The reference for this technique for “Crossing a Small Open Danger Area” can be found on page 6-8 and A-10 of your Ranger Handbook.
Let me introduce you to the “20 Board” above. In the center of the board, there is a graphic representation of an open area. The left portion of the board contains administrative notes that will help you follow along. To the left of the open area is an example of the contour method. This graphic is accompanied by administrative notes that pertain to the contour method. To the right of the open area, there is an example of the detour bypass method. This graphic also comes with administrative notes that pertain to the detour bypass method.
At the bottom center portion of my board, there is a Near Side Rally Point (NSRP), which is 300 meters on a back azimuth from the open area. At the top center point of the board, there is a Far Side Rally Point (FSRP) that is 300 meters on mission azimuth from the open area. In this scenario, the squad is traveling to the North or from the bottom of the board to the top.
OPEN DANGER AREAS
You should never plan your route to go through an open danger area. Therefore, all open danger areas that you come across during movement are considered unknown. Since the danger area is unknown, the rally points are not planned and are considered "floating" rally points. The near side rally point is 300 meters on a back azimuth and the far side rally point is 300 meters on mission azimuth for small open danger areas. Keep in mind that the floating rally points are 300 meters from where contact is made with the enemy.
You must avoid all open danger areas. Moving your element through an open danger area greatly increases the chances of making contact with the enemy by direct or indirect fire. The importance of conducting a detailed map reconnaissance of your routes cannot be overstated.
Additionally, TIME is the determining factor when deciding if an open danger area is small or large. The time you have available determines how you will negotiate the open danger area.
If you HAVE TIME to bypass the open danger area, it is a small open danger area and you bypass it. If you DO NOT HAVE TIME to bypass it and must cross the open danger area, it is considered a large open danger area.
For example, let's say that you are patrolling in a wooded area and you come across an open area the size of Fryar Drop Zone. For those of you who are not airborne qualified, Fryar Drop Zone is an open area several kilometers long and wide.
Now if you have the TIME to bypass Fryar Drop Zone, you treat it as a small open danger area. For example, if you have a whole day to get to the far side, then you treat it as a small open danger area and bypass it using either the contour or detour bypass methods.
However, if you only have 30 minutes to get to the far side of Fryar Drop Zone, you treat it as a large open danger area and use the bounding overwatch movement technique to move across it.
ACTIONS AT OPEN DANGER AREAS
Once the lead Team Leader (TL) sees a potential danger area, he gives the hand and arm signal for halt and danger area. To signal “halt,” raise hand to head level, fingers extended and joined. (See example below) To signal “danger area,” draw the right hand, palm down, across the neck in a throat-cutting motion from left to right. (See example below) Next the squad halts, and establishes a 360-degree perimeter in the Short Halt Posture.
The SL does a quick visual check to ensure that security is established then moves his way up to the lead TL’s position.
The lead TL tells the SL why he has halted, for example when there is an open area in front of the squad.
The SL has the squad conduct SLLS to check for any enemy activity in and around the area because an enemy force might be in the area.
The SL and TLs then pinpoint their current location on the map. If the SL understands where the squad is on the map and terrain, he improves his chances of making a sound tactical decision on how to negotiate the danger area. This also helps the SL develop a course of action in the event the squad makes contact with the enemy. Additionally, pinpointing helps the SL identify if the squad drifted off the planned route and moved to an open area that the SL planned to avoid.
After pinpointing, the SL and lead TL move forward using cover and concealment to avoid detection during their recon of the potential open danger area. If it is an open danger area, the SL must conduct an assessment and develop a course of action.
The SL must consider:
- Is this an open danger area?
- Does he have enough time to move his squad around it? If he does have enough time to move around it, then the squad treats the danger area as a small open danger area. However, if he does not have enough time to bypass it, he treats it as a large open danger area.
SMALL OPEN DANGER AREAS
In this case, the SL determines that his squad has enough time to bypass the open area. The SL must then decide on which method his squad will use to bypass it. Again, there are two methods for negotiating a small open danger area: the contour method and the detour-bypass method.
THE CONTOUR BYPASS METHOD
The contour bypass method is the most preferred method to use when bypassing an open danger area because it gives the squad flexibility in the route around the open danger area. When conducting the recon, the SL has to confirm three things in order to utilize the contour method:
- First, the contour bypass method requires good visibility and the SL must be able to see a prominent feature on the far side of the open area that is on the mission azimuth. A prominent feature can be a huge rock, a fallen tree, a burned out car or anything that sticks out. The squad must be able to find that object when it reaches the far side of the danger area. The squad uses this prominent feature as a navigational aid. It enables the squad to get back on its original mission azimuth once it reaches the far side.
- Second, the SL must have an approximate (estimated) distance between his present location on the near side of the open area and the prominent feature on the far side of the open area. The ability to estimate the distance to the prominent feature on the far side of the open area is the primary reason that this method must be used in hours of good visibility. However, if the squad has a laser range finder, the SL can use this method in periods of limited visibility as well.
- Third, the SL finds the most covered and concealed route around the open area from his squad's present location to the prominent feature on the far side of the open area. For example, on the 20 board the SL and lead TL determine that the route that affords the best cover and concealment is on the left side of the open area.
The SL confirms this information with the lead TL and moves back to the squad's security halt. After returning to the security halt, the SL briefs the TLs on the situation.
Both TLs quickly disseminate the information to their teams and move to the apex of their formations. The TLs must confirm with the pace men the squad's mission pace at this point. Also, the TLs must ensure that the pace men do not add to the mission pace count as the squad moves around the open area. The SL takes a quick visual accountability of the squad and signals the lead TL to move out.
The lead TL chooses a route that keeps everyone in the squad a minimum of 25 meters from the open danger area and moves around the open danger area. It is every squad member's responsibility to ensure that they stay concealed from the open area. The personnel on the flank of the formation that are closest to the open area may have to "flex" their locations in the formation to stay concealed. The squad continues to move until they reach the prominent feature on the far side of the open area.
After reaching the far side of the open danger area, the TLs check with their pace men and ensure that the pace men add the SL’s approximation of the distance across the open area to the mission pace count.
For example, pretend that at the near side of the open area the mission pace was 2500 meters. The SL estimated the distance from this point to the prominent feature on the far side to be 500 meters. So, after the squad moves around the open area to the prominent feature on the far side, the pace men's mission pace should be 3,000 meters.
After the squad is clear of the open danger area, they continue with the mission.
USING THE DETOUR BYPASS METHOD
The detour bypass method is not the preferred bypass method. The detour bypass method is simply a series of 90-degree turns used to “box” around a danger area. The squad must move the same distance on the bypass legs and make exactly 90-degree turns in order to make it back to their original route. The detour bypass method uses simple math to get the squad back on its route on the far side of the open area. But, any obstacle the squad encounters while bypassing the open area can cause the simple math equation to fail. Therefore, if the squad utilizes the detour bypass method, it must exercise extreme attention to detail to ensure that it conducts the method correctly.
During the recon of the small open danger area, if the SL and lead TL determine that:
- There is no prominent feature on the far side of the open area that the squad could use to get back on mission azimuth.
- It is not possible to see and estimate the distance to the far side of the open area.
- There is limited visibility and the squad has no laser range finder or GPS device.
If the SL and lead TL find that any of these conditions are true, the SL has to use the detour bypass method to negotiate his way around the open area. The SL and lead TL still determine which side of the open area affords the squad the most covered and concealed route around the open area. Again, a good map recon helps the SL develop this course of action.
Once the SL decides to use the detour bypass method, he simply tells the lead TL whether he wants the squad to travel to the left or right around the open area.
The SL briefs the TLs on the situation and gives them time to brief their men. The TLs need to ensure that their compass and pace men understand that the squad is using the detour bypass method. In this situation, the SL may decide to use primary and alternate compass and pace men. Once the squad is ready to move, the SL gives the order to move out.
The detour bypass method is simply a series of 90-degree turns. This technique uses a simple mathematical process to bypass or “box” around an area. Once the squad is on the far side of the open area, it returns to its original heading.
In this example, the SL decides the squad will bypass the open area on its right side because this side provides the most covered and concealed route.
When using the detour bypass method, you should utilize the acronym RALS. RALS stands for Right Add, Left Subtract. When you turn right, you should add 90 degrees to your azimuth. When you turn left, you should subtract 90 degrees from your azimuth.
In this example, the squad’s mission azimuth is 360 or 0 degrees. Their near side mission pace count is 1500 meters. Since the SL determined the right side is the best side to bypass the open danger area, the squad’s first change of direction is a 90-degree turn to the right. Since the squad is traveling on a 0-degree azimuth and uses the acronym RALS, it turns right and adds 90 degrees to the mission azimuth.
The squad continues to travel on this heading until the squad passes the entire width of the open area. The squad must keep an accurate pace count for this movement. This leg of travel is an alternate leg. The pace count is important because when the squad reaches the far side of the open area, they must move the same distance to get back on their original route. In this example, the distance that the squad has to travel to bypass the width of the open danger area is 400 meters.
Once the squad moves past the width of the open area, it must turn left to get back on its mission azimuth. Using RALS, the squad subtracts 90-degrees from its azimuth. This puts them back on a 0-degree azimuth. The squad then travels the length of the open area on this azimuth. Remember, the pace men must count and add the distance the squad travels on this leg to their mission pace count. In this example the squad moves 500 meters to bypass the open area and reach the far side. Then, the squad turns left and subtracts 90 degrees from the azimuth. In this example, this puts the squad on a 270 degree azimuth. Next, the squad moves the width of the danger area, which is the same distance they traveled on the first alternate leg.
In this example, the alternate leg down here was 400 meters. Therefore, the squad must move 400 meters on this alternate leg up here to get them back on the correct route on the far side of the open danger area.
After moving the correct distance for the width of the danger area, the squad makes a final turn to the right and adds 90 degrees to their azimuth. This puts the squad on its original mission azimuth, which in this example was a 360 or 0 degree azimuth. Now, the compass men keep the squad on mission azimuth and the pace men resume their mission pace count. In this example, the mission pace count should be 2000 meters.
Remember that the distance they traveled on this leg of movement was 500 meters. When the pace men add this distance to the original mission pace count of 1500 meters, the squad’s new mission pace count is 2000 meters or 2 KM.
Keep in mind that as the squad moves around the open danger area, the TLs and the SL ensure that everyone in the squad keeps a minimum distance of 25 meters and/ or out of sight of the open danger area. In addition, the lead TL spot checks the compass man and pace man at each leg to ensure accuracy. Once the squad negotiates the open danger area, it continues with the mission.
This was a summary of how you will be expected to cross small open danger areas at Ranger and Sapper School.
You can continue learning by reading about Crossing a Large Open Danger Area.
Crossing a Large Open Danger Area can be found here.