Defensive Operations

Military forces conduct defensive operations only until they gain sufficient strength to attack. Though the outcome of decisive combat derives from offensive actions, commanders often find that it is necessary, even advisable, to defend. Once they make this choice, they must set the conditions for the defense in a way that allows friendly forces to withstand and hold the enemy while they prepare to seize the initiative and return to the offense. A thorough understanding of the commanderís intent is especially critical in defensive operations, which demand precise integration of combat, CS, and CSS elements.

The immediate purposes of all defensive operations are to defeat an enemy attack and gain the initiative for offensive operations. The company team may also conduct the defense to achieve one or more of the following purposes:

  • Gain time.
  • Retain key terrain.
  • Facilitate other operations.
  • Preoccupy the enemy in one area while friendly forces attack him in another.
  • Erode enemy forces at a rapid rate while reinforcing friendly operations.


Section 1 Sequence of the Defense
Reconnaissance and Security Operations
    and Enemy Preparatory Fires
Approach of the Enemy Main Attack
Enemy Assault
Consolidation and Reorganization
Section 2 Defensive Planning Considerations
Weapons Positioning
Displacement Planning
Fire Support
Air Defense
Mobility and Survivability
Combat Service Support
Section 3 Preparation and Integration
Engagement Area Development
Battle Position Occupation and Preparation
Adjacent Unit Coordination
Section 4 Defensive Techniques
Defend in Sector
Defend a Battle Position
Defend a Strongpoint
Defend a Perimeter
Section 5 Reserve Operations in the Defense
Planning Considerations
Reserve Operations and Techniques
Section 6 Retrograde Operations


As part of a larger element, the company team conducts defensive operations in a sequence of integrated and overlapping phases or steps. The following paragraphs focus on the tactical considerations and procedures involved in each phase.


Security forces must be employed to protect friendly MBA forces and allow them to continue their preparations. The enemy will attempt to discover the defensive scheme of maneuver using reconnaissance elements and attacks by forward detachments and advance guard elements. He will also attempt to breach the task forceís tactical obstacles.

The goals of the task force security force normally include providing early warning, destroying enemy reconnaissance units, and impeding and harassing enemy main body elements. The security force will continue its mission until directed to displace. The commander may also use security forces in his deception effort, employing them to give the illusion of strength in one area while positioning his true combat power in another. While conducting this type of security operation, the company team may simultaneously have to prepare BPs, creating a challenging time management problem for the commander and other leaders.

During this phase of the operation, the company team may need to provide guides to the passing security force and may be tasked to close the passage lanes. The team may also play a role in shaping the battlefield. The task force or brigade commander may position the team to deny likely enemy attack corridors, enhancing flexibility and forcing enemy elements into friendly engagement areas. When it is not conducting security or preparation tasks, the company team will normally occupy hide positions to avoid possible chemical strikes or enemy artillery preparation.


During this phase, the company team reconnoiters and occupies its positions. This usually includes movement from tactical assembly areas to the actual defensive sector, led by a quartering party that clears the defensive positions. The division, brigade, and task force will establish security forces during this phase, and remaining forces will begin to develop engagement areas and prepare BPs.

Operational and tactical security is critical during the occupation to ensure the company team can avoid detection and maintain combat power for the actual defense. Leaders and crewmen at all levels of the team must thoroughly understand their duties and responsibilities related to the occupation; they then must be able to execute the occupation quickly and efficiently to maximize the time available for planning and preparation of the defense.


As this phase begins, the company teamís parent brigade engages the enemy at long range using indirect fires, electronic warfare, and CAS (deep fight). The goal is to use these assets, along with disrupting obstacles, to shape the battlefield and/or to slow the enemyís advance and disrupt his formations, leaving him more susceptible to the effects of CS weapons.

As the enemyís main body echelon approaches the task force engagement area, the task force may initiate indirect fires and CAS to further weaken the enemy by attrition; at the same time, the brigadeís effort normally shifts to second-echelon forces. (NOTE: Long-range fires may be withheld in accordance with the commanderís intent.) Friendly forces will occupy their actual defensive positions before the enemy reaches direct fire range; positions are shifted in response to enemy actions or other tactical factors.


During this phase, the enemy will deploy to achieve mass at a designated point, normally employing both assault and supporting forces. This may leave him vulnerable to the combined effects of indirect and direct fires and integrated obstacles. He may employ additional forces to fix friendly elements and prevent their repositioning.

Friendly counterattack forces may be committed against the enemy flank or rear, while other friendly forces may displace to alternate, supplementary, or successive positions in support of the commanderís scheme of maneuver. All friendly forces should be prepared for the enemy to maximize employment of combat multipliers, such as dismounted infantry operations, to create vulnerability. The enemy is also likely to use artillery, CAS, and/or chemical weapons to set the conditions for the assault.


As the enemyís momentum is slowed or stopped, friendly forces may launch a counterattack. The counterattack may be launched purely for offensive purposes to seize the initiative from the enemy. In some cases, however, the purpose of the counterattack will be mainly defensive, such as reestablishing the FEBA or restoring control of the sector. The company team may participate in the counterattack as a base of fire element (providing support by fire for the counterattack force) or as the counterattack force.


The company team must secure its sector by repositioning forces, destroying remaining enemy elements, processing EPWs, and reestablishing obstacles. The team conducts all necessary CSS functions as it prepares to continue the defense. Even when it is not being actively engaged by enemy forces, the company team must maintain situational awareness and local security at all times during consolidation and reorganization.



The goal of effective weapons positioning is to enable the company team to mass fires at critical points on the battlefield and to enhance its survivability. To do this, the commander must maximize the strengths of the company teamís weapons systems while minimizing its exposure to enemy observation and fires. The following paragraphs focus on tactical considerations for weapons positioning.

Depth and dispersion

Dispersing positions laterally and in depth helps to protect the force from enemy observation and fires. Company team and platoon positions are established in depth, allowing sufficient maneuver space within each position to establish in-depth placement of vehicle weapon systems and dismounted infantry elements. Refer to Figure 4-1 for an illustration of how a company team establishes depth in sector.

Vehicle and infantry fighting positions should be positioned to allow the massing of fires at critical points on the battlefield. (NOTE: For a more detailed discussion of emplacement of weapon systems, refer to Section 3 of this chapter.) Although METT-TC factors ultimately determine the placement of weapon systems and unit positions, the following general guideline apply:

  • Tanks are best employed where they can engage targets with the main gun (out to a maximum range of 4,000 meters for M1A1 and M1A2 tanks) and with the coaxial machine gun (at ranges out to 900 meters). The factors of METT-TC will ultimately dictate positioning and engagement criteria. As a general guideline, however, tanks are normally best employed where they can engage the enemy at a range of approximately 2,500 meters.
  • TOW missiles are best employed at a range of 2,500 to 3,700 meters, where targets can be tracked for at least 12 seconds.
  • BFVs are best employed from flank positions and in positions, at a range of 2,500 meters or less, from which they can destroy lightly armored vehicles and infantry or fix or severely limit the movement of tanks.
  • Infantry squads should be positioned on reverse slopes or in restricted terrain where they cannot be engaged before they can take the enemy under fire.
  • Infantry squads can supplement the antiarmor fires of the tanks and BFVs with Javelin missiles, which have a maximum range of 2,000 meters.
  • Infantry squads can retain or deny key terrain if employed in strongpoints or well-covered positions.
  • Infantry squads can protect obstacles or flank positions that are tied into severely restricted terrain.

Figure 4-1. Example of a company team achieving depth in sector.

Flank positions

Flank positions enable a defending force to bring fires to bear on an attacking force moving parallel to the defenderís attack formation. An effective flank position provides the defender with a larger and more vulnerable target while leaving the attacker unsure of the location of the defense.

Major considerations for successful employment of a flank position are the defenderís ability to secure the flank and his ability to achieve surprise by remaining undetected. Effective fire control and fratricide avoidance measures are critical considerations in the employment of flank positions. Figure 4-2 illustrates an example of a team using flank positions in the defense.

Figure 4-2. Example of company team depth and flank positions.

Reverse slope

The reverse slope defense uses the topographical crest to mask the defender from the attackerís observation and supporting long-range direct and indirect fires. This can provide the defender with both a degree of force protection and the advantage of surprise. By employing OPs on the far side of the crest, he gains early warning of the attacking forceís advance and can use indirect fires to disrupt or destroy the enemy. In addition, the reverse slope defense allows effective employment of obstacles. The enemy will have very little time to react to any obstacles placed on the friendly side of the crest, preventing him from generating effective combat power (mass) for a rapid penetration. Figure 4-3 illustrates an example of a company team reverse slope defense.

Figure 4-3. Example of company team reverse slope defense.


Disengagement and displacement are key defensive tasks that allow the company team to retain its operational flexibility and tactical agility. The ultimate goals of disengagement and displacement are to enable the company team to maintain standoff range and to avoid being fixed or decisively engaged by the enemy. The company team commander must consider several important factors in displacement planning; these include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The enemy situation (for example, an enemy attack with two MRBs may prevent the company team from disengaging).
  • Disengagement criteria.
  • Availability of direct fire suppression that can facilitate disengagement by suppressing or disrupting the enemy.
  • Availability of cover and concealment, indirect fires, and smoke to assist disengagement.
  • Obstacle integration, including situational obstacles.
  • Positioning of forces on terrain (such as reverse slopes or natural obstacles) that provides an advantage to the disengaging elements.
  • Identification of displacement routes and times that disengagement and/or displacement will take place.
  • The size of the friendly force that must be available to engage the enemy in support of the displacing unit.
  • Location of remount points, times that remount operations will take place, and maneuver considerations for conduct of a remount in contact.

While disengagement and displacement are valuable tactical tools, they can be extremely difficult to execute in the face of a rapidly moving enemy force. In fact, displacement in contact poses such great problems that the company team commander must plan for it thoroughly before the operation; even then, he must carefully evaluate the situation whenever displacement in contact becomes necessary to ensure it is feasible and will not result in unacceptable personnel or equipment losses.


Disengagement criteria dictate to subordinate elements the circumstances under which they will displace to an alternate, supplementary, or successive BP. The criteria are tied to an enemy action (such as one MRC advancing past PL DOG) and are linked to the friendly situation (for example, they may depend on whether an overwatch element or artillery can engage the enemy). Disengagement criteria are developed during the planning process based on the unique conditions of a specific situation; they should never be part of the unitís SOP.

Direct fire

The attacking enemy force must not be allowed to bring effective fires to bear on a disengaging force. Direct fires from the base of fire element, employed to suppress or disrupt the enemy, are the most effective way to facilitate disengagement. The company team may receive base of fire support from another element in the task force. In most cases, however, the team will establish its own base of fire; an internal base of fire requires the commander to carefully sequence the displacement of his elements.

Cover, concealment,
and rehearsals

Ideally, the company team and subordinate elements should use covered and/or concealed routes when moving to alternate, supplementary, or successive BPs. Regardless of the degree of protection the route itself affords, the team should rehearse the movement. This will increase the speed at which it can conduct the move, providing an added measure of security. The company team commander must make a concerted effort whenever time is available to rehearse movement in limited visibility and degraded conditions.

Indirect fires
and smoke

Artillery or mortar fires can be employed to assist the team during disengagement. Suppression fires, placed on an enemy force as it is closing inside the defenderís standoff range, will slow the enemy and cause him to button up. The defending force rapidly engages the enemy with long-range direct fires, then disengages and moves to new positions. Smoke can be employed to obscure the enemyís vision, slow his progress, or screen the defenderís movement out of the BP or along his displacement route.

Obstacle integration

Obstacles should be integrated with direct and indirect fires to assist in disengagement. By slowing and disrupting enemy movement, obstacles provide the defender with the time necessary for displacement and allow friendly forces to employ direct and indirect fires against the enemy. MOPMS can also be employed in support of the disengagement, either to block a key displacement route once the displacing unit has passed through it or to close a lane through a tactical obstacle.

The location of obstacles in support of disengagement depends in large measure on METT-TC factors. A major consideration is that an obstacle should be positioned far enough away from the defender that he can effectively engage enemy elements on the far side of the obstacle while remaining out of range of the enemyís massed direct fires.


Target purpose

For the fire plan to be effective in the defense, the unit must plan and execute fires in a manner that achieves the intended task and purpose of each target. Indirect fires serve a variety of purposes in the defense, including the following:

  • Slow and disrupt enemy movement.
  • Prevent the enemy from executing breaching operations at turning or blocking obstacles.
  • Destroy or delay enemy forces at fixing obstacles using massed fires or pinpoint munitions (such as Copperhead rounds).
  • Disrupt enemy support by fire elements.
  • Defeat attacks along dismounted avenues of approach with the use of FPF.
  • Disrupt the enemy to allow friendly elements to disengage or conduct counterattacks.
  • Obscure enemy observation or screen friendly movement during disengagement and counterattacks.
  • Deliver scatterable mines to close lanes and gaps in obstacles, to disrupt or prevent enemy breaching operations, to disrupt enemy movement at choke points, or to separate or isolate enemy echelons.
  • Provide illumination as necessary.
  • Execute SEAD missions to support CAS attacks and high-payoff targets.
  • Use smoke to separate enemy echelons; to screen friendly displacement; or to silhouette enemy formations, facilitating direct fire engagement.

Fire support assets

In developing the fire plan, the company team must evaluate the indirect fire systems available to support a specific operation; considerations include tactical capabilities, weapons ranges, and available munitions. These factors help the company team commander and FSO to determine the best method for achieving the purpose of each target in the fire plan.

Positioning of the

The company teamís fire support personnel contribute significantly to the fight; effective positioning is critical. The team commander and FSO must select positions that provide fire support personnel with unobstructed observation of the area of operations. In addition, the FIST-V should receive high priority for a position with enhanced survivability.


The focus of the air defense plan is on likely air avenues of approach for enemy fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs; these may or may not correspond with the enemyís ground avenues of approach. ADA assets are positioned based on METT-TC factors and the task force commanderís scheme of maneuver. For example, a key consideration is to position air defense vehicles (BSFVs or Bradley Linebackers), usually about 2 kilometers apart, to maximize the Stingerís capabilities in the defense. The Stinger then becomes the primary killer of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, with the Bradleyís 25-mm machine gun used for close-in defense. In another situation, the task force S2 and the task force air defense officer (ADO) may determine that the air defense vehicles should be positioned independent of the friendly ground maneuver elements. These vehicles are also frequently used to protect friendly counterattack forces against aerial observation or attack.

Other factors in air defense planning include development of engagement criteria for BSFVs or Linebackers that become involved in the ground fight and positioning of air defense vehicles near templated enemy LZs in the task force sector. Resupply of Stinger missiles places unique demands on the company team; it requires detailed planning and consideration. It may be necessary to pre-position Stingers in the company team area to facilitate timely resupply.



Mobility operations in the defense focus on the ability to reposition forces, including unit displacement and the commitment of reserve forces. Priorities set by the task force may specify some routes for improvement in support of such operations. Normally, however, all or most of the task force engineer assets will be allocated to the survivability and/or countermobility effort.


Survivability positions are prepared in BPs or strongpoints to protect vehicles, weapon systems, and dismounted infantry elements. Positions can be dug in and reinforced with overhead cover to provide dismounted infantry and crew-served weapons with protection against shrapnel from air bursts. Vehicle fighting positions are constructed with both hull-defilade firing positions and turret-defilade observation positions. In addition, the company team may use blade assets to dig in ammunition prestocks at alternate, supplementary, or successive BPs or in individual vehicle fighting positions.

Because the process of digging in a task force requires many "blade hours" and assets may be limited, the company team commander must develop a plan for digging in the team; he prepares the team area for the arrival of the blades by marking vehicle positions and designating guides for the engineer vehicles. He also may have to position fuel vehicles in the vicinity of the BP to refuel the supporting ACEs or dozers.

The commander must prioritize the survivability effort; for example, he may only have time to dig in positions that have the least amount of natural cover and concealment. Soil composition should also be a consideration in BP selection; sites to be avoided include those where the soil is overly soft, hard, wet, or rocky.


To be successful in the defense, the company team commander must integrate individual obstacles into both direct and indirect fire plans, taking into account the intent of each obstacle group. At the task force level, obstacle intent consists of the target of the obstacle group, the desired effect on the target, and the relative location of the group. In addition, like artillery and mortar employment, obstacle emplacement must have a clear task and purpose. The purpose will influence many aspects of the operation, from selection and design of obstacle sites to actual conduct of the defense. Normally, the task force or brigade will designate the purpose of an obstacle group. For example, the task force commander might specify this purpose: "We must deny the enemy access to our flank by turning the northern, first-echelon MRB into our engagement area, allowing Team B and
Team C to mass their fires to destroy it."

Refer to FM 90-7 for additional information on obstacle planning, siting, and turnover. The following paragraphs discuss employment considerations for various types of standard obstacles. (NOTE: Engineers can augment these with nonstandard obstacles such as tank ditches and abatises.)

Disrupting effects

These are often the product of situational obstacles, such as scatterable mines. Disrupting effects focus a combination of fires and obstacles to impede the enemyís attack in several ways, such as breaking up his formations, interrupting his tempo, and causing premature commitment of breaching assets. These obstacles are normally used forward within engagement areas or in support of forward positions within a defensive sector. Normally, only indirect fires and long-range direct fires are planned in support of disrupting obstacles.

Turning effects

The commander uses this combination of fires and obstacles to support the scheme of maneuver in several ways, including the following:

  • Divert the enemy into an engagement area, exposing his flanks when he makes the turn.
  • Divert an enemy formation from one avenue of approach to another.
  • Deny the enemy the ability to mass forces on a flank of the friendly force.

The fire plan should specify how the defending unit will maintain pressure on the enemy throughout the turn as well as identify the task and purpose of the obstacle. In addition, the commander must clearly identify the size of the enemy element to be turned. The turning obstacle is tied into an existing obstacle (severely restricted terrain) at its initial point. The commander may further enhance the effectiveness of the obstacle by using infantry squads to cover it with fires.

Fixing effects

Fixing effects use the combination of fires and obstacles to slow or temporarily stop an attacker within a specified area, normally an engagement area. The defending unit can then focus on defeating the enemy, using indirect fires to suppress him in the engagement area while direct fires inflict maximum casualties and damage. If necessary, the defender can reposition his forces using the additional time gained as a result of fixing the enemy. To fully achieve the fixing effect, these obstacles must be covered by direct and/or indirect fires. The commander must clearly specify the size of enemy unit to be fixed.

Blocking effects

Blocking effects use the combination of fires and obstacles to stop an attacker along a specific avenue of approach. Fires employed to achieve blocking effects are primarily oriented on preventing the enemy from maneuvering. Because they require the most extensive engineer effort of any type of obstacle, blocking effects are employed only at critical choke points on the battlefield.

Blocking obstacles must be anchored on both sides by existing obstacles (severely restricted terrain). They must be covered by direct and/or indirect fires to achieve the full blocking effect. The commander must clearly specify the size of enemy force that he intends to block.

Protective obstacles

Company teams are responsible for coordinating and employing their own protective obstacles to protect their BPs. To be most effective, these should be tied into existing obstacles. The company team may use mines and wire from its basic load or pick up additional assets (including MOPMS, if available) from the engineer Class IV/V supply point. The team may also be responsible for any other required coordination (such as that needed in a relief in place), for recovery of the obstacle, or for its destruction (as in the case of MOPMS).

In planning for protective obstacles, the commander must evaluate the potential threat to the teamís position and then employ the appropriate system to counter that threat. For example, MOPMS is predominantly an antitank system best used on mounted avenues of approach, although it does have some antipersonnel applications; on the other hand, wire obstacles may be most effective when employed on dismounted avenues. FM 90-7 provides detailed planning guidance for protective obstacle emplacement.

Obstacle lanes

The company team may be responsible for actions related to lanes through obstacles. These duties may include marking lanes in an obstacle, reporting locations of the start and end points of each lane, manning contact points, providing guides for elements passing through the obstacle, and closing the lane.


In addition to the CSS functions required for all operations, the company team commanderís planning process should cover the considerations discussed in the following paragraphs. (NOTE: CSS operations are discussed in detail in Chapter 7 of this manual.)

and caches

The commanderís mission analysis may reveal that the company teamís ammunition needs during an upcoming operation will exceed its basic load. This will require the team to establish ammunition caches, or prestocks. The prestocks, which may be positioned either at an alternate or successive BP or with the fighting vehicles, should be both dug in and guarded.

Position of trains

The company team combat trains normally operate 500 to 1,000 meters (or one terrain feature) to the rear of the company team to provide immediate recovery, medical, and maintenance support. The commander must ensure that all elements know the locations of the forward and main aid stations. He must also plan and rehearse casualty evacuation procedures.



The engagement area is where the commander intends to trap and destroy an enemy force using the massed fires of all available weapons. The success of any engagement depends on how effectively the commander can integrate the obstacle plan, the indirect fire plan, and the direct fire plan within the engagement area to achieve the company teamís tactical purpose.

At the company team level, engagement area development is a complex function, demanding parallel planning and preparation if the team is to accomplish the myriad tasks for which it is responsible. Despite this complexity, however, engagement area development resembles a drill in that the commander and his subordinate leaders use an orderly, fairly standard set of procedures. Beginning with evaluation of METT-TC factors, the development process covers these steps:

  • Identify all likely enemy avenues of approach.
  • Determine likely enemy schemes of maneuver.
  • Determine where to kill the enemy.
  • Plan and integrate obstacles.
  • Emplace weapon systems.
  • Plan and integrate indirect fires.
  • Rehearse the execution of operations in the engagement area.

The following paragraphs outline planning and preparation procedures the commander may use for each of these steps.

Identify likely enemy
avenues of approach

The following procedures and considerations, as illustrated in Figure 4-4, apply in identifying the enemyís likely avenues of approach:

  • Conduct initial reconnaissance. If possible, do this from the enemyís perspective along each avenue of approach into the sector or engagement area.
  • Identify key and/or decisive terrain. This includes locations that afford positions of advantage over the enemy as well as natural obstacles and/or choke points that restrict forward movement.
  • Determine which avenues will afford cover and concealment for the enemy while allowing him to maintain his tempo.
  • Evaluate lateral routes adjoining each avenue of approach.

Figure 4-4. Identify all likely enemy avenues of approach.

Determine the enemy
scheme of maneuver

The company team commander can use the following procedures and considerations, which are illustrated in Figure 4-5, in determining the enemyís scheme of maneuver:

  • Determine how the enemy will structure the attack. Will he use two MRBs forward and one back? Will the attack be led by an FSE, an advance guard, or a forward detachment?
  • Determine how the enemy will use his reconnaissance assets. Will he attempt to infiltrate friendly positions?
  • Determine where and when the enemy will change formations and/or establish support by fire positions.
  • Determine where, when, and how the enemy will conduct his assault and/or breaching operations.
  • Determine where and when he will commit follow-on forces.
  • Determine the enemyís expected rates of movement.
  • Assess the effects of his combat multipliers.
  • Determine what reactions the enemy is likely to have in response to projected friendly actions.

Figure 4-5. Determine the enemyís scheme of maneuver.

Determine where
to kill the enemy

The following steps (illustrated in Figure 4-6) apply in identifying and marking where the task force and company team will engage the enemy:

  • Identify TRPs that match the enemyís scheme of maneuver, allowing the company team to identify where it will engage enemy forces through the depth of the sector.
  • Identify and record the exact location of each TRP.
  • Determine how many weapon systems will focus fires on each TRP to achieve the desired end state.
  • Determine which platoons will mass fires on each TRP.
  • Establish engagement areas around TRPs.
  • Develop the direct fire planning measures necessary to focus fires at each TRP. (NOTE: For additional information applicable to this step, refer to the discussion of direct fire control in Chapter 2 of this manual.)

NOTE: In marking TRPs, use thermal sights to ensure visibility at the appropriate range under varying conditions, including daylight and limited visibility (darkness, smoke, dust, or other obscurants).

Figure 4-6. Determine where to kill the enemy.

Plan and integrate

The following steps apply in planning and integrating obstacles in the company team defense (see Figure 4-7 for an illustration):

  • In cooperation with the engineer platoon leader, identify, site, and mark task force tactical obstacles and team protective obstacles. (NOTE: Refer to the discussion of obstacle siting in Chapter 6 of this manual.)
  • Ensure coverage of all obstacles with direct fires.
  • Assign responsibility for guides and lane closure as required.

Figure 4-7. Plan and integrate obstacles.

Emplace weapon

The following steps apply in selecting and improving BPs and emplacing the company teamís vehicles, crew-served weapon systems, and dismounted infantry positions (see Figure 4-8):

  • Select tentative platoon BPs. (NOTE: When possible, select these while moving in the engagement area. Using the enemyís perspective enables the commander to assess survivability of the positions.)
  • Conduct a leaderís reconnaissance of the tentative BPs.
  • Drive the engagement area to confirm that selected positions are tactically advantageous.
  • Confirm and mark the selected BPs.
  • Ensure that BPs do not conflict with those of adjacent units and that they are effectively tied in with adjacent positions.
  • Select primary, alternate, and supplementary fighting positions to achieve the desire effect for each TRP.
  • Ensure that platoon leaders, PSGs, vehicle commanders, and/or dismounted infantry squad leaders position weapon systems so that each TRP is effectively covered by the required number of weapons, vehicles, and/or platoons.
  • Ensure that positions allow vehicle commanders, loaders, and/or gunners (as applicable for each vehicle) to observe the engagement area from the turret-down position and engage enemy forces from the hull-down position.
  • Stake vehicle positions in accordance with unit SOP so engineers can dig in the positions while vehicle crews perform other tasks.
  • Proof all vehicle positions.

The following steps, as illustrated in Figure 4-8, apply in planning and integrating indirect fires:

  • Determine the purpose of fires.
  • Determine where that purpose will best be achieved.
  • Establish the observation plan, with redundancy for each target. Observers will include the FIST, as well as members of maneuver elements with fire support responsibilities (such as PSGs).
  • Establish triggers based on enemy movement rates.
  • Obtain accurate target locations using survey and/or navigational equipment.
  • Refine target locations to ensure coverage of obstacles.
  • Adjust artillery and mortar targets.
  • Plan FPF.
  • Request CFZs for protection of maneuver elements and NFAs for protection of OPs and forward positions.

Figure 4-8. Emplace weapon systems and plan and integrate indirect fires.

NOTE: Figure 4-9 illustrates the completed scheme of maneuver for a company team defense in sector; refer to the discussion of defense in sector in Section 4 of this chapter.

Figure 4-9. Example of a company team defense in sector.

Conduct an
engagement area

The purpose of this rehearsal is to ensure that every leader and soldier understands the plan and that elements are prepared to cover their assigned areas with direct and indirect fires. Although the company team commander has several options, the most common and most effective type is the mounted rehearsal. One technique for the mounted rehearsal in the defense is to have the company team trains, under the control of the team XO, move through the engagement area to depict the enemy force while the commander and subordinate platoons rehearse the battle from the team BP. The rehearsal should cover these actions:

  • Rearward passage of security forces (as required).
  • Closure of lanes (as required).
  • Movement from the hide position to the BP.
  • Use of fire commands, triggers, and/or MELs to initiate direct and indirect fires.
  • Shifting of fires to refocus and redistribute fire effects.
  • Preparation and transmission of critical reports using FM and digital systems (as applicable).
  • Assessment of the effects of enemy weapon systems.
  • Displacement to alternate, supplementary, or successive BPs.
  • Cross-leveling or resupply of Class V.
  • Evacuation of casualties.

NOTE: The company team commander should coordinate the team rehearsal with the task force to ensure other unitsí rehearsals are not planned for the same time and/or location. Coordination will lead to more efficient use of planning and preparation time for all task force units. It will also eliminate the danger of misidentification of friendly forces in the rehearsal area, which could result in fratricide.


Occupation and preparation of the BP is conducted concurrently with troop-leading procedures and development of the engagement area. Almost all aspects of BP preparation are tied closely to those two processes. As an example of this, the company team commander must determine where to kill the enemy and where to emplace his weapon systems before the team can occupy the BP and begin digging survivability positions. The process is not sequential, however, and the commander must weigh the limited time available against the competing demands of security, engagement area development, execution of the troop-leading procedures, and BP preparation. The potential problems associated with this process, especially lack of adequate preparation time, can be compounded if the team has several other BPs (alternate, supplementary, and successive) and engagement areas to develop.

Hasty occupation
of a BP

The company team may conduct a hasty occupation in the defense during a counterattack or after disengagement and movement to alternate, supplementary, or successive BPs. At a minimum, the team must accomplish the following actions:

  • The commander issues a FRAGO, at a minimum covering the following information:
  • - Changes in the enemy and/or friendly situation (the reason the FRAGO is being issued).

    - The company team task and purpose (what the team must accomplish and why).

    - The task and purpose for each platoon/element.

    - The scheme of fires.

    - Coordinating instructions.

  • The team approaches the BP from the rear or flank.
  • The commander establishes direct fire control measures or, if these are preplanned, reviews the plan.
  • The commander reports "OCCUPIED" to the task force.

occupation of a BP

The company team conducts deliberate occupation of a BP when time is available, enemy contact is not expected, and friendly elements are positioned forward in sector to provide security for forces in the MBA. The actual establishment of the BP is conducted concurrently with the development of the engagement area. The commander directs the initial reconnaissance from the engagement area; only then are vehicle and weapon system positions tentatively emplaced.

Once this is completed, subordinate leaders can begin to develop their sector sketches and fire plans based on the basic team fire plan developed during the leaderís reconnaissance of the engagement area. Vehicle positions are improved while the direct fire plan is finalized and proofed. Depending on METT-TC factors, the company team may occupy hide positions when preparations are completed, then occupy the BP just before initiating the defensive operation.

BP preparation

The commander will designate the level of preparation for each BP based on the time available and other tactical considerations for the mission. There are three

levels of BP preparation, which are listed here in descending order of thoroughness and time required:

  • Occupy. This is complete preparation of the position from which the company team will initially defend. The position is fully reconnoitered, prepared, and occupied prior to the "defend NLT" time specified in the task force OPORD. The company team must rehearse the occupation, and the commander must establish a trigger for occupation of the position.
  • Prepare. The position and the corresponding engagement area will be fully reconnoitered. Platoon and vehicle positions in the BP should be marked, along with fire control measures in the engagement area. Survivability positions may be dug, ammunition caches pre-positioned, and protective obstacles emplaced.
  • Reconnoiter. The engagement area and BP will both be fully reconnoitered. Tentative platoon and weapon positions should be planned in the BP, and limited fire control measures should be established in the engagement area.

supplementary, and
successive BPs

In addition to establishing the company teamís primary BP, the commander and subordinate leaders normally plan for preparation and occupation of alternate, supplementary, and successive BPs in accordance with the task force OPORD. The following paragraphs describe tactical considerations for these positions; accompanying illustrations depict how the positions are employed in tactical situations.

Alternate BP

The following characteristics and considerations apply for an alternate BP, which is illustrated in Figure 4-10:

  • It covers the same avenue of approach and/or sector of fire as the primary BP.
  • It is located slightly to the front, flank, or rear of the primary BP.
  • It may be positioned forward of the primary BP during limited visibility operations.
  • It is normally employed to supplement or support positions with weapons of limited range, such as dismounted infantry positions.

Figure 4-10. Alternate BP.

Supplementary BP

The following characteristics and considerations apply for a supplementary BP, which is illustrated in Figure 4-11:

  • It covers an avenue of approach and/or sector of fire different from those covered by the primary BP.
  • Occupation is based on specific enemy actions.

Figure 4-11. Supplementary BP.

Successive BP

The following characteristics and considerations apply for a successive BP, which is illustrated in Figure 4-12:

  • It covers the same avenue of approach and/or sector of fire as the primary BP.
  • It is located in depth through the defensive sector.
  • Occupation is based on specific enemy actions or conducted as part of the higher headquarters scheme of maneuver.

Figure 4-12. Successive BP.


The ultimate goal of adjacent unit coordination is to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the higher unitís mission. Items that adjacent units must coordinate include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The enemy situation.
  • Unit positions, including locations of command and control nodes.
  • Locations of OPs and patrols.
  • Overlapping fires (to ensure that direct fire responsibility is clearly defined).
  • TRPs.
  • Alternate, supplementary, and successive BPs.
  • Indirect fire and SOI information.
  • Obstacles.
  • Air defense considerations, if applicable.
  • Routes to be used during occupation and repositioning.
  • CSS considerations.


The company team will normally defend using one of these basic techniques:

  • Defend in sector.
  • Defend a BP.
  • Defend a strongpoint.
  • Defend a perimeter.


This defense allows the task force to maintain flank contact and security and ensures unity of effort within the task force scheme of maneuver. Sectors afford depth in the company team defense. They allow the team to achieve the commanderís desired end state while facilitating clearance of fires at the appropriate level of responsibility. The task force commander normally orders a defense in sector when these conditions apply:

  • Flexibility is desired.
  • Retention of specific terrain features is not necessary.
  • The task force cannot concentrate fires because of any of the following factors:
  • - Extended frontages.

    - Intervening, or cross-compartment, terrain features.

    - Multiple avenues of approach.

The company team is assigned a defend in sector mission to prevent enemy forces from penetrating the rear boundary of the sector; see Figures 4-2 and 4-9. To maintain coherence of the sector defense, it is critical that the company team remain tied in to adjacent units on the flanks. The task force commander may direct the team to conduct the defense in one of two ways:

  • In one type, he specifies a series of successive BPs within the sector from which the team will defend; he normally does this to ensure that fires of two company teams can be massed at any given time.
  • The other option is to assign a sector to the company team. The team commander assumes responsibility for most tactical decisions, normally controlling maneuver of his platoons by assigning them a series of successive BPs. The task force commander will normally assign a sector to the team only when it is fighting in isolation.


The task force commander assigns this defense to his company teams when he wants to mass the fires of two or more teams in the task force engagement area or to position a team to execute a counterattack. Purposes of this defense include the following:

  • Destroy an enemy force in the engagement area.
  • Block an enemy avenue of approach.
  • Control key or decisive terrain.
  • Fix the enemy force to allow another unit to maneuver.

The task force commander assigns company team BPs to allow each team to concentrate its fires or to place it in an advantageous position for the counterattack. The size of the team BP can vary, but it should provide enough depth and maneuver space for platoons to maneuver into alternate or supplementary positions and to execute local counterattacks.

The BP is a general position on the ground; the company team commander places his vehicles on the most favorable terrain within the BP based on the higher unit mission and intent. The team then fights to retain the position unless ordered by the task force commander to counterattack or displace. (NOTE: Figure 4-1, illustrates a company team defense of a BP.)


Defense of a strongpoint is an uncommon mission for an armor or mechanized infantry force. Strongpoints sacrifice the mobility of the unitís organic weapon systems, require extensive engineer support (in terms of expertise, materials, and equipment), and take a long time to complete. Nonetheless, when the company team is directed to defend a strongpoint, it must retain the position at all costs until ordered to withdraw. This defensive mission may require the team to accomplish any of the following purposes:

  • Hold key or decisive terrain critical to the task force scheme of maneuver.
  • Provide a pivot for the maneuver of friendly forces.
  • Block an avenue of approach.
  • Canalize the enemy into one or more engagement areas.


The success of the strongpoint defense depends on how well the position is tied into the existing terrain. It is most effective when employed in terrain that naturally provides cover and concealment to both the strongpoint and its supporting obstacles. Mountainous, forested, or urban terrain can be easily adapted to a strongpoint defense. Strongpoints placed in more open terrain, however, require the use of reverse slopes or of extensive camouflage and deception efforts.

The prime characteristic of an effective strongpoint is that it cannot be easily overrun or bypassed. It must be positioned and constructed so that the enemy knows he can reduce it only at the risk of heavy casualties and significant loss of materiel. He must be forced to employ massive artillery concentrations and dismounted assaults. To accomplish this, the strongpoint must be tied in with existing obstacles and positioned to afford 360-degree security in terms of both observation and fighting positions.

At company team level, a strongpoint defense is normally executed by a mechanized infantry team to take advantage of the organic infantry squadsí ability to retain ground. The defense can be used in conjunction with BPs and sectors to make best use of the teamís tanks and BFVs. Before committing a platoon to construct a strongpoint, the company team commander must have the permission of the task force commander.


The following discussion covers a variety of techniques and considerations involved in the establishment and execution of the strongpoint defense. It also includes considerations for displacement and withdrawal from the strongpoint.

Establishment of
the strongpoint

The company team commander begins by determining the projected size of the strongpoint. He does this by assessing the number of vehicles, weapon systems, and individual soldiers available to conduct the assigned mission, as well as the terrain on which the team will fight. He must remember that although a strongpoint is usually tied into a task force defense and is flanked by other BPs, it must afford 360-degree observation and firing capability.

The commander must ensure that layout and organization of the strongpoint maximize the capabilities of the teamís personnel strength and weapon systems without sacrificing the security of the position. Siting options range from positioning all the vehicles outside the strongpoint (with the infantry occupying dismounted positions inside it) to placing all assets inside the position. From the standpoint of planning and terrain management, placing everything within the strongpoint is the most difficult option. An added factor is that this is potentially the most dangerous organization because of the danger of enemy encirclement.

In laying out the strongpoint, the commander first designates weapon positions that support the task force defensive plan. Once these primary positions have been identified, he continues around the strongpoint, siting weapons on other possible enemy avenues of approach and engagement areas until he has the ability to orient effectively in any direction. The fighting positions facing the task force engagement area may be positioned along one line of defense or staggered in depth along multiple lines of defense (if the terrain supports positions in depth). Similarly, vehicle positions may be located abreast of the two-man fighting positions or, for greater depth, behind them. The commander can create a broader frontage for the strongpoint by interspersing vehicle and dismounted positions.


Terrain reinforcement is the primary role of engineers in support of the strongpoint defense. Priorities of work will vary depending on the situation and the time available. For example, the first 12 hours of the strongpoint construction effort may be critical for emplacing countermobility and survivability positions as well as command and control bunkers. On the other hand, if the focus of engineer support is to make terrain approaching the strongpoint impassable, the task force engineer effort must be adjusted accordingly.

The task force obstacle plan will be the foundation for the company team strongpoint obstacle plan. Depending on the situation, the commander may need to determine how he can integrate protective obstacles (designed to defeat dismounted assaults) into the overall countermobility plan. In addition, if adequate time and resources are available, he should plan to reinforce existing obstacles using field expedient demolitions and booby traps.

Once the enemy has identified the strongpoint, it will bring all the fires it can spare against the position. To safeguard his dismounted infantry, the commander must arrange for construction of overhead cover for the individual fighting positions. If the strongpoint is in a more open position, such as on a reverse slope, he may also plan for connecting trench lines, which will allow soldiers to move between positions without exposure to fire. Time permitting, these crawl trenches can be improved to fighting trenches or standard trenches.

of the reserve

The reserve may comprise mounted elements, dismounted elements, or a combination. Regardless of the actual configuration, the commander must know how to influence the strongpoint battle by employing his reserve. He has several employment options, including these:

  • Reinforcing a portion of the defensive line.
  • Counterattacking along a portion of the perimeter against an identified enemy main effort.

The commander should identify routes or axes that allow the reserve to move to any area of the strongpoint. He should then designate positions that the reserve can occupy once they arrive. These routes and positions should afford sufficient cover to allow the reserve to reach its destination without enemy interdiction. The commander should give special consideration to developing a direct fire plan for each contingency that may involve the reserve; one key area of focus may be a plan for isolating an enemy penetration of the perimeter.

NOTE: Refer to Section 5 of this chapter for a detailed discussion of reserve employment in the defense.


The commander should conduct a rehearsal covering actions the company team must take if it has to fall back to a second defensive perimeter; this should include the direct fire control measures necessary to accomplish the maneuver. FPF may be employed to assist in the displacement.


Figure 4-13 illustrates an example of a mechanized infantry company team conducting a strongpoint defense in a small town.


A perimeter defense allows the defending force to orient in all directions, as illustrated in Figure 4-14. In terms of weapons emplacement, direct and indirect fire integration, and reserve employment, a commander conducting a perimeter defense must consider the same factors as for a strongpoint operation.

The perimeter defense is a relatively uncommon mission for a tank or mechanized company team because it allows only limited maneuver and limited depth. (NOTE: The defense is normally conducted at task force or higher level to protect maneuver units against Level III threats and to protect CS and CSS assets against Level I and II threats.) Nonetheless, the company team may called upon to execute this type of defense under a variety of conditions, including the following:

  • When it must hold critical terrain in areas where the defense is not tied in with adjacent units.
  • When it has been bypassed and isolated by the enemy and must defend in place.
  • When it conducts occupation of an independent assembly area or reserve position.
  • When it begins preparation of a strongpoint.
  • When it is directed to concentrate fires into two or more adjacent avenues of approach.

NOTE: A variant of the perimeter defense is the use of the "Y"-shaped defense, which allows two of the teamís platoons to orient at any particular time on any of three engagement areas. Refer to Figure 4-15.

Figure 4-13. Example of a company team strongpoint defense.

Figure 4-14. Company team perimeter defense during assembly area operations.

Figure 4-15. "Y"-shaped perimeter defense.



The company team may be assigned to serve as the reserve for either the task force or the brigade. In this role, it executes either offensive or defensive missions to support the scheme of maneuver of the controlling headquarters. Purposes of reserve employment include the following:

  • Conduct counterattacks to destroy an enemy force, to exploit success, and/or to regain the initiative.
  • Block enemy penetrations.
  • Conduct defense of a BP.
  • Reinforce defending elements in a BP.
  • Assume another company teamís mission.


Command guidance

Flexibility and the ability to remain responsive to the commander are of paramount importance to successful reserve operations. At the same time, however, these attributes, coupled with the wide range of missions the reserve can perform, dictate that the task force commanderís initial intent will not always correspond directly to his use of the reserve on the battlefield. His command guidance for the reserve will most likely cover a series of be-prepared missions rather than a single well-defined task. To assist the reserve commander with mission planning and preparation, the task force commanderís guidance should, at a minimum, address the following areas:

  • Positioning.
  • Be-prepared missions in priority order. The task force commander must understand that the reserve commander may be able to effectively plan for only a limited number of these missions.
  • A clear task and purpose for each mission.
  • Decision points that define the friendly and/or enemy criteria under which the reserve will be employed for each be-prepared mission.
  • Supporting graphic control measures, such as BPs or attack by fire positions and corresponding engagement areas.
  • Direct fire planning information.

Time management,
rehearsals, and
REDCON levels

Receipt of a reserve mission will have a significant impact on the troop-leading process. Because he normally will be required to plan for several contingencies, the reserve commander must, in most cases, delegate responsibilities for conducting preparations for combat. Thorough coordination and effective rehearsals are keys in ensuring that the unit is ready to fight. As an example, the company team may be tasked as the brigade reserve and committed in one of several sectors. This results in much broader coordination requirements and creates a need for well-focused rehearsals. The team commander and subordinate leaders must be proactive in fulfilling these requirements and ensuring that their soldiers are ready to execute the teamís portion of the higher commanderís plan. In addition, the commander must make a realistic determination of the REDCON levels under which the company team will operate throughout the reserve mission. Refer to Appendix E of this manual for a detailed discussion of REDCON levels.

Positioning and

Since the reserve is one of the higher commanderís most important resources, he must ensure both that the force remains intact and that it is located where it can influence the battle. He does this through effective positioning and thorough OPSEC and force protection measures.

Reserve position

The location of the reserve position is a critical factor in the success of the reserve, no matter what mission it is performing. The commander must position the force so it is responsive to the most likely contingency; however, the reserve position must allow it to respond to all possible missions dictated by the task force or brigade.

Force protection

The enemyís actions (both actual and anticipated) also have a significant effect on reserve positioning. The enemy will target the reserve in his intelligence collection effort; later, he will try to prevent the reserve from influencing the battle, using indirect fires, chemicals, or virtually any other means to divert, slow, or weaken it. To counter these actions, the commander must ensure that the reserve position enhances security, if possible affording cover from enemy fires and concealment from enemy observation. If an effective hide position is not available, the reserve can maintain security through frequent moves or effective dispersion.

Axis planning and

Mobility is a key factor in maintaining the responsiveness of the reserve force. Both the reserve commander and the higher commander are responsible for ensuring that the reserve can move quickly and safely throughout the defensive sector. Their tools in this effort include axis planning and time-distance analysis.

Whenever possible, the commander should identify covered and concealed axes for each contingency the reserve may face. This will require detailed coordination and planning for routes through and/or around tactical and protective obstacles in the sector. The reserve should rehearse movement on as many axes as possible under a variety of conditions.

The commander also must calculate time-distance factors for each axis. The time required to move between the reserve position and each contingency BP or attack by fire position must be forwarded to the controlling headquarters to assist in the synchronization of the higher plan.

Engagement area
development and
direct fire planning

During planning for the reserve mission, the commander must prioritize engagement area development and direct fire planning. The level of planning and preparation that goes into each engagement area should be based on the priority it was given in the task force or brigade command guidance. The reserve force is not likely to receive countermobility and survivability support in developing its engagement areas since those assets will normally be allocated to company teams in defensive positions; this means the commander must give special attention to the use of existing terrain features and obstacles in providing security for the reserve. He must also conduct direct fire planning for all contingencies. Depending on the designated priorities, the level of planning and preparation will vary for each contingency. For example, the commander may specify a mounted rehearsal for the most likely mission, but limit planning for contingencies of lower priority to a leaderís reconnaissance.

Planning for BPs
and attack by fire

Planning and preparation for BPs and/or attack by fire positions in reserve operations are virtually identical to the corresponding activities for other types of operations. A key difference is that the commander has a greater opportunity, and a greater responsibility, to employ positional advantage in the reserve role. Whenever possible, he should maximize the use of BPs and attack by fire positions on the enemy's flanks or on reverse slopes.

Fire support planning

The company team commander and FSO must develop fire support plans to support the engagement area(s) designated for each reserve contingency. Once it is employed, the reserve is usually designated as the main effort and, as such, may receive priority of fires. An additional fire support consideration is the employment of smoke to screen the movement of the reserve force. (NOTE: When the company team is serving in the reserve role, the team FIST may be task organized with forward elements of the task force.)


In a reserve role, the company team may be committed to execute an offensive mission (such as a counterattack to destroy an enemy force or to exploit success) or a defensive mission (for example, block a penetration, reinforce a BP, or assume another company teamís mission). In either case, the tactical tasks the team will be called on to execute are similar to those discussed in Chapter 3 (offensive operations) and elsewhere in Chapter 4 (defense).

Counterattack by fire

The reserve force may execute a counterattack by fire to destroy exposed enemy elements and free decisively engaged friendly elements. A base of fire element suppresses or fixes the enemy force while the counterattack (maneuver) element moves on a concealed route to firing positions from which it can engage the enemy in the flank and/or rear. The counterattack element must maneuver rapidly to its firing position, often fighting through enemy flank security elements, to complete the counterattack before the enemy can bring follow-on forces forward to influence the fight.

Counterattack security is provided in several ways. The commander and all element leaders analyze and implement intelligence data from the task force. Platoons in the counterattack element employ fire and movement, with support from the base of fire element adding a degree of movement security. Smoke is especially valuable in enhancing counterattack security. It can be employed to screen the movement of the counterattack element. It can also aid in a deception effort; examples include placing smoke on previous reserve positions to simulate disengagement and placing it on the flank opposite the counterattack force to deceive the enemy as to the location of the counterattack.

Execution of the counterattack by fire is similar to that for an attack by fire; refer to the discussion of the attack by fire in Chapter 3 of this manual. Planning and preparation considerations for the counterattack will vary depending on the purpose and location of the operation. For example, the counterattack may be conducted forward of friendly positions, requiring the reserve force to move around friendly elements and through their protective and tactical obstacles. In other situations, the commander may use a counterattack by fire to block, fix, or contain a penetration. In any case, the reserve force will conduct the counterattack as an enemy-oriented operation. Figure 4-16 illustrates a counterattack by fire conducted by a company team.


In a reserve role, the company team can conduct an assault to destroy an enemy force, to relieve pressure on a friendly unit, or to regain key terrain. The unit attacks the enemy force from the flank and uses maneuver (fire and movement) to close with and destroy the threat. Unlike the counterattack by fire, in which long-range fires are employed from stationary positions to reduce enemy combat power by attrition, the assault requires the attacking force to maneuver to a position of advantage well inside the range of enemy weapons.

Reinforce a
defending force

Reinforcement of a defending element requires a level of detailed planning and coordination similar to that associated with linkup operations. As the reinforcing element, the reserve force moves into adjacent positions covering the same avenues as the unit being reinforced. It then assists the other unit in the defense of the BP or assumes responsibility for the defense. Figure 4-16 illustrates a reserve mission in which the company team reinforces a defending element.

Assume the mission
of another team

In assuming the mission of another company team (or another type of unit, if applicable), the reserve force first conducts a relief in place. The now-committed reserve then continues the mission, such as defense of a BP.

Figure 4-16. Example of company team reserve missions, including counterattack by fire,
reinforce a defending element, and block a penetration.


Retrograde operations entail organized movement away from the enemy. Units may employ them, either voluntarily or under direct pressure from the enemy, to achieve a variety of purposes:

  • Improve a tactical situation or prevent an unfavorable situation from becoming worse.
  • Economize forces.
  • Maintain freedom of maneuver.
  • Avoid combat under unfavorable conditions.

There are three types of retrograde operations:

  • Delay. This operation allows the unit to trade space for time, avoiding decisive engagement and safeguarding its elements.
  • Withdrawal. The commander uses this operation to break enemy contact, especially when he needs to free the unit for a new mission.
  • Retirement. This operation is employed to move a force that is not in contact to the rear.


This is a series of defensive and offensive actions over successive positions in depth. It is an economy of force operation that trades space for time. While the enemy gains access to the area (space) that is vacated, friendly elements gain time to conduct necessary operations and retain freedom of action and maneuver. This allows friendly forces to influence the action; they can prevent decisive engagement or postpone it to occur at a more critical time or place on the battlefield.

Delay missions

There are two types of delay missions:

  • Delay in sector.
  • Delay forward of a specified line or position for a specified time.

The controlling commander must determine whether the delay operation will focus on avoiding decisive engagement and preserving the combat power of the friendly force (delay in sector) or on a specific, time-related objective. The type of mission must be clearly outlined in the commanderís intent.

For either type of delay mission, the flow of the operation can be summarized as "hit hard, then move." A successful delay has three key components:

  • The ability to stop or slow the enemyís momentum while avoiding decisive engagement.
  • The ability to degrade the enemyís combat power.
  • The ability to maintain a mobility advantage. Techniques for maintaining this advantage are covered in detail in the discussion of displacement planning earlier in this chapter.


In preparing for the delay operation, the commander uses planning considerations that are identical to those for a defense in sector, varying only in their purpose. Refer to the discussion of defense in sector earlier in this chapter. Planning for the delay must cover several areas related to hindering enemy movement and maintaining mobility. These considerations include the following:

  • Use of existing terrain and obstacles, enhanced as necessary by employment of reinforcing obstacles.
  • Designation of positions from which the friendly force can harass or impede the enemy without risking decisive engagement itself; this is especially applicable for a delay in sector. When a task force is delaying in sector, company teams are normally assigned a series of specific BPs to enhance command and control across the sector. Likewise, in a company team delay in sector, the commander will assign a series of specific BPs for each platoon.
  • Assessment of opportunities to conduct limited counterattacks to disrupt enemy actions.
  • Designation of high-speed avenues of withdrawal.
  • Rehearsal of operations anticipated for the delay; these may include engagement of the enemy and maneuver through the delay area.

Delay techniques

In executing either a delay in sector or a time-related delay, the commander can choose from the following techniques:

  • Delay from successive positions or phase lines.
  • Delay from alternating positions.
Delay from
successive positions
or phase lines

This delay technique is normally used when the sector is so wide that available forces cannot occupy more than a single line of positions. The commander must be aware of several factors that may put his unit at a disadvantage during the delay:

  • Lack of depth at any particular time.
  • The possibility of inadequate time to prepare successive positions.
  • Decreased security during disengagement.
  • The possibility of gaps between units.

When the unit receives the order to conduct the delay from its initial positions, one element (such as a company team in a task force delay or a platoon in a company team delay) displaces and occupies its successive BP. The remainder of the unit maintains contact with the enemy until the first displacing element is in position to engage the enemy from the successive position. The first element then provides overwatch or base of fire as other elements displace to their successive positions. Figure 4-17 illustrates a company team delay from successive positions.

Delay from
alternating positions

This method of delay may be used when the delaying element has sufficient forces to occupy more than a single line of positions (normally in a narrow sector). The delaying task force or company team arrays one or more of its subordinate elements in the initial delay positions. This first echelon then engages the enemy while the rest of the unit occupies and prepares second-echelon delay positions.

The unit then alternates fighting the enemy with movement to new positions. The elements in the initial delay positions engage the enemy until ordered to displace or until their displacement criteria have been met. They then displace, moving through the second-echelon delay positions to their own successive positions (which become the third echelon of the delay).

Elements in the second echelon overwatch the displacing unitsí movement and assume responsibility for engaging the enemy. This sequence continues until the delay operation is completed. Figure 4-18 illustrates a company team delay from alternating positions.

Figure 4-17. Example company team delay from successive positions.

Figure 4-18. Example company team delay from alternating positions.


A withdrawal is an operation in which a unit frees itself for a new mission. It can also be conducted when the commander determines that he must reposition all or part of his force for a specific purpose; for example, he may need to separate from the enemy by a prescribed distance to allow employment of special-purpose munitions. A withdrawal can be executed at any time and during any type of operation. The company team normally conducts a withdrawal as part of a task force operation.


In addition to the purpose of the operation, conduct of the withdrawal is classified in several ways:

  • Under pressure or not under pressure. A unit making a withdrawal under pressure must additionally be prepared to conduct disengagement operations.
  • Assisted or unassisted. In an assisted withdrawal, a security force provided by the next higher headquarters assists the main body in breaking contact with the enemy. In an unassisted withdrawal, the controlling headquarters must provide its own security. Assisted and unassisted withdrawals are covered later in this discussion.


Withdrawals are accomplished in three overlapping phases, which are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Preparation phase

The commander dispatches quartering parties, issues warning orders, and initiates planning. Nonessential vehicles are moved to the rear.


Designated elements begin movement to the rear. They break contact (refer to the discussion of displacement planning earlier in this chapter) and conduct tactical movement to a designated assembly area or position.

Security phase

In this phase, a security force protects and assists the other elements as they disengage and/or move to their new positions. This is done either by a DLIC, which the unit itself designates in an unassisted withdrawal, or by a security force provided by the higher headquarters in an assisted withdrawal. As necessary, the security force assumes responsibility for the sector, deceives the enemy, and protects the movement of disengaged elements by providing overwatch and suppressive fires. In an assisted withdrawal, the security phase ends when the security force has assumed responsibility for the fight and the withdrawing element has completed its movement. In an unassisted withdrawal, this phase ends when the DLIC completes its disengagement and movement to the rear.


In an unassisted withdrawal, the unit conducting the withdrawal establishes the DLIC to maintain contact with the enemy and/or to deceive him. In a task force withdrawal, the DLIC may consist of an element from each company team (under leadership of the team XO or a platoon leader), with the task force S3 as the overall DLIC commander. As an alternative, a company team may serve as the DLIC for the rest of the task force. The company team commander has several deployment options. He can reposition elements across the entire task force frontage. Another option is to position the team to cover only the most dangerous enemy avenue of approach; other avenues into the sector are covered with observation from additional security elements provided by the task force, such as the scout platoon.

The commander has similar options in an unassisted company team withdrawal. He may designate one platoon to execute the DLIC mission for the team, or he can constitute the DLIC using elements from all three platoons, with the XO as the DLIC commander. Figure 4-19 illustrates an example of an unassisted withdrawal.

Figure 4-19. Example of an unassisted withdrawal.

Assisted withdrawal

In an assisted task force withdrawal, the brigade will normally provide a security element to maintain contact with and deceive the enemy while the task force conducts its withdrawal. Likewise, in a company withdrawal, the task force provides the security force.

The security force establishes defensive positions behind the withdrawing unit and conducts preparations for a rearward passage of lines. The withdrawing force disengages from the enemy and conducts the rearward passage through the security force to assembly areas in the rear.


Retirement is a retrograde operation in which a force not in contact with the enemy conducts organized movement to the rear. It is normally done during periods of limited visibility. The company team conducts a retirement as part of a larger force.