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A Defense Cookbook for the Logistician

by MAJ Paul Butler and SFC Clara Rutherford

The purpose of this article is to give CSS leaders a "bare bones" practical guide for establishing a defense. It is a very basic reference for people who need a quick "how to" on rear area tactics. After years of experience as O/Cs, we have seen far too many leaders who need a refresher course on the fundamentals. This guide is for them.


Many leaders do not realize what their weapons can realistically accomplish. Anyone who expects one soldier with just an M-16 to stop an OPFOR squad is making a big mistake.

M-16 Rifle: Kills individual soldiers out to 550 meters. Do not waste your ammo shooting tanks or BMPs (a Threat fighting vehicle [Soviet]). The M-16 is an individual weapon. It should not be the only weapon defending your perimeter.
M249 SAW: Kills small groups of soldiers out to 1100 meters. It is a heavier version of the M-16. It can be used on the perimeter as long as the only thing you expect is a few infantry.
M-60 Machine Gun: Kills groups of soldiers out to 1100 meters. A good weapon for your perimeter, as long as the only enemy you expect is infantry. Also kills helicopters -- if you fire numerous rounds.
M-2 Machine Gun: Kills large groups of soldiers and lightly armored vehicles out to 1600 meters. Your best machine gun. It should be your first choice for perimeter defense. The only automatic weapon that is effective against BTRs (a Threat vehicle [Soviet]) and BRDMs (a Threat scout car [Soviet]). It can also be a decent anti-aircraft weapon when it is mounted on truck ring mount.
M203 Grenade Launcher: Indirect fire: Used to drop explosives in places enemy soldiers are hiding (ditches, gullies, behind concrete walls, through windows and doors, any place that you cannot reach with a bullet). For point targets (windows, doorways) no more than 150 meters. For area targets you can be up to 350 meters away.
Hand Grenade: Useful for clearing rooms or when the enemy is very close; also useful when you want to stay hidden, especially at night. (No muzzle flash or gunshot to show where you are.)
AT-4 Rocket Launcher: When fired in groups (volley fire) it will kill light-armored vehicles (BMPs, BTRs, M113s) out to 400 meters. Tanks are so heavily armored it is almost impossible to kill one with this weapon. If you are engaging a tank, try to shoot from above (second-story window, cliff top) into the thinner top armor, or directly from behind at its rear armor. It is also useful against bunkers and fighting positions.
Claymore Mine: Kills small groups of soldiers, on command, out to 100 meters. Imagine a giant shotgun.
M-15/21 Mine: Kills or immobilizes tanks, but only if they roll directly over it.


Here is a recommended list of the skills needed to establish an effective defense. If you have not tested the ability of your soldiers and leaders to perform these tasks, you have no idea of their proficiency. Platoon and squad situational training exercises (STX) during Sergeant's Time are great ways to assess these tasks and train them to standard.

Soldier skills have been divided into two levels. This reduces the number of skills a soldier has to learn upon arrival in a new unit. Basic soldier skills are for soldiers who have no field experience; advanced soldier skills are for soldiers who have been to the field at least once.

The Private: Basic Soldier Skills

Dig a hasty fighting position.
Lay concertina: triple strand with stakes.
Guard duty.
Fire M16 or SAW.
Use night-vision goggles (NVGs).

The Specialist: Advanced Soldier Skills

Fire M60 or M2.
Dig a M60 or M2 position.
Prepare a range card.
Fire crew-served weapons with night sight.
Fire AT-4.
Advanced concertina wire: harassment wire, tangle-foot.
Place trip flares and field expedient warning devices.

The Squad Leader: Organizing the CSS squad for combat

Squad sector sketch.
Supervise fighting position construction: enforce standards.
Performs the pre-combat inspection (PCI) of the soldiers. The PCI should include weapons, ammunition, water, batteries, NBC gear, NVGs, and commo equipment.

The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant: Organizing the CSS platoon for combat

Assign squad sectors.
Position crew-served weapons: platoon leader (PL) says where to place and what direction is the sector of fire; platoon sergeant (PSG) makes it happen.
Direct the placement of the wire: PL says where; PSG makes it happen.
Position AT-4s at areas likely to see enemy vehicles.
Complete the platoon sector sketch: PL responsibility.
PSG conducts PCI of the crew-served and anti-armor weapons. Check for: range card, M2 headspace and timing gauges, batteries, tools, cleaning kit, weapon cleanliness.
Directs the emplacement of trip flares and other warning devices.

The Company Commander and First Sergeant: Organizing the CSS company for combat

Assign platoon sectors.
Company command post (CP): radios, telephone, mobile subscriber radio telephone (MSRT), maps. Position air defense assets: Stinger team, M2 on a vehicle ring mount.
Complete the company sector sketch.
Inspect crew-served weapons and their positions.
Direct company internal reaction force (IRF).
Call for mortar and artillery fire.


Listed below are the most common errors that have been observed by O/Cs. Companies continue to repeat them. If you get a good laugh, think about your last FTX . . . and which of these errors you made!

1. MILES gear. We have seen soldiers fire complete belts of ammunition at OPFOR soldiers without alerting or keying a sensor.

2. Sectors of fire. It does not matter how big you draw the sector of fire on your map. The tripod of an M60 only swings across a 50-degree arc. Likewise, assigning guards huge areas to cover, forcing them to swing their heads back and forth like a radar dish, will only last ten minutes. After that they will just stare straight ahead, occasionally glancing to their left and right.
TECHNIQUE: Use this habit to your advantage. Place guards to the sides of their sectors and have them look along the perimeter. In this manner, their entire sector becomes one narrow field of view, which makes it easy to observe and easy to fire upon.

3. Rehearsals. When the OPFOR is at the wire is not the time to figure out your response. Reaction forces need to be organized, with set rally points, sketches of the area, and radios. When you are facing a mounted OPFOR, planning is even more important. MPs and mounted IRFs racing to catch OPFOR vehicles are sure to die. The OPFOR is too good. You cannot play "catch up" against them.
TECHNIQUE: Move to ambush points and shoot the OPFOR as they come by.

4. Qualified gunners. The greatest strength of the OPFOR is their speed. You have only seconds to beat the OPFOR. If your only qualified M2 gunner is at work five minutes away from the M2 position, he will get there 4 minutes and 30 seconds too late to do any good.
TECHNIQUE: USAREUR requires units to have two qualified gunners for every crew-served weapon. We recommend three.

5. Wire. Units often place wire in areas where guards cannot view the wire. Units are wasting wire if they use this method. Moreover, wire never stops the OPFOR. Concertina wire only slows down the OPFOR so you can get a better sight picture as you squeeze the trigger.
TECHNIQUE: Do not count on wire to protect you.

6. Weapons' test firing. If you do not fire the weapon, how do you know it works? A bad time to learn that the blank adapter is loose is when OPFOR soldiers are cutting through the wire.
TECHNIQUE: Fire two six-round bursts. If a machine gun is going to jam at all, it will usually jam after the first burst.

7. Weapons' zeroing. This has been emphasized previously. You cannot destroy what you cannot hit. The fundamentals of marksmanship still apply. In firefights soldiers love to fire from the hip, then complain because none of the OPFOR are killed. When was the last time you saw anyone qualify on a M16 range while firing from the hip?
TECHNIQUES: Zero your weapon. Fire from appropriate firing position.

8. NVGs. We have seen many soldiers wear NVGs around their necks; however, few soldiers use them. If those NVGs are not in front of their eyes, they are not in use. As force size diminishes, we have to use technology to our advantage.
TECHNIQUE: We have the equipment to own the night; USE it!

9. Placing positions. Improper soldier positioning can produce common errors. A location that seems to have wonderful fields of view is often completely different when you are in a foxhole.
TECHNIQUE: When you are placing positions, get down on your stomach and look again. This is what the soldier will actually see.

10. Oversize fighting positions. The bigger a fighting position, the more difficult it is to emplace overhead cover. It is commonly referred to as the "Jacuzzi Syndrome" when soldiers dig huge holes. When soldiers start piling sandbags on top of the Jacuzzi-size holes, the overhead starts to sag on the first layer, let alone the third layer of sandbags.
TECHNIQUE: A good position is a tight fit--only two helmets wide by two M-16s deep. It is really easy to emplace overhead cover.

11. Fields of fire. If everyone faces straight out, you need a lot of positions to fully cover an area.
TECHNIQUE: One position, placed to one side and oriented along your perimeter, can cover a lot of ground.

12. Force protection. How many CPs and TOCs have you seen with a bunker or hasty position close by? Many officers and NCOs have been seen standing up and continuing to work in the TOC as the artillery comes in or the OPFOR raid has reached the "tents with all the antennas around them."
TECHNIQUE: Ensure there is a fortified position easily accessible to TOC and CP personnel.

13. Roving patrols versus guard posts. A patrol that moves along your perimeter does not guard your perimeter; it guards a portion of your perimeter for a short period, then it guards another portion. The remainder of the perimeter is not protected. The OPFOR does not casually stroll into your perimeter. They sit outside it for hours, day and night, watching. They will spot the weak points. The OPFOR will time patrols.
TECHNIQUE: Post static guards (see number 11).

14. Combat operations. Thousands of soldiers on peace support operations must be re-trained before they engage in combat. Common habits include using white lights freely, parking hub to hub, and an extreme reluctance to fire on the enemy. A typical problem develops when a guard sees someone cutting through the perimeter wire. By the time the guard finishes calling the CP and requesting instructions, the OPFOR are inside the perimeter.
TECHNIQUE: Train tactical force protection at Home Station.

15. Zero weapons. Guards cannot stop the OPFOR if they cannot kill the OPFOR. Conducting proper weapons' zeroing is constantly taught because soldiers continue to fire numerous rounds yet few OPFOR are killed.
TECHNIQUE: See numbers 1 and 7.


  • One hundred percent of the perimeter is covered by observation and fire from M60 and M2 machineguns.
  • One hundred percent of the perimeter is wired in.
  • Crew-served weapons are dug in.
  • All crew-served weapons have been test fired.
  • AT-4s are on the perimeter, loaded and keyed.
  • CP has FM commo to battalion TOC, platoons, perimeter, and the company IRF.
  • CP has wire commo to battalion TOC, platoons, and the perimeter.
  • CP has sketch of company perimeter, map of BSA, and 1:50,000 map of immediate area.
  • CP has a bunker, with commo and maps.
  • IRF has (at least): one machinegun, one AT-4, commo to the CP, and map of company area.
  • IRF has rehearsed.
  • Company stretcher teams are organized and have rehearsed.
  • Combat lifesavers have their bags with them and the bags are fully stocked.
  • Company medical evacuation vehicle is ready (empty of what it normally carries).
  • Everyone has a hasty position, including the CP and IRF soldiers.


Most rear area units conduct Stand To. It normally starts just before sunrise and lasts 30 to 45 minutes. The exact standards vary, but they usually include 100-percent manning of the perimeter and shutting down the generators. Units always include 45 minutes of soldiers lying in the mud and doing nothing.

TECHNIQUE: Use Stand To as a daily rehearsal of the BSA defense plan. Exercise every BSA asset. It is possible to rehearse internal reaction forces, MPs, casualty collection, NBC testing, and mass casualty plans every day, greatly speeding the response time for all BSA assets. Rehearsals also highlight flaws in defense plans.


Following are some handy manuals to have for planning your defense; an asterisk denotes the top four.

  • Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks*
  • Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks, Skill Level Two through Four*
  • FM 5-103, Survivability
  • FM 7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon
  • FM 7-10, Infantry Rifle Company
  • FM 19-4, Military Police Operations*
  • FM 21-75, Combat Skills of the Soldier*


Over the last few years we have seen several units that were quite defensive about their lack of defensive skills. Whether their rationalizations were based on experiences in DESERT STORM or Bosnia does not matter. They just did not believe they would ever be in a situation where someone would be trying very hard to kill them. Remember Vietnam and Korea--U.S. logistics units were overrun.

EXAMPLE: In 1994 the Russians attacked Grozny, the Chechen capital, as part of their campaign to stop the breakaway republic. The Russians had massive problems with the Chechens' deliberate targeting of logistic units. The Russian logisticians were so inept at defense that, not only were Russian infantry units pulled back from the front to guard these units, but also many additional infantrymen were pulled out to fill in the unit vacancies.

RESULT: Logistic units had taken so many casualties, they were completely unable to accomplish their mission!

Yes, the Army logistics community is strung out. Yes, we are supporting operations all over the globe. But do we need the logistic equivalent of Task Force Smith before we start taking defense seriously?

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