React to a Near/Far Ambush

React to a Near/Far Ambush

A battle drill is a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision making process. The reference for the Battle Drill “React to Direct Fire Contact” can be found on page 8-1, A-3 (Far Ambush) and A-4 (Near Ambush) of your Ranger Handbook. 

Let me familiarize you with the "20 Board" above. The board shows the squad reacting to a near/far ambush. On the left side, there are a few administrative notes that will help you follow along. To the right side, there is a 12-man infantry squad in squad column, fire team wedge. On the squad’s right is the enemy position depicted in red. Dashed lines represent proposed positions of the elements not in contact and the limit of advance (LOA). Notice that my board is color-coded but not personalized. While at Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course, you will color-code and personalize all of your boards. 


An ambush is a surprise attack by fire from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target. An element trapped in an ambush suffers a reduction or loss in combat effectiveness. Detailed route planning and terrain analysis reduce the chances of being ambushed. Knowing how to react if ambushed can save the lives of your soldiers.


A near ambush occurs within hand-grenade range, which is 35 meters or closer. 

Once the enemy engages the lead element, all personnel within that kill zone will immediately return fire to the enemy’s known or suspected locations, seek covered positions, and simultaneously throw fragmentary/ concussion/ smoke grenades. It is vital that the grenades are thrown at the same time because the detonations signal the element trapped in the kill zone to begin their assault. Any grenades thrown late will cause fratricide. Once the last grenade detonates, the element in the kill zone begins to assault through the ambush line in an attempt to eliminate or destroy the enemy’s positions. The element uses fire and maneuver techniques in this assault.

Elements not in the kill zone immediately provide suppressive fires against the enemy and take up covered positions. In this example, the HQ element and trail team are not in the enemy’s kill zone. These elements continue to suppress the enemy until the element in the kill zone begins their assault. When the assault begins, the supporting elements shift/lift their fires to allow the assault team to maneuver across the enemy’s positions.

Once across, the assault Team Leader (TL) identifies and establishes the LOA approximately 35 meters past the edge of the OBJ or at the last covered and concealed position. As soon as the elements not in the kill zone hear or see the LOA established, they move across the objective to join the assault element and establish their portion of the Limit of Advance (LOA).


  1. Establish 360-degree security. Once the entire squad is on the objective, the Squad Leader (SL) establishes a security perimeter and emplaces the MG team to cover the most likely direction of the enemy’s attack or a high-speed avenue of approach. This happens quickly in preparation for an enemy counterattack. If the Squad Leader establishes an “L” shaped perimeter as shown on the board, he faces the soldiers on the flanks out at a 45-degree angle to provide flank security.
  2. Gather ACE (Ammo, Casualties, Equipment) Reports. Once the squad establishes 360-degree security, the SL gathers for ACE reports. The TLs move to each soldier in their team and physically check each soldier to gather the ACE report information and verify sectors of fire.
  3. Re-establish the chain of command / key positions. Based on the ACE report, the SL designates personnel to replace any key leaders / personnel who were wounded or killed (Team Leaders, RTO).
  4. Re-man key weapons. If a SAW or M203 gunner is down, the Squad Leader designates a rifleman to assume those positions. Any casualties in the MG Team are handled team internal if possible.
  5. Re-distribute ammunition and mission essential equipment. TLs cross load within their own teams and the SL directs cross loading between teams. The leadership also takes mission essential equipment from casualties and distributes it within the team first and then the squad. The Bravo TL prepares an emergency resupply request if necessary.
  6. Report the situation to higher authorities. The SL produces a SALT report. The RTO sends the SALT and ACE reports to higher authorities. The RTO also calls in the emergency supply request when finished with the SALT and ACE reports.


Once the squad consolidates and reorganizes, the SL starts deploying his special teams. The first special team he calls to his position is the EPW and search team(s). The SL decides how many teams to use based on the following factors:

  1. Size of the enemy element encountered on the OBJ.
  2. Overall size of the OBJ area.
  3. The time before enemy reinforcements arrive.
  4. Number of men that can leave the perimeter without letting security fall.

EPW AND SEARCH TEAM – CLEAR OBJ: The SL gives tasks, conditions, and standards to the EPW and search team(s) on how he wants them to clear the OBJ. It is important that the SL gives clear and concise tasks, conditions, and standards so that time is not wasted on the OBJ. After the SL assigns each team part of the OBJ, the teams move two men abreast and clear their areas of anything that could pose a threat to the squad. After clearing, the teams return to the SL’s location and brief him on the number of enemy KIA, WIA, and anything else that could affect the squad.

AID AND LITTER TEAM: After the EPW and search teams clear the objective, the teams return to their place on the perimeter. If the squad sustains any casualties that require treatment or evacuation, the SL deploys his Aid and Litter teams. The SL gives tasks, conditions, and standards to the Aid and Litter team(s) on how he wants them to treat and evacuate casualties. The Squad Leader also designates the Casualty Collection Point (CCP). For this example, the SL decides to place the CCP inside the squad's perimeter. If the squad sustains casualties, the SL must consider how much time he has on the OBJ, if any, to conduct a detailed search for PIR given the amount of time it takes to conduct CASEVAC procedures.

EPW AND SEARCH TEAM – SEARCH THE OBJ: If the squad sustains no life threatening casualties and the SL determines that he has time to gather detailed PIR, he gives tasks, conditions, and standards to the EPW and search teams to conduct their search. The teams search all enemy personnel and the OBJ area. They call out what they find along the way using the code words “Black” and “Gold”. The SL assigns one soldier the code word of Black and the other as Gold. This technique is a control measure for information so the SL does not confuse the type and number of equipment found on the OBJ. For example, a soldier assigned the code word “Gold” who finds an AK-47 will call off “Gold, AK-47”.

The SL also gives each of the members of the EPW and search team a portion of the OBJ to search and identifies a consolidation point for all enemy equipment. If the teams find something that they cannot identify, they take the unknown equipment with them unless it interferes with the squad’s mission. If the equipment is too large to carry or hinders the mission, the teams take a picture or make a sketch of that equipment before destroying it in place.

The RTO must record all information the EPW and search teams call out. Additionally, the RTO keeps time by starting his stopwatch at the initial contact and calling out the time on the OBJ in one-minute increments.

DEMO TEAMS: Once the EPW and search teams consolidate all enemy weapons and equipment at the point the SL designated, the SL calls for the Demo team. The SL gives the Demo team tasks, conditions, and standards about how and where the Demo team should destroy the enemy equipment. The squad wants to destroy the equipment so that the enemy can no longer use it against friendly forces, but the squad may or may not have Demo. If the squad has no Demo, the team may destroy enemy weapons by field stripping the weapons and taking the bolts with the squad. If the squad has Demo, the Demo team prepares the charge, gives the M81 initiators to the SL, and returns their positions on the perimeter. At this point, the SL begins the withdrawal from the OBJ.


To begin the withdrawal from the objective, the SL must determine which team to send back first to recover their rucksacks. It is recommended that the SL sends the team that has the furthest to travel back first. This enables the squad to clear through the area where they dropped rucksacks in a controlled manner rather than having to pass one fire team through another, which potentially masks a team’s fires if the enemy counter-attacks. Moving the teams in a controlled manner assists in maintaining security and decreases the chance of fratricide.

If the Squad Leader has DEMO, he waits until the last team withdraws from the OBJ. When the last soldier from that team passes the SL, he pulls the M81 fuse igniters to ignite the time fuse. Once the SL sees the time fuse actually burning, he calls out “burning” and radios the message to his TLs. Once the SL successfully initiates the Demo charge, he and the RTO move from the OBJ to their rucksacks to get ready to move.

The SL will get a “thumbs up” from the TL confirming they have accountability of their Men, Weapons, and Equipment and are prepared to move. The SL gives the signal to move out and calls Higher with a complete SALUTE report.


A far ambush occurs beyond hand-grenade range, which is 35 meters away. In a far ambush, the element in contact (in this case the squad) reacts to contact and either conducts a squad attack (found here) or breaks contact (found here).The SL consolidates and reorganizes, reports the situation to Higher, and continues the mission.

One thing to note is that throughout React to Ambush, the SL should always consider using indirect fires. While at Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course, if you have someone who is EXTREMELY competent on calling for fire, use this to your advantage. 

This was a summary of how you will be expected to react to a near and far ambush at Ranger and Sapper School. 

You can continue learning by reading React to Indirect Fire.

React to Indirect Fire can be found here.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.