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FM 71-3
The Armored and Mechanized Infantry Brigade


Other tactical operations encompass a wide range of special purpose operations undertaken routinely during offensive and defensive operations. While not the main focus, these other tactical operations must be synchronized.

Section I. Linkup Operations
Section II. Relief in Place
Section III. Passage of Lines
Section IV. Retrograde Operations
Section V. Breakout from Encirclement
Section VI. Rear Operations
Section VII. River Crossing
Section VIII. Approach March



Linkup operations to join two or more friendly forces are conducted to:

  • Complete the encirclement of an enemy force.
  • Assist breakout of an encircled friendly force.
  • Join an attacking force with a force operating in the enemy's rear area.


Regardless of the purpose of the linkup, in execution, the operation takes on one of two forms:

  • Linkup of a moving force and a stationary force.
  • Linkup of two moving forces.

Linkup of a Moving Force with a Stationary Force

To ensure the forces join without engaging one another, linkup points are selected at locations where the axis of advance of the linkup force intersects the security elements of the stationary force (see Figure 6-1). These points must be readily recognizable to both forces. Alternate points are chosen in the event enemy activities cause linkup at places other than those planned. The number of linkup points selected depends on the terrain and number of routes used by the linkup force. Personnel in the linkup force must be thoroughly familiar with mutual identification procedures and plans for rapid passage of lines. Stationary forces assist in the linkup; they open lanes in minefields, breach or remove selected obstacles, furnish guides, and design assembly areas. Use of a common radio frequency enhances coordination and responsiveness between executing forces.

Linkup of Two Moving Units

Linkup between two moving units is one of the most difficult operations (see Figure 6-2). It is normally conducted to complete the encirclement of an enemy force. Primary and alternate linkup points for two moving forces are established on boundaries where the two forces are expected to converge. As linking units move closer, positive control must be coordinated to ensure they avoid firing on one another and to ensure the enemy does not escape between the two forces. Leading elements of each force should monitor a common radio net.

Actions Following Linkup

When the linkup is made, the linkup force may join the stationary force or may pass through or around to continue the attack. If the linkup force is to continue operations with the stationary force, a single commander for the overall force should be designated. Plans for these operations must be made in advance. If the linkup is made under conditions of nuclear warfare, objectives for the linkup must provide for dispersion in relation to the stationary force. The linkup force may immediately pass through the perimeter of the stationary forces, be assigned objectives within the perimeter, or be assigned objectives outside the perimeter, depending on its mission.

When a brigade directs a linkup operation, it normally establishes a restrictive fire line (RFL) for both forces. RFLs are adjusted as one force moves toward the other until one RFL is established between the forces when necessary, usually at the point where the two forces plan to establish contact.


The linkup is a complex operation requiring detailed planning and coordination. The following paragraphs describe the importance of planning the linkup.

Plans for a linkup are coordinated as far in advance as possible. The two forces carefully define and coordinate their schemes of maneuver with particular attention given to graphic control measures and the subsequent mission to be performed by each force after linkup is complete. Alternate linkup points are planned to provide needed flexibility.

  • Liaison is normally established during planning and continues throughout the operation. As the distance closes between the forces, the requirement to maintain close liaison increases. Use of aircraft can improve and expedite this coordination.
  • Linkup operations frequently require a passage of lines. Once through the friendly lines, the brigade moves out as in an exploitation to effect the linkup. The action is characterized by speed, aggressiveness, and boldness. Enemy forces that threaten the successful accomplishment of the mission are destroyed. Others are bypassed and reported. If possible, the linkup force avoids interference with its mission and concentrates its efforts on completing the linkup. (For a complete discussion of passages of lines, see Section III of this chapter.)

The headquarters directing the linkup operation must establish command relationships and responsibilities of the forces involved. Both the linkup force and the force with which linkup is to be made can remain under control of the directing headquarters.

The communication plan includes the channels for radio communication between the two forces. It must prescribe day and night identification procedures, including primary and alternate means. Aircraft can be used to extend communications range. Visual signals such as flares or panels may be used during daylight, and flashlights or infrared devices may be employed during darkness.

To prevent friendly troops from exchanging fires, recognition signals must be established. They may be pyrotechnics, arm bands, vehicle markings, panels, colored smoke, distinctive light patterns, and passwords.

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

  • Distance to the objective area.
  • Time the objective area is to be held.
  • Planned operations or movement out of the objective area.
  • Resupply of the stationary unit.
  • Movement of support assets of airborne or air assault units involved in the linkup.
  • Whether brigade LOC will be secured by follow-on units.

Supply requirements for a linkup operation may exceed the transportation capability of the brigade. The brigade may have to request additional vehicles or resupply by air.

In linkup operations with airborne and air assault units, priority for supply by air is given to the units assaulting the objective area. Supplies for the linkup forces normally move by land transportation. However, when the objective area is to be defended jointly by the linkup and airborne or air assault force, supplies for the linkup force may be flown into the objective area and stockpiled.

Evacuation of equipment and EPWs may create major problems for the linkup force. If supply routes are open, the normal evacuation procedures apply. When ground routes are not secure, helicopters may be used for evacuation of wounded while damaged equipment may be moved forward with the linkup forces until a suitable opportunity for evacuation is available.


Due to the time-sensitive nature of the operation, the commander issues his order and attempts to at least walk the battalion task force commanders through the operation. He particularly stresses the linkup and the coordination required to effect the linkup without confusion. Moreover, he ensures that each battalion commander is prepared to respond to an enemy meeting engagement or attack coincidental to the linkup. The brigade commander's major concern is that his subordinate commanders do not lose sight of their objective - the linkup.

The brigade FSCOORD ensures that the counterpart force in the linkup operation, whether moving or stationary, has the FS plan. Specifically, he ensures all FSCMs are completely understood by both forces. Further, if these control measures are moved during the operation, the conditions and signals under which the change takes place must also be coordinated.

The trains organize as for any offensive operation; however, as mentioned earlier, they carry additional supplies and materiel if the force with which they are conducting the linkup has been encircled. Generally, this includes Classes I, III, V, and VIII items. The brigade S4 also ensures that each battalion task force understands the MSR and alternate MSR plan, to include traffic control. In particular, he pushes as much materiel forward as possible during the operation. This is because the brigade will expend resources during the attack and any other mission that may occur after the actual linkup.


The initial conduct of the linkup is identical to a movement to contact or deliberate attack, depending on the enemy situation. As the brigade begins its maneuver, it attempts to establish and maintain contact with its corresponding friendly force. Each force monitors the progress of the other, making adjustments to the plan as necessary. For example, if the linkup force is unable to travel at a speed commensurate with the plan, yet the breakout force is making a very rapid advance, the location of the linkup point may be moved closer to the linkup force. Similarly, the FSCM is also moved.

As the two forces draw closer, the battalion task forces are advised by the brigade. If possible, the battalion task forces in turn also attempt to establish contact on a predesignated frequency to control the actual linkup. At this point, the momentum of the operation slows to help prevent fratricide. The tradeoff may be that some enemy forces may slip between the two closing forces. Coordination signals are then used to identify each force as they approach the linkup point.

FSCMs are changed or emplaced based on the progress of the forces and the enemy situation. Specifically, the CFLs are cancelled. An RFL is also placed into effect to prevent fratricide between the converging forces. Once the linkup has occurred, the FS for the brigade and its linkup force is organized as per the higher headquarters plan for future operations.

The commander positions himself to observe the progress of the operation. Generally, this means that he follows the lead battalion task force. If a particular flank is of concern during the operation or a supporting attack is required to penetrate the enemy's lines, then the brigade S3 places himself where he can observe the brigade's secondary action. The commander and S3 must remain in communication throughout the battle, using the main CP, if necessary, to relay messages. In particular, the commander must maintain the tempo of the operation, because once the force becomes stalled, it is very difficult to get it moving again. Therefore, he must have the ability to move forward from time to time to spur on his lead element.

The commander also monitors the action to ensure control measures that he established in planning the operation are still valid. He issues a FRAGO for changes as necessary. He attempts to remain in communication with his counterpart commander throughout the operation.



A relief in place is an operation in which a unit is replaced in combat by another unit. The responsibilities for the combat mission and the assigned sector or zone of action of the replaced unit are assumed by the incoming unit. A relief in place may be conducted during offensive or defensive operations and during various combat and OOTWs and during all weather and light conditions. The primary purpose for a relief in place is to maintain the combat effectiveness of committed elements and should be conducted during a lull in combat if possible. A relief in place may be conducted to:

  • Introduce a new unit into combat.
  • Reconstitute a unit.
  • Allow a unit to rest.
  • Decontaminate a unit.
  • Change the mission of a unit.
  • Replace a peace enforcement unit with a peacekeeping unit.


Considerations for a relief in place are

  • Units are normally relieved at night or during periods of limited visibility.
  • Detailed prior reconnaissance by the incoming unit is essential.
  • The incoming unit must fit into and accept the general defense plan of the outgoing unit until passage of command.
  • Normal patterns of activity should be maintained.
  • CS and CSS units normally should not be relieved at the same time as the units they support.

When a unit relieves another unit in place, the WO to the incoming unit must specify, as a minimum, the time for commencing and completing the relief and the priorities for use of routes involved. The two units conducting the relief must agree on procedures for accomplishing the items listed in the following paragraphs.

Exchange of Plans and Liaison Personnel

The incoming brigade commander and staff must be briefed and become thoroughly familiar with existing defensive plans. The outgoing brigade leaves liaison personnel with the incoming brigade. These personnel usually remain until the incoming units become familiar with the situation.

Sequence of Relief

The relief in place is executed by stages, either rear to front or front to rear. In determining the sequence of the relief, both commanders should consider the

  • Subsequent mission of the brigade conducting the relief.
  • Strength and combat efficiency of the brigade presently in place.
  • Capability of the enemy to detect and react against the relief.
  • Characteristics of the AO.

Passage of Command

The time or circumstances under which the incoming commander assumes responsibility for the area must be clearly established by both commanders. During the relief, the outgoing commander retains responsibility for the area and mission and exercises OPCON over all subordinate elements of the incoming brigade that have completed their portion of the relief. Responsibility passes to the incoming commander when all the battalions in the forward defense area have been relieved and adequate communications have been established.


Commanders and staff officers of all echelons of the incoming brigade conduct a thorough daylight reconnaissance.

A relieving unit reconnaissance element should include the brigade commander, the S3, S2, an LO, the FSO, battalion commanders, the S1/S4 party, and at least a tank or mechanized platoon for a security force. The relieved force commander should initially select at least two routes and contact points for the incoming unit. The incoming unit's reconnaissance and liaison element with the TOC and trains must move to the relieved unit's location immediately upon receiving the order from higher headquarters.


All echelons of the incoming and outgoing units must prevent the enemy from learning that a relief is taking place. In addition to conducting the relief during periods of reduced visibility, the following security measures should be taken:

  • Restrictions on the size of advance parties and reconnaissance parties must be enforced.
  • Communications during the relief are conducted on the command frequency of the outgoing unit until the relief is complete.
  • OPSEC is maintained throughout the operation.

Movement Control

Arrangements must be made between the incoming and outgoing units for control of units moving into and out of the area. Coordination must include:

  • Routes to be used and priorities for their use.
  • Responsibility for traffic control.
  • Location of assembly areas.
  • Common use of transportation, if necessary.

If terrain and road network allow, relieving and relieved units should be assigned separate routes and assembly areas to reduce congestion and to minimize massing of combat power. See Figure 6-3 for relief in place overlay techniques.

The method of relieving FS units must be clearly established by the two FSCOORDs. Normally, the FS units of the outgoing unit remain in position until the units in the forward defense have been relieved. By using this procedure, FS units that are familiar with the FS plans and the area are in position to fire during the critical period of the relief of forward units. Once FS plans are passed and coordinated, OPCON is not transferred until the maneuver unit is in place and has control.

Similar to a linkup operation, units coordinate information on obstacle intelligence and other engineer related intelligence. The brigade engineer becomes familiar with the existing defensive plans and considers making adjustments based on the subsequent mission. He makes plans to conduct a reconnaissance of the area and confirm the location, status, and integration of tactical obstacles.

In addition to conducting the relief of air defense assets in sector, the primary mission of ADA units is to provide increased coverage over all primary relief routes in sector. These tasks are accomplished jointly, and actual relief of ADA units is not scheduled until the relief of all maneuver units has been accomplished.

CSS relief is just as complicated as the tactical relief and requires the same degree of detailed planning; however, CSS relief probably occurs before the combat units execute to allow the relieved unit's FSB an opportunity to establish operations in preparation for the relieved unit's recovery. Therefore, the same considerations and operations apply to the brigade's CSS.

Rear CPs and FSB CPs of each unit collocate as do the CPs for each battalion's field trains. Some supplies are transferred to the relieving FSB (such as ATP stocks [main gun ammunition], engineer materiel, and possibly Class I [T-rations]). The factors of METT-T are examined to determine if the relieving FSB can occupy an adjacent position or must use the existing support locations. Separate routes are coordinated by the relieving and relieved units to avoid two-way traffic


A relief is executed in stages to ensure the most effective defense during the relief. As an example, reserves may be relieved first, followed by relief of forward elements. Normally, when minimum forces are employed on the FLOT, the relief is conducted from rear to front; when maximum forces are employed on the FLOT, the relief is conducted from front to rear. In determining the sequence of the relief, commanders should also consider:

  • Strength and condition of elements in the relief.
  • Subsequent missions of relieved and relieving units.
  • The enemy situation and the capability of the enemy to detect and react against the relief.
  • Characteristics of the AO.
  • The need to vary the pattern of relief.

When sequence of relief has been determined, the commander then selects the method of relief for forward units. His choices include:

  • Relief of the first of two forward task forces, to be completed before relief of the third task force, begins when two task forces are employed forward.
  • Relief of two flank task forces simultaneously followed by the center task force when three task forces are employed forward.
  • Relief of the center task force followed by the simultaneous relief of the flank task forces when three task forces are employed forward.
  • Relief of all forward task forces simultaneously.

In analyzing these methods, the commander should consider:

  • The enemy situation and capability of the enemy to detect and react against the relief.
  • The characteristics of the AO.
  • The time available for accomplishing the relief.
  • The acceptable degree of concentration of forces.

Generally, simultaneous relief of all elements is the fastest option; however, it is also the least secure and the most difficult to control. Sequential reliefs involve only one element at a time; they are the slowest and most secure method and also the easiest to control. When relieving an element in a hide position, the incoming unit should occupy an adjacent position, if possible.

Because of the difficulty in accurately laying weapons at night, commanders of the incoming and outgoing units arrange for the mutual exchange of crew-served weapons that cannot be easily moved or that can, when necessary, ensure the effective delivery of fires. The exchange is on a weapon-for-weapon basis. The authority for this exchange is included in the relief order of the next higher commander.

Intelligence and obstacle overlays are posted and disseminated. Further exchange of target folders, status of obstacles, emplacement of conventional and scatterable minefields, and reports of enemy minefield emplacement must be accomplished.

Figure 6-4 depicts radio nets employed during the relief.


During the relief, commanders at each echelon are together at the CP or OP of the outgoing unit. The incoming unit commander assumes responsibility for the defense when the majority of his unit is in position (or as agreed upon by the two brigade commanders) and command and control systems are established, at a time previously designated by the next higher commander. All units in position, regardless of their parent organization, come under the OPCON of the present commander if the sector comes under attack.

To limit confusion inherent in a relief and to avoid excessive massing, adjacent teams of task forces are not normally relieved at the same time. Elements of the outgoing battalions leave the area as soon as they are relieved and control is established.

Generally, the brigade does not permit battalions to designate assembly areas for units larger than company size. These company assembly areas are, in turn, separated as much as possible to minimize vulnerability to enemy fires. Delays within assembly areas are avoided by precise planning, timing, and execution.

In the conduct of the relief, mechanized infantry dismounts far enough to the rear to avoid compromising the relief and move forward to effect the relief on foot. The carriers move forward after completion of the relief by dismounted troops. Outgoing mechanized units exfiltrate carriers prior to relief, providing such action does not compromise the relief; otherwise, the carriers of the outgoing units do not move until the relief is completed.

At the brigade level, the relief is managed through the reports of the battalion task forces. Specifically, the main CP monitors the progress of each battalion task force, recording when each battalion has transferred command and when the relief is complete.

During the conduct of the relief, enemy contact is possible. If a relieved or relieving unit gains contact with an enemy force, it immediately notifies the other unit and the higher headquarters directing the relief. If command has not passed, the relieving unit comes under OPCON of the relieved unit, is absorbed into the relieving unit's positions, and continues normal radio traffic.

The brigade FSO monitors both the enemy situation, to which he may be required to respond with indirect fire, and the relief of the artillery units. Generally, FS assets are one of the first elements to collocate and the last to leave. Both relieving units and those being relieved fire in support of the operation. The relieving FA reinforces the fire of the artillery unit being relieved.

The incoming and outgoing engineer commander link up and monitor the handover of reserve targets and other overlays, verifying the status of tactical obstacles. Particularly in the case of lanes through minefields or other obstacles, it is important that the lanes are confirmed to facilitate the passage of reconnaissance forces.

Having already conducted the relief of the BSA, the CSS should be the same as for any defensive operation. With the possibility of enemy contact, the BSA must be prepared to initially support a force that may also include a significant portion of the relieved brigade. It is important for the relieved BSA to leave behind ATP stocks, engineer supplies, and Class I.



The coordinated movement of one or more units through another unit is a passage of lines. A brigade passage of lines is a complex operation requiring detailed coordination, extensive planning, and close supervision between brigades. A passage of lines may be designated as a forward or rearward passage of lines (see Figure 6-5 and Figure 6-6). The primary purpose of a passage of lines is to maintain the movement or maneuver of units. This operation is necessary when the factors of METT-T do not permit one unit the freedom of bypassing another friendly unit and therefore must pass through it. A passage of lines may be conducted to:

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


The division or corps commander is responsible for planning and coordinating a brigade passage of lines. Certain basic considerations must be integrated into the planning process:

  • Plans for the conduct of the passage must facilitate transition to the subsequent missions of both the passing and stationary brigades.
  • Control of the zone or sector passes from one brigade to the other at a time and place directed by the higher common commander or mutually agreed upon by the stationary and passing brigade commanders.
  • The passing brigade moves on multiple routes through the passed brigade and avoids the use of assembly areas. It does not halt within the passed brigades forward positions.
  • Plan deception and smoke at dummy and actual unit locations and PPs.
  • Integrate CS and CSS assets of the stationary brigade into the plan to support the movement of the passing force.
  • Establish stringent graphic control measures to ensure a smooth passage.

One of the most critical aspects of a passage of lines is terrain management. The passing brigade's S3 coordinates with the stationary brigade's S3 to receive information concerning the disposition of friendly forces within the stationary brigade's AO. Unoccupied areas may represent possible locations to station future units of the passing brigade. With the IPB complete and a thorough understanding of the restrictions presented by location of the stationary brigade, the S3 prepares his tentative plan within the parameters established by the brigade commander. The S3 also examines the location of the contact points to determine whether they are compatible with the scheme of maneuver.

Once the contact points have been finalized, the S3 coordinates with the stationary force's S3 to establish the location of the passage lanes. Remember that the physical characteristics and number of the passage lanes determine the speed and disposition of the passing force as it crosses the LD. Therefore, when conducting a forward passage in preparation for a deliberate attack, it may be important to create passage lanes with sufficient width to allow the passing force to move in a tactical formation appropriate to the operation, such as company columns or a platoon wedge.

The brigade FSCOORD and FSO begin by examining the FS plan of the stationary brigade. Direct coordination between the two FSEs is critical. A clear FS battle handover or transfer of control must be identified and approved by the maneuver commander.

As noted earlier, terrain management becomes especially important because of possible requirements to plan space for additional artillery batteries and their support assets. Coordination with the stationary brigade's S3 is especially important to ensure that the artillery positions itself properly to support the attack. If a reinforcing FA unit is involved, it is critical to ensure that they are integrated into the plan.

Mobility and terrain management is a major concern. The passing brigade engineer coordinates with the stationary engineer concerning the following:

  • Threat engineer intelligence.
  • Location and status of tactical obstacles.
  • Location of lanes and bypasses.

The selection of passage lanes should be influenced by the location of friendly obstacles. Some obstacles may have to be reduced to facilitate the movement along designated routes. In this regard, coordination for the opening and closure of lanes must be made at the contact points.

In planning a passage of lines, air defense is absolutely essential. Whether passing forward or to the rear, the moving unit is forced to move slower and often in some type of column formation during the passage. Congestion in assembly areas either before or after the passage and the linear nature of the movement present a lucrative target to hostile aircraft. As a result, air defense must be coordinated with the stationary unit. In many cases, the stationary brigade will be able to protect the passing force, allowing the passing force's supporting air defense assets to move with them. However, if the passing force requires static air defense, the terrain has to be coordinated with the stationary brigade's S3. Coordination should also be made to incorporate the moving force's ADA assets into the stationary force's air defense early warning net.

The CSS plan is an essential part of the passage of lines. CSS assets should be positioned to support the passage. UMCPs and emergency refueling points should be positioned where they can best keep the lane open and vehicles moving. Figure 6-7 shows the CSS plan for a rearward passage of lines.

The collocation of headquarters in preparation for the passage of lines may be accomplished in several ways. The situation and terrain determine, for the most part, which type of collocation is best.


The brigade commander and staff should wargame to ensure he has considered contingencies in the event of enemy contact during the passage of lines. The brigade prepares for the passage of lines by conducting a rehearsal. Generally, forward passages of lines may be incorporated into the offensive maneuver rehearsal. In a rearward passage of lines, however, (particularly following combat) there may not be time to conduct a complete level three rehearsal. In this case, the passage must be "rehearsed" as part of the orders confirmation brief.

The FS plan is rehearsed along with the passage rehearsal. In particular, the FSO must know when he may rely on the supporting fires of those batteries that are supporting the stationary force. The location of each battery in support of the passing brigade should be checked again with the stationary brigade's S3 to avoid any conflict during execution.

The brigade engineer ensures commanders understand the location and description of friendly obstacles along the passage lane. At the rehearsal, he covers lane marking and actions taken at the obstacle crossing. He also discusses the engineer scheme for the follow-on mission.

The air defense plan should be exercised during the passage rehearsal. Specifically, communications between the passing and stationary units should be checked to ensure that both are operating on the air defense early warning net.

The CSS plan should be rehearsed to ensure that the required support assets are properly positioned to assist in the passage. Moreover, the rehearsal should exercise the support system to identify any possible weaknesses in the responsiveness of the support plan. Movement of the BSA and other support assets occur as necessary before actual execution of the passage.

During the rehearsal, the commander ensures that each organization knows when and where to move as well as how to execute the required coordination. The TAC CP or TOC (or other designated headquarters element) collocates with the stationary brigade's main CP and conducts communications checks. Quartering parties from subordinate elements also move in preparation of the rearward passage.


The commander monitors the operation from the initial actions at the contact point to the last element's final passage. The actual coordination at the contact points is handled by the battalion task force. Whether conducting a forward or rearward passage of lines, the key aspect of the passage is when to transfer control of the sector/zone.

Until transfer of responsibility of the zone or sector occurs, all indirect fire missions are coordinated and approved by the FSO who initially controls that area (most likely the stationary force).

The brigade engineer links up with the stationary engineer at the contact point and monitors the passage. He confirms the locations of obstacles and marked lanes or bypasses along passage lanes.

The primary mission of the CSS assets is to ensure unimpeded movement of the passing force. Maintenance assets are on call to remove and repair any vehicle disabled during the movement. Additionally, emergency resupply of POL is on standby to support as required. The stationary unit should provide the bulk of the support at the PP; however, the passing unit must be prepared to augment these assets as required.

The collocation of the TOCs ensures that the necessary information exchange occurs during the passage of lines. In particular, the passing brigade commander positions himself where he can best observe the conduct of the passage while retaining the ability to quickly join the force for future operations.

As each element reaches the contact point, the information is relayed to the collocated headquarters. The location of each element must be closely watched to ensure that delays by passing units do not have a negative impact on other forces. Should the passage occur slower than planned, FRAGOs are issued to the units waiting to pass, simply pushing back their time of execution. Units should remain in their assembly areas until it is time to move, rather than move to the contact point and wait in line.


A battle handover is a coordinated operation between two units that transfers responsibility for fighting an enemy force from one unit to the other. It is executed to sustain continuity of the combined arms fight and protect the combat potential of both forces involved. Battle handover is usually associated with conducting a passage of lines. Battle handover and passage of lines are inherent aspects of transferring responsibility for the battle between commanders while maintaining continuity of the fight.

Battle handover may occur during both offensive and defensive operations. During defensive operations, it is normally coordinated in advance so it requires minimum coordination when ordered to occur. In the offense, it is often initiated by a FRAGO based on the situation. Clear TSOP allow units to quickly establish necessary coordination to preclude a loss of momentum in the attack. Use simple and standardized control measures.

There are three key players involved: the stationary commander, the passing commander, and their higher commander. Each commander has certain responsibilities. The higher commander defines the location and time for the handover and any specified tasks, receives confirmation briefs from both commanders, and monitors the execution during the handover. The passing and stationary commanders coordinate according to the TSOP and execute the handover. Until the handover is complete and acknowledged by the two commanders, the commander in contact is responsible for the fight. The higher commander specifies where the handover occurs and defines the resulting responsibility for the zone or sector.

Handover occurs along a line forward of the stationary force. The line is established by the higher commander in consultation with both commanders. The stationary commander has the major determination in the BHL location. This line is forward of the FEBA in the defense or the FLOT in the offense. It is drawn where elements of the passing unit can be effectively overwatched by direct fires of the forward combat elements of the stationary unit until the battle handover is complete.

While a line defines the battle handover, seldom do events allow this to happen cleanly. Physical handover should be viewed as a transition that occurs in the zone of BHL. Events may dictate that a force break contact forward of or behind the BHL, as in the gap between echelons of the attacking enemy force. Close coordination, physical and by radio, between the two units involved in the handover allows them to coordinate and execute this process at the small unit level. The stationary unit is just as active as the passing unit.

Battle handover begins on order of the higher commander of both units involved. Defensive handover is complete when the passing unit is clear and the stationary unit is ready to engage the enemy. Offensive handover is complete when the passing unit has deployed and crossed the BHL. The BHL is normally considered the LD for the attacking unit.

Coordination for the battle handover normally flows from the commander out of contact to the commander in contact. The coordination for a battle handover overlaps with the coordination for a passage of lines; the coordination for both should be done simultaneously. This coordination is best established as a TSOP to facilitate rapid accomplishment. Coordination includes:

  • Establishing communication.
  • Providing updates on both friendly and enemy situations.
  • Coordinating passage.
  • Collocating command and control.
  • Coordinating all fires (direct and indirect).
  • Dispatching representatives to contact points.
  • Establishing recognition signals.
  • Determining status of obstacles and routes.
  • Determining CS and CSS requirements.



A retrograde operation is an organized movement to the rear or away from the enemy. The operation may be forced by enemy action, or it may be executed voluntarily. In either case, it must be approved by the higher commander.



A delaying action is an operation in which maximum delay and damage are inflicted on an advancing enemy without the delaying force becoming decisively engaged in combat. A brigade may conduct a delay as part of:

  • A covering force for defending or withdrawing main bodies.
  • An advance guard or covering force when encountering superior forces.
  • An economy-of-force operation conducted to fix or contain an enemy attack on a less critical avenue of approach.
  • A deception measure to set up a counterattack.
  • A defense.

As a delaying force, the brigade must:

  • Provide the required period of delay.
  • Preserve the integrity of the battlefield by always maintaining contact with the enemy.
  • Cause the enemy to plan and conduct successive attacks.
  • Preserve the force, ensuring the delay mission is accomplished. A portion of the brigade may be required to accept decisive engagement to accomplish the delay mission.
  • A delay differs from the defense in that it is not necessarily intended to achieve complete destruction of the enemy. The delaying unit avoids decisive engagement. A delaying action is characterized by operations on a wide front with maximum forces in contact and minimum in reserve. A delay is more difficult than a defend mission. For these reasons, there are key considerations that must be applied when executing a delay:
    • Centralized control and decentralized action. A delay results in a series of independent unit actions across the front in which each commander must be permitted freedom of action in engaging the enemy within the context of the commanders intent. In the conduct of the delay, the unit must maintain enemy contact and closely coordinate flank security.
    • Maximum use of terrain. Delay positions should be located on terrain features that control the likely enemy avenues of approach.
    • Forcing the enemy to deploy and maneuver. Engagement at maximum ranges of all weapons causes the enemy to take time-consuming measures to deploy, develop the situation, and maneuver to drive the delaying force from its position. An aggressive enemy commander will not deploy if he correctly determines that friendly forces are delaying; he simply uses his mass and momentum to develop sufficient pressure to cause friendly forces to fall back. Therefore, the delay must be sufficiently tenacious to leave him in doubt about the friendly mission. When the enemy commander believes he has encountered the main friendly defenses, he then deploys.
    • Maximum use of obstacles. Reinforcing and existing obstacles are used to canalize and slow enemy forward progress and provide security to the flanks of the delaying force.
    • Maintaining contact with the enemy. Continuous reconnaissance is conducted to establish and maintain contact with the enemy to prevent any attempt to bypass or envelop the flanks or penetrate between brigade units conducting the delay.
    • Avoiding decisive engagement. The delaying force normally displaces to the next delaying position before becoming decisively engaged. If units conducting the delay become decisively engaged, they may jeopardize the entire operation. It is not possible to delay successfully against an aggressive opponent unless the friendly force possesses a mobility advantage.


The brigade commander begins by having the battalion task force commanders backbrief their individual operations, explaining how their missions fit into the overall brigade plan. The commander must ensure that his control measures are understood by each commander and that flank coordination can be executed without hesitation.

Next, the commander checks that the battalions are able to maintain contact with the enemy without becoming decisively engaged. He examines the direct-fire instructions issued to the battalions by their commanders, paying special attention to the disengagement criteria. In particular, he should be satisfied that the battalions are able to inflict maximum destruction, yet retain their mobility. Disengagement execution should be linked to obstacles and indirect fire; however, the commander may identify areas within the plan when and where a battalion task force may require assistance in disengaging from the enemy. Assistance could be provided by aviation, FA, or the commitment of the brigade reserve. The reserve can both significantly augment the lethality of the delaying battalion and assist in their disengagement.

The movement from primary to secondary positions (as well as other subsequent moves) is the area of greatest risk to the force. Friendly forces are exposed and vulnerable to direct fire should the enemy be able to press the attack. Moreover, the delaying force must have a mobility advantage over the aggressor to allow time to occupy their next position. As a result, the commander verifies through the rehearsal and TDIS analysis that the forces are able to maintain their mobility. Again, in locations where there seems to be little margin for error, the commander considers the use of Army aviation assets or perhaps the reserve to overwatch the move.

The logistics plan must be checked to ensure that only necessary vehicles and equipment have remained behind to support the brigade. The recovery and evacuation plan should be checked to ensure that damaged vehicles can be removed to the rear rapidly. This is not easy due to the limited number of recovery vehicles. It is important for tanks with fire control damage to drag other vehicles to the rear as necessary. UMCPs should be used only long enough to transfer damaged vehicles to other recovery vehicles. Avoid collection of damaged equipment that exceeds the UMCPs' ability to transport it at a moments notice.

Prestocks of ammunition should be placed adjacent to subsequent positions. The stocks should not be so large as to prevent the unit from continuing the mission should the stocks be destroyed. The stocks should be kept on transport vehicles to make availability more flexible and to permit their evacuation rather than force destruction in the face of the enemy. The same technique holds true for fuel, although fuel requirements are easier to forecast than ammunition consumption. In this case, the fuel trucks must be available for emergency requisition. (Topping off before execution of the operation should be required to avoid emergency refueling during combat.) Again, the commander must ensure that his CSS plan allows the brigade to maintain mobility while providing the means to inflict maximum destruction.

The reserve may be called upon to execute several tasks, such as blocking an enemy penetration, reinforcing a weakened sector, assisting in disengagement, and counterattacking. Generally, the brigade reserve avoids missions that extend far forward of the FLOT. Rather, it is used to maintain the cohesive nature of the delaying force. As a result, the brigade commander must clearly define how, where, and under what conditions he uses the reserve. The same TDIS analysis required in defensive planning is essential in proper reserve force planning; its integration into the maneuver plan using the DST must be a matter of course.

During the rehearsal, the commander exercises the reserve in each of the missions which he has determined to be appropriate to the overall delay mission. Specifically, he must verify that the force can assume its required position prior to the arrival of the enemy. This also confirms his DST. In each case, he must know how long it takes the reserve to move from its hide position to the counterattack/overwatch position and prepare to fight. This should be based upon information provided by the reserve commander, who actually drove the route at tactical speed in preparation for the battle.


As the enemy moves toward the delaying force, the battalion scout platoons begin to report enemy maneuver. The task forces relay these reports to the brigade staff. The reports are reconciled against the commander's DST and event template to confirm the enemy's probable COA. In particular, the commander makes an initial assessment of the enemy's strength. This information influences his estimate of the brigade's ability to conduct the operation as planned.

Reports of enemy activity approaching TAIs should initiate responses from the brigade, such as calls for indirect fire. Throughout the operation, the brigade commander must rely on the battalions in contact for information concerning the enemy's strength, disposition, and probable future operations.

The brigade commander controls the delay using the control measures assigned with the delay plan. Specifically, he requires the timely reporting of PL crossing, passing of checkpoints, coordination point contact, and the occupation of BPs. As the enemy presses the attack, attempting to maneuver against the delaying battalions, the commander monitors the action closely, in an effort to anticipate possible decisive engagement. The commander may weight a subordinate maneuver elements fight with CS to maintain separation with the enemy.

The use of Army aviation should be fully integrated into the plan and well thought-out as it is a limited resource. A most appropriate use of combat aviation is to shape the battlefield well in front of the ground units allowing them more freedom of maneuver. Early commitment of aviation assets may be a mistake if they are not in a position to significantly augment the killing power of the battalion in contact. A more appropriate use would be to assist the battalion in contact in maintaining its freedom of maneuver.

Due to the decentralized execution of the delay, the brigade commander must rely on his battalion commanders to execute the mission and ask for help when they need it. This places a heavy burden on the battalion commanders, particularly when considering the strength of the enemy force they will be facing. Therefore, the brigade commander ensures his subordinate commanders get what they need to do the job.

During actual execution of the delay, the commander must carefully monitor progress of each battalion. Because he is separate from the action, he can look at the actions without becoming mesmerized by the close-in fight. His anticipation of future enemy actions, or battalion needs, stimulates CS and CSS operations in a specific sector.

He must maintain the cohesiveness of the overall operation, ensuring that flank coordination is maintained at all times. Most important, he must carefully assess the situation to determine the most effective use of the brigade reserve. Once he reaches his DP, the commitment of the reserve must then receive all the support necessary to successfully accomplish its mission. It is imperative that the counterattack force strike quickly and violently. It must be withdrawn just as quickly so that it can be used again at another opportune moment.


A withdrawal is disengagement from the enemy, either unassisted or assisted by another force. It is conducted so that the battle may be handed over to another unit positioned to the rear of the withdrawing force, allowing the withdrawing force to prepare for future operations. Withdrawals may or may not occur under enemy pressure.

Assisted Withdrawal

The assisting force occupies BPs to the rear of the withdrawing brigade and prepares its defense. It can also assist the withdrawing brigade with withdrawal route reconnaissance, maintenance and supply support, and security. Detailed coordination is conducted with the withdrawing brigade, which then delays to the BHL, conducts a passage of lines, and moves to its final destination.

Unassisted Withdrawal

The brigade can establish a security force for the whole brigade. Usually this is at least a battalion task force. Front-line battalions withdraw behind the security force and continue their movement to the rear assembly area. The alternative is to require the battalions to provide their own security in their sectors.


During withdrawal, all or a portion of the brigade disengages from the enemy and moves away in an organized manner. Withdrawals are either assisted or unassisted. An assisted withdrawal uses a security force provided by the next higher headquarters to assist the brigade in breaking contact with the enemy and to provide overwatching fires. In an unassisted withdrawal, the brigades provide their own security covering force.

Withdrawal operations are conducted in several phases:

  • Initiation of security force operations.
  • Selection, reconnaissance, and necessary preparation of multiple routes, traffic control points (TCP), and on-order assembly areas.
  • Preparation of obstacles to hinder the pursuit by the enemy.
  • Evacuation of wounded, recoverable equipment and supplies, and movement of nonessential CSS units to the rear.
  • Position of security forces.
  • Preparation of deception operations.
  • Deployment of rearward FA units not needed to support the withdrawing forces.
  • Disengagement and movement of the withdrawing main body to new positions.
  • Disengagement and withdrawal of security forces or security elements when directed to do so by the brigade commander.


Critical to the success of a withdrawal is the coordination between the brigade and the covering force. The collocation of headquarters helps in solving some of the problems during preparation and execution.

The withdrawing brigade must coordinate a rearward passage of lines as discussed previously. The BHL and recognition signals must be agreed upon. FSCM must be established to safeguard the rearward movement of the brigade. If time allows, members of the covering force should meet on the ground with the leaders of the withdrawing force to agree on contact points, PPs, passage lanes, obstacles, and FS plans.

The commander must rehearse the conduct of the withdrawal, paying particular attention to the possibility of reverting to the delay. Movement plans, followed by rearward passage of lines, should be stressed. Control must be maintained throughout the operation. Each player must understand his role in the operation.

The commander checks the coordination between the brigade and the covering force. The covering force should be kept informed of the activities of the brigade throughout the withdrawal. Collocating headquarters and providing LOs between headquarters help in reducing confusion. The commander and staff rehearse the conduct of the withdrawal, to include reverting to the delay in the event of an enemy attack. The DST and other tools must be at their disposal.


As the time of execution arrives, the brigade begins the deception plan. Artillery fires could trick the enemy into thinking the brigade is going on to the offensive and prevent him from detecting the withdrawal. The suppression should cover the withdrawing force's movement from the FEBA.

Security elements carefully monitor their assigned sectors, reporting any signs of enemy activity. As the force begins to move to the rear, the security force displaces to the next designated PL.

Accurate reporting and relaying of information through the battalion task force headquarters are essential to the proper assessment of the situation.

Security elements call for indirect fire to keep the enemy off balance and prevent him from closing with the main body. Once the screen reaches its last position, adjacent to the covering force, battle handover is effected and the enemy engaged as in a deliberate defense. If this is conducted properly, the enemy, in its haste to reestablish contact with the withdrawing force, plunges into the deliberate defense, sustaining heavy casualties.

As the battalions report they are clear of each brigade PL, the brigade informs the covering force that the PL represents the brigade CFL. This allows increased FS in the brigade sector and prevents the enemy from reestablishing contact.

From their final positions, the battalions begin passage of lines IAW the plan coordinated with the covering force. If there is no covering force, the detachment left in contact (DLIC) covers the movement of the brigade to the rear. After the battalions have passed to the rear of the covering force, they quickly form up in assembly areas to prepare for the road movement to their final destination. The covering force assumes responsibility for the sector once the brigade clears the BHL.

Throughout the operation, the commander's main concern is avoiding decisive engagement with the enemy. To do this, he must make his assessment based on reports of units in contact with the enemy. The commander should remember that an appropriate COA for one battalion may not suit another. A battalion may respond to enemy success by reverting to the delay while adjacent battalions continue to withdraw.


A retirement is a retrograde operation in which a force not in contact moves away from the enemy.


A retirement is made following a withdrawal or when there is no actual contact with the enemy. When a withdrawal precedes the retirement, the retirement begins after the main forces have broken contact with the enemy and march columns have been formed. A retirement is conducted to:

  • Occupy more favorable terrain.
  • Conform to the disposition of another force.
  • Permit the employment of the force in another sector.
  • Increase the distance between the defender and the enemy.

A tank-heavy rear guard supported by FA, ADA, and TACAIR support is normally required for a retirement. The rear guard uses delaying action techniques to slow the advance of the enemy and prevent interference with the movement of the main body.

The procedures for the conduct of a nontactical retirement are identical to those of a tactical road march. Nontactical movements are conducted only when contact with the enemy is unlikely. Enemy capability to employ airborne or air assault forces must be taken into consideration and route reconnaissance performed as required.

The brigade S4 plans rearming, refueling, and repair of the brigades equipment upon closure in its new assembly area.

The commander must ensure that the rear guard commander has everything needed to command and control the rear guard. Control measures should be clearly understood. The brigade commander positions himself where he can best control and monitor the operation. Actions upon contact should be rehearsed with each of the battalion commanders to ensure that they understand the proper procedures.


The commander reviews the maneuver plan with the battalion commanders. He ensures each commander understands his mission and responsibilities. If the brigade is conducting a tactical movement, coordination between the rear guard and the main body will be addressed. The main body must not outrun the rear guard. Actions in rearward passage of lines with a stationary force must be rehearsed so each element understands which position to occupy before executing its rearward passage. The BHL must be understood by the rear guard as well as on-order CFLs. Order of march from each unit's final defensive positions to passage lanes and ultimately routes to the assembly area must be clearly understood.

Each battalion task force and brigade element must know when and where it is to travel on the rearward route to the assembly area. Emergency stop areas, maintenance halts, and rest halts should be identified as well as UMCPs and emergency fuel support.

Occupation of and actions within the assembly area should be reviewed so that each element understands the geographical boundaries of his area and his responsibilities upon occupation. A discussion of assembly area operations is in Appendix D.


The rear guard delays the enemy as required to protect the main body, fighting from subsequent lines of defense. The rear guard must not become decisively engaged.

The main body moves in column. As the brigade approaches its final positions before executing a rearward passage of lines, the units may have to temporarily adopt a hasty defensive position until each element is able to conduct its rearward passage of lines. This temporary halt may be expedited by increasing the number of passage lines.

Once the passage is complete, the brigade forms into march elements and begins the road movement to its designated assembly area. It may be advisable to occupy temporary assembly area positions to reorganize before beginning the road movement. Reconnaissance elements and MPs may assist in traffic control during this phase of the operation.

The brigade provides command and control for the rear guard as well as the retiring units. The commander travels in the area of the brigade where he can best influence the action. He temporarily collocates his CP with the stationary force CP to supervise the rearward passage of the brigade. Then he moves to a forward march unit to monitor movement all the way back to the assembly area.



A brigade is encircled when all ground routes of evacuation and reinforcement have been cut by enemy action. A force may become encircled when it is ordered to remain in a strong position on key terrain to deny the enemy passage through a vital choke point following an enemy breakthrough or left to hold the shoulder of a penetration. A unit might also be left in position behind the enemy by design or be given a mission with a high risk of being encircled. When this happens, the encircled commander must have a clear understanding of the higher commander's plan so the unit can continue to contribute to the mission.


Command Actions

The senior maneuver commander within the encirclement assumes control of all forces. He informs his superiors of the situation; simultaneously, he begins to accomplish the following tasks regardless of his subsequent mission:

  • Reorganize all CS and CSS assets and bring under centralized control.
  • Reestablish a chain of command. Fragmented units are reorganized, and a clear chain of command is established. Personnel not essential to CS and CSS are organized for combat operations or provided to battalion as replacements.
  • Establish a viable defense. The command quickly establishes all-around defense; assigns sectors, BPs or strongpoints; and institutes an aggressive patrolling plan.
  • Establish a reserve. A reserve must be constituted and positioned to take advantage of interior lines. Consider establishing more than one reserve.
  • Organize FS. All indirect-fire assets in the encirclement are reorganized and brought under centralized control of the FSCOORD. Artillery and mortars are distributed throughout the pocket to limit their vulnerability to counterfire. The available FS from outside the encirclement is coordinated by the FSCOORD.
  • Reorganize logistics. An early assessment is made of the logistics posture of the encircled command. Temporarily, all CSS comes under the centralized control of the senior logistician or designated individual. He rations key supplies, authorizes cannibalization, identifies equipment to be destroyed, and develops a casualty evacuation and stay-behind plan.
  • Maintain morale. Commanders and leaders at all levels maintain the confidence of soldiers by resolute action and a positive attitude. They keep soldiers informed to suppress rumors.

Actions Upon Encirclement

The options available to the encircled brigade are:

  • Conduct a breakout attack in the direction of a friendly force.
  • Defend encircled.
  • Attack deeper toward enemy forces and installations.
  • Exfiltrate from the encircled position toward friendly forces.

The decision on which option the brigade should take is based on the intent or orders of the division commander. Regardless of the mission, contingency planning for a breakout should begin immediately.

Once the brigade commander realizes that the force has become encircled, he turns to the S2 for a quick assessment of the enemy situation. This information is furnished by the S2s of all units within the encircled area and contained in reports from the encircled forces in contact. In particular, the S2 should attempt to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerability points of the encircling the brigade. These two pieces of information drive much of the commanders decision making.

Communications with higher headquarters and lateral communications with adjacent units are rapidly reestablished. It is important to receive instruction and to remain informed about the battle outside the encirclement. Encircled units can be important sources of information on the enemy's rear area and can perform important roles in defensive counterstrokes. Communi-cations are essential when relief and linkup are imminent.


Although there are several options available to the commander once encircled, this section only addresses the breakout in the direction of the friendly force. If the breakout is chosen, it is important that it take place as soon after the encirclement as possible. The enemy force may not realize that it has encircled the brigade. The longer the commander waits to conduct the attack, the more organized the enemy forces are likely to become. The difficulty lies in the fact that it takes time for the commander to organize his force properly to conduct the breakout; therefore, the commander must weigh the level of preparation against the time available.

The attack to break out of an encirclement differs from other attacks in that defensive operations are occurring simultaneously in other areas of the perimeter. The following tasks should be accomplished in both the planning and preparation for the breakout:

  • Deceive the enemy as to time and place of the breakout. If it is not possible to break out immediately, the commander attempts to deceive the enemy by concealing his preparations and redispositions. He must also make it appear that the force makes a resolute stand and awaits relief. Use of dummy radio traffic for the enemy to monitor or landlines that might be tapped are good means of conveying false information to the enemy. The direction for the breakout should not be the obvious route toward friendly lines unless there is no other alternative.
  • Exploit gaps or weaknesses in the encircling force. Early in the encirclement there are gaps or weaknesses in the encircling force. Patrolling or probing action reveals these weaknesses. The attack should capitalize on them. Although the resulting attack may be along a less direct route or may be over less favorable terrain, such an attack is the best COA because it avoids enemy strength and increases the chance for surprise.
  • Exploit darkness and limited visibility. The cover of darkness, fog, or severe weather conditions favors the breakout because the weapons of the encircling force are less effective in these conditions. It is difficult for the enemy to follow the movements of the breakout force during conditions of limited visibility. However, waiting for darkness or limited visibility may result in the consolidation of the enemy containment.
  • Organize the forces for the breakout. The forces are reorganized so that available armored forces lead the attack if the terrain permits. The remainder of the forces fight a delaying action or defend the perimeter during the initial stage of the breakout. After the penetration, the main body moves out of the encircled area preceded by the attacking force and covered by a rear guard. CSS elements are integrated into the formation for the breakout. If the commander has sufficient forces, he may organize a diversionary attack just prior to the real breakout in an attempt to draw off enemy forces.
  • Coordinate with supporting attacks. The breakout attack is assisted when a supporting attack by a nearby friendly force or by the reserve diverts enemy attention and assets from the breakout effort. The breakout attempt should be timed to occur just after the enemy reacts to the supporting attack.

The brigade commander directs the operation using FRAGOs to save as much time as possible. The brigade S3 assists the commander by coordinating with those units the commander does not have time to check. This should correspond to their positions during the execution of the operation as well.



The forces for a breakout operation are divided into five distinct tactical groups.

Rupture Force

The rupture force attacks, creates a gap in the enemy's weak point (if it has been identified), and holds the shoulders for the remaining forces to pass through. The rupture force consists of a task force or reinforced task force. The rupture force must feasibly be able to penetrate the enemy line. A favorable combat power ratio must be achieved at the point of attack by means of surprise, troop strength, mobility, and firepower. Initially, this force is the brigade main effort. The task force commander probably has additional assets attached to his unit if he is the rupture force commander. These assets might include air defense assets or additional engineer personnel from the engineer company. The task force commander should integrate these assets properly for maximum combat power to achieve the rupture. AT systems could initially overwatch the rupture force and, after the gap has been opened, could secure the flanks from the shoulders.

Reserve Force

The reserve force follows the rupture attack to maintain attack momentum and to secure objectives past the rupture. After the rupture force secures the gap, the reserve force normally becomes the brigade's lead element. When a task force is given the mission of the reserve force, the commander must coordinate closely with the rupture force commander on the

  • Location of the gap.
  • Enemy situation at the rupture point.
  • Enemy situation (if known) along the direction of attack past the rupture point.

Initially, the reserve force passes through the gap created by the rupture force. It is essential that the reserve force continues a rapid movement from the encircled area toward the final objective (probably a linkup point). If the reserve force is making secondary attacks, it is important that it does not become bogged down. Artillery preparation of these objectives may assist the reserve force in maintaining momentum out of the encircled area.

Main Body

The main body, which contains the CP elements, casualties, and CS and CSS elements, moves as a single group. It usually follows the reserve force through the gap created by the rupture force. The commander should be given command and control of this element to ensure orderly movement.

Diversionary Force

Enemy attention must be diverted from the location of the rupture by a show of force elsewhere. The diversionary attack should be as mobile as available vehicles and trafficability allow. Mobile weapon systems and tanks are ideally suited to the diversionary force. The diversionary attack should be directed at a point where the enemy might expect a breakout. Success of the diversionary force is imperative for a successful breakout operation. If the force fails to deceive the enemy as to the brigade's intention, the full combat power of the enemy can be directed at the rupture point. This could lead to a failure of the entire breakout operation. To achieve deception, the task force should:

  • Use smoke-producing assets to deceive the enemy as to the size of the diversionary force.
  • Increase radio traffic for size deception and as an indicator of an important operation.
  • Use any available FS to indicate a false rupture point.
  • Use mobility and firepower of the diversionary force to maximum effect to deceive the enemy as to the size and strength of the diversionary force.

The diversionary force may achieve a rupture of enemy lines. If a rupture occurs, the diversionary force commander must know the intent of the brigade commander. He may exploit this success, or he may disengage to follow the reserve force through the planned rupture point along the direction of attack.

Rear Guard

The rear guard consists of the personnel and equipment left on the perimeter to provide protection for the rupture and diversionary attacks (if a diversionary attack force exists). In addition to providing security, they deceive the enemy as to the encircled force's intentions. The rear guard must be of sufficient strength to maintain the integrity of the defense. Once the breakout commences, the rear guard and diversionary force disengage or delay toward the rupture. If a task force is assigned the mission of rear guard, the commander must ensure he provides a viable defense on the entire perimeter. As other units (rupture force, reserve force, diversionary force) pull off the perimeter, the rear guard commander must spread his forces over an extended area. This requires flexibility and mobility by the rear guard. The perimeter must withstand enemy pressure. If it does not, the enemy force simply follows the breakout forces through the gap and destroys them along the direction of attack.

Note. As the rear guard delays, it must maintain contact with the main body to prevent enemy forces from separating the two.

Combat Service Support

CSS assets move with the main body. Those items that cannot be transported are destroyed. Some prestocks may be left for the rear guard; however, they must be accompanied by some kind of detonation device. Control of CSS assets is difficult due to the lack of radios on the supply vehicles. Therefore, each driver must understand the mission and direction of attack. Visual signals should be agreed upon in advance, especially if special signals are required beyond the SOP. Air guards and flank protection are especially important to the soft-skinned vehicles. As a result, some combat forces should accompany the main body to provide that protection.

Command and Control

The commander should position himself where he can watch the rupture force conduct its attack. He determines the tempo of the operation, while the S3 observes the actions of the rear guard. The two must remain in communication so that each understands the overall condition of the battlefield and can synchronize their activities. Usually, the rear guard is given PLs from which to delay, corresponding to the forward movement of the rupture and reserve forces; therefore, close coordination and communication are essential. Figure 6-8 contains a graphic depiction of a breakout.



Army operations are fought simultaneously deep, close, and in the rear. The enemy attacks the entire depth and width of the battlefield to obtain victory. In the operational context, the primary purpose for conducting rear operations is to retain overall freedom of action for fighting close and deep operations. Rear operations represent a critical fight for the brigade commander. Army operations cannot be won solely by fighting in the rear but could well be lost there.

Rear operations consist of those actions, including area damage control, taken by all units singly or in a combined effort, to secure the force, neutralize or defeat enemy operations in the rear, and ensure freedom of action in deep and close operations. It is a system designed to ensure continuous support. Rear operations are not just the protection of logistics facilities. Rear operations include movement of friendly units throughout the rear area. Tactical combat forces may be required to defeat the rear threat. Rear operations may divert forces from the brigade close operation.

The brigade commander is responsible for plans and operations throughout the depth of his AO. He assigns tasks to subordinate and supporting commanders to execute those responsibilities. The brigade S3 includes detailed planning for the entire rear area as part of operational planning for offensive and defensive missions.

The FSB commander is responsible for the BSA. For security purposes, this includes the OPCON of all elements operating within the BSA. Consistent with the commanders estimate and when allocated appropriate forces, the FSB commander may be assigned additional rear area functions.

Brigade planning considerations for rear operations include:

  • Securing rear areas and facilities.
  • Preventing or minimizing enemy interference with command, control, and communications.
  • Providing unimpeded movement of friendly units throughout the rear area.
  • Finding, fixing, and destroying enemy incursions in the rear area.
  • Providing area damage control after an attack.


When developing his overall plan, the brigade commander ensures that the positioning and organization of the BSA supports the rear operation objectives. The FSB commander is responsible to the brigade commander for the security, positioning, and operation of the BSA.

Well-planned and tenacious base defense is the cornerstone of successful rear operations. Base defense operations include all actions that units occupying a base take to protect themselves from the enemy. They consist of a combination of passive and active measures, including MP patrolling, reconnaissance and response force operations, hardening and dispersal actions, cover and concealment, deception, and immediate reaction to enemy threat or attack. Base defense operations are enhanced by the extensive use of obstacles, sensors, surveillance devices, and OPs. Supporting units must be prepared to conduct small-unit security operations and defend themselves against all levels of threat.

Units operating within the BSA are OPCON to the FSB commander for security and positioning within the BSA. All elements operating within the BSA establish radio, wire, or messenger communications with the FSB TOC. The FSB CP and brigade rear CP collocate to facilitate coordination and rear area security.

Areas in the rear that are devoid of tactical units are isolated because troop disposition should be reconnoitered by MP patrols. Coordination with other divisional and nondivisional assets deployed within the brigade AO must occur to ensure overall linkage of rear OPLANs. The S3 coordinates patrolling and reporting with the MP unit commander as part of the MP area security mission.


Defense of the bases within the BSA and defense of the base cluster known as the BSA is a difficult ongoing task. The requirements to have the BSA located so two or three roads pass through the cluster and so it is near an MSR does not make for easy passive security. Too many roads into a BSA decreases the commander's ability to secure the area. When locating the BSA, the commander should take advantage of every factor that increases his passive security.

Each unit located in the BSA is normally a few hundred meters from the next unit. All the units are in the BSA for the purpose of supporting the brigade. For defensive purposes, each unit sets up as individual bases. Each base must have a plan for the defense of its element, and each must integrate its defense plan with the FSB commander (base cluster commander). Each base should plan on assisting with access control duty on the main avenues entering and exiting the BSA. Those bases/units located along the BSA perimeter should plan on securing a sector of it.

Most units in the BSA have a heavy support mission and therefore have few personnel to give toward security. It is imperative that each unit have a thorough defense plan that is well rehearsed and uses everyone as an ongoing check of personnel in the area. Considerations for defense of a base include:

  • Locate and prepare a fighting position for each individual or section in the unit
  • Know who is in your unit.
  • Challenge anyone who is unfamiliar or out of place.
  • Have a plan of action if the enemy has infiltrated your assembly area or base.
  • Have a specific signal/alarm to order people to fighting positions.
  • Have a different alarm/signal to warn that enemy forces are in the internal area. This type of alarm can cause everyone to drop to the ground and fire on anyone left standing.
  • Rehearse your plan for defense many times.
  • Ensure your plan allows for some personnel, weapons, and equipment to be out on mission.
  • Ensure you have coordinated with the bases near you.
  • Use caution with fighting positions oriented near or toward other bases when firing weapons.
  • Ensure it is understood and confirmed from which direction the BSA's reactionary force will come.
  • Plan and use mobile (foot patrol) and static security. Static security is hard to detect and, therefore, effective. Mobile patrolling is an immediate deterrent for many small elements.


Developing and executing a defense plan for the BSA must include all those factors considered for a base, plus the following:

  • In addition to the MP platoon, have a reactionary team identified and rehearsed to combat an enemy attack.
  • Check each base's defensive plans on the ground.
  • Use any available engineer assets to dig in equipment and prepare fighting positions.
  • Take advantage of the knowledge of the MP platoon leader/sergeant in base/base cluster defense.
  • Take advantage of all assets in the BSA, including temporary assets such as:
    • Inoperable weapon systems on inoperable tracks.
    • Combat soldiers awaiting repair of vehicles.
    • Lightly wounded soldiers awaiting return to units (at the medical company).
    • Reserve combat forces.
    • Scout platoons that are not performing missions for their battalion.



A hasty water crossing is a decentralized operation to cross an inland body of water using organic, existing, or expedient crossing means. This operation is conducted in stride as a continuation of an operation to maintain momentum. For additional information see FM 90-13. Hasty water crossings are characterized by:

  • Speed, surprise, and minimum loss of momentum.
  • Decentralized operation with organic, existing, or expedient resources.
  • Weak or no enemy defenses on both banks.
  • Minimum concentration of forces.
  • Quick continuation of the operation.

The planning considerations and organization of a river crossing are applicable to many operations.

Brigades conduct river crossings as part of the division or corps scheme of maneuver. Once given the mission to conduct a river crossing, the brigade commander starts planning for synchronization of all of his assets. He must ensure that he does not give up the initiative to the enemy by allowing a water obstacle to have a disproportionate impact on his scheme of maneuver. Whenever possible, brigades cross all obstacles in stride, using local material and organic assets.

In division operations, brigades are the assault forces. If the assault is conducted with two brigades forward, two brigade zones are designated within the crossing front. These zones coincide with crossing areas, with one designated for each assault bridge. The brigade commander normally provides his XO and a small staff to act as the crossing area commander to ensure all organic brigade assets are prepared for the crossing. Synchronization of organic assets and supporting combat multiplying assets are critical to the success of the crossing.


The planning headquarters first reviews the objective area. Unless a bridgehead has been specified by higher headquarters, the crossing force decides what objectives must be controlled to ensure security and to facilitate future operations to defeat the enemy. The crossing force selects the bridgehead.

Securing the bridgehead requires control of an area on the exit bank large enough to accommodate the assault and essential support elements of the crossing force. In addition to accommodating the crossing force and facilitating future operations, the size of the bridgehead may be determined by defensive characteristics of the terrain. Not only must the enemy be defeated at the bridgehead, but it must also be prevented from effectively counterattacking the crossing force and/or destroying crossing sites once the bridgehead is secured. Thus, defensible terrain and space within the bridgehead are required in a defense against an enemy counterattacking to regain control of the river bank.

After selection by the crossing force, the bridgehead is graphically depicted by a bridgehead line that defines the outer limit of the area. Normally this line is located along identifiable terrain features, including crossing force objectives, and is connected to the river bank on the left and right flank of the crossing front. This arc orients the crossing force to the flanks as well as to the front. Usually, terrain or communications center objectives assigned by higher headquarters are within the bridgehead. If not, the attack proceeds from the bridgehead to secure these objectives. In either case, once the bridgehead is secured, the river-crossing operation is completed. Figure 6-9 shows a typical organization for securing a bridgehead.


To secure the bridgehead, objectives within this area are assigned to assault forces. Considerations for selection of objectives and the relative size of the forces needed to secure them do not vary from usual offensive operations. Ideally, objectives are attainable by the assault forces in one continuous attack from the river. The crossing force commander specifies only those objectives that must be controlled to secure the bridgehead. When terrain or enemy conditions warrant, intermediate objectives are assigned; however, judgment is required to avoid unnecessary slowing of assault forces. Plans must provide for a rate of crossing and buildup of combat, CS, and CSS forces on the exit bank that exceeds the rate at which the enemy can concentrate against the crossing force.

Whenever possible, assault forces advance directly from the exit bank to bridgehead objectives. When intermediate objectives have been assigned, they are secured with minimum delay en route to final or bridgehead objectives. At brigade level, assignment of intermediate objectives is appropriate. For example, it is difficult for the lead battalion or company of an assault force to attack continuously without securing intermediate objectives, except when advancing against weak enemy forces. Intermediate objectives serve the following purposes:

  • Orient the direction of attack toward final objectives.
  • Provide centralized control of the advance.
  • Facilitate changes in lead companies and battalions of the assault.
  • Gain an initial foothold on the exit bank when stubborn enemy resistance is expected.

Selection of intermediate objectives is dependent on terrain and enemy defensive dispositions. In areas of relatively open or unrestrictive terrain or against a weak enemy, few intermediate objectives are needed. Where terrain is rugged or when enemy defensive positions have been prepared in depth, more objectives are appropriate. Possible objectives include hills, enemy positions, or control measures such as PLs.


The division's crossing force commander and his staff plan the river-crossing operation with the following tactical concepts in mind:

  • The assault forces lead, making the initial assault of the river and continuing the advance from the exit bank to the final objectives.
  • Support forces develop crossing sites, emplace crossing means, control units moving into and away from the crossing sites, and assist the assault force to the objectives.
  • Follow-and-support forces provide overwatching DS and indirect support, crossing site security, and follow-and-support assistance to the assault force.
  • CSS elements sustain the assault and subsequent advance to the bridgehead objectives.

Assault Forces

Assault forces close on the water obstacle and cross rapidly by any means available. Infantry elements establish local security on the exit bank to permit development of the crossing sites. Initial crossings may be limited to pneumatic assault boats and amphibious vehicles while tanks provide support from overwatching positions. Army aviation assets may lift the assault force over the obstacle with the assault across the water. TACAIR and ADA protect the crossing units and sites. Artillery fires and air strikes are effective in softening enemy resistance and may precede the assault with preparatory fires and/or a rolling barrage. Divisional engineers advance with lead elements to breach obstacles and open or improve trails to keep units moving. Tanks, using bridges or rafts installed by support forces, cross later in the assault.

Support Forces

Support forces accompany the assault force and provide the necessary support to the crossing area commander. Engineers improve crossing sites and ingress and egress routes at crossing sites as rapidly as time and security permit. Rafts and bridges are installed to transport heavy loads. MPs and other designated crossing unit personnel control the flow of traffic to and away from crossing locations.

Follow-and-Support Forces

Follow-and-support forces move close behind assault forces to add their combat power where needed. Using rafts and bridges, they cross quickly behind assault elements to overwatch, conduct follow and support tasks, or assume the mission of lead assault units. Artillery provides counterfires to protect the site, smoke to conceal the crossing, and fires in support of the lead assault elements. ADA protects the sites and provides an umbrella for Army aviation elements in the crossing area. Engineers develop overwatching and firing positions, then advance with the follow-on forces to reduce obstacles, improve bypasses, and install flank obstacles. Necessary maneuver, FS, and air defense elements secure crossing sites from guerrillas or local enemy counterattacks.


Intelligence of the enemy and terrain determine tactical and materiel requirements for the crossing and the command echelon capable of accomplishment. The division, in its mission statement to the brigade, may specify the requirement to conduct a river crossing or, in assigning a mission, imply the task of crossing a river. Accordingly, the S2 attempts to collect as much information as possible about the enemy and the water obstacle. Together with the brigade engineer, the S2 examines

  • River width, depth, and velocity.
  • Locations of possible entry and exit routes.
  • Obstacles.
  • Cover and concealment.
  • Soil and weather conditions.
  • Enemy composition and disposition.

The planning sequence is considered in reverse order of occurrence; the last task of securing the bridgehead is examined first. However, the river is examined before plans for securing a bridgehead and advancing from the exit bank are completed. General planning requirements for river crossings vary little from routine offensive planning:

  • Objectives are selected and assigned.
  • Areas or zones for forces are determined.
  • Control measures are designated, forces are allocated, and missions are assigned.

Assault crossing plans may be completed at crossing force headquarters level or delegated to the assault force and crossing area commanders once attack zones and crossing areas have been specified. To maintain the speed of the advance without loss of momentum, plans for hasty crossings are often accomplished at the brigade or assault force level. On the other hand, plans for deliberate crossings require more time, and the buildup of combat power is normally a division or corps responsibility. Complete plans prepared at division and corps require detailed coordination with brigades to ensure the sequencing of units at the crossing sites complements the brigade's assault concept.

When the crossing force headquarters delegates planning for the assault crossing to the brigade, it provides guidance and support to the assault force and crossing commanders. Guidance may include:

  • Time of attack and/or assault crossing.
  • Specific crossing sites.
  • Times that bridges are scheduled for use by forces other than the assaulting brigade.
  • Available crossing support forces (engineer and MP).

Types of Attacks

Offensive river crossings are not an objective in themselves, but a part of the scheme of maneuver and overall offensive action to defeat the enemy. The commander has two basic attack options to secure the near and far side of the water obstacles. Based on the assessment of the enemy, terrain, and water obstacle, he may conduct either a hasty or deliberate attack (see Chapter 4).

Reverse Planning Process

The major concerns of the crossing and assault force commanders during any attack that includes a water obstacle are vulnerabilities of forces on the exit bank and a rapid advance to secure objectives. The latter is the overriding consideration; hence planning commences at the objectives and projects back toward the river. An accurate assessment of the enemy's expected counterattacks and indirect fire barrages is integrated into planning. This is particularly significant during early stages of the advance because the assault force is temporarily divided by the river, thus diminishing its combat power potential. To counter probable enemy reaction, counterfires and aerial attacks augment other planned fires to ensure the necessary rapid advance to overwhelm the enemy.

Once the S2 has constructed an enemy situation template and the engineer has identified possible crossing sites, the brigade FSCOORD begins to develop the FS plan. This plan must accomplish several missions simultaneously. In the initial stages of the operation, the artillery should suppress enemy positions that have observation and fields of fire over the crossing sites of the assault force. Smoke missions should also be fired to further add to the obscuration. Radar critical friendly zones should be developed on the crossing sites to protect the crossing force if attacked by enemy artillery. Using the S2's enemy template, radar call for fire zones should be recommended on suspected enemy artillery positions.

After the assault force gains a foothold, the indirect fires should assist the force in maintaining its position while the support force begins construction of rafts and bridges. It is essential that forward observers (FO) be included with the assault force, so that they can rapidly adjust fire on enemy locations. The FS plan at this point should include FPFs, in case the enemy launches a counterattack against the bridgehead.

As the force moves to the RP/line to begin the attack, the FS plan supports the maneuver as it would for any offensive operation. The artillery must provide close and continuous support to the leading assault units. Fires should be planned on enemy strongpoints and likely counterattack positions. Suppressive fires degrade enemy air defenses, and ADAM/RAAMS (if the situation permits) could provide some security along the flanks and slow enemy movement.

One corps ribbon bridge company is capable of supporting a task force crossing. It also can support a brigade unopposed crossing, if it has sufficient bridging to bridge the river. A brigade or divisional crossing requires additional corps bridge companies. Normally, each task force requires about one bridge company's assets to support crossing sites. A crossing brigade requires a minimum of two companies. This depends on river width and the number of crossing sites required to support the scheme of maneuver. If the brigade is conducting an opposed river crossing, the corps combat engineer battalion commander becomes the crossing area engineer. The engineers supporting the assault force are separate and distinct from the engineers conducting the crossing. They are task organized with the bridgehead and breakout forces oriented on the far shore combat missions, not the tasks associated with the river crossing.

The brigade engineer is a critical player in this operation. The brigade commander relies on his expertise in planning the river crossing. The brigade is augmented with corps bridging assets to conduct the operation. Special planning considerations include:

  • Determine crossing sites.
  • Determine method and means of crossing.
  • Types of vehicles involved in crossing.

The crossing operation involves virtually every type of engineer activity: combined arms breaching, bridge and raft construction and control, mobility operations along the routes to the crossing sites, countermobility operations to prevent the enemy from reaching the bridgehead, and survivability at the bridgehead. In planning for the operation, the brigade engineer may consult the following information sources:

  • Maps.
  • Local inhabitants and prisoners.
  • Aerial photographs and visual reconnaissance.
  • Hydrographic studies.
  • Strategic studies.
  • Ground reconnaissance.
  • Division's terrain detachment (G2).

The brigade ADO has several concerns in planning protection for the brigade. During initial stages of the operation, the brigade is concentrated near the river line. This includes maneuver elements as well as stockpiles of equipment needed for the actual crossing. Such highly congested areas are lucrative air targets and must be protected if the river crossing is to succeed.

Once the brigade begins the actual assault and construction of the bridges and rafts, enemy aircraft can be expected to zero in on these positions. Again, ADA assets must be positioned to protect these resources. Some assets may be placed directly on the bridge.

Finally, the force must be protected as it moves to the RP/line and into the attack. In this regard, some assets are dedicated to protect the force as in any offensive operation, while others remain behind to protect the bridgehead and the crossing sites.

As mentioned earlier in this section, CSS assets are essential to sustaining the attack. The brigade S4 must ensure that adequate supplies are pushed forward to the crossing sites, particularly any expedient materiel that may assist the operation. Suppression of enemy positions on the far side of the river expends large amounts of ammunition. Likewise, the assault force must hold the bridgehead until reinforcements can deploy; it must be given additional ammunition to sustain operations. With this in mind, the S4 must plan with the engineer, S2, and S3 to ensure supply vehicles are integrated into the crossing order as early as possible.

Assault force commanders, usually brigade commanders, command the assault forces from the brigade TAC CP. When the brigade enters the crossing area, control, not command, is then passed to the crossing area commander. Control then reverts to the assault force commander as the assault force leaves the crossing area.

The designated crossing area commanders may be division or brigade staff officers. Since the assault force is normally a brigade, the brigade XO is usually designated as the crossing area commander and operates from the brigade TOC. This allows the brigade (assault force) commander to focus his attention on the battle and serves to bind the assault crossing and tactical concept. Subordinate battalion XOs or LOs may collocate with the crossing area commander to provide detailed movement instruction for their units per the crossing area commander while leaving the brigade command net free to fight the battle on the far shore. Each crossing commander controls:

  • Crossing units of the assault force while in the crossing area.
  • Tactical elements that secure the crossing sites.
  • Support force engineers who develop and maintain crossing sites and traffic.
  • Control elements (primarily MPs) that direct and control crossing units in the crossing area.

The crossing force commander facilitates planning by dividing the operation into distinct and manageable segments:

  • Advance to the river.
  • Assault crossing of the river.
  • Advance from the exit bank.
  • Securing the bridgehead.

Figure 6-10 depicts the organization of river crossing command and control.


At this point, the commander rehearses each phase of the river-crossing operation.

Advance to the River

The brigade should be task organized for the operation before the advance to the river begins. Regardless of the events prior to the actual advance, the brigade's lead battalions either move to secure objectives that overwatch the proposed crossing sites, or secure the crossing by seizing enemy bridges or by conducting their own amphibious assault. Once these objectives have been secured, the control switches from the assault force commander to the crossing force commander.

Assault Crossing of the River

Once in position, the assault force neutralizes the enemy forces that can influence the crossing. The actual crossing may be executed using any number of methods: fording, assault/swimming, rafting, or bridging. Lead elements should be prepared to cross under fire. A line or wave formation crosses more forces than a column in equal time periods. However, it exposes more forces, increasing vulnerability and the chance of detection of the crossing effort. A column, using one or two entry points, concentrates forces but requires more time to build up combat power, providing the enemy more time to detect and concentrate fire on the crossing site. To reduce enemy obstacles and develop exit points on the far bank, the engineers should cross early.

Each lead battalion should have at least one fording or assault/swimming site. They should be oriented on close-in exit bank objectives, while subsequent sites should provide good ingress and egress routes to enhance mobility and the buildup of combat power on the exit bank. Once the area is secured and the bridges and rafts are constructed, the force begins to pass as per the movement plan and crossing schedule.

Advance From the Exit Bank

The advance from the exit bank extends from the RP/line to the bridgehead objectives. At the RP/line, the crossing commander relinquishes control of units to the assault force commander for continuation of the attack. The forces then attack generally along a narrow or a broad front, depending on the number of crossing sites in the sector or zone. In the rehearsal, the commander must balance the number of forces collected on the far side of the river in preparation for the attack against the length of time it takes to marshal them. This solution must enable the commander to commit sufficient force to destroy the enemy and maintain sufficient momentum to gain ground.

Securing the Bridgehead

Securing the bridgehead requires control of an area on the exit bank that is large enough to accommodate the assault and essential support elements of the crossing force. Assault forces receive objectives that must be controlled for the area to be secure. Once in position, the forces move to ground and establish a hasty defensive perimeter around the bridgehead. A discussion of hasty defensive planning is in Chapter 5.

The river crossing rehearsal includes the positioning of assets on the near side of the river, the assault and clearing of obstacles from the far side, the preparation of each bank, and the construction of the bridges and rafts that transport the force across the river. This only ensures the physical preparation of the crossing site. The brigade engineer also reviews the crossing and movement schedule to confirm the timing and positioning of forces.

In addition to the actual river crossing, the engineers must rehearse the flow of traffic to each crossing point as well as emplacing obstacles to protect the bridgehead from enemy counterattacks.


The brigade moves to the river using OPSEC measures to cloak their movement. If possible, the force will move at night or under the mask of smoke and suppressive artillery on known enemy positions. Pre-positioned reconnaissance elements adjust these indirect-fire measures to ensure optimum effectiveness. Once the assault force is in position, the support force commander calls for suppression of the far side objectives and enemy positions. As the fire begins to land, the force crosses the river under the supporting fire of stationary forces on the near side of the river.

Once the crossings have been secured, the assault force commander reports the status to the crossing force commander, who in turn directs the immediate construction of bridges and rafts. At this point, the crossing area commanders control all activities within the crossing area. Their initial concern, however, is the reinforcement of the assault force on the far side of the river. This ensures a secure bridgehead and protects the crossing operation.

As the follow-and-support forces cross the river and begin to assemble for the continued assault, they also assist the initial assault force in the protection of the perimeter, if necessary. However, once these forces are assembled, the assault force commander should begin the attack as quickly as possible. This serves two functions: it clears the area for the arrival of additional forces, and it maintains the momentum of the overall operation. When executed correctly, the attack keeps the enemy off balance and unable to effectively respond to the operation.

Other crossings, deception plans, and proper reconnaissance of enemy reserve locations are essential to the success of the operation. The enemy must be temporarily paralyzed during the establishment of the bridgehead, or its counterattacks could spell disaster for the assault force. In addition, the enemy should also be confused as to the actual intent of the crossing force, namely the locations of the crossings and objectives to be taken in support of the crossings.

During the operation, the FS plan must effectively suppress the enemy's ability to influence the assault force as it conducts its initial crossing of the river. Smoke missions mask the assault force initially; however, grazing fire across the surface of the river could cause many casualties and does not necessarily require target identification. As a result, reconnaissance elements must locate these enemy positions and target them as part of the preparation and suppressive fires during the assault.

Engineer forces initially concentrate on the clearance of obstacles on the far river bank and the preparation of the entrance and exit ramps for each crossing. Simultaneously, other engineer elements begin construction of rafts, bridges, and any other assets used to cross the river.

Outside of the actual crossing activities, engineers are required to maintain the road network leading to and away from the crossing sites. Also, survivability and countermobility operations may be required to protect the assault force from enemy counterattacks.

Initially, the air defense assets protect the force as it advances to the river line. Priority of protection most likely goes to the engineer equipment that is pre-positioned for the assault crossing. Once the assault force reaches the far side of the river line and adopts a hasty defensive posture, the ADA protection then extends across the entire crossing line.

As the brigade begins its advance to the river, the CSS pushes preloaded support packages forward to the force. Specifically, ammunition is the primary concern during the initial stages of the operation, due to the amount required for suppression in defense of the bridgehead area. UMCP and LP locations should be placed along the routes leading to each crossing site, and recovery assets should be positioned to maintain trafficability at the crossing sites.

Recovery of wounded personnel in the assault force must be tied into the return rafting. Likewise, ambulances should be located at the sites to quickly transport the casualties to the aid stations or FSB treatment section.

The hasty river crossing is one of the most complicated and dangerous operations to execute. It is dangerous because it is easy for either the attacker or defender to locate the positions of the enemy. Similarly, air assets are able to identify the target area easily as they navigate along the river line. Therefore, the commander must be prepared to execute this operation under fire. His leadership is crucial in moving the forces across the river and assaulting the bridgehead objectives.

Assault forces advance quickly, without extensive reorganization, from crossing areas to objectives within the bridgehead. The enemy, given time, attempts to halt the advance with strongpoint defenses, heavy artillery fires, and counterattacks. Therefore, comprehensive SOPs, detailed planning, and rapid execution enhance the probability of success.

Advance From the Exit Bank

The advance from the exit bank extends from the RP/line to the bridgehead objectives. At the RP/line, the crossing area commander relinquishes control of units to the assault force commander for continuation of the attack. The location of the RP/line is a function of terrain and expected battle and is mutually determined by the commanders.

RPs/lines may be located 2 to 3 kilometers from the exit bank. This distance allows the assault force commanders to assemble their forces for continuation of the attack. Further, the clearance of this distance by follow-on and support forces, supported by tank and artillery fire under control of the crossing area commander, precludes direct fire on assault forces while they are still in the the water. RPs/lines are therefore located to facilitate the operation, control, and security of forces moving through the crossing area (see Figure 6-11).

Combat Service Support Sustains the Attack

Decentralized and prepackaged support accompanies the lead elements when possible. Rearming, refueling, and maintenance points are established along advance routes to speed up servicing. The remainder of the BSA positions itself beyond the range of enemy artillery, if possible, and crosses after the follow-on forces. Adequate Classes I, III, V, and IX supplies must initially accompany combat forces across the river to ensure sustainability of lead elements, even if crossing operations are temporarily suspended due to enemy activity.


Brigades normally conduct an approach march as part of a larger unit formation. The brigade may conduct an approach march when they are relatively certain of the enemy's location and are an extended distance from the enemy. An approach march requires continuous intelligence on the enemy and dominance over the effects of enemy indirect fire and air assets.

The brigade commander designates the march objective as well as the point the brigade disperses and assumes a formation that reduces the risk of initial contact and allows freedom of maneuver to subordinate units, thus avoiding a meeting engagement. The approach march allows the brigade to maneuver to attack or defend, and ends when an objective or area is seized, or the enemy force defeated. The desired outcome of an approach march is a deliberate attack or deliberate defense.

The organization of forces for conducting an approach march is similar to the organization of forces for conducting a movement to contact. The brigade retains security to the front, flanks, and rear. The main body forces move as one organization. CS and CSS assets move internal to the brigade as necessary to support the planned operation after the point of deployment. The commander still plans for possible enemy attacks along his route of march.

Units with automated command and control systems, enhanced FS systems, global positioning navigation systems, and advanced target acquisition systems may conduct an approach march in a decentralized manner on separate routes.

Forward to Chapter 7.
Return to Chapter 5.
Return to the Table of Contents.

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