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An assault across a river normally begins with an attack to secure terrain on the exit bank. This may involve an air assault, but the bridgehead force normally conducts an assault by using pneumatic boats or by swimming amphibious vehicles.

The assault force normally crosses in waves, as sufficient boats are seldom available to carry the entire force across at once. It is a very complex operation, requiring synchronization and skilled application of technical procedures. Success requires training and extensive rehearsal.

Forces normally conduct an assault at night or during limited visibility due to the vulnerability of forces in small boats on open water. If an assault must be conducted during daylight, the assault site must be isolated by fires and smoke to reduce the force's vulnerability.

This chapter describes an assault-boat crossing. It focuses on conducting the crossing at night. It defines the organizational elements required to conduct an assault across a river and the necessary supporting techniques and procedures (see Figure 8-1)



Each lead battalion in a ground assault should have at least one ford or assault-boat site big enough to accommodate two companies abreast.

Fording vehicles are more likely to be used in a hasty crossing than in a deliberate crossing because they allow the force to continue across the river without pausing to acquire other crossing means. A ford site should have 300 meters along the near bank at the entry point for deploying the support force.


The following factors should be considered when using rubber boats in a crossing. Rubber boats-

The unit protects itself during a rubber-boat crossing by moving silently, during periods of limited visibility, and crossing at a location where the enemy does not expect a crossing attempt.

Generally, an infantry platoon uses three rubber boats for its personnel and attached elements. If short of boats, the dismounted elements of an infantry platoon equipped with the M2 Bradley vehicle can fit in two boats. Allocating one squad per boat, when possible, preserves unit integrity.

For an assault using rubber boats, each company requires at least 200 meters along the river to disperse the boats and ideally 300 meters between companies. This is a total of 700 meters for a battalion assaulting with two companies abreast.

Control is very important, particularly at night when boats can easily become separated or lose their direction. Combat experience has demonstrated that engineer and infantry boat rehearsals before the crossing attempt are mandatory for success. The rehearsals should begin as soon as the unit receives the WO without waiting for the detailed crossing plan.


The following should be considered when using air-assault asset in a crossing. Air-assault assets-

Planning and execution are the same as for other air-assault operations (see FM 90-4). As with assault boats, rehearsals are necessary, particularly for troops not familiar with air-assault operations.


Against little or no resistance, swimming the fighting vehicles may be practical in the assault stage. Swimming the fighting vehicles-

Rapid reinforcement of dismounted assault troops with armored vehicles is so critical that it justifies using any expeditious method when swimming the first few fighting vehicles across. This includes winching, towing, or pushing the first ones across normally unsuitable places while engineers prepare better entry and exit points for the rest.

The space required to swim vehicles on line is 200 meters of front per company with 300 meters between companies. Less is required if they cross in a column. Commanders plan entry and exit sites to account for downstream drift when swimming the fighting vehicles.


The specific organization used depends on METT-T factors, particularly the size of the bridgehead, the distance to exit-bank objectives, and the nature of the enemy's defense. Regardless of these factors, the assault battalion's TF organizes into support and assault forces and are assisted in the assault by other brigade units in support-by-fire positions.


Each assault company has a support force under its control. This force covertly establishes a support-by-fire position along the friendly bank before the assault. It uses night vision and thermal sights to locate enemy positions. It also develops a fire plan to engage these positions and to provide suppressive fires on all suspected positions. When directed to engage, the support force destroys all known and suspected positions. The support force must be positioned early enough to develop a detailed fire plan. The assault-force commander directs the support-force commander to lift or shift suppressive fires as necessary.

The support force normally consists of the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles of the dismounted infantry conducting the assault. If an attached light infantry battalion is conducting the assault, tripod-mounted heavy machine guns and AT missile systems (augmented by infantry fighting vehicles and tanks) provide supporting fires. The company XO controls these direct-fire weapon systems; however, the company commander gives the firing commands.

Supporting artillery battalions and mortar platoons provide indirect-fire support. The assault force has priority of fires from at least one artillery battalion during the assault. The artillery battalion does not normally fire a preparatory fire mission for covert assaults. The assault force assigns the batteries priority targets that they fire on upon request. This normally occurs after the initial wave is ashore or upon discovery. If the assault is not covert, the battalion fires preparatory fires that continue during the crossing of the first wave, lifting on command when the boats approach the exit bank.

Graphic fire-control measures are essential because of the danger of firing on friendly forces. Boundaries between companies should run along terrain features that are easily visible in the dark to help control indirect fire during the dismounted assault. Counterbattery fire is imperative to the success of the river crossing. The target-acquisition-battery-radar team deploys to cover the area before the assault crossing begins.

Smoke may not be used to support the first wave of a covert crossing because of the risk of losing surprise but should be used to hide later waves as they cross. If the crossing is opposed, a smoke haze should cover the first wave before it enters the water to reduce direct-fire effectiveness. The assault-force commander initiates smoke obscuration. If smoke generators are available, they are deployed to obscure a large length of the river. Additional smoke along multiple sites on the river conceals the true crossing area. This additional smoke may be from smoke pots if nothing else is available.

If units must fire smoke onto the far shore to cover the crossing area, they fire it on the command of the assault-force commander after surprise is lost. Mortars are the primary means of indirect-fire smoke. Direct-support artillery is generally reserved for supporting fires.

AD teams deploy along the near shore of the river to cover the crossing. Once in place, they remain until the brigade releases them. They can move across the river and link up with the assault force only after other SHORAD systems have taken position to cover the river. The crossing sites remain the priority AD area throughout the crossing.


The first assault wave moves the bulk of the dismounted force across covertly. This force attempts to provide sufficient security on the far shore so that the second and later assault waves can cross after surprise is lost. The first assault wave carries-

The organization of the first wave permits rapid deployment of the force into a tactical formation on the far shore. Individual boatloads retain unit integrity at the lowest level. The two basic boatload configurations are the rifle-squad boat and the rifle-platoon-headquarters boat (see Figure 8-2)


Each boat contains an engineer boat crew and a rifle squad. The squad boat also carries an engineer assault team, while the platoon boat carries the platoon headquarters. The boat-force commander is the senior occupant. He commands the force up to the attack position and after it debarks on the far shore. The coxswain is the "pilot in command" and commands the force from the point that it mans the boat in the attack position until it debarks on the far shore.

First-wave boats carry only critical cargo, such as AT weapons, machine-gun ammunition, demolitions, and engineer tools that are required for reducing obstacles.

Platoon boats form a boat group of three boats that are spaced 20 meters apart on the water. The boat group forms into a "V," with the platoon leader's boat acting as the guide boat in the center. The two engineer assault teams are from an engineer squad, with a squad leader commanding the team in the right boat and an assistant squad leader commanding the team in the left boat. The assault teams re-form into a squad upon debarking.

Platoon boat groups form into company flotillas (see Figure 8-3). The company commander commands the guide boat in the center platoon. The company command group disperses between boats, filling in vacant boat positions. Platoon guide boats maintain a 40-meter interval (two-boat interval) between boat groups.


The first wave of the assault may consist of three company flotillas crossing on line. Battalions do not have a prescribed crossing formation. Each company crosses in its own zone and attacks it own objectives.

All undamaged boats return to the near shore after carrying the first wave. The senior coxswain of the group will consolidate the boats and stroke paddlers into one (or more) boat and daisy-chain the other boats to the lead boat to expedite the time required for the boats to return to the near shore. The second and later waves carry across the remaining troops and materials that are necessary to seize the far-shore objective.

The second wave carries company aid stations and may include the battalion command group. Since sufficient AD systems are in place to cover the crossing area, the brigade may release some or all of the battalion AD teams to cross in the second wave.

The second wave also transports additional material and ammunition that is not required for the initial assault but necessary to establish a defense. This may include antiarmor weapons, mortars, ammunition, laser designators, mines, or pioneer tools. It normally includes tripod-mounted weapons, such as M2HB .50-caliber machine guns, TOW AT systems, Mark 19 40-millimeter grenade launchers, and the ground-laser location designator (GLLD).

If secrecy is not required for the second wave because the first wave is in combat, or if the enemy has begun to fire on the crossing area, then outboard engines are used to propel the boats so that paddlers are not necessary.

The immediate movement of some heavy AT weapons across to support the dismounted assault battalion is essential. This is critical enough to justify extraordinary actions. As vehicles carry all heavy AT weapons, engineers concentrate on forcing a few critical vehicles carrying heavy weapons across immediately after the second wave. They hand carry heavy weapons, if necessary, even before direct fire and observed indirect fire has been removed from the crossing area. Vehicles cross by swimming or fording or are dragged or rafted across.

CAEs begin bank preparations on both the near and far shore, using hand tools and equipment where possible. They swim an M9 ACE or deep ford a bulldozer to get a winch capability to the far shore. Bradley vehicles either swim or ford, with towing assistance if necessary. A BEB can tow Bradleys if the current's velocity is too high. Using a block and tackle fastened to a tree or picket holdfast, a BEB can help Bradleys leave the water over unprepared banks. If high-mobility multiwheeled vehicle (HMMWV) weapon carriers are available, they can be waterproofed and pulled across on the bottom with a winch cable. If absolutely necessary, rafting can be used, but this risks destroying equipment that will be critical later in the crossing.


Engineers supporting the assault are attached to the assault unit as described in previous paragraphs. Each assault company receives an engineer platoon that accompanies the assault force to its objective, helping it fight through obstacles and prepared defenses. The engineers help the assault force establish hasty defenses after it has seized its objectives. Engineers normally come from the division engineer battalion that supports the brigade.

Boat engineers-

Two boat engineers are assigned to each assault boat. They are the coxswain and the lead paddler on the right side of the boat (stroke paddler). The stroke paddler controls the stroke cadence during the assault crossing. The boat engineers paddle the boats back for the next wave. Outboard motors normally are used during the second wave.

Normally, an engineer platoon must operate the boats for a first-wave assault company. An engineer company can cross the assault battalion of a brigade. Each assault company requires 9 boats plus a safety boat. The assault battalion requires 30 boats to carry the assault companies plus 1 for the battalion commander. If less are available, some companies may not cross in the first wave.


Similar to conducting a deliberate breach of a complex obstacle, river-crossing operations require intelligence collection, detailed planning, and preparation. These must all be synchronized to allow the force to maintain its momentum and surprise the defender at the point of penetration.


Tactical reconnaissance of the far shore must cover a broad front to a significant depth to determine the details of the terrain and the enemy's defenses. This should occur early and cover sufficient terrain to disguise the actual crossing area.

Engineers conduct a technical reconnaissance of the far shore, focusing on the immediate crossing area. An engineer light diving team conducts a reconnaissance at night. If a diving team is unavailable, then a swimming reconnaissance team is made up from the engineer unit supporting the crossing. Strong swimmers (Red Cross-certified lifeguards or water-safety instructors) from the engineers supporting the crossing make up the reconnaissance party if divers are not available. Two swimmers make up a reconnaissance team to scout a company crossing area.

The reconnaissance team carries heavily lubricated weapons and wears LBE. They wear subdued face masks and running shoes and use swimming fins. Divers must wear Class 5 life jackets as flotation devices (US Army flat foam-filled life jackets will not serve). The divers camouflage their faces and hands and tow any necessary equipment in bundles.

Divers must carefully avoid splashing. If necessary, they wear weights to ensure that kick strokes are underwater. The party enters the water far upstream from the actual crossing site and floats with the current while crossing. Divers use the sidestroke, facing each other and observing behind the other diver. This allows 360-degree observation and communication by hand and arm signals. When the divers approach the shore, they switch to the breaststroke so that they can observe the landing area. Divers must use stealth and caution when approaching the beach. They must keep a low profile in the water and also on the beach.

When the divers reach shallow enough water and determine that the situation is safe for landing, they remove their fins. If they can immediately enter the woods upon leaving the water, they do so in a rush. If the woods are a distance from the water, one diver remains in the water just at the waterline and covers the other as he moves quickly across the beach. Once the inland diver has reached the edge of the woods, he covers his partner, who is moving across the beach to the same position.

Critical information requirements include-

The reconnaissance team checks potential areas identified from the near shore and evaluates each based on its ability to support assault boats and disembark troops. The reconnaissance party also checks areas where raft and bridge centerlines can be installed.

Far-shore reconnaissance is conducted early and at multiple sites along the shore to generate information necessary for planning and selecting the most suitable areas. Maneuver units, with support from the engineers, conduct far-shore reconnaissance.


The far shore is prepared immediately before the assault crossing. The preparation team consists of a two-man reconnaissance team and a two-man cargo team with an inflatable reconnaissance boat; both teams are from the supporting engineers. The reconnaissance team that conducted the far-shore reconnaissance is normally best-suited to do the far-shore preparation. The preparation team installs landing markers for the flotillas. A separate team normally marks each company zone to speed up preparation.

The reconnaissance team and the cargo team are equipped the same as the reconnaissance party and use the same techniques. The reconnaissance team crosses first, floating downstream to the landing site with the current. Upon landing, they move to the correct landing site for the assault landing and signal for the cargo team to cross. The reconnaissance team installs transit lights to guide the cargo team as it crosses.

Signaling is accomplished by sending a prearranged Morse Code letter using a flashlight equipped with an opaque filter. The transit lights consist of either two flashlights with opaque filters and directional cones or two chemical lights in their foil wrappers with small areas torn open to release light. The team installs the lights so that one is about 1 meter above the water and the other is about 2 meters above the water and 2 meters behind it, facing 45 degrees upstream.

The cargo team waits until signaled to cross. It uses a three-man reconnaissance boat as a flotation device to carry marking materials, mine detectors, night-vision goggles, and a radio. The reconnaissance boat is covered with a camouflage net section and is partially deflated after loading so that it floats low in the water to reduce its signature. The camouflage net is secured to the lifelines to aid in holding the cargo in the partially submerged boat. The cargo team crosses oriented on and swimming slightly upstream of the transit lights so that it can drift into the shore with the current, limiting the noise and the splash.

The preparation team installs landing markers as its first priority. These are the same types of markers used to guide the cargo team. They must be adequately visible to the assault force but dim enough not to harm night vision. If flashlights are available, they have opaque and/or colored filters installed to limit the light output. Chemical lights remain in the foil wrappers with only enough foil removed to provide the necessary light. All landing markers are transit lights that mark the position and help the boats set the proper course relative to the current. Normally, if the current is less than 0.5 MPS, the lights are set perpendicular to the river. If the current exceeds 0.5 MPS, the lights are set at a 45-degree angle to the river, facing upstream. Double transit lights mark the center boat group's landing area, and single transit lights mark the flank group's. If colored lights are available, green lights mark the right boat group's landing area, white the center's, and red the left's (see Figure 8-4).

The preparation team also makes a final examination of the landing areas for mines or obstacles. If it discovers isolated mines, it marks them and the routes around them. If the team finds a major minefield that will significantly hinder the landing at a site, it either notifies the assault force and moves the site upstream or downstream to avoid the mines or attempts to reduce the minefield. Once the preparation is complete, the team signals the assault force to begin crossing, initiating the movement of the first wave carrying the boats from the attack position. The preparation team then finds cover near the landing area for the center boat of a predesignated boat group (generally the center boat group) and awaits its arrival. This boat group is especially alert for linkup with the preparation team. While waiting, the team continues to watch for enemy activity and alerts the assault force of any significant changes.


Units must be extremely careful to hide reconnaissance elements conducting near-shore reconnaissance in the crossing area or to deceive the enemy about what they are doing.

Battalion and company command groups must conduct a daylight reconnaissance of the crossing area. They must see the embarkation and debarkation points and key landmarks to help guide the force when crossing. They must also see the attack position and the routes from it to the river. Company guides must walk the routes from the dismount points to the boat-group positions within the company's attack position. Engineer boat coxswains must see the routes they will traverse from the attack position to the water.

Support-force leaders and vehicle commanders must covertly select firing positions and locate concealed routes into the positions for their vehicles during daylight. They should identify sectors of fire and conduct extensive observation within the sectors to acquire specific targets.


An assault-boat crossing cannot be conducted effectively in the face of opposition without thorough rehearsal. If possible, the force should conduct two rehearsals. One should be during daylight to learn the procedures, and one should be at night under actual assault conditions.

The rehearsal area should be similar to the actual crossing area but away from the river to preserve secrecy. Generally, a rear-area river is the rehearsal area.

Before rehearsal, the boat crews and infantry train together in the actual boat teams assigned for the crossing. Soldiers receive their boat assignments and practice in their assigned positions until the boats can move effectively on the water. The training must include carrying and launching the boat, embarking, watermanship, emergency actions, debarking, and hasty-defense preparations.

NOTE: After the rehearsal, boat assignments must not be changed.

During training, the coxswain forms the boat team. He forms the crew members in a column of twos in the relative positions that they will occupy in the boat, with passengers at the rear of the two columns. He then numbers the crew. The right-side paddlers are 1, 3, 5, and 7, and the left-side paddlers are 2, 4, 6, and 8 (both sides from bow to stern). The stroke paddler is always number 1, and the coxswain is always number 15, regardless of the number of paddlers used. Passengers are numbered consecutively from bow to stern starting with number 11, who is always the bow gunner. The coxswain addresses all crew members by number. When the coxswain wishes to address a command to a pair of paddlers, he uses their numbers together, as in "1 and 2" and "3 and 4."

Figure 8-5 shows only 8 paddlers. The boat can carry 15 soldiers. If fully loaded, the boat requires 10 paddlers. Boat-position numbers do not change.

All forces participating in the assault crossing rehearse together. The support force moves into position, and the assault force crosses in the same waves it will use for the actual crossing. The rehearsal should cover the AA through to the seizure of the assault-force objectives.


The objective of an assault river crossing is to project combat firepower to the exit bank without being detected by the enemy or, once detected, project it at a faster rate than the enemy can concentrate forces for a counterattack. The use of air assets is desired; however, there are normally not enough assets available, or the risk of being detected is to great. To maintain momentum and allow maximum combat power across quickly, the maneuver force negotiates the river on a broad front. Detailed planning and specific responsibilities allow units to cross and quickly establish a tactical foothold on the far side to-


The attack positions must be large enough to accept a dismounted infantry rifle company. They should-

Trucks carry assault boats and life jackets as far forward as possible without compromising secrecy. They are met at the designated unload position by the engineer platoon and company guides from each attack position, who will unload the truck and carry the boats into place. The platoon can carry two at a time, so this will require five trips. If possible, HMMWVs moving at a low speed to minimize noise can carry several boats at a time into the attack position.

Within the attack position, boat crews disperse assault boats and life jackets along the boat-group routes to the river. The safety boat is positioned as the last boat in the downstream boat group. The remaining life jackets for passengers and the coxswain are arrayed behind the boat.

After the boats are prepared, each engineer squad provides a guide to bring each platoon from its AA to the nearshore crossing site. The platoon leader sends the guide party to the AA, where each guide links up with his boat group. The remaining engineers establish local security around the attack position and await the boat groups.

Soldiers arrive in the attack position with their weapons cocked on an empty chamber, selector switch on SAFE, and magazines removed. Squad leaders must verify this in the AA before moving to the attack position. The soldiers are organized, without the boat engineers, into boat teams and boat groups in the AA. They travel as boat groups. When they arrive at the attack position, their guide leads them directly to their boats.

When the boat team arrives at its boat, the coxswain commands, "Crew, boat stations." Each team member takes his proper boat position, with passengers lining up to the rear. The coxswain then directs the team to load and check weapons. The team inserts the rifles' magazines and verifies that they are seated. However, the team does not chamber the rounds. All weapons remain on SAFE. Squad leaders verify that all weapons are on SAFE. The coxswain then directs the team members to sling their weapons and don their life jackets. Paddlers sling their rifles diagonally so that the barrel extends up over the shoulder which will be away from the boat when standing alongside and facing forward. Odd-numbered paddlers sling their rifles over their right shoulder, even numbered over their left. This allows carrying the boat at high carry and reduces interference with paddling. Muzzles must be up during all boat operations to prevent punctures. The teams then await the command to proceed to the water.


On order of the company commander, the paddlers of the boat crew carry the boats to the river. They make no unnecessary stops from the time of departure from the attack position until the boat reaches the bank. The coxswain directs either "Low carry" or "High carry." In low carry, crew members lift the boat to about knee height, by the carrying handles while facing forward, and carry the boat at arms length. In high carry, crew members lift the boat to about head height, place it on their inboard shoulders, and carry it while gripping the carrying handles with their outboard hands. Normally, high carry is used for long distances, and the boat is shifted to low carry when approaching the bank. Paddles remain in the boat during carry procedures. Remaining crew members follow the boat to the water.

The boat crew may launch the boat either bow first or stern first; however, bow first is the preferred method. The boat is launched-


On the coxswain's command, "Launch boat," team members perform a low carry and move into the water at a fast walk. When the depth of the water is such that the boat floats free of the bottom, all hands continue pushing it into the river, remaining at their relative positions alongside the boat.

As the water reaches the knees of the first pair of paddlers, the coxswain commands, "One and two in." The first pair of paddlers climb into the boat, unstow their paddles, and give way together. The coxswain orders each pair of paddlers into the boat in succession by commanding, "Three and four in," "Five and six in," and "Seven and eight in." The pairs climb into the boat on command, break out their paddles, and pick up the stroke of the stroke paddler.

The coxswain orders the passengers into the boat after the paddlers by commanding, "Eleven in," "Twelve in," and so forth. Passengers board over the stern and move forward in the boat to their positions. The coxswain enters the boat last and sounds off, "Coxswain in, hold water."


On the coxswain's command, "Launch boat," team members perform a low carry and carry the boat stern (rear) first to the water's edge. They launch the boat by passing it back along the line of team members. When the stroke paddler can no longer help pass the boat back, he moves to the bow of the boat and handles the towing bridle. Other team members follow suit, taking their places along the towing bridle between the stroke paddler and the boat.

When the boat is in the water, the coxswain enters the boat and takes his station. He orders the boat team to load, starting with the rearmost left-hand paddler, by commanding "Eight in," "Seven in," "Six in," "Five in," "Four in," "Three in," and "Two in." Passengers embark next as he commands, "Fourteen in" and "Eleven in." When the coxswain is ready to cast off, he allows the boat to drift back and turns it to face across the river.

If motors are to be mounted before the first-wave crossing, the coxswain brings the boat in to shore stern first after the boat is manned and holds it in place either by a line to shore or by holding bottom. Two engineers wade to the boat carrying its motor and mount it on the transom.


The coxswain navigates the boat and directs the paddlers. He controls the movement of the boat in the water as well as embarkation and debarkation from it. He ensures that the guide boat maintains the proper station. The boat commander sits in front of the coxswain and directs the boat in an emergency. He also commands the boat occupants upon landing until the unit has re-formed. The boat commander directs fires from the boat, if necessary.

Each platoon has a platoon guide boat, which contains the platoon headquarters. Other platoon boats position themselves to either side of the platoon guide boat as wingmen to maintain a 20-meter interval for protection against fires and to allow dispersion on landing. They follow the guide boat and land when it does. They open fire from the boat when the guide boat does.

Each company has a C2 boat, which carries the company commander and leads his flotilla. Platoon guide boats position themselves at double-boat intervals from the C2 boat, maintaining a 40-meter spacing between boat groups. The C2 boat is normally the lead boat of the center platoon.

The battalion command group remains on the near shore until the assault wave has landed. The commander controls the nearshore direct fires and directs changes in landing points if elements of the first wave encounter difficulties. He also directs changes for the following wave. The commander has his own boat and crosses on his own schedule, but he normally crosses with the second wave. The command group normally does not cross in a single boat but is distributed among several boats.

Guide boats in all boat groups are responsible for ensuring that their group lands at the proper place. Landing marker lights are installed as transit lights to assist navigation on the water. The coxswain will see two lights, one above the other. If the boat is moving straight to the landing, the lights will be straight in vertical alignment. If not, the lower light points in the direction the boat must go to be exactly headed for the landing. The boat will not head directly for the transit lights except when the river has no current. The boat heads for the far shore so that the boat's true course is directly for the lights (see Figure 8-6)


Normally, the boats will cross slightly upstream from the landing so that they can drift in with the current. To do this, they align so that the lower transit light points slightly upstream.

If the force is conducting a crossing where smoke is necessary on the water and it obscures the far shore, other navigation methods it could use include stringing ferry lines across the river for the boats to follow, using floating markers, or traveling on a compass heading.


Watermanship includes all the skills that the boat crew must exhibit to properly control its boat in the water. It includes individual paddling skills, responsiveness to commands, and the skill of the coxswain.

Individual paddlers use a paddling technique where they push the paddle vertically into the water, roughly 1 meter to their front, and then power it back through the water by pushing with the upper hand while using the lower (guide) hand for control. At the end of the power stroke, they remove the paddle from the water, turn it outboard and parallel with the water's surface (feathering), and move it forward for the next stroke. The stroke is silent, with the paddlers careful not to strike the side of the boat or to splash.

The stroke paddler sets the pace to control the paddlers. He receives oral commands from the coxswain and establishes and maintains the paddling pace. All paddlers match the stroke of the paddler in front of them except for the number two man, who matches his stroke with the stroke paddler. If the boat crew has difficulty paddling in unison, the coxswain can exercise oral control by calling cadence. The normal paddling speed is 10 strokes per minute for stealth and 30 strokes per minute for speed.

The coxswain uses the following commands to control the boat:

The coxswain can make minor adjustments in the boat's speed by directing, "Slow the stroke" or "Speed the stroke."

The coxswain must take the current's velocity into account when trying to hold a course. In low-velocity current, the boat can travel a relatively straight course across the river by crabbing slightly upstream. To do this, the coxswain aims the bow of the boat slightly upstream while sighting on the land mark. If the mark remains on a constant bearing (it does not drift upstream or downstream), the boat is crabbing correctly and is headed directly for the landing.

If the current's velocity is too high for successful crabbing (over 0.5 MPS), either the boat must start upstream or the coxswain must steer a figure-eight pattern. In both cases, the boat should approach the landing heading into the current to avoid the danger of broaching. If the boat is launched from far upstream, it generally follows a course similar to the dotted course in Figure 8-7. If the coxswain follows a figure-eight course, he steers upstream until aligned with the transit lights, then lets the bow drop downstream and guides by using the lights until he reaches the landing point. He then steers upstream to the landing marks (see Figure 8-7, solid line). These techniques minimize the amount of time the boat will be traveling slowly against the current while near the enemy shore.

The need for a figure-eight course is determined during reconnaissance. The flotilla command boat sets the figure-eight course, completing the downstream turn in alignment with the transit lights. Remaining boats simply maintain station until the last turn upstream toward the landing area. Boat groups then head directly for the transit lights.

Eddy currents (eddies) occur at channel bends, near points of land, and at places where the bottom is uneven. Eddies can be dangerous to small boats. The coxswain must be alert for them.


The purpose of smoking the crossing site is to achieve a haze over the water that can render direct and indirect fires less effective. Smoke may be used during river-crossing operations to-

During river-crossing operations, smoke may be used for-

It is particularly important not to produce a column of smoke above the water that can pinpoint the crossing location. For this reason, smoke is not used if conditions will not hold it close to the surface.

Smoke production depends on wind direction. If the wind is blowing from the near shore toward the far shore, smoke generators or support-force vehicles can effectively smoke the crossing. If the wind tends to blow parallel to the river, nearshore smoke should not be used, as it will make a smoke wall that will silhouette boats on the river. In this case, floating smoke pots anchored across the width of the river can produce effective smoke. If the wind is blowing from the far shore to the near shore, smoke pots or mortar smoke on the far shore can be effective.


If the boat is subjected to heavy direct fire while crossing, the boat commander may direct all personnel, except the bow gunner, to stow their paddles, slip over the side while holding the safety line, and propel the boat to shore by kicking with their feet.

All boats have a designated gunner at the bow that is armed with either a squad automatic weapon (SAW) or a bipod-mounted machine gun. The gunners do not fire unless the boat commander orders them to. If ordered to fire, the gunners engage the most dangerous target or suppress the landing area. More often, the gunners engage enemy weapons firing on the assault force by firing back up the line of enemy tracers. If two passengers are available to be boat gunners, the second back from the bow should be armed with a grenade launcher.

To preserve their night vision, all paddlers observe the paddle of the man to their front. They do not look at the enemy shore from where the muzzle flashes are coming.


If the boat is subjected to heavy artillery fire while crossing and the boat commander directs, the coxswain turns the boat downstream and propels it at a fast stroke with the current out of the artillery impact area. If the boat is equipped with a motor, it is started and the paddlers stow their paddles and maintain a low posture.


The manner in which the coxswain orders the boat team to land the boat depends on the depth of the water at the landing point.


As the boat nears the landing point, the coxswain directs the boat toward the landing and orders, "Land boat." As the boat grounds, paddlers stow paddles and disembark over the side into the water. They then hold the boat for the passengers to disembark. The stroke paddler secures the boat and awaits to return it.


As the boat comes along the shore, the coxswain orders, "Stroke out." The stroke paddler stows his paddle and, with towing bridle in hand, gets out of the boat onto the shore. He then pulls the boat up close to the shore and secures it if he can. Otherwise, crew members will have difficulty debarking. The other crew members stow their paddles. The coxswain then directs debarking by number, beginning with the passengers, then the shoreside paddlers, and finally the riverside paddlers. The coxswain is the last to leave the boat. He and the stroke paddler secure the boat and await to return it.

Immediately upon leaving the boat, the boat team forms a hasty perimeter. The bow gunner moves directly forward, roughly 10 meters, and drops prone, observing to his front. The left-side squad members move up and form a prone semicircle to his left. The squad leader takes charge of his squad and directs all soldiers to drop their life jackets. He then awaits orders from his platoon leader.


As soon as the boat team has formed a hasty perimeter and dropped their life jackets, the stroke paddler recovers them and returns them to the boat.

The boat engineer squad leader (the senior engineer with the boat group) takes charge of all three boats in the boat group. He supervises the tying off of all three boats in a trail and loads all six engineers into the front boat. They then paddle the boat back to the friendly shore, towing the other two boats (see Figure 8-8).

On the return, the boat group travels in a relatively straight line to gain distance from the enemy shore as rapidly as possible. This will cause the group to drift downstream. Upon reaching the near shore, the boat group turns upstream and travels close inshore until it reaches its original departure point (see Figure 8-9). A guide from the engineer platoon headquarters guides them in for the next wave.

If the boats have outboard motors, all three boat crews start their motors on command of the boat engineer squad leader and return independently to the near shore.


If motors are available, they speed the crossing significantly. Normally, the first wave uses paddles to cross covertly. After the boats return from carrying the first wave, the motors are mounted. If the boats can be placed in the water without enemy observation (in a lagoon or barge basin, for example), the motors are mounted on the boats before the first wave crosses. In this situation, the motors can be started immediately if the crossing is discovered. The motors are also available for returning the boats after the first wave.

If a covert crossing cannot be achieved, the first wave may cross the river powered by motors. In this case, the motor is mounted before the boat crew and passengers carry the boat to the shore. Two additional engineers are provided to help carry the stern of the boat to the shore. The crew paddles the boat while the coxswain starts the motor in order to reduce exposure time on the river. This technique must be practiced during the rehearsal.

If time permits or the distance to the water is great, the two-man team of engineers from the crossing-area engineer battalion carries the motor to the water and mounts it on the boat. The boat is manned and held with the bow toward the river and the stern to the shore. If the bottom is shallow, the paddlers hold bottom. If the water is too deep or the current too strong, a line is fastened to the boat stern to hold it against the shore. The mounting team wades out to place the motor on the stern and fastens it in place. The coxswain directs the paddlers to give way together after the motor is mounted. He then starts the motor with the boat under way. If the boat has too few occupants to move effectively by paddles (during the second wave, for example), the boat remains at the shore until the coxswain starts the motor.

Preparation is critical for success with outboard motors. The primary problem is hard starting. All motors are started and run up to operating temperature during preparation. If any are difficult to start, replacement motors are substituted (the hard-starting motors become backups). After mechanical checks and warm-ups, the fuel tanks are completely filled with the correct fuel and oil mixture to eliminate condensation. In cool or cold weather, the motors are kept warm until needed, using a warming tent, ambulances with medical markings covered, a heated building, sealed wrapping, or other means.


Porters detailed from the assault force bring the cargo forward. They carry it to the waterline at the boat launch point to await the return of the boats. When the boats return, the porters load and secure the cargo to the boat. If the cargo includes heavy or pointed items, a temporary plywood floor is placed in the boat before loading.

Porters accompany the cargo to the far shore to unload it. The cargo is unloaded into caches until carrying parties are sent back from the assault force to get them.


Platoon medics accompany assault forces in the first wave. They carry their medical bags and night-vision goggles but do not have litters. They treat wounded where they fall, sending walking wounded back to the landing area and leaving more severely wounded where they were treated.

The second wave carries senior aidmen with equipment to establish a far-shore casualty collection point in each company zone. The aid station should provide a blackout shelter, such as a tarpaulin or small tent, for patient examination along with emergency medical supplies and quantities of intravenous fluids. The second wave also carries litter teams formed from the headquarters elements of the assault force. The litter teams carry wounded back to the collection point. The senior aidman at the collection point performs triage and treats patients. Priority patients are evacuated by assault boats as they become available. All other patients wait until rafts are available.


Safety is as important in combat as it is in peacetime training. Procedures are established and soldiers are trained in peacetime to be safe in combat. Loss of a soldier to an accident in combat is just as intolerable as losing a soldier in peacetime and is potentially far more dangerous to the force. Safety procedures are particularly important when considering the risks during assault river crossings, where the lost soldier may be the key to mission success. Therefore, all safety procedures must be followed in combat.

The most important safety procedure is building a well-trained force. Nothing is a greater safety risk than allowing a force of untrained soldiers to undertake a complex, potentially hazardous task where the well-being of all depends on each soldier knowing his job. Peacetime training should never be avoided because of the potential hazards of a necessary combat task. Training to standard in a controlled environment is the only way to surmount the hazards and build confidence in the soldiers' ability to accomplish their mission.

Life jackets are always worn when using assault boats. If Class 5 life jackets (German-army style) are available, they are worn over LBE and the diagonally slung rifle. The Class 5 life jacket will support a soldier so equipped and hold his head out of the water. If a life jacket providing lesser flotation is used, such as the standard US Army flat foam-filled life jacket, it is worn over the uniform. The LBE is worn over the life jacket, with the belt unfastened and the rifle slung diagonally over all. Rifle slings are turned around so that the free end is always away from the weapon. This allows rapid jettison of the rifle in the water by pulling the free end of the sling to release the fastener.

Weapons are always carried in the boats with the bolt forward on an empty chamber and the weapon on SAFE. The only exception to this is the bow gunner, who will charge his weapon in the boat when directed to fire. He must put the weapon on SAFE before debarking, and the squad leader must verify this by touch. The soldier can immediately engage the enemy, upon landing, by simply taking the weapon off SAFE and charging the chamber.


The soldier must NOT take the weapon off SAFE and charge the chamber before leaving the boat.

A safety boat is always used during an assault crossing. One safety boat is used for every company flotilla. It contains at least one lifeguard-qualified swimmer (two, if possible) to assist soldiers that may fall into the water. This lifeguard will not wear boots or LBE. The safety boat will also contain a boat hook and a float with an attached line for rescuing troops in the water. Rocket-propelled lifelines will be included, if available. At a minimum, the boat commander is equipped with night-vision goggles. The crew of the safety boat comes from the supporting engineer force that provides the boats and boat crews and consists of eight paddlers, the coxswain/commander, a medic, and one or more lifeguards. The crew should also have a radio tuned to the company's frequency.

The safety boat crosses parallel with a flotilla and about 40 meters downstream. Its crew pays out a climbing rope fastened to the near shore as a safety rope and attaches life jackets as floats every four boat lengths (see Figure 8-10). When the crew reaches the enemy shore, it ties off the safety rope and then moves back to the center of the river. If a man goes in the water or a boat capsizes, the affected boat group makes a quick radio call on the company's frequency, indicating the number in the water and the boat group calling. The alerted safety boat holds water while its crew looks for troops who are in the water or who are caught by the safety rope.

If a soldier goes in the water, he should immediately remove his helmet and release it. He should then roll onto his back. If he is wearing a Class 5 life jacket, he retains his rifle and LBE. If he is wearing a lesser-quality life jacket, he releases his rifle and LBE and drops them. He then allows the current to carry or float him to the friendly shore. He stays alert for the safety rope and safety boat. If he reaches the safety rope, he wraps his arms in it or clips a snap link to it on his LBE (if he is wearing LBE). He either waits for the safety boat or moves along the rope to the nearest shore.

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