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A Company/Team Perspective

by CPT(P) David G. Paschal, CMTC O/C

Little or no doctrine exists to help a mechanized or armored company/team commander plan, prepare and execute a counter-reconnaissance mission. Task Force-level doctrine is readily availaible in FM 71-2, The Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion/Task Force, and in FM 71-123, Tactics and Techniques for Combined Arms Heavy Task Forces: Armored Brigade, Battalion/Task Force, and Company Team.

Task force-level doctrine provides a solid foundation to begin company-level planning for this critical mission. FM 71-2 defines counter-reconniassance as "the sum of the actions taken at all echelons throughout the depth of the area of operations to counter enemy reconnaissance efforts." At the task force level, the counter-reconnaissance battle is generally conducted by the scout platoon augmented by maneuver elements and battalion combat support and service support.

This article focuses on the planning, preparation and execution phases of the counter-reconnaissance mission at company/team level, presenting successful techniques and procedures designed to enhance your unit's chances of mission success. Keep in mind that mission success at a Combat Training Center (CTC) or during an actual combat operation are directly related to the level of preparation and competency achieved during Home Station training. Thus, incorporate the techniques and procedures here, as appropriate, to your Home Station training.


At company/team level, using METT-T (Mission-Enemy-Terrain/Weather-Troops-Time) as a framework ensures that the planning considers everything necessary.


PROBLEM: What is the mission of the counter-reconnaissance company/team AFTER the counter-reconnaissance battle during defensive missions? Too often, the time spent on planning, preparing and executing the counter-reconnaissance mission by the designated company/team leaves little time or effort to prepare for the subsequent phases of the overall mission.

RESULT: ineffective and/or inefficient employment of the counter-reconnaissance company/team during the main defensive battle.

Mission analysis is always step 1. Identify specified, implied and essential tasks. Define constraints and limitations. Produce a restated mission. This aspect of the Tactical Decision-Making Process (TDMP) is straightforward. Yet, look at the PROBLEM stated above. Too often at Task Force level, the TDMP fails to result in a plan that carries the counter-reconnaissance company/team through the main defensive battle. Therefore, the Co/Tm commander must think the mission through entirely. He must know precisely the concept of operation and scheme of maneuver for his Co/Tm after the counter-reconnaissance mission is complete.

Technique: Task Force commanders should consider leaving the counter-reconnaissance company/team in place following that mission, with the follow-on mission to begin killing the enemy main body with direct and indirect fires prior to the enemy reaching the main battle area.

  • this mission must be carefully wargammed, i.e., should the counter-reconnaissance company form a strong point?; should they plan a rearward passage? . . .
  • as with any tactical decision, there are trade-offs. The technique above is only a way.

The fact, however, is that Co/Tms tasked with counter-reconnaissance responsibilities are not able to do that mission and also methodically prepare a deliberate defense in another location. Therefore, for Co/Tm commanders, the mission analysis in METT-T is absolutely critical in structuring the Co/Tm for successful mission execution.

Enemy: The Co/Tm commander must analyze enemy forces, based on information received from the task force S-2, and determine:

  • composition
  • disposition
  • strength
  • most probable course of action
  • most dangerous course of action

Accurate portrayal of the enemy and the enemy's most likely course of action are key to successfully planning the counter-reconnaissance mission.


1. Work closely with the TF S-2 to gain an understanding of the enemy reconnaissance threat.

2. Get from the S-2 a situational template demonstrating how the enemy would organize for combat and conduct operations under similar circumstances.

3. The Co/Tm commander then focuses on the following during subsequent counter-reconnaissance planning:
  • size of the enemy reconnaissance elements
  • the timing, i.e., when, where, how long?
  • organization, including mounted and dismounted
  • main body objectives, which should key potential reconnaissance objectives and routes

Terrain and Weather: Must be able to answer how terrain and weather will affect enemy mobility.


1. Use OCOKA (Observation-Cover/Concealment-Obstacles-Key Terrain-Avenues of Approach) as the basis for analyzing the military aspects of terrain, and to determine mobility corridors and avenues of approach.

2. Use a labeling system easily understood by all elements of the task force in identifying mobility corridors, and specifying Named Areas of Interest and Targeted Areas of Interest to track enemy reconnaissance elements.

Troops: The task organizing for the counter-reconnaissance mission, and the level of training for the elements involved are critical determinants in mission success.


1. Designate a company/team, habitually task-organized with the same sub-elements, to consistently execute the Task Force counter-reconnaissance mission.

2. Designate the Co/Tm commander as the TF counter-reconnaissance commander.

3. Attach the scouts and other elements directly supporting counter-reconnaissance to the counter-reconnaissance Co/Tm.

4. If the counter-reconnaissance mission grows too extensive, consider putting the TF S-3 in command of the effort, using the Jump TOC for command and control.

5. Divide the counter-reconnaissance Co/Tm (+) into two sub-elements:
  • FINDERS: a screening force assisting the scouts by establishing observations posts in depth to cover mounted and dismounted avenues of approach.
  • KILLERS: work in conjunction with FINDERS; occupy a series of antiarmor ambushes and/or personnel ambushes throughout the sector's depth.

6. Dismounts, as part of the counter-reconnaissance Co/Tm should be under the control of a single platoon leader. Use dismounts, as appropriate, as FINDERS and/or KILLERS.

7. When available intelligence is limited, put tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles into a hide position. As enemy reconnaissance is identified, and routes projected, the mounted forces move to destroy the enemy reconnaissance elements. This requires pre-planning a series of ambushes and attacks.

Time Available: Use the backwards planning process to develop a timeline given the following two pieces of initial information:

  • the defend NLT time
  • a timeline for enemy reconnaissance elements

Given this information, develop a timeline for counter-reconnaissance Co/Tm elements incorporating the following:

  • time for the dismounted patrol order or FRAGO
  • resupply/LOGPAC operations
  • pre-combat inspections
  • reconnaissance of the counter-reconnaissance area
  • reconnaissance and preparation of subsequent battle positions
  • platoon and Co/Tm rehearsals, incorporating fire support, and occupation of positions


Following detailed METT-T analysis and planning, the Co/Tm begins mission preparations for the counter-reconnaissance battle. Following are preparation techniques and procedures organized by the Battlefield Operating System (BOS).

Intelligence: The following combat support elements are potentially available to assist in the location of enemy reconnaissance elements:

GSR: detects enemy movements during limited visibility; can monitor NAIs and obstacles. Subject to electronic countermeasures since GSR gives off radar waves. Waves also degraded by rain or snow. Best used in conjunction with Night Observation Devices.

REMBASS: all-weather, day/night surveillance system. Determines direction of travel, rate of movement, length of column, number and type of vehicles. Uses sensors and repeaters emplaced by hand. Security for emplacers must be considered.

PEWS (Platoon Early Warning System): provides early warning and helps cover dead space.

Maneuver: Figure 1shows a portion of a company counter-reconnaissance sector with two possible mobility corridors, one Named Area of Interest (NAI) and two Targeted Areas of Interest (TAI). The northern route is through wooded, restrictive terrain and is ideally suited for the use of dismounted forces. The southern route is in rolling open terrain, allowing mechanized forces freedom of maneuver. The terrain supports a platoon-sized battle position and engagement area.

pt5fig1.gif - 5.46 K

TAI 3 has been enlarged (Figure 2) to illustrate a simple, but effective, antiarmor ambush. After emplacing a point minefield enhanced with two or three strands of concertina wire, the squad hides in the treeline and orients on the obstacle to destroy enemy reconnaissance elements. Dismounted elements engage with appropriate fire commands and engagement techniques (e.g., well-rehearsed volley fires with AT-4s).

pt5fig2.gif - 4.21 K

TAI 5 (Figure 3) is a large open area. It allows enemy reconnaissance elements the ability to maneuver freely. The platoon determines where it wants to destroy enemy reconnaissance elements and constructs a platoon-sized engagement area. Note the use of direct fire traps, obstacles and fire support planning to enhance the engagement area.

pt5fig3.gif - 67.30 K

Mobility, Countermobility and Survivability: Base the engineer effort during the counter-reconnaissance on the task force priority of effort. Constructing vehicle and dismounted fighting positions to protect forces from direct and indirect fires increases survivability.

  • Obstacles, deception positions and camouflaged low density minefields can be highly effective in the counter-reconnaissance battle. The Co/Tm can effectively use wire and mines carried on individual vehicles to emplace temporary point obstacles. These obstacles require minimal effort and resources. They are ideal in helping to establish and develop the counter-reconnaissance fight.

  • The Modular-Packed Mine System (MOPMS) is an effective tool for creating point minefields in restrictive terrain or dead space. MOPMS are easily transported by mechanized forces and can be remotely initiated.

Command and Control: Position the command post so that the commander is able to influence the battle without being compromised or engaged by indirect or direct fire.

  • To ensure responsiveness, the task force commander assigns a counter-reconnaissance frequency.
  • Use wire and establish hot-loops to communicate within the company while occupying static positions.

Fire Support: The Fire Support Officer (FSO), with guidance from the commander, develops a fire support execution matrix. It includes primary and alternate observers, primary and alternate shooters and trigger lines to support target. Targets should be refined and verified. Remember to slug in scouts and dismount positions as no fire areas.

Air Defense: The Co/Tm uses passive measures to hide counter-reconnaissance elements from enemy air forces. Enforce the use of camouflage (vehicle nets), cover/concealment and light discipline.

Combat Service Support: The Co/Tm must be able to sustain itself without degrading the counter-reconnaissance effort. The commander and executive officer decide how and where to conduct resupply efforts. Use of prestocks and cache sites eases the resupply burden.

PROBLEM: Casualty evacuation is difficult because of the the Co/Tm forward location.

Technique: coordinate and designate a casualty collection point (CCP) or ambulance exchange point (AXP) with the unit behind the Co/Tm in the main battle area. Casualties sustained during the counter-reconnaissance fight are moved to the CCP or AXP and evacuated to the combat trains with the assistance of a designated company from the task force.

PROBLEM: Position the company trains to support the Co/Tm without impeding forces in the main battle area.

Technique: station the trains in the hide position or in the battle position the company will occupy after the counter-reconnaissance fight. Detailed coordination with forces in the main battle area is essential to ensure routes and obstacles are left clear for the 1SG and other support assets to reach the Co/Tm.

PROBLEM: Rearming and resupply of the Co/Tm after the counter-reconnaissance fight.

Technique: establish a service station-type Logistics Release Point along the route of withdrawal to the route to subsequent positions for the main defensive fight. (IF the OPORD calls for the counter-reconnaissance Co/Tm to move to a new position). As Co/Tm vehicles withdraw from the counter-reconnaissance fight, they can refuel and rearm enroute to the next position.

Command and Control:

Technique: conduct rehearsals at all levels and integrate with the fire support channels.

Dismounted infantry should, as a minimum, rehearse:

  • movement techniques
  • occupation of positions
  • contact drills
  • reaction to indirect fire, antiarmor ambushes, to include volley fire of antiarmor weapons

Mechanized and armor forces should rehearse:

  • occupation of assembly area or hide positions
  • occupation of static positions
  • timing and routes from tactical assembly areas or hide postions to ambush or hasty attack sites
  • triggers for the mobile force or indirect fires
  • passage of lines (link-up, recognition signals, and routes through friendly obstacles) actions on contact

PROBLEM: Allocate enough time to conduct a full-force rehearsal (including the scout platoon) during daylight and limited visibility.

Techniques: Conduct the rehearsal while the unit is occupying its positions.

  • the executive officer or first sergeant can use the company's wheeled vehicles to replicate the enemy reconnaissance elements. The OPFOR element should attempt all possible enemy avenues of approach

  • the counter-reconnaissance element then rehearses:
    • tracking reconnaissance elements through the sector
    • confirming communications plan
    • validating time/distance analysis for trigger identification (both the mobile force and indirect fires)
    • physically identifying triggers and targets reference points
    • making required adjustments and confirming that surveillance plan ensures all avenues of approach are covered by observation, direct and indirect fires.


Do not try to fight the counter-reconnaissance battle using a 1:50,000 map. The level of detail is insufficient to make informed decisions.

Technique: use a sketch to fight the battle. It helps leaders to understand their area of operations. A blown-up sketch of the area including relief, targets, obstacles, NAIs, TAIs, TRPs and engagements areas on the back of the leader's mapboard can be very effective in assisting the commander and leaders in the decisionmaking process.


Enemy reconnaissance elements have entered the task force sector. The Co/Tm must destroy the enemy's reconnaissance efforts to ensure security for the task force and to surprise the enemy once contact is made with the main body. The scout platoon identifies the enemy. A crisp accurate salute report, including the direction the reconnaissance elements are heading, is sent to the Co/Tm commander. The report is monitored by the task force TOC, who is eavesdropping on the net. The commander alerts the Co/Tm that reconnaissance elements have entered the task force sector and should be approaching the Co/Tm sector in the vicinity of NAI 4.

* Consider observation and communication in positioning the OP/LP. Position dismounted OP/LPs covering NAIs so that they can identify reconnaissance elements as far out as possible. They continue to track the reconnaissance elements using binoculars during the day and NODs during limited visibility. Their reports augment those of the scout platoon as they continue to track reconnaissance elements through the depth of the sector. The OP/LP identifies the reconnaissance elements (a BRDM and a BMP) and reports that they have reached the intersection at NAI 4 and are continuing north toward TAI 3. Experience indicates that when reconnaissance elements are operating in restrictive terrain, they tend to use roads in an attempt to push through as fast as possible.

* The antiarmor ambush element was previously alerted. It is prepared to engage enemy reconnaissance elements. The BRDM temporarily stops at the point obstacle. It searches for a bypass. The squad leader orders the antiarmor ambush to engage the lead vehicle. The gunners utilize volley fire, calling out the distance as they continue to engage (in case a minor correction is required). After destroying the reconnaissance elements, POW and search teams move forward, searching the vehicles looking for intelligence products. Contact and salute reports are sent to the task force so the S2 can update the situation map.

The OP/LP at NAI 4 reports reconnaissance elements have turned south at the intersection and are headed toward TAI 5. The reporting process is the same, ensuring that reconnaissance elements are tracked throughout the sector. Since the enemy has turned to the south, the company fire support officer has previously conducted his time/distance analysis. He uses NAI 4 to trigger indirect fires (Figure 4).

pt5fig4.gif - 3.86 K

The platoon leader waits until the enemy reconnaissance elements have reached his blocking/fixing obstacles before engaging with direct fire weapons. He adjusts the indirect fires which were triggered by the OP/LP. The platoon achieves the desired results because engagement priorities and criteria, engagement techniques and fire commands were thoroughly rehearsed and were understood by each member of the platoon. The company/team has successfully completed its mission. It destroyed two of the three reconnaissance elements entering the task force sector; thus, stripping away the MRR commander's eyes and giving him no clear read of the objective area and attacks one up and two back (success).


Detailed planning, thorough preparation and effective rehearsals make mechanized company/team a winner in the counter-reconnaissance battle and give the task force commander a decisive edge during the main battle.

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Joint Readiness Training Center MOUT Complex

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