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Platoon Occupation of a Patrol Base

1LT David A. Buck


A patrol base must be located so that it will not be discovered either through accident or systematic searches. An ORP must also be selected from which to reconnoiter the patrol base. Hilltops and the bottom of draws or valleys should be avoided, generally. The platoon will approach the projected ORP using whichever movement formation is appropriate. Establish the ORP When 200 to 400 m (or 100 to 200 m in low visibility) away from the projected location of the patrol base, the platoon will occupy an ORP by force--which simply means stopping and setting up the ORP where they are. Those steps are as follows: As the platoon moves, the pace man will notify the PL of the distance travelled through hand signals. Everyone will echo the hand signals, and each soldier should be aware of when the platoon is close to the planned ORP based on distances given during prior briefing. The PL will identify the exact location to establish the ORP, which may differ slightly from the pre-planned location. When the PL is satisfied with the location of the platoon, he will signal a halt. All soldiers will push out into a cigar shape, with alpha teams on the left side of the cigar shape and bravo teams on the right (see Figure 1). Soldiers will select their own positions based on the cover available to them. Each soldier will take a knee but will not remove their rucksack. The gun teams will move to take positions at the 12 oclock and 6 oclock, putting the guns on bipod and lying in the prone. Squad and team leaders will then assign hasty sectors of fire and soldiers will remove their rucksacks and take up prone positions. The platoon will conduct SLLS at that time to detect any roving patrols in the vicinity of the objective, or anyone who may be tracking the platoon (3-5 minutes is normal for SLLS). Once the PL is satisfied that the location is secure, he will signal for the leaders recon personnel to come to the center.

Figure 1 At this point, the squad leaders will take the initiative to begin improving security, as both the PL and PSG will be otherwise engaged. They must restrict the movement of soldiers at this time as the natural tendency after a SLLS halt is for everyone to start moving to get equipment out of their rucksack or to get more comfortable. Recognizing that members of their squads are moving off of the line to form the leaders recon (which means gaps in the lines and a certain amount of noise from people moving), the SLs coordinate amongst themselves to cover those gaps while having only one soldier move at a time. That one soldier will move his rucksack and place it in one of two lines in the center of the cigar shape with the frame facing down1, positioned as shown in figure 1. Once the soldier has placed and camouflaged his rucksack, he will take up a prone position at the direction of his team leader, and will be assigned a field of fire. Squad leaders will coordinate fields of fire between their teams and adjacent squads. The Leaders Recon Leaves Seven soldiers will report to the center to join the PL and RTO for the leaders recon. Personnel Purpose Essential Equipment PL Conduct reconnaissance MBITR RTO Maintain communications ACIP Compass Man Learn the route 2x AGs Emplace tripods at two apexes Tripods, rucksacks SAW Gunner Occupy the third apex Rucksack
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In case the platoon needs to rapidly leave the area, this will prevent any gear from being unnoticed. Since there may be more rucksacks than soldiers present, it is particularly important to centrally locate all gear. The shoulder frame faces down to prevent any possible reflection off the plastic.

WSL 2x Riflemen

Supervise personnel at patrol base Provide security, man LP/OP

Rucksack, MBITR Rucksacks, MBITR

The first three will return to the ORP, and will retrieve their rucksacks on the second trip2. The leaders recon will leave by going to the twelve oclock position. The PSG will have formed a chokepoint between himself and a tree, boulder, or the gun. The PL will give a five-point contingency plan to the PSG using the acronym GOTWA. For example, I am going to recon Patrol Base Black. I am taking SPC Kocan (the RTO), SPC Hernandez (the compass man), SPC Berry (AG), SPC Sargent (AG), SPC Saavedra (SAW gunner), SSG Lawson (WSL), PFC Heredia (rifleman), and SPC Gans (rifleman), for a total of nine leaving. Three of us will return in one and a half hours, at 2245. If we dont return, go back to the last rally pointthe boulder by the streamand contact the company for guidance. If we are attacked, we will move to you. Wait for us and prepare to defend this position. If you are attacked, break contact and move to the last rally point. We will move to meet you there. In both cases, the signal will be shots fired. Once the PSG has the five-point contingency plan and he has conducted a PCI of those leaving, every member of the leaders recon will be counted out by passing through the chokepoint. After the leaders recon has left, the PSG will put out the five-point contingency plan. He will then begin checking the ORP. This includes checking fields of fire and dead space, likely avenues of approach, the rucksack plan, communications, and anything else he deems relevant. The Leaders Recon at the Patrol Base There are two ways for the leaders recon to enter the projected patrol base. They can make a 90 turn, or dog leg, into the patrol base, or they can go 270 around the site and then make a dog leg (see Figure 2).

To limit fatigue, those who will make the trip twice (the PL, RTO, and compass man) will only carry their rucksack on the second trip. In case of an emergency withdrawal, that leaves the extra rucksacks with the platoon, which will be able to provide a regular rotation of who is carrying two rucksacks. The smaller group at the proposed patrol base would have much more difficulty moving the extra gear if it were brought on the first trip and left there.

Figure 2 Looking at the figure reveals just how much farther the platoon must go in order to use the longer method, but the trade-off is a great deal more security as the chances for seeing whoever may be tracking the platoon are substantially higher (just remember that the distance will be covered three times before the platoon actually enters the patrol base). Either way, the LP/OP will be dropped off to the side of the turn, with one soldier facing the direction you have just come, and one facing the opposite direction. Their legs will be interlocked to signal each other, and they must have a means of communication. They must be left with a five point contingency plan as well. After making the 90 turn, go 100 to 150m. This is where the 6 oclock will be. Drop one of the AGs in this location. The remaining six people will get on line and clear the patrol base. If the area is clear of any signs of enemy activity, previous use as a patrol base, or other human travel, the WSL and PL will emplace the remaining AG and SAW gunner at the 10 oclock and 2 oclock. Emplacing each position requires that either the PL or the WSL get into the prone and use a compass to set the fields of fire3. Returning to the 6 oclock, the PL will give a five-point contingency plan to the WSL. For example, Im returning to the ORP. Im taking SPC Kocan (the RTO) and SPC Hernandez (the compass man) with me. We will return with the platoon in one hour, at 2320. If we dont return, go back to the last en route rally point at that boulder by the stream and contact the company. If we take fire, go back to the last rally point. If you take fire, return to the ORP and meet up with the platoon. At that point the WSL will count the PL, RTO, and compass man out. The WSL will pass the five-point contingency plan on to the personnel left behind, including the LP/OP. The Leaders Recon Returns
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The key is the Final Protective Line (FPL), or the last line of defense the platoon has against being overrun. For M240s, the FPL is 30 out from the line of soldiers that will form the side of the triangle (see Figure 4 in the Note on Patrol Base Setup). For the one apex with a SAW, the FPL is 20 out from the side of the triangle. Regardless of the weapon system, it is critical that the weapon always be oriented down the FPL in order to ensure the platoon will be protected if the enemys most deadly course of action becomes a reality.

As the remainder of the leaders recon returns to the ORP, they will use recognition signals in order to ensure that enemy or civilian personnel do not inadvertently walk into the ORP. The far recognition signal is given over the radio. The leaders recon will notify the platoon that they are returning when they are roughly halfway back. The platoon will confirm by radio that they are expecting them and will look for the near recognition signal. The PSG will notify personnel starting at the 6 oclock of the approach of the leaders recon. Squad and team leaders will begin getting one man at a time rucked up and on a knee. Once within visual range, the leaders recon will give a near-recognition signal. During the daytime, that will be holding the non-firing arm out horizontally from the body. As the leaders recon gets closer to the platoon during low visibility, they will ensure visual sighting by waving an open compass side to side, exposing the luminescent portion. This will be visible through NODs. An IR flash is also an option for near recognition, but is a higher risk alternative since the enemy may have been issued NODs or captured some from other friendly units. Whatever the signal used, the signal will be returned in kind by the PSG. The leaders recon element will then pass through the chokepoint and the PSG will count them in. The platoon will be notified of the intent to occupy the patrol base. The Platoon Occupies the Patrol Base On signal from the PL, the platoon will begin moving out. This will be done in order of movement by team. The lead squad (at the 12 oclock) will have one team get up and move to the 6 oclock to be counted out through the chokepoint. The other team will follow, with the squad leader directing movement to avoid having an entire squad standing stationary waiting to be counted out. It should be a smooth flow through the chokepoint, into the movement formation, and the next team or squad following behind. That smoothness entirely depends on team and squad leaders managing when teams move from a knee to standing, moving to the choke point, and limiting speed after exiting the choke point. The compass man will lead the platoon along the proper path. Halfway to the patrol base, the RTO will give the far recognition signal as before, and receive confirmation from the WSL and from the LP/OP. The near recognition signal will be given by the point man, and will be given to and returned by both the LP/OP and the 6 oclock of the patrol base. As the platoon collapses into a file they will pass through the chokepoint and the WSL will count them in. Leaders in the rear of the formation must monitor speed at this point carefully. If the enemy observed some of the movement, they may be waiting for an opportunity to use enfilading fire to create a mass casualty situation. A squad or squad and a half lined up in a ten meter space would be that opportunity. As the last men come in, the PSG will ensure the trail is covered. The point man will lead the first two squads from the 6 oclock to the 2 oclock in a straight line, and then turn and go on to the 10 oclock. The third squad will be directed from the 6 oclock to the 10 oclock position, completing the triangle. Just as before, all soldiers will take a knee with their rucksack on. The gunners will put the machine guns down on bipod next to the tripod. When the rest of the platoon is set well enough to provide security (but still with rucksack on), the gunners will one at a time transition from bipod to tripod. Then the PL will give the signal to conduct SLLS. Once SLLS is complete, the rucksacks will be removed and placed inconspicuously according to the PSGs rucksack plan. The SLs will control the number of soldiers who move their rucksacks in order to control the amount of noise, just as in the ORP. Squad and team leaders will then finalize the selection of positions and ensure that fields of fire interlock. At this point, security is still at 100%. Each SL will send a two-man R&S team to the center and inform all soldiers that R&S teams are preparing to leave the perimeter. The PL will instruct the teams on how they are to conduct reconnaissance with four specific standards: amount of time to complete, the method to use (T-method, box method, or another appropriate method), distance out from the perimeter to go (50-100 m is standard), and what to look for (evidence of civilian foot traffic,

roads, signs of enemy presence, or signs that this has been used as a patrol base recently, among any other concerns the PL may have). The R&S teams will go collect the information and return to the PL to report. If the site violates any security principle for a patrol base, the platoon will have to move to the alternate site. If the reports are favorable, the soldiers will begin completing range cards for each position. The TL will use those range cards to make a team range card, which the SL will use to make squad range cards, which the PL will use to make a platoon range card.

Figure 3 Now that security has been completely established, priorities of work will begin as outlined in the Ranger Handbook.

A Note on Patrol Base Setup As squad and team leaders position their soldiers along the perimeter according to METT-TC, they should keep in mind this baseline. Two-man fighting positions allow for a smooth transition as soldiers take turns on the line and conducting one of the priorities of work, and are the standard. The standard length of the side of a patrol base is 70 m. With a nine-man squad broken into two-man teams there are four positions with a 14 m space between the positions, including a 14 m distance from the gun teams at the apexes. The FPL (final protective line, or the last line of defense that the gun is oriented down) is 35 m straight out from the next apex when using the 30 SDZ. Each position should have fields of fire that interlock 35 m out, or a 23 fan in front of each position. The figure shows that the fields of fire interlock such that 150m out, each of the positions will have the same target in their field of fire. That is an error that comes if soldiers focus too much on the concept of a field of fire and forget about the concept of their lane. The reality is that these are methods we use to help make certain we dont have gaps in our defense, rather than iron-clad rules. Remember, these are general guidelines to help have a good basic picture of a patrol base. Figure 4