Patrolling Fundamentals II

Written by David R. Reed

The Patrol Base

A patrol base is any place you intend to occupy for more than umm..., 4 hours? You'll be there a while anyway. This is what you must plan for and do.

Whatever method you choose, make certain that everyone knows where 12:00 is. Now if you have to run the PL can say 3:00 400 meters and everyone will know what direction that is. You should have an evacuation plan that includes at least two rendezvous locations that everyone knows. When in position the PL can say rally point 1 is at 2:00 , 300 meters and RP 2 is at 3:00 600 meters. This is the direction everyone will run if a flare goes up to signal the evacuation of the patrol base.

dead space is any place that you cannot shoot into from the patrol base. It is usually a depression in the ground where a person could hide. If attacked, your enemy will be able to use these places to fire into your location and you cannot hit him with direct fire weapons. In a small patrol that has no mortars, you may want to booby trap the dead spaces. If you lack explosives for this, sharp stakes can be used, and they are difficult for the enemy to use against you.

You may now begin the maintenance schedule. Usually larger units will send out LP's at night (Listening Posts) or maybe an ambush patrol. A frag order is issued telling a team to go somewhere nearby and set up an ambush or something. It is very important that everyone knows where the LP or ambush is located, when they will be back, and a running password. If the LP has to high tail it back at a run they need something to yell when doing this so they won't be fired up. Our little patrol lacks the resources for this. We will have passwords to exchange when we meet up after the recon mission, and if we parachute in, we'll need one when we meet up on the DZ.

Another concept is Final Protective Fire. When in a patrol base, each man will have an assigned sector. At night you must be very careful not to shoot the men in the position directly to your right and left. You should press aiming stakes into the ground in front of your position. These will keep you from swinging your rifle too far to one side. If the patrol base is in danger of being overrun, the PL may decide to fire final protective fire as a last attempt at holding the position. On a recon patrol we HOPE to take all precautions to keep from being found, much less overrun. Nonetheless it is important to have this down. Final Protective Fire usually means swinging your rifles all the way to one side and firing directly in front of the position to your side. You will also blow all claymores, throw grenades, and when firing, you fire on full auto everything you can feed through your weapon. With a system of interlocking fires, it makes for a very deadly defense. I believe the system of interlocking fires now in use by the US Army was learned from the Vietnamese. The APL should check all sectors of fire and insure they are safe, and interlocking.

Digging in means digging fighting positions in the patrol base. Remember that digging is noisy and leaves a lot of sign. The enemy will know exactly how many people occupied the position. I do not think that digging in is wise on a recon patrol. The whole concept is to avoid detection. If you are compromised, break contact, run a safe distance, and resume the patrol in a manner that the enemy will be unable to find you again.

[interlocking fire picture]

ORP - Objective Rally Point is a special patrol base located within 50 - 100 meters of the objective. This is the place where we would drop rucks on a raid mission. Our little patrol will not really have an ORP. All men will have to pull security on the objective. We will take everything with us.


You can't take people who smoke. They have poor night vision, and they certainly can't take tobacco with them. Skoal, bar soap, deodorant, etc. must also be left behind. They smell. Period.


You should eat only the food your enemy eats for 48 hours prior to the patrol. This will give you the same smell that they have.


Bring only water and do not drink alcohol for 48 hr. prior.

Sand Table

This is a sandbox about 6' square. with 2x4 sides. Fill it with sand, dirt, rocks, etc. Take string and stretch it across the box where the grid square lines are on your map and label them. Tie the strings to small nails. Use your hands to sculpt the dirt to match the contour lines on your map. Add little trees, streams, fences, roads, buildings, etc. Make sure you add all major terrain features. These will help you get an overall 3D impression of the land you will be working on. Be as detailed and creative as time allows. It is good to let everyone participate in this by building it in stages. This gets everyone involved and creates a lasting impression of the terrain in each team members mind. You will use this table to help you plan, and help you deliver the OPORD when it's finished.

Other Tips

Every person must bring: Once you are on the ground, and clear of the LZ, everyone sits down, closes their eyes, and spends five minutes listening to the sounds of the forest. Birds, crickets, tree frogs, wind.

Test everyone's knowledge of the mission, call signs, frequencies, passwords, etc. prior to departure.

Check EVERYTHING on each man in your patrol. Do not allow men to wear two sets of clothing, long underwear, or thick socks unless it will be sub-zero weather. Extra clothes make a man hot while moving. Long underwear or extra clothes will wear you out quickly. Travel Light, freeze at night. When stopped for long periods use poncho's to stay warm. Anything not inspected is probably neglected.

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