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FISTV Survivability and Employment

by the Grizzly Fire Support Team:
MAJ Michael D. Lingenfelter; SFC John W. Pohl; SFC Robert J. Perry, and SFC Curtis Archuleta

"The FISTV should be positioned within the unit's zone of action where it can optimize its observation (lasing) capability, yet maintain its survivability and communications capability. The crew must consider the factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T) when selecting a position." --FM 6-30

The effective employment of the Fire Support Team Vehicle (FISTV) continues to challenge fire supporters as they rotate through the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC). Recent observations reveal that CO/TM FSOs have difficulty including adequate measures to ensure survivability in planning how they intend to "fight" their vehicle. This shortcoming usually results in either the vehicle and team being killed very early in a battle or the vehicle being out of position to provide fire support to the maneuver force. FM 6-30, pages 2-3 to 2-5, provides an excellent discussion of the employment considerations for the FISTV.


The FISTV is a thin-skinned vehicle with only a four-man crew. It does a poor job of providing for its own security.

DON'T: Locate the FISTV too close to other combat vehicles for security. This increases the risk of these vehicles being targeted for enemy direct and indirect fires.

DO: Situate the FISTV close enough to friendly maneuver elements to be supported, if the situation dictates, but far enough away so it will not present the enemy with a lucrative target of opportunity.

DON'T: Make the mistake of following the commander too closely.

  • This presents the enemy with at least two high payoff targets in close proximity.
  • Maneuver commanders fight from hardened vehicles. They are far more survivable than a FISTV.


1. Recent lessons have shown that the most successful employment option for the FISTV is on a forward slope, hull down position, well off of enemy avenues of approach. In the offense, position the FISTV in an overwatch position away from lead elements of the attacking force. This enables FIST to execute priority targets at the proper time.

EXAMPLE: Calling for, and adjusting, smoke during breaching operations and then lifting and shifting fires onto the objective as the CO/TM assaults through the breach.

2. Plan positions that provide for stealth, cover, concealment, and good observation, particularly when operating outside of the supported unit's local security.

  • Select a good hide position for the FISTV and dismount observers forward (METT-T permitting).

  • Establish primary, alternate and subsequent positions with concealed routes to ensure survival when using the FISTV in a position to maximize lasing and communications.

3. Select an OP that offers both security (in the form of concealment) and the ability to communicate with all elements (CO/TM, BN FSE, FDC, etc.). In the offense:

  • Planning begins with a thorough map reconnaissance of the unit's area of responsibility and the objective.

  • Select primary and alternate positions with concealed routes.

  • FSOs must then consider the advantages and disadvantages of the potential OP locations.

    • The FSO must visualize how the enemy will fight to properly select operations. EXAMPLE: Locating an operation too close to an enemy avenue of approach will inevitably result in disaster.

    • Maintain a clear understanding of how the enemy will employ his forward elements (CRPs, FP, FSE, etc.).

4. Consider FISTV employment options.

  • Develop a detailed plan based on METT-T.

  • Rehearse it to increase the performance and survivability of the FISTV in all combat operations.

  • FSOs - consider incorporating the following considerations into your planning process:

    • Perform a thorough map reconnaissance. Consider the fundamentals of METT-T, OKOCA and study the S2's IPB.

    • Identify primary and alternate OPs (with concealed routes).

    • Locate OPs away from primary enemy avenues of approach.

      • Ensure these avenues can still be observed.

      • Pay particular atttention to the routes used by enemy reconnaissance and forward elements.

    • Verify communications. In the offense, upon occupation, and, in the defense, during rehearsals.

    • Ensure all maneuver observers (maneuver shooters) are trained.

      • They specifically understand the FS plan and their target responsibilities.

      • Discuss the observation plan with the commander and key leaders.

    • Develop an exit plan from each position to an alternate position from which to continue the mission.

The FISTV can become a more effective combat multiplier for the maneuver commander. Just make sure these tasks are done during the planning and preparation of an operation.

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