional supplies and materiel requested through brigade support battalion before the linkup takes place. The SBCT S4 ensures that each infantry battalion, the cavalry squadron (RSTA), antitank company, and other subordinate units have received the CSS overlay depicting MSRs, traffic control points (TCPs), AXPs, and UMCPs.

b.   Linkup of Two Moving Units. Linkup between two moving units is normally conducted to complete the encirclement of an enemy force and is one of the most difficult operations (Figure 7-7). Primary and alternate linkup points for two moving forces are established on boundaries where the two forces are expected to converge. As linking units move closer, positive control is coordinated to ensure they avoid firing on one another and to ensure that the enemy does not escape between the two forces. Again, the use of digital systems facilitates planning, synchronization, execution, and fratricide avoidance.

Figure 7-7. Linkup of two moving units.

Figure 7-7.  Linkup of two moving units.

c.   Actions Following Linkup. When the linkup is completed, the linkup force may join the stationary force, pass through the stationary force, go around the stationary force, or continue the attack.

(1)   If the linkup force is to continue operations with the stationary force, a single commander for the overall force is designated. Objectives for the linkup provide for dispersion in relation to the stationary force. The linkup force may immediately pass through the perimeter of the stationary force, be assigned objectives within the perimeter, or be assigned objectives outside the perimeter, depending on the mission.

(2)   When the SBCT's higher headquarters directs a linkup operation, it normally establishes a restricted fire line (RFL) for both units to ensure positive control and to reduce the risk of fratricide. It transmits these RFLs to both units by way of a digital overlay, and they are subsequently adjusted and the overlays updated as one force moves toward the other. This process continues until a single RFL is established between the forces. Usually, this is the point on the ground where the two forces plan to establish contact.

d.   Planning. The linkup is a complex operation requiring detailed planning and coordination. Plans for a linkup are coordinated as far in advance as possible. The two forces carefully define and coordinate their schemes of maneuver, giving particular attention to graphic control measures, communications, and the subsequent mission to be performed by each force after linkup operations are completed. Alternate linkup points are planned to lend flexibility to the overall operation.

(1)   The two units establish liaison during planning and continue it through execution of the operation. Liaison parties must have the capability to communicate digitally with their parent unit through the TI. As the distance closes between the forces, the requirement to track movement through the C2 INFOSYS and maintain close liaison increases. Use of Army aircraft can improve and expedite this process.

(2)   Linkup operations frequently require a passage of lines. Once through friendly lines, the SBCT maneuvers to effect the linkup. Speed, aggression, and boldness characterize this movement. If possible, the linkup force avoids enemy interference with its mission and concentrates its efforts on completing the linkup. If enemy forces threaten the successful accomplishment of the mission, they are either destroyed or bypassed and reported.

(3)   The headquarters directing the linkup operation must establish command relationships and responsibilities for the forces involved. Both the linkup force and the force with which linkup is to be made can remain under control of the directing headquarters. The plan must prescribe the primary and alternate day and night identification and recognition procedures, vehicle systems, and manmade materials used to identify friend from enemy.

(4)   The C2 operations plan includes all essential frequencies, secure variables, Internet protocol (IP) addresses, and communication lines to maintain communication between the two forces.

(5)   Logistical support requirements may be greater during linkup operations than during other offensive actions. Additional considerations for planning logistical support in linkup operations include—

  • Resupply of stationary unit.
  • Fuel requirements.
  • Length of time the objective is to be held based on METT-TC.
  • Operations after the linkup are completed (for example, attack, withdraw, or defend).
  • Transportation requirements for special purpose forces (for example, air assault and special operation forces).
  • LOC security requirements.

(6)   Supply requirements for a linkup operation normally exceed the transportation capability of the SBCT. The SBCT S4 normally will request additional vehicular or helicopter resupply, or both, from higher headquarters.

(7)   In linkup operations involving airborne and air assault units, the units assaulting the objective area have priority for supply by air. Supplies for the ground linkup forces normally move by land transportation. However, when the linkup force and an airborne or air assault force will defend the objective area jointly, supplies for the linkup force may be flown into the objective area and stockpiled.

(8)   Evacuation of equipment, wounded in action (WIA), and EPWs may create major problems for the linkup force. If supply routes are open, normal evacuation procedures apply. When ground routes are not secure, helicopters are used for the evacuation of casualties and prisoners. Damaged equipment may be moved forward with the linkup forces until it can be evacuated at the first suitable opportunity.

e.   Preparation. Due to the time-sensitive nature of linkup operations, the SBCT commander issues his order through the C2 INFOSYS, primarily MCS. If time is available, he conducts a rehearsal at higher headquarters. If time is not available, the commander walks the linkup commander through the operation. He stresses the linkup and coordination required to reduce the potential for fratricidal engagements between the linkup forces. In addition, he ensures that each unit commander is prepared to respond to an enemy threat before the linkup. The SBCT DECOORD is an integral member of the team that plans linkup operations. He is responsible for the coordination, synchronization, dissemination, and monitoring of the fires and effects plan. He is also accountable for the conditions and methods for changing the fires and effects plan or the fire support control measures.

f.   Execution. Depending on the enemy situation and METT-TC factors, the initial conduct of the linkup operation may be identical to an exploitation or attack. During the operation, the SBCT commander monitors the progress and execution through relevant information and the COP. The SBCT adjusts the order through the C2 INFOSYS. If a FRAGO is passed by FM voice, a digital (MCS) follow-up is entered and transmitted to ensure all units are aware of the change. The following digital procedures may be used when friendly forces are conducting a linkup.

(1)   As the linkup forces begin their maneuver, they establish digital and FM voice communications and maintain them throughout the operation. As each force maneuvers, its progress is tracked by way of MCS, and adjustments to the linkup plan are made as the factors of METT-TC dictate. For example, if two forces are involved in the operations and one is unable to travel at a speed commensurate with the plan, the linkup location may require adjustment.

(2)   In anlaog units, as the linkup forces near each other, the speed (momentum) of the operation may be slowed to maintain positive control and to prevent fratricide. In this case, commanders must be vigilant and ensure enemy forces do not slip between the two closing forces. Momentum of a linkup operation should not slow for the SBCT because the maneuver and movement of all forces can be tracked by way of the C2 INFOSYS.

(3)   The FECC changes or activates the FSCMs established for the operation based on the progress of the forces and the enemy situation. All changes are provided to the subordinate units' fire support elements involved in the linkup through AFATDS. As the maneuver units draw closer to one another, coordinated fire lines (CFLs) are canceled and an RFL is placed into effect to prevent fratricide between the converging forces. Once the linkup has occurred, fires and effects for the SBCT is organized as per the higher headquarters plan for future operations.

(4)   The SBCT commander locates to observe or monitor the progress of the operation and maintains both digital and FM voice communications with the SBCT S3. The SBCT commander has great flexibility in positioning his forces because he can maintain a composite picture of the progress of both maneuver units digitally and adjust the linkup plan as required. The SBCT S3 locates based on the operational concerns expressed by the commander. For example, if a certain flank is of concern to the commander during the operation or a supporting attack is required to penetrate the enemy's lines, the SBCT S3 locates where he can best observe the SBCT's secondary action.


The purpose of any river crossing operation is to project combat power across a water obstacle to accomplish a mission. A river crossing is a unique operation. It requires specific procedures, detailed planning, and different technical support than other tactical operations. (See FM 90-13 for Army doctrine on river crossing operations.) The SBCT must anticipate and plan for river crossings in advance.


The types of river crossings are hasty, deliberate, and retrograde. Regardless of the type of crossing, the planning requirements and engineer technical support are similar. The following paragraphs provide a brief description of each type of crossing.

a.   Hasty River Crossing. A hasty river crossing is a continuation of an attack with no intentional pause to prepare for a crossing. This is possible when enemy resistance is weak and the river is not a severe obstacle. It is the preferred type of crossing. The SBCT may seize existing fords or bridges or use organic or expedient crossing means. The SBCT has four organic rapidly emplaced bridge systems (REBSs), each capable of spanning 13 meters and crossing vehicles up to military load class 30. Additional support from division or corps is often necessary. Coordination for support must be made as early as possible prior to the crossing. Figure 7-8, provides an example of a hasty river crossing.

Figure 7-8. Example of a hasty river crossing.

Figure 7-8.  Example of a hasty river crossing.

b.   Deliberate River Crossing. A division is typically the smallest organization that conducts a deliberate river crossing. A deliberate river crossing is conducted when a hasty crossing is not feasible or has failed. Figure 7-9 provides an example of a deliberate river crossing. It is conducted after a halt to conduct detailed preparations.

(1)   A deliberate river crossing is characterized by—

  • A significant water obstacle.
  • Strong enemy resistance.
  • The necessity to clear entry and or exit banks of enemy forces.

(2)   A deliberate river crossing involves the following:

  • Centralized planning and control by the division.
  • Thorough preparations, to include the time to perform extensive reconnaissance and rehearsals.
  • The massing of forces and crossing equipment.

(3)   The organization of a deliberate river crossing normally consists of an assault force, maneuver-support force, bridgehead force, and breakout force. The SBCT will operate as one of these elements during a deliberate crossing.

(a)   Assault Force. The assault force seizes the far-shore objective and eliminates enemy direct fires on the crossing site.

(b)   Maneuver-Support Force. This element provides crossing means, traffic control, and obscuration. This force normally consists of maneuver, engineer, MP, and chemical units.

(c)   Bridgehead Force. The bridgehead force attacks from the far-shore objective to secure the bridgehead, eliminating enemy direct fire and observed indirect fire on the crossing area.

(d)   Breakout Force. Once the river crossing is completed, and the bridgehead line secured, a breakout force crosses the river behind the bridgehead force and attacks out of the bridgehead. This element is not normally part of the unit that conducts the river crossing.

Figure 7-9. Example of a deliberate river crossing.

Figure 7-9.  Example of a deliberate river crossing.

c.   Retrograde Crossing. The retrograde crossing is a movement to the rear across a water obstacle while in contact with the enemy. The forces conducting the crossing establish a defense on the exit bank or continue the retrograde to the defensive positions beyond the water obstacle. A retrograde river crossing features centralized planning and control because of the limited crossing means.


A river crossing has four phases. They are distinct phases for planning, but there is no pause between them during execution. Figure 7-10, shows each phase and its mission.

Figure 7-10. Phases of a river crossing.

Figure 7-10.  Phases of a river crossing.


During a river crossing each command post and commander has specific responsibilities. These responsibilities are discussed in the following paragraphs.

a.   The Tactical Command Post. The TAC CP focuses on close combat operations. Specifically, it—

  • Coordinates and controls the reconnaissance and surveillance effort on the exit bank. (The cavalry squadron (RSTA) main CP or command group is most likely collocated with the TAC CP.)
  • Coordinates and controls the lead battalions' seizure and securing of near shore objectives.
  • Coordinates and controls the dismounted assault crossing of the river to secure the far-shore objectives.
  • Coordinates and controls the battalions' attack to seize and secure exit bank and intermediate objectives.
  • Coordinates and controls the battalions' seizure and securing of bridgehead objectives.
  • Prepares to reorganize and follow the breakout force's attack out of the bridgehead.

b.   Main Command Post. The main CP controls the crossing area. It prepares the SBCT crossing plan and provides the staff nucleus to coordinate it. The SBCT S4, assisted by the MANSPT cell, organizes a small, temporary traffic-control element located in the main CP. The main CP responsibilities include—

  • Moving into the crossing area to control traffic flow, crossing means, and obscuration.
  • Coordinating an assault crossing means for battalion dismounted assault and controlling obscuration of the crossing sites in coordination with the ECOORD.
  • Controlling follow-on battalions passing through the crossing area into attack positions.
  • Controlling the passage of the SBCT's units through the crossing area and preparing to cross breakout forces.
  • Passing crossing-area control to the supporting corps engineer battalion.

c.   The Rear Command Post. The rear CP, in coordination with the BSB, ensures responsive CSS for the entire operation.

d.   The Crossing Area Commander. The SBCT commander normally designates the executive officer of the SBCT as the crossing area commander. The crossing area commander controls the movement of forces inside the crossing area. He is responsible for—

  • The movement and positioning of all elements transiting or occupying positions within the crossing area.
  • Security elements at crossing sites.
  • Maneuver support forces, such as engineers, MP, and chemical units, within the crossing area.

e.   The Crossing Area Engineer. During a river crossing, a direct support engineer battalion from the corps will normally support the SBCT. The corps engineer battalion commander serves as the crossing area engineer and is responsible to the crossing area commander (SBCT XO) for engineer crossing means and sites. He informs the crossing area commander of changes, due to technical difficulties or enemy action, which render a crossing means inoperable or reduce its capacity. He commands those engineers tasked to move the force across the river; they remain there as the attack proceeds beyond the exit bank objectives. The divisional engineer battalion focuses on supporting the SBCT at exit-bank, intermediate, and bridgehead objectives and is not normally involved in the river crossing.

f.   Crossing Site Commander. Each crossing site has a crossing site commander who is an engineer, either an engineer company commander or engineer platoon leader, and is responsible for crossing the units sent to the site. The crossing site commander is normally the engineer company commander for the bridge unit operating the site. He commands the engineers operating the crossing means and the engineer regulating points at the call-forward areas for that site. He is responsible to the crossing area engineer and keeps him informed on the status of the site.

g.   Movement Control Commander. Each battalion or other SBCT subordinate unit commander designates a movement control officer who coordinates the unit's movement according to the movement control plan. He provides staff planners with detailed information on the unit's vehicle types and quantities.


The movement of forces and support is essential to successful SBCT operations. The SBCT may occupy an assembly are or areas as part of troop movements. The SBCT conducts three forms of movement :

  • Administrative movement.
  • Tactical road march.
  • Approach march.


An administrative movement is a movement in which troops and vehicles are arranged to expedite their movement and conserve time and energy when no enemy interference, except by air, is anticipated. The SBCT S4 is normally responsible for the planning of administrative movements.


A tactical road march is a rapid movement used to relocate units within an area of operations to prepare for combat operations. Enemy contact is possible either during the march or soon after arrival at the unit's destination. During a tactical road march, units move on designated routes using roads and trails. Units normally move by tactical road marches to assembly areas to prepare for combat operations. The SBCT S3 is normally responsible for planning tactical road marches. (See FM 55-10, Chapter 7.)

a.   Organization for a Tactical Road March. The SBCT organizes into a march column for a tactical road march. The column is composed of the following four elements (Figure 7-11):

  • Reconnaissance.
  • Quartering party.
  • Main body.
  • Trail party.

Figure 7-11. Tactical road march.

Figure 7-11.  Tactical road march.

b.   Reconnaissance. The reconnaissance party conducts route reconnaissance of movement routes to determine travel times, bridge and underpass capacities, and trafficability. It identifies critical points, obstacles, and (if there is enough time) alternate routes. The cavalry squadron (RSTA) may perform this role for the SBCT by conducting route reconnaissance to the new location, quickly clearing the new assembly area, and providing security (usually a screen) for the area. Engineer and other CS assets may augment the cavalry squadron (RSTA) .

c.   Quartering Party. A quartering party is a group of unit representatives dispatched to a probable new site in advance of the main body to secure, reconnoiter, and organize the site prior to the main body's arrival and occupation. Each battalion, and in some cases separate company size units, forms quartering parties that guide their march elements to and into the new area. They typically confirm the tentative locations that have been selected by the SBCT based on a map (or photo) reconnaissance. Quartering parties also act as a liaison between their parent headquarters and the SBCT headquarters in order to change unit locations within the assembly area based on the results of their reconnaissance. The SBCT headquarters will employ a separate quartering party for the placement of the HHC support elements and the main CP.

d.   Main Body. The main body of the march column consists of the remainder of the unit minus the quartering and trail parties. The major elements of the column are march serials and march units. A march serial is a major subdivision of a march column that is organized under one commander who plans, regulates, and controls the serial. A serial is normally battalion size. A march unit is a subdivision of a march serial. It moves and halts under the control of a single commander who uses voice and visual signals. A march unit is normally company size.

e.   Trail Party. The trail party follows the main party and conducts vehicle repair and recovery, medical aid and evacuation, and emergency refueling.


The SBCT may employ the following three march techniques during the tactical road march:

  • Open column.
  • Close column.
  • Infiltration.

a.   Open Column. In an open column, the commander increases the distance between vehicles to provide greater dispersion. The vehicle distance varies based upon METT-TC factors. Vehicle distances normally vary between 50 to 100 meters. The open column technique is normally used during daylight. It may also be used at night with infrared lights, blackout lights, or passive night-vision equipment. The open column is the most common movement technique because it offers the most security while still providing the commander with a reasonable degree of control.

b.   Close Column. In a close column, vehicles are spaced about 20 to 25 meters apart during daylight. At night, vehicles are spaced so that each driver maintains contact with the vehicle ahead. Close column is normally used for marches during darkness under blackout driving conditions and in restricted terrain. This method of marching takes maximum advantage of the traffic capacity of a route but provides little dispersion.

c.   Infiltration. During a move by infiltration, vehicles are dispatched in small groups or at irregular intervals at a rate that keeps the traffic density down and prevents undue massing of vehicles. Infiltration provides the best possible passive defense against enemy observation and attack. It is suited for tactical road marches when there is enough time and road space and when the commander desires the maximum security, dispersion, and deception. The disadvantages of an infiltration are that more time is required to complete the move, column control is nearly impossible, and recovery of broken down vehicles by the trail party is more protracted when compared to vehicle recovery in both close and open columns. Additionally, unit integrity is not restored until the last vehicles arrive at the destination, which complicates the onward deployment of the unit.


An approach march is a form of tactical movement that emphasizes speed over tactical deployment. A unit using an approach march moves in a task-organized tactical formation to its destination. The approach march is used when the enemy's approximate location is known, which allows the force to move with greater speed and less physical security or dispersion. It is similar to the movement to contact and may be used as a technique to conduct a movement to contact. The approach march terminates in a march objective, such as an attack position, assembly area, or assault position, or it can be used to transition to an attack. An approach march employs security forces (advance, flank, and rear) based on the threat situation. The SBCT's formation is selected to support the scheme of maneuver at the objective or occupation of the area at the final destination. The approach march technique allows the SBCT to accomplish the following:

  • Disperse task-organized units into a tactical formation in unrestrictive terrain without being constrained to roads and trails.
  • Transition to a combat formation more readily than the road march because of the SBCT's organization and dispersion.
  • Assign an AO or an axis of advance in combination with routes for the approach march.


An assembly area is a position in which a force prepares or regroups for further action. The SBCT typically occupies assembly areas to prepare for future combat operations or when it has a reserve mission. Designation and occupation of an assembly area may be directed by the higher headquarters or by the SBCT commander, such as during relief operations or during unit movements. Units in assembly areas conduct maintenance, resupply, planning, and mission preparations. Units occupying assembly areas employ passive and active OPSEC measures to deny the enemy any indications of friendly plans such as intentions, force composition, or unit identity and locations. Assembly area planning, occupation, and departure can be difficult and time consuming. Performed correctly, they can aid in structuring the unit for timely execution of combat operations. Done incorrectly, they confuse and disorganize a unit before it ever makes contact with the enemy.

a.   Planning Considerations. Assembly areas are typically outside the range of enemy medium artillery fires. The SBCT typically will occupy an assembly area alone, although its parent division may be in the same general geographic area. Assembly areas ideally provide—

  • Concealment from air and ground observation.
  • Cover from direct fire.
  • Terrain masking of C2 INFOSYS electromagnetic signal signatures.
  • Sufficient area for the dispersion of subunits and their vehicles consistent with the tactical situation, both enemy and friendly.
  • Buildings or concealment for unit trains, maintenance operations, and C2 facilities.
  • Suitable entrances, exits, and internal routes. Optimally, at least one all-weather paved surface road transits the assembly area and connects to the MSR in use by the next higher headquarters.
  • Terrain that allows the observation of ground and air avenues of approach into the assembly area.
  • Good drainage and soil conditions that support unit vehicle movement.

b.   Organization of the SBCT Assembly Area. The SBCT assembly area may be organized using one of two methods.

(1)   Method One. The SBCT may divide the assembly area into subordinate unit AOs. In this method, the SBCT C2 facilities, CS units, and most CSS assets are located near the center of the assembly area. This technique configures the SBCT in a perimeter defense, with infantry battalions deployed along the entire perimeter and oriented outwards (Figure 7-12).

Figure 7-12. Method one, assembly area organization.

Figure 7-12.  Method one, assembly area organization.

(2)   Method Two. The SBCT may assign separate individual assembly areas to subordinate elements. In this method, subordinate units maintain their own 360-degree security. Areas between subunits should be secured through visual and ISR asset surveillance or by patrols. SBCT C2 facilities, the HHC, and the bulk of CSS assets occupy positions central to the outlying infantry battalions (Figure 7-13).

Figure 7-13. Method two, assembly area organization.

Figure 7-13.  Method two, assembly area organization.

c.   Occupation of the Assembly Area. Units position themselves in assembly areas in accordance with the SBCT plan. Quartering parties typically guide units into position. Occupation is accomplished smoothly from the march without halting or bunching of units at the RP. Units normally establish routes and separate start points (SPs) or RPs for march elements that proceed from the march column's route or RP toward the march unit's assembly area positions. This technique clears the route quickly, maintains march unit C2, and prevents bunching up of units at the march column RP.


The SBCT uses six basic formations: column, line, echelon, box, wedge, and vee. The type formation the SBCT commander selects is based on—

  • Actions on the objective.
  • The likelihood of enemy contact.
  • The type enemy contact expected.
  • The terrain the SBCT must cross.
  • The balance of speed, security, and flexibility required during movement.

The commander and staff must also determine when, where, and how the SBCT transitions into different movement formations based on the terrain and anticipated situation. The commander and all subordinate units also maintain the flexibility to adapt to new formations based on changes in the terrain and enemy situation.

a.   Column. The column formation is useful in restrictive terrain or when attacking on a narrow front (Figure 7-14). The column formation—

  • Is the easiest formation to control.
  • Allows rapid movement, especially along roads and trails.
  • Provides a high degree of security and firepower to the flanks.
  • Allows follow-on elements to assume the mission or support the lead element (depending on the terrain).
  • Provides flexibility for maneuver to the flanks and forward but is slow to deploy to the front.
  • Limits firepower forward.
  • Is vulnerable to piecemeal commitment of forces to the front.

Figure 7-14. Example of an SBCT in column formation.

Figure 7-14.  Example of an SBCT in column formation.

b.   Line. The line formation is useful against a weak or shallow enemy defense or when the situation requires an advance over a broad front (see Figure 7-15). The line formation—

  • Provides maximum firepower forward over a wide front.
  • Covers a relatively wide front.
  • Facilitates the discovery of gaps, weak areas, and flanks in the enemy's disposition.
  • Provides less flexibility of maneuver than other formations.
  • Limits firepower to the flanks.
  • Requires wide maneuver space for employment and to maintain adequate dispersion.
  • Is difficult to control, especially in restricted terrain or during limited visibility.

Figure 7-15. Example of an SBCT in line formation.

Figure 7-15.  Example of an SBCT in line formation.

c.   Echelon. The echelon formation is useful when an SBCT flank is threatened or when maneuver and enemy contact is expected in the direction of echelon (Figure 7-16). The echelon formation—

  • Allows concentration of firepower forward and to the flank in the direction of echelon.
  • Facilitates maneuver against a known enemy in the direction of echelon.
  • Is easy to control on open terrain but more difficult to control in restricted terrain.
  • Allows flexibility in the direction of echelon.
  • Transitions easily into a line or vee formation.
  • Requires use of multiple routes or a wide maneuver area.
  • Reduces firepower, flexibility of maneuver, and security in the direction opposite of the echelon.

Figure 7-16. Example of an SBCT in echelon formation.

Figure 7-16.  Example of an SBCT in echelon formation.

d.   Box. The box formation is useful when general information about the enemy is known and the SBCT requires flexibility and depth in its attack. The diamond formation is a variation of the box formation. The box and diamond formations are used when the SBCT has four maneuver forces (Figure 7-17). Both the box and diamond formations -

  • Provide the best flexibility for maneuver.
  • Allow easy transition into all other formations.
  • Distribute firepower forward and to the flanks.
  • Are easy to control.
  • Provide all-around security.
  • Facilitate rapid movement.
  • Provide protection of accompanying CS and CSS elements located in the center of the formation.

Figure 7-17. Example of an SBCT in box and diamond formation.

Figure 7-17.  Example of an SBCT in box and diamond formation.

e.   Wedge. The wedge formation is useful to attack enemy forces appearing to the front and flank or when the situation warrants contact with minimal combat power followed by rapid development of the situation (Figure 7-18). The wedge formation—

  • Allows easy transition into other formations.
  • Makes contact with minimal combat power forward.
  • Provides mutual support between battalions.
  • Provides maximum firepower forward and good firepower to the flanks.
  • Facilitates control and transition to the assault.
  • Is easy to control except in restrictive terrain or during limited visibility.
  • Requires sufficient space for lateral and in-depth dispersion.

Figure 7-18. Example of an SBCT in wedge formation.

Figure 7-18.  Example of an SBCT in wedge formation.

f.   Vee. The vee formation is useful in an advance against a known threat to the front (Figure 7-19). The vee formation —

  • Is difficult to control, especially in restricted terrain or during limited visibility.
  • Provides good firepower forward and to the flanks.
  • Is difficult to reorient the formation.
  • Changes easily to the line, wedge, or column formation.
  • Facilitates continued maneuver after contact is made against a relatively weak enemy.

Figure 7-19. Example of an SBCT in vee formation.

Figure 7-19.  Example of an SBCT in vee formation.


Effective movement allows the SBCT to arrive at its destination in a condition suitable to its probable deployment. Rapid controlled movement is key to maintaining a high tempo and synchronized operations. The SBCT must rely on well-trained SOPs and drills that allow it to move and change formations with minimum loss of momentum and control. The SBCT's ability to move rapidly is aided by—

  • Standard movement formations and methods to change formations.
  • Security operations.
  • Selection and reconnaissance of sufficient routes and approaches.
  • Mobility operations.
  • Maintenance of air defense.

a.   Control Measures. Graphic and procedural control measures are used to control movement and positioning of forces. Common graphic control measures include objectives, PLs, checkpoints, and boundaries. Procedural controls, such as reporting of the FLOT by subordinates, also assist with controlling movement. All subordinates should report crossing or occupation of graphic control measures, initiation of movement, closure at designations, and give periodic reports of unit locations to the main CP. The SBCT's SOP should specify the parameters for reporting unit movements.

b.   Movement of Fires and Effects Assets. It is critical for the commander and staff to consider the movement of fires and effects assets (especially artillery) along with maneuver forces to ensure that responsive fires and effects are available at all times. The ECC must integrate all tactical planning to synchronize movement and positioning of fires and effects assets to avoid unnecessary congestion. The staff uses position areas combined with designated routes of movement to control the positioning of firing units. The staff also develops triggers to move the artillery from one position area to another. The artillery battalion S3 actually controls the movement of fires and effects assets and firing units but coordinates their movements with the SBCT's main CP through the DECOORD.

c.   Movement of Combat Support and Combat Service Support. The commander and staff must synchronize movement of CS and CSS units and assets to sustain the SBCT and avoid congestion of routes, especially when sufficient routes are limited. The staff must integrate CSS movements in all planning to synchronize support and the use of terrain and routes. These elements normally move by tactical road march from one position to the next along roads and trails.

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