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Squad Leadership

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A British Army section leader.

Disclaimer:

  • The following document may not necessarily reflect the views and doctrine of the UOTC.

Intent Statement and scope:

  • The intent of this guide is to provide guidance on the role of squad or section leader, or other subordinate leadership position within a platoon-sized element.
  • The scope of this guide... ((words)).

Mission of the Squad Leader

The squad (or section) leader is responsible for controlling their squad and executing the orders of the platoon commander. Squad leader typically delegate direct control of individual members down to fire team leaders and instead control the movements and actions of the fire teams as a whole. Effective squad leading in ArmA is one of the most demanding tasks, as they act as the link between the platoon commander and the platoon. They are required to maintain communication with their own squad, adjacent squads, and platoon leadership at the same time.

Controlling the Squad

A squad or section is typically an element composed of 6-12 men. Squads can vary in size and organization between different militaries and types of troops. A Soviet airborne squad for example is comparatively small and dependent on close coordination with infantry fighting vehicles and adjacent squads, while a US Marine Corps rifle squad is large, but able to operate more independently. These differences translate into how closely a squad leader needs to manage their squad members. They may be required to simultaneously control a fire team as well as the squad as a whole, or have team leaders to micromanage the individual squad members.

Initial Organization

At mission start, the squad leader may wish to ensure that each member knows which team they are assigned to. Using the team menu to assign colors to each fire team can also help make it easier for teams to stay together.

The squad may have additional ammunition available at crates or in vehicle inventories, while spare ammunition is important, it must be weighed against the mobility and stamina requirements of the mission. For example, an attacking element may wish to have less ammo in order to move faster, while a base of fire or defending element may stock up on spare ammunition in expectation of prolonged firing.

Once organized and ready to move, the squad leader should report to the platoon leader or their RTO that the squad is ready.

A Russian airborne squad is small, but has an Infantry Fighting Vehicle attached for increased firepower and mobility.
A USMC rifle squad is large, with 3 fire teams that allow the squad leader more flexibility.

Formations and Movement

Formations

As with fire teams, squads have their own formations the squad leader can employ. The advantages and disadvantages widely mirror those of the fire team formations. The squad leader can combine an overall squad formation with a different fire team formation, for example a "squad column, fire team wedge" indicates the squad leader wishes the fire teams to individually form into wedge, but the teams as a whole will form behind one another in column.

Spacing

Lazy spacing when the squad believes they are protected can lead to disastrous results.

Whenever possible, the squad leader should strive to extend their teams over as wide an area as practical. Bunching up is a common problem, while it offers easier control, it limits the ability of individual fire teams to maneuver on the enemy, and makes it easier for the enemy to observe and put fire on to the entire squad. The squad leader should remember that they control their team leaders, not each member of the squad. Practicing good spacing will also reduce the effect of explosives and grenades used against the squad.

Squad Bounding

The squad leader may at time wish to "bound" their fire teams in order to provide security when moving through dangerous areas, or to keep constant suppression on the enemy when closing with them. Bounding is simply having half of an element move while the other provides over-watch and/or covering fire. This ensures that security/fire is always maintained as the squad moves. The squad leader should clearly communicate their intent to begin bounding by fire teams to the relevant team leaders, and stay in a position where they can best observe and control the teams. Provided the team leaders are competent enough, the squad leader should not have to micromanage when each team moves and halts, instead leaving it to the team leaders to communicate between themselves.

If the squad leader is not responsible for directly leading a team themselves, they should position themselves with the team they feel best suits the situation.

Navigation

The squad leader is responsible for ensuring his squad reaches their intended destinations, following the plan of movement ordered by the platoon commander. The squad leader should be adept at navigation, including doing so without more advanced aids such as GPS. Although responsible for navigation, the squad leader should avoid leading the squad directly from the front when contact is likely, as this limits his awareness of the fire teams and may result in him becoming an early casualty in a firefight.

Intra-Squad Communication

First and foremost, the squad leader should ensure they keep in constant contact with their team leaders. Team leaders, in turn, will remain in contact with their team members. This may come in the form of short-range radios such as the PRC-343 if available. If no intra-squad radios are available, the squad leader will have to rely on voice or hand signals to communicate.

Fire Control

Weapon Status

Color ID Green Yellow
(default)
Red
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.

Advantages/

Disadvantages

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

  • A squad leader should direct his machinegun(s) onto priority targets.
    Machine Guns/Automatic Rifles - Most modern militaries will have some type of automatic weapon at the squad or team level intended to suppress the enemy and allow the team to maneuver. Common examples include the M249, M240, RPK, and PKM.
  • Grenades/Grenade Launchers - The squad 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 squad leader may order the employment of grenades before entering a room. The squad leader should stress how many grenades and who is throwing them to avoid friendlies moving into the danger area.
  • Rockets - The squad 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 squad 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.
  • A squad leader marks their position with a flare to signal their location to friendly aircraft.
    Smoke/Flares/Chemlights - The squad leader may wish to deploy smoke grenades to obscure the enemy, chemlights to signal friendlies, or flares to illuminate an area.

Directing Fire

While the rest of their squad is engaged with the enemy, the squad leader should be using their judgement and situational awareness to direct his squad onto the the enemy, and the highest priority targets among the enemy. Squad leaders will often be equipped with binoculars or other optics to assist in locating targets. Knowing the capabilities of the weapons in their squads and how best to employ them can help the squad win the firefight. Use of the ACE Pointing feature ("SHIFT" + "~") can help assist in directing squad members onto targets. When calling out targets, the squad leader should be as specific as possible with available information and time.

The ADDRAC is a common format for directing fire. It consists of:

  • ALERT - "Contact!"
  • DIRECTION - "Front Left!" or "West!" or "30 Degrees!"
  • DESCRIPTION - "Enemy Infantry!"
  • RANGE - "250 Meters!"
  • ASSIGNMENT - "Team 1, engage the left element! Team 2, engage the right element!"
  • CONTROL - "Engage on my command!" or "Open Fire!"

Not every single element of this command is needed for every engagement. The first three; alert, direction, and description are usually enough to orient the squad onto a target.

Casualties

Terrain Considerations

Different terrains bring unique challenges to leading a squad.

A squad that lacks spacing and all around security makes an easy target for enemy infiltrators in dense forest.

Forest

Forests and jungles reduce visibility and offer a dense concentration of concealment and potentially cover. Engagement ranges are typically very close in forests, and firefights tend to be short and intense due to the proximity of combat. Control can also become difficult as the squad leader can have difficulty visually identifying his squad members. Keeping the squad in formation and within voice distance is key. Line formation is typically used when sweeping or clearing an area due to the amount of concealment the enemy can utilize.

Movement when sweeping should be slow and deliberate through forests, and security of the squad should be kept high at all times. It is extremely easy for a small enemy team to flank or infiltrate friendly lines. When close contact is made with the enemy in a forest, maximum violence should be used to win the firefight as quickly as possible.

A popular tactic for defenders in a forest is to wait until contact is made with an attacking force, fix them, then maneuver around their flanks to envelope and destroy them. This tactic works particularly well with a smaller and more mobile defending force, turning a larger force's difficulty in coordination and control against them. Tactics such as proper flank security and spacing, aggressively closing with, or simply pushing through the enemy to an objective can help counter this tactic. As a squad leader, the difficulty of coordination between squads in a forest will require more initiative on your part. However, keep in mind the chance of friendly fire increases the further a squad strays away from the platoon, good communication as to the squad's current position will help to reduce the chances of friendly fire.

In the defense, a squad leader should seek to spread his squad out in both length and depth. Keeping spread out perpendicular to the enemy's axis of advance ensures the squad is not flanked or bypassed. Spreading out along the axis of advance, or in its depth, helps to slow down the enemy and allows the squad to fall back in a controlled manner. A well dispersed squad in covered and concealed positions will be able to stop a much larger force, and can withdraw at will in order to reorganize or avoid being overrun.

Common Mistakes

  • Lack of security. enemies are able to get around or behind friendlies
  • Not enough spacing. grenades and explosives causing mass casualties
  • Clearing an area too quickly and missing hidden enemies in bushes, low tree branches, and underbrush.
  • Friendly fire due to lack of situational awareness and control.
  • Not being aggressive enough in the attack, stalling.and being enveloped by defenders
A well-placed machine gun on a street can limit the enemy's ability to maneuver in urban areas, while helping your own.

Urban

Urban areas, or dense concentrations of buildings and man-made structures offer an abundance of cover and make securing areas a more complex task compared to more natural terrain. In addition, the threat of enemies in upper floors and rooftops of structures means the squad leader has to consider what is above and below them as well as around them.

As with forests, urban areas make it easier for enemies to flank an unprepared squad. Placing squad members to provide security at likely enemy approaches can help to make the squad a more difficult target. Controlling streets and alleyways help to limit enemy movement between blocks of buildings, the squad leader should place their automatic weapons and machine guns to cover these areas.

Approaching an urban area over open ground is ill advised unless supported by overwhelming fire support. Squad leaders should always look for the most concealed and covered approach, with the smallest amount of windows or other potential firing positions facing towards the avenue of approach.

A Russian squad uses its infantry fighting vehicle to provide fire support when attacking towards an urban area. Fire support should ensure they are actually suppressing the same area the maneuver element is moving towards.

When clearing or attacking a building, hand grenades should be used whenever the enemy is known or suspected to occupy a structure. Grenades use a defending enemy's advantage of cover and limited entrances against them, forcing them to either flee out of the building, seek limited cover, or retreat upwards or downwards. Doorways and hallways are extremely favorable towards defenders, and should be avoided or moved through as fast as possible. When defending or occupying a building, ensure proper security is in place towards entrances to the building. An escape route should be considered if the building is likely to be overwhelmed by enemy forces, or fire support such as tanks or artillery target the building. When occupying, keep your squad in positions that minimize their silhouette. Occupy the top floor instead of an exposed rooftop, and displace to different positions continuously.

Common Mistakes

  • Not achieving fire superiority, or poorly placed fire support when attacking buildings.
  • Lack of security when the squad is stationary.
  • Poor spacing.
  • Slow movement through doorways, alleyways, and other chokepoints.
  • Attacking the "long" axis of urban area that maximizes advantage to defenders.
  • Not using hand grenades before entry.
  • Taking up exposed positions on rooftops.
  • Silhouetting or moving constantly in easily observable doorways or windows.

Communication and Reporting

Communicating with Higher

As the link between the platoon and platoon commander, squad leader must remain in constant contact with the platoon commander. Even in the midst of the fight, the squad leader needs to remain informed as to the traffic on the radio.

Position

The squad leader should be aware at all time of his general position. When requested by the platoon commander, or when the squad leader feels it is appropriate, they should be ready to provide a grid or other means of communicating their squad's position.

2, This is 6. What's your location, over?
6, this is 2. Grid 123 456, over.

Or, if located in an easily identifiable position,

6, this is 2. We're in the compound 100 meters north of objective 1, over.

Contact Reporting

If contact with the enemy is made, the squad leader should first and foremost ensure his squad is oriented onto, and ready to or already engaging before reporting to higher. In the case of contact that requires the squad leader to direct his squad immediately, giving a short warning to the platoon leader is appropriate.

6, this is 2! In contact! Wait, out.

This lets the platoon commander know 2nd squad is in a contact that prevents them from providing a detailed report, and will provide further information when able.

6, this is 2. Contact report, over.
2, this is 6. Send it, over.
2, enemy squad, 200 meters front, pulling back to the north, over.

Example of a more detailed report, giving at minimum a description, range/location, and actions.

Communicating with Adjacent Elements

In addition to communicating with the platoon commander, the squad leader should ensure he communicates with fellow squads, vehicles, and other elements within the platoon. Keeping friendlies informed as to the squads position, and the composition, disposition, and actions of the enemy help the platoon to react to new developments and reduce the chance of friendly fire.

2, This is 1. Were moving up on your left, over.

Example communication from 1st squad to 2nd squad.

Assuming Command of the Platoon

Just as a fire team leader must be prepared to take command of a squad, a squad leader must be prepared to take command of a platoon. If the platoon leader is incapacitated or otherwise unable to lead, and no clear second in command is designated or available, a good squad leader should take the initiative.

The following is a general list of steps a squad leader should take if the platoon leader is put out of action.

  • Continue on going engagements. As with any casualty, priority is always given towards engaging the immediate threat. Win the firefight.
  • Assess status of platoon HQ. Attempt contact via radio or voice to determine if the designated 2IC or Platoon Sergeant is still capable of assuming command.
  • Contact adjacent teams. If the HQ has been eliminated or does not respond in whatever form start contacting adjacent units for information.
  • Continue the current tasking. Coordinate with other squads to continue the last tasking given by the platoon HQ if possible.
  • Assume command of the platoon If the combat situation and information permits, assume command of the platoon and try to aquire curcial equipment (like radios) from the dead leadership. Do NOT access the place of incident if the HQ is expected to have been killed by enemy indirect fires!
  • Notify platoon and higher command Use radios or runners to inform the rest of the platoon and company HQ that you assumed command over the platoon. To higher transmit the location of incident if known.
  • Reorganize and delegate. At platoon level it is highly advised to at this step make one of the fireteam leaders in both squads where the squad leaders will replace platoon CO and 2IC to assume command over their respective squads.
  • Continue the mission. Ask for direction from higher, or if unavailable, coordinate with adjacent platoons or use best judgement to complete the mission.