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Posted on Jul 7, 2014 in Tactics101

Tactics 101 098 – The Light Infantry Rifle Company: Organization & Maneuver

Tactics 101 098 – The Light Infantry Rifle Company: Organization & Maneuver

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

THE LIGHT INFANTRY RIFLE COMPANY

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ORGANIZATION AND MANEUVER

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“When the smoke cleared away, it was the man with the sword, or the crossbow, or the rifle, who settled the final issue on the field.”

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General of the Army
George C. Marshall

LAST MONTH
During the last months, we have dissected the light infantry platoon.  We have delved into many areas to help you better understand the platoon.  These included its’ organization, how it maneuvers (formations and techniques), the challenges it faces during maneuver, and how it fights in offensive and defensive operations.  It was a pretty in-depth look, but one that was needed.  It will also set the conditions for the future articles you will see in the upcoming months.

THIS MONTH
Beginning this month, we will begin to analyze the light infantry company.  Your knowledge of the light infantry platoon will be invaluable as we move to the company.  We will study the company in much the same manner as we did the platoon.  We will begin by addressing the organization of the platoon and the maneuver formations it may utilize.  Future articles will focus on company offensive and defensive operations.  There is no question; the light infantry company is a highly versatile and highly lethal force.  Let’s move out.

image006 The Light Infantry Company

ORGANIZATION OF THE LIGHT INFANTRY COMPANY

The Units
As we addressed in an earlier article, any unit is a sum of its parts.  For the light infantry company the building blocks are: Soldier>Fire Team>Squad>Platoon. We have discussed these in great detail in prior articles so we will not elaborate here.  In addition to the above, the company also has an organic mortar section and in most instances, an anti-armor section.  Let’s discuss each below:

Mortar Section – One of the special aspects of a light infantry company is its ability to produce its own indirect fire.  This is significant because the company does not have to depend on others for indirect fire support. Of course, this organic support may not be enough in many instances and the company may require additional support.  However, it is good feeling for a company commander to know he has responsive support from mortars who work for him.  The mortar section itself is comprised of two mortar tubes.  These will be of the 60mm variety.  The section organization can vary a bit.  Normally, each tube will be manned by three Soldiers.  One tube will have the Section Leader (a seasoned NCO) and two Soldiers to work the tube.  The other will have a younger NCO leading the tube with two other Soldiers.

Anti-Armor Section – Most light infantry companies will have an organic anti-armor section.  This section provides the company with medium range anti-armor support (in other words, they kill tanks).  This is a pretty robust section.  It is led by a seasoned NCO (normally a Staff Sergeant).  The section itself is comprised of three fire teams.  They are each led by a young NCO.  Within each fire team, you will find two anti-armor specialists (generally a specialist) who are the gunners of the two anti-armor weapons assigned to the team and an ammo handler (a private).  This makes a total of four Soldiers assigned to a team with two weapon systems.  Thus, the section totals 13 Soldiers (the Section Leader and three teams of 4 Soldiers) and six weapon systems.  In regards to the weapon system, it is a Javelin.  This has good range and is a tank killer.  It is a bit heavy and can wear on Soldiers carrying it during maneuver.  It replaced the M47 Dragon.

image008     image010

                    JAVELIN                                           DRAGON

The Headquarters Section of the Light Infantry Company
For a lethal and versatile organization, you need a headquarters section which works well together and is respected by its subordinate element.  Below we’ll outline the personnel that comprise the section which leads the light infantry company.

image012Company Commander – The Company is led by a captain.  In some form or another everyone should work for a Company Commander.  Within the US Army, this Company Commander should be a combination of experience and professional education.  In terms of experience, he should have served as a rifle platoon leader, a company executive officer, and perhaps, a scout, support, or mortar platoon leader.  As a captain, you may have served as a staff officer at a higher headquarters (battalion or above).  In terms of professional education, he should have recently attended a captain’s career course which should have prepared him well for the upcoming years of his career.  As a Rifle Company Commander, his duties and responsibilities are extremely challenging.  They include:

  • Obviously, he is responsible for everything the company does or doesn’t do.  It is varied spectrum which includes training, administration, personnel, sustainment, and everything in between.
  • Achieve his purpose and task from his higher headquarters, many times utilizing initiative within the parameters of the commander’s intent.
  • Understand how to employ all the weapons/weapon systems he has at his disposal.
  • Maneuver his platoons and synchronize their fire and maneuver.
  • Ask for additional assets if he believes they are needed to achieve his mission.
  • Understand how to employ a wide array of assets that may be attached to the company.  These could include civil affairs assets, psychological operations assets, unmanned aerial vehicles, and robots.
  • Keep the battalion commander informed to what is occurring on the ground.
  • Keep the platoon leaders informed to what is occurring on the ground.
  • Place himself in a location where he can influence the decisive point of the mission.
  • Develop and maintain an understanding of the terrain, civilian populace, the enemy and the friendly situation.
  • Understand how to work with the media.
  • Mentor and train his platoon leaders.
  • Set the example in the company.  Do what they do!
  • Know his men.
  • Listen and heed the advice of the Company First Sergeant!

image014 Company Executive Officer — A senior First Lieutenant normally serves as the XO.  It is very likely that he served as a Platoon Leader within the company.  Consequently, he has spent as much time in the company as almost anyone else.  With that experience, he knows what has gone well and what has gone not so well in the company’s recent history.  Of course, his perspective can be a little jaded.  The XO has a lot on his plate.  This includes:

  • He is second in command in the company.  When the Commander is out of the net, he is in charge.
  • He takes care of the areas behind the scenes so that the Commander can lead the company in combat.
  • Depending on how the company and battalion operate, he may be the one who provides updates to the Battalion Commander during the execution of a mission.  This allows the Company Commander to focus on warfighting with his Platoon Leaders.
  • Along with the Company First Sergeant, develops the logistics plan for the mission.
  • During a mission, will coordinate with higher headquarters and adjacent units for needed support.
  • May be positioned in critical locations to facilitate key events during a mission.  This could range from a passage of lines, breaching an obstacle, or maneuvering with one of the platoons which may have a key purpose and task.
  • Assists the Company Commander in tactical planning.
  • Depending on personalities, can serve as the confidant of the Company Commander.  He can simply be a listener or may be deeply involved in all decisions the Commander may make.
  • There will be times when the XO and the Company First Sergeant will share a close relationship.  This is especially true when the Company Commander is weak and these two take on the Commander’s leadership role.
  • During tactical road marches, the XO will many times take control of the quartering party.  In this role, he will set the conditions for the company as a whole to occupy an assembly area or battle position.

image016Company First SergeantThe senior NCO within the company. He may be called “Top” as a sign of respect. He is the eyes, ears, and voice of the company. He is the most experienced Soldier in the company.  Good Company Commanders utilize every bit of this experience and the company is far better for it.  Not so good Company Commanders do not make use of this experience and the company suffers for it.  His myriad of responsibilities includes:

  • Assists the Company Commander in achieving everything we discussed in his section.
  • The company expert on individual Soldier skills, squad, platoon, and company tactics.
  • The logistician of the company (with assistance from the XO). Ensures company has the food, water, ammunition, fuel, parts and supplies it needs to accomplish its’ mission.
  • Mentors his platoon sergeants and ensures they are leading Soldiers effectively.
  • Ensures the company is prepared for combat operations (pre-combat checks, inspections, etc…).
  • Directs casualty collection efforts within the company.
  • Knows and understands the men in the company.
  • The voice of reason for a Company Commander.
  • During combat, will place himself where he can best assist the company to achieve its’ mission.
  • Enforces standards!! This includes conducting inspections of areas such as range card preparation, foxhole construction, etc….
  • Will assume the role of XO if the situation dictates it.

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 Company Fire Support Officer (FSO)He is usually in the Company Commander’s back pocket and ready to set the conditions for success or get the company out of trouble if necessary. This position is usually manned by a 2nd Lieutenant and comes from the Artillery unit.  His duties include:

  • He develops the company’s fire support plan in concert with the company maneuver plan – fire and maneuver!
  • He coordinates this plan with the Battalion Fire Support Officer.
  • Responsible for executing any parts of the battalion fire support plan that he is tasked with by higher headquarters.
  • Must have a complete understanding of both the battalion support plan and his company’s maneuver plan.
  • Must know what fire support assets are available for the Company Commander to request during planning and to ask for during execution.
  • Ensures the Platoon Forward Observers understand the company fire support plan and their own specific role in its execution.
  • Monitors the battalion fire support net and their communications.  This is normally a great place to pick-up intelligence and an understanding of the bigger picture. He must share this with the Company Commander.
  • There may be times when the FSO can take command of the company.  This can occur if something happens to the Company Commander and the XO may be unavailable for a period of time.  Because of this, the FSO must not only be an expert in his branch, but have an excellent understanding of maneuver and light infantry company operations.

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Company Communications SergeantNo one cares about the Commo Sergeant until their stuff isn’t working!  Without a quality Commo Sergeant there is no communicate in Maneuver, Shoot, and Communicate.  The Commo Sergeant is normally a pretty seasoned NCO who has a wealth of experience.  He is usually pretty thick-skinned because he has probably had his butt chewed a few times when things weren’t working as well as some in his chain of command had hoped.   Some of his critical duties include:

  • Ensures the Company can communicate effectively with its higher headquarters.
  • Ensures the Company can communicate effectively internally.
  • Oversees platoon maintenance of equipment. Provides classes to Company personnel on how to conduct routine and preventive maintenance.
  • Will provide more extensive training to the RTOs within the company.
  • Will oversee the set-up of wire communication within the company if it is utilized.
  • Depending on the Company’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) may be in charge of setting up and running the company’s command post.  This could include developing the security plan, radio watch schedule, training Command Post personnel on various battle drills, etc…  Again, much of this depends on his capabilities.
  • Should be well-schooled on how to repair pieces of commo equipment.  For instance, if two radios are down, he may be able to take parts from one to get the other up.
  • Orders parts for equipment.
  • Because he does much circulation around the platoons, can assist the company leadership in understanding the pulse of the organization.

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Company Radiotelephone Operators (RTO)During combat, there is no one closer to the Company Commander than his RTO.  The RTO is a young Soldier who normally excelled at the platoon level. He is usually very bright, resourceful, a self-starter, and quick on his feet.  He should also be able to take some good natured ribbing from his peers because he will get some because of his position.  The RTO has some traditional duties and also will execute some others based on his relationship with the Company Commander.  These include:

  • Ensures all commo equipment tied to the Company Commander’s ability to communicate with higher and his own key leaders is fully mission capable.
  • Is skilled in encoding and decoding messages.
  • Must understand the mission of the company and how it ties to the success of the higher headquarters achieving their purpose and task.  This will enable him to better appreciate the radio traffic.
  • Must understand what is occurring on the battlefield at all times.  This enables him to provide updates to higher headquarters and the platoons when the Company Commander can’t.
  • Needs to be skilled at the requesting artillery, adjusting artillery and calling medical evacuation.  During a mission, he could very well do all three.
  • Many times, will be a sounding board for the Company Commander.  He should be a good set of ears, because the Commander may utilize them to blow off some steam.  In conjunction with this, he can’t have a loose lip.  Whatever the Commander says needs to stay with him!
  • When not engaged with the Company Commander must be ready to assist wherever he is needed.
  • Emplace field expedient antennas if needed.
  • Assist the Company Commander in his understanding of what is occurring within his platoons.
  • Keeps the command group’s communication equipment functioning. Many times, this takes creative solutions.

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Company Supply SergeantCrafty, wily, resourceful, that is a good supply sergeant.  There may be other terms thrown around, but those are usually by Soldiers who wish they had him as their Supply Sergeant. It is amazing the impact a Supply Sergeant has on morale.  The rank of the Supply Sergeant runs the gamut.  It could be a young sergeant to a well-seasoned staff sergeant.  Here are some of his responsibilities:

  • Works in conjunction with the First Sergeant and XO to ensure company has the “right stuff” at the “right time”.
  • Must understand what the company is doing in the future so he can be proactive in getting supplies, equipment, ammo etc… on time.  For instance, if the Company Commander believes the company will be in a defensive posture in the future; the Supply Sergeant should begin requesting concertina wire, pickets, etc….
  • Will normally be positioned in battalion field trains away from the company.  Must ensure he keeps a tight bond with the Soldiers forward.
  • Has a key role in the morale department within a company.  It’s amazing what some extra chow or extra ice can do to boost spirits.  The good Supply Sergeant will always be looking for ways to enhance morale.   Being a good scrounger and trader are valuable traits.

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 Company NBC SergeantOften neglected until there is threat of an NBC attack, that can be said for some NBC NCOs.  Good Company Commanders know that the NBC NCO should do the majority of his work prior to any threat.  If he is in the shadows until a threat is acknowledged, it will likely be too little, too late.  So what are the responsibilities of an engaged NBC NCO?  Here are some:

  • Ensures the Company Commander understands the importance of NBC training, even if the threat may not be there.  He must be his own best advocate.
  • With that said, plans, conducts and supervises all NBC training.  The best NBC training should be tied to other training the company is conducting.
  • During mission rehearsals, should assist the Company Commander on where to incorporate an NBC environment.
  • Ensures company NBC equipment is fully mission capable.
  • Keeps Soldiers’ confidence level high on their training and their equipment.
  • Works with Platoon Sergeants in ensuring quality maintenance is done on each Soldier’s NBC equipment.
  •  During the execution of a mission is normally positioned in the Company Command Post.  Here, he will assist the Commo Sergeant in ensuring the Command Post is running effectively.
  • Keeps Commander informed on all areas related to NBC operations.
  • While oversee all decontamination operations of personnel and equipment.
  • Advises the Commander on the use of smoke.

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Company ArmorerOne of the unsung heroes of the company is its’ armorer. He is a key link in keeping the team of a Soldier and his weapon working together and being effective. This young Soldier must be able to troubleshoot problems and fix all he can in minimal time.  A trusted armorer within a company is clearly worth his weight in gold.  Below we will lay out some of his other responsibilities.

  • If a weapon system has an issue he can’t fix, he must get it quickly to the experts who can repair it.  This is normally well back in the rear area.  He must ensure he keeps track of all systems and checks on their status frequently.
  • He is generally located in the battalion field trains with the Supply Sergeant.  This way he can assist him where possible and can drive for him and also pull security.
  • If needed, he can be positioned forward and be part of the Company Command Post.

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Company Medic – The senior “Doc” in the company.  He has unquestionably one of the most challenging positions in the company.  He also has an incredible impact on morale and confidence within a company.  A quality senior medic with outstanding medics at the platoon level is huge on the battlefield.  The duties of the senior medic include:

  • On the battlefield he may conduct a myriad of procedures.  These could include opening an airway, starting IVs, controlling bleeding, preventing shock, treating shock, emplacing splints, etc ….  He will literally do what is needed to save life, limb, or eyesight.
  • Oversees the development and performance of the platoon medics.  Will provide leadership and training.
  • Will locate at the Company Casualty Collection Point when it is stood up.  He will execute triage and determine priority of treatment for Soldiers.
  • Works in conjunction with the First Sergeant to coordinate advanced medical treatment for Soldiers.  This could be ground or air evacuation.
  • Will train Soldiers on combat lifesaver techniques.
  • Requests Class VII (Medical) supplies.
  • Keeps the First Sergeant informed on all medical matters.
  • Must understand the tactical situation and know the company mission so he can prepare himself and the platoon medics for future operations.
  • Will provide input to the First Sergeant and XO in logistical planning.
  • When not in combat will run sick calls and ensure Soldiers are doing all they can in preventative measures.

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COMPANY MANEUVER FORMATIONS
During our discussion of the platoon, we went into significant detail on platoon maneuver formations.  We will do the same with the company.  Again, there are many options (the column, the line, the vee, the wedge, the file, and the echelon, right or left).  They are obviously heavily influenced by terrain and weather, the friendly situation, and the enemy situation.  We will look at each of the formations a Company Commander has at his disposal below.  Before we dissect these formations we will discuss where key members of the company and the mortars and anti-armor section are positioned.

  • Company Commander – Where does a Company Commander go?  Anywhere he wants!  That anywhere should preferably where he can best influence the battle.  That will typically be with his main effort which will likely be tied to achieving the decisive point.  Wherever he goes, he will maneuver with his RTO and in most cases, the FSO.  There may be times when he takes the entire Command Post with him.  It is all METT-TC dependent.  If he maneuvers with a specific platoon, he must be careful about micro-managing.  He must remember he is leading a company not a platoon.
  • Company XO – There are many locations in which the Company Commander may place his XO.   Traditionally, he locates himself with the Command Post.  This way, he can monitor the battle and be the conduit between the company and its’ higher headquarters.  Other times, he may locate with the weakest platoon just to keep a watchful eye.  As we discussed earlier, he may be located at a critical event such as a passage of lines or breaching operation.
  • Company First Sergeant – The First Sergeant is normally found in two areas.  The first is the Company Command Post.  This is especially true if both the Commander and XO are positioned in other areas.  The second is with the trail element of the company.  In this position, he can ensure all is well and if the lead elements run into some trouble; he can provide company leadership with the trail units.
  • Company Command Post – As we have stated earlier, there is no set formula as to who maneuvers with the Command Post.  At times, you could see any combination of the Commander, XO and First Sergeant.  In terms of the location of the Command Post as a whole, there are several things you take into consideration.  First, and most important, is where it can best support the Company Commander.  Second, it must be able to talk with higher headquarters and the company’s subordinate units.  Third, it must have some security built around it.  In other words, you don’t want it off on its own.  With all that said, you will normally find it smack in the middle of the formation.  This will likely assist it in achieving the above considerations.
  • Company Mortars – For a Company Commander, the location of his mortars is pretty important.  In reality, the considerations for the mortars are very similar to those of the Command Post.  First, they must be where they can be responsive to the Company Commander’s needs.  Second, they must have good communication with the Company Commander and the platoons.  Finally, they need to have some security around them.    Again, it usually makes sense to position them in the middle of the formation.  One thing to be conscious of is that these Soldiers are carrying some significant weight.  Additionally, you may have Soldiers from the rifle platoons carrying extra ammunition for them.  Another way to locate the mortars is to attach a squad (one tube) to a platoon.  This assists in security and the respective Platoon Leader can keep the squad in his hip pocket.
  • Anti-armor Section – As with the mortars, there are essentially two options in positioning the Anti-Armor Section.  First, you can keep the section together.  This allows you the ability to mass the power of the six javelins.  If deployed as a section, you want them in the middle of the formation so they can quickly go to anywhere in the formation to mass these fires.  The other technique is to attach one fire team with each rifle platoon.  This gives each platoon that capability and also allows them to each utilize the excellent thermal sights of the javelin.  This also affords you more combat power when you bound platoons because each platoon can now overwatch with two extra javelins.
  • Attachments – During a mission, a Company Commander may receive additional assets to assist him in achieving his purpose and task.  These could include air defense assets, engineers, etc…. The overriding factor is placing them where they can do the most good for the Company.  For instance, if you are pretty confident you are going to breach an obstacle; you will want the engineers near the front of the formation to facilitate this.
  • Wheeled/Track Vehicles – One of the bigger challenges a Commander has is how to maneuver his wheeled vehicles or any tracks he may have.  In many cases, they can’t traverse the same terrain that the Soldier can.  Consequently, they must find terrain conducive to maneuver and stay as close as possible to the formation.  If the Company needs things from them; they will likely have to maneuver to them when possible.

COMPANY FORMATIONS – Let’s now address the formations a Commander may utilize.  For the purposes of understanding the graphics, we will use the following legend:

image034** The Javelin symbol represents the Anti-Armor Section

image036COLUMN

COMPANY COLUMN –   The standard formation of many companies is the column. This is because there is much to like about the column.  First of all, a Commander can develop many versions of the column.  In our example above, he has placed his platoons in various formations themselves.  He has the lead platoon in a vee, the middle platoon is in a wedge, and the trail platoon is in its’ own column.  As you can see, there are many variations.  Second, the column affords the Commander excellent flexibility in changing to other formations.  As we discussed in our platoon articles, formations will change with METT-TC changes.  Third, the column has excellent security throughout the formation.   Fourth, because of this security, the company can deliver excellent direct fires to the flanks and good fires to the front and rear.  Fifth, because of the flexibility, the Commander can create good dispersion in the formation.  Sixth, this formation along with the file allows the Commander to maneuver with the most speed.  Finally, it is very easy formation for the Commander to exert command and control.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • The Commander is well forward and located with his lead platoon.
  • The Mortars and Ant-Armor Section are located behind the second platoon.
  • The XO is positioned with the rest of the headquarters element behind the anti-armor section.
  • The First Sergeant stays with the trail platoon.

image038LINE

COMPANY LINE – If you want to be prepared to distribute maximum firepower to your front; the line is the preferred formation.  It is also the formation of choice when you are clearing an area.  As with the other formations, there are deviations to the line.  The standard company line has all platoons on line.  With this formation it is clear that security and fires is superb to the front.  However, the flanks suffer dramatically in terms of security and firepower.  It can be mitigated some, by having the flank platoons echelon their squads (a deviation).  The standard line has several weaknesses.  First, it is extremely time consuming to change into another formation.  Second, it is not conducive to speed.  If you want to maneuver quickly to another location; this is not the formation.  Finally, it can be a formation which is challenging to command and control.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • Because this formation usually equates to contact, both the Commander and XO are forward.
  • The First Sergeant is located on the other flank.  Thus, in essence you have one of the Big 3 with each of platoons.
  • The Command Post will likely be located behind the Commander.
  • The mortars are to the rear and prepared to support.
  • In this variation, the Anti-Armor Section is on the flank and prepared to move forward.  More probable is that the Commander attaches one javelin fire team to each platoon.

image040

WEDGE

COMPANY WEDGE – This is Mr. Reliable in terms of the company formations.  A Commander has much flexible within the wedge.  The basic foundation for the wedge is one up and two back.  Within this foundation, the Company Commander can place his platoons in their own various formations in the one up/two back concept.    In the above graphic, he has placed his lead platoon in their own wedge, the left flank platoon is in a column, and the right flank platoon is echeloned.  The Commander could easily change any of the platoon formations to fit the tactical situation.   The wedge has several strengths.  First, it possesses good security throughout the formation.  Second, it can deliver good direct fires to the front and obviously, to the flanks.  Finally, as we stated earlier it is a very flexible formation.  This flexible is two-fold.  First of all, the Commander can again organize his platoons in different formations in the one up/two back concept.  Secondly, the one up/two back formation in itself is very flexible. It enables the Commander to usually make contact to the front with the enemy with a small force (usually a platoon or squad).  This then affords him the opportunity to maneuver with the other two platoons while the in-contact platoon fixes.  If the company makes contact to one of its flanks; the platoon on the other flank is available to maneuver.  There are two potential weaknesses in the wedge, which can vary depending on the formations the platoons are in.  These are: 1) It can be somewhat of a challenge for the Company Commander to control.  He must ensure his platoons are tied in with each other at all times.  2) Because of the various moving pieces, this formation can be a little slower in maneuver speed than the column of file.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • The company leadership is spread out so one of the “big 3” is located near each platoon.  This will assist in control.
  • The company headquarters, the mortars, and anti-armor section will be tucked up inside the wedge.  The company headquarters is centrally located to assist in command and control.  The mortars and anti-armor section are centrally located so they can support the entire formation.

image042 VEE

COMPANY VEE – If you are pretty confident that you will receive significant contact to the front; the Vee is a viable formation to utilize.  As the graphic depicts, it is basically two up and one back.  Within the Vee, the platoons will normally be in wedges.  Of course, the Commander can place the platoons in other formations, but this can be a big challenge in the areas of control and maneuver speed.  The strengths of the Vee are: 1) Superb direct fire to the front.  2) Good security to the front and to the rear.  3) There is some flexibility with the rear platoon to maneuver on the flanks.  The weaknesses of the formation are: 1) Weak security and fires to the flanks.  2) This can be a very challenging formation for the Commander to control.  3) Along with the line and the echelon it is one of slower formations in maneuver speed.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • With the two forward platoons, the Commander will designate one as the base.  All the other elements will gage their speed and distance from this base platoon.
  • The Commander positions himself well forward with his two lead platoons.
  • The XO positions himself with the headquarters in the center of the Vee.  This does expose the headquarters somewhat to attacks from the flank.  Because of this, they may be augmented with extra personnel for security.
  • The mortars and anti-armor section are positioned inside the Vee behind the lead platoons.  Their focus will be on supporting those platoons.
  • The First Sergeant positions himself with the trail platoon.

 image044FILE

COMPANY FILE — The file is “ducks in a row” and “hi diddle diddle up the middle”.    There are some specific situations in which the Commander would select the file as his formation.  First, if maneuvering somewhere quickly is imperative; then the file is certainly an optimal formation.  This is of course if the threat of enemy contact is extremely remote.  Second, if terrain is unforgiving (dense jungle, mountainous trail, etc…) the file is generally utilized.   Third, if visibility is very limited (weather, light conditions) then a Commander may very well choose the file.  The strengths of the file are pretty obvious.  Depending on the terrain, it is a formation which gets you from A to B very quickly.  It is also a formation that is very easy for command and control.  This is because enemy contact is not eminent and Soldiers are essentially following one another.  The weaknesses are pretty apparent as well.  They include poor security throughout the formation, the inability to deliver direct fires to the front and rear of the formation, and the difficulty in reacting to enemy contact and maneuvering to or from it.   Within the file, you must always be conscious of breaks in contact within the formation.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • The Company Commander positions himself right behind the lead platoon.  Obviously, this way he is in a better location to develop the situation.
  • The anti-armor section is located well forward in the file.  This enables them to react to any contact the lead platoon may encounter.  If they were further back it would take them too long to negotiate the rest of the formation to get in a location to provide support.
  • The XO, the headquarters element, and the mortars are located following the second platoon.  This provides them some security as they are basically in the middle of the formation.
  • The First Sergeant is located with the trail element in the file.  With his leadership and experience, he can assist in ensuring there are no breaks in contact in the formation.
  • So what does this formation look like on the ground?  Well, it could very well extend 500 to 600 meters.  To put it in perspective, it would take the entire formation around 20 minutes to cross the same checkpoint

image046ECHELON

COMPANY ECHELON (LEFT OR RIGHT) –  When you are expecting contact to the front or on a particular flank, but not sure when it will occur; an echeloned formation is certainly a viable option.  As with some of the other formations, a Commander has considerable flexibility in how he positions his platoons.  In the above depiction, the Commander has placed his lead platoon in an echelon left.  His second platoon is in wedge and the trail platoon is in a column.  In total, he has the company in an echelon right (the majority of combat is “slanted” to the right).  As you can see, the Commander could place the platoons in a variety of formations and still be in a company echelon.  The strengths of echelon are its’ ability secure and deliver fires to its’ front and the echeloned flank.  Its’ weaknesses are clearly tied to one another.  These are that it is extremely slow in maneuver speed and is a significant challenge for a Company Commander to control.  In fact, depending on the platoon’s configuration; it is probably the most difficult formation to command and control.

A Few Things to Notice:

  • As always, the Company Commander will position himself well forward with his lead platoon.
  • The anti-armor section travels near the Company Commander to the front of the formation.  This allows them to quickly maneuver forward if required.
  • The XO with the company headquarters is normally positioned in the middle of the formation.
  • The mortars trail the headquarters and do not have any other elements following them.  This allows them to stop and fire if needed without affecting the maneuver of any trail units.
  • The First Sergeant is located with the trail flank unit. Consequently, each of the Big 3 is positioned near one of the platoons.  Again, this is important because this is a difficult formation to command and control.  This will assist in this challenging endeavor.

REVIEW
This was a pretty long article, but one we hope provided you with a good foundation on the organization and maneuver formations of the light infantry company.  In terms of organization, the addition of the mortar and anti-armor sections gives it some pretty significant combat power. Additionally, the Headquarters Element has the expertise and experience to utilize this strength. In regards to maneuver formations, a light infantry company commander has much flexibility.  There are clearly many ways in which he can position platoons/squads so they can gain a positional advantage over their opponent.

NEXT MONTH
Our next article will finish our look at the light infantry platoon and company. We thought we go a little school in this segment.  Our focus will be on a light infantry battalion which was part of a National Training Center many moons ago.  We will key on two particular missions during that rotation.  The first was a defense of the infamous Whale Gap.  The second was an attack into the Brown-Debnam area.  They will have a little war story feel to them, but there will be plenty of nuggets to grab.

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