React To Contact

React To Contact

A battle drill is a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision making process. The reference for the Battle Drill “React to Contact” which is referred to as Battle Drill #1, can be found on page 8-1 and A-3 of your Ranger Handbook. 

Let me familiarize you with the "20 Board" above. The board shows the squad executing the React to Contact Battle Drill. On the left side, there are notes that will help you follow along. The lower right area displays a 12-man infantry squad in a squad column of fire team wedges. In the upper right portion of my board, there is an example of the lead team deployed after initial contact with the enemy. The enemy is depicted in red. Notice that this board is color coded, but not personalized. While at Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course, all of your boards will be color-coded and personalized.

When the squad makes initial contact with the enemy, every soldier occupies the nearest covered position. Covered positions include large trees, rocks and depressions. No one lies down in the open. The team in contact returns fire immediately. The team utilizes violence of action to try to overwhelm the enemy and gain fire superiority by firing at known or suspected enemy locations.

Anyone that sees the enemy sounds off with the 3 D’s. The 3 D’s are description, direction and distance. An example of the 3 D’s is “three enemy small arms, twelve o’clock, fifty meters.” This enables the team in contact to focus their attention and direct their fires on the enemy. The 3 D’s also inform the rest of the squad of the enemy location in reference to the squad and the size of the enemy. Every member of the squad echoes the 3 D’s to ensure the Squad Leader (SL) has the best information to start his assessment of the situation. The Team Leaders (TL) maintain visual or oral contact with every soldier in their teams. The TL whose team is in contact moves his team on line to effectively engage the enemy. He tries to gain fire superiority by using fire commands.

Fire commands are:

ALERT: The TL alerts the soldier to receive further instruction. “Saw Gunner”

DIRECTION: The TL points w/ his weapon or arm, uses tracers, or gives general direction. “Twelve o’clock”

DESCRIPTION: The TL describes the target. “Three enemy, small arms”

RANGE: The TL gives the range to the target. “Fifty meters”

RATE OF FIRE: The TL outlines the rate of fire he wants the soldier to use when engaging the enemy. “Cyclic, Rapid or Sustained” M249 and M240 rates are cyclic, rapid, and sustained. (See table 1 below)

COMMAND TO FIRE: The TL tells the soldier when to fire. Since they are in contact, if the TL wants the soldier to fire immediately after identifying the target, the TL just says “FIRE”.

An example of a set of fire commands is “Saw Gunner, 12 o’clock, 3 enemy, 50 meters, rapid, FIRE”

Rates of Fire
The rest of the squad members that are not in contact maintain good cover and concealment. They also pull flank and rear security to prevent enemy forces from enveloping the squad. At all times, soldiers ensure they have visual or oral contact between squad members to assist the TL in maintaining control. One technique of fire that enables this contact is SEARCH, FIRE and CHECK (SFC).

SEARCH: Soldiers search for known or suspected enemy locations in their sectors of fire.

FIRE: When in direct contact, soldiers engage the known / suspected locations with their weapon.

CHECK: Soldiers check the soldier and situation to their left/right/rear to check for commands from leaders and to maintain situational awareness.

When the SL hears the initial contact, he starts to assess the situation. The SL ensures that the rest of the HQ element is behind good cover and concealment and that there is flank and rear security. Then, he moves forward to get to the closest position to the team in contact WITHOUT becoming decisively engaged. The SL moves from covered and concealed position to covered and concealed position so that he can confirm the 3 D’s and communicate with the TL whose team is in contact.

When the SL reaches the lead team, he assesses the situation. This assessment needs to happen extremely fast. Remember your squad is being shot at and you could have Soldiers that may need a MEDEVAC. That is why knowing what you need to consider prior to going to Ranger or Sapper School is important. Factors they considers are:

  1. The ability of the squad to move out of the engagement area.
  2. The ability of the squad to gain and maintain suppressive fire.
  3. The actual location of the enemy.
  4. The size of the enemy force, especially compared to the squad.
  5. The type of weapons the enemy uses, especially crew served weapons.
  6. Whether the enemy position has any vulnerable flanks.
  7. Potential covered and concealed routes to the enemy’s flanks.

Additionally, the SL considers using indirect fires. Some considerations are:

  1. Priority / availability.
  2. Type and amount of support. (60mm Mortar – max range: 3,500m, 81mm Mortar – max range: 5,800m, 120mm Mortar – max range: 7,200m)
  3. Location of enemy in relation to the squad.
  4. Squad's location on map.
  5. Danger close (600m for all mortar systems) and whether indirect fires hinder or support the mission

The SL also assesses the enemy’s most probable course of action based on the information he has gathered from his assessment and his experience. Then, the SL determines whether to conduct a squad attack or break contact. After making his decision, the SL reports the situation to higher and begins to maneuver the squad.

Squad Attack can be found here.

Break Contact can be found here.


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