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Scout Training Plan

by CPT Kevin Parker, Task Force Scout Observer/Controller, CMTC

SITUATION: Two hours prior to Line of Departure, the TF 9-99 commander ponders his options. His unit is preparing to cross the LD. It is supposed to be a deliberate attack against a defending MRC. The TF S2 has just given the commander some bad news:

  • The TF has lost contact with three of the four dismounted scout teams tasked to overwatch NAIs.
  • Three scout HMMWVs were destroyed while moving forward in an attempt to regain contact with their dismounts.
  • The remaining scout team is out of sector and not in position to observe the critical NAI.

The commander mutters to himself, "Today is going to be one of those days," and goes to work.

Sound familiar?

The trick is how do we prevent this all-too-common scenario from happening to our TF? We all know the answer -- training. Simple. We must train our scouts to be more proficient at their basic skills.

The hard part is HOW? How do we get our scout platoon to a level of proficiency that will enable them to give us what we need during a mission? This article helps to answer that question.

First we must decide which scout-specific skills and tasks are the most important and focus on training these skills. It is highly unlikely that the current OPTEMPO will enable us to become proficient in every task in ARTEP 17-57-10-MTP before deployment. And it is most probable that each commander will consider different tactical tasks as more important than others. Despite differences in priorities, you should include the following skills and tasks in any training plan. They are the foundation for successful accomplishment of all scout tactical tasks. I call them the BIG NINE:

1. Call for and Adjust Indirect Fire (Skill Level 1).
2. Send SPOT Reports/Radio Procedures (Skill Level 1).
3. Land Navigation - dismounted and mounted (Skill level 1 & 2).
4. Conduct Dismounted Patrolling (Collective Task).
5. Establish an OP (Collective Task).
6. Conduct Troop-Leading Procedures (Collective Task).
7. Conduct Tactical Movement (Collective Task).
8. Conduct Actions on Contact (Collective Task).
9. Conduct IPB (Leader Task).

Indeed, scouts must be proficient in more than just these few tasks. ARTEP17-57-10-MTP lists over 100 Platoon Collective, Crew Collective, and Leader tasks that, along with CTT skills and 19D Skill Level 1-4 skills, tell us what scouts should be able to do for us. However, when we begin to plan scout platoon training at the Platoon, Company, and Battalion levels, we need a common focus. That focus should center on the tasks and skills listed above. How can you expect a platoon to conduct a successful Screen if it cannot conduct TLPs, establish an OP, send SPOT Reports, or Call for Fire to standard? Conversely, if a platoon is good at TLPs, can establish OPs to-standard, can send good SPOT reports, and can effectively Call for Fire, how successful will they be even if they have never conducted a Screen? Probably pretty successful.

Now we have a focus: Our scout platoon will be good at conducting the BIG NINE.

How do I get the platoon to be good at the BIG NINE? Apply the eight-step training model to the following four-step process:

1. Classroom Instruction.
2. Practical Application.
3. BN/BDE Training/Evaluation.
4. CTC Training/Evaluation.

CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION

  • Sergeants' Time is not the time to conduct this training - Sergeants' Time Training is an NCO's opportunity to train his soldiers on CTT and SL1-2 skills.

  • Section Leaders, PL, and PSG should teach the classes. Invite the CO, S2, and Mortar PLT leadership to make guest appearances. For example:

    INSTRUCTORCLASS/SUBJECTAUDIENCE
    Mortar SL Call for and Adjust Indirect FireALL
    PL Send SPOT Reports/Radio ProceduresALL
    Section LeaderLand Navigation - dismounted and mountedALL
    Senior ScoutConduct Dismounted PatrollingALL
    Section LeaderEstablish an OPALL
    PSGConduct Troop-Leading ProceduresALL
    PSGConduct Tactical MovementALL
    COConduct Actions on ContactALL
    S2 (not the BICC)Conduct IPBSSG and above
    BN CDRWhat I want from my Scout PlatoonALL

  • A representative from the Battalion leadership (CDR, XO, S3) should attend the classes.
    • Ensures good training.
    • Shows how important the TF CDR thinks this stuff is.

  • Allows the TF to articulate what it expects from its scout platoon.

  • The Company Commander should attend every class.

  • The CO is responsible for training and certifying every instructor.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

A practical application of the subjects taught in class should follow to reinforce learning. Here is a sample training plan by subject:

1. Call for and Adjust Indirect Fire.

  • Conduct in TSFO or GUARD FIST II, first - least effective.
  • Conduct in SIMNET, second - more effective.
  • Serve as observers for all Mortar Live Fire, even sub-caliber inbore device, and any Artillery Live Fires you can get. This method is the best indirect fire training we can give our scouts, and it fosters Scout Mortar integration. Failure to integrate scouts into Mortar Live Fire is a huge missed opportunity.
  • Make sure everyone from PVT to LT participates in the training.

2. Send SPOT Reports/Radio Procedures.

  • Practice sending SPOT reports in UCOFT (need a certified IO, concentrate on reporting, can be done by HMMWV scouts in tank or Bradley UCOFT).
  • Practice by overwatching a semi-populated area on or off post and sending SPOT reports over a radio EX. "Red 1, this is Red 5. Two Blue VWs with two civilians, stationary in the parking lot NK123456, time 1037. It looks like they are arguing."
  • Conduct in SIMNET (can be done in conjunction with other training such as call for fire).

3. Land Navigation - dismounted and mounted.

  • Conduct dismounted Land NAV with junior leaders and soldiers on a Land NAV course with six to eight legs between 300-500m that allows soldiers to use both terrain association and compass techniques (conducted in two man teams)(this training should be a monthly event for every soldier in the platoon).
  • Conduct mounted Land NAV in a local training area or maneuver rights area (this also allows you to conduct tactical driving which most platoons are poor at)(this training should be a section monthly event).

4. Conduct Dismounted Patrolling./5. Establish an OP.

  • Plan a series of two-day section-level FTXs conducted in a local training area (monthly).
  • Mortars can provide the OPFOR (scouts can return the favor during MORTEPs).
  • CO, 1SG (if he was an 11B/M or 19D), PL, PSG, Senior Scout, Section Leaders are possible O/Cs.
  • Let junior NCOs lead the patrols.
  • Conduct day and night missions.
  • Possible Story Line.

    0900-1000 Issue OPORD to section (received OPORD from PLT night before).
    1000-1300 Rehearsals and PCI/PCC.
    1330 LD.
    1330-1600 Patrol moves tactically to OP (OPFOR three-man local security patrol in area).
    1600-2000 Establish OP and Observe NAI (OPFOR activity in NAI - local security patrols in area).
    2000-2400 Issue FRAGO to move to another OP 2-5K away and conduct obstacle reconnaissance (OPFOR patrols).
    2400-0300 Set OP and conduct active obstacle reconnaissance (OPFOR provides local security of obstacle).
    0300-0500 Issue FRAGO to conduct obstacle reconnaissance at new location 1-3K away (OPFOR patrols).
    0500-0700 Set OP and conduct daylight obstacle reconnaissance (which is different than night) (OPFOR overwatches obstacle or is emplacing obstacle).
    0700-1200 Continue to conduct other missions.
    1200-1330 AARs at section level.
    Next Day Platoon AAR led by PL on lessons learned.

  • The key is repetition; these are perishable skills that must be practiced regularly.
  • Leadership must show up at the training or at the AARs at the very least.

6. Conduct Troop-Leading Procedures.

  • S3Air and S2 give the platoon leader an OPORD.
  • PLT conducts TLPs for X number of hours (start with 8 hours and work down to 4).
  • Can be done in garrison environment with rehearsals and PCI/PCC being conducted in the motor pool.
  • External O/Cs - CO, 1SG, XO, experienced S3 NCO, S2 (he would learn as much as he taught) are possible choices.
  • TLPs are also conducted as part of the two-day FTX.

7. Conduct Tactical Movement./8. Conduct Actions on Contact.

  • Platoon conducts sand-table exercises with BLUEFOR and OPFOR pieces (Micro Armor is best) led by PL.
  • Next step is to conduct section-level lanes in SIMNET if possible.
  • Final step is to conduct section-level lanes in the field.
  • Lanes do not need to be huge (if training area is an issue), but should include the following:
    • Need an OPFOR, which can be internally resourced if necessary.
    • Should force the section to react to visual contact, direct fire, indirect fire, obstacle, air, and NBC.
    • Direct fire contact should be first against an inferior force (near), then against a superior force (far).
    • Other tasks can be integrated into the lane, but the focus should be maneuver.
  • Sand-table exercises are not enough; scouts must get out in their vehicles - if they cannot get land to train, then SIMNET is the next best thing.

9. Conduct IPB.

  • S2 is the primary trainer, not the BICC or anyone else.
  • PL, PSG, Senior Scout, and Section Leaders are the audience.
  • Focus should be the enemy security zone (for Zone/Area reconnaissance) and OPFOR reconnaissance techniques and order of battle (for Screen).
  • The goal of this training is two-fold:
    1. Platoon leadership that in the offense can pick good infiltration routes through an enemy security zone and can select good OP locations overwatching assigned NAIs.
    2. Platoon leadership that in the defense can anticipate where enemy reconnaissance assets will attempt to penetrate our counter-reconnaissance effort.
  • The S2 gives the scout platoon leadership an R&S OPORD that, at a minimum, provides an R&S overlay, R&S matrix, and an enemy SITTEMP that does not fully address the enemy security zone or reconnaissance effort.
  • The platoon leadership conducts its own IPB, adding to the BN SITTEMP, and plans its OP locations (all missions) and infiltration routes (offensive missions).
  • The S2 compares the scout SITTEMP and plan to his own "approved solution" and discusses differences in the two plans (this is great training for the S2 also) to reinforce teaching points.

Whether or not your Battalion uses these techniques in their training is not important. But they have worked in the past for some units. The important part of this step in the training process is finding a way to allow soldiers to practice their skills over and over again. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Classes are great, but practical application is better. This step is far and away the most important step in the four-step training process.

BATTALION/BRIGADE TRAINING/EVALUATION

The ideal situation before deployment to a CTC is to give the scout platoon an FTX that is observed and controlled by a group from outside the Battalion.

  • The training can be resourced and run by either the battalion or the brigade, but a brigade-run Scouts Stakes works better.
  • The FTX can be a set of three to five lanes or a series of scenario-driven events.
  • The missions given to the platoon should include at a minimum - Zone Reconnaissance, Area Reconnaissance, Screen, and Route Reconnaissance.
  • The focus of the evaluation should be on the Big Nine, plus whatever tasks the Commander deems appropriate.
  • O/Cs should be SSGs/SFCs from scout platoons in another battalion with a Captain who was a scout PL as the platoon O/C.
  • BDE or Battalion must certify the O/Cs, to include their ability to give to standard AARs.
  • Training should be supported by at least one fire marker per lane or mission.
  • The OPFOR should be robust and rigidly controlled - they are a training aid.
  • TF leadership rep (CDR, S3, or XO) should attend the PLT AARs.
  • AAR sites should include a Terrain Model, two Dry Erase Boards, and chairs, at a minimum.
  • Platoons must have at least eight hours to conduct TLPs for each mission.
  • At least one mission should require the platoon to use some mounted movement.
  • This training can also be a training event for the S2 section, S3 section, Mortars, and FSE.
  • Training should last about five days.

The purpose of the FTX evaluations, whether run by BN or BDE, is to bring all of the platoon's STX training together. This training is where we can start to look at the platoon as a whole. However, to keep the training consistent, our focus should still be on the Big Nine.

CTC TRAINING/EVALUATION

Your unit is evaluated every time it deploys to a CTC. It is evaluated against the Army Doctrinal Standard for each task and mission. It is not compared to other units. The evaluation is yours alone and intended for you to take back to home station so you can focus your training. The AARs are yours. So are the Take-Home Packets. DO NOT FEAR EVALUATION. It makes you better. It is not whether you win or lose. It is how you play the game that counts. The return on your investment is learning something -- regardless of whether you accomplish a task to standard or not. That is why we train. But since you are investing so much time and effort, make sure you have a plan to train when you deploy to the CTC.

  • Have training objectives for the scout platoon - What do you want to improve?
  • Give the O/Cs areas you want them to focus on - What do I want the O/Cs to help me improve?
  • Come fired up and ready to learn - Platoons that are motivated get better, those that aren't, don't!
  • Take notes during your AARs and on your own observations.
  • Evaluate your lessons learned and integrate them into your next training plan.

CONCLUSION

Some parting thoughts:

  • Smart Commanders and S3s are interested in everything that their scout platoon does.
  • Command emphasis and interest in scout training makes the training better and makes the scouts work harder (they know the boss is interested in their mission and they do not want to let him down).
  • External evaluations by qualified/certified O/Cs are a must. They give us a different perspective and keep us honest.
  • There are a million reasons why we cannot conduct training. It is our duty to our soldiers to find a way to do it anyway.
  • Practical application of skills and tasks is the key to success.

The focus and four-step training process presented here are a way to set a scout platoon up for success when it deploys. If your battalion has a different way that works for it, then use it. The heart of the matter is this: You can only expect out of a scout platoon what you put into it.


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