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Tactics 101 076 – The ‘Guard’ Mission in Security OpsBy Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland | Tactics101|War College | Published: September 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm
“No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”
Definition – A guard force protects the main body by either fighting to gain time or by attacking, defending, and/or delaying the enemy to prevent him from observing the main body and potentially engaging it with direct fires. Additionally, it can be the key component in providing the main body with the freedom of maneuver it desperately requires to achieve success. Throughout a guard mission, the force will observe the enemy and report its’ actions to higher headquarters. A guard can be conducted in support of a stationary force or a moving force. It can be utilized in an offensive or defensive mission.
How does a Guard differ from a Screen?
Organizing for the Guard
An Excellent Blend of Air and Ground Assets
The cavalry squadron is an excellent blend of ground and air assets that can accomplish the critical tasks we highlighted above. A typical cav squadron will have three troops (companies) assigned to it. Each of these troops will be a blend of tanks and fighting vehicles. They are trained to protect, observe, and report. They are additionally trained to defend, attack, and delay. The cav squadron also is equipped with air troops. These troops will have some type of observation helicopters assigned to it. In combination, it is a perfect blend.
Some units may not be fortunate enough to have a cavalry unit assigned to it. If not, this is not to say they cannot conduct a guard. They must simply be a bit more creative in organization. In manning the guard, they should utilize the cav squadron as its’ template. With that template, the right size unit would be an armored or mechanized battalion task force. The task force should have at least three companies assigned to it. These companies would then each be task organized with a blend of tanks and fighting vehicles. The air portion of the mix may be a little more challenging to create. If this challenge is unfeasible, the unit will just go with the ground assets.
Types of Guard Missions
Defensive Advance Guard
When conducting the defensive advance guard, the force will set-up into a defensive posture. The extent of the preparation efforts are tied directly to the tactical situation and the intent of the commander. Preparation efforts could range from a very hasty defense (almost mirroring a screen) to a very deliberate defense with obstacles and extensive preparation.
In many cases, the defensive advance guard will have to conduct a delay of enemy forces. This can be one of the most difficult missions any unit can conduct. There are several reasons for that. First, the odds are likely that they will have to conduct this delay against the enemy’s recon and security units. These are usually well-trained forces that will be difficult for a guard force to delay against. Second, the guard force will have to conduct a rearward passage of lines through a well-prepared defense. This must be well-planned and coordinated. If not, the guard force could find themselves caught between the friendly defense and the rapidly advancing enemy. Third, conducting a defensive advance guard is a physically and mentally demanding operation. Asking them to now conduct a delay adds to their physical and mental exhaustion.
Offensive Advance Guard
When conducting an advance guard, the force will almost always conduct a movement to conduct. This allows them to develop the situation for the main body. Because they are executing a movement to contact, the guard force may wind up conducting a variety of missions including a hasty attack or preparing a hasty defense.
Based on the size of the unit, the advance guard may actually follow a covering force (we will discuss the cover in our next article). When this occurs, the level of coordination and communication obviously increases dramatically.
The tasks of a unit conducting an offensive advance guard are significant. Certainly, you must give this mission to a well-trained unit. The best situation is for the higher headquarters to assign this to a cavalry unit as we discussed earlier. If a cav unit is not available, the higher headquarters must assign it to one of their better subordinate units. No matter the unit, they may be required to conduct the following:
In executing maneuver, the guard force has the same basic techniques available to it as a screen force.
First, they can maneuver by alternate bounds by units in the guard force. Thus, they are playing a game of leap frog with the stakes being far higher.
Second, they can bound by successive bounds. Here the unit will execute a series of maneuver and set during the main body’s maneuver.
Finally, based on the main body’s maneuver, the guard force may simply conduct a continuous maneuver throughout the mission. Below you will find a table addressing each of the methods available:
Whatever technique is utilized, the moving flank guard force must achieve the following:
First, is when the main body is maneuvering at a significant rate and has distanced itself from the rear area. This could come when the unit is conducting a pursuit or exploitation. In this case, the commander may decide that he wants these rear area units to stay in their current positions. However, because he is concerned about their security, especially being attacked by enemy remnants that may have been bypassed he wants a security force with them. This is a great mission for a rear guard. In the above graphic, you see that the rear guard has developed a series of battle positions in which to fight from and protect the rear units.
Second, is when the unit is executing a form of retrograde (maneuvering away from the enemy). Consequently, the rear area units may need security in their maneuver. Of the two ways in which a rear guard is normally utilized, this is clearly the most difficult to execute. Not only must the rear guard force contend with all the elements usually associated with a delay, but they must also focus on protecting the rear area units. These are units not typically versed at delay actions; consequently this could get a little dicey (not a doctrinal term!). This will take a quality unit to achieve success.
Above you will find some basic control measures to facilitate an offensive advance guard mission. As we discussed earlier, a force conducting an offensive advance guard will normally execute a movement to contact. So as you see in the graphics, control measures are developed to facilitate a movement and contact. These control measures must assist in providing flexibility to the unit. Critical in providing this flexibility is the use of checkpoints and phaselines (which you see in abundance). Additionally: 1) Boundaries are established for each troop’s maneuver. 2) Coordination points are established on the boundaries of units to assist in coordination and communication. 3) Aviation control measures are placed on the graphics. These include the future operating area of the aviation unit and their refueling/log area (FARP 1). 4) Locations for field artillery units are included along PL JEFF. These units are not internal to the guard unit, but you must carve out ground for them in order for them to support you.
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