Squad Attack

Squad Attack

 A battle drill is a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision making process. The reference for the Battle Drill “Squad Attack” can be found on page 8-8 and A-11 of your Ranger Handbook. 

Let me familiarize you with the "20 Board" above. The board shows the squad executing the Squad Attack Battle Drill. On the left side, there are a few administrative notes that will help you follow along. On the right side, there is a 12-man infantry squad in movement formation. The dotted lines are all proposed positions. Notice that this 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. 

The Squad Attack Battle Drill usually takes place after a squad has taken initial contact from an enemy force. If you have not read it already, the React to Contact Battle Drill can be found here. After initial contact, the Squad Leader (SL) assesses the situation by determining the following:

  1. The ability of the Squad to move out of the engagement area
  1. The ability of the Squad to gain suppressive fire
  1. The location of the enemy
  1. The size of the enemy force relative to his squad.
  1. The type of weapons the enemy has and if they have crew served weapons.
  1. Potential vulnerable flanks of the enemy’s position.
  1. Potential covered and concealed routes to the enemy’s flanks.

The SL also has to consider using indirect fires prior to maneuvering the squad. Some considerations are:

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

The SL assesses the enemy’s most probable course of action based on the information he has gathered from his assessment and his experience. Based on his assessment, the SL determines that he will conduct a squad attack.

The SL tells the Team Leader (TL) in contact the following Information:

  1. His team is the “Base of Fire” element.
  1. The direction the assault element will attack. Example: "Flanking Right"
  1. The signals for lift/shift fires. Examples: FM, smoke, star cluster, or whistle blasts. (Note: This is something that should be decided in the planning process, but confirming this information is good practice.)
  1. That the machine gun (MG) or M240B is coming up, is under the TL's control, and issues engagement criteria to the TL (i.e. engage with the M240B only if two other weapon systems go down, if enemy reinforcement arrives, if the enemy uses crew served weapons, etc).

The TL can use the MG if he feels it is necessary in order to maintain fire superiority. Remember that using the MG gives the enemy a feeling of a larger force and may cause a withdrawal or a call for reinforcements.

Once the SL makes all his assessments and considers the use of indirect fire, he calls Higher with a situation report (SITREP). Before moving, the SL must decide whether to bring his radiotelephone operator (RTO) with him on the assault or leave him with the Support by Fire (SBF) Element as rear security. He considers that:

  1. By bringing the RTO on the assault, the SL maintains direct communications with Higher. This however could slow down the assault, because RTO must keep his rucksack on his back. 
  1. Leaving the RTO with the Support by Fire Element enables the assault to move faster, but the SL must relay information through the SBF Team Leader to the RTO.

Either way, the SL must decide before beginning to maneuver the Assault Team to the Assault Position.

Once the RTO is in position, the SL orders the squad to drop rucksacks. The SL then leads the Assault Element back and away from the SBF Element along a covered and concealed route towards their assault position. Once in position, the SL outlines the OBJ and gives the TL the left and right limits and direction of assault.

The Assault TL selects a covered and concealed route for his team to assault the OBJ. Then, he deploys his team on line and issues each soldier left and right limits and a lane with an identifiable terrain feature to assault towards. Examples of features are trees, rocks, and buildings. Assigning lanes helps prevent funneling. Once each soldier has a lane, the Assault TL begins to “creep” forward, keeping his team in a shallow wedge to control the movement and pace. He leads from the front until the team receives enemy fire or reaches the last covered and concealed position.

The SL positions himself wherever he can best control his support and assault elements. Generally, the best location for the SL is slightly behind the assault element. From here, the SL can assist and control the assault and signal the support element. This allows the assault Team Leader to focus on the fight.

At this point, the battlefield handover is crucial. The assault team must increase its rate of fire and suppress the enemy before the SL can give the support element the signal to shift fire. From this point forward, the assault team must provide its own suppressive fire.

The SL issues the shift fire signal immediately before the assault team begins its assault using the prearranged signals discussed earlier. Once the SL gives the shift fire signal and the SBF TL confirms it, the SL signals the assault TL to begin his assault. The SBF TL gives the command to shift fires to his team and the MG Team verbally. THIS IS CRITICAL. A failure to confirm that the SBF shifts their fires can result in fratricide. When the SL sees that the assault team is on the objective (OBJ), the SL signals the support element to lift fire.

While the assault team maneuvers across the OBJ utilizing individual movement techniques (IMT), the assault TL maintains visual or oral control of his team. During the assault, the team eliminates all hazards by destroying any enemy personnel that still pose a threat and removing any weapons found near the enemy.

As soon as the support TL receives the lift fire signal, he gives that command to his team and sends a confirmation signal to the SL that the team has lifted fire. After the SBF TL confirms the lift fire signal, he begins gathering an ACE (Ammo, Causalities, Equipment) report from his soldiers. During this time, his team must be prepared to resume firing in case the tactical situation on the OBJ changes and the assault team has to withdraw off the OBJ under fire.

Once across the OBJ, the Assault TL identifies and establishes the LOA (limit of advance). The LOA is approximately 35 meters past the edge of the OBJ or the last area that provides cover and concealment. The SL remains near the center of the OBJ to maintain control. As soon as the support TL hears “LOA”, he prepares to move his team and the MG team. Once the assault team is set on the LOA, the SL calls for the SBF to move up to the LOA.

Once SBF moves to the LOA and announces that, they have crossed it by calling "LOA". The SL begins "Consolidation and Reorganization" with the following steps. 


  1. Establish 360-degree security. Once the entire squad is on the objective, the 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.
  1. Gather ACE 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.
  1. 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).
  1. Re-man key weapons. If a SAW or M203 gunner is down, the Squad Leader designates rifleman to assume those positions. Any casualties in the MG Team are handled team internal if possible.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Overall size of the OBJ area.
  1. The time before enemy reinforcements arrive.
  1. Number of soldiers 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.


Above we detailed how to flank the enemy's position while conducting a squad attack. Flanking the enemy is the most preferred method because it can throw your enemy off balance and give your squad a better chance at defeating them. However, other techniques can be used:

  1. The SL can deploy both teams on line and conduct a frontal attack. This is not the most preferred technique when conducting a Squad Attack. A frontal attack exposes the men to the enemy's positions and fires.
  1. In the event of a chance contact with a small enemy force, the SL may have the lead team return fire and maneuver on the enemy’s position.

As an example, the squad may be moving through the woods on relatively flat terrain when the lead fire team encounters a one or two soldier enemy element with small arms 20 meters to their front. Now does it make sense to stop and wait for the SL to make a decision, attempt to flank a position 20 meters in front of another team, or allow the enemy time to react? No, it does not. That lead team in this scenario could immediately get on line and fire and maneuver on the enemy’s position.

One thing to note is that throughout Squad Attack, 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 perform Squad Attack at Ranger and Sapper School. The other option would be to break contact. 

Break Contact can be found here.

If you have already read Break Contact, you can continue learning by reading React to Near and Far Ambush.

React to Near and Far Ambush can be found here.

Leave a comment

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