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by CPT Thomas Duffy

Headquarters and Headquarters Companies (HHCs) of mechanized engineer battalions normally do an adequate job completing service and support missions, but they often do not "survive to fight again" in order to continue supporting engineer battalion operations.


Observer/controllers (O/Cs) at the National Training Center (NTC) have observed that engineer battalion field trains frequently do not have adequate tactical standard operating procedures (TACSOPs). If a TACSOP exists, it often does not include:

  • Efficient occupation layout within the brigade support area (BSA).
  • Priority of work to establish security IAW the forward support battalion's (FSB) BSA defense plan.
  • Casualty evacuation within the BSA.
  • Reaction to contact drills.


HHC commanders and first sergeants must take a more active role in training these skills at Home Station so that their units and soldiers can continue to support the engineer battalion at their maximum capabilities.

Efficient Occupation Layout Within the BSA.

HHCs too often do not have SOPs for the physical placement of command posts (CPs), equipment, sleep areas, and vehicles within their assigned sector of the BSA. This causes problems with communications to the engineer battalion rear CP and the FSB, and significantly impedes quick occupation and security of the engineer battalion field trains. There are several deficiencies within the HHC's physical layout:

a. HHCs still operate a separate company TOC away from the engineer battalion rear CP. Most HHC headquarters lack sufficient personnel to adequately perform TOC functions and usually duplicate work that the rear CP performs. Recommendation: Consolidate or co-locate operations.

b. HHCs have a problem trying to defend a large sector of the BSA perimeter. HHCs are usually assigned a large sector of the BSA by the FSB due to the initial size of the engineer's field trains. After a few days problems occur when attached combat support platoons and LOGPAC move out of the BSA to conduct engineer and resupply missions. This situation usually leaves only one or two fighting positions that can be physically manned.

c. The mess section is too close to internal BSA routes, which causes dust to get into food preparation activities.

d. Support and equipment platoon vehicles are normally parked too close to each other and to the perimeter to promote any survivability against enemy direct and indirect fire attacks.

e. HHCs do not set up a guard force tent with a wire communications to both the rear CP and the primary fighting positions on the perimeter. This tent, which can be a sleep tent, should be set up so that security force leaders can brief new perimeter security force soldiers on the current situation.

A layout solution that can be duplicated in a HHC TACSOP is shown below. Practice this layout during HHC FTXs, engineer battalion FTXs, and FSB FTXs.

Priority of work to establish security IAW the forward support battalion's (FSB) BSA defense plan.

Most HHC commanders do not brief or publish a BSA occupation/security priority of work in the company OPORD. The observed trend is that the priority of work plan lacks the following detail:

  • Standard execution control measures
  • Not later than completion times
  • Unit responsibilities
  • Reporting requirements
  • Commander's inspection time

If, for example, the initial security work is not completed at the new BSA site before service and support missions begin (or continue), then it usually does not get accomplished to standard and leaves the field trains vulnerable to attack.

A recommended matrix for insertion into paragraph III of the HHC OPORD is shown below.

Units in the engineer battalion field trains must execute to standard a comprehensive security priority of work before executing service and support missions. If the HHC does not complete the priority of work after arriving at the new BSA site, they will not execute security operations to standard against Level I threats. HHCs must work on the skills associated with security operations during sergeants' time and company FTXs at Home Station to decrease the number of casualties normally associated with Level I attack.

Casualty evacuation within the BSA.

Another "Survive to Fight Again" collective task that is normally forgotten within the engineer battalion field trains is casualty evacuation (CASEVAC). Many HHC 1SGs will use the close proximity of "Charlie Med" (the medical company of the FSB) in the BSA as an excuse not to have an internal company CASEVAC plan. The died-of-wounds (DOW) rates at the NTC show that much improvement is needed in BSA tenant CASEVAC planning, rehearsals, and execution.

HHC 1SGs can conduct the following five tasks to improve CASEVAC operations:

a. Provide written input to paragraph four of the HHC OPORD. Brief the CASEVAC plan as part of the company OPORD that designates rehearsal times.

b. Ensure that at least one qualified combat lifesaver with an aid bag is assigned to each section. This requires constant tracking during training meetings to schedule designated soldiers for combat lifesaver training at Home Station.

c. Designate casualty collection points (CCPs) near the perimeter security force and sleep tent areas. The CCP should be marked with signs on small stakes for the different categories of casualties. CCPs should also be marked for chemically contaminated casualties and soldiers who died of wounds.

d. Designate primary and alternate aid and litter teams in each platoon to evacuate casualties to the company CCPs. The 1SG must also designate non-standard ambulances to haul casualties to the medical company in the BSA. FM 8-10-6, Medical Evacuation in a Theater of Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, describes how to outfit the vehicles properly.

e. Coordinate and execute both day and night CASEVAC rehearsals. The 1SG must take charge of planning, rehearsing, and executing the company CASEVAC operations.

Reaction-to-contact drills.

A large number of casualties occur in the field trains due to inadequate planning, rehearsals, and execution of reaction-to-contact battle drills. All field trains need to improve their reaction-to-contact drills, especially the react- to-direct fire, indirect fire, air attack, and NBC attack battle drills. HHC commanders and 1SGs can do three things to correct this weakness:

a. The HHC commander must make react-to-contact battle drills part of the company TACSOP and the company OPORD during mission planning.

b. Each section must practice react-to-contact battle drills at Home Station during sergeants' time training and during mission preparation time.

c. The company commander must make react-to-contact battle drills part of company and platoon rehearsals. The mandatory rehearsal type and technique, unit requirements, location, times, and uniform must be stated in company warning and operations orders.

-- The commander must lead company rehearsals and supervise platoon rehearsals (see CALL Newsletter No. 98-5, Rehearsals).

-- At a minimum, the commander and 1SG must conduct a react-to-direct-fire battle drill and CASEVAC drill that requires the company to deploy to fighting positions on the perimeter and evacuate casualties to CCPs.


The HHC must practice "Survive to Fight Again" skills so that combat service and support missions can be accomplished throughout a long-term operation. Leaders must include these tasks in company TACSOPs and, as a minimum, brief them in all unit OPORDs. Section leaders must train at Home Station and rehearse these tasks before every mission. The HHC must take care of itself or it will not be able to take care of the engineer battalion.

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