Archive for the 'Satellite Patrols' Category



Do Marines Know How to Patrol?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

From Tom Ricks’ blog concerning one Marine NCO’s view of patrolling:

We have to get back our patrolling capabilities.  Ninety percent of everything we do is patrolling but we aren’t good at it.  The Iraq experience has done some good things for our Corps but it has diminished our patrolling capabilities.  Our NCOs’ experience in Iraq has fostered a sure knowledge that the double column is the preferred formation and moving along roads is acceptable, which are exactly the wrong things to do.  Right now we operate at an acceptable level but with some focused training we can limit our casualties, while killing more of the enemy.  Everyone can spout 5-3-5 rules but few know what it is and even fewer practice it.

A)   Each patrol needs a viable mission that accomplishes a needed task.  Going here because we went over there yesterday is beyond stupid and you are failing as a leader with that reasoning.

B) Go through the orders process in its entirety when able.  At a minimum do route planning and brief an order covering Situation (past 24 or 48 hours and other patrols) Mission (what, where and purpose), Execution (intent, where you expect to make contact or find IEDs and actions when that happens, IA drills for contact, IED strike, Medevac, and cover formation types – where you will satellite/guardian angel, wedge echelon etc).

C) Do a confirmation brief with the platoon commander.

D) Conduct Initial and Final Inspections.

E) Use an Initial Rally Point inside the wire to conduct your final inspection, do last minute rehearsals or rehearsal of concept drills, final com checks, get in your initial combat formation and be counted out of the wire by the APL – use your APL, most of the Marines now days don’t even know what that is.

F) Point men need to be trained along with flanks.  Use a dual point system – one guy looking close for IED threat and one far scanning tree lines.  Walk at a pace that facilitates your mission, not which gets you back to the patrol base quicker.

G) Take security halts and observe your surroundings frequently.  Have one of your patrol elements set up in observation covertly while the other element moves into the village.  Watch the actions the locals do.  Want atmospherics, see if there are runners or people move towards the patrol to greet them.  If something happens, this observation team is already set as a base of fire.

H) Investigate what is happening.  Marines often see locals doing routine tasks, like pumping water or kids playing, when if they investigated vice just continuing to patrol on by, they would see the hole perfectly shaped for an IED amongst the playing children dug by the guy with a pick axe being shielded by the pretty kids playing in the road.  The Taliban are masters at using the obvious to deploy IEDs right under your nose.

I) Use deception.  Send out two patrols at a time in different directions, and then have one circle back.  All too often we rotate patrols in and out.  The Taliban quickly figure out that if the patrol just went west, he has complete freedom of movement to the East.

J) Use Satellites, traveling and bounding over watch and a variety of formations to match the threat.

K) Do not set patterns.

L) Stay the fuck off of roads and trails.  I believe that every casualty our battalion has taken from IEDs, with the exception of two incidents, has been on a road or trail and it has been at times when the Marines were not required to be on the road or trail as part of a sweep/clearance mission.

M) Use rally points.

N) Use the appropriate formation to be in the most advantageous position to immediately gain the initiative and kill the enemy.  We are very lacking in this area and a lot of our squad leaders just don’t get it.  Use TDGs and a variety of training scenarios to get them up to speed and understand a variety of terrain and tactical based scenarios.

O) Crossing Linear Danger areas is a lost art, especially when a patrol will walk three hundred meters along a canal to find a foot bridge to cross it – terrible at setting patterns, just walk through the water but set up near and far side security first and use a variety of techniques so you don’t set patterns.

I’ll leave it to the reader to finish the diatribe at Tom’s blog.  Every boot learns from the experienced Marines before him, and so on the process goes.  Many of the Marines with Iraq experience have since left the Corps, and thus many Marines deploying to Afghanistan have no combat experience.  But neither did the Marines who deployed to the Anbar Province the first time.

Patrolling in Anbar took on the characteristics that it needed in order to succeed.  Patrolling in the Helmand Province will do likewise, retaining some characteristics that have been learned from Iraq and jettisoning others, while modifying the skill set to adapt to the environs.

Satellite patrolling has been around for a while and will continue as a useful tactic.  This NCO doesn’t need to tell Marines what a satellite patrol is – they already know, and they know how to do it.  But if standard two by two cover formation along roads isn’t appropriate for Helmand because of IEDs and canals are safer and more productive, the Marines will pick it up and adapt quickly.

This NCO is exaggerating about the Marines’ need to learn patrolling.  Not everyone who screams that we don’t know how to do counterinsurgency has the most objective view of things or deserves to have his views cast as representing the entire service.  Something that should be taught to young Marines by his superiors isn’t necessarily the same thing as tactical incompetence on the part of the entire force.

Satellite Patrols

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

The tactical brother of the highly strategic Field Manual FM 3-24 has been released, entitled Tactics in Counterinsurgency, FM 3-24.2.  There are certain Milblogs that are known as the beer drinkers in the outer room, raucous and loud.  You know who they are.  Then there are the more sophisticated guys smoking cigars and drinking Bourbon in a more secluded room.  The Captain’s Journal likes to think of itself in the later category.  From time to time the loud boys break into the back room and want to throw down, and we can do that too.  But soon enough we go back to our high brow thoughts and pedantic ways while we draw on a Macanudo.

But our grunt ties come through all of the time, truth be told.  We just can’t hide it.  That’s why we are more of a logistics, weapons and tactics blog rather than a strategy blog, and we secretly break into the outer room to throw down with the boys from time to time.  And so FM 3-24.2 interests us much more than its predecessor, all things being equal.

There will be many opportunities to mine the depths of this magnificent document, and so don’t hold it against us that we start with a seeming random bit of detail.  Satellite patrols.

The field manual says (page 166, Section 5-216):

All units must know the overall route and if possible, left and right boundaries. Both the base unit and the satellite units move in ways to confuse the enemy as to the patrol’s actual axis of advance.  Standard movement techniques are still used. Satellites move away from the base unit for limited periods  of time to inspect potential ambush sites, dead spaces, parallel roads, or other assigned missions. The time  that the satellite is separated from the base unit should be prescribed by the patrol leader prior to departure.

It’s a wonderful and effective tactic, the notion of smaller units connected to the larger unit patrolling in diagonal, circular and perpendicular patterns to the main unit, all with the intention of providing force protection for not only the larger unit but itself and the other smaller units as well by confusing the enemy as to the axis of advance.

I have long known about this tactic, as well as some of the finer details not shown or discussed here, but been reluctant to discuss it over the blog since it was unknown whether this should be considered FOUO, OPSEC or something that otherwise shouldn’t be divulged to the enemy.

Think I’m paranoid?  In Marines, Taliban, Tactics Techniques and Procedures, using a Powerpoint presentation I obtained from Michael Yon, I outlined a number of lessons learned from Marine Recon battling the Taliban in highly conventional fights recently in Afghanistan with close to Battalion-sized units of enemy, from their understanding of the use of combined arms, to interlocking fields of fire, to fire discipline, massing forces and other problematic issues stemming from the fact that the Taliban are more skilled than the insurgents in Iraq.  The presentation also had a discussion of Marine tactics to counter the Taliban, some of which had been highly successful.

No sooner did this post go up than I received a note from the Marine officer in Afghanistan (a Small Wars Council member as am I) who authored the presentation.  This officer complained about the release of the document and its presence on this web site, saying that not all Taliban are as skilled as these were and the presence of the presentation on this web site could lead to the education of other Taliban.

Sure, if they had access to electricity, a laptop, Powerpoint and the time to read it, along with a total absence of communication with their colleagues to teach them about these tactics.  Not likely.  But the officer hung his hat on the fact that the document was FOUO, which in reality means that whomever released it in Afghanistan should have been the target of this officer’s complaint, not me.  The term FOUO means nothing to me, since I am the official owner and founder of this web site.

So what do the readers think?  What about revealing the tactics of the Taliban and our counter-tactics, and satellite patrols as applied in urban areas?  Problematic, or not?


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