Surveillance (LRS) Detachment/Company
by MSG James E. Farnsworth and SFC Jason K. Burks, NCOIC LRS JRTC
A long-range surveillance detachment operating base (LRS DOB) has all the planning, execution, support, and recovery requirements that a larger unit encounters in mounting independent operations. Though an LRS DOB or a company operations base (COB) does draw some support from its parent unit, the DOB is the heart of LRS team operations that may span hundreds of kilometers. An effective DOB can ensure that its LRS teams draw missions that are within their capabilities, complete those missions effectively, and are recovered safely. On the other hand, a DOB that is not prepared to execute those critical tasks can needlessly sacrifice its LRS teams. The difference between the two lies in their preparation and training for the mission.
Consideration of that preparation and training can best be done by phases of a typical LRS mission. PHASE One is the planning stage, concerned with predeployment requirements; tactical employment considerations; the military decision-making process (MDMP) for higher, DOB, and teams; operations order (OPORD) development that flows from the MDMP; and other miscellaneous requirements. It also examines possible contingencies that may arise, and requires rehearsals within the DOB and externally within the teams as well as higher headquarters. PHASE Two focuses on the actual insertion and infiltration of the teams in accordance with the plans developed in the initial phase. PHASE Three is the execution stage and is where the DOB functions in controlling ongoing actions through effective battle tracking. The DOB becomes more than a mere headquarters. It serves as an operations center that must maintain communications and message flow and staff journals, as well as its own security and displacement plans. The DOB also dispatches and coordinates the activities of liaison officers (LNOs) as necessary to support its teams in the field. PHASE Four deals with bringing the teams home through exfiltration and extraction, obviously a time that the DOB must remain at peak efficiency. And, finally, PHASE Five is the recovery stage when the teams are debriefed and then rested for the next operation.
The planning phase for a DOB (or a COB) begins when the first hint of a warning order surfaces. This is the predeployment stage. It may sound simplistic, but one of the initial requirements is to pause and think about where the long-range surveillance detachment (LRSD) is going. As time permits, review applicable area studies and consider where the road to war may lead. The evasion plan of action (EPA) and Isolation Personal Report (ISOPREP) DD Form 1833 should be brought up to date and changed as necessary. Packing lists should meet the expected requirements for the targeted area, as should survival kits. Under certain conditions, last-minute survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) training, or perhaps SERE refresher, should be considered to incorporate special considerations for the mission area. Most of these tasks are internal to the LRSD and should be part of the DOB standing operating procedures (SOP) for pre-deployment activities.
There are also external requirements focused on coordination and planning with the higher headquarters. Just as the LRSD is doing, the division (or higher headquarters) will be pulling operations plans (OPLANs) and contingency plans (CONPLANs) off the shelf for examination. The LRSD must ensure that it participates in the division staff's MDMP, especially when the G2 is involved in nominating named areas of interest (NAIs).
Those external planning considerations remain in effect as the LRSD deploys with the supported unit. The DOB must participate in future operational planning sessions. It should maintain an overall friendly and enemy situation awareness. The only way to do that is to stay up on intelligence and operations summaries (INTSUMS and OPSUMS) and huddle with other BOS representatives in the tactical operations center. The DOB should continue to assist the G2 in nominating and refining NAIs based on initial detachment analysis, using assets such as the analysis and control elements (ACE), the terrain team, and the staff weather officer. The DOB should be planning for its own location and that of the alternate operations base (AOB) as well as the security requirements for both. Finally, the DOB must be ready to receive its mission brief from the G2 and G3.
Detachment Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP)
The LRS detachment has a specific focus in its own MDMP. It should always seek to reduce the amount of information the team leaders have to read. The DOB must provide detailed guidance to prevent wasted time. Time is not recoverable, so cut to the chase. To facilitate the economy of time, all BOS representatives in the unit DOB must be involved in the MDMP. Obviously, the commander, the executive officer, the first sergeant, and the operations NCO have roles to play in the DOB MDMP, but the commo chief, detachment liaison officers, supply personnel, and medics also need to be involved. The dictum that intelligence drives maneuver still applies. Without a detailed and complete IPB, the teams will be forced into the reaction mode in the remainder of their isolation. The DOB should develop the wargame and compare scheme of maneuver courses of action (COAs) to provide team leaders with COA guidance. The DOB MDMP should coordinate fire support, aviation, resupply, host nation forces, air forces, suppression of enemy air defenses (both lethal and non-lethal), the deception plan, point of entry and exit across the forward line of troops (FLOT), and Amy air space command and control (A2C2).
The LRS detachment uses the same painstaking process in preparing the detachment operations order. In doing so it must maintain its external operational security (OPSEC) as well as isolation between teams. Remember, the capture of one team should not compromise the others. As in the MDMP, all BOS elements should be in on developing the five-paragraph operations order format.
Paragraph 1 should provide a detailed briefing on the specific area of operations, to include a modified combined obstacles overlay (MCOO), LOS, survival considerations, and weather. Intelligence offers the products of detailed IPB, to include situation template, most probable COA, most dangerous COA, event template, and civilians on the battlefield. Those products should focus on effects on the teams' missions in terms of their area of operations as well as their area of interest. Finally, it should detail friendly forces in and around the area of operations and area of interest to sort out conflicts in operations and indicate possible support options for the teams.
The most critical pieces of information that any soldier must understand to execute the mission rests in a complete understanding of the mission (Task and Purpose) and the commander's intent (Paragraph 2). This base of understanding allows all soldiers to carry out their mission in the absence of orders on a battlefield overwhelmed with change. For the average LRS soldier operating 50 to 150 kilometers forward of the FLOT, this information must be crystal clear and require no second thoughts. The six-man LRS team will be required to make decisions and act independently and, therefore, must have this explicit guidance. The first challenge arises in the mission statement. Many higher headquarters and soldiers confuse LRS missions with tasks. The problem begins with the standard LRS mission essential task list (METL) from FM 7-93, Long Range Surveillance Unit Operations. The standard LRS METL includes surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and battle damage assessment. In an LRS mission statement, the above listed items are the "operation" or "mission." The task must be a clearly measurable activity and should be definable, obtainable, and decisive. Tasks contribute to the accomplishment of the mission and operation. An LRS operation and task of "conducts surveillance to locate" corresponds to an infantry operation and task of "attacks to seize." Figure 1 contains examples of standard LRS missions and some of their linked tasks.
Often, headquarters and LRS soldiers are not clear on how to determine their essential task. The simplest method of determining an LRS task is to study LRS specific orders or requests (SOR). For long-range surveillance units (LRSU), SOR are specific orders. The SOR are the result of collection planning and tasking and are collection-asset specific. The SOR and tasked unit are usually clearly outlined on the collection matrix. Figure 2 shows how SOR are derived and how they fit into the big picture of collection management and tasking. If the SOR orders LRS to locate SA-9s, SA-8s, and SA-6s in NAI XX, then the task in the mission statement is likely to be "locate." (The same is true for other standard tasks of report, confirm/deny, and so on.)
Paragraph 3 is the substance of the operations order. It specifies the intent of the operation to include its purpose, key tasks, and desired end state. Care should be taken with "no compromise" considerations or guidance. The task and purpose should be LRS tasks versus descriptions of an LRS operation and be applicable to teams, supporting units, and personnel. Paragraph 3 should provide detailed COA guidance and wargaming/comparison criteria. That criteria may be weighted as necessary, but should include insertion/infiltration, scheme of maneuver, reporting and commo, exfiltration/extraction, E&R, link-up, resupply, and no commo. The third paragraph should coordinate infiltration and exfiltration, both primary and alternate. On fires, it should establish purpose, priority, restrictions, and call-for-fire procedures for supporting assets, by phase if necessary. It should refine and clarify SOR. It should publish the commander's critical intelligence requirements (CCIR) based on priority intelligence requirements (PIR), friendly forces information requirements (FFIR), and essential elements of friendly information (EEFI). Finally, it should publish a detailed planning and operational timeline.
Paragraph 4 covers support considerations. One consideration is what to do with enemy prisoners of war (EPWs); another details both friendly and enemy wounded in action (WIA) and killed in action (KIA). Survival information should be addressed as well as medical information, such as equipment status and the location of medical facilities.
Paragraph 5 concerns command and signal. It should provide the location of DOB and AOB by azimuths and distances. Call signs and frequencies for all supporting assets must be detailed, including combat support hospital (CSH), aviation (AVN), close air support (CAS), and artillery. It should also address air tasking orders as they apply. Possible annexes to the DOB order include commo, E&R, and link-up.
Miscellaneous Planning Considerations
Once the operations order is out, the detachment operating base focuses on supporting the teams. The DOB should forward requests for information (RFIs) and track replies. This means following up answered RFIs -- AGGRESSIVELY! The DOB should assist the teams during their MDMP. The DOB can play "Red Hat" during war gaming. The team leaders should present their pre-mission briefings, such as mission analysis, the COA decision brief, and backbriefs, to the DOB.
As the teams progress in their planning, the DOB should compile a mission planning folder for each which includes the team SOPs, the team OPORD and Annexes, and the team evasion plan of action (EPA) and ISOPREP cards (DD Form 1833). The DOB should conduct a final intelligence update prior to station time.
Because of the nature of its extended operations and the support required, the DOB should plan for a variety of contingencies. Many focus on support for insertion and extraction of the teams. They include emergency extraction, downed aircraft, evasion and recovery, hot landing zone (LZ)/pick-up zone (PZ), casualties in insertion or extraction, and emergency medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). The DOB and the AOB should be prepared for displacement, indirect or direct fire on the DOB, and emergency resupply. Other contingencies concern no commo and no commo resupply. Link-up with or passage through friendly forces should also be considered.
Rehearsals are the necessary companion to planning. An unrehearsed plan can be slower to execute than no plan. Rehearsals consider contingencies such as emergency extraction by vehicle and air, downed aircraft, evasion and recovery, emergency MEDEVAC, emergency resupply, and link-up with or passage through friendly forces. Calls for fire from close air support, naval gunfire, artillery, and attack aviation are also areas that should be rehearsed. The DOB must also rehearse its own defensive actions or battle drills.
Rehearsals with Teams
Just as the DOB rehearses internally and with external support, it should rehearse with its supported teams. Again, many of the rehearsals focus on contingencies, including emergency extraction by vehicle and air, downed aircraft, evasion and recovery, emergency resupply, link-up with or passage through friendly forces, no commo and no commo resupply, and hot LZ/PZ. They should also drill calls for fire from close air support, naval gunfire, artillery, and attack aviation.
With good planning and a certain amount of luck, the insertion phase is one of the briefest in the operational cycle for the DOB and the teams. That said, the DOB must stay on top of it because risk to the teams begins with this leap into hostile territory. It is the DOB's role to minimize the risk and react when things go awry. The DOB should incorporate EH-60, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), attack aviation, command and control (C2) aircraft, MEDEVAC, combat search and rescue (CSAR) aircraft, and forces into the insertion. Both lethal and non-lethal suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) platforms should be at hand with plans ready to implement, along with all forms of available fires. The communications plan must be followed, and reporting should continue while the teams are en route. The DOB should have all contingencies planned, rehearsed, and ready to support the insertion, including downed aircraft or vehicle (mechanical, ADA, mines), hot LZ, and loss of communications (to DOB, to team). The DOB should debrief the insertion assets on the entire insertion operation. It should have alternate methods of vehicle, HNF, partisan, and watercraft ready to meet contingency needs, as well as special technique support for static line, high altitude low opening (HALO)/high altitude high opening (HAHO), fast rope insertion extraction system (FRIES), and special patrol insertion extraction system (SPIES) insertion. Finally, the DOB should have roll-over sites selected, evaluated, and marked ready for occupation as necessary.
Just as Paragraph 3 is the heart of the operations order, PHASE Three is the heart of the operation. All other phases support the actual execution of the mission. In the case of the LRSD, the DOB may, in fact, be in the execution phase almost continuously as multiple teams plan, insert, execute, exfiltrate, and recover.
Continuous operational requirements means that as an operations center, the DOB always has actions ongoing. One of the keys to success is having a functional layout. Figure 3 shows a suggested DOB set-up. The DOB must plan and coordinate future missions at the same time it directs current operations. The best way to do this is through current and future operations cells.
The current cell coordinates emergency extractions and other required support such as fire support, CAS, UAV, quick fix (QF), and attack aviation station times (ATO). It monitors scheduled communications times, logs all traffic, and forwards required messages. The current cell continually updates the division on LRS status such as team positions, no-fire areas (NFA), and routes. It coordinates friendly, host nation forces, or special operations forces link-ups. It also updates the teams, sending updated situation reports (Paragraph 1) and any changes to the LRS teams' missions. All of this requires detailed battle tracking. The DOB provides services and support to DOB personnel and teams, including resupply of committed teams. Those services encompass all classes of supply, maintenance, showers, laundry, mail, chaplain, and medical services.
The isolation location will be set up before the team's isolation and will look like the following diagram.
- Terrain will always dictate placement.
- Individual fighting positions will be made on an METT-T basis.
- Priority will be given to proper sighting of antennas.
- Generators will be positioned a safe distance from the BRS. At a minimum, all tents and 2X BRS will be under a large camouflage screen.
- All other vehicles will be under individual camouflage screens.
Since the DOB serves as an operations center, battle tracking is a critical element in that mission. This is a continuous function from planning through recovery for each team, meaning the DOB is probably battle tracking one or more teams at any given moment. To do so the DOB must receive, analyze, and distribute information. It must also integrate and synchronize resources to support its teams. Information management is the base plate for achieving those functions. The DOB should establish information display techniques such as charts, standardized map boards, overlays, and timelines. Message handling, including message flow, tracking receipts, and updating displays, should be set in SOPs. The goal is battle tracking of team status, position status, no-fire areas, SOR status, missed commo windows, batteries, and other needs. DOB shift changes are critical handoffs in battle tracking. Briefs make or break these handoffs. If information is going to be misplaced, it occurs between shifts. Good logs, display boards, coordination tracking boards, and shift change briefs prevent loss of critical information.
The DOB is the principal interface with division. To handle that function, the DOB must maintain continuous situation awareness to include friendly and enemy situations. Its focus should be on what affects the teams, the DOB, and the lines of communication between them, including aerial line of communications (LOCs). The DOB must maintain contact with the G2 and the G3 operations and plans sections. DOB representatives should be present in all deep operations targeting meetings.
It should be apparent that making all the above happen requires redundant communication systems. All communications equipment and all frequencies must be tested at the appropriate time prior to insertion. The DOB must monitor the guard frequency 24 hours a day. Uninterrupted communications are the standard. The base radio station (BRS) should adjust their equipment in the event of communications loss. The DOB should collocate operations with the communications team. The AOB must be prepared to deploy to ensure communications.
If the DOB is to communicate efficiently, strict adherence to message formats is a must. That means it must employ standard message formats such as Angus, BORIS, Cyril, and Under. The same reporting format should be used from the surveillance site (SS) to the analysis and control elements (ACE). All messages should be numbered. The DOB has to receive, decode, and disseminate combat and administrative information from the teams. Information from each message should be posted to the appropriate maps and charts. Commander's critical information requirements (CCIR) should be posted on the display chart. The DOB must track which SORs have been obtained. Intelligence reports should be forwarded from the teams to the appropriate division staff section in accordance with division distribution lists. That means the DOB should have a copy of that distribution list and follow it. The DOB should maintain a journal for each team as well as a detachment master journal. All outgoing messages originating from the tactical operations center (TOC) should be recorded in the journals as well as any incoming messages. Each message is filed in the message file according to the journal entry.
The staff journal is a chronological record of events pertaining to the unit during a given period. All items in the journal should be cross-referenced to the journal entries by journal item number. Messages posted to the journal should include the sender, the title of message and description of event, time of receipt, journal item number and message number, the action taken, and initials of the person making the entry.
Actions for Contingencies
By definition, contingencies are events that might occur which can be planned for in advance. But when contingencies must be addressed, time is usually compressed and other operations that are not affected must continue. That means the DOB's on-duty shift must continue with current operations, leaving the off-duty shift prepared to execute contingency operations. Obviously, that means that an off-duty shift remains on a very short string. It also means that possible contingency missions, such as emergency extraction, recovery operations, resupply operations, MEDEVAC, and calls for fire, must be examined and planned for in advance. Ideally, the DOB should have plans for all possible mission abort criteria, to include primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency plans. Those plans can be standardized to a certain degree depending on mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T), but they must also be reviewed and tested through rehearsals for currency and completeness.
Like all command posts and operations centers, the DOB must maintain physical and information security. LRS operations are sensitive, and personnel access to the TOC and isolation facility (ISOFAC) must be restricted and controlled. It should have an SOP in place that establishes procedures for control and identification of visitors. It should include an accompanied and unaccompanied access roster. Most importantly, the DOB must enforce these access controls. There should be only one entrance to the TOC and ISOFAC. Inside, DOB personnel should use appropriate security measures for safeguarding and handling all classified materials. They should have and rehearse an emergency destruction SOP. Force protection must be provided with fighting positions, NBC plans, alert and defensive fire plans, units' left and right signals, escape routes, noise and light discipline, and stand-to/stand-down drills. The DOB should also establish standard life-support provisions addressing food, water, ammo, fuel, and field sanitation.
There is a saying in the military that everybody needs to be ready to move on a moment's notice; that holds true for DOBs. When the DOB is directed to displace, the on-duty shift continues to operate while the off-duty shift breaks down and loads equipment. The DOB notifies the AOB of the departure time, route, and proposed relocation site. Meanwhile, the AOB continues to monitor while the DOB jumps to its new position. When the DOB becomes operational, the AOB sends an update. If the division tactical command post (DTAC) deploys, the DOB commander can move forward with minimum personnel and use the tactical (TAC) commo systems.
Liaison Officer (LNO) Duties
Given the depth that LRS teams operate and the possible width of the LRSD's sector, liaison officers (LNOs) are critical to planning, coordinating, and executing successful LRS missions. LNOs may deploy to brigades or battalions to facilitate link-up, sort out fires, or hand off critical intelligence. An LNO team should locate with the G2 ACE or, if sent to brigade, with the brigade ACT (analysis control team). The team should be staffed for 24-hour operations. It must be able to communicate with the DOB. LNOs may also fly with infiltration and exfiltration aircraft if the gain justifies the risk. If they are on board the aircraft, especially on infiltration, they should be ready to execute the mission with the team if the aircraft is lost. Obviously, there are different types of LNOs. They may be from the teams or up at brigade and division, or perhaps with the aviation unit. Who they are and where they go are both METT-T driven. Regardless, LNOs should have a complete mission folder with orders, annexes, debriefing formats, and team plans. Most importantly, LNOs have to be proactive! They represent the commander and the unit. The bottom line is that they are there to ensure that the teams get the support they need.
Conceptually, extraction is the reverse of infiltration and presents the DOB all the same challenges plus one. The DOB should use all available assets to execute the extraction. It should incorporate EH-60, UAV, attack aviation, C2 helicopter, MEDEVAC, CSAR aircraft, and forces as available. It should consider lethal and nonlethal SEAD platforms and plans. Communications and reporting en route remain critical. Fires must not only be planned and rehearsed, they must be immediately on call along with other contingency plans, such as downed aircraft or vehicle (mechanical, ADA, mines), hot LZ, or commo loss. Alternate platforms should be considered in advance and prepped in case the primary fails. And because it is an extraction, medical teams should be on standby, either to accompany the extraction or receive the team as it reaches the rear. Finally, the DOB should debrief the extraction assets in addition to briefing the team. They may have seen things en route to the pick up or in coming out that the team did not notice. Also, the extraction asset may have suggestions or corrective actions for future missions.
Debriefing has two primary purposes. The first purpose is to review the information developed by the team at the completion of its mission. This allows the team to expand on what it has already reported, adding details to fill in the gaps. The second purpose is to review the operation in total from planning through extraction, with the idea to pinpoint what worked and what did not and how to make it better. To do this the DOB should develop and use one format. It may be trite, but things go more quickly if everyone is on the same sheet of music. The DOB should conduct a hot debrief immediately after extraction. The hot debrief covers just that: what has to be disseminated immediately. Within two hours of extraction, the DOB should begin a detailed debrief of the surveillance team. G2 personnel should direct the debrief, if possible. The DOB operations section should have tracking maps, the team MPF, the team journal, team messages, and debrief formats on-hand. The team should complete a written debrief format before starting the formal debrief. The commo NCO should debrief RTOs. Again, aircrews and/or drivers should be debriefed after an insertion or extraction. One copy of the debriefing should go to higher and a copy should go in the unit's historical records.
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