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Tactics 101 074 – Security OperationsBy Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland | Tactics101|War College | Published: July 17, 2012 at 10:39 am
“Even in friendly territory, a fortified camp should be set-up; a general should never have to say, I DID NOT EXPECT IT.”
After our discussion several months ago on reconnaissance operations; some may wonder what the difference between reconnaissance and security operations is. The key difference lies in the focus and emphasis. In security operations, the emphasis is on the friendly force. You are conducting the operation so nothing negative occurs to the friendly force. In recon operations, the focus or emphasis is on the enemy or on the terrain.
Screen – Screen operations are probably the most known of the ‘Big 3.’ The purpose of the screen is to position forces so they may provide early and accurate warning to the main body. In relation to guard and cover, a screen will consume less combat power. Because of this, you do not want your forces to get decisively engaged with enemy forces. You want them to simply do their mission, providing early and accurate warning.
Guard – In a guard mission, the force is upping the ante on a screen. In a guard, forces continue to provide early and accurate early warning to the main body. However, these forces are also asked to protect the main force and buy them time. They achieve this by preventing the enemy from observing the main body and not allowing them to fire direct fire weapons at the main body. To do this, the guard force may have to conduct reconnaissance, conduct offensive operations, form a defense, or conduct a delay. During a guard, the guard force will conduct their operations within the range of the main body’s indirect fire weapons.
Cover – In a cover mission, the force is upping the ante on a guard. In a cover, forces provide early and accurate early warning and protect the force. They will conduct recon, offensive operations, defend, and delay. The main difference in a cover is that the covering force can operate beyond the range of the main body’s indirect fire weapons. A unit conducting a cover will possess everything they require to operate independently. Obviously, this is a very robust force and a force that is well-trained.
Area Security – In area security, the unit positions forces to protect a certain critical area. This could be an installation, command post, logistical node, a portion of a supply route, etc….
Local Security – Most of us have heard the term, “Put out Local Security.” Whatever the size of the unit or the situation on the ground; putting out local security is a must. In basic terms, local security is placing security elements (better known as Soldiers) in areas near the unit so the unit doesn’t get surprised.
Provide early and accurate warning – This is one of the overriding fundamentals of security operations. You want to place your assets far enough forward so they can provide this early warning. However, you must balance this with putting them in no man’s land where you can’t assist them in a timely manner if they get in trouble. A unit with the means can mix technological assets with conventional means to achieve this.
Provide reaction time and maneuver space – This is one of the more challenging of the fundamentals to achieve. The key in this fundamental is being able to locate your security forces as far away from the main body as tactically possible. This should translate into more reaction time and maneuver space. This is aided when you can provide this force as much combat power as feasible.
Orient on the force or facility to be secured – Security forces must always understand that their mission is tied directly to the security of the main body or a location. Thus, these forces must have a continuous understanding of how their actions and location on the ground impact their ability to conduct security.
Perform continuous reconnaissance – We addressed this fundamental pretty extensively in our recon series. To reiterate, recon and security is 24 hour a day business. Anything less, puts a unit at a huge disadvantage. You cannot make up this time no matter how good the unit is.
Maintain enemy contact – Again, another fundamental that has found its way in various operations. Once you have gained enemy contact (remember, this does not have to be physical, it can be visual); you must ensure you maintain it. Maintaining enemy contact can mean several things. First, you may originally have gained contact physically, but because of the situation you switch it to visual means. This could mean aerial assets such as a drone. Second, the unit originally making contact can be switched out by another unit to ensure no break in coverage.
Considerations When Planning a Security Mission
What are you securing? It all begins with what you determine must be secured. The Commander will determine what he deems is critical in the security arena. In determining this, he this will set the table for the rest of your security planning.
What type of security operations is required? There are many things that will dictate the type of security operations you will conduct. Of course, the upcoming mission of the unit will obviously influence the type of security operations the unit will conduct. The terrain you are operating in will impact what types of security operations are feasible and which ones could be a significant challenge to conduct. The enemy always has a vote and their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses will come into play. Finally, the capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and experience will play a part in determining the optimal security operation.
What are the specifics on the security area? Terrain management is vital on the battlefield. This is certainly true in security operations. As stated in our fundamentals section, providing maneuver space is usually imperative. Consequently, you want to mold the security area so that it provides this maneuver space. In analyzing the security area, you ultimately want to determine the depth, width, and orientation of the security area. These should be driven by the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) you have conducted. This should provide you things such as enemy avenues of approach, enemy recon capabilities, etc…. These will assist in formulating the security area.
What are the constraints of the mission? During planning, guidance should be given by the commander on security operations. Within this guidance, the commander many place some constraints on the security mission. These constraints could include things such as engagement criteria, withdrawal criteria, etc…. Constraints will clearly shape the type of security you will conduct.
Where will you place your initial observation posts? As we stated earlier, recon and security is 24 hour business. In order to not lose any initiative, a key action is to place Observation Posts (OPs) on the battlefield as soon as possible. These observation posts will set the conditions for a unit to conduct the three principle types of security operations. There is truly an art and science to emplacing OPs. We will discuss this art and science in a future article.
What types of observation posts will you utilize? You have options in the type of observation post you can emplace. The two basic types of OPs are mounted and dismounted. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, the tactical situation and terrain will dictate the type of OP. In many cases, a unit will utilize a mix of OPs to achieve the required results. Let’s go into a little more detail on each type.
Mounted OP – As the name suggests, a mounted OP is one in which observation is conducted via a vehicle platform. This type of OP has several strengths. First, the vehicle is usually equipped with some ‘high speed’ optics aiding in observation. Second, if needed, most vehicles will possess some potent weapon systems on board. Thus, if engagement of the enemy is needed; a mounted OP should be more lethal than a dismounted OP. Finally, again, if needed, a mounted OP can ‘hightail it out of the AO’ (not a doctrinal term!) much quicker than a dismounted OP. Of course, mounted OPs do have some weaknesses. The key one being that it is difficult to hide mounted OPs from the enemy (a true art). Consequently, when steathiness is at a premium, a mounted OP is not the optimal method.
Dismounted OP – The strengths and weaknesses of utilizing dismounted OPs are a polar opposite from mounted OPs. The strength of dismounted OPs is clearly their stealthiness. Soldiers experienced in dismounted OP operations can be nearly impossible to detect by their opponents. In fact, there are numerous examples in warfare where dismounted OPs were hidden for days in the midst of an enemy position. Since a dismounted OP is virtually Soldier dependent (whatever the Soldier can carry or do physically) it has several challenges. First, the optics available to the individual Soldier just can’t compare to those vehicles may possess. This of course influences the quality of observation. Second, Soldiers on a dismounted OP simply cannot carry the firepower a vehicle will have. Finally, if the situation becomes precarious; the ability of a dismounted OP to displace can be highly difficult and time-consuming.
What is the endstate for the security mission? Security missions as part of a relatively short-term tactical operation (a defense or an attack) are normally not open-ended. Consequently, it is wise for the commander to specify an end-state to the mission. Endstates should be either time-driven or event-driven. A time-driven is obviously tied directly to a time period. For example, a commander may want a screen forward of his main body for six hours. Thus, the endstate for that mission is six hours. Certainly, this time could fluctuate based on what is taking place on the ground; but for now the mission is complete in six hours. Event-driven endstates correlate to an event occurring on the ground. For example, the commander may require a force to conduct a guard operation as the main body prepares a defense. Once the defense is set and the enemy begins to conduct their attack; the commander may order the guard force to complete their mission and fall back to the rear of the main body.
Will you need to augment your security forces? One of the key considerations in security planning is determining how to augment your security forces to achieve their mission. Some units are organized, equipped and trained to conduct security operations (in particular, cavalry units). However, many units assigned a security mission do not possess these characteristics. With that the case, you must determine what is required for the mission and what the unit currently has. The higher headquarters must then decide how it will make up this ‘delta’. This augmentation could be in the form of combat forces, but is usually more combat support and combat service support related. These resources could be things such as engineer assets, types of radars, chemical recon and decontamination assets, and logistical support. Augmentation can occur in any of the types of security operations – screen, guard, or cover.
What intelligence support is required? When we discuss security operations; one of the first things that should come to mind is intelligence support. Obviously, intelligence is critical in all areas of warfighting. However, nowhere is it more essential to assisting in mission accomplishment than in security operations. Once again, the two principle variables are the type of security mission to be conducted and the capabilities the unit assigned the mission possesses. The intelligence support that may be required can come in numerous forms. This could include radars and sensors, high level assets from the theater or national level, and aviation assets which are specially developed to acquire intelligence. Normally, the key thing these assets buy for the unit conducting the security mission is time. Because of these asset’s unique capabilities; they can track enemy maneuver from great distances. This assists the security unit in acquiring the time and space the main body requires.
What indirect fire support is required? The extent of indirect fire support for a unit conducting a security mission is based principally on the specific type of the security mission. Each of three main security missions (screen, guard, and cover) will have different indirect fire support needs. Indirect fires are particularly important for a screen force. Normally, these forces are fairly light on combat force. Thus, if they get into trouble; indirect fire is the preferred option in enabling them to break contact. Within a guard operation, forces are still within friendly indirect fire range. Consequently, they require indirect fire support from their higher headquarters. This fire support can be a little more challenging because fighting between guard forces and the enemy is usually more intense than in a screen. In a cover mission, the force is almost always robust. Within this lethality are organic indirect fire support assets, so they can operate outside the main body’s indirect fire range. To summarize this consideration, the commander must place his assets in supportable locations in a screen or guard operation. In a cover, he must ensure the force is internally equipped with the indirect fire assets they may need.
How will you integrate any aviation support (if available) with the ground forces? One of the best ways to increase your ability to accomplish your security mission is to integrate aviation support with your ground forces. This integration is a challenge based on the complexities of utilizing air. One of the biggest challenges is that aviation can’t truly occupy ground. In security operations, the ability to occupy terrain in key locations is a huge advantage. With that said, aviation can be extremely valuable in security operations. The following are some ways aviation can support the ground effort:
Will engineer support be needed? Depending on the type of security operation, engineer support can be a huge multiplier. In security operations, mobility is clearly one of the keys to success. Engineers can be instrumental in assisting in gaining and maintaining the mobility advantage over your opponent. Engineers can aide in mobility in a number of ways in security. These include:
How will you logistically support the operation? Logistically supporting units conducting security operations can be a huge challenge. For some units, who are equipped and organized to conduct these type of operations this is not as significant. However, for units not as fortunate it is a different story. There are several critical actions that should take place (no matter what type of security operation) to aid in supporting the security unit. These include:
How will you medically support the operation? Medical support for a unit executing a security operation is even more challenging than supporting them logistically. The challenges in medical support are pretty straight-forward. The over-riding factor is time. Nowhere is time more critical than in medical evacuation. The environment surrounding security operations greatly affects the ability to evacuate casualties in a timely matter. This environment includes: 1) The distance separating the security unit with the main medical facilities. 2) The terrain in which the security unit is operating can be difficult to maneuver medical evacuation vehicles. 3) In a security mission, it is critical that you strive to remain undetected from your opponent. This is complicated when you are attempting to evacuate casualties out of the area of operations.
How will you command and control the operation? As in any operation, a commander must position himself where he can best command and control his unit. The commander must conduct some quality analysis in determining his location. This is because once in position, it can difficult to move to another location without giving away your location to the enemy. Units must be disciplined in their reporting procedures while conducting a security operation. Undisciplined procedures will quickly give away your positions to a savvy (and even a not so savvy) enemy.
Are there any special requirements in the operation? A commander should always dictate any special requirements he has for the unit conducting the security operation. In some cases, these special requirements can be considered constraints on the unit. These special requirements can be things such as engagement criteria, disengagement criteria, bypass criteria, reporting instructions, indirect fire restrictions, dealing with civilians on the battlefield, observing certain locations on the battlefield, and various restrictions based on the rules of engagement.
Are there any enemy considerations that must be addressed? Just as in any mission, you must conduct quality Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) to set the conditions for success. In regards to a security mission, there are some things that clearly stand-out as things you want to know about your foe. These include:
How will you conduct coordination in the security area? One of the most challenging and critical aspects of a security mission is conducting the necessary coordination between and among units. This coordination can take many forms. These include:
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