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Light forces deploy worldwide to conduct combat operations in low- and mid-intensity conflicts and to accomplish other missions as the National Command Authority may direct. When properly augmented, light forces can operate for limited periods in high-intensity conflicts.

NOTE: The low-intensity conflict is discussed in
detail in Appendix A.


Light forces are composed primarily of foot-mobile fighters. They are organized, equipped, and trained to capitalize on the capabilities of dismounted infantry. They can negotiate all types of terrain and operate in all geographic regions. They can adapt quickly to various modes of transportation; when necessary units are provided additional ground or airlift transportation to ensure tactical mobility. Brigades and battalions are fully prepared to engage independently in small-unit actions and to operate at considerable distances from their parent headquarters. Like other forces, light forces employ artillery, mortars, tactical air (TACAIR), Army aviation, naval gunfire, and reconnaissance assets in support of the tactical operations plan. Airborne, air assault, ranger, and amphibious units have unique capabilities beyond those normally associated with light forces. Some unique capabilities are addressed in Appendix B. For additional capabilities and associated fire support considerations, consult appropriate tactical manuals.

Significant Features

Significant features of light forces are as follows:

  • Small organization of approximately 10,000 personnel per light infantry division.

  • Entire organization and its equipment deployable by air in C-141 aircraft.

  • Extremely high ratio of combat to combat service support (CSS).

  • Combat support (CS) and CSS units not redundant; designed to provide minimum essential support.

  • Commonality in organizational vehicles and equipment.

  • Designed to rapidly receive and integrate augmentation forces and to support as dictated by mission, enemy, terrain and weather, and troops and time available (METT-T).



The fire support system supporting the light forces is the collective body of target acquisition and battlefield surveillance assets; attack systems (both lethal and nonlethal) and munitions; command and control systems and facilities; technical support (such as meteorological [met] and survey); and the personnel required to provide and manage fire support. Fire support assets are described in Appendix C.

Target Acquisition

Target acquisition assets are the target-producing eyes and ears of the system. They gather targeting information and targets by using all available means. These means include, but are not limited to, observers, radars, intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) assets, Army aviators, and frontline troops.

Attack Systems

The attack could be lethal or nonlethal, as in the case of electronic jamming. Each maneuver commander is provided or allocated an indirect fire system to influence his portion of the battlefield. The company commander has an organic 60-mm mortar section; the battalion commander has an organic 81-mm mortar platoon. When the maneuver brigade is committed to battle, the brigade commander generally will be allocated a direct support artillery battalion. Other assets that may be provided to the maneuver force include Army attack helicopters, TACAIR support, naval gunfire (NGF), and IEW. Air defense and engineer assets may also become important components of the fire support system.

Command and Control

These are the elements that make the system work. They translate the commander's concepts and desires into the technical and tactical actions needed to attack targets quickly and effectively.

Technical Support

Met and survey support is that technical part of the fire support system that ensures accurate unobserved fires, transfer of target data and effective massed fires.

Fire Support Planning
and Coordination

Fire support planning is the continuous process of acquiring and analyzing targets, allocating fire support to targets, scheduling the attack of targets, and synchronizing all available fire support to achieve the commander's intent and to support the scheme of maneuver.

Fire support coordination is the process of executing the fire support plan. It too is continuous and runs concurrently with the planning process during combat operations.


Role of the Direct Support Field
Artillery Battalion Commander

The direct support (DS) field artillery (FA) battalion commander is the fire support coordinator (FSCOORD) for the supported brigade. As such, he is specifically responsible for fire support planning and coordination for the maneuver brigade. He brings, as his unique contribution to battle, his professional assessment of the current and near-term capabilities of his unit and of other fire support assets supporting the force. His duty location at any given time is where he can best execute the maneuver commander's intent for fire support. In addition to being personally in charge of fire support coordination for the brigade, the direct support FA battalion commander is responsible for--

  • Training all personnel involved in fire support to perform successfully all stated and implied missions and tasks associated with providing fire support to a maneuver force.

  • Continuously articulating his assessment of the current and future capabilities and the status of all fire support assets supporting the maneuver force. The FSCOORD may base his assessment on reports or on personal observation.

  • Providing a knowledgeable, experienced officer as the brigade fire support officer. The FSCOORD also must establish a special mentor relationship with this officer, since the FSO, in the absence of the FSCOORD, personally represents him to the brigade commander. More than any other officer, the FSO must understand the FSCOORD's intent in supporting the maneuver plan. In addition, the FSCOORD must ensure that his brigade FSO is equally conversant on the FSCOORD's assessment of fire support assets supporting the maneuver force.

  • Commanding his battalion. As the commander of the primary unit providing fire support to the force, the FSCOORD is responsible for the operational status of his unit, its morale and response to critical personnel shortages, and its current and future logistic capabilities to support the maneuver force.

NOTE: See FM 6-20-1 for additional discussion
on the responsibilities of the direct support FA
battalion commander.

Fire Support Team Organization

Fire support team (FIST) personnel for light forces are as shown below.

Company Fire Support
Officer Duties

The company FSO is the maneuver company FSCOORD. He integrates all fires to support the company commander's scheme of maneuver. Although the FO is the primary shooter for the company, the FSO must be an expert at locating targets and adjusting fires. His duties are to--

  • Plan, coordinate, and execute fire support.

  • Advise the company commander on fire support matters.

  • Keep key personnel informed of pertinent information (by spot reports and situation reports [SITREPs])

  • Train the FIST and FOs in applicable fire support matters.

  • Request, adjust, and direct all types of fire support.

  • Ensure that the fire support plan and/or support execution matrix is prepared and disseminated to key personnel.

  • Advise the company commander on positioning and use of company mortars.

  • Allocate FOs and other observers to maintain surveillance of target and named areas of interest.

  • Provide emergency control of close air support (CAS) missions in the absence of qualified Air Force personnel (air liaison officer [ALO],. enlisted terminal attack controller [ETAC], and/or airborne air controller [AFAC]).

Company Fire Support
Sergeant Duties

The company fire support sergeant is the senior enlisted assistant to the company FSO. The fire support sergeant acts as the company FSO in his absence. He is responsible for training all enlisted members assigned to the team. He supervises the maintenance of all equipment assigned to the section. The company fire support sergeant must be able to perform all duties of his FSO.

Company Fire Support Officer
Working Relationships

The company FSO interacts and coordinates with other personnel as discussed below.

Maneuver Commander

The company FSO is the unit FSCOORD. He works with the company commander during combat operations to successfully accomplish all company-level fire support tasks. (Fire support tasks are summarized in Appendix D.) The maneuver commander is responsible for integrating fire support and maneuver. The company FSO gives recommendations and advice to the commander on all fire support matters; therefore, he is the maneuver unit fire support expert. Final decisions regarding company fire support are made by the company commander. The company FSO must work closely with the company commander and will go with him to receive plans and orders. The FSO must understand the scheme of maneuver as well as the company commander does. On the basis of the commander's guidance, the FSO devises his fire support plan, which must be presented to the commander for his approval. (See Appendix E.)

Battalion Fire Support Officer

The company FSO reports to the battalion FSO with regard to coordination of the company fire support plan and its integration into the battalion fire support plan. Also, he is responsible to the battalion FSO for the operations and readiness of organic FIST personnel and equipment. The company FSO provides updated friendly and enemy battlefield information to the battalion FSO. This information includes forward line of own troops (FLOT) location, situation reports, spot reports, and other essential elements of friendly information (EEFI) and priority intelligence requirements (PIR). The battalion FSO is responsible for supervision and training of the company FSO.

Fire Support Team Headquarters

The company FSO is responsible for leading his team and supervising its training in all aspects of fire support. The primary trainer of the FIST personnel is the fire support sergeant. In addition, the company FSO ensures his team is fully equipped and that the equipment is fully operational. In light infantry organizations, most operations are conducted on foot (the force may be inserted by aircraft but will conduct operations on foot). Therefore, the company FSO can easily collocate with the company commander. In this case, the company FIST headquarters (HQ) becomes a part of the maneuver company headquarters. Most maneuver company HQ have an SOP delineating how the company HQ will locate, move, and provide security in tactical operations. It is very important that all members of the company FIST know and comply with the SOP.

Forward Observers

The FOs are the primary shooters for the company and are normally collocated with the maneuver platoon leaders. The company FSO is responsible for training the FOs to call for fire efficiently. He must give enough information to the FOs to ensure they understand how the fire support plan is to be integrated into the commander's scheme of maneuver. This information includes--

  • Target numbers.

  • Target lists. (See Appendix F.)

  • Known points.

  • Fire support coordinating measures. (See Appendix G.)

  • Priority of fires.

  • Degree of control.

  • Commander's intent.

As the eyes and ears of the company, the FOs must report battlefield information to the company FSO. This information includes FLOT location, SITREPs, and spot reports.

Company Fire Support Officer
and/or Fire Support Sergeant
Required Actions

The actions the company FSO must take before any operation begins depend primarily on the current situation and the applicable SOP. The FIST will deploy with the maneuver company on all combat operations.

To prepare for operation, the company FSO must--

  • Train the FOs.

  • Train the company personnel to call for and adjust fires.

  • Ensure all equipment is properly maintained.

  • Ensure that the FIST personnel know the company tactical SOP (TSOP).

As the company FSCOORD, the FSO should--

  • Obtain a mission briefing from the company commander, to include the following:

    • Scheme of maneuver and/or commander's intent.

    • Locations of platoons, crew-served weapons, mortars, listening posts (LPs), and observation posts (OPs).

    • Current enemy situation.

    • Company strength (equipment and personnel).

    • Status and location of obstacles.

    • Location of final protective fires (FPFs) and other priority targets.

    • Mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) level and air defense status.

  • Provide the company commander with the following information:

    • Status of FIST personnel and equipment (include Classes I and V).

    • Fire support assets available and ammunition status for each system (such as percentage of basic load or fire missions available for each system).

    • Fire support plan for the operation.

  • Obtain the following information from the battalion FSO:

    • Status and location of fire support delivery systems available to the company.

    • Existing targets, scheduled fires, known points, high-payoff targets, and priority of target attack.

    • Current and planned fire support coordinating measures.

    • Verified frequencies and call signs.

    • Status of available combat observation/lasing teams (COLTs).

    • FA task organization.

    • Army aviation available.

    • Status of TACAIR missions and tactical air control party (TACP) CAS control personnel (ALO, ETAC, and/or AFAC).

    • Naval gunfire available.

  • Provide the FO parties with the following:

    • Mission briefing (if they have not already received it).

    • Existing targets, scheduled fires, registration points, high-payoff targets, and priority of target attack.

    • Fire support coordinating measures in effect.

    • Status and location of fire support delivery systems.

    • Verified frequencies and call signs.

    • Status of priority fires.

  • Establish communications with the following (see Appendix H):

    • Fire support assets (such as artillery and mortars).

    • FOs, including COLTs, if any.

    • Battalion FSO.

Battalion Fire Support Organization

The battalion FSO is the FSCOORD at maneuver battalion. He is in charge of the fire support element (FSE) and is the principal fire support advisor to the maneuver commander. The FSE is located with the operations element of the maneuver force.

When added to the FSE to perform their fire support functions, other representatives comprise a functional fire support cell (FS cell) to enhance and speed fire support coordination. These representatives may include the following:

  • S3 air.

  • Mortar platoon leader.

  • Battalion chemical officer.

  • Tactical air control party.

  • Supporting arms liaison team (SALT)

  • Other liaison officers (allied forces or Army aviation representatives).

Battalion Fire Support
Officer Duties

The battalion FSO's primary duty is to plan, coordinate, and execute fires to support the commander's scheme of maneuver. His duties include--

  • Advising the maneuver commander and his staff on fire support matters.

  • Keeping key personnel (maneuver battalion commander, brigade FSO, DS battalion command post [CP], and so forth) informed of pertinent information (such as battlefield intelligence).

  • Supervising all functions of the battalion FS cell.

  • Training the company FSOs.

  • Preparing and disseminating the fire plan and/or fire support execution matrix.

  • Coordinating with the TACP on TACAIR missions and CAS control personnel (ALO, ETAC, and/or AFAC).

Battalion Fire Support
Sergeant Duties

The battalion fire support sergeant is the senior enlisted assistant to the battalion FSO. The fire support sergeant acts as the FSO in his absence. He is responsible for the training of enlisted personnel of the battalion FSE and three maneuver FISTS. He advises the FSO on the FIST fire support sergeants' performance of NCO related duties. He supervises the maintenance of all equipment assigned to these sections. The battalion fire support sergeant must be able to perform all the duties of his FSO.

Battalion Fire Support Officer
Working Relationships

The battalion FSO interacts and coordinates personnel as discussed below.

Maneuver Commander

The battalion FSO is the commander's fire support expert. The maneuver commander--

  • States his intentions through his concept of the operation as well as his commander's intent.

  • Specifies priority of fires, including allocation of FPFs.

  • Specifies fire support coordinating measures required.

  • Specifies special munitions required (smoke, illumination, lethal chemical, riot control agents, family of scatterable mines [FASCAM]). (See Appendix I.)

Maneuver Battalion S3

The S3 integrates fire support into the scheme of maneuver in accordance with the commander's guidance. The S3--

  • Develops the commander's intent into a scheme of maneuver or plan for the defense.

  • Establishes boundaries for subordinate units and other maneuver control measures (phase lines, passage points, checkpoints).

  • Answers questions and elaborates on commander's guidance concerning priority of fires, special munitions, use of TACAIR, employment of attached COLTS (see Appendix J), assignment of FPFs, employment of mortars, and/or any other areas involving fire support planning and coordination.

Brigade Fire Support Officer

The brigade FSO is responsible for planning and coordinating all fire support for maneuver operations. He--

  • Disseminates fire support guidance as it applies to the battalion FSO (such as preplanned CAS missions, availability of immediate CAS, additional fire support assets, and target lists).

  • Disseminates the pulse repetition frequency (PRF) codes for laser designators.

  • Recommends fire support coordinating measures.

  • Writes and disseminates the brigade fire support plan.

  • Trains battalion FSOs.

Maneuver Battalion S3 Air

The battalion S3 air --

  • Works closely with the FSO to prioritize CAS requests.

  • Integrates TACAIR support into the commander's scheme of maneuver.

  • Forwards preplanned and immediate TACAIR requests to brigade.

  • Is the point of contact for Army aviation requests.

Maneuver Battalion S2

The battalion S2 constructs a reconnaissance and surveillance plan for the maneuver commander. He also conducts intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB).

Maneuver Battalion Signal Officer

The maneuver battalion signal officer (BSO) is a signal officer on the special staff. The BSO--

  • Advises the commander and/or S3 on all communications and electronics matters including positioning command and control elements.

  • Is the FSO's point of contact for signal operation instructions (SOI) issue during operations and for communications troubleshooting.

  • Is responsible for repair, turn-in, and exchange of communications equipment of attached fire support assets. Coordinates for batteries and communications supplies.

  • Has a retransmission capability that permits radio communications on one net over a greater distance.

Task Force Engineer

The engineer coordinates the location and target numbering of all obstacles to support the scheme of maneuver. The FSO logs and reports all nominations for field artillery delivered FASCAM to the brigade FSO and DS battalion CP according to SOP and availability of augmenting artillery.

Direct Support Field Artillery
Battalion Command Post

The field artillery battalion CP may coordinate with the battalion FSO during quick fire planning.

Maneuver Chemical Officer

When brigade has asked for nomination of chemical targets for friendly attack, the FSO coordinates with the chemical officer for the location of contaminated areas and NBC defense measures. The FSO also coordinates with the chemical officer for the use of riot control agents and obscurants.

Mortar Platoon Leader

The battalion FSO gets the following from the mortar platoon leader:

  • Mortar positions and ammunition and tube status.

  • Requests for survey and met support.

Tactical Air Control Party

The tactical air control party--

  • Advises the maneuver commander and his staff on the capabilities, limitations, and use of TACAIR support.

  • Helps process TACAIR requests.

  • Controls CAS sorties supporting the battalion.

  • Gives the battalion FSO TACAIR information and characteristics.

Supporting Arms Liaison Team

The supporting arms liaison team--

  • Provides capabilities and employment considerations of naval gunfire and Navy and Marine air.

  • Monitors firepower control team requests for fire support.

Company Fire Support Officers

The company FSOs work for the battalion FSO.

The battalion FSO provides guidance, battlefield intelligence, information on fire support assets, fire support coordinating measures, and technical advice to the company FSOs. Company FSOs send target lists, FLOT locations, SITREPSs spot reports, and other PIR to the battalion fire support element.

Requests for fires from the FISTS or observers may be sent directly to the field artillery over the FA fire direction (FD) net, or they may be sent through the battalion FSO. The method used depends on the fire support assets available, situation, equipment on hand, and so forth. Also, requests for mortars may be handled in the same manner.

Brigade Fire Support Organization

The brigade fire support element is organized with personnel as shown below.

When added to the FSE to perform their fire support functions, other representatives comprise a functional FS cell to enhance and speed fire support coordination. These representatives may include the following:

  • ALO for matters concerning the coordination and employment of Air Force assets in support of the brigade.

  • Naval gunfire liaison officer (NGLO) for matters concerning the coordination and employment of naval gunfire and naval air in support of the brigade.

  • Brigade chemical officer for matters concerning chemical agents, riot control agents, obscurants, aerosol agents, and employment of NBC defense.

  • S3 air as a maneuver assistant S3 and to coordinate the employment of TACAIR and Army aviation with the FSO, ALO, and air defense platoon leader.

  • Other representatives as required, such as liaison officers of allied forces supporting the operation or an Army aviation liaison officer when Army aviation is used as a fire support asset.

In addition to the staff officers discussed above and at battalion level, other staff members who may be in the brigade tactical CP are--

  • The air defense (AD) platoon leader, who manages the air defense assets in support of the brigade. He should have valuable information on the location of enemy air defense targets, airspace coordination, and the enemy air situation.

  • The engineer company commander, whose assets may be in direct support of the maneuver brigade. Coordinate with him on the coverage of obstacles, the use of FASCAM, and general battlefield mobility and countermobility.

  • The IEW representative from the divisional combat electronic warfare intelligence (CEWI) assets. He controls and supervises the IEW assets that may be in support of the brigade. He can provide targets and information and is the tie-in for the offensive use of jamming. The FSO needs a working knowledge of the IEW assets available from this source to effectively coordinate their use in the attack of targets.

Brigade Fire Support Officer Duties

The DS artillery battalion commander (FSCOORD) cannot be at the brigade headquarters continually. The brigade FSO serves as a full-time liaison between the DS FA battalion and the maneuver brigade. He helps the maneuver brigade S3 integrate fire support into the maneuver commander's scheme of operation. Assisting the FSO are the other staff officers who make up the FS cell. The duties of the brigade FSO are as follows:

  • Be responsible to the DS battalion commander to train subordinates in all facets of their duties.

  • Keep the brigade commander informed of available fire support assets, their capabilities and limitations, and their tactical missions.

  • Keep the brigade commander informed of enemy indirect fire capabilities and limitations.

  • Help the brigade commander develop his estimate of the situation and war-game possible courses of action, resulting in the creation of the decision support template.

  • Develop the brigade fire support plan and/or fire support execution matrix; brief the commander and get his approval of the plan and/or matrix; and disseminate the approved plan and/or matrix to the DS artillery battalion, the battalion FSOs, the division FSE, and the division artillery (div arty) CP.

  • Ensure battalion FSOs plan fires in accordance with the commander's guidance.

  • Consolidate target lists from the battalion FSOs, and resolve duplications.

  • Coordinate requests for additional fire support from battalion FSOs when the fire support means available at company or battalion level are inadequate.

  • Recommend fire support coordinating measures.

  • Coordinate with the ALO in the brigade use of TACAIR assets.

Brigade Plans/Targeting
Officer Duties

The plans/targeting officer acts as the FSO in the absence of the FSO. Also, he interfaces with the brigade S2 and helps him and the FSO by providing information regarding the vulnerabilities of targets. He advises the brigade S2 regarding specific requirements for accuracy of target location assurance and level of target description, and duration the target may be considered viable for attack by fire support systems. His duties are as follows:

  • Help the brigade S2 write the target acquisition and surveillance plan.

  • Help provide staff supervision of the target acquisition (TA) assets attached organic, and under operational control (OPCON) of the brigade.

  • Develop, recommend to the commander, and disseminate the attack guidance matrix to the division FS cell, DS artillery battalion CP, and subordinate elements; recommend changes in attack guidance. (See Appendix K.)

  • Determine, recommend, and process time-sensitive high-payoff targets to the fire support element.

  • Coordinate with the maneuver brigade S2 for target acquisition coverage and processing of brigade high-payoff targets.

  • With the brigade S2, produce target selection standards matrix for TA assets working for the brigade.

Brigade Fire Support
Sergeant Duties

The brigade fire support sergeant is the senior enlisted assistant to the brigade FSO. He may act as shift leader in the FSE. He is responsible for the enlisted training of three maneuver battalion FSEs, nine maneuver FISTS, and assigned COLTS. He supervises the maintenance of all equipment assigned to these sections. The brigade fire support sergeant must be able to perform all the duties of his FSO.

Brigade Fire Support Officer
Working Relationships

The brigade FSO interacts and coordinates with personnel as discussed below.

Maneuver Brigade Commander and/or S3

The maneuver commander is the person responsible for the operation. The maneuver S3 is detailed responsibility for the integration of fire support into the operation.

Direct Support Battalion Commander

The DS battalion commander is the brigade FSCOORD. He is accountable to the maneuver brigade commander for the quality of fire support provided the maneuver brigade. He helps the maneuver S3 integrate fire support into the combined arms operation. He is responsible for the training of all fire support personnel supporting the brigade.

Division Fire Support Cell

The division FS cell is the next higher link in the fire support chain. The division FS cell provides guidance to the brigade FS cell, and both FS cells exchange fire support planning and coordination information.

Battalion Fire
Support Officers

The brigade FSO is responsible for the technical supervision of the battalion FSOs. He ensures that they properly develop and execute their fire support plan.

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