Area Reconnaissance

Area Reconnaissance

The reference for reconnaissance patrols can be found on page 7-4 of your Ranger Handbook. 

Before we dive into the steps of Area Reconnaissance, let's go over the “20 Board” above. On the left side of the board are the steps for an area recon. The center of the board is an example of a recon patrol cloverleafing around their objective and the leader’s recon element in their FOOM (More on FOOM here). The right side of the board has the FOOM of clearing the Objective Rally Point (ORP), Leader’s Recon of ORP, and the Security Halt. 

Notice that the board is color-coded but not personalized. Color coded refers to the board displaying the lead team in BLUE, the HQ element in YELLOW, and the trail team in  GREEN. While at Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course, you will color-code and personalize all of your boards. For example, if I were the Squad Leader (SL), there would be a line next to the SL circle with my name on it.

Now let’s go over Reconnaissance at the platoon and squad level. A reconnaissance patrol collects information or confirms/disproves the accuracy of information previously gained. The intent for this type of patrol is to avoid enemy contact and accomplish its tactical task without engaging in close combat. With one exception (reconnaissance in force patrol), reconnaissance patrols always try to accomplish their mission without being detected or observed. Because detection cannot always be avoided, a reconnaissance patrol carries the necessary arms and equipment to protect itself and break contact with the enemy. There are three types of reconnaissance patrols normally conducted by an Infantry platoon and squad. They are: 

  • Area reconnaissance patrol.
  • Route reconnaissance patrol. 
  • Zone reconnaissance patrol.

This post will focus on Area Reconnaissances.

Area reconnaissance patrols focus on obtaining detailed information about the enemy activity, terrain, or specific civil considerations within a prescribed area. This area may include a town, a neighborhood, a ridgeline, woods, an airhead, or any other feature critical to operations. The area may consist of a single point (such as a bridge or an installation). Areas are normally smaller than zones and not usually contiguous to other friendly areas targeted for reconnaissance. Because the area is smaller, units conduct area reconnaissance quicker than zone reconnaissance. Other unique techniques falling under an area reconnaissance patrol include: 

  • Point: the recon patrol goes straight to a specific location and determines the situation there. As soon as it does so, it either reports the information by radio or returns to the larger unit to report. This patrol can obtain, verify, confirm, or deny extremely specific information for the platoon leader or commander. 
  • Contact: the recon patrol is a special type of reconnaissance patrol sent from one unit to physically contact and coordinate with another. Modern technology has reduced, but not eliminated, the need for contact patrols. They most often are used today when a U.S. force must contact a non-U.S. coalition partner who lacks compatible communications or position-reporting equipment. 
  • Civil: the recon patrol is a targeted, planned, and coordinated observation and evaluation of specific civil aspects of the environment.
  • Tracking: the recon patrol is normally a squad-size, possibly smaller, element. It is tasked to follow the trail of a specific enemy unit in order to determine its composition, final destination, and actions en route. Patrol members look for subtle signs left by the enemy as he moves. 

While at Ranger and Sapper School, you will only conduct the “point technique”.

Keys to Successful Area Reconnaissance (Ranger/Sapper Recon Fundamentals) 

  1. Obtain required information 
  2. Avoid detection by the enemy 
  • Minimize movement in the OBJ area 
  • Move no closer to the enemy than necessary 
  • If possible, use long range surveillance or night vision devices 
  • Use camouflage, stealth, noise and light discipline 
  • Minimize radio traffic 
  • Employ security measures 
  • Task Organize 

Basic Task Organization

  1. Recon & Security (R&S) 1 – SL and lead team rifleman, PRC-148, note/ sketch materials, map 
  2. R&S 2 – Lead TL and lead team grenadier, PRC-148, note/sketch materials, map 
  3. Surveillance & Observation (S/O) – Lead team automatic rifleman and trail team grenadier, PRC-148, note/ sketch materials, map 
  4. Objective Rally Point (ORP) Security – Consists of Trail TL, RTO, MG team, and the remainder of squad members. Note/sketch materials for sector sketch/range card, status card. *PRC-119 with RTO at ORP 

Planning Considerations 

When planning for your recon, you will utilize the acronym METT-TC, which stands for Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time and Civil considerations. This post will not go into detail on using METT-TC at Ranger/Sapper School, but you can learn more about it here.

Reporting Criteria 

Use the SALUTE format when reporting for your recon. SALUTE stands for: 

  1. S – Size: Size of element observed 
  2. A – Activity: The activities conducted by the observed personnel or vehicle / equipment 
  3. L – Location: The exact location of the observed personnel / activity (and the direction of travel) 
  4. U – Unit: Due to the difficulty in ascertaining the unit designation of those observed, the identifying  marking on personnel and equipment suffice. 
  5. T – Time and Date: The time and date of initial observation and the duration of activity. 
  6. E – Equipment: Detailed information in reference to uniforms, individual equipment, weapons, and vehicles and so on. This information is important in the determination of enemy unit identification, as well as intent. 

Steps for Area Reconnaissance

  1. Start / Stop 

The actions on the OBJ for the squad recon begins at the security halt (SH) prior to the ORP. The actions end with the dissemination of information and the call to higher with the updated Operational Schedule (OPSKED). 

  1. Security Halt  

Unless otherwise stated, all of the following actions take place in periods of good visibility (GV). 

When the squad is approximately 200-400 meters away from the ORP, the SL gives the hand and arm signal for halt to the lead team leader (TL). Notice that on the 20 board the security halt has a grid location (GL) and a terrain feature (TF). When the lead TL receives the signal, he moves to the nearest covered and concealed position and assumes the Short Halt posture (SHP). Then, the TL issues the hand and arm signal for halt to the team and ensures that his team follows his lead. The SHP is nothing more than taking a knee behind cover and  concealment, keeping your rucksack on your back, weapon at the ready, pulling security in your hasty sector of fire. 

The SL continues moving until the HQ element closes the distance with the lead team and the trail team can achieve interlocking sectors of fire with the lead team. Then, the SL issues the hand and arm signal for halt, assumes the SHP, and ensures that the HQ element does the same.  

The trail TL continues moving until his team closes the distance with the HQ element and then ensures his team can interlock sectors of fire with the lead team. At this point, the trail TL issues the hand and arm signal for halt, assumes the SHP, and ensures that his team does the same. The trail team leader also confirms that his grenadier maintains rear security from the 4 o’clock to the 8 o’clock locations. 

  1. SLLS / Pinpoint  

Once the entire squad has halted, the squad conducts SLLS. The SL initiates SLLS by cupping his non-firing hand behind the corresponding ear.

SLLS stands for Stop, Look, Listen, and Smell.  

STOP: Stop all movement  

LOOK: Look for signs of the enemy, such as trash, old fighting positions, or the enemy themselves. 

LISTEN: Listen for signs of the enemy, such as engines running, the enemy talking, or the enemy moving. 

SMELL: Smell for signs of the enemy, like food, smoke from fires, or POL products (fuels).  

The squad conducts SLLS for 3-5 minutes or for as long as the SL deems necessary. When SLLS is complete, the SL terminates SLLS by making a slashing motion by his ear. 

After terminating SLLS, the SL then pinpoints the squad’s location. The lead TL moves to the SL’s position in the center of the security halt. The SL and lead TL pull out their maps, pinpoint their current location, and determine the distance and direction for the next movement to the ORP. At the same time, the trail TL monitors the men and ensures the squad maintains security by rotating around the perimeter of the security halt. After the SL confirms the squad’s current location and next movement with the lead TL, the TLs exchange positions and the SL confirms this information with the trail TL. 

  1. Long halt / Spot check 

Once the SL and TLs determine the squad’s location and have a route to the tentative ORP, the SL issues tasks, conditions, and standards to the TLs for placing their men in the Long Halt Posture. The SL tells the TLs to strong point at the 10, 2, 4, and 8 o'clock positions or wherever he deems most appropriate. The lead TL starts at the 9 o’clock position and moves in a clockwise manner to the 3 o’clock position to place his men in the long halt posture. He will move his men to the designated positions and either assume the short halt posture and pull security for each man while they assume the long halt posture, or he will have one of the soldiers in the position pull security for each other while they transition to the long halt posture. 

Keep in mind that the SL can designate any clock position for the TL’s to strong point their men.  The SL makes the decision on where to strong point based on factors such as terrain, available cover and concealment, avenues of approach, etc. For the purposes of this post only, we will use the 10, 2, 4, and 8 o’clock positions as the locations where the SL has deemed it most appropriate for his men to be strong pointed. 

A soldier properly transitions to the long halt posture by rotating the rucksack off his back, placing it frame down with the cat eyes facing the center of the security halt, getting in the prone position behind proper cover and concealment, and pulling security in his assigned sector of fire. 

The trail TL starts at the 3 o’clock position and moves in a clockwise manner to the 9 o’clock position to place his men in the long halt posture; at the locations the SL designated. The trail TL has the same options to place his men in the long halt posture as the lead TL. 

During the transition to the long halt posture, the TLs assign their men a sector of fire using natural terrain features such as “That tree to that rock”. TLs ensure that each man’s sector of fire interlocks with the man to his left and right approximately 35 meters out (hand grenade range). Additionally, TLs show their men the squad’s current location on the map and the distance and direction for the next movement, which in this case is the movement to the ORP. 

After the TLs emplace their men in the long halt posture, they return to the SL’s position in the center of the perimeter. At that time, the SL spot checks the perimeter to ensure that his tasks, conditions, and standards have been met. If they are not met, the SL reissues the tasks, conditions, and standards and spot checks until they are met. This is very important while at Ranger and Sapper School. Everyone is tired and not thinking straight so your buddy might screw you over without even meaning too. That is why you trust, but verify. 

While TLs emplace their personnel in the long halt posture, the SL emplace the M240 gun teams based on METT-T/C analysis. 

  1. 5 Point / BTL, ATL  

Once the SL’s tasks, conditions, and standards are met, he tells the trail TL to move around the perimeter and ensure that the squad maintains security. The lead TL preps the men going on the leader's recon of the tentative ORP. The personnel going on the recon are the lead TL, the lead team rifleman, the lead team automatic rifleman, and the SL. All personnel on the recon bring their rucksacks with them. Once prepped, all personnel on the leader’s recon meet with the SL so he can spot check rucksacks, re-camouflage, check commo and ensure that weapons are locked and loaded with a full magazine. 

After meeting with these personnel, the SL issues two 5-point contingency plans. The SL gives the first 5- point contingency plan to the trail TL to cover the SL’s absence during the leader's recon of the ORP. When this is complete, the SL gives the second 5-point contingency plan to the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman. This plan covers the period when the SL leaves the ORP security team at the tentative ORP, moves back to the security halt, and returns with the rest of the squad to the tentative ORP.  

The SL uses the acronym GOTWA to give the 5-point contingency plans. GOTWA stands for: 

Going – Where the SL is going. 

Others – Others the SL takes with him. 

Time – Time the SL will be gone. 

What – What to do if the SL doesn’t return. 

Action – Actions to be taken upon enemy contact for both the SL and the soldier receiving the plan.

The SL will give this GOTWA to the trail team leader: 

Going: I am going to recon for the tentative ORP. 

Others: I am taking Ranger/Sapper (lead TL), Ranger/Sapper (lead team rifleman) and Ranger/Sapper (lead team automatic rifleman). This is a total of 4 personnel.  

Time: I will be gone for one hour.  

What: If I am not back in one hour, I want you to first try to contact me by FM. If you can’t contact me, then call higher, inform them of the situation and ask for further guidance.

Actions: If I make contact, we will break contact and attempt to link-up with you here at the security halt. If we cannot do this, I will link up with you at the last En route Rally Point (ERP). You should be able to hear the contact. I want you to remain in place and be prepared to assist us in breaking contact. If you make contact, defend in place until you feel as if you are about to be overrun. If this is the case, break contact, move to the last ERP, and conduct rally point procedures (Establish security, establish a chain of command, call higher and inform them of the  situation, wait 45 minutes or until the remainder of the patrol has linked up then continue the mission). I will be able to hear the contact and work my way back to you and assist you in executing the battle drill. 

The SL also issues the additional/special instructions to the trail team leader to disseminate the 5 point, readjust the perimeter as necessary, ensure the RTO monitors the radio, and ensure the element maintains security. The trail TL then back briefs the SL. The SL answers any questions the trail TL might have at that time. The 5-point begins when the leader’s recon leaves the security halt. 

The SL then issues a GOTWA to the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman for when he leaves them at the 6 o’clock of the tentative ORP. This GOTWA will sound like this: 

Going: I am going back to the security halt to pick up the rest of the personnel from the squad.

Others: I am taking Ranger/Sapper (lead team rifleman).  

Time: I will be gone no more than one hour. 

What: If I am not back in one hour, I want you to try to contact me by FM. If you can’t contact me, then make your  way back to the security halt where we will link up.  

Actions: Regardless of who makes contact, both teams will break contact and fight their way back to the security  halt. If either team is unable to make it to the security halt, we will link up at the last ERP.  

The lead TL and lead team automatic rifleman then back brief the SL. The SL answers any questions they have at that time. The SL also issues additional/special instructions to the lead TL. The SL tells the lead TL that  when the SL calls the lead TL with the far recognition signal, the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman  should assume a short halt posture to help guide the squad to the ORP and to assist the lead TL in quickly emplacing his personnel into their positions on the perimeter.  

  1. Conduct recon ORP 

After the SL issues the 5-points and special instructions, the personnel designated for the leader’s recon move to the 12 o'clock position. The trail TL takes up a position at the 12 o’clock to count out the departing personnel. When the SL sees the trail TL is in position, the SL signals the lead TL to move out. The leader’s recon moves in a diamond formation, with personnel spaced at approximately 10 meters and 45 degrees. The lead TL is at the apex of the diamond formation. The lead team rifleman is in position to the right  and rear of the lead TL. The lead team automatic rifleman is to the left and rear of the lead TL. The SL moves at the rear of the formation. Halfway to the ORP, which is approximately 200 meters, the SL begins looking for a location that has some or all of the characteristics of a good ORP. 

  1. Characteristics of ORP 

There are five characteristics of a good ORP:  

  1. Easily defendable for a short period of time.  
  2. Away from natural lines of drift.  
  3. Away from high-speed avenues of approach.  
  4. Provide good cover and concealment from the ground and air  
  5. Provide little or no tactical value to the enemy.  

Once the SL finds an area that meets most or all of these characteristics and is in the vicinity of the designated grid location, the SL signals the lead TL to halt the patrol as previously described.

  1. SLLS 

When the lead TL receives the “halt” signal, he assumes a short halt posture at the next available covered and concealed position. The rest of the recon element follows his lead. The element then conducts SLLS as described above. 

  1. Clear, Secure / 5 Point 

After SLLS is complete, the lead TL and the lead team rifleman must clear the tentative ORP using the Zigzag method. The SL identifies the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions. The lead TL and lead team rifleman slowly clear from the 6 o’clock to the 3 o’clock to the 9 o’clock to the 12 o’clock then back to the 6 o'clock position. While clearing, the lead TL and lead team rifleman look for signs of enemy presence or use, such as fresh tire tracks, trash, foxholes, expended ammunition or anything uncommon to the surrounding area. If they spot any of these signs, the lead TL and lead team rifleman return immediately. After the two soldiers clear the ORP, the SL spot checks the area by moving into the ORP with the lead LT and verifying that it is a suitable location for the squad to establish the ORP. The SL will personally check one position or he may decide to check all positions within the tentative ORP while conducting his spot check. 

After the SL approves the ORP site, he emplaces the lead team automatic rifleman at the 6 o’clock position facing the 12 o'clock position. The lead TL remains at the 6 o’clock position facing towards the direction of the security halt. Once the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman are in position, the SL tells the lead TL that the 5-point is in effect. Additionally, the SL ensures that the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman have their feet interlocked so they can utilize the tap code with their feet. The SL also ensures that the two soldiers understand the tap-code.  

This is the tap code. One tap from one soldier to another means that everything is okay. If  everything is okay with the other soldier, he responds with one tap. Two taps means that a soldier sees or hears something. Three taps means that the soldiers need to move NOW. When in a security position with another soldier utilize this tap code as a non-verbal means of communication. 

Before the SL and lead team rifleman move back to the security halt, the SL communicates to the trail TL that the SL is returning to the security halt. This is the far recognition signal. When the trail TL receives the signal, he ensures that all remaining soldiers at the security halt take up the short halt posture and are ready to move out.  

When the SL and the lead team rifleman are within close proximity to the security halt, they stop and the SL gives the near recognition signal. An example of a near recognition signal during good visibility is a challenge and  password. After the SL and the trail TL exchange the near recognition signal, the trail TL counts the SL and the lead team rifleman into the security halt. After movement ceases, the element conducts SLLS as previously described. 

After completion of SLLS, the SL disseminates any change to the plan and the route to the tentative ORP to the lead team rifleman. The lead team rifleman takes charge of the remainder of the lead team at this time and disseminates the information. The trail TL also disseminates the information to his men at this time. Once dissemination is complete, the squad assumes the OOM to the tentative ORP, which is the remainder of the lead team, then the HQ element, followed by the trail team. 

The lead team rifleman leads the element out of the security halt. Prior to leaving the security halt, the SL calls the lead TL and tells him that the rest of the squad is moving to his location. This is the far recognition signal. When the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman receive this signal, they take up a short halt posture. 

  1. Occupy / Strong-Point

Once the lead team rifleman sees the lead TL, he halts the patrol, and exchanges the near recognition signal with the lead team leader as previously described. The SL moves to the front of the formation and gets face to face with the lead TL. At that time, the SL tells the TL to take his team and strong-point the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions in the short halt posture. The SL stays at the 6 o’clock position as a control measure for the occupation of  the ORP. After the lead team passes through the 6 o’clock, the RTO moves into the ORP followed by the MG team. The SL tells the RTO and MG team where to move inside the center of the perimeter. Once in position, the RTO and MG team assume the short halt posture. The SL then orients the trail team leader to the tentative ORP by pointing out the 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock positions. The SL also points out the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions that the lead team leader is strong-pointing. The SL then tells the trail team leader to strong-point his personnel in the 4 and 8  o’clock positions. Due to the fact that the trail TL is unfamiliar with the ORP, the SL may choose to assist the trail  TL in emplacing his men in the designated positions. He can do this by personally emplacing all members of the trail team into their designated position or by personally emplacing men into one of the designated positions while the trail TL emplaces men into the other position. 

  1. SLLS / Pinpoint  

The entire squad moves into the ORP and halts. At that point, the SL spot-checks the perimeter to ensure that there is 360 degree security with all personnel in the short halt posture.  

Then, the squad conducts SLLS and pinpoints their location as previously described. If the SL is not satisfied, he can move the ORP left, right or perhaps closer to the OBJ to find a more suitable location. 

  1. Long halt / MG Team 

TLs issues tasks, conditions, and standards for placing the men in the long halt posture and strong-pointing the 10, 2, 4, and 8 o'clock positions. The lead TL strong points the 10 and 2 o’clock positions and the trail TL strong points the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. TLs strong point their personnel, issue sectors of fire, and disseminate information as previously described for the security halt. The SL emplaces the M240 gun team at the 12 o’clock or the most likely avenue of approach. 

  1. Spot check / OPSKED

Once the TLs place their personnel in the long halt posture and return to the SL’s location, the SL checks to ensure his standards are met. When satisfied, the RTO calls in the OPSKED to higher headquarters to communicate that the squad has occupied the ORP. 

  1. Prep M, W, E / Recon Teams  

At this point, the squad prepares men, weapons, and equipment for the OBJ. No man leaves the ORP and moves to the OBJ until he is fully prepared for conducting the actions on the OBJ. Priority for preparation goes to the recon elements. There are three recon elements. R&S 1 consists of the SL and the lead team rifleman. R&S 2 consists of the lead TL and lead team grenadier. The S&O element is lead team automatic rifleman and trail team grenadier. After the lead TL preps his men, he moves to the SL’s position. The lead TL and the SL prep and inspect  each other. Men who are preparing or undergoing inspections pull 3-5 meters off the line and maintain noise and light discipline. After men are prepared and inspected, the SL spot checks the men. 

While the recon elements are preparing for the OBJ, the trail TL ensures that the rest of the squad maintains security on the perimeter and helps crossload equipment as necessary. It is imperative that during the  preparation of men, weapons, and equipment, the squad maintains noise and light discipline to prevent detection by the enemy. 

The SL then issues tasks, conditions, and standards for preparing men, weapons, and equipment. The standards for preparing men, weapons, and equipment can be found here.

  1. Confirm Route 

During the prep of men, weapons, and equipment, the SL confirms the route to the OBJ with the lead TL. 

  1. Inspect Recon Teams  

After TLs finish preparing their men, they bring their men to the SL so he can inspect them. After the SL inspects the men and determines they meet his standards, TLs place their men in the FOOM to the OBJ. (see board above). The lead TL then spot checks the SL. 

  1. Depart ORP / 5 Point 

Prior to departing the ORP, the SL issues a 5-point contingency plan to the trail TL. An example of a GOTWA should sound like this. 

Going: I am going to conduct the AOO Recon.  

Others: I am taking Ranger/Sapper____________ (lead team rifleman), Ranger/Sapper______ (lead TL), Ranger/Sapper ________ (lead team  grenadier), Ranger/Sapper __________ (lead team automatic rifleman) and Ranger/Sapper _________ (trail team grenadier). Including me, this is a total of six personnel.  

Time: I will be gone for four hours.  

What: If I am not back in four hours, I want you to first try to contact me by FM. If you can’t contact me, then call  higher, inform them of the situation and ask for further guidance. 

Actions: These are two-fold: If I make contact, we will break contact and attempt to link up with you here at the  ORP. If not or we are being tracked, I will link up with you at the last ERP. You should be able to hear the contact. I want you to remain in place and be prepared to assist us in breaking contact. If you make contact, defend in place until you feel as if you are about to be overrun. If this is the case, break contact to the last ERP and conduct rally point procedures, I will be able to hear the contact and work my way back to you and assist you in executing the  battle drill in place.  

The SL issues additional instructions to the trail TL to disseminate the 5-point, readjust the perimeter as necessary, emplace the claymores to increase the ORP security while the recon element is absent, create a range card for the MG and a sector sketch of the OPR security, ensure the RTO monitors the radio, and ensure the remaining soldiers maintain security. Additionally, the SL tells the trail TL to continue to prep men, weapons and equipment for night movement while maintaining 50% security. The SL also tells the trail TL that when the SL calls the ORP with the far recognition signal, the trail TL must get everyone in the short halt posture and prepared to move. After giving all these instructions, the SL has the trail TL back brief him. 

The SL issues a 5-point to the soldiers on S/O and R&S. The S&O 5-point contingency plan covers the period when R&S 1 and 2 are conducting the recon of the OBJ. It will sound something like this:  

Going: I am going to recon the OBJ.  

Others: I am taking R&S 1 and 2.  

Time: I will be gone for three hours.  

What: If I am not back in three hours I want you to move back to the RP, secure your rucks, and if I am not there at the  RP, then move back to the ORP.  

Actions: If your position gets compromised you will break contact and fight your way back to the RP and wait 5 minutes, if I am not there in 5 minutes move back to the ORP. Do not forget to take your rucksacks with you. If an R&S team comes into contact you will execute the compromise plan, then move back to the RP, wait for me there for 5 minutes, if I am not at the RP after 5 minutes, move back to the ORP. 

The SL gives additional instructions to the S&O team that they should take notes on the PIR they obtain from their position. Additionally, the SL also tells soldiers on S/O and R&S teams to make a military sketch and keep track of the time for events occurring on the OBJ, such as how long it takes a guard to rove the perimeter.  Most importantly, the SL emphasizes that the soldiers must not compromise their positions.  

The SL receives a back brief from the soldiers on S/O and R&S to ensure they understand the SL’s 5-point. The R&S 2 5-point contingency plan will cover the period while R&S 1 and 2 are conducting the recon of the OBJ. It will sound something like this:  

Going: I am going to recon the OBJ.  

Others: S&O are in their position and I am taking Ranger/Sapper _________ as my security man for R&S 1.  

Time: I will meet you back here in the RP in two hours.  

What: If I am not back in two hours I want you to attempt to contact me in FM. If you cannot reach me on FM, secure your rucks, and then move back to the ORP.  

Actions: If your position gets compromised you will break contact and fight your way back to the RP and wait 5 minutes, if I am not there in 5 minutes move back to the ORP. Do not forget to take your rucksacks with you. If the other R&S team or S&O comes into contact you will execute the compromise plan, then move back to the RP, wait for me there for 5 minutes, if I am not at the RP after 5 minutes, move back to the ORP.  

The SL gives the R&S 2 team additional instruction that they take notes of all of PIR from their position.  Additionally, the SL tells the soldiers on R&S 2 to make a military sketch and a salute format of the information. Most importantly the SL emphasizes that the R&S 2 team does not cross the LOA or allow itself to get compromised. The SL receives a back brief to ensure that the SLs 5-point is understood. 

The SL confirms that every man going on the recon understands the route to the OBJ and compromise plan. The SL briefs the details of the compromise plan which are at the end of this post. 

When the squad is ready to move out of the ORP the trail TL moves to the 12 o’clock position, establishes a choke point, and counts the Squad out of the perimeter. The FOOM to the OBJ is the modified wedge. Once the trail TL is ready to count the squad out, the SL signals the lead team leader to move out on azimuth towards the OBJ.  

  1. Trail TL Responsibilities in ORP 

Once the trail TL counts the recon element, he disseminates the 5-point contingency plan to all members of the squad in the ORP. He then readjusts the perimeter as necessary to maintain security and directs the MG team to create a range card for their sector of fire. While the MG team is creating this range card, the trail TL needs to determine where to emplace his claymore mines and where to position his AT-4.  

Good locations to emplace claymore mines include areas of dead space and likely avenues of approach. Good locations to position anti-tank weapons include any likely avenues of approach. 

Weapons on the perimeter should be positioned to maximize their capabilities and in positions where they can be effectively employed. For example, the machine guns should be positioned to achieve enfilade and plunging fire along likely avenues of approach, etc. Classes of Fires can be found in the RHB on page 10-3. 

Prior to moving out of the ORP to emplace the claymores, the trail TL must alert his men along the perimeter that he is moving forward to emplace the claymores and not to engage any moving targets until he returns to the perimeter. Once the trail TL emplaces and camouflages the claymores and positions the AT-4, he will inspect the range card to ensure it is accurate and complete. He will make a copy of the range card to use at his location in the center of the ORP; and, return the original range card to the MG team. Next, he will create a sketch of the entire squad’s security plan to include sectors of fire for each weapon system or strong pointed position, the location and sector for each claymore, the location and sector for the AT-4, and the location and PDF for the M240B.  

Once all weapons are properly emplaced, the range card is accurate and complete, and the sector sketch is accurate and complete, the trail TL will begin preparing the men in the ORP for night movement IAW the SL’s additional instructions. Remember that every man will pull 3-5 meters off the line when prepping equipment. 

Throughout this entire process, the trail TL will continue to monitor the men on the perimeter to ensure they are alert and security is being maintained. He will also monitor the RTO to ensure he is listening to the radio.  

  1. ID Release Point / SLLS 

After moving approximately half the distance to the OBJ, the SL begins looking for a suitable place for the release point (RP). The characteristics of a good RP are the same as for an ORP, with the addition that it has an easily identifiable feature so it is easy to locate. The RP is out of sight of the OBJ, but not necessarily out of sound. 

Once the SL finds a suitable location for a RP, the SL signals the lead team leader to halt and occupy the RP. The squad conducts a security halt at the release point in the same manner as during the leader’s recon for the ORP. After halting, the Squad conducts SLLS. Once SLLS is complete, the squad places their rucks according to the rucksack plan, while maintaining security. 

The SL first places his rucksack according to the rucksack plan, in the center of the RP. The SL places it frame down with the cat eyes facing towards the ORP. Next, the lead TL places his rucksack to the left of the SL. The security men for R&S 1 and 2 then place their rucks down behind their R&S team leader’s rucksack. The personnel on S/O place their rucksacks down last. The SL ensures the elements drop their rucksacks in the correct order.  When soldiers are not placing their rucksacks down, they pull security. Once the element finishes dropping  rucksacks, the element moves up and pinpoints the OBJ. If the SL has not already issued the 5-point to the S/O, the SL does it in the RP. Depending on METT-TC, the SL may elect to leave the security personnel for R&S 1 and 2 in the RP while the SL pinpoints the OBJ. If the SL chooses to leave anyone, he issues a 5-Point to these personnel at this time. To ensure the RP is easily identifiable, each man looks back at the RP when the element begins moving up to the OBJ. 

  1. Pinpoint the OBJ  

Soldiers in the recon elements must use max stealth as they move to the OBJ and maintain situational awareness at all times as there may be an enemy on the OBJ. The soldiers also want to utilize their binos to maximize stand-off range between the OBJ and the recon elements. This helps the recon elements avoid compromising their positions.  

When the SL can see what he believes is the OBJ, the element halts. The SL and the lead TL move forward so the SL and lead TL can pinpoint the OBJ. While staying in a covered and concealed position, the SL and lead TL pull out their maps and compasses to pinpoint their position and determine whether or not this is the OBJ. While the lead TL and SL are doing this, the lead team automatic rifleman and the trail team grenadier provides local security for them. 

  1. Confirm, Change, Abort  

After the SL and lead TL determine that they are at the OBJ, the SL has to decide to confirm, change or abort the plan. If the initial plan works with the ground, the SL confirms the plan. However, the SL may see the need to change certain parts of the plan because the terrain does not support the plan he briefed. For example, if the terrain on the site does not offer vantage points on both sides of the OBJ, the SL may decide to only use one R&S team. Another option is the SL may abort. Reasons for aborting the mission could be aggressive counter recon patrols from the enemy that prevent recon elements from conducting eyes on the OBJ or insufficient time to complete the mission. If the SL has to abort, the SL extracts all personnel on the leader’s recon back to the ORP. Once there, the SL contacts higher for further guidance. 

If the SL and lead TL decide to confirm or change the plan, they look for several things:  

  1. Vantage points – The SL and lead TL look for vantage points around the OBJ area for each R&S team to use. The side of the OBJ which provides the best vantage points is the side of the OBJ the SL takes for R&S 1. 
  2. An LOA – The SL looks for an LOA for the OBJ. The LOA is an easily identifiable feature that splits the OBJ. The SL uses this as a control measure recon to ensure that both R&S teams do not run into each other during the recon. The SL looks for this feature on the far side of the OBJ. Example features are a tree or road.  
  3. Targets/Sectors of Fire – The SL designates targets and sectors of fire for the S&O team. If the enemy compromises an R&S team, the S&O team can engage these targets.  

Additionally, if the SL and lead TL gain all the PIR from this location, they do so and withdraw all personnel back to the ORP. There is no reason to get greedy and risk compromising the element if the SL and lead TL can gain all the PIR from this location. 

  1. Emplace S&O

After the SL verifies these important details, he locates a position to emplace S/O team. The position should provide the S/O team with cover and concealment and still enable them to observe the OBJ and obtain accurate PIR. The SL wants a position far enough away from the OBJ so there is a lower chance of any enemy counter-recon  patrols compromising the S&O team’s position, but close enough to be able to employ all the weapon systems at that position. 

Once the SL locates this position, he briefs the S&O personnel on the LOA and Vantage points and issues the S&O team sectors of fire and the priority of engagement for the identified targets. 

After the SL ensures that the S&O team understands his instructions, he emplaces the S&O team in the prone position. The automatic rifleman faces towards the OBJ and the grenadier faces away from the OBJ. The two soldiers interlock their feet to utilize the tap code. After the S/O team is in position, the SL conducts a final radio check and finishes the emplacement. 

Once the SL emplaces the S/O team and verifies that they are ready to begin collecting PIR, he informs the S/O team that their 5-point contingency plan is in effect. Then, the SL and the lead TL move back to the RP to begin the recon.  

  1. Conduct Recon  

At the RP, the SL and the lead TL confirm the LOA, vantage points, time, and compromise plan. Then, they ensure that all personnel understand the same information. Next, both teams begin their recon of the OBJ. The R&S teams move to their vantage points, gather PIR in the SALUTE format, and draw sketches of the OBJ. The example on my board shows that the best vantage points were available to the east so that is where R&S 1 recons. R&S 2 recons the west side of the OBJ. 

A few things the R&S teams need to remember when conducting their recon are:

  1. Cloverleaf – The R&S teams bound back and away from the OBJ as they move from vantage point to vantage point.
  2. Use Maximum Stealth – Soldiers use the appropriate IMT for the terrain and vegetation. If soldiers high-crawl into a position, they need to high-crawl back out.
  3. Use Cover and Concealment – Soldiers use all available cover and concealment to prevent the enemy from detecting their movement. This also serves to assist in the event that soldiers get compromised.
  4. Never Parallel the OBJ – Soldiers move around the OBJ without moving parallel to the OBJ because they want to avoid detection by enemy forces.  
  5. Stand-Off - Soldiers want to use maximum stand-off range from the OBJ to prevent detection. They use their binos to assist in gathering PIR from an extended distance.  

As each R&S team approaches its next vantage point they conduct a radio check with the S&O  position to ensure it is safe to approach the objective and gather PIR. This prevents an R&S team from being  surprised by a drastic change in the situation on the OBJ, such as the presence of a larger enemy since the last time the R&S team had eyes on the OBJ. As the R&S team occupies its vantage point the R&S TL faces towards the OBJ, his security man faces away from the OBJ with their feet interlocked to utilize the tap code and provide 360-degree  security. When the R&S TL has determined that he has collected all the PIR he has the security man face towards the OBJ, and while maintaining noise and light discipline confirms what the TL has gathered, then moves to the next vantage point.  

Both R&S teams continue to conduct their recon of the OBJ until one of four things happen:  

  1. Time- They run out of time
  2. PIR- They collect all PIR
  3. LOA- They reach the LOA
  4. Compromised- They become Compromised

Once an R&S team runs out of time, gains all the PIR, or reaches the LOA, they return to the RP. I will brief their actions if they get compromised at the end of this period of instruction.  

  1. Confirm PIR at Release Point 

After both R&S teams have returned to the RP, the R&S teams conduct SLLS. When SLLS is complete, the R&S teams compare PIR. If there are major discrepancies in the PIR and the SL has time remaining to conduct the recon of the OBJ, they flip-flop sides. One example of a major discrepancy is the lead TL sees three (3) trucks and the SL sees none. To save time in moving into vantage points, the R&S TLs change security men when they move to  recon the opposite sides of the OBJ. The reason they do this is that the security man has already been to the vantage points on that side of the OBJ and can lead the R&S TL to each vantage point. This security man already knows the route to those vantage points. 

  1. Withdrawal and Extract S/O 

Once the recon of the OBJ is complete and the SL is ready to withdraw from the OBJ, he must first extract the S&O team from their position. The SL has two ways to do this. He can call them on his MBITR and tell them to withdraw back to the RP. The other method is the SL and the lead TL move to the S&O team’s position and motion to the trail team grenadier to withdraw. The trail team grenadier then taps the lead team automatic rifleman three times and the team secures all of their equipment and moves to the SL’s location. Once all personnel are at the RP, the element conducts SLLS. Once SLLS is complete, the SL confirms the PIR that the lead team automatic rifleman gathered from the S&O position. If there is any PIR from the S/O team that the SL wants to confirm and there is time remaining, then the SL and the lead team automatic rifleman move back to the OBJ so the SL can get eyes on that PIR. Then, the two soldiers return to the RP. 

Once the SL confirms all the PIR, he gets 100% accountability of men, weapons and equipment. After verifying accountability, the SL calls the trail TL via FM and tells him the recon element is returning to the ORP. This is the far recognition signal. The recon element moves to the ORP in the same FOOM that the element used when moving to the RP. Prior to reaching the ORP, the lead TL stops and exchanges the near recognition signal  with the trail TL. 

When the trail TL receives the call that the recon element is returning to the ORP, he moves around the ORP perimeter and transitions the men into the short halt posture. Additionally, the trail TL tells the men in the ORP that the recon element is returning. After the trail TL ensures everyone is in the short halt posture, he moves to the side of the perimeter where the recon element departed. The trail TL prepares to exchange the near recognition signal and count the element back into the ORP. 

When the recon element moves into the ORP, all personnel return to their original positions and assume the short halt posture. Once the whole squad is in the ORP, the squad conducts SLLS. The squad conducts SLLS to ensure no enemy tracked the recon element from the OBJ. Once SLLS is complete, the SL decides if the ORP is  secure enough to disseminate information. If not, the squad needs to move to a more secure site to disseminate information. If the SL determines that the ORP is secure enough to disseminate info, then the recon element disseminates info in the ORP. 

  1. Report: Salute / Disseminate

If the SL determines that the squad needs to move, the SL gets 100% accountability of Men, Weapons, and Equipment. Then, the squad moves a minimum of 1,000 meters or a major terrain feature away from the OBJ. This depends on METT-T/C. Once the squad moves a major terrain feature or 1,000 meters away, the SL gives the lead TL the signal/command to halt. 

The squad halts as previously described. When all movement ceases, the squad conducts SLLS. 

When SLLS is complete, the SL issues tasks, conditions, and standards to the TLs to set the perimeter. The SL gives instructions on strong-pointing the positions and transitioning the men into the long halt posture. The SL emplaces the MG team while the TLs emplace their men. Once this is complete, the SL spot checks to ensure his standards are met. 

Once the men are in the long halt posture, the trail TL ensures the squad maintains security. The lead TL, the lead team automatic rifleman, the RTO, and the SL begin to consolidate the PIR and prepare the SALUTE report  for higher. 

The RTO consolidates the PIR using carbon paper so he can make three additional copies of the consolidated PIR. On one side of the paper the RTO consolidates the PIR into a SALUTE format. The RTO makes a military sketch on the other side. If the SL has any doubts as to what PIR the squad has gathered, or the SL is not  satisfied, he may pull the security personnel from R&S 1, 2 or the S&O into the center to help prepare the SALUTE report. When the SALUTE report and military sketch has been completed, the SL gives the lead TL T, C, and S on how he wants him to disseminate the PIR to his men. TL’s when you disseminate the PIR go to each man and during periods of GV show them the SALUTE format and military sketch, as well as brief them. Also ensure that the men know that a paper copy of the PIR is water-proofed in the left breast pocket of the ATL, BTL, the SL, and RTO’s ACU top.  

The lead TL starts briefing his personnel at the 9 o’clock position and moves in a clockwise manner through the 12 o’clock to the 3 o’clock position. The trail TL is in the center and the SL issues him the same T, C, and S for  dissemination of info that he gave the lead TL with the exception that the trail team leader will begin disseminating at the 3 o’clock to the 6 o’clock to the 9 o’clock.  

  1. Spot Check / OPSKED  

Before the SL sends the TLs out to disseminate the information to the squad, The SL gets a brief back and issues a time hack. When the TLs are done disseminating the PIR and return to the center of the perimeter, The SL goes and spot checks the teams and ensures everyone knows the PIR. If the SL is not satisfied, he will reissue T, C and S and the TLs re-disseminate the PIR. The TLs do this until the SL’s T, C, and S are met or until the SL has the RTO make 12 individual copies of the PIR for each person in the squad. When the SL is satisfied that everyone knows the PIR, he has the RTO call in the OPSKED to higher for mission complete. 

  1. Compromise Plan  

The SL determines to conduct a squad attack or break contact if at any time during the operation the squad makes contact or is compromised while the entire squad is together. 

If any element is separated from the squad, such as during the recon of the ORP or while conducting the Recon of the OBJ, the element reacts to contact in accordance with the 5-point contingency plan the SL issues. 

If the enemy compromises an R&S team during the recon of the OBJ, the team in contact immediately returns a high volume of fire, attempts to suppress the enemy, and bounds back and away from the OBJ to the RP. Keep in mind that the enemy may conduct a recon by fire. This means the enemy may hear something in the wood line and shoot at it to see if it is us. Enemies may also test fire their weapons. A team knows the enemy has compromised the team if the team takes effective fire. In other words, the team has rounds impacting around it.

The R&S team not in contact will bound back and away from the OBJ back to the RP, without firing a shot.

The S&O team when it knows the enemy compromises an R&S team because there will be fire from the OBJ into the wood line and from the wood line back onto the OBJ. When the S&O confirms that an R&S team is in contact, the S&O team engages the targets by the priority the SL designated during the S&O emplacement. The S/O team continues to fire onto the OBJ until the lead team automatic rifleman expends one drum of SAW ammo onto the OBJ at a rapid rate of fire. Once the lead team automatic rifleman expends the drum, the S/O team polices up their equipment and moves back to the RP. At the RP, all elements wait 5 minutes to link up with the other recon elements. Once there is 100% accountability of men, weapons, and equipment or 5 minutes pass, the recon element picks up their rucksacks and moves back to the ORP. Once at the ORP, the squad ensures 100% accountability of men, weapons, and equipment. Then, the squad moves 1,000 meters or a major terrain feature away and calls higher for further guidance.

NOTE ON LIMITED VISIBILITY

If any portion of your recon takes place during limited visibility, refer to the training you received in the Formation and Order of Movement period of instruction. In particular, take note of moving in a modified wedge, halting, conducting SLLS, and pinpointing. (More on FOOM here)

This was a summary of how you will be expected to conduct area reconnaissance at Ranger and Sapper School. 

You can continue learning by reading about Squad Ambush.

Squad Ambush can be found here.

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