Captain Bob Burns, CALL
TASK FORCE SCOUTS - TACTICS, TECHNIQUES, AND PROCEDURES
VIGNETTE: A scout platoon was ordered to screen a mechanized task force (TF) prior to the main body crossing the line of departure (LD). The scout platoon, equipped with Cavalry Fighting Vehicles (CFVs), was augmented with two tanks and three Improved-TOW Vehicles (ITVs). The two tanks made contact with five BMPs and one T-72 in the vicinity of the racetrack, engaged, and destroyed three BMPs before the two tanks and two ITVs were destroyed. The TF commander ordered the scouts to fix the enemy. Subsequently, the entire scout platoon was destroyed by a combination of dismounted Viper teams and main-gun fire. The TF then lost contact with the enemy.
LESSON: THE USE OF SCOUTS AS A COUNTER-RECONNAISSANCE FORCE MUST BE CAREFULLY WEIGHED AGAINST THE MISSION AND AVAILABLE RESOURCES.
The scout platoon is a precious asset to maneuver battalions. How it is used will determine whether it lives or dies and whether the TF accomplishes its mission. Most maneuver battalion scout platoons have been converted to High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) or will soon make the transition to the new organization. A scout survivability study conducted at the National Training Center (NTC) reveals that there is no difference in survivability between HMMWV and CFV platoons. The study emphasized similarities between the platoons and highlighted the importance of sound tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and stealth regardless of equipment differences. FM 17-98, Scout Platoon, does not address the 10-HMMWV platoon organization. Nevertheless, its tactics, organizations and movement formations are still valid. A new field manual is forthcoming, but until it is published, current doctrine and lessons from training at the CTCs will provide a sound basis to train and employ scouts.
As scouts are currently trained, organized and equipped, they have defined capabilities and some limitations. The capabilities of the scouts will never match the information wants of the commander. The commander simply has too many items he wants to know about the battlefield and not enough time for the scouts to satisfy them. Complicating this is the limited opportunity to train the scouts in garrison. Scout platoon leaders need help coming to terms with all of this more than anyone else. This is the first time most of these lieutenants have worked with the battalion staff, talked on the battalion net, maneuvered anything larger than a four-vehicle platoon, and operated across the frontage of the TF while crosstalking with company commanders. We ask much of these lieutenants, and don't do much to train them in some units. Sending them to school is essential, but not enough, as there is no substitute for maneuvering a real scout platoon in the field with a commander pressuring them for information over a scratchy FM radio while navigating in the pouring rain.
Battle staffs, particularly the S2/S3, must also receive training to understand the scout platoon's capabilities and limitations so that they may plan realistic collection efforts. Task organizations incorporated into battle drills will help the S3 plan task-organization changes and assist him in land management. Leaders and soldiers training together in these scout task organizations will cooperatively iron out differences in training and standing operaing procedures (SOPs), and bring to the commander's attention equipment problems they cannot overcome.
VIGNETTE: A scout platoon was ordered to reconnoiter in zone and screen a TF prior to a night attack. Five CFVs were operational. While the TF was in its assembly area (AA), the scouts moved to establish observation posts (OPs) in the vicinity of Hill 876. Enroute they moved to Hill 899 and were engaged by a motorized rifle platoon (MRP). The platoon lost one vehicle to direct fire, and moved in column through a minefield. The platoon traded fire with several BMPs and BRDMs. One section moved back to Hill 876 and was destroyed by artillery. The other section maneuvered to Chod Hill where one vehicle was destroyed by a BMP, and the other was lost to friendly fire.
LESSON: CAREFULLY CHOOSE ROUTES TO AVOID CONTACT. USE DISMOUNTED SCOUTS TO CLEAR THE WAY.
Scout platoons are the primary reconnaissance and surveillance assets available to the battalion commander. They are the commander's only organic unit dedicated to filling gaps in his knowledge of the battlefield. The scout platoon's primary purpose in an armor or mechanized battalion is to perform reconnaissance and screening missions. Principally, it accomplishes these missions through the interrelated activities of reconnaissance and surveillance. Reconnaissance is an active effort to seek out information about the enemy, weather and terrain. It is focused on the commander's priority intelligence requirements (PIRs). Surveillance is the systematic observation of a specified area(s). Other scout missions and tasks are quartering parties, NBC reconnaissance, limited pioneer and demolition, security missions, and establishment of OPs and listening posts (LPs). Principally, extended duration surveillance is performed by these OPs and LPs.
No discussion of scout platoon doctrine can ignore task organization of the scouts or other augmenting support to assist them. Scout capabilities are enhanced significantly by other assets such as Ground Surveillance Radars (GSRs), mortars, artillery, forward observers (FOs), fire support team-vehicles (FIST-Vs), engineers, medics, and Stingers. Redundancy of multiple assets supporting each other will prevent a critical named area of interest (NAI) from being unobserved because an asset breaks down or is ambushed. The S-2 and S-3 are the principal mission planners for the scout platoon. The scout platoon, with fire support, can conduct reconnaissance missions 10K to 15K beyond the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA), depending upon METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available).
VIGNETTE: Charlie section was in a concealed position as two BMPs approached to search the area. After 20 minutes, the BMPs ceased their efforts and were preparing to leave when an overzealous scout engaged the BMPs with M16 rifle fire. The BMPs hunted down and destroyed Charlie section.
LESSON: SCOUTS SHOULD NOT SEEK DIRECT FIRE CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY.
The maneuver battalion HMMWV scout platoon is equipped with 10 HMMWVs. Each HMMWV has a three-man crew and can dismount one scout from each HMMWV. The platoon will have the same personnel authorization as the old CFV scout platoon: one officer and 29 enlisted. Generally, the 10-HMMWV scout platoon is organized into three organizations: two five-vehicle teams, three three-vehicle teams, or four two-vehicle teams. These basic organizations are designed to be highly flexible and can be used as determined by METT-T. Of the 10 HMMWVs, 5 will carry .50-cal machineguns (maximum effective range of 1,600m) and 5 will carry MK-19 grenade launchers (maximum effective range of 2,212m to 1,500m). Actual equipment organization will vary widely as the Army undergoes incremental fielding of these HMMWV scout platoons. It is entirely possible for one platoon to be correct by an M-TOE while another is temporarily equipped with only M60 machineguns until fielding is completed. The scouts are equipped with a variety of night-vision devices to optimize their surveillance abilities. They will typically be equipped with: AN/PVS-4, normally used as a rifle sight, with a range of 400m to 600m; AN/PVS-7 goggles; and binoculars. The longest range surveillance device they will have is the UAS-11 NODLR, which is a derivative of the TOW thermal sight and has an acquisition range of at least 4,000m. GSRs are frequently used to enhance the capabilities of the platoons. They are allotted 12 GSRs in each heavy or light division, and they have an unclassified range of 6K to 10K.
VIGNETTE: A HMMWV scout platoon successfully infiltrated to establish OPs to support its armor TF's deliberate attack. However, the OPs were poorly hidden and were quickly detected at first light by the opposing forces (OPFOR). Eight out of 10 scout HMMWVs were identified and destroyed by direct fire.
LESSON: SCOUTS MUST CONCEAL THEMSELVES FROM THE ENEMY.
The scout platoon successfully executes its mission only as a part of a larger combined arms force. Generally, scout platoons are organized and trained to reconnoiter only one route during a route reconnaissance (or two routes for trafficability only), a platoon-sized area, or a zone 3-5K wide. The platoon can man and equip four OPs for limited periods (under 12 hours) or three OPs for extended periods. The platoon will need retransmission (RETRANS) to extend FM range as required for good communications. Generally, the AN/PVS-7 is the individual scout's night observation device (NOD) of choice when moving. The UAS-11 is used dismounted from OPs for surveillance. The HMMWV has only a 30-inch ford capability and, obviously, cannot swim at all, although the swim ability of the CFV is very limited anyway. The most serious limitation of the new HMMWV scout platoon is the lack of dedicated dismounts.
Rarely will the platoon operate outside the range of fire support (unfortunately, this means the battalion's organic mortars, which are the most responsive, and may, realistically, be the only unit to fire on behalf, or in defense, of the scouts). The range of the 4.2" mortar is 6,800m when firing high explosives. This limitation may well necessitate the movement of the mortars, or a section of mortars, with the scouts for reconnaissance missions. GSRs can significantly increase the surveillance effort, but emit a significant electromagnetic signature. They are normally used in pairs and alternately pulsed in tandem to maintain surveillance of the same area.
Any task organization of the scout platoon will certainly increase land management problems for the S-3, compromise stealth of the reconnaissance effort, and complicate C2 for the platoon leader. Nevertheless, the difficulties of attaching or placing an asset under operational control (OPCON) (or keeping all units under TF control) will almost always be outweighed by the enhanced capabilities of the reconnaissance effort. It is imperative that habitual relationships be resolved long before committing untried or untrained teams to the field. Expect and work through training and equipment disparities between the scouts and augmenting units. Train the necessary collective tasks.
VIGNETTE: The platoon sergeant changed the planned dismount point to quickly establish the OPs. As a result, the platoon drove into enemy contact with a templated enemy reconnaissance element. The BRDM engaged, killing 15 soldiers, and destroying the truck in which the platoon was riding.
LESSON: MAXIMIZE STEALTH AND SURVIVABILITY BY DISMOUNTING SHORT OF THE ENEMY'S OBSERVATION AND MAXIMUM EFFECTIVE RANGE.
None of the techniques of movement has anything to do with stealth; one movement technique is not more stealthy than another. Stealth, not movement techniques or movement formations, determines scout survivability and mission accomplishment. It iserroneous to conclude that the past attrition of scouts at the CTCs was solely the fault of the CFV's size and noise, and thatthe new HMMWV scout platoons will be more successful. A scout platoon survivability study conducted by the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) analyzed 109 TF missions of both types of platoons at the NTC and noted no difference in CFV vs HMMWV attrition.
The real issue is stealth. Stealth is really determined by the enemy and visibility (two factors we usually cannot control), the mission, time allotted to the mission, and scout training (three factors which we definitely can influence). If the commander and his staff fail to focus the reconnaissance effort, then the scout's mission may be to man six OPs and LPs, observe 10 NAIs, reconnoiter in zone, and assist TF movement to the LD (or something else equally absurd). The platoon could not maintain stealth and do all these things as the platoon is too thinly organized and resourced. Likewise, if the scouts cross the LD simultaneously with the TF main body with the scout's mission to reconnoiter in zone, than we have failed to give them enough time to "sneak and peek." It is extremely difficult for scouts to maintain stealth in this scenario; they simply roar down the zone to keep ahead of the battalion. Both mission and time planning (to preserve stealth) are training hurdles for the staff to overcome. Training the scout platoon is the business of the battalion commander, and his trusted agents in this effort are the S-3 and HHC commander. Four subjects above all others will teach the scouts to be stealthy: routes, vehicle position and movement out of position, dismounting, and target acquisition. Routes chosen by the platoon should minimize risk, avoid skylining and avoid open areas. However, moving in restricted terrain could result in an easy ambush of the platoon. When choosing routes, strike a balance based upon METT-T. Vehicle position, the responsibility of the vehicle commander, is a common shortcoming. Unless overwatching other moving scouts, rarely will any scout stop his vehicle unless it is in a hide position. Conducting surveillance from a turret-down or hull-down is not sound TTP and compromises stealth. When leaving this hide position, or any other defilade, DON'T DRIVE DIRECTLY FORWARD. Correct TTP is to back up and drive left or right of your original position. Most important to stealth is target acquisition. Scouts: If your vehicle was detected while halted and you pull straight forward, then you have driven directly into the crosshairs of the enemy's gunsight. Most important to stealth is target acquisition. Scouts must see the enemy first to avoid detection. The scout survivability study at the NTC revealed that many scouts, regardless of vehicle type, are careless in conducting OPs and concealing their vehicles. The number one killer of scouts is direct fire. The number two killers are artillery and HIND-Ds. Frequently, scouts fail to conceal themselves from observation, and die as a result of the OPFOR's aggressive aerial counter-reconnaissance effort. The most important scout survival skill is dismounting. Dismounted OPs are much more difficult to detect. Scouts should dismount to cross open areas and cross lines of intervisibility, short of the enemy's maximum effective weapons range from his known or suspected locations. Scouts will not be able to dismount if they have too many missions or if they have insufficient time to complete their mission.
Scout platoons will soon have their new HMMWVs, but may experience shortages of essential equipment. FM 17-98 (OCT 87) does not address the 10-HMMWV scout platoon. A new FM is being written. Meanwhile, units are rotating through the CTCs with HMMWV platoons and testing various organizations and formations. This is providing lessons learned. Until a new FM 17-98 is published, the most successful efforts will probably employ variations of the existing doctrine.
Presently there are three organizations of the scout platoon: the three-section organization, the two-section organization, and the six-vehicle (now the 10-HMMWV) organization. The six 10-vehicle organization is the most difficult to control and the least flexible. It offers no depth, but can give 10 separate sources of information to the platoon leader. If your scout platoon is always using the 10-vehicle formation, it may indicate a breakdown in the planning process or a failure of the staff to understand the limitations of the platoon. The two- and three-section organizations readily lend themselves to the HMMWV platoon. The new four-team, two-vehicle organization also works well for the HMMWV platoon. There were four doctrinal movement formations for the scout platoon: vee, split-vee, column and staggered column. Emerging doctrine de-emphasizes formations for scout platoons and stresses stealth for HMMWV platoons.
The three-section organization was the most basic and preferred organization of the scout platoon. Most likely, it is still one of the best, now using three teams of three vehicles plus the platoon leader's HMMWV. The two-team scout platoon is used in restrictive terrain or when the zone is narrow. Overwatch is provided within each section (normally the lead two vehicles bound and are overwatched by the third and fourth vehicle in each section). Once again, formations are not emphasized. The new four-team, two-vehicle organization is used to screen wide zones or four avenues of approach.
There are three movement techniques used by small units. Traveling, when contact is unlikely, affords the highest speed. Traveling overwatch, when contact is possible, provides some security and good speed. Bounding, when contact is expected, is quite slow, but very secure, and difficult to control with precision. Frequently, units only resort to bounding upon making enemy contact.
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