Basic Patrolling Tactics
by The Bunker
Even on the modern high-tech battlefield, patrols are vital - to gather
intelligence, dominate ground, and destroy enemy forces.
The versatility of having good men on the ground must not be
underestimated. All patrols, no matter what size or composition, will have
a specific aim - usually falling into one of the following three
To obtain information about the enemy and the ground....
* To dominate ground
* To destroy or disrupt enemy forces
The size, operating procedures and equipment carried by the patrol will be
specific to the task.
Types of Patrol
There are many different types of patrol, but they all fall into one of
the following classifications:
Fighting patrols are the largest type of patrol, normally 16 men (two
sections plus HQ). They are usually heavily armed so as to allow them to
carry out their task. The type of tasks tackled by fighting patrols are
wide ranging, but some examples are:
To carry out raids and capture prisoners; to prevent the enemy gathering
intelligence or gaining the initiative by aggressive patrolling and
ambushing; harassing or disrupting enemy work parties; anti-personnel and
Standby or quick-reaction patrols are another form of patrol, used for
following up on contacts among other tasks.
These are used to take in specialists who are able to do a task or action
which cannot be carried out by normal troops. Size and composition vary
depending on the tactical situation. This is the rarest form of patrol.
Recon patrols normally consist of four men who use stealth and good drills
to gain information on the enemy without his knowledge. Good
communications are essential to allow rapid passage of 'hot int'.
Equipment should be kept to a minimum to allow silent movement. The
reduced weight also reduces fatigue, and so prolongs alertness.
Weapons should be small, light and potent, allowing the patrol the maximum
firepower available - M203s and Claymores provide a useful edge. (If
Some of a recon patrol's tasks could be:
* Locating enemy positions
* Obtaining details on enemy positions, obstacles and minefields
* Gaining information on enemy equipment, habits and movement
* Collecting information on the ground for updating maps
* Locating areas contaminated by nuclear or chemical weapons
Standing patrols are usually as small as possible, typically 2-8 men, with
4 being the norm. They are used to provide warning of enemy approach or
movement. Their tasks therefore include:
* Covering dead ground around defended positions
* Covering minefields and obstacles not covered by main positions
* Establishing long-term surveillance OPs
Standing patrols operate with stealth to avoid detection, but they must be
armed well enough to give them a chance if compromised and forced into a
firefight or a 'hot extraction'. Often LAWs or LSWs are the only extras
available. Ideally, though, weapons such as M203 40mm grenade launchers
and M18A1 Claymore mines should be carried. These increase small unit
firepower substantially, and are good 'force multipliers'.
Due to their positions, standing patrols are ideal for controlling
artillery and mortar fire. Good communications are obviously essential.
Whichever type of patrol you are engaged in, there are a number of points
to bear in mind for your own security and that of the patrol:
* Good personal discipline - maintain spacing and vigilance, observe arcs.
* Stick to drills - don't cut corners.
* Avoid leaving sign - anything that reveals your presence.
* Avoid telegraphing your presence - move with stealth.
* Don't use tracks - they are prone to ambush.
* Don't halt or move on topographical features - if they're easy to use,
the enemy may use them too.
* Don't form routines - vary routes and techniques.
* Don't switch off - it could be the last thing you ever do.
Four-man patrols carrying out covert observation and reconnaissance deep
behind enemy lines are the most demanding of all patrol tasks. Usually
separated from quick or direct support, they rely on stealthy drills and
skills of the highest order. Their strength lies in remaining covert -
avoiding compromise by the use of well thought-out techniques. These
patrols are normally associated with special forces. The duties within
such a patrol could be as follows:
Normally armed with M203 or shotgun for aggressive reaction to 'contact
front', he is the second most experienced patrol member, but must be
rotated with the rear man so as to rest. Lead scout is a physically and
mentally demanding position, especially in close country or jungle.
Lead scout's duties:
* To select the safest and easiest route along a line of travel
* Maintaining frequent visual checks with patrol commander
* Preparation of minor demolitions and booby traps as ordered
* Servicing of patrol demolition equipment
* Detecting enemy mines and booby traps on route
The patrol commander is the most experienced member of the patrol, having
done time in each patrol skill/appointment. He will, however, consult
patrol members on operational matters, having a 'Chinese parliament', but
his decision is final. Armed with rifle such as M16A2 or CAR15.
Patrol commander's duties:
* Conducting all tasks as ordered from above
* Welfare and admin of patrol
* Secondary signaller
* Navigator and pacer
* Thorough knowledge of all SOPs and drills
The signaller is usually the newest patrol member - he gets the heaviest
kit to carry! He will be familiar with all the comms used, and is the
'lifeline' to higher formations at bases etc. He must destroy all used
codes etc. He carries a rifle, and possibly extra grenades to destroy
signals kit if close to capture.
* Operation, servicing and distribution of all patrol signals equipment
* Maintaining communications with higher formations
* Ensuring correct encoding and decoding of all messages, in conjunction
with patrol commander
* Have full knowledge of report formats and procedures
* Security of all codes and crypto
* All patrol members must know location of codes for quick retrieval in
emergency (ie signaller dead)
* Check pacer
The medic is expected to be able to sustain a trauma injury for at least
24 hours, as well as the day-to-day tasks of dispensing routine treatment
such as plaudrine tablets to prevent malaria in the jungle, etc.
* Health of patrol
* Servicing of patrol medical pack
* Secondary lead scout
* Check navigator
* Carries GPMG or M249 if applicable
As well as the specific duties and equipment outlined above, patrol
members are responsible for other items of patrol equipment such as
Passive Night Vision Goggles, TACBE radios, etc.
The members are also expected to possess skills over and above the norm.
For example, the signaller may be able to transmit and receive morse code
at speeds of 12-18 words per minute, and the medic should be familiar with
minor field surgery and dentistry techniques. Patrol members may also have
knowledge of languages suitable for the theatre in which they are deployed
- Spanish might be useful, for instance.