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The reconnaissance platoon conducts security operations to protect the main body from observation and surprise attack. These operations provide the main body commander with early warning, allowing him to gain positional dominance and concentrate his combat power at the right place and time to defeat the enemy. There are four types of security missions: screen, guard, cover, and area security. The reconnaissance platoon screens and conducts reconnaissance and surveillance as part of the battalion's counterreconnaissance effort. This chapter discusses the purpose, fundamentals, missions, and TTP of security operations.


This section discusses the purpose, fundamentals, and planning considerations of security operations.


All security missions serve the same general purpose: they prevent the main body from being observed or attacked unexpectedly by the enemy. This provides the main body with time and space to react and to achieve positional advantage to defeat the enemy. These operations are conducted forward, to the flanks, or to the rear of the main body and may be at extended distances (limited only by communications capabilities and the range of indirect fire support). The reconnaissance platoon can conduct screening and area security operations independently or as part of a larger force.

a.   Screen. A screening force provides early warning to the main body and impedes and harasses the enemy with direct and indirect fires. Screening missions, which are defensive in nature, provide the protected force with the lowest level of protection of any security mission. Screening missions are conducted to the front, flanks, and rear of a stationary force and to the flanks and rear of a moving force. The reconnaissance platoon generally accomplishes a screening mission by establishing a series of OPs and conducting patrols to ensure adequate reconnaissance and surveillance of the assigned sector. Within its capabilities and based on the commander's guidance, the platoon may suppress enemy reconnaissance units with indirect fires in coordination with other combat elements.

b.   Guard. A force conducting a guard mission deploys over a narrower front than a screening force. It accomplishes all the tasks of a screening force, with the additional task of preventing enemy ground observation of and direct fire against the main body. A guard force reconnoiters, attacks, defends, and delays as necessary to accomplish its mission. It normally operates within the range of the supporting artillery. Guard operations are not conducted below battalion level. The reconnaissance platoon conducts a screen or conducts reconnaissance for the guard force.

c.   Cover. A covering force accomplishes all the tasks of screening and guard forces. It also operates apart from the main body to develop the situation early. It deceives, disorganizes, and destroys enemy forces. Unlike screening or guard forces, a covering force is tactically self-contained. It has enough CS and CSS forces to operate independently of the main body. The reconnaissance platoon conducts reconnaissance and screens in support of a covering force.

d.   Area Security. Area security missions provide reconnaissance and security in support of designated forces, facilities (including airfields), unit convoys, main supply routes, lines of communications, high value assets, equipment, and critical points. The reconnaissance platoon normally performs an area security operation when conventional security or combat operations would not work. The reconnaissance platoon may perform area security operations as part of a larger force or as an independent platoon mission.


Five fundamentals, described in the following paragraphs, are common to all security missions. The reconnaissance platoon leader's plans must adhere to these fundamentals as the platoon executes its mission.

a.   Orient on the Main Body. If the main body moves, the platoon must be aware of the move and must reposition its forces accordingly. The platoon must understand the main body commander's scheme of maneuver and where he wants the screening force in relation to his movement. The screen must be positioned where it can provide the needed security.

b.   Perform Continuous Reconnaissance. The reconnaissance platoon conducts continuous reconnaissance during security operations to gain as much information as possible about the area of operations and the enemy.

c.   Provide Early and Accurate Warnings. Early and accurate warning of enemy approach is essential to successful operations. The main body commander needs this information to shift and concentrate his forces to meet and defeat the enemy. Reconnaissance elements occupy OPs and conduct patrols to provide long-range observation, to observe enemy movement, and to report the enemy's size, location, and activity to the main body commander.

d.   Provide Reaction Time and Maneuver Space. The reconnaissance platoon works at sufficient distance from the main body to identify and report on the enemy so the main body commander can react accordingly. The platoon provides additional reaction time and space by employing indirect fires to slow the enemy's rate of advance.

e.   Maintain Enemy Contact. Reconnaissance elements gain and maintain contact with the enemy to provide the commander with continuous information. If they lose contact, they take steps to regain it. They then maintain contact until ordered to break contact or until they hand over the enemy to another unit.


Critical to the reconnaissance platoon leader's ability to execute his mission is a clear understanding of the answers to three basic questions: the focus, tempo, and engagement and or displacement criteria of the security mission. This information comprises the essential commander's guidance, an extension of the commander's intent that is meant to fully clarify the intent for the security mission. The reconnaissance platoon leader receives the essential commander's guidance from higher and then issues it to subordinates within the platoon.

a.   Focus. The focus of the security mission allows the commander to determine which critical tasks he wants the platoon to accomplish. It helps him narrow the platoon's scope of operations to get the information that is most important to battalion and brigade operations. In major theater war (MTW) or small-scale contingency operations, for example, the platoon's focus might be on the main body or the enemy force. In stability and support operations, the platoon might focus on determining local populace sentiment or identifying local entity military leaders. While all critical tasks have some degree of applicability in any given operation, certain tasks are more important for specific missions; this must be clearly articulated at each level. Given its focus and a specific amount of time, the reconnaissance platoon accomplishes its specified tasks as instructed by the commander, then moves on to any other tasks within its capabilities.

b.   Operational Tempo. The tempo of the security mission allows the commander to establish associated time requirements (such as the available planning time) and operational methods (such as dismounted or mounted OPs, reconnaissance patrols, engagement criteria, and triggers for displacement).

c.   Engagement and Displacement Criteria. The engagement and displacement criteria establish what the platoon is expected to defeat with indirect fires and what it is expected to hand over to the battalion. This is particularly important when the unit conducts counterreconaissance. At his level, the reconnaissance platoon leader uses his understanding of the commander's intent, coupled with his understanding of the enemy's most likely COA, to determine what he wants the sections or teams to engage. Displacement criteria inform the platoon leader of the events that will trigger the collapse of the mission. He uses these criteria in planning how to occupy the area and in determining when the platoon will execute displacement security drills.


The infantry battalion uses a screening force in both the offense and defense. Screening forces operate to the front, flanks, and rear of the battalion. The exact size of the screening force depends on the width of its sector in the defense or its zone of attack in the offense. The nature of the terrain and specific tasks to be accomplished also affect the composition of the force. Early warning is always a screening force task. The reconnaissance platoon and designated forces screen as part of the battalion's overall security plan.


Reconnaissance platoons conduct screen missions for the battalion to provide early warning of enemy approach and to provide real-time information, reaction time, and maneuver space for the main body. The battalion commander calls on his reconnaissance platoons to screen for him when he needs advance warning of when and where the enemy is attacking. Operating over an extended area, the platoon fights within its capabilities only to protect itself or to deny enemy elements close-in observation of the main body.

a.   Critical Tasks. During a screening mission, the reconnaissance platoon must accomplish the following critical tasks:

  • Maintain continuous surveillance of all assigned NAIs or high-speed AAs into the sector.
  • Provide early warning of enemy approach.
  • Within capability and based on commander's guidance, identify enemy reconnaissance units and, in coordination with other combat elements, destroy them.
  • Gain and maintain contact with the enemy main body and report its activity.
  • Impede and harass the enemy main body by controlled use of indirect fires.

b.   Surveillance. The reconnaissance platoon maintains surveillance from a series of OPs, either in linear positions or in depth. OPs are positioned where they can best observe designated NAIs and AAs. The screen, normally identified by a phase line or checkpoint on a map, designates the most forward location of the OPs. Commanders must carefully weigh time and distance factors when choosing where to place this line. In executing a screen mission, reconnaissance elements conduct active patrolling to extend their observation range or to cover dead space and the area between OPs. Except for self-defense actions, reconnaissance elements do not fight with their direct fire weapons. (See Section IV for a discussion of observation posts.)


When planning a screen mission, the reconnaissance platoon leader uses the critical task requirements covered in the following discussion as a guide to prioritize and sequence the mission. He must address each requirement.

a.   Conduct Surveillance of Assigned Areas. The first task that must be accomplished is to provide surveillance of the assigned area of operations.

b.   Surveillance Requirements. Generally, reconnaissance elements are assigned to screen along a lateral line (the screen line). This can be misleading, however. The reconnaissance screen is actually set to observe specific AAs or, more specifically, NAIs. The screen line merely indicates the limit of the forward positioning of the reconnaissance elements. Along with the screen line graphic, the reconnaissance platoon leader must have an event template or matrix; he may also have a decision support template.

(1)   Either the reconnaissance and surveillance plan the platoon leader receives or the OPORD from battalion should identify the areas the platoon is tasked to observe. If the platoon does not receive an IPB product, the battalion OPORD must specifically state where to focus and what indicator the platoon is looking for during the screening operation. If it assigns multiple requirements to the platoon, the battalion must prioritize them.

(2)   The platoon leader's understanding of the commander's intent and guidance is the most critical aspect of planning the screen mission. The focus of what to look for is more important than the specifics of where to orient the focus. There are three choices for this focus: the enemy main body, the enemy reconnaissance effort, or both. The intent should specify which one the reconnaissance elements will focus on or, if both are required (as is often the case), which has priority.

(3)   The commander's intent and guidance then determines where the platoon will orient and how it will allocate resources. If the commander's priority is locating the main body, the platoon may focus most of its assets on the main avenues of approach and accept risk on the enemy reconnaissance route. If the commander's priority is counterreconnaissance, the platoon focuses on the enemy reconnaissance route and accepts some risk on the main avenue. If the commander wants both, with equal priority, the platoon must plan to transition from the enemy reconnaissance route to the main avenue at a designated point in the battle. The commander usually orders this transition based on the enemy situation.


An enemy reconnaissance route may mirror or parallel the intended route of an enemy maneuver force, or it may follow a route that facilitates observation of key terrain or friendly forces but is unrelated to the enemy scheme of maneuver.

c.   Surveillance Assets. Once the reconnaissance platoon leader has a thorough understanding of what his surveillance requirements are, he must next determine what assets he has available to execute these requirements. Availability of assets depends on how long the screen must remain in place and how the platoon is task-organized. Among the assets that can enhance the platoon's surveillance capability are GSR teams, infantry teams, engineer reconnaissance teams, artillery forward observers, and TUAV assets. If the screen will be of short duration (less than 12 hours), individual reconnaissance teams can emplace and man separate OPs. If the duration of the screen is unknown or longer than 12 hours, the platoon leader must task-organize to facilitate continuous operations.


To ensure that the critical task of surveillance of assigned reconnaissance objectives is accomplished, the platoon leader and his higher headquarters apply a combination of techniques to make the most efficient use of their assets.

a.   Task Organization. The platoon leader task-organizes the platoon and any other assigned assets to achieve the most effective surveillance of an NAI or avenue. He may also employ assets not under his direct control but under control of the battalion or brigade. As noted, these assets could be engineer teams, infantry teams, GSR, artillery observers, and TUAV assets.

(1)   When the platoon leader does not control the assets directly, he should synchronize all elements on the screen to ensure he best utilizes his assets to accomplish the mission. He must also ensure that all members of the platoon understand where these forces are and what role they are playing.

(2)   The platoon leader may use the surveillance assets in a number of ways. These may include adjusting the number of reconnaissance sections or teams into a task-organized surveillance team; mixing reconnaissance elements and other assets such as engineers, artillery, GSR, or infantry into the same team; or maintaining elements in pure teams under the platoon leader's control. The platoon leader must consider the characteristics of the NAI or avenue of approach when task organizing for surveillance. These considerations determine whether the platoon will need to call for fire or conduct dismounted patrols; they also affect the field of view and applicability of GSR and TUAVs. Figure 5-1, illustrates how the reconnaissance platoon might be task-organized for surveillance operations.

Figure 5-1. Sample reconnaissance platoon task organization.

Figure 5-1.  Sample reconnaissance platoon task organization.

b.   Redundancy. The platoon leader may task more than one element to observe a particular assigned NAI or avenue. He does this based on the nature of the NAI or avenue in terms of size, terrain, or importance. For example, a very large avenue of approach may require multiple observation assets to ensure all aspects of the avenue of approach are covered. Terrain that is very broken or mixed with areas of thick vegetation may require more than one asset. Finally, if a particular NAI is assigned significant priority by the commander, the reconnaissance platoon leader may assign multiple elements to cover it. Redundancy not only ensures that an NAI or avenue is adequately observed but also enables the unit to accomplish the mission even if some assets are compromised by enemy forces. Figure 5-2 illustrates redundancy of observation assets.

Figure 5-2. Redundant coverage of an avenue of approach.

Figure 5-2.  Redundant coverage of an avenue of approach.

c.   Cueing. Cueing is a technique the reconnaissance platoon leader can use to cover an NAI or avenue when assets are limited and he lacks the capability for redundancy. He plans contingency tasks that will increase surveillance on a particular NAI; his surveillance teams execute the tasks when "cued" by activity at that NAI. The NAI or avenue is covered initially either by a single surveillance team or by a remote or electronic signaling device such as a trip flare (Figure 5-3) or the platoon early warning system (PEWS). When activity is detected, other teams move into preselected positions to add their capabilities to the surveillance of the NAI or avenue.

Figure 5-3. Use of trip flare to cue a patrol.

Figure 5-3.  Use of trip flare to cue a patrol.

d.   Early Warning. The reconnaissance platoon provides early warning of an enemy approach. Effective early warning requires detailed communications planning. The platoon leader looks at communications distances and significant terrain features to identify potential communications problems. If he anticipates problems, he can request support from higher in the form of battalion retransmission (retrans), or he can plan for radio relays and directional antennas (Figure 5-4).

Figure 5-4. Platoon communications setup.

Figure 5-4. Platoon communications setup.

e.   Counterreconnaissance. After planning surveillance and ensuring he can provide early warning, the platoon leader evaluates the enemy's reconnaissance effort and the platoon's assigned counterreconnaissance role. Counterreconnaissance operations consist of two elements: finders and killers. Normally, the platoon's counterreconnaissance role includes finding enemy reconnaissance assets rather than killing them.

(1)   The commander's guidance specifically defines the role of the reconnaissance platoon in counterreconnaissance operations. The reconnaissance platoon leader seeks to thoroughly understand the commander's intent. He considers several factors in acquiring enemy reconnaissance elements:

  • Enemy reconnaissance routes.
  • Expected time for encountering enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Expected conditions for encountering enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Size of the enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Organization of the enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Equipment of the enemy reconnaissance forces.
  • Identity of friendly killing forces.
  • Location of friendly killing forces.

(2)   Enemy reconnaissance forces seldom use primary AAs to execute their mission. To acquire their assigned reconnaissance objectives, reconnaissance elements must orient on trails, rough terrain, and dead spaces that allow mounted movement, but only for small teams of vehicles. Enemy reconnaissance elements typically move during darkness and periods of limited visibility. Knowing the composition of enemy reconnaissance elements helps the reconnaissance platoon more accurately determine the enemy's likely routes and how best to acquire them.

(3)   Other battalion or brigade elements receive the specific mission of killing enemy reconnaissance. Once the reconnaissance platoon locates enemy reconnaissance elements, it must use its thorough knowledge of the terrain and of the location and capabilities of the friendly killing force to coordinate battle handover of the enemy forces.

(4)   The counterreconnaissance task is extremely resource-intensive. It is generally most effective when conducted by an element larger than the reconnaissance platoon. The reconnaissance platoon does not have sufficient assets to both acquire and defeat the enemy unless augmented by battalion. In addition, it may not be able to cover all enemy reconnaissance routes and still maintain surveillance on the enemy's main avenues of approach. The commander's intent is critical to resolving this dilemma.

(5)   When the reconnaissance platoon must acquire both enemy reconnaissance elements and the main body, the priority in the early stages of the mission will be on the reconnaissance forces, focusing on the reconnaissance routes. The platoon will then track the echeloned arrival of enemy elements on the battlefield and shift priority to the main avenues of approach at the appropriate time. This technique permits the platoon to time-phase its priorities based on battlefield conditions. The platoon leader, however, must recognize when to change priority to the main avenue and then execute the change successfully (Figures 5-5 and 5-6).

Figure 5-5. Change of screen priority (initial priority to counterreconnaissance).

Figure 5-5.  Change of screen priority (initial priority to counterreconnaissance).

Figure 5-6. Change of screen priority (initial priority to main avenue of approach).

Figure 5-6.  Change of screen priority (initial priority
to main
avenue of approach).

f.   Maintaining Contact. After locating the enemy's main body, the reconnaissance platoon maintains contact until authorized to hand over contact to another friendly element. Such a handover remains one of the most difficult tasks for the individual reconnaissance vehicle section or dismounted section to accomplish and is best accomplished through a platoon effort.

(1)   The preferred method to maintain contact with a moving enemy main body is to position echeloned OPs in depth along the avenue of approach (Figure 5-7). This allows the OP to hand off contact to another OP without having to physically displace. This technique works only if the reconnaissance platoon has enough assets to pre-position the OPs in depth.

Figure 5-7. Positioning OPs in depth.

Figure 5-7.  Positioning OPs in depth.

(2)   Another technique to maintain contact is to displace in front of a moving enemy. This technique is very difficult because the reconnaissance elements must move to the rear faster than the enemy moves forward. This often exposes the reconnaissance forces to enemy fire. Additionally, if reconnaissance elements attempt to use only covered and concealed routes, they risk moving too slowly, being overrun or outrun by the enemy, and losing contact. Figure 5-8 illustrates how reconnaissance elements can conduct displacement while maintaining contact.

Figure 5-8. Displacement while in contact.

Figure 5-8.  Displacement while in contact.

(3)   A third technique combines the two previous techniques. Leaving the original dismounted OP in position (with a vehicle in support, if possible), the reconnaissance forces detach a vehicle or vehicle section. They reposition it in depth as either a mounted or dismounted OP. They can establish or reorient this OP to maintain contact until they can hand off the enemy force to a maneuver element. This technique reduces both the time associated with moving OPs and the likelihood of compromising any reconnaissance element (Figure 5-9).

Figure 5-9. Repositioning OPs in depth.

Figure 5-9.  Repositioning OPs in depth.

g.   Harassing and Impeding. The reconnaissance platoon should try to harass and impede the enemy using indirect fire. Engaging a moving armored element with indirect fire is difficult. The reconnaissance platoon leader plans carefully, focusing on expected avenues of approach, choke points, the enemy rate of march, and artillery time of flight. He can then determine trigger lines (or points) for accurate enemy engagement.

h.   Accurate Artillery Fire. Accurate artillery fire immediately affects the enemy main body. Artillery fire disrupts formations; individual enemy vehicles change speed, button up, or are destroyed or disabled. Command and control deteriorates as the smoke and dust of battle restrict vision and as antennas stop working. This loss of vision and command and control restricts the enemy's ability to spot displacing friendly forces. Also, if he tries to find the element directing the fire, the enemy may compromise his momentum and combat power.


Counterreconnaissance is a directed effort to prevent visual observation or infiltration of friendly forces by enemy reconnaissance elements. It is a task of all reconnaissance platoon security missions. Countering the enemy's mounted and dismounted reconnaissance elements is the first and possibly most important step in ensuring the main body can successfully execute its mission. At the same time, it can be extremely difficult to identify enemy reconnaissance forces, especially when they are dismounted. The reconnaissance platoon may lack this capability. As a result, this task is most successfully executed when it is approached as a combined arms effort at battalion level.

a.   Planning Considerations. The battalion concept of executing counterreconnaissance must address how the unit will accomplish the two aspects of counterreconnaissance: acquiring the enemy and then killing it. The battalion S2 provides key input in this determination. He identifies where enemy reconnaissance routes into the unit sector are located, what type of enemy reconnaissance elements might be used in the sector, and when they are most likely to move into the sector.

(1)   The battalion commander should discuss conduct of counterreconnaissance in the OPORD or FRAGO, indicating in tactical terms how elements will organize and conduct the operations throughout the depth of the area of operations. This information should include planning considerations for the operation to include—

  • Direct fire planning and coordination.
  • Observation planning and coordination.
  • Command and control.
  • Battle handover.

(2)   In all counterreconnaissance operations, the goal is to destroy the enemy reconnaissance forces after they have penetrated the initial screen line. The reconnaissance platoon's role in these operations is usually to conduct a screen mission to acquire and identify enemy reconnaissance forces. This requires that the acquiring elements of the platoon be well hidden to prevent the enemy from detecting the screen line. In most cases, the reconnaissance platoon does not have the capability to acquire, identify, and defeat the enemy reconnaissance by itself. Other combat forces from other battalion or brigade elements must fight and destroy the enemy reconnaissance elements.

b.   Organization. Several organizational options, which are described in the following paragraphs, are available to the commander to counter the enemy reconnaissance effort.

(1)   Reconnaissance Platoon. This technique puts the entire burden for counterreconnaissance on the reconnaissance platoon and attached combat and combat support assets. It requires maximum use of the CS assets to acquire the enemy, freeing the reconnaissance platoon to perform the killing function of counterreconnaissance. The reconnaissance platoon leader places acquiring assets along the screen line and positions his designated killing teams in depth. The killing assets of the platoon occupy positions on likely enemy reconnaissance routes; however, they must be flexible to respond to enemy elements moving on other routes. This technique requires that the platoon's sections or teams reconnoiter alternate positions and routes that permit quick repositioning once the acquiring elements make contact. With this organization, counterreconnaissance tasks must be prioritized in the early stages of the screen mission.

(2)   Reconnaissance Platoon and MGS or Infantry Platoon or Section. The team technique requires the close integration of a reconnaissance platoon and an MGS or infantry element to execute counterreconnaissance tasks. The reconnaissance platoon is the acquiring element, and the MGS or infantry element is the killing element. The reconnaissance platoon leader, as leader of the element that makes first contact, commands the counterreconnaissance effort; the killing element is placed OPCON to the reconnaissance platoon. The battalion commander may decide to control and coordinate this effort or may designate one of the infantry companies to execute the operation.

(3)   Killing. The reconnaissance platoon acquires the enemy using surveillance techniques. The killing elements occupy a battle position (BP) along likely reconnaissance avenues, but they are prepared to move to alternate positions based on reports coming from the reconnaissance platoon. This organization is most effective when the elements establish a habitual relationship. (Refer to Figure 5-10 for an illustration of this technique.)

Figure 5-10. Reconnaissance and MGS/infantry team counterreconnaissance array.

Figure 5-10.  Reconnaissance and MGS/infantry team counterreconnaissance array.


Area security operations protect specific critical and vulnerable assets or terrain from enemy observation and direct fire. They can consist of escorting friendly convoys; protecting critical points such as bridges, command and control installations, or other key and vulnerable sites; or participating in protection of large areas such as airfields. The platoon normally performs an area security operation when conventional security or combat operations would not work. The reconnaissance platoon may perform area security operations as part of a larger force or as an independent platoon mission.


Reconnaissance platoons normally conduct area security missions to protect high-value targets. Whether and how much protection the target requires depends on METT-TC. The reconnaissance platoon leader must integrate his elements into the overall security plan for the area he must protect. Area security operations rely on various techniques. They may include reconnaissance, security, defensive tasks, and offensive tasks.

a.   When deploying for area security, the platoon generally moves into a coil formation around the point, area, or asset it must secure. It orients vehicle positions on likely enemy avenues of approach. If the platoon has engineer support, the engineers dig in the vehicle positions; if not, the vehicles occupy hasty fighting positions.

b.   To further improve the position, the reconnaissance platoon employs hasty protective minefields, wire, and other obstacles, as appropriate and available. It emplaces wire obstacles outside grenade range of friendly positions. Once it sets up vehicle positions and obstacles, the platoon develops a fire plan. This plan includes integrated indirect fires. It submits the plan to higher headquarters.

c.   In addition to setting up the reconnaissance platoon position around the asset to be secured, the platoon also employs patrols and OPs to enhance security (Figure 5-11). Reconnaissance patrols and combat patrols learn the AO, gain information on enemy forces, and destroy small dismounted enemy reconnaissance elements. The platoon deploys OPs to observe likely avenues of approach, to provide early warning of enemy activity, and to aid in control of indirect fires.

Figure 5-11. Platoon area security dispositions.

Figure 5-11.  Platoon area security dispositions.


A company or larger organization usually performs convoy or route security missions. Convoy security provides protection for a specific convoy. Route security aims at securing a specific route for a designated period of time, during which multiple convoys may use the route. These missions include numerous tasks (such as escort, reconnaissance, and combat reaction forces) that become missions for subordinate units. The size of the unit performing the convoy or route security operation depends on a number of factors, including the size of the convoy, the terrain, and the length of the route.

a.   Route Reconnaissance. When the reconnaissance platoon conducts a route reconnaissance as part of a route security operation, it is done in the same manner as discussed in Chapter 4 of this manual. In this mission, the reconnaissance platoon leader focuses on the route's trafficability and on enemy forces that might influence the route. The reconnaissance platoon must plan to call for engineer assets to aid in breaching point-type obstacles. Command-detonated devices pose a major threat during route reconnaissance.

b.   Echeloning OPs. Echeloning OPs is a technique used during route security to screen the route after it has been reconnoitered. Its use is similar to the technique for reconnaissance operations covering lateral and boundary routes.

(1)   All elements of the platoon OPs are part of route security to help secure the route or convoy. The platoon employs OPs on critical portions of the route or on key avenues of approach to the route. The OPs provide early warning if an enemy element tries to interdict the route or convoy.

(2)   Echeloning OPs differs from a conventional screen in that OPs orient on the route rather than on the friendly main body (Figure 5-12). OPs have little ability to destroy small enemy forces that try to influence the route. They acquire the enemy and then direct either reaction forces or indirect fire to destroy the enemy.

Figure 5-12. Reconnaissance platoon echeloning OPs.

Figure 5-12.  Reconnaissance platoon echeloning OPs.

c.   Convoy Escort. The reconnaissance platoon may perform a convoy escort mission either independently or as part of a larger unit's convoy security mission. The convoy escort mission requires that the platoon provide the convoy with limited close-in protection from direct small arms fire. Platoon vehicles include military CSS and C2 vehicles. Leaders must carefully evaluate the enemy before assigning a convoy escort mission to reconnaissance platoons. The following considerations apply during convoy escort operations.

(1)   Command and Control. Command and control is especially critical during convoy escort because of the task organization inherent to the mission. If the battalion commander expects the reconnaissance platoon to engage in combat operations, he places the reconnaissance platoon under the convoy commander's control during the escort mission. The relationship between the convoy commander and the reconnaissance platoon leader must provide for unity of command and effort.

(a)   The platoon leader must issue a complete OPORD to all vehicle commanders in the convoy before the mission. This is vital; the commander may have task-organized the convoy from a variety of units, so many of the vehicles may lack tactical radios.

(b)   The OPORD should follow the standard five-paragraph OPORD format, with special emphasis on the following subjects:

  • Order of march.
  • Actions on contact.
  • Chain of command.
  • Communications and signals.
  • Actions on vehicle breakdown.
  • Actions at a halt.
  • Route of march (this should include a sketch for each vehicle commander).

(2)   Tactical Disposition. The platoon must post security during convoy escort missions in all directions and throughout the length of the convoy. Thus, reconnaissance platoon elements and any combat or CS attachments must disperse throughout the convoy formation. Engineer assets should locate toward the front to respond to obstacles. The fire support team (FIST) or combat observation lasing team (COLT) team should locate near the platoon leader. The platoon normally uses the column formation because of its inherent speed and ease of movement (Figure 5-13).

Figure 5-13. Reconnaissance platoon escorting a convoy.

Figure 5-13.  Reconnaissance platoon escorting a convoy.

(3)   Actions at an Ambush. Ambush is one of the most effective ways to interdict a convoy. Therefore, the convoy escort must prepare to counter such a threat. The platoon must react to an ambush quickly, overwhelmingly, and decisively. All escort and convoy elements must execute the ambush as a drill, taking care to avoid fratricide. The convoy escort drill should include the following actions.

(a)   As soon as the platoon detects an enemy force, the escort vehicles act. They first seek covered positions between the convoy and the enemy. As quickly as possible, they suppress the enemy with the highest possible volume of fire. They send contact reports to higher headquarters (Figure 5-14).

(b)   Elements of the escort force may remain with the convoy main body. They usually do so when the convoy consists mostly of nonmilitary elements such as private organizations or local civilian agencies. Not only do these elements normally have no weapons, but also they usually lack communications capabilities. This makes linking up with the main body difficult.

(c)   The convoy commander retains control of the convoy vehicles and maintains radio contact with the security force. At the same time, he moves the convoy along the route as fast as possible.

(d)   The convoy abandons and pushes off the route any damaged or disabled vehicles (Figure 5-15).

(e)   The escort leader (the reconnaissance platoon leader) submits spot reports. He can request needed reinforcements, and he can also call for and direct indirect fires and air support, if available.

Figure 5-14. Convoy escort actioning toward ambush.

Figure 5-14.  Convoy escort actioning toward ambush.

Figure 5-15. Convoy moving out of kill zone.

Figure 5-15.  Convoy moving out of kill zone.

(4)   Actions after Clearing the Kill Zone. Once the convoy clears the kill zone, the escort chooses one of the following COAs based on the composition of the escort and the strength of the enemy force:

  • Continue to suppress the enemy while combat reaction forces move to support (Figure 5-16).
  • Break contact and move out of the kill zone (Figure 5-17). Generally, reconnaissance platoons should move out of the kill zone as soon as the convoy clears it. However, the platoon should break contact only with the approval of its higher commander.

Figure 5-16. Escort suppressing ambush for reaction force.

Figure 5-16.  Escort suppressing ambush for reaction force.

Figure 5-17. Escort breaking contact.

Figure 5-17.  Escort breaking contact.

(5)   Actions During a Short Halt. The convoy may have to make a short halt for a number of reasons. During the short halt, the escorting unit remains on full alert, regardless of what the convoy vehicles do. If the convoy halted for any reason other than for an obstacle, the escort unit takes the following actions.

(a)   The convoy commander signals the short halt and transmits the order via tactical radio.

(b)   The convoy assumes a herringbone formation.

(c)   Escort vehicles take up protective positions forward, to the rear, and to the flanks (up to 100 meters beyond the convoy vehicles) and orient their weapon systems outward. They remain at the highest readiness condition (REDCON), that of REDCON-1. Meanwhile, they establish dismounted local security (Figure 5-18). The vehicles being escorted pull into the protected area in the center of the road, between the escort vehicles.

(d)   The convoy receives the order to move out. Convoy vehicles reestablish the column formation, leaving space for the escort vehicles (Figure 5-19). The escort vehicles join the column. Local security continues dismounted (Figure 5-20).

(e)   Once all elements have moved into column formation, local security personnel mount. The convoy continues to move.

Figure 5-18. Convoy assuming herringbone formation.

Figure 5-18.  Convoy assuming herringbone formation.

Figure 5-19. Convoy moving back into column formation.

Figure 5-19.  Convoy moving back into column formation.

Figure 5-20. Escort vehicles rejoining column.

Figure 5-20.  Escort vehicles rejoining column.

(6)   Actions at Obstacles. Obstacles pose a major threat to convoys. The enemy can use obstacles to harass the convoy by delaying it. In some terrain, an obstacle can stop the convoy altogether. In addition, the enemy can use an obstacle or series of obstacles to channel or stop the convoy for an ambush.

(a)   The route reconnaissance moves ahead of the convoy to identify obstacles. The reconnaissance element either breaches or locates bypasses around obstacles. Sometimes, the platoon cannot mount a route reconnaissance ahead of the convoy. At other times, the reconnaissance element may fail to detect the enemy or its obstacles. In these cases, the convoy must try to reduce or bypass the obstacle itself.

(b)   When a convoy must deal with an obstacle itself, it faces a two-sided problem. First, the convoy's vulnerability increases when it stops. Second, the escort force is unable to provide security while working to overcome or bypass the obstacle. Security becomes critical, so the convoy and escort must act quickly.

(7)   Actions at a Point-Type Obstacle. When the lead security element identifies a point-type obstacle, the following actions are taken.

(a)   The convoy commander directs a short halt. He establishes dismounted local security and overwatch on the obstacle. Convoy vehicles remain on the road; escort elements move to the flanks to provide security.

(b)   The convoy commander relays a spot report to higher headquarters. He requests combat reaction, engineer (if he does not already have it), and aerial reconnaissance support. He also alerts artillery units to prepare to provide fire support. With the help of these assets, he can get the convoy moving again sooner, which will reduce its vulnerability. The convoy commander must always assume that the enemy maintains overwatch and cover on the obstacle.

(c)   Escort forces form a reconnaissance team. They begin reconnaissance for a bypass while at the same time maintaining all-round security for the convoy (Figure 5-21).

(d)   At the same time, an additional reconnaissance team (consisting of escort elements, engineers, or both) moves forward to conduct an obstacle reconnaissance. Because of limited time and assets, the convoy need not establish far-side security before it reconnoiters the obstacle.

Figure 5-21. Escort teams conducting obstacle reconnaissance and reconnaissance for a bypass.

Figure 5-21.  Escort teams conducting obstacle reconnaissance and reconnaissance for a bypass.

(e)   Once the reconnaissance element has completed all reconnaissance, the convoy commander chooses and executes a COA to continue the mission. Possible COAs include the following:

  • Bypass the obstacle.
  • Breach the obstacle with the assets on hand.
  • Breach the obstacle with reinforcing assets.

(f)   The convoy commander executes the best COA and continues the mission.


The reconnaissance platoon can occupy up to three short-duration OPs, one per team, for up to 12 hours if the teams are at full strength. For extended periods (12 hours or longer), the reconnaissance platoon occupies long-duration OPs by sections, which limits long-duration OPs to a maximum of two. In addition, the platoon can array OPs either in linear positions or in depth. Depth is the preferred method for maintaining contact with a moving threat. Linear placement is effective when the threat is not moving; it provides maximum eyes on the threat.


Employment of OPs entails accomplishment of selected critical tasks .

a.   Determine the Type of OP. Determine the type of OP (mounted, dismounted, or a combination) depending on requirements for either maximum stealth or rapid movement.

b.   Position the OPs. Position the OPs either in linear positions or in depth to allow for observation of the assigned sector. Several factors affect proper positioning, including the following:

  • The need for observation from several OPs to reduce the chance of the enemy entering the sector undetected.
  • A requirement for the platoon to observe the entire sector by placing OPs along the enemy's most likely avenues of approach.

c.   Select Positions. Select a position for each OP that affords the best possible force protection. Selection criteria include the following:

  • Covered and concealed routes to and from the OP.
  • Unobstructed observation of the assigned area.
  • Effective cover and concealment.
  • Sites that avoid natural lines of drift and that do not call attention to or skyline observers.

d.   Occupy the OP. The platoon should employ the most secure method of moving into position; dismounted occupation is the preferred method. Occupation steps include the following:

  • Establish overwatch.
  • Reconnoiter the position.
  • Establish security.
  • Clear the site and ensure sector visibility.
  • Establish vehicle hide positions.
  • Develop sector sketches.

e.   Man the OP. The reconnaissance platoon leader must ensure that each OP has the necessary personnel and equipment to perform the following tasks:

  • Observe the assigned area.
  • Provide force protection (including planning and preparation for contact and actions on contact).
  • Report information.
  • Call for and adjust indirect fire.

f.   Maintain Security. Conduct local reconnaissance patrols to cover dead space, provide local security, and observe avenues of approach and NAIs from different vantage points.

g.   Employ Active and Passive Protective Measures. Reconnaissance elements are extremely vulnerable in the OP. Their best self-defense is not to be seen, heard, or otherwise located by the enemy.

h.   Improve the Position. The reconnaissance platoon can enhance OP protection by—

  • Digging in the OP position.
  • Camouflaging the position.
  • Installing communications equipment.
  • Emplacing hasty obstacles.


The types of OPs are dismounted, mounted, and a combination of mounted and dismounted.

a.   Dismounted OPs. The dismounted OP provides maximum stealth and thus has the greatest likelihood of remaining undetected by the enemy. The disadvantages of the dismounted OP are the time it takes if the reconnaissance troops must remount and move and the lack of optics capability if a ground-mounted thermal device is not available. If rapid movement or displacement is anticipated, the OP should mount or remain mounted.

b.   Mounted OPs. These offer the advantages of rapid movement and vehicle optics and protection. Because the enemy can more easily detect them, however, they are potentially less effective than dismounted OPs.

c.   Combination OPs. The reconnaissance platoon can employ an OP that combines the advantages of both the dismounted and mounted types. For example, the vehicle can monitor a particular NAI while other crewmen dismount to observe an enemy dismounted avenue of approach. The combination OP can offset the limitations and vulnerabilities of the others, but some of these weaknesses may still apply, including lack of mobility and ease of enemy detection.


OPs may be placed on the battlefield either in a linear configuration or in depth.

a.   Linear Placement. Linear placement (Figure 5-22) allows the reconnaissance platoon to observe the assigned sector from several OP sites, reducing the chance of the enemy entering the sector without being observed. This method works well when the reconnaissance platoon has been assigned a large sector with few avenues of approach or is in desert-type terrain.

Figure 5-22. Linear positioning of OPs.

Figure 5-22.  Linear positioning of OPs.

b.   In-Depth OP Placement. In-depth OP placement (Figure 5-23) allows the reconnaissance platoon to observe the entire sector by placing OP sites where the platoon can observe the most likely avenues of approach in the sector as well as along the sector flanks. This method works well when the reconnaissance platoon is assigned a sector with several avenues of approach or is in heavily wooded terrain. In-depth placement allows for redundancy in observation and better coverage of the sector.

Figure 5-23. In-depth positioning of OPs.

Figure 5-23.  In-depth positioning of OPs.


Based on METT-TC factors, the battalion commander's guidance, and staff input, the reconnaissance platoon leader selects the general location for the platoon's OPs. From his analysis, he determines how many OPs he must establish and where he must position them to allow long-range observation along the avenues of approach assigned by his commander and to provide depth through the sector. Section and team leaders select the exact position for each OP on the ground. OPs should have the following characteristics.

a.   Covered and Concealed Routes to and from the OP. Soldiers must be able to enter and leave the OP without being seen by the enemy.

b.   Unobstructed Observation of the Assigned Area or Sector. Ideally, the fields of observation of adjacent OPs overlap to ensure full coverage of the sector.

c.   Effective Cover and Concealment. Leaders should select positions with cover and concealment to reduce the vulnerability of their elements on the battlefield. They may need to pass up a position with favorable observation capability but with no cover and concealment in favor of a position that affords better survivability.

d.   A Location That Will Not Attract Attention. OPs should not be sited in locations such as a water tower, an isolated grove of trees, or a lone building or tree. These positions draw enemy attention and may be used as enemy artillery TRPs. The OPs should also be located away from natural lines of drift along which a moving enemy force can be expected to travel. Such locations might include a route on the floor of a valley or a site near a major highway.

e.   A Location That Does Not Skyline the Observers. Avoid hilltops. Position OPs further down the slope of the hill or on the side, provided there are covered and concealed routes into and out of the position.


The reconnaissance platoon leader selects a technique to move to the screen line based on his analysis of METT-TC. Unless the area has already been cleared, the platoon should conduct a zone reconnaissance to the screen line. This is the most secure method of moving to the screen line but also the most time-consuming. The following steps provide an example of how the reconnaissance platoon might occupy an OP.

a.   A reconnaissance section stops short of its OP site. The section leader directs the drivers into positions to overwatch the general OP site and any terrain the enemy could use to dominate movement into or out of the position (Figure 5-24).

b.   The reconnaissance section leader dismounts with four soldiers, two from each vehicle. Drivers and team leaders remain on their vehicles to overwatch the dismounted personnel as they move forward to reconnoiter the OP.

c.   The section leader moves the dismounted soldiers to the OP site, establishes security overwatching the far side of the site, and checks the site for mines, booby traps, and enemy personnel. He verifies that he can observe his sector or area of responsibility from this site and determines which exact position is best for the OP.

d.   The section leader selects hide positions and fighting positions for his two vehicles. Once the area around the OP is cleared and secure, he signals the vehicles forward to move into their fighting positions.

e.   The driver and a soldier from each vehicle mark each vehicle's position using a GPS and appropriate marking device.

f.   The section or team leader and the vehicle commander complete and check the sector sketch. Each vehicle then moves back out of its fighting position into a hide position. The section leader checks the sketches to ensure they provide complete coverage of the sector and provides the platoon leader a digital or hard copy of the sketches. Sector sketches or range cards allow the OP to use the vehicle's thermal sights for observation; they are also a valuable reference if the vehicle is ordered to fight.

Figure 5-24. Vehicles overwatching a potential OP site.

Figure 5-24.  Vehicles overwatching a potential OP site.


A minimum of two soldiers man each OP. They must be equipped to observe the area, report information, provide their own security, and call for and adjust indirect fire. One observes the area while the other provides local security, records information, and sends reports to the section, team, or platoon leader. The two soldiers should switch jobs every 20 to 30 minutes because the observer's effectiveness decreases quickly after that time. Essential equipment for the OP includes the following:

  • Map of the area.
  • Compass.
  • Communications equipment (wire, radio, or both).
  • Observation devices (such as binoculars, observation telescopes, and night-vision devices including Javelin CLU thermal sights for observation.). See Appendix F, Javelin Employment.
  • SOI extract.
  • Report formats.
  • Weapons (personal, crew-served M249 SAW or M240B MG (see Appendix G, M240B Machine Gun and M249 SAW Employment) and or light AT weapons, or Javelin AT weapons if augmented (see Appendix F, Javelin Employment) and mines, if necessary.
  • Seasonal uniform and load-carrying equipment (LCE).
  • Appropriate NBC equipment to achieve the highest mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) level prescribed in the OPORD.


Once the section leader has established the OP and assigned the soldiers their sectors of observation, the section improves the position.

a.   Sector Sketch. The section leader prepares a sector sketch (Figure 5-25). This sketch is similar to a fighting position sketch but with some important differences. As a minimum, the sketch includes—

  • A rough sketch of key and significant terrain, including NAIs and avenues of approach.
  • Location of the OP.
  • Location of the hide position.
  • Locations of vehicle fighting and observation positions.
  • Alternate positions (hide, fighting, observation).
  • Routes to and from the OP and fighting positions.
  • Sectors of observation.
  • Preplanned artillery targets.
  • TRPs for direct fire.
  • Prepared spot reports and calls for fire, based on trigger points and projected locations where the enemy will first be seen.

Figure 5-25. Section leader's OP sketch.

Figure 5-25.  Section leader's OP sketch.

b.   Improvements. Personnel manning the OP site begin digging in to provide protection from indirect and direct fires. They also camouflage the position, install wire communications equipment and directional antennas for FM communications, and emplace hasty obstacles for local protection. Vehicle commanders and drivers reconnoiter the routes to their fighting or observation positions and alternate positions, perform maintenance, and camouflage vehicles and positions.


The soldiers occupying the OP use wire, radio, or land warrior (LW) systems (or a combination) as their primary means of communications. Wire is the most secure means of communication, but it may not be the most practical means based upon the current tactical situation and mission duration.


As noted, soldiers are extremely vulnerable in an OP; their best self-defense is not to be seen, heard, or otherwise located by the enemy. They employ active and passive measures to protect themselves from enemy detection and direct and indirect fires.

a.   Covered and Concealed Position. The first step is to locate the OP in a covered and concealed position to reduce the chance of being seen by the enemy. The soldiers add camouflage to the position to enhance natural concealment. If they have enough time, they dig in the position and add overhead cover to increase survivability against enemy fires. The soldiers enforce strict light and noise discipline and reduce activity in and around the OP to essential movement only. All vehicles remain hidden because the enemy can easily identify their large signatures. Soldiers in the OP also must maintain secure communications.

b.   Early Warning. To provide early warning of enemy movement around the screen line or OP position, the soldiers emplace their PEWS in areas that they cannot observe or in the dead spaces between OPs. Trip flares and M18A1 claymore mines provide additional early warning and protection from enemy personnel.


Active patrolling around and between OPs also enhances security. Patrols give the platoon the ability to observe areas that cannot be observed from the OPs and to clear the area around the OP of enemy elements. A patrol can be executed by a minimum of two dismounted crewmen from the vehicles in the hide position.

a.   Security Patrols. To discover enemy elements that might have observed the occupation, the platoon executes security patrols as soon as possible after occupying the position. The patrols reconnoiter favorable observation positions that might be occupied by the enemy. Route selection is critical when organizing these patrols; the soldiers must assume that the OP position is under observation.

b.   Enemy Compromise. OPs cannot always avoid enemy detection so they must take actions to limit their vulnerability. Covered positions provide protection from enemy fires, and vehicle dispersion further reduces the effects of these fires. The vehicles in the fighting positions extricate the soldiers from the OP if the position is identified and attacked by the enemy.


Extended OPs are fixed surveillance positions that require the soldiers to remain at the site for up to 72 hours without relief or rotation of reconnaissance teams. They provide the maximum degree of stealth available to the soldier from a stationary position. Vehicle placement is not in direct support of the OP. Infiltration and exfiltration, accomplished using any method of aerial and dismounted movement, is the primary method of occupying and departing the OP. Once the OP is occupied, movement around the OP ceases until mission is complete, evacuation is required, or exfiltration begins. This paragraph addresses the process of selection, construction, and occupation of extended OPs used in permissive and nonpermissive operational environments.

a.   Site Selection. In choosing where to position extended OPs, the reconnaissance platoon must ensure that the sites—

  • Afford adequate visual and electronic line-of-sight target observation and security for the observers.
  • Have as wide a field of view and as little dead space as possible.
  • Are not near natural lines of drift or in terrain that would naturally draw the attention of enemy forces, such as on top of a flat rock face on a hill.
  • Have covered and concealed exit and entry points.
  • Are far enough downwind from the target and inhabited areas to minimize the olfactory detection of the position by dogs or people. (Keep in mind that wind direction often changes at various times of the day.)
  • In general, are as close to, or distant from, the target as mission and security considerations dictate.
  • Afford effective overhead and side cover and concealment.
  • Can support execution of battle drills if the observers must break enemy contact.
  • Support reliable communications between the observers and their main body, security element, and communications element.
  • Are, above all, in a location that is not obvious to enemy forces.

b.   Multiple Positions. If the reconnaissance platoon cannot find all these features in a single position (for example, daytime versus nighttime requirements), it may have to select separate positions suited to the types of surveillance needed. Multiple positions must be mutually supporting so that if one position is compromised, observers in the other position can continue the surveillance mission and warn the rest of the platoon. Further, if the positions are not being used during the day, the platoon should keep them under observation. If this is not possible, then the platoon should not reuse that position the following night. This practice prevents the soldiers from walking into an ambush while trying to reoccupy the position. Another consideration in the use of separate positions is that observers must avoid establishing patterns and trails while moving to and from the different positions.


Several construction techniques are common to all observation positions. These techniques are included in SOPs and practiced during normal training.


The primary task in constructing any position is the removal of excess dirt. Excavated soil expands in volume. In dry climates, the subsurface soil contains the most water, which causes the soil to be a different color. Thus, this soil must be camouflaged. Construct underground positions before the early morning dew develops. Discarding excess soil before the dew sets in aids in the camouflage process. Consider the effect of the sun drying out the excess soil. This dried soil may need to be camouflaged. The main technique for camouflaging soil, using plastic sheeting or a poncho, entails the following steps.

a.   Lay out the sheeting alongside the position.

b.   Place the topsoil to one side of the sheeting. Remember that the topsoil only extends a few centimeters below the surface. Save as much of the vegetation as possible.

c.   Dig out the remaining soil. Do not mix the topsoil with subsoil from the hole.

d.   Fill sandbags with the (loose) soil dug from the hole and use them to reinforce the sides of the position.

e.   Fill surrounding depressions, ruts, or ditches with the remaining excess soil. If this is not possible, spread the soil lightly on the surface in an area away from the position. Avoid putting the excess soil in creeks or streams that may wash the dirt down the waterway and attract unwanted attention.

f.   After the overhead cover is constructed and waterproofed, replace the topsoil. Spread vegetation, leaves, deadfall, or other local materials about the area to complete the camouflage of the position.

g.   The final step in the process is to pick up the sheeting used to contain the soil. Check the vegetation under the sheeting to ensure that it was not matted down under the weight of the soil. If matting has occurred, take the time to brush it with a branch to return it to its natural state.

h.   As time passes, continually check the vegetation and soil around the position to ensure that they appear natural. Loose soil often falls through small holes in the ground and results in strange-looking, funnel-shaped holes. Check vegetation to ensure it blends with the surrounding area. Remove or replace dead vegetation.


Remember that vegetation is critical to blending the OP with surrounding terrain. Replanting and watering vegetation during initial position construction can eliminate the need to continually replace wilted plants.

a.   Grasses. When removing topsoil, save the grass. Use an entrenching tool or shovel to remove the grass in clumps by cutting a circle about 5 to 15 centimeters around the section to be saved. Pry the roots and soil up from the bottom. When replacing the grass around the position, pattern the placement after the natural design. Shake the grass slightly to loosen the roots, then replace it at ground level. If water is available, a small amount placed on the grass will lessen the shock of replanting and extend the life of the camouflage.

b.   Plants and Bushes. Medium-sized plants or bushes will aid the security of the position. Not only will the plants add to the camouflage of the position, but they will also discourage vehicle and foot movement over the top of the position. The main disadvantage to using plants on top of the position is that the plants may die or fall over due to the shallow depth of the overhead cover.

c.   Deadfall. Deadfall can restrict movement in much the same way as can the plants and bushes discussed above. If used, it must be reinforced with dirt. The use of deadfall as part of the overall camouflage effort presents several disadvantages.

(1)   In most regions of the world, deadfall is used for home heating, cooking, and construction. If the position has this fuel near it, the risk of discovery is increased. The only options available to OP personnel if they are discovered by a non-hostile civilian is emergency exfiltration and activation of the evasion and escape (E&E) plan. Either course of action will result in termination of the mission.

(2)   Cover from small arms fire is very limited when using deadfall. Most trees decompose quickly on the ground. Modern small arms fire will easily pass through these rotten trees.


Depending on the soil condition in the area of operations, the sidewall of the position may require some type of shoring or support to prevent cave-ins. A variety of material for support of the walls is available, such as local timber, branches, deadfall, plastic sheeting, and ponchos. The primary means for supporting the sides, however, is the use of sandbags. These lightweight bags serve a variety of uses and conform to almost any shape required. The exact number of bags required depends on the size and overall design of the position. When cross-bracing sandbagged walls, use freshly cut green timber or a prefabricated support such as PVC pipe, conduit, or other like items. (Examples of cross-bracing and revetments can be found in FM 5-34.)


Whenever possible, the unit should assemble prefabricated kits to aid in the construction of the required positions. These kits need not be taken into the operational area; rather, they are assembled as a stockpile from which elements can draw mission-specific equipment during isolation. Items in these kits include the following:

  • Schedule-80 PVC pipe, elbows, straight connectors, three- and four-way connectors, and PVC cement. This strong, lightweight material can be formed into a multitude of shapes and designs. It can be used to build the frame of the overhead cover or to form cross bracing.
  • Parachute suspension line. This material serves many uses, such as being interwoven to produce a frame for overhead cover.
  • Sandbags.
  • Assorted tapes, cords, and ropes.
  • Plastic bags with press-together "zippers" for closing. These items can be used for general storage.
  • Half-meter square pieces of 1-centimeter plywood. This lightweight material is excellent for constructing overhead cover, platforms for use in trees, and insulation when operating on ice and snow. The squares are painted to match the terrain in which they are used.
  • Plastic sheeting. Heavy-gauge plastic sheeting fills many roles. If plastic sheeting is not available, the heavy-duty plastic bags used to cover pallets work well.
  • Hand tools, such as D-handle shovels, hacksaws, hammers, and small bow saws.
  • Plastic or aluminum tent stakes. These items save time during construction of the position.
  • Canvas and camouflage netting.
  • Mirrors or periscopes.


During tactical operations, the reconnaissance platoon must be prepared to establish OPs in various operational environments. This section discusses OPs in urban and mountainous terrain and during area security missions.


An urban or built-up area forms the economic and cultural focus for the surrounding area. It is characterized by a concentration of people and manmade structures and facilities. Because of the generally limited fields of vision, urban operations normally require more positions than rural operations. (See FM 3-06.11 as well as the discussion of urban operations in Chapter 6 of this manual.)

a.   Position Selection. As with other observation and surveillance positions, METT-TC factors dictate the selection of urban OPs. Soldiers can construct fixed urban positions in occupied and abandoned buildings, on water tanks, behind shrubbery, on factory chimneys, or in the attics of multistory buildings or other tall structures. If the position is to be set up in an undamaged part of the urban area, they should select buildings of solid construction with serviceable stairs and basements that can be equipped for the rest and shelter of personnel.

(1)   Soldiers should avoid wooden and significantly deteriorated buildings because of the risk of injury from fire or structural failure. Fixed positions should not be in buildings that will attract the enemy's attention; instead, they should be placed in rubble, yards, and gardens.

(2)   When occupying the position, soldiers must look for booby traps and mines. If they detect such devices, they must be prepared to take proper precautions, including disabling the devices, if possible or marking the area if the devices cannot be disabled.

b.   Construction. Position construction may consist simply of being able to look out of a suitable viewing port, or it can be much more elaborate. Considerations and actions should include the following:

  • Emphasize operations security (OPSEC) while constructing the position.
  • Fill windows, doors, and other openings (such as bullet holes not used for observation) with bricks, fragments of building materials, or sandbags if available.
  • Remove flammable objects. These may be used for early warning or defensive devices.
  • Establish communications between buildings by hard wire. If available, fiber-optic cables (telephones) offer better security.
  • Identify and construct rapid departure routes.

c.   Avoiding Detection. Because of the higher concentration of people, security forces, lighting, and movement, forces in urban areas must take additional precautions to avoid detection during surveillance activities. Considerations for detection avoidance include the following:

(1)   At least two soldiers are required in occupying the OP.

(2)   If operating from an occupied dwelling, do not consume more electric power, water, and heat than average for the normal occupants.

(3)   Employ OPSEC to negate or evade enemy electronic countermeasures (ECM). For example, technological advances make it possible for mobile units operating from the street to electronically survey a building and detect and identify very small sources of energy. Such capabilities are increasingly widespread and are often found in built-up areas of even marginally developed countries, especially in the "security states" of the Third World.


Rugged, poorly trafficable terrain, steep slopes, and elevations that allow observation of surrounding terrain characterize mountainous areas. The number of observers and positions required may increase in mountainous terrain due to the relatively limited fields of vision compared to flat terrain. On the other hand, in areas above the tree line or where lower elevations lack vegetation, the number of observers needed may decrease. A careful study of the target area will give a good indication of the requirements. For a general discussion of operations in mountainous areas, see FM 3-97.6.

a.   Position Selection. Mountain terrain provides many places for cover and concealment. Position selection is not guided by the height of a given mountain but by irregular fields of observation, dead space, cover and concealment, and the limits of the observation equipment used by the soldiers.

b.   Systems of Observation. Soldiers may employ a circular, multi-tiered system of observers. To increase daytime viewing capability, positions are placed not only laterally but also with vertical dispersion. This layering of positions also reduces the need for movement when changing from daytime to nighttime operations (Figure 5-26).

Figure 5-26. Overlapping mountain observation sites.

Figure 5-26.  Overlapping mountain observation sites.

c.   Construction. Irregular terrain in mountains often affords natural hiding places for observers. In most mountainous areas, the rocky nature of the ground makes it difficult and often impossible to dig belowground positions. In those cases, boulders and loose rocks can be used to construct aboveground, low-walled positions called "scrapes." When constructing these positions, exercise the same degree of care in camouflage as in the case of all other types of construction. The position must blend in with its surroundings and not be detectable from any angle. Trimming back the lower branches on the undergrowth with a wire saw, shears, or knife often enhances fields of view.

d.   Night Observation. At night, sending out additional observers into valleys and hollows enhances observation. Observation from below, facing upward against the background of the sky, often gives better results. In addition, the soldiers should supplement night observation by monitoring. Monitoring is more effective in mountainous areas than on flat terrain because sounds are often funneled to the head of valleys and are perceptible at great distances. Sounds in the mountains can be deceptive, however. Various obstructions can reduce their volume and change their direction.

e.   Snow. In mountainous areas where snow is expected or known to be on the ground, soldiers can use certain tactics to reduce the problems associated with operations in the snow. Some of these tactics are discussed in the following paragraphs.

(1)   Melting Conditions. Observers should choose positions that are in shaded areas, on slopes facing away from the equator (north in the Northern Hemisphere, south in the Southern Hemisphere). In moderate temperatures, the heat generated from the observers' bodies melts the snow on the cover of the position. The result is an observable muddy area in snow. Such muddy areas are common around trees, where the heat of the day can cause melting snow to fall to the ground and melt the snow on the ground around the tree. (The melting snow falling off the trees often can be used as a water source. Unlike frozen snow, it does not require melting over a heat source.) The shadows found around rock outcropping and trees can aid in hiding the foot trails leading to the work area and position. The shade aids in an even melt.

(2)   Snow Compression. Walking compresses snow under each footprint, and the compressed snow melts at a slower rate than the surrounding snow. This effect is like the difference between crushed ice and cubed ice in a drink. The loose, crushed ice melts faster than the dense cubes. In areas where the snow melts fast, such as a sunny side of a hill, the compressed snow leaves footprints or trails leading to the position.

(3)   Avalanche Danger. The constant daytime melting and nighttime refreezing of snow on slopes often results in avalanches. Soldiers should use shadowed areas and slopes to reduce the risk of avalanches. Most danger areas are well known and are often plotted on military and civilian maps.


Observation posts on the ground are camouflaged to resemble such features as stumps, fallen trees, and bushes. For enhanced surveillance, the soldiers locate the position to overwatch the intersection of fire lanes, roads, and footpaths on the edge of sparsely wooded areas and natural clearings. When available, obstacles such as creeks, ditches, or steep slopes should be located between the position and the probable route of enemy security forces. At night, even a small creek disrupts a force's formations, causes it to make noise, and generally slows its progress. Monitoring of the target area is critical to accomplishing the mission and providing soldiers with operational security. Observers in a well-camouflaged position can monitor the target using several types of ground positions.

a.   Spider Hole. This type of position is similar to a fighting position with overhead cover. The dimensions are normally about 0.75 meters wide by 1.2 meters long and 1 to 1.5 meters deep. The observer can adjust the dimensions to meet his needs. This one-man position is normally established on a line or ring to provide support and enhance security. If using this type of OP, the platoon must use a minimum of two mutually supporting holes (Figure 5-27).

Figure 5-27. Spider hole OP.

Figure 5-27.  Spider hole OP.

b.   Scrape. A scrape (Figures 5-28 and 5-29) is the enlargement of a depression in the ground to allow one man to occupy a position. Scrapes are hasty in nature and require little preparation. Often used during darkness, scrapes provide the observer with a position where he can better use his optical devices. The observer removes as many of the signs of occupation as possible when he leaves. He obscures the area by brushing matted grasses, displaced dirt, and footprints. Overhead cover such as a poncho provides limited protection from the elements. If using this type of OP, the reconnaissance platoon must use a minimum of two mutually supporting scrapes.

Figure 5-28. Scrape OP.

Figure 5-28.  Scrape OP.

Figure 5-29. Example scrape plan.

Figure 5-29.  Example scrape plan.

c.   Tent-Type Position. Larger than a spider hole, this position is constructed for more than one observer. Supports for the overhead cover are made from a variety of material. Branches, aluminum conduit, parachute suspension line, or fiberglass rods all work well as a frame for the cover. A slight arch in the cover multiplies the available space on the inside of the position. The observers avoid grossly breaking the ground plane with the apex of the position (Figure 5-30).

Figure 5-30. Tent-type observation post.

Figure 5-30.  Tent-type observation post.

d.   Underground Position. The safest type of OP for the reconnaissance soldier is the underground position. The complexity of design and the effort required to construct the position are the primary disadvantages. When the section or team plans to use underground positions, soil type is a critical planning consideration that must not be overlooked during mission preparation. For example, when only light equipment (such as shovels and entrenching tools) is available, underground positions can only be constructed in loose soils.

e.   Bunker-Type Position. This position requires extensive construction time and material to complete. The observer can construct the underground bunker-type position using a prefabricated kit. This kit includes the tools needed to excavate and cut local materials such as trees and logs. The kit also contains plastic sheeting for waterproofing the roof, walls, and floor. The sheeting can also be used to reinforce loose soil in the position. Depending on the soil in the area, however, sandbags are often required to shore up the sides of the position; sandbags also lessen the accumulation of condensation produced when plastic sheeting is used (Figure 5-31).

Figure 5-31. Bunker-type underground observation post.

Figure 5-31.  Bunker-type underground observation post.

f.   Cave. A cave can provide the observer with a ready-made observation position; however, it presents special problems. First, caves attract attention. They are often shown on maps or are known to the local populace. Locals often use caves for shelter and sometimes for storage. Caves also attract animals. Bats, birds, snakes, and larger animals use caves for shelter, and the unsanitary conditions resulting from their presence present medical risks to reconnaissance personnel. Furthermore, early warning devices may be activated and attract the attention of local enemy forces. Use of caves increases the chance of discovery and is avoided in all but emergency situations.

5-28. CheckPoints, RoadBlockS, and Observation Posts

Construction and manning of checkpoints, roadblocks, and observation points are high-frequency tasks for infantry units. The reconnaissance platoon may be required to establish area security during stability operations.

  • Checkpoints. A checkpoint is a predetermined point used as a means of controlling movement, such as a place where military police check vehicular or pedestrian traffic, to enforce circulation control measures and other laws, orders, and regulations. (Figure 5-32, shows an example of a deliberate checkpoint.)
  • Roadblocks. A roadblock is used to limit the movement of vehicles along a route or to close access to certain areas or roads. Checkpoints and roadblocks can be either deliberate or hasty, with the primary difference being the extent of planning and preparation conducted by the establishing force.
  • Observation Posts. An OP is a position from which military observations are made or fire directed and adjusted and which has appropriate communications. They are both overt (conspicuously visible, unlike their tactical counterparts) and deliberately constructed. Observation posts are similar in construction to bunkers and are supported by fighting positions, barriers, and patrols.

a.   Purposes. The reconnaissance platoon may be directed to establish a checkpoint, roadblock, or OP for the following reasons:

  • To show a military presence to all parties and to the population in the area.
  • To survey all activity in the terrain, along roads, and in inhabited areas.
  • To check and or inspect and register all personnel and vehicles in and out of the controlled area.
  • To survey airspace, coastal areas, airfields, cease-fire lines, and borders.
  • To deter illegal movement.
  • To create an instant roadblock.
  • To control movement into the area of operations or on a specific route.
  • To prevent smuggling of contraband.
  • To enforce the terms of peace agreements.
  • To ensure proper use of routes by both civilian and military vehicles.

b.   Planning and Establishment. The layout, construction, and manning of checkpoints, roadblocks, and OPs should reflect the factors of METT-TC, especially the time available for emplacing them. The following procedures and considerations may apply:

  • Position the checkpoint or roadblock where it is visible and where traffic cannot turn back, get off the road, or bypass without being observed.
  • Position a combat vehicle off the road, but within sight, to deter resistance to soldiers manning the checkpoint. The vehicle should be in a hull-down position and protected by local security. It must be able to engage vehicles attempting to break through or bypass the checkpoint.
  • Place obstacles in the road to slow or canalize traffic into the search area.
  • Establish a reserve.
  • Establish wire communications in the checkpoint area to connect the checkpoint bunker, the combat vehicle, the search area, security forces, the rest area, and any other elements involved in the operation.
  • Designate the search area. If possible, it should be below ground to provide protection against incidents such as the explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle. Establish a parking area adjacent to the search area.
  • If applicable, checkpoint personnel should include linguists.
  • Establish an early warning system around the perimeter of the OP (trip flares, empty cans, dry branches, and so on).
  • Prepare shelters and defensive positions.

Figure 5-32. Example of a deliberate checkpoint.

Figure 5-32.  Example of a deliberate checkpoint.

c.   Manning Observation Posts and Checkpoints. When manning OPs and checkpoints, proper order and a systematic approach must be emphasized. Personnel must behave so that no misunderstanding occurs. The personnel manning the checkpoint must be in complete control of the surrounding terrain.

(1)   Although the OP is usually manned on a 24-hour basis, it may be manned only by day or night. During darkness, at least two persons must be in the OP position—one observes while the other is resting. In remote areas, or if the situation in the area is tense, more personnel man the OP for security and observation.

(2)   A minimum of two soldiers should man the checkpoint, depending on traffic and the general situation. One soldier examines people and vehicles; the other soldier covers the area where people and vehicles are checked. The soldier covering the other area is armed and has easy access to radio and telephone. If more soldiers are manning the checkpoint, one of them should be ready to set up obstacles to stop vehicles trying to force their way through the checkpoint.

d.   Communications. All OPs and checkpoints are connected to their unit or directly to the battalion operations center by radio and telephone. A spare radio and batteries should be supplied to the OP and checkpoint, especially to remote OPs located in dangerous areas. Radio and telephone checks are carried out at least twice every 24 hours (three times is recommended). Special code words must be prepared for use in certain situations. Conversation must be coded. Reserve frequencies must be available. OPs and checkpoints of great operational value may be connected by direct landline to ensure rapid coordination in urgent situations.

e.   Equipment. Many items are used to reinforce a roadblock, checkpoint, or OP. Some of the recommended equipment includes—

  • Barrels filled with sand, water, or heavy concrete blocks (emplaced to slow and canalize vehicles).
  • Concertina wire (emplaced to control movement around the checkpoint).
  • Secure facilities for radio and wire communications with the controlling headquarters.
  • First aid kit or a medic if available.
  • Sandbags for defensive positions.
  • Bunker construction material.
  • Binoculars, night vision devices, and or flashlights.
  • Long-handled mirrors (used to inspect vehicle undercarriages).
  • Signs stating the speed limit into and out of the checkpoint. (The text of these signs must be written in English and the local language.)

Elements manning a deliberate checkpoint may require access to specialized equipment such as:

  • Floodlights.
  • Duty log.
  • Flag and unit sign.
  • Barrier pole that can be raised and lowered.
  • Generators with electric wire.

f.   Control. During periods in which the civilian administration is not functioning, refugees will be traveling routinely throughout the area. All soldiers participating in these operations must fully understand the procedures for appropriately identifying personnel and for controlling personnel and vehicles moving through their AO.

(1)   Personnel Identification. People who have permission to enter a sector are regulated by special instructions to the patrol conducting the operation. Often local and civilian employees, mayors, and chiefs of tribes in villages in the AO are given special identification (ID) cards and may pass without being checked. These special ID cards must be registered. The primary reasons for checking people will be for identification and to prevent illegal items being brought into the AO through the checkpoint. Personnel must identify themselves with an ID card, passport, and so on. Such ID cards are written in the local language. Examples of different ID cards must be kept in the checkpoint.

(2)   Personnel Control. Personnel control is conducted in different ways. Soldiers manning the checkpoint should watch for people acting strangely or with bulging clothing. If there is a danger of car bombs, special attention should be paid to cars containing only one person. When conducting body searches, soldiers should feel along clothes and not just pat them. Special attention must be paid to the lower parts of the back and from the shoes up to the knees. Armpits also must be checked. The wide trousers used by some cultures should be carefully examined. Soldiers also should check boots and hats.

(3)   Checking Women and Clerical Personnel. Making a body search of women and clerical personnel is often difficult in Moslem countries and may lead to strong reactions. The commander must thoroughly discuss this with mayors and other leaders, and the procedure used must be consistent with agreements and treaties. Women usually are only checked with a metal detector. Elderly women often may remain in the vehicle during inspection of a car. If there is a suspicion that the "rules" are being misused, then other and better checks must be made. The battalion commander makes these decisions.

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