Conduct a Link-up

Conduct a Link-up

The reference for this technique for “Crossing a Linear Danger Area” can be found on page 6-9 and A-8 of your Ranger Handbook. 

A link-up is a meeting of friendly ground forces. The link-up operation requires control, detailed  planning, execution, and stealth. Link-up procedures start as the unit moves to the link-up point. The standard for a link-up is that all friendly ground forces involved in the link-up successfully complete the link-up operation while sustaining no friendly casualties due to fratricide. 

Before we dive into the details, let me familiarize you with the “20 Board.” The north-seeking arrow is at the top right hand corner of the board. At the bottom center, there is the Security Halt, which has an associated grid location and terrain feature. On the left hand side of the board, there are the key terms, recon/contact team FOOM, and FM distribution. The link-up point is depicted in the top center of the board at a given grid location and terrain feature. Notice that “Ledo Access Road” is a named high-speed avenue of approach located in the vicinity of the link-up point. Finally, on the right hand side of the board you see administrative notes that will help you follow along. 

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.

Key Terms 

During this post, I will use the terms “moving element” and “stationary element”. The moving element is the element that moves to the link-up point. The stationary element is the element that waits at the link-up point. The stationary element establishes the link-up point, marks it, and has a security team observe it from a covered and concealed position. In addition to knowing the terms moving element and stationary element, you must also know the definitions of a link-up point, a link-up rally point, and a link-up site

  1. The link-up point (LP) is the actual point on the ground that the link-up elements try to find. Link-up points should be easily identifiable features on the ground. Examples of possible link-up points include roads, trails, intersections, piles of logs or trees, or a lone tree in the middle of an open area. The link-up  elements use this identifiable feature as a navigational aid to reach a point on the ground where they can establish a face-to-face link-up. Link-up points greatly expedite the link-up operation.  
  2. The link-up rally point (LURP) is the point that all link-up elements occupy after they link-up. This rally  point needs to have the same characteristics as an ORP and have the size to accommodate a security  perimeter for the combined link-up elements. For example, if three (3) squads conduct a link-up, the link up rally point must be large enough for all three squads to occupy it at the same time.  
  3. The link-up site (LUS) is the entire area surrounding the link-up point. This area includes all of the moving element’s security halts, the link-up point, and the link-up rally point. The link-up site can extend to a 1 KM radius outside the actual link-up point. The stationary element controls the movement of all friendly elements operating in the link-up site. Think of the stationary element as an air traffic controller or pathfinder controlling the approach of several aircraft into one Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ). 

As previously stated, the stationary element establishes the link-up point. The stationary element begins this process by conducting a security halt prior to reaching the LURP. The distance from the security halt to the LURP is 200-400 meters in GV and 100-200 meters in LV. The stationary element then conducts a recon, clears, and occupies the LURP. The distance from the LURP to the actual link-up point is 200-400 meters during GV or 100-200 meters in LV. The stationary element ensures the LURP is large enough for the entire moving element to occupy. Once the stationary element occupies the LURP, they send a security/contact team forward. This team performs actions following the acronym RIO.

    1. Recon the link-up site for enemy activity. 
    2. Identify the actual link-up point and mark it, if necessary. 
    3. Overwatch the actual link-up point from a covered and concealed position.  

The security/contact team must carry a radio in order to maintain communication with the moving elements. Maintaining communication assists in conducting the link-up operation and reduces the chance of  fratricide. While at Ranger/Sapper School your squads are the moving elements. The Cadre acts as the stationary element. All your link-up boards will be similar to this one above, which depicts the actions of a moving element. 

  1. Start/Stop 

The link-up begins at the security halt prior to the link-up point and ends with the call to higher with the OPSKED for link-up/truck link-up. 

  1. Security Halt/SHP

The distance between the security halt and the actual link-up point is 200-400 meters in GV or 100-200 meters in LV. 

  1. SLLS/Pinpoint 

After halting, the squad conducts SLLS and pinpoints their location.  

  1. Strongpoint 10,2,4,8, 240 MG / Long halt 

If the SL determines that the squad is in the correct location for the security halt, he has his TLs strong point their men and put them in the long halt posture. The SL emplaces the MG while the TLs emplace their men. As the TLs position their men in the long halt posture, they assign the men sectors of fire. During this time, the TLs also disseminate the following information, at a minimum: 

    1. The reason for the squad’s halt 
    2. The squad’s current location, using the map in GV or a 6 digit grid in LV 
    3. The distance and direction for the squad’s next movement 

The SL then prepares the men going on the recon of the link-up point. The SL, lead TL, lead team automatic rifleman, and RTO go on this recon. The SL gives tasks, conditions, and standards to the lead TL to do a quick prep of MWE (men, weapons, and equipment). This includes inspecting camouflage, ensuring weapons are locked and loaded with a fresh drum or magazine, and inspecting NODS if there is LV. All personnel on the recon take their rucksacks in case any element must break contact and E&E the enemy. Once the lead TL preps the men, the SL spot checks them. The lead TL inspects the SL.  

  1. Establish Commo 

As the personnel going on the recon prepare themselves, the SL has his RTO switch to the link-up  frequency and establish commo with the stationary element. By this time, the stationary element has reconned and marked the link-up point, and is performing over watch of that area. The SL has the RTO confirm the  following information, using the acronym RCC

    1. Request permission from the stationary element to move to the planned link-up point. This ensures that multiple squads do not probe for the link-up point at the same time. This reduces the chance of fratricide. 
    2. Confirm the link-up point location. The terrain/tactical situation may have changed the plan.  
    3. Confirm the markings/signals. Examples of marking are an orange VS-17 in GV, or a green chem light during periods of LV. An example near recognition signal in LV is a number combination with IR flashes. 

If the number combination is 5, the moving element gives 2 flashes, and the stationary responds with 3. This totals 5 IR flashes.  

Prior to ending your transmission, you must let the stationary element know which direction you are approaching the link-up point from. Keep in mind that this communication should confirm the link-up point location, markings, and signals given in Higher’s order (PLT OPORD) and/or received during coordinations. 

  1. 5 point/ BTL, ATL

At this time, the SL issues two 5-point contingency plans. The SL gives one to the trail TL to cover the period of the recon of the link-up point. The SL gives the second 5-point to the lead TL and lead team automatic rifleman for the period when the SL leaves them at the link-up point and returns to the security halt to move the remainder of the squad. 

The SL issues the 5-point plan using the acronym GOTWA. Going (where I am going), Others (others I am taking with me), Time (time I will be gone), What (what to do if I don’t return), Action (actions to be taken upon enemy contact both you and me). 

The 5-point to the trail TL should sound similar to this:  

Going: I am going to recon the link-up point  

Others: I am taking Ranger/Sapper (lead TL), Ranger/Sapper (lead team automatic rifleman) and Ranger/Sapper (RTO).  

Time: I will be gone for one hour. It is currently 2200 hrs. I will be back by 2300. 

What: If I am not back in one hour which is 2300, try to contact me by FM. If you can’t reach me, attempt to conduct the link-up with the stationary element at the link-up point. 

Actions: If I make contact, we will break contact and attempt to link-up with you here at the security halt. If we cannot or are tracked, 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 to the last ERP and conduct rally point procedures (establish security, reestablish a chain of command, attempt to contact me via FM, if you cannot contact me attempt to make contact with the stationary element at the link-up point and inform them of the situation, wait 45 minutes or until the remainder of the patrol has linked up then continue mission). 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 trail TL back briefs the SL. The SL also issues additional instructions to the trail TL to disseminate the  5-point, readjust the perimeter as needed, monitor the radio, and ensure the element maintains security. 

The SL then issues a 5-point contingency plan to the lead TL and the lead team automatic rifleman. Their 5- point sounds something 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 (RTO).  

Time: I will be gone for one hour. It is currently 2230. I will be back by 2330. 

What: If I am not back in 1 hour which is 2330, try to contact me via FM. If you can’t contact me, then take further guidance from the friendly element at the Link-up point. 

Actions: Regardless of who makes contact, both teams will break contact and not become decisively engaged. You two will take further guidance from the guide at the link-up point. The rest of the squad and I will attempt to reach the link-up point. If we cannot, we will establish a different link-up point via FM. 

The SL then receives a back brief from the lead TL. The SL also issues additional instructions to the lead TL that if he and his automatic rifleman are the only two surviving members of the squad, they must get the PIR to higher.  

  1. Conduct Recon of Link-up point 

After the SL issues the 5-points and spot checks the men going on the recon, he briefs the recon/contact team on: 

    1. The Route to the link-up point with specific details of terrain around the link-up point. 
    2. The markings that identify the link-up point. 
    3. The near recognition signals. The element has to prepare for any near recognition signal. 

After the SL briefs his men and the squad has permission to move up to the link-up point, the recon/contact team moves to the 12 o'clock to be counted out. Before departing, the SL will ensure that the lead TL and lead team automatic rifleman have a copy of the PIR on their person. Once he confirms both men are carrying a copy of the PIR, he then tells the RTO to call the stationary element and tell them that they are moving towards the link-up point. This is the far recognition signal. When the trail TL is ready to count out the recon/contact team, the SL  signals the lead TL to move out.  

In hours of GV, the recon/contact team uses the diamond formation. In hours of LV, the recon/contact team moves in the modified wedge. At this time, the trail TL’s 5-point contingency plan is in effect. Halfway to the link-up  point the recon/contact team stops and conducts SLLS. This is 100 meters during LV and 200 meters during GV. 

  1. SLLS 

During periods of GV, the recon/contact team disperses and uses hand and arm signals to initiate and terminate SLLS. During hours of LV, the recon/contact team is "back to back" and they utilize the "Squeeze" technique. When SLLS is complete, they use the same "Squeeze" technique to terminate SLLS. SLLS lasts for 3-5 minutes or for as long as the SL deems necessary. 

  1. Link-up Point Identification 

The recon/contact team continues to move forward, halting approximately every 50-100 meters to conduct SLLS until they make visual contact with the link-up point. 

Once the recon/contact team makes visual contact with the link-up point, they halt in a covered and concealed location that provides observation on the link-up point. Once in position, the lead TL and SL verify their location on the map to ensure that they are at the correct location. Once they have verified they are at their link-up point, the SL has the RTO call the stationary element to alert them that they have a visual on the link-up point. The recon/contact team also tells the stationary element their distance and direction from the link-up point, such as 50 meters to the south. The recon/contact team exchanges near recognition signals with the stationary element. When the stationary element receives the cue from the recon/contact team, they respond with the near recognition  signal.  

  1. Establish Link-up 

The recon/contact team initiates the near recognition signal and the stationary element responds. The reason that the recon/contact team initiates the near recognition signal is that the stationary element should not signal everything that moves around the link-up point. If they did, it would only be a matter of time before the stationary element, which is in a static position, gives their location away to enemy personnel.  

After the near recognition signal has been exchanged, the SL has the lead TL and lead automatic rifleman assume the long halt posture and provide over watch for the SL and RTO as they move forward to get face-to-face with the security team from the stationary element. The SL and RTO then move forward to get face-to-face with the personnel at the link-up point, ensuring that they don’t mask the fires of their overwatch position.  

As the SL and RTO move forward to get face-to-face with the security team, they need to plan on being halted and exchanging the challenge and password or the number combination. Be prepared to answer with both. Once the SL links up with the security team, he coordinates the following: 

    1. The SL identifies himself  
    2. The SL confirms the identity of the stationary element 
    3. The SL asks him how long the stationary element plans on being at its current location. 
    4. The SL tells him the number of personnel that he returns with. 
    5. The SL tells him how long it takes to bring the remainder of the squad up from the SH. 
    6. The SL tells him from what general direction the squad is coming from. 

The SL then calls up the remainder of the recon/contact team on overwatch and links up with the security team at the link-up point. The SL asks the personnel from the security team to take charge of the lead TL and lead automatic rifleman and get them back to a secure area in the event that enemy contact is made. The SL then tells the lead TL that his five point contingency plan is in effect. 

  1. Moving Squad to Link-up Point 

The SL and RTO move back to the security halt. Before leaving the link-up point, the SL calls back to the trail TL via FM and tells him to get the rest of the squad into the short halt posture and prepare them to move in  the proper order of movement. This is the far recognition signal.  

Once the trail TL gets the far recognition signal, he immediately moves to the side of the perimeter that the recon/contact team departed from and begins alerting the entire perimeter that the SL and RTO are on their way back. In addition, he places the men into the short halt posture and prepares them to move. The TL ensures the element maintains 50% security. Once the perimeter is alerted, the trail TL remains on the side the SL /RTO  departed from and prepares to exchange the near recognition signal and count them in. 

The SL and RTO move to the center of the perimeter and to conduct SLLS. Once SLLS is complete, the SL disseminates any necessary information to the trail TL and the lead rifleman, who is now in charge of the remainder of the lead team. This includes the route back to the link-up point, site markings, etc. The SL allows the lead rifleman and trail TL time to disseminate the information to their men. 

The OOM to the link-up point is the remainder of the lead team, followed by HQ, followed by the trail team. When the squad is prepared to move to the link-up point, the SL calls the lead TL and tells him that they are moving forward. This is the far recognition signal. The SL tells the RTO to call the security element and tell them the squad is moving forward. This is also a far recognition signal. 

During periods of LV, the trail TL establishes a chokepoint at the front of the movement formation and conducts a physical headcount as the squad moves out. 

When the lead rifleman has visual contact with either the link-up point or the lead TL the lead rifleman halts the patrol. The SL moves to the front of the formation and exchanges the near recognition signals. 

Once the entire squad links up with the stationary element, they are guided to a location to establish a security perimeter at the link-up rally point (LURP) or load onto trucks. In either case, the squad continues to establish and maintain 360-degree security until they return to higher’s security perimeter. 

  1. OPSKED

The SL has the RTO call in the OPSKED for link-up complete or at truck link-up site, whichever is applicable.  

  1. ACTIONS ON CONTACT/COMPROMISE PLAN 

These are the proper actions on enemy contact. 

    1. If the squad is together as a whole, the SL reacts to contact and conducts squad attack or break contact. 
    2. If any element is separated from the squad, they react to contact in accordance with the given 5-point contingency plan. This might occur when the element recons the link-up point. 
    3. If the squad is moving toward the link-up point, the SL issues verbal instructions and the squad performs the appropriate battle drill. The SL then calls the stationary element for guidance about conducting the link-up or establishing an alternate link-up site. 
    4. If the entire squad is linked-up with the stationary element, the SL takes all directions from the  stationary element in the event of contact.  

This was a summary of how you will be expected to conduct a link-up at Ranger and Sapper School. 

You can continue learning by reading about Area Reconnaissance.

Area Reconnaissance can be found here.


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