To an individual soldier, everything is a patrol. Any movement of a group of men is in essence a patrol. A Patrol Order is just a more specific Operations Order. Either one is just a detailed set of plans that communicates the situation, mission, concept of operation, and specific requirements to the men who will make up the operation. In combat, Murphy's law usually results in death. It is essential that a leader expend extraordinary effort and creativity when he plans a patrol. If you don't plan for a contingency, and rehearse for it, when it rears its ugly head your men may die as a consequence. After you embark on your mission, if ANYTHING happens or changes that was not allowed for in the original patrol order, the leader must prepare a "frag" order. (Depending on the immediacy of the situation of course). The leader will use the same patrol order format to describe the change of plans. Once men in a special operations unit become used to this it becomes second nature. A young PFC with a Ranger tab will know the instant you have missed something!
An easy way to keep your sanity, and speed communication, is to develop SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). If you ALWAYS do something in a certain way, SOP it and have your men rehearse this SOP during normal training exercises. When developing a patrol order, something a leader does a lot of, you will not have to write the section for this common action over and over again. If for example, you will always enter a DC-9 in the same manner, your assault team will have an SOP that they follow for this. If the situation requires you to modify the SOP so be it, but in training you will always do it the same way. This allows your team to develop the speed needed to clear an aircraft of terrorists before the terrorists have time to react. They way we did it was thus:
(Sniper Note: I think the policy of non negotiation is foolish. It puts a lot of people at risk in hostage scenarios for no other reason than pride. I think terrorists should be given most anything they want (within reason), and when the hostages are safe kill every one of them, or destroy the country that gave them asylum. Why we let international diplomacy considerations affect our decisions is beyond me. If the other guys what to play this game with us, make them pay a heavy price for it.)
It doesn't matter whether you are just going on a reconnaissance mission, taking out terrorists, kidnapping, or sniping. The things that you do in this business must be planned in excruciating detail if you want to be successful on a consistent basis. (Meaning that you want to live, there is no second place in a gunfight).
One thing that I found lacking in line units was a lack of information sharing. In order to assure mission success, it is very important for everyone involved in the mission to understand what the mission is, and all of the details. If only one person knows how to signal the slicks for extraction, and that person is killed, how does anyone else call in the extraction? I could go on and on with examples. Junior officers who have never been in combat are likely to take the attitude that only they understand all of the important stuff, and therefore everyone else's job is to just follow them. Most Lieutenants will give all pertinent info to their squad leaders. If the platoon sergeant doesn't make sure his NCO get the info to every man under their supervision, the stage is set for tragedy. Patrol Orders are the mechanism for getting everyone's program together. All NCO are not equal. Some are dumb, incompetent, and lack leadership skills. Special Operations units use only the cream of the crop, and that is why they win engagements with the enemy, and have a much higher kill ratio per man.
Terrain association is the next big issue. Some people have a real problem with this. I would call it common sense. But that means many things to different people. You must be able to look at a topographical map and relate the elevation contour lines to the physical terrain that surrounds you. This can be difficult in heavy vegetation, or in climates that where physical changes occur faster than the map makers can keep up. Heavy rainfall areas and wind blown deserts are places that can change rapidly. This does not make it impossible to read the map, only harder. I mention these because on a patrol you have to know where you are going, how to get there, and how to get out. If bad things happen, you must be able to find prearranged rally points, LZs (Landing Zones), etc.
It is very important that everyone in the patrol unit know how to do this. They must also have all of the information that time allows them to be given. One or two leaders who know everything and a gaggle of soldiers who are just following the guy in front of them is an invitation to disaster.
Patrols are organized in to elements and teams. Teams are subdivisions of elements.
This is a sample formation for seven men. The APL doubles as rear security. When the formations closes up during conditions of limited visibility it will resemble a file formation. Files are dangerous when visibility is good because a gun in enfilade position can fire down the patrol hitting everyone very quickly. A good sniper with a self-loading rifle can hit 5 men in less than three seconds at 900 meters! A machine gun in the hands of a good gunner can hit everyone in the patrol two or three times.
The smaller your patrol is, the easier it is to travel silently, and control is greatly enhanced. One man can effectively control up to 5 other men directly. When you have more than this you will need to organize your patrol into multiple 'maneuver elements'. In this manner the PL can direct multiple elements by directly controlling the element leader. Each element leader then controls up to five men under him.
Crew served weapons should be located near the PL in a formation (small patrol). It makes it easier for the PL to direct the fire of the gunners when he does not have to crawl around under fire trying to get his gunners in action.
A good patrol leader leads by example. In a fire fight the men in the patrol look to the leader for direction, and sometimes courage. If the PL inspires and motivates his men, by displaying courage, leadership, and audacity in the face of the enemy, the patrol members will respond favorably and take the fight to the enemy when it's needed. A patrol leader who is indecisive, hides under fire, and fails to LEAD, will cause the fighting effectiveness of his patrol to collapse.
In a fight, the patrol leader, with the assistance of the APL, must constantly redistribute ammo and give encouragement to his men. This means crawling under fire from position to position, inspiring the men, and insuring that each has a constant supply of ammo. Some men fire more often than others do. If the enemy is hitting you on the right then your men on the right will expend ammo faster than those on the left will. You cannot just move every one online because the enemy could flank you, or come around behind. Amidst the roar, fury, and smoke of combat, good leaders distinguish themselves by this type of conduct under pressure. Some leaders rise from the most unlikely places in the "ranks". A good patrol member must always be ready to take command when the PL /APL is unable to do so (dead or wounded). The patrol leader must always display unselfish courage so that when he does go down, PFC Joe Rag Bag will step forward, and do as he has seen his leader do under fire.
Patrol leaders never eat, or drink, until the men have been fed and watered. This is a rule that should NEVER be violated. The mission, and men, in that order, always without exception.
A patrol order is always preceded by a warning order.
This is an example warning order. Signal intelligence units, recon satellites, and information from other intelligence sources indicates that the enemy has established a headquarters area in Grid Square ZZ1044. The enemy is using the road running east-west through the area to move equipment and supplies. All road junctions and trails are under enemy control and the entire area under surveillance. You mission is to get in there and recon the area without being caught for a period of not less than 48 hours.
You must find their HQ. On 22 November 1995 you will set your sniper team in the best position you can find, kill as many officers or key personnel as you can, and get the hell out. You will let your relay station know when you are on your way out. They will launch your slicks to the LZ. Intelligence indicates that this is a Regimental HQ and the probability of at least Field grade officers is very high.
There will be a full S2 briefing in 1 hour at Battalion. You will be able to meet afterwards with the Air Liaison. The area is 125 miles north and well beyond artillery support. The enemy has extensive signals intelligence capabilities and you can expect artillery or rocket fire within 2 minutes of any radio transmissions.
Well, you heard it. The AO is crawling with [insert expletive here]'s. You have one hour to get your team together. Since the AO is hot, you will need a good 3-man security team just in case you get into trouble. They'll have to be cool heads though; the last thing you want is to be compromised 120 miles behind enemy lines. You will need helicopter extraction standing by 24 hours a day throughout the operation. Hopefully good weather will prevail. You'll find out all about that at the S2 briefing. For now, pick your spotter and three good LRP men.
This is the most important part of the warning order. Anything that the briefer does not cover you must ask about. Don't assume it's because they don't know. If you piss them off with a lot of questions they'll let you know.
After the warning order you must find out what assets you will have to work with. If air transport and TACAIR are available, make arrangements with the liaison officers to meet with you after you have worked out your patrol order. It won't do you any good to plan for choppers or a fly over if none are available. Find out what you will have to work with first. Incorporate the air assets into your patrol order, then meet with your liaison to give them all of the details. Do this early enough so that if they have a problem with something you want to do, you'll have the time to work it out. Hopefully, your chain of command has a good relationship with the rotor heads so you won't have a problem getting the priorities your people need.
In the warning order given above, a fly over might be inadvisable. You don't want the enemy to think you might know where he is. Use maps and aerial photos to find your insertion point.
Now you must prepare a plan for your patrol. You will give your own people the warning order all over again, with a few additions.
|Debriefing||22 Nov.||1700||All Personnel|
|Call Choppers||22 Nov.||1400||All|
|Make Shots||22 Nov.||1400||Snipers|
|On Objective||21 Nov.||0200||All|
|Movement to Objective||20 Nov.||2000||All|
|Disseminate Intelligence||20 Nov.||1800||All|
|Sleep||18 Nov.||0100||See Patrol Base Annex.|
|Movement to AO||17 Nov.||2100||All|
|Parachute Jump||17 Nov.||2030||All|
|Board Aircraft||17 Nov.||1830||All|
|Move to Airfield||17 Nov.||0930||All|
|Final Inspection||17 Nov.||0830||All - Asst. Platoon Leader to Conduct.|
|Draw Ammo||17 Nov.||0700||All but Platoon Leader|
|Night Rehearsals||16 Nov.||1800||All - Exercise|
|Patrol Order||16 Nov.||1400||All - Classroom|
|Command/Control||16 Nov.||1200||All - Platoon Leader to Conduct.|
|Air Requirements Turned In||16 Nov.||1000||Patrol Leader|
|Fire Support Overlays||16 Nov.||0900||Patrol Leader|
|Extraction Class||16 Nov.||1000||Everyone Else|
|Danger Areas Class||16 Nov.||0900||Everyone Else|
|Fire Missions Class||16 Nov.||0800||Everyone|
|Night Compass Class||15 Nov.||1800||All: 1 MRE, LBE, Compass, Map, Note Book and Pencil.|
|Photo Intelligence Class||14 Nov.||1900||All - S2 NCO Conducts Class|
|Patrol Order Development||12 Nov.||1000||All|
|Warning Order||12 Nov.||0900||All|
Well, we are back to the 12th and have a few days to work with. We should probably move everything back a day to allow more recon time, and another day to allow everyone one full day to sleep and eat. This patrol will take a toll on everyone. We want to be well rested and fed when we board the choppers. Our assholes will be so tight you couldn't drive a 10-penny nail up them with a sledgehammer. We will need the extra sleep and food. If things go bad we could wind up without a ride home and be forced to escape & evade the 120 miles back to friendly lines. We want a lot of good food in our system, vitamin supplements, high energy foods, foot powder and socks.
Looking back over the timetable I can see that I have allowed too much time for some things and not enough for others. It is important that all personnel know what they are doing so that you can cover the basics quickly and use the rest of the time to develop the operations order. As we shall see, all of the details will be planned for and included in our OPORD.
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