More Patrolling Fundamentals
by The Bunker
The patrol order will be a briefing that includes all of the details and
contingencies. It will provide the instructions that everyone needs to do
their job. It will begin with the boarding of the
helicopters/trucks/aircraft/submarine and end with the debriefing. You
must include every conceivable contingency and allow time for training and
What do you do if you are discovered on the LZ upon insertion? If you will
break your team into two elements for some reason, what are you going to
do if one of the elements is discovered/captured/killed/ or for some
reason doesn't return at the prearranged time?
If you are walking along and are ambushed what are you going to do? Break
the patrol down into phases and spend a lot of time discussing each phase
with your people. Identify all areas of concern and plan for them. You
should rehearse everything as best you can. If you can locate an area to
rehearse in that has similar terrain, practice moving into your ORP
(Objective Rally Point)/Patrol Base at night. Make sure each person knows
what sector he will be responsible for and can set up in the dark without
talking. Rather than give a lengthy narrative on all of this, why don't we
discuss some specific techniques and then go over the phases of a patrol
and discuss how these techniques are integrated into the mission.
Much of these texts concern small clandestine patrols. Small clandestine
patrols avoid contact with the enemy. They do not have the firepower to
engage, and frequently operate beyond the range of rapid reinforcement. A
large, powerful, and heavily armed combat patrol on a mission to seek out
and destroy the enemy doesn't give a darn whether they make noise or not.
They want the enemy to try and mess with them. They know that if the enemy
does, they are going to kick some ass.
Vietnam was a war, not a movie. I don't doubt that with constant rotation
of personnel, and a lot of young lieutenants, that some of the silly
things you see in Vietnam-era War movies actually took place. Point is not
a job for some green kid because he's more expendable. Point is the most
important job in the patrol. I suppose if your patrol is undisciplined,
noisy, high on drugs, listening to portable radios, and stumbling along
through the jungle loaded down with comic books and all kinds of other
crap there is VERY GOOD CHANCE you are going to get ambushed. In the
movies these patrols put cherries on point because they know they are
going to get hit. This is the stupidest, most screwed up, irresponsible
wad of worms I can think of. If you think you are doing anyone any good by
running a unit in this manner you should be court martialled and tried for
treason. You go on patrol for a lot of reasons, but you don't do it to
kill off your own people. Your job is to give the enemy the best
opportunity that you can to die for HIS country. It's not the other way
Other things you see in movies that would get you slapped for trying on a
* If the uniform include helmet, wearing it with the chinstrap unhooked
and dangling. Cigarettes, LSA, Bug Juice, playing cards, or anything else
stuck into the band.
* Decorating the camouflage cover of your helmet with peace signs,
slogans, or anything else.
* Rolling your sleeves up for any reason.
* Wearing camouflage paint in some silly "war paint" design.
* Carrying your weapon on your shoulder.
* Sauntering along like you are on a nature hike.
* Not wearing camouflage at all times.
* Stumbling, falling, tripping, making noise of any kind.
* Dropping anything on the ground.
It should be noted that if I found you in possession of unauthorized items
mentioned above (cigarettes, playing cards, and comic books) the
punishment would be most severe. This is because the only way you could
have gotten them would have been to sneak back and get them after the APL
inspected you and your gear. If the APL let you bring any of the items he
would probably be relieved immediately and charged with dereliction of
Phase of Patrol (Modified for our sample warning order)
* Planning & Preparation
* Movement to the Objective
* Setup our 'hides' and shoot people
* Movement to the LZ
When moving at night you will be very close to each other. 'Ranger Eyes'
are sewn onto the back of your cap. These are two small strips of
luminescent tape. In very dark places (like in a triple canopy jungle) you
may have to hold onto the man in front of you. The worst sin a man can
commit (along with coughing, sneezing, and stumbling) is to break contact
with the man in front of him. DON'T DO THIS. People who are wont to break
contact have no place on a patrol. Movement formation should be such that
the PL can control all of the patrol elements. Remember that you must be
able to control teams in a variety of emergency situations. If you are
strung out to far, your patrol can be cut in half by an ambush. If you are
too close to each other, one mortar or artillery round can kill you all.
You should organize your little patrol into a point element, headquarters,
and rear security. (This is only for our small sniping mission) Patrols
are usually organized according to the mission. While moving, people are
organized into 'maneuver elements' and each has a team leader. In battle,
the patrol leader will maneuver these teams against the enemy.
While moving your patrol should have a point element. A point element is
composed of a Point man and a slack man. Their mission is to provide
security, NOT to navigate. The point team should not stray too far ahead.
The PL must be able to control their direction and see them at all times.
The point team must be very alert for booby traps, ambushes, and enemy
patrols, positions, etc. The point man walks in front and the slack man
moves behind him about 20 meters depending on terrain and vegetation. The
slack man must watch the point man in his peripheral vision. When the
point-man looks to the right, the slack man 'takes up the slack' by
looking to the left. They must work together to provide constant 270
degree surveillance and check back to the patrol to get guidance on
direction. If the point team does not keep an eye on the patrol, and the
patrol stops for any reason, they will break contact. The point team is
the patrols primary defense against ambush. They must be able to spot an
ambush before the patrol gets within the kill zone. They will communicate
by hand and arm signals. At night, or in dense vegetation, or rocky
terrain, the point team will close up to the patrol. Tired men have a
habit of looking at the ground in front of them. It is difficult to
concentrate for long periods of time in a high-pressure situation like
point. The point team should not be in place for longer than one hour. 30
minutes is a better time period. That way your point team will always be
alert. If your patrol is not large enough to rotate the point, or you have
other reasons, make sure that your point team is a good one.
Your HQ element will be the Patrol Leader (PL), APL, and RTO (Radio
Telephone Operator). If you were taking a medic, the medic would be part
of the HQ element. For movement purposes the APL will be at the rear of
the patrol. He will watch for litter, broken branches, tracks, and pull
rear security. In a small patrol you may want to alternate the position of
RTO so that each man can have a respite from point. It really depends on
how well each person can operate the radio. Assuming everyone can operate
the radio with a high degree of competence it is OK to do this, if not you
may have to use a dedicated point team. You will have to make the
decision, it is important to have a competent radio operator at all times.
It is also important to have an alert point team at all times. Remember
this, combat success is measured by the degree your unit can move, shoot,
and communicate. Without communication, both within your patrol, and with
field artillery and air support, you are dead in combat. A patrol leader
must be able to maneuver his men, talk to HQ, fire support, and display
leadership, all under a hail of bullets and other weapons. A good RTO must
be able to encode and transmit messages fast. Once you are in contact with
the enemy, the enemy knows where you are; it is acceptable to talk in the
clear. This means it is no longer necessary to encrypt messages when time
is of the essence. If you are in danger of being overrun you cannot waste
time encoding. The "gun bunnies" love this stuff. When they hear you under
fire and the urgency in your voice, they really earn their pay. They will
load and fire like their lives depend on it. Every man in your patrol must
be able to call for fire, quickly, and accurately. Part of your patrol
order should cover fire missions.
If you and the APL are snipers then you are also the sniping element. You
will not be sniping during the movement phase, so it is acceptable to
perform other jobs during this phase of the patrol. It is no different
from any other special purpose team, demolitions, snatch, POW search and
handling, river crossing, all must perform security and be ready to fire
and maneuver in contact with the enemy.
All weapons must be kept on safe. Everyone will keep his finger on the
selector switch. Since you will be behind enemy lines, and outnumbered by
virtually any enemy unit in the area, you must not have an accidental
discharge. You must hide and or run from anyone we meet if at all
possible. The moment anyone fires an M16 or .308 you are compromised. This
danger can be minimized somewhat by using sound suppressors. Would it make
sense for everyone except snipers to carry enemy weapons? Could we get
resupply if necessary? What are the chances of being re-supplied instead
of extracted? Is everyone trained and competent with enemy weapons? Are
sound suppressors available for the weapon you want to carry? Sound
suppressors are essential pieces of equipment for all weapons.
Familiarity is one thing and competence is another. How you will perform
with the equipment when suddenly ambushed, pinned down, or in a serious
firefight is quite another. Dime store novels have commandos carrying all
sorts of exotic weapons.
I'm saying that you are better off carrying the standard weapons everyone
regularly carries. If everyone is competent with foreign weapons you may
consider it. Remember that you don't want to fire your weapons, and
resupply will be difficult if you are carrying non-standard items. The
fact that the area is crawling with the enemy cannot be overlooked. The
odds of a shoot-out at some point are likely and you want to survive it
first, and then escape. If you can survive the fight with enemy weapons
and you are sure of it, then your odds of escape are somewhat enhanced.
Everyone within earshot will have heard their own weapons being fired,
they will know their comrades are shooting at something, but won't know
This uncertainty can work in your favor. If the troops guarding the rear
area are not seasoned combat soldiers, i.e., MPs, or other green troops,
they will be more likely to wonder what the ruckus is about and wait for
someone to tell them what to do. They will know that certain weapons
sounds don't sound like theirs, even if they don't immediately recognize
the source. If they don't hear strange weapons, they may think someone is
qualifying or practicing! Notice I'm using a lot of 'less likely', 'apt
to', 'odds are" 's. You must consider these things and make your
decisions, there are no guarantees. What will happen may be something else
Weapons always follow your eyes. As you scan an area to your flank, your
weapon's muzzle follows. It should always be pointed wherever you are
Each man in the patrol has a sector to watch as you move. Stagger this so
that you alternate from right to left. One man looks right, the man behind
him looks left, and so on all the way back through the patrol.
All of your men should be able to qualify right & left handed with their
The basic indivisible unit is a 2-man buddy system. You should never leave
a man alone for any reason. You will not be forgiven for a tragedy
befalling someone under your command when it could have been avoided.
You should not use radios unless absolutely necessary. The enemy can
determine where you are transmitting from and they will fire upon your
location. You should work out a system of squelch breaks to communicate.
When you separate for recon purposes, each team should have a small,