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Fire Team Leadership

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  • The following document may not necessarily reflect the views and doctrine of the UOTC.
A USMC fire team leader during a foot patrol.

Intent Statement and scope:

  • The intent of this guide is to provide a guide for a fire team leader, or other subordinate leadership position within a squad-sized element.
  • The scope of this guide covers the most common skills used by most fire team leader across multiple TOEs, adherence to one type of TOE-specific doctrine is avoided.

Mission of the Fire Team Leader

The mission of the fire team leader is to control their fire team and carry out the orders of the squad or section leader. While different militaries may use different names (Team Leader, 2IC, Assistant Squad Leader, Senior Rifleman), they all share a similar level of responsibility. A fire team leader is typically responsible for 2-5 subordinates underneath them, and are the de-facto second-in-command of the squad or section.

Controlling the Fire Team

In general, the fire team leader has the most precise level of control of leadership positions in ArmA. They must constantly assess the situation as they see it and control each member of the fire team to maximize their effectiveness. A good team leader should not simply serve as a relay between squad leader and squad members, but instead receive orders from the squad leader and translates them into actions that make sense for the given situation.

For example, a squad leader may order the team leader to clear a building. An effective team leader will determine who in his fire team will go where in the building, who will provide security, who will employ grenades, and so forth.

Boiled down to its most basic tasks in combat, most infantry units regardless of size need to move, shoot, and communicate in order to be successful. A good fire team leader should be ensuring that his team is doing all three things when in contact with the enemy.

Formation and Movement

How the team moves, and their disposition when halted is typically established and maintained by the team leader. Formations in detail are explained in this article. As a general rule, the team leader should use their judgement to choose the best formation if no formation is ordered by the squad leader.

Squad Bounding

Bounding by fire team is usually used when the squad leader wishes to move through a dangerous area, or close with the enemy under fire. As with other forms of bounding, one fire team will provide cover/fire while the other moves. Length of bounds and specific formations are situation dependent, but fire team line or wedge are most common as they reduce the chance of friendly fire. During bounds, the team leader should ensure his entire fire team is moving or covering, and that he communicates to the adjacent teams when his team is moving or set. Whenever possible, bound the team from cover to cover, or at least to concealment. Ensure that an appropriate rate of fire is maintained on either enemy targets or likely enemy positions.

One fire team covers as another fire team bounds forward.

Buddy Team Movement

The team leader may wish at time to further divide their team into buddy teams, provided they have enough troops. This can be done beforehand, during the briefing or organization phase, or ad-hoc as the situation dictates. This allow for greater flexibility while still ensuring easy control over movement. Bounding can be accomplished at the fire team level by alternating between each buddy team, just as with squad bounding.

One buddy team covers as another crosses a danger area.


Whether moving or stationary, the team leader should be constantly aware of the positioning of the individual members of their team members. Undisciplined members may take up exposed positions in order to better observe the enemy, or become target fixated on a single direction.

Example of clutter de-rendering at range on a hilltop. Exposing silhouettes.


Cover is defined as terrain or objects that protects from enemy fire. Thick trees in a forest, boulders on a mountain, or concrete walls in a town are all examples of effective cover. The team leader should always assume the best protective posture for each member of the team, and move team members to better positions whenever possible. Spacing should also be a concern, as limited cover can lead to bunching up and lucrative targets for enemy grenadiers and RPGs. Spacing should be as wide as communication, available cover, and concealment allow while still remaining a cohesive team.


Concealment is defined as terrain or objects that obstructs observation from the enemy. Bushes, tall grass, ditches, smoke, and reverse slopes are all things that can conceal the team. This requires constant enforcement by the team leader, but is critical for avoiding early contact with the enemy. When proper cover is unavailable, it is also a limited form of protection. Keep in mind that clutter objects such as grass and shrub do not render at range, and will not provide effective concealment.

Smoke can be used for emergency concealment, but it is not an idea solution, it temporarily blocks direct line of sight, but also attracts enemy attention and potential fire. Unless the enemy has a narrow field of view toward your team, smoke should be avoided to conceal movement towards the enemy.

Silhouetting is another common issue. Keeping your team away from the top of ridge lines, bare hill tops, and roofs, as well as staying prone will help to avoid detection.
A fire team splits into buddy teams to cover two streets in an urban environment.
A fire team uses cover (rocks, trees) and concealment (bushes).
A fire team sets up 360 security in dense forest.


Security of the fire team, or its ability to prevent the enemy from maneuvering around and closing with the team should be considered by the team leader. Particularly important when operating in environments with large amounts of covered and concealed approaches, the team leader should always assume the enemy is attempting to close with, infiltrate, or flank the team. The simplest way to counter this is directing each member of the team to watch a different direction. Breaking this up into simple cardinal directions (north, east, west, south) provides the best all-around protection, but sacrifices firepower toward the front. Instructing one member to watch the rear as the team moves or is static provides a reasonable level of situational awareness, and makes the team a much more difficult target for infiltrators.

A fire team maintains security in preparation to making entry to a structure. Note the team members avoiding putting themselves directly in front of windows.

When occupying a structure, the team leader should ensure one team member covers the entrances to the structure, stairways are natural choke-points that provide both restriction of movement to the enemy, and a height advantage to defenders. In urban environments, sending a team member or buddy team to cover parallel streets or alleyways can cut enemies off or at minimum provide warning to potential movement on the team's flanks.

Engagement and Fire Control

Controlling when your team engages, how they engage, and their rate of fire are all responsibilities of the team-leader. Executing a successful ambush and ensuring the team has sufficient ammunition to complete an objective are example of requirements that may influence a team leader's control of the teams fire.

Weapon Status

Color ID Green Yellow
Function Engage all targets at
your own discretion.
Only return fire if you,
your team or nearby friendlies
take effective enemy fire.
Never return fire without
leader clearance unless
you or your team takes
effective enemy fire!
Order Weapons Green! Weapons Yellow! Weapons Red!

Rate of Fire

Rate Slow Sustained Rapid / Cyclic
Actions Short bursts (3-5 rounds) at long intervals for machine guns.

Single, well-aimed shots for rifles.

Medium bursts (10-15 rounds) at medium intervals for machine guns.

Constant single shots at short intervals from rifles.

Long bursts (20-30 rounds) or fully automatic fire from machine guns.

Fully automatic or rapid semi-automatic fire from rifles.



Can harass enemies beyond effective range of weapons.

Conserves ammunition.
Not likely to suppress an enemy.

Keeps constant suppression on enemy.

Conserves a reasonable amount of ammunition.
Less effective at longer ranges.

Maximizes suppression and achieves fire superiority.

Can quickly inflict casualties on enemies at close range.
Expends ammunition at a high rate.
May overheat machine guns, leading to stoppages and jams.

Special Weapons

  • Machine Guns/Automatic Rifles - Most modern militaries will have some type of automatic weapon at the fire team level intended to suppress the enemy and allow the team to maneuver. Common examples include the M249, M240, RPK, and PKM. The team leader should ensure that they aware of the ammunition status of their automatic weapon, as well as dictate who will employ the weapon if the gunner is killed or incapacitated.
  • Grenades/Grenade Launchers - The team leader may wish to direct when these are used. For example, when engaging an enemy in defilade, the team leader may call for a grenadier to use their grenade launcher to lob rounds into the enemy if direct fire is ineffective. When approaching a structure, the team leader may order the employment of grenades before entering a room. The team leader should stress how many grenades and who is throwing them to avoid friendlies moving into the danger area.
  • Rockets - The team may be equipped with rocket launchers to be used against a range of targets. If engaging a vehicle for example, the team leader should ensure the team is clear of the back blast area, an accurate range to the target is given, and order when the weapon is fired to maximize effects and minimize the threat of return fire.
  • Smoke - The team leader may wish to deploy smoke grenades to obscure the enemy or signal friendlies.


A teammate treats a casualty behind cover, while keeping a low profile.

When the fire team sustains a casualty, the team leader must ensure that first and foremost the security of the team is maintained and immediate threats are engaged or continue to be engaged. If the casualty is conscious and mobile, the team leader should direct the casualty to seek cover on their own, and render self-aid. If wounds are serious, the team leader may direct the casualty to move to an established CCP or medic's location. The medic should not be requested brought forward into an active firefight. If the casualty is unconscious or otherwise unable to treat themselves, the team leader should first ensure the immediate threat to the fire team is engaged. Once the threat is eliminated or diminished, the team leader should then direct the least critical, or closest team member to render aid and stop the most serious bleeding. At no time should multiple members be treating the same casualty when enemy contact is possible. Once the threat is dealt with, the team leader should inform the squad leader as to the status of the casualty and if further treatment is required.

When in the attack, casualties should almost always be left for follow-on forces to assess and deal with. Stopping to treat casualties diminishes the combat power and likelihood of success in an attack, and may result in further casualties.

Casualty Treatment

  1. Return fire to suppress or destroy the enemy.
  2. Attempt communication with casualty to determine status and ability to self treat.
  3. Direct nearest or least-critical team member in the firefight to assess, relocate to cover, and treat the casualty if unconscious.
  4. Stabilize casualty and return remaining team members to security.
  5. Inform squad leader of status and number of casualties, and request a medic if possible.


Intra-Team Communication

Communication among members of the team, and from the fire team leader to the team members is a key aspect of small unit leadership and provides an advantage over an enemy that lacks communication. Typically team members will not have access to a radio, and are often reliant on voice or visual signals for communicating. Maintaining effective communication is a constant responsibility of the team leader. If lacking radios, the team leader ensures that each member is within hearing range of the leader, or that communications can be reliably relayed if out of earshot. In the midst of combat, conditions may prohibit how far voice commands will carry, so the team leader may be forced to either relay or directly move to within earshot of each team members to pass orders.

After a firefight, the team leader should attempt to communicate with each member and request their status if they cannot observe them from a covered position. If a member doesn't respond or is a casualty, the team leader can then take appropriate steps as covered in the casualty section.

ACE Pointing

The ACE mod features a "point" action that can be used to direct nearby friendlies onto a general area, this is faster than attempting to pass a compass bearing, or helpful if teammates don't possess a compass. Pressing "Shift" + "`" at the same time will place a circle on the screen of nearby players wherever the user is looking at for a short period of time. This is also helpful when voice communication is undesirable.


Team leader's should be prepared to send basic reports up to the squad leader in a quick and concise manner.

ACE Report

An ACE or Ammo, Casualty, Equipment report may be requested by the squad leader. This report allows the squad leader to quickly ascertain the effectiveness of their fire teams.

  • Ammo - ammuntion remaining, colors may be used ("Green", "Yellow", "Red") to give a general ammo state, or specifics ("500 rounds 7.62, 5x 40mm")
  • Casualty - Number of casualties, and their status. ("1 Minor Wounded, 1 KIA")
  • Equipment - Any equipment damaged, destroyed, lost. ("1 Machine gun left behind")

Brevity is key, to get the report across as quickly and simply as possible.

Contact Report

The team leader should keep the squad leader informed any time contact with the enemy is made. The details of this report vary depending on situation. For example, when engaged by the enemy a hasty report may be passed with the most critical information.

"Team 2, Contact! 200 meters front! Infantry in the white 2-story with red roof!"

This report passes the most critical information to allow the squad to orient on the threat, who is giving the report, an approximate range, what the contact is, and an easily identifiable terrain feature or description. Here we see the number of floors and color of a building being used to quickly identify it from a group of other buildings. Front is assumed to mean the general direction of travel or orientation of the squad, cardinal directions (North, East, West, South) could also be given.

A more detailed report may be given if the enemy is observed without being engaged.

"Squad leader, Team 2. Contact Report."
"Send it, Team 2."
"Bearing 245, 500 meters. BTR moving west on dirt road. Appears to be patrolling"

This is a more deliberate report with detailed information such as the compass bearing and the contacts actions.

Miscellaneous Reports

In general, the team leader should keep the squad leader and adjacent teams aware of any relevant information. Intra-squad communications are generally less formal than at the platoon and higher due to the smaller amount of people utilizing the net, but information should still be kept clear and concise. When not in line of sight of the squad leader, periodically updating the squad leader to the disposition of your fire team to avoid friendly fire is an example of useful communication.

Situational Awareness

The team leader serves as the link between the squad leader and the members of the squad, as such the team leader should strive to communicate the general situation and disposition of friendlies and the enemy to the members of the team to avoid friendly fire. In addition, both in and out of contact, the team leader should be constantly aware of their surroundings to avoid putting their team in undue danger, and extending the squad leader's situational awareness. Maintaining effective security, pushing out individual team members or buddy teams to gather information or observe, and maintaining knowledge of the disposition of their own team are all means to enhance situational awareness.

Questions the fire team leader should ask themselves:

  • Where is the enemy?
  • Where are friendlies?
  • What is my fire team currently doing?
  • Where is the objective / What is my mission?

If unable to answer these, the team leader should remedy this lack of situational awareness as soon as possible by contacting the squad leader, or fellow members of the fire team.

Assuming Command of the Squad/Section

As stated before, fire team leader(s) also serve as second in command of the squad if the squad leader is killed or incapacitated. Being able to quickly and competently assume command is crucial for keeping the squad in the fight in the face of casualties.

  • Continue to engage the enemy. As with any casualty, priority is always given towards engaging the immediate threat to the squad. Win the firefight.
  • Assess status of squad leader. Attempt contact via radio and voice to determine if the squad leader is conscious.
  • Contact adjacent teams. Inform any other team leaders of the squad leader's status.
  • Continue the current tasking. Coordinate with other teams to continue the last tasking given by the squad leader if possible.
  • Assume command and inform higher. If possible, secure the squad leader's radio to regain communication with adjacent squads and higher, deny the enemy access to friendly radios, and inform higher you are taking over command and the status of the squad leader.
  • Reorganize and delegate. If necessary, reorganize the squad, and delegate team leadership to a senior or experienced team member to prevent being overloaded with micromanagement.
  • Continue the mission. Ask for direction from higher, or if unavailable, coordinate with adjacent squads or use best judgement to complete the mission.

See Also