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During REFORGER 85, it was noted that no procedures are delineated in operational doctrine for maintaining control over or reporting areas of contamination created by friendly attacks. Specifically, units not in the hazard zones are not notified. Further, use of persistent agents to contaminate terrain may pose a hazard for an extensive period of time, and friendly units moving through this terrain must be made aware of the existing contamination.

Chemical School Help

To resolve this dilemma, the Chemical School is taking the following action:

  • Changes to be published in FM 3-3, Contamination Avoidance, draft, dated 1 April 85, final to be published 1st Qtr FY 87, will instruct executing commanders to notify affected subordinate units; adjacent land, air, and naval headquarters which may be affected by the attack; headquarters with control over aviation units which may be affected; and the next higher level of command, whether or not other units under the headquarters may be affected. Those warnings will travel up the chain of command in the same fashion as NBC-1 reports. This ensures that operational echelons and tactical commanders with an interest in the affected area are notified prior to the arrival of contamination. Don't forget OPSEC considerations, especially if the plan is yet to be executed.

  • Contaminating attacks are identified as such in the basic warning messages (pp 3-27 & 3-34). Chemical warning messages include a hazard prediction. Nuclear warnings will be accompanied by NBC-3 reports when fallout producing bursts are planned or probable above 1% (pp 3-27, 3-34, and D-1).

  • When higher and adjacent headquarters receive these warnings, their action is to plot the hazard on the tactical map (p 3-30). Page 3-21 directs NBC level personnel to maintain NBC situation overlays showing contamination. Friendly contamination is operationally the same as enemy contamination and, once marked on the overlay, will be treated in the same manner, to include estimation of effect and hazard predictions. (This statement will be added to reporting requirements on p 3-24, FM 3-3.)


In the absence of doctrinal procedures for reporting contaminated terrain as indicated in the previous article, we found an armored brigade that developed their own procedures to cover this shortfall. They developed the COBO. The COBO was the S2/3 responsibility to develop and maintain. (One can quickly see how this might be escalated to the G2/3 at division.)

This overlay depicted all friendly and enemy chemical information available as to emplacement/employment, with appropriate areas affected shown. The same applied for other obstacles and barriers. This initial overlay was issued to subordinate commanders with the commander's OPORD. Subsequent FRAGOs also contained updates for this overlay. This facilitated the commander's ability to maintain continuous operations by keeping up with terrain that had been altered and allowed his units to make full use of the battlefield. The CS/CSS folks found this to be an extremely useful tool.

Would this have been a more useful tool had the nuclear aspects been added? (NU COBO)

Talk To Us

How do you cover this void? Give us your thoughts and ideas -- others may benefit from them.


During REFORGER 86 it was again observed that methods used to communicate NBC information to subordinate units IAW FM 3-3, NBC Contamination Avoidance are inadequate. This is further amplified by the lack of communication capability in the division NBC center (NBCC). So we asked the Chemical School to look into this matter. They report that good things are on the horizon.

This problem is identified in the Combat Support NBC Mission Area Development Plan (CSNBCMADP) as deficiency number 58. It was further validated as a problem during the Chemical System Program Review. There is an automated NBCWRS as part of the Maneuver Control System (MCS) which is currently scheduled for fielding to the first unit, 9th Infantry Division, in the 4th Qtr, FY87. This system will pass information down to battalion level.

What To Do Now

As an interim solution, the chemical staff will have to continue using the commo nets available to them in the G2/3 area. This can be facilitated to a great extent by establishing procedures and traffic priority for the chemical staff in your TAC SOPs. If you have something better, let us know.

FM 3-3, scheduled for distribution 1st Qtr FY 87 and FC 3-101, Chemical Staffs and Units, Jan 86, to be published as FM 3-101, 2nd Qtr FY 87, will clearly lay out to whom and by what communications means NBC information is to be passed. Be ready to help us review these manuals to be sure this information is clearly laid out.


Recent after action reports indicate that the synchronization of obstacles, fires, deception, and OPSEC during defensive operations needs to be improved. Several recurring synchronization problems have limited the ability of maneuver commanders to make the terrain work to their advantage during a battle. FM 100-5, Operations, (ch 2) shows that battles are won or lost by the way in which combatants use the terrain to protect their own forces and to destroy those of the enemy. Effective deception and tight security operations can enhance combat power by confusing the enemy and reducing his foreknowledge of friendly actions. With those thoughts in mind, let's review some of the common recurring problems.

Use of OPSEC and Deception

Defending commanders are not consistently mounting active deception and counterreconnaissance operations to mask their defensive preparations. The Soviet commander has sophisticated reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition means available to him. Commanders that successfully masked their defensive preparations have:

  • Conducted aggressive counterreconnaissance operations to prevent or limit enemy reconnaissance elements from directly observing obstacle emplacement and the construction of unit positions.

  • Emplaced decoy and dummy obstacles to deceive reconnaissance elements and attacking units.

  • Avoided obvious obstacle emplacement patterns by varying the type, design, and location of obstacles.

Use of Obstacles to Enhance the Effects of Friendly Fires

In most exercises, obstacle and fire support plans have not been synchronized throughout the depth of the battlefield. Maneuver commanders have efficiently integrated obstacles with direct and indirect fires in task force engagement areas. However, obstacles often are not used to enhance the effectiveness of friendly fires in enemy-held areas and along flank and major avenues of approach into defensive sectors. Commanders, when developing their concept of operations, should consider:

  • Integrating point minefields and other obstacles with indirect fires and close air support along flanks and across major avenues of approach to delay, disrupt, and impose losses in personnel and equipment on enemy forces.

  • Placing air and artillery delivered scatterable minefields in enemy-held areas. This will delay, disrupt, and disorganize the target (follow-on forces, lines of communications, or command and control systems), thus enhancing the effectiveness of the fire support system(s) selected to attack the target.

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