Truck Infiltration (Assault) Planning in a Heavy/Light Scenario
by LTC Michael Shields, National Training Center
NOTE: This is the first of two articles by LTC Shields on the difficulties light task forces experience when conducting truck infiltration missions at the NTC. His second article, to be published in CALL's CTC Quarterly Bulletin, 1QFY00, Defile Operations at the NTC, presents TTP for planning and executing such a drill.
ISSUE: Light task forces are challenged when planning for, and executing, truck infiltration missions.
1. A light task force generally conducts a truck infiltration (assault) at NTC under the following conditions:
2. When planning for tactical movement, unit leaders must employ a combination of both the tactical road march and the approach march. This article focuses on planning considerations ("a way") to successfully conduct tactical movement using truck infiltration and approach march methodology.
3. A truck infiltration (assault) is to a tactical road march as an air assault is to air movement. Truck infiltrations (assaults) might be defined as combined arms operations to gain a position of advantage over the enemy, whereas tactical road marches are moves involved with getting assets from point A to point B when contact with the enemy is not anticipated. The following doctrinal definitions from FM 100-40 (Initial Draft) are provided for a common frame of reference:
(1) Tactical road march.
(2) Approach march.
(3) Combat formation.
(1) Open column. Usually used in daylight with vehicular separation 50-100 meters or greater.
(2) Close column. Usually used at night under blackout driving conditions and in restricted terrain with vehicles spaced so that each driver can see two lights on the blackout marker on the back of the vehicle to the front.
(3) Infiltration. Vehicles are dispatched in small groups, irregular intervals, and at a rate that keeps traffic density down and prevents undue massing of vehicles.
(1) Types of combat formations include:
. Box formation
. Column formation
. Line formation
. Vee formation
. Wedge formation
. Echelon formation
(2) Formations are used in conjunction with the three movement techniques:
. Traveling overwatch
. Bounding overwatch
(3) Task forces generally use the column formation during truck infiltration missions. The advantages of the column include (pg. 17-11):
. The column is generally the best formation to move large forces quickly, especially when limited routes are available (limited visibility considerations also).
. The column makes contact with a small part of the total force while facilitating control and allowing the commander to generate mass.
. The column facilitates speed of movement.
. The column is useful in restricted terrain and during limited visibility.
RECOMMENDATIONS: A recommended technique for planning truck infiltrations (assaults) is to use the following five plans (phases), similar to an air assault, using the reverse order of execution. This five-phase methodology benefits the task force in that the S4/S3-Air can use a similar format and modified documents or products from the air mission brief (AMB):
This article discusses key planning considerations for phases 2 through 5, and provides a start point for a tactical SOP (TACSOP) checklist for truck infiltration by phase. The article concludes with a proposed movement order format and movement table.
Off-loading Plan (parallels with the landing plan for an air assault): The enemy situation and the ground tactical plan drives selection of the off-load zone, dismount point (or points), and the off-load plan. The off-loading plan begins when maneuver forces arrive at the dismount point (DP) and ends when units have consolidated and are prepared to move.
1. The off-loading plan is the most critical of a truck assault. The task force is most vulnerable while off-loading the vehicles. The task force determines whether to dismount on the objective or away from the objective based on the following conditions:
2. Use the following planning considerations as a basic tactical SOP (TACSOP) checklist for the off-loading phase of the truck infiltration (assault):
. Establish surveillance at the off-load zone (OLZ) as part of the task force reconnaissance and surveillance plan. Consider integration of fire support observers and attack aviation.
. Plan to reposition those assets forward, as required, to support actions on the objective.
. Plan primary and alternate OLZs and ensure they are mutually supporting.
. Move and off-load in the order of march or assault.
. Designate unit marshaling points in support of off-load operations.
. Conduct off-loading using either the one-direction or two-direction off-load technique. In either technique, soldiers move a safe distance away from the vehicle (10+ meters) and wait for the trucks to move out before moving to marshaling points.
*One option is the "OLZ rush" where soldiers move directly to the marshaling point(s). There is no halt 10 meters out.
*The task force must consider weapons control status and when to load magazines and chamber a round (based on tactical and accident risk assessment).
*The unit should designate a soldier from each chalk to inspect the vehicle prior to release, to ensure no mission-essential equipment is left on board (e.g., hand grenades, SKEDCOs, breaching and lane-marking equipment).
.Ensure each serial is capable of fighting as a team (usually a rifle company). Sequencing of forces is critical.
. Separate serials by time and space (a force protection measure to mitigate tactical risk at the DP). Allow a serial to off-load, trucks to move away from the DP, and the unit to begin moving to a marshaling point before allowing the next serial to close. This may prevent concentration of forces and subsequent destruction by enemy indirect fires.
. Ensure vehicles at the DP maintain an interval equal to, or greater than, the bursting radius of 152mm or rocket artillery (BM21) if possible.
. Establish off-load standards: dismount left or right, time to off-load vehicles (such as one minute or less), time to move away from vehicles (such as five minutes or less), time for vehicles to clear OLZ, (such as 10 minutes or less). Training, rehearsals, and type of vehicle (5T, FMTV, or M998) will affect the time standards.
. Plan when to change weapons control status within the task force.
. Develop a fire plan in support of OLZ operations. Consider direct, and indirect fire control measures.
. Integrate heavy forces to secure the force during movement to the OLZ and to secure the vehicles during the move back behind the LD.
. Develop a plan if the OLZ is "hot" (such as using alternate OLZ). Conduct actions on contact (consider seven forms of contact en route and on OLZ: visual, physical (direct fire), indirect fire, obstacles, aircraft, NBC, and electronic warfare, per FM 71-1 and FM 3-17).
. Consider integration of attack helicopters and close air support to secure the force during movement and during off-load operations.
. Plan suppressive fires on known or suspected enemy locations at primary and alternate OLZ, regardless of threat information.
. Activate a critical friendly zone (CFZ) at the OLZ. Establish a no-fire area (NFA) or sensor zone to protect friendly mortars when firing from within the CFZ.
. The ground tactical commander or senior maneuver commander clears all fires at the OLZ.
. Maintain situational awareness. Track all of the fire support coordination measures (FSCMs) within the BCT and the task force, especially NFAs.
. Consider employment of smoke.
. Clear obstacles at the OLZ as required.
. Maintain light discipline in the serials. This is a challenging, but necessary, task.
. Position assets to support off-load.
. Establish aerial named areas of interest (NAIs), engagement areas (EAs), and aerial target reference points (TRPs) based on air avenues of approach to focus air guards and control CAFADs.
. Position forward aid station (FAS) and main aid station (MAS) in the order of movement to support operations at the OLZ.
. Identify a task force casualty collection point vicinity of the OLZ and designate non-standard means for casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) such as using the last truck of each serial as backhaul to an ambulance exchange point (AXP) or to the MAS.
. Consider CL III resupply if a long movement (i.e., ROM) and vehicle recovery operations.
. Plan inbound guidance to OLZs (radio and visual). Consider using AT PLT/CO assets, infantry attached to scouts, or Sappers. Scout and forward observer (FO) teams are typically focused vicinity of the objective or task force decisive point. Once the first serial arrives, and linkup with the guidance team is complete, designated personnel from the first serial can provide inbound guidance for the remaining serials. Inbound guidance is not an option; it is an imperative.
. Designate the location of the assault command post (ACP) or tactical command post (TAC) vicinity of the OLZ.
. Determine retransmission (retrans) requirements. Ensure the TOC switches to the retrans frequency (not the maneuver forces' frequency) at the OLZ.
. Develop a backup plan if communication is lost between the TAC and the brigade or main command post. (For example: XO moves forward with "jump TOC" and re-establishes communications with the task force.)
. Develop a plan and associated criteria to move the TOC to maintain C2. Synchronize with the scheme of maneuver so the TOC is not jumping during a critical event.
. Ensure the succession of command and communications requirements is clearly understood throughout the task force. This is critical to maintaining momentum if the task force receives indirect or direct fire at the DP and the TAC is destroyed.
. Plan communications workarounds with brigade assets within the task force battle space.
. For operations security (OPSEC), units are prohibited from transmitting with non-secure radios (such as PRC 126/127s) until actions on contact.
. All soldiers must maintain situational awareness (SA) during movement and at the DP. Land navigation is the greatest challenge, but additional challenges include darkness, weather, vehicle noise, and lack of communications in the back of the vehicle. Close quarters in the back of vehicles and vehicle tarps are obstacles to maintaining situational awareness.
Truck Movement Plan (parallels with the air movement plan for an air assault): The enemy situation, the ground tactical plan, and the off-load plan drive the truck movement plan. The truck movement plan begins when the unit is loaded and ends when maneuver forces arrive at the dismount point (DP).
1. The truck movement plan includes the movement from the PZ to the LD and infiltration or penetration through the enemy security zone to the DP. The task force uses organic trucks or has operational control (OPCON) of brigade truck assets (typically a truck platoon or company) during the truck infiltration (assault).
2. To ensure simplicity and focus of fires, a truck assault typically uses one route for the infiltration through the security zone and one route back (also based on limited routes and restricted terrain). Routes should avoid known enemy locations such as anti-armor ambush positions or combat security outposts (CSOPs).
. Routes (with a start point and release point).
. Directions of attack.
. Check points.
. Phase lines.
. Traffic control points.
. Dismount points.
. Distance between serials.
. March interval.
. Light discipline standards.
. Actions at halts.
. Actions on contact during movement.
3. The following example demonstrates the criticality of maintaining control of the task force movement and preventing force concentration.
There was no serial separation within the task force. The task force concentrated
its forces at a security halt and was acquired by an OPFOR observer.
4. Truck infiltrations (assaults) move through enemy security forces. Often the enemy situation is vague, to include the enemy situation on the actual objective. To ensure the truck infiltration (assault) is secure during movement and is able to make contact with the smallest element possible, the task force should task-organize using the approach march methodology and consider the column formation. This includes organizing for combat with a security force, advanced guard, flank/rear security, and main body.
. When a CO/TM (-) is under the operational control of the task force, attach a TOW platoon to the CO/TM to serve as the security force (okay if ABN/AASLT task force with 5xPLTs). The light task force commander may decide to employ the advanced guard using the TOW platoon to screen on one flank, or may employ the TOW platoon split section on both flanks.
. When a mechanized or armor platoon is under the operational control of the task force, place the mechanized platoon under the operational control of D Company (if ABN/AASLT task force). TM D can serve as the task force advanced guard. The light task force commander may decide to place the heavy platoon under the operational control of the lead rifle company in the advanced guard role. The TOW platoon screens a flank or operates split section and screens both flanks.
|COMMENTS ON FIGURE 2: This is a graphic illustration of what this column may look like. The mortar platoon may be operating split section in support of the advanced guard and main body and light Sappers may be organized or repositioned differently in support of the task force scheme of maneuver.|
5. Given the enemy threat in the security zone (such as BMPs, tanks, ZSU 23-4s, and BRDMs) and the signature of a truck assault, light task forces rarely "infiltrate" through enemy security forces. Truck infiltrations (assaults) usually require fighting through enemy security forces to the DP.
|COMMENTS ON FIGURE 3: Typically, task force S2s overlook enemy air defense systems positioned forward in zone. The ZSU 23-4 at NTC carries approximately 2,000 23mm rounds on board, and has an integrated thermal site to replicate the Gun Dish Radar. The FLIR and computer are linked to the 23mm direct fire weapon systems. The ZSU is extremely effective against soft-skinned vehicles and has no tracking requirement. The OPFOR will use the ZSU in a secondary role against high payoff targets, such as light task forces mounted on trucks, without adequate security.|
6. Use the following planning considerations as a basic tactical SOP (TACSOP) checklist for the truck movement phase of the truck infiltration (assault):
. Plan route reconnaissance along the task force direction/axis of attack or infiltration lane.
. Mark the route from the LD to the DP if possible.
. Establish a security force to move ahead of the task force advanced guard.
. Push reconnaissance assets ahead of the task force in restricted terrain (i.e, defile operation).
. Designate assets to observe counterattack routes into restricted terrain.
. Designate NAIs on the flanks of the task force during movement to focus flank security on mobility corridors into the task force flank.
. Organize for actions on contact.
. Designate traffic control points (TCPs) to assist in the control of task force movement from the truck PZ through the LD to the off-load zone. Consider using MPs and guides from the stationary unit if conducting a forward passage of lines.
. Conduct forward passage of lines at the LD if required.
. Conduct defile operations as required (think through approach, clear, and secure phases).
. Be prepared to conduct a passage of lines of a heavy force at the defile.
. Consider employing TOW platoon or company (PLT/CO) assets in the advanced guard to provide overwatch, serial security, screening for a task force flank, and to augment heavy forces.
. Use established control measures to prevent the concentration of forces during halts and to control movement into the OLZ.
. Plan fires similar to suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) fires. Think of the fires in terms of suppression of enemy anti-truck (SEAT) fires. Plan fires along the task force direction of attack or route and register on charts when possible (such as when in support of defile operations).
. Plan lethal and non-lethal (if available) fires on enemy positions that are known or templated, or those that cannot be avoided. Assets typically available to the task force include task force or company (TF/CO) mortars, 105mm artillery, and 155mm artillery fires. Consider the mortar battery concept (consolidating 60mm and 81mm mortars under mortar platoon leader control).
. Consider brigade-level assets that may be available (non-lethal fires, aviation, 155mm artillery). Although the deep fight may prevent any support other than organic mortars, these can be used in support of the light task force. Consider integrating attack aviation, Kiowa Warriors and close air support (CAS).
. Plan a CFZ at the defile and over serials during security halts. Plan a sensor zone or NFA around task force mortars if firing from within the CFZ.
. Designate a plan for clearing fires within the defile.
. Consider use of illumination (for both deception and navigation) and smoke.
. Clear obstacles en route to the DP.
. Provide counter-mobility assets (such as MOPMs, mines, and wire) to the flank security force to assist in protecting the task force from an enemy flank counterattack or to assist in breaking contact.
. Plan for detection, marking, and bypass of chemically contaminated areas. Request FOX support from the brigade based on enemy situation.
. Clear lanes through defiles as required. Marking and bypass is the preferred method.
. Bound assets forward to provide continuous coverage.
. Designate air guards with assigned sectors. Ensure air guards have night observation devices (NODs) and binoculars.
. Plan refuel-on-the-move (ROM) requirements as time and distance analysis dictates.
. Consider heavy force refuel requirements.
. Ensure medical assets are positioned forward to support defile operations.
. Consider vehicle drag/recovery plan.
. Maintain situational awareness. Key leaders (chalk leaders or serial commanders) must be in front of their vehicles with the following, at a minimum:
* a map with graphics
* PVS-7s with helmet mount
* SINCGARs radio with communications card
* synchronized watch.
* a copy of the movement table
* execution checklist
* OLZ sketches
. Chalk leaders must keep soldiers and leaders (including serial commanders) aware of the battle situation at all times. The serial commanders are responsible for passing intelligence updates, SITREPs, and changes in the situation to the chalk leaders, and chalk leaders are responsible for passing it on to the soldiers in the back of the vehicles.
. Consider the use of waypoints to facilitate navigation in the desert. Don't depend solely on the PLGR. Use a compass and odometer (convert kilometers to miles) as a backup.
. Position the ACP/TAC forward to support defile operations. Consider split TAC operations with the S3 moving with a supporting effort (such as an advanced guard or rifle company clearing defile) and the task force commander with the main body.
. Ensure the communications plan provides adequate coverage of the task force during movement from the truck PZ/Main CP to the objective. Consider the employment of retransmissions (RETRANS), relays, TACSAT, HF, and FM. Develop a trigger for moving the JUMPTOC/TOC forward if communications are lost within the task force.
. Use control measures to control task force movement during the truck infiltration. Ensure the march table is followed. Be prepared to stop a serial at a certain control measure to prevent the concentration of forces. The task force controls the tempo and momentum of the truck infiltration.
. Use of non-secure radios (PRC 126/127s) is not allowed until contact with the enemy is made.
. Ensure the conditions are set to begin defile operations.
Loading Plan (parallels with the loading plan for an air assault): The loading phase executes the truck PZ for the truck assault. The loading plan begins when the unit boards the vehicles and ends when the forces are uploaded and the first serial begins movement.
1. Similar to a helicopter PZ, truck assaults do not succeed at the truck PZ but they can start to fail there. The truck PZ should be established and run similar to a helicopter PZ.
2. Consider using the S4 as the truck PZ control officer. Usually, the S3-Air is tied up with the helicopter PZ and is unable to break away to do both.
3. The task force executive officer (XO) should supervise the task force, unless he is the PZ control officer for a task force air assault. Staging and loading are critical events and the XO can best serve the task force on site rather than in the TOC. Each serial (usually a rifle company +) should be a self-contained force that understands its task and purpose at the off-load zone (dismounting point) and during execution of the ground tactical plan.
Staging Plan (parallels with the staging plan for an air assault): Staging establishes the truck PZ and moves the troops there to be loaded. The staging plan begins when the task force receives the warning order (WARNO) from brigade to conduct a truck infiltration (assault) and ends when the unit and trucks are in truck PZ posture and the forces are prepared to load.
1. Vehicle-loading considerations drive selection of the truck PZ and the staging plan.
2. Use the following planning considerations as a basic tactical SOP (TACSOP) checklist for the staging phase of the truck infiltration (assault):
. Choose truck PZs by personal reconnaissance, imagery, and updated maps.
. Consider mud, restricted terrain, and mobility characteristics of vehicles when selecting the truck PZ.
. Reconnoiter, mark, and time routes from the truck PZ to the LD.
. Select marshaling areas and truck PZs that allow for dispersion of the serials and security. The forces securing the trucks during movement can secure the truck PZ.
. Mark the route from the main supply route (MSR) to the truck PZ. Establish TCPs if required. Consider sending an element to link up with the trucks and guide them to the task force truck PZ. Request use of MPs if required.
. Set up and stage in daylight. Limited visibility staging is difficult (it can be a challenge just getting the vehicles from the brigade support area (BSA) to the truck PZ in the dark).
. Coordinate for the trucks to arrive early to allow for rehearsals.
. Develop a serial/vehicle marking plan so the soldiers understand which vehicles belong to which serial/chalk. This is especially critical if staging during limited visibility. Remember that colors work poorly when using PVS-7s during limited visibility operations.
. Plan to guide the trucks and chalks to their staging position. Maintain positive control at all times.
. Plan for contingencies such as broken vehicles, hot PZ, lost communications, limited visibility due to inclement weather (high winds/brown out, fog). Develop a bump plan.
. Plan fires in support of staging and loading operations.
. Establish CFZ over PZ.
. Remove or mark obstacles in the truck PZ.
. Sandbag vehicles for mine protection and remove tarps and bows for 360-degree observation and rapid dismount.
. Request and disseminate the obstacle overlay. Take into consideration a dirty battlefield.
. Make provisions for the movement of casualties, supplies, and equipment that will not accompany the unit during the truck infiltration (assault).
. Position medical assets to treat injured soldiers during rehearsals and loading. Ensure that there is one combat lifesaver per vehicle.
. Position maintenance, recovery, and refueling assets on the truck PZ.
. Plan for additional trucks to serve as replacements. Position the additional trucks on the truck PZ so they do not interfere with loading operations.
. Conduct Class I (water), III, V resupply as required.
. Ensure preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) are conducted while in the marshaling area.
. Establish a truck PZ control officer with appropriate communications and transportation.
. If the TOC is not collocated or in vicinity of the truck PZ, position the "jump TOC" with the XO in vicinity of the truck PZ.
. Conduct task force rehearsals with the vehicle drivers present.
. Ensure chalk leaders inspect vehicles and drivers to ensure readiness.
. Conduct a COMMEX with the vehicles, command group, command posts, and brigade.
. Ensure chalk leaders prepare manifests in two copies. One copy is to be maintained by the chalk leader and the other is to be turned in to the truck PZ control officer.
. Schedule a truck PZ update briefing with key leaders to disseminate the most current intelligence and operational information.
. Conduct a commander's communications check following the PZ update brief.
. Ensure all chalk leaders in the front seat of the vehicles (platoon leaders or above) have the following, at a minimum:
* a copy of the graphics
* a copy of the movement table
* a copy of the execution checklist
* a PLGR
* a radio
* night observation devices (NODs).
THE MOVEMENT ORDER
1. Whether it is the backup for an air assault/airborne assault or the primary method of infiltration, truck infiltration (assault) mission planning must be addressed by the task force. If it is not one of the critical events identified by the task force for wargaming in addition to actions on the objective, then it must be addressed at a later time. It is certainly a critical event for the task force.
2. Although there may not be an associated "air mission conference (AMC)" or an "air mission brief (AMB)" with a truck infiltration (assault), the orders process should be conducted in the same way as the AMB with similar products, such as truck PZ/OLZ diagrams, movement table, and so forth. Page H-25 of FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, shows a movement order format that is a good start point for the truck infiltration (assault) order/annex. The following completed example is suggested as "a way" to format the movement order or annex. The format base is from FM 55-30 and FM 101-5, with extracts from the Ranger Handbook and lessons learned.
(Change from oral orders, If any)
Place of issue
Date-time group of signature
Message reference number
(1) Order of march.
(4) Speed. (Include catchup speed.)
(5) Method of movement.
(6) Defense on the move (actions on contact).
(7) Start, release, or other critical points.
(8) Convoy control.
(9) Harbor areas.
(10) Instructions for halts.
(11) Lighting (light discipline standards).
4. SERVICE AND SUPPORT.
5. COMMAND AND SIGNAL.
(1) Location of commander and chain of command.
(2) Location of key individuals or particular vehicles.
(Commander's last name)
APPENDIXES: (at a minimum, movement table, truck PZ/LZ diagrams, communications card, route card (strip map) and execution checklist)
THE MOVEMENT TABLE
The following is an example movement table (minor modifications from format in FM 55-30). If classified and issued to TCPs, dates and locations may be omitted. If the table is issued by itself and not as an appendix to a movement order, it should be signed and authenticated in accordance with the unit SOP. If the distribution is the same as the OPORD, headings and endings are not necessary. Headings should be kept to a minimum.
|Chalk or load||Date||Unit/
|No. of Veh||Load Class of Heaviest Vehicles||From|
Ref. Due(Hrs) Clear(Hrs)
|Route from Release Point||Remarks|
With detailed planning, adequate organization for combat, rehearsals, and sufficient command and control during execution, light task forces can conduct truck infiltration (assault) missions. Light task forces can move through an enemy security zone to a dismount point with sufficient combat power to accomplish its task and purpose. Truck infiltrations (assaults) are not purely tactical road marches. They are combined arms combat operations, and, as such, must be planned, rehearsed, and executed with input and support from all battlefield operating systems (BOSs).
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