Support Operations

US military forces conduct support operations to assist designated groups by providing essential supplies and services in the face of adverse conditions, usually those created by man-made or natural disasters. Mission success in support operations, which are normally characterized by the lack of an active opponent, is measured in terms of the ability to relieve suffering and to help civil authorities respond to crises. The ultimate goals of these operations are to meet the immediate needs of the supported groups and to transfer responsibility quickly and efficiently to appropriate civilian authorities.

Domestic support operations are always conducted in support of local, state, and federal civil authorities. Overseas support operations are almost always conducted in support of and in concert with other agencies; these may be American or international organizations of either government or private affiliation.

Support operations may be independent actions. Conversely, they may complement offensive, defensive, or stability operations; refer to the discussions of company team operations in Chapter 3 (offense), Chapter 4 (defense), and Appendix J (stability operations). For a more detailed examination of support operations, refer to FM 100-5.


Section 1 Types of Support Operations
Section 2 Phases of Support Operations
Response Phase
Recovery Phase
Restoration Phase


Support operations generally cover two broad categories: humanitarian assistance and environmental assistance. Humanitarian assistance operations are people-oriented, focusing on the well-being of supported populations; they provide critical supplies to designated groups at the request of local, state, federal, or international agencies. Environmental assistance focuses on the condition of all types of natural and man-made properties, with the goal of helping to protect and/or restore these properties as requested. Typically, environmental operations are conducted in response to such events as forest and grassland fires, hazardous material releases, floods, and earthquakes. (NOTE: Many support operations combine both humanitarian and environmental support.)


Although each operation is unique, support operations are generally conducted in three broad phases: response, recovery, and restoration. Army elements can expect to be most heavily committed during the response phase. They will be progressively less involved during the recovery phase, with only very limited activity, if any, during the restoration phase.


In the response phase, commanders focus on the life-sustaining functions that are required by those in the disaster area. The following functions dominate these response operations:

  • Search and rescue.
  • Emergency flood control.
  • Hazard identification.
  • Food distribution.
  • Water production, purification, and distribution.
  • Temporary shelter construction and administration.
  • Transportation support.
  • Fire fighting.
  • Medical support.
  • Power generation.
  • Communications support.


Recovery phase operations begin the process of returning the community infrastructure and related services to a status that meets the immediate needs of the population. Typical recovery operations include the following:

  • Continuation of response operations as needed.
  • Damage assessment.
  • Power distribution.
  • Water and sanitation services.
  • Debris removal.


Restoration is a long-term process that returns the community to predisaster normality. Restoration activities do not generally involve large numbers of military forces. When they are involved, Army elements generally work with affected communities in the transfer of responsibility to other agencies as military support forces redeploy.