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TOPIC: Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB).

DISCUSSION: For a jungle battlefield, many collection methods relied upon by U.S. forces, such as various forms of overhead imagery, are severely restricted. In double and triple canopy jungles, visibility is severely restricted, and most light intensification devices only function in open areas. Thermal imagers work quite well. As a result, S2s must rely on other resources, such as HUMINT and SIGINT, to conduct their IPB. In addition, the heavily cross-compartmented nature of the terrain makes it difficult to move intelligence collection assets once they are in place. The highest ground may not be the key or decisive terrain, depending upon the nature of the enemy and vegetation density. When fighting guerrilla forces, waterways, road and trail junctions, and potential LZs may be the key and decisive terrain. Also, a heavily vegetated hilltop may have near zero line of sight,while a less prominent hill may have excellent line of sight.


  • Since it is difficult to shift ground-based intelligence collection assets, focus your IPB effort on a few NAIs.
  • Make sure you develop clear indicators for each NAI.
  • Remember that populated areas are not obstacles but sources of HUMINT both for you and the enemy. As such, they should be on your list of High Value Targets HVTs).
  • Consider the nature of your enemy before choosing key and decisive terrain.
  • Double-check your line of sight computations against vegetation density, on the ground if possible.
  • Doctrinal rates of movement are diminished in the jungle
  • Restricted terrain for dismounted troops is virtually nonexistent.
  • Doctrinal templates usually do not apply.
  • Situational templates are heavily dependent on experience.

TOPIC: Intelligence Collection Plans.

DISCUSSION: Due to lack of understanding of the limitations imposed on movement by rugged jungle terrain and restricted visibility, collection plans are often ambitious. They frequently overtask the units involved, especially scouts. The average rate of movement for an infantryunit conducting a movement to contact in the jungle is 500m per hour. A scout element should move even more slowly. Additionally, the OPTEMPO in the jungle is generally slow and requires patience to wait for the enemy. Taking this into account, the S2 should rigorously evaluate each NAI to establish specific collection criteria. He should then prioritize the NAIs. Only then can the S2 establish a realistic collection plan. Unfortunately, many commanders and S2s do not consider this and literally walk their scouts to exhaustion when they fail to contact the enemy quickly. Also, S2s used to relying on overhead imagery often forget to integrate other assets into their collection plan.


  • Include the scout platoon leader, the FSO, and the S3 in developing the collection plan.
  • Use a collection plan matrix to visually track the C/M plan.
  • Plan for scouts to move no more than 300m per hour if they are patrolling.
  • Position your scouts where they can reach several NAIs quickly.
  • Integrate Low-Level Voice Intercept, Remotely Emplaced Sensors, Unit Patrols, and Counter-Mortar Radar in your collection plan.
  • Debrief aviators after missions, even "routine" ones.
  • Constantly update your collectionplan.

TOPIC: Scout Platoon Operations.

DISCUSSION: Due to the rugged terrain and limited visibility of the jungle, scout platoons should not perform security operations without a great deal of thought. Otherwise, they will be overtasked. When they are, they inevitably fail. Surveillance of NAIs and carefully selected reconnaissance missions suit the scouts well. Zone reconnaissance tends to compromise the scouts, as they must move in terrain that favors ambush. Neglecting a backup communications plan, emergency exfiltration plan, fire support plan, or casualty evacuation plan in the jungle exponentially increases your chances of losing the entire element. Since Vietnam, most scout elements infiltrate the jungle by helicopter into an LZ. Unfortunately, the enemy often watches LZs. In Vietnam, most scout/LRRP units were compromised on infiltration. In the jungle, a scout unit leader must have all the skills of a good hunter. A lack of patience that causes you to move too fast or get too close to an objective will get you killed, wounded, compromised, or captured. In the jungle, Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) without external antennas often do not work. At the JOTB, squads that rely on them have an average 75-percent failure rate on the land navigation course. Units,both scout and infantry, become misoriented with remarkable ease. As a result, scouts are at extremely high risk of becoming victims of fratricide.


  • Ensure the S3 and FSO are kept updated about the scouts operations and location.
  • Use scouts for surveillance of NAIs and TAIs.
  • Keep ground movement to a minimum.
  • Remember that you don't have to use an LZ to get into the jungle. You should consider overland, boat, and fast rope infiltration as well.
  • Always have a backup communications plan, an emergency exfiltration plan, a resupply plan, a fire support plan, and a casualty evacuation plan for your scouts before they infiltrate.
  • Plan to get information back to the battalion in a timely manner.
  • Be patient; don't crash around the jungle like a wounded water buffalo.
  • Don't rely on a GPS in the jungle.
  • If you are going to use a GPS in the jungle, rig an external antenna.
  • Have a very simple near and far identification signal to prevent fratricide.


TOPIC: Overall Effects of the Jungle on Maneuver.

DISCUSSION: The jungle battlefield greatly limits tactical mobility due to thick vegetation and rugged hills. Most of the jungle is restricted for vehicular movements. Road bound units are tactically useless in the jungle. To attain maximum tactical mobility, units must strip down to the most basic combat-essential items. The effects of overloading soldiers noted by S.L.A. Marshall in Men Under Fire, and The Soldier's Load and the Mobility ofthe Nation are especially true in the jungle. Heat, humidity, torrential rains and the psychological effectsof continual limited visibility tend to sap morale rapidly. They also undermine disciplineduring extended operations unless checked by effective small unit leadership. When discipline erodes, casualties will mount quickly.


  • Small unit leadership is the key to jungle operations.
  • Take time to care for your soldier's physical and mental needs, especially when you are tired.
  • Carry only the minimum essential combat load.
  • Ensure everyone understands the resupply plan so that they have the confidence to carry only what is directed.

TOPIC: Use of Helicopters.

DISCUSSION: The quickest means of deploying troops in the jungle is via helicopter. There are two major constraints to airmobile and air assault operations, other than the number of helicopters. One is the availability of LZs and the other is weather. Weather is something that you can do nothing about, except consider it in the planning process. LZs are a different matter. Many jungles offer relatively few suitable LZs. Those that are suitable for massing troops quickly are also probably covered by enemy direct and indirect fire. Of course, there is always the option of creating your own, but that takes time and makes noise. Although helicopters can deliver troops to LZs very quickly, from then on the troops have to move at a jungle pace. That means 500 meters per hour, on the average. A technique to solve the problem is creating an LZ close to the objective by catastrophic means (i.e., a large explosive device), pinning the enemy on the objective with fire support, and bringing the helicopters in right on the heels of theexplosion.


  • Pick your LZs carefully, the largest is not necessarily the most convenient. It may also be the deadliest.
  • Consider using multiple small LZs close to the objective to mass forces.
  • Remember that movement off the LZ will be at jungle speed.
  • Consider making your own LZs.

TOPIC: Movement to Contact/Search and Attack.

DISCUSSION: Due to the difficulty of finding the enemy in the jungle, the most frequently employed offensive tactics are the movement to contact and the search and attack. Contacts will be sudden and frequently, unexpected. Once contact is made, it is difficult to fix the enemy as the jungle generally offers multiple covered and concealed withdrawal routes. This puts a premium on simple, well-rehearsed hasty attack/react to contact drills. These drills must be practiced at the squad, platoon, and company levels. Should the terrain somehow prevent quickly fixing the enemy by fire and maneuver, an alternative way to fix him is by massing fire support. Due to communications problems caused by rugged terrain and dense vegetation, maneuver and fire support are often unsynchronized. This frequently allows theenemy to slip away. Also, the slow-go nature of jungle terrain frequently causes the finish force to arrive too late. Fratricide is a very real danger due to limited visibility once the finish force begins to close with the enemy. The fleeting nature of most contacts makes it probable that troops will fire at sound and movement. All of this combines to make it difficult to destroy enemy forces unless they are in fixed defense of terrain, such as the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. When the enemy is a guerrilla, it is often necessary to grind him down by attrition.


  • Your finishing force should travel much closer to your finding force than normal; that will compensate to some degree for the restrictive nature of jungle terrain.
  • Units should develop a simple SOP for both visual and audible identification of friendly troops.
  • Simple react to contact/hasty attack drills are vital at the company, platoon, and squad levels.
  • Check your communications frequently, especially your fire control nets.
  • As you move, constantly update the data on the guns supporting you.
  • There are many ways to fix the enemy. One method is to look at the high speed avenues of approach or lines of communication that compartmentalize the enemy. If you can control these (rivers, streams, roads, etc.), you can place NAIs at points where the S2 and S3 think the enemy may cross and possibly target these locations to fix the enemy in an AO or destroy him as he attempts to cross.

TOPIC: Hasty Attack.

DISCUSSION: The hasty attack is the most likely form of engagement in the jungle. Due to the rugged terrain and dense vegetation, engagement distances are extremely short. Sometimes the distances are as short as 10 meters. The commander's ability to see the battlefield and to give orders is severely handicapped. The battalion and company must rely on its squad and platoon leaders ability to immediately execute the appropriate battle drill. In addition, the company and battalion must execute the hasty attack quickly as well. Fire support assets must be alert and the data on the guns kept up to date because of the fleeting nature of jungle contacts. The battalion must be able to depend upon its junior leaders to develop the situation and report it. Most frequently, things go to pieces when the junior leaders in contact fail to report their situation. Reconnaissance assets should be used todetermine if there is a practical route to outflank the enemy. If there is, the battalion should maneuver to take the enemy from the rear. Psychologically, even the best troops are very vulnerable to flanking movements in the jungle unless they are prepared for it, such as the Chindits of World War II. The British, U. S., and Japanese forces that fought in World War II and the U. S., NVA, and Viet Cong Forces in Vietnam were all sensitive to flanking movements.


  • Hasty attack drills must be well rehearsed and understood at all levels.
  • Hasty attack drills must be rehearsed in the jungle.
  • Part of all hasty attack drills should be an immediate reconnaissance for a weak spot.
  • Your FIST Teams and FSO should be well forward during movement.
  • Always attempt to outflank your enemy. "An ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood."
  • Junior leaders must have the responsibility to report contacts.

TOPIC: Deliberate Attack.

DISCUSSION: In the jungle, the deliberate attack most often runs into problems during the leader's reconnaissance. Either the reconnaissance party is too large or it attempts to get too close to the objective. The result is a compromise and an alerted enemy. In addition, the jungle creates problems with deploying troops. During a hasty attack in the jungle, troops can at least "march to the sound of guns." In a deliberate attack, they must make their way stealthily to as close as possible to the objective. This puts a premium on land navigation to avoid either prematurely alerting the enemy or incidents of fratricide. If an artillery preparation is planned, the fire will frequently have to be adjusted by sound. This generally takes more time than adjusting fire visually. Depending on enemy tactical doctrine, some concealed positions and snipers may hold their fire until your troops have bypassed them. It is always disconcerting for troops to take fire from their rear or flank. It is doubly devastating when they cannot see where the fire is coming from. The attack could rapidly lose momentum as troops go to ground, unless you anticipate stay-behind enemy forces. As a result of these factors, the number of things that could go wrong multiply more rapidly in the jungle than elsewhere. The effects of the jungle environment on consolidation and reorganization will be dealt with as a separate topic.


  • Always anticipate stay-behind enemy forces.
  • Do not become overly ambitious on your reconnaissance of the objective.
  • Make sure your breaching and assault forces have proven land navigators with them.
  • When planning an artillery preparation, remember that it will most likely have to be adjusted by sound.
  • Rehearse the attack in similar terrain if at all possible.
  • Make sure your FISTs have the opportunity to practice adjusting fire by sound.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias