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NEOs are not strictly under the control of either the CINC or the JTF commander. These commanders are responsible for conduct of military operations in support of the NEO. The COM has responsibility for the NEO and final responsibility for rules of engagement (ROE). The ROE for NEOs should reflect the limited military objective to be accomplished. ROE are positive restrictions on the use of military force to prevent a commander and his soldiers from violating the national policy of the US government or the Law of Land Warfare. The ROE for NEOs shall limit the use of military force to that necessary to successfully complete the mission, provide for self-defense of the military force, and defend evacuees.

The ROE should be disseminated to the indigenous population as part of the PSYOP program. This will inform them of the reasons for US actions and help minimize civilian interference with the operation. Commanders (and soldiers) have an inherent right to protect their forces (and themselves) from attack. ROE do not diminish this responsibility but enable the commander to determine the fine line between aggressive or offensive actions and defensive actions.

Defensive actions are conducted only as aggressively as necessary to protect US lives, property, and equipment. They may include pursuit only until the attacker is no longer in a position to inflict casualties upon US personnel, property, or equipment. Subordinate commanders will ensure that all personnel are thoroughly indoctrinated in the need for use of minimum force, for humane treatment of evacuees, and for good order and discipline when conducting NEOs. Commanders at all echelons will take care to use only the force necessary and to take no action that might be interpreted as initiating hostilities.

Ideally, ROE should allow for centralized control at JTF level and decentralized execution of fire support, close air support (CAS), and employment of riot control agents. The evacuation force commander, if at all possible, should have authority to employ supporting arms to ensure the safety of his force and the accomplishment of his mission. However, ROE are usually based on national strategic and political considerations rather than on tactical considerations. Following are suggested prohibitions:

  • Personnel are prohibited from declaring that no quarter will be given.

  • No person will kill or wound an enemy who has laid down his weapon, has no means of defense, or has surrendered.

  • Personnel will not shoot small arms, crew-served weapons, or artillery into populated areas or buildings which are not defended.

  • Personnel will not fire on religious, social, civic, and historic monuments or facilities, and on hospitals or places where the sick or wounded are collected, unless they are being used at the time for military purposes. In this instance, military purpose is defined as a threat to the accomplishment of the NEO. Attack on any of the above named facilities can only be warranted if it is being used to initiate hostile, aggressive acts; endanger the lives of evacuees or members of the task force; or prevent mission accomplishment.

  • Personnel are prohibited from looting.

  • Personnel will not destroy or seize any property unless such destruction or seizure is demanded by operational necessity (within above parameters). Medical supplies and equipment will not be destroyed.

  • In addition to the above, personnel will ensure that--

  • All money, effects, and articles of personal property, except arms, military equipment, and military documents, remain in the possession of the prisoners and detainees.

  • All captured or detained personnel are afforded humane treatment.


Permissive and uncertain environments may involve US personnel being attacked or threatened by unarmed hostile forces. The on-scene commander may reduce or overcome the threat with--

  • Warnings to demonstrators.

  • Show of force, including the use of crowd or riot control formations.

  • Additional force as necessary to meet and overcome the threat. Additional force is authorized to prevent loss of life and major damage to property and equipment. Firing on unarmed personnel should be a last resort. The use of force will be discontinued when it is no longer necessary to accomplish its immediate purpose.

  • Riot control agents. These will be employed only when authorized by the President and CINC, subject to the effective ROE, and then only defensively, to protect US personnel and installations. If the use of riot control agents has not been previously granted, the JTF commander should request approval from the CINC during the planning phase.

In a hostile environment, if US personnel are attacked by an armed, hostile force, the on-scene commander may be governed by the following rules:

  • Use adequate force to control the situation.

  • Respond to hostile fire directly threatening US personnel or equipment with timely fire directed at the source of the hostile fire only. Exercise restraint to avoid escalation. If possible, use sniper or marksman fire to reduce the threat.

  • Use air attack only when it is apparent it is the only means of protecting US personnel.

  • Return fire across the boundaries or territorial waters of a third country if a hostile force persists in committing hostile acts after it has retired across that boundary.

  • Discontinue the use of force when it is no longer necessary to accomplish its purpose. After hostilities cease, the commander will institute necessary measures to control the situation and assist the injured.

For aircraft operations, suggested ROE in permissive and uncertain environments are to report any threatening actions to higher authority by fastest means available. Threatening actions include--

  • Small arms aimed at or following the aircraft.

  • Medium caliber or antiaircraft weapons aimed at or following the flight path of the aircraft.

  • Electronic indications that fire control radar is tracking aircraft.

  • Low passes or simulated gun runs by fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft.

In a hostile environment, suggested ROE for aircraft operations are--

  • Limit actions to those required to reduce the threat to an acceptable level.

  • Report any fire to the next higher authority. Fire may be returned to reduce the threat to acceptable levels to protect the aircraft and crew.

  • Return fire immediately to protect the aircraft and crew if fired upon by radar-controlled guns or missiles.

  • Report immediately threatening action by fixed-wing aircraft against helicopters.

A sample ROE card for soldiers is at Figure B-1.

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