Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 1 – Section I – Fundamentals of Infantry Platoon and Squad Operations

Section I — Fundamentals of Infantry Platoon and Squad Operations


1-1.        The Infantry’s primary role is close combat, which may occur in any type of mission, in any theater, or environment. Characterized by extreme violence and physiological shock, close combat is callous and unforgiving. Its dimensions are measured in minutes and meters, and its consequences are final. Close combat stresses every aspect of the physical, mental, and spiritual features of the human dimension. To this end, Infantrymen are specially selected, trained, and led.


1-2.        Of all branches in the U.S. Army, the Infantry is unique because its core competency is founded on the individual Soldier—the Infantry rifleman. While other branches tend to focus on weapon systems and platforms to accomplish their mission, the Infantry alone relies almost exclusively on the human dimension of the individual rifleman to close with and destroy the enemy. This Soldier-centric approach fosters an environment that places the highest value on individual discipline, personal initiative, and performance-oriented leadership. The Infantry ethos is encapsulated by its motto: Follow Me!

1-3.        Although the battlefield may be entered from a differing range of platforms, all types of Infantry must be able to fight on their feet. To perform this role, each type possesses two distinguishing qualities. First, Infantry are able to move almost anywhere under almost any condition. Second, Infantry can generate a high volume of lethal well-aimed small arms fire for a short time in any direction.  Neither movement nor fire are exclusively decisive. However, combined fire and movement win engagements. These two strengths reveal three distinct vulnerabilities to Infantry. First, once committed it is difficult to adjust the Infantry’s line of advance due to its limited tactical mobility. Second, determining the Infantryman’s load required to accomplish the mission is always in conflict with preserving his physical ability to fight the enemy. Third, Infantry are particularly susceptible to the harsh conditions of combat, the effects of direct and indirect fire, the physical environment, and moral factors.

Offensive and Defensive Combat

1-4.        Infantry platoons and squads have a distinct position on the battlefield—the point of decision. Their actions take place at the point where all of the plans from higher headquarters meet the enemy in close combat. This role requires leaders at all levels to quickly understand the situation, make decisions, and fight the enemy to accomplish the mission. Offensive close combat has the objective of seizing terrain and destroying the adversary. Defensive close combat denies an area to the adversary and protects friendly forces for future operations. Both types constitute the most difficult and costly sorts of combat operations.

Basic Actions

1-5.        Whether operating on its own or as part of a larger force, the goal of Infantry platoons and squads remains constant: defeat and destroy enemy forces, and seize ground. To achieve this end state, Infantry platoons and squads rely on two truths.

(1)     In combat, Infantrymen who are moving are attacking.

(2)     Infantrymen who are not attacking are preparing to attack.

1-6.        These two truths highlight another truth—offensive action and defensive action are reciprocal opposites that are found in all actions.

1-7.        At the platoon and squad level it is necessary to make a clear distinction between these two basic actions of attacking and defending, and larger scale offensive and defensive operations. The difference is one of degree, not type. Offensive and defensive operations are types of full spectrum operations that are undertaken by higher-level units.

Tactical Principles

1-8.        To achieve the basic truths of offense or defense, Infantrymen rely on fundamental principles. From these they derive their basic tactics, techniques, and procedures used to conduct operations. The information in Table 1-1 is introductory and forms the basis for the remainder of this chapter.


Table 1-1. Tactical principles.


Tactical Maneuver: Fire without movement is indecisive. Exposed movement without fire is disastrous. There must be effective fire combined with skillful movement. A detailed explanation of the supporting concepts is in Chapter 2.
Advantage: Seek every opportunity to exploit your strengths while preventing the enemy from exploiting his own strengths.
Combinations: The power of combination creates dilemmas that fix the enemy, overwhelming his ability to react while protecting your own internal weaknesses.
Tactical Decisionmaking: Close combat demands flexible tactics, quick decisions, and swift maneuvers to create a tempo that overwhelms the enemy.
Individual Leadership: Resolute action by a few determined men is often decisive.
Combat Power: The ability of a unit to fight.
Situation: Every military situation is unique and must be solved on its own merits.

Tactical Maneuver

1-9.        Tactical maneuver is the way in which Infantry platoons and squads apply combat power. Its most basic definition is fire plus movement, and is the Infantry’s primary tactic when in close combat. Fire without movement is indecisive. Exposed movement without fire is potentially disastrous. Inherent in tactical maneuver is the concept of protection. The principle of tactical maneuver is more fully explained in Chapter 3, and is further integrated in other sections of this manual.


1-10.     Leaders and Soldiers must look for every opportunity to gain and maintain an advantage over the enemy. In close combat there is no such thing as a fair fight. As much as possible, leaders must set the conditions of an engagement, confronting the enemy on his terms, while forcing the enemy into unsolvable dilemmas to defeat or destroy him. Important supporting concepts are doctrine and training, individual Infantry skills, and the organization of the Infantry platoon and its squads.

1-11.     Surprise means taking the enemy when the enemy is unprepared. Leaders continuously employ security measures to prevent the enemy from surprising them. Infantry platoons and squads should be especially concerned with their own security. They should expect the unexpected while avoiding patterns. Tactical surprise is rarely gained by resorting to the obvious.

1-12.     The ability to generate and apply combat power is a significant advantage of the Infantry platoon and squad. This advantage results from the training of the units’ Soldiers; the Soldiers’ organization into teams, squads, and platoons; Soldiers’ collective training in tasks and drills; and Soldiers’ ability to integrate other assets and units into their formations. Through these elements, leaders exploit strengths while mitigating vulnerabilities.


1-13.     Based on the power of force and firepower combinations, combined arms is how Army forces fight. Leaders creatively combine weapons, units, and tactics using the principles of complementary and reinforcing effects to create dilemmas for the enemy. Making effective and efficient combinations puts a premium on technical competence. Leaders must know the characteristics of the weapons and munitions when employing fires. They must understand the inherent capabilities and limitations of their own and other unit formations.

Tactical Decisionmaking

1-14.     Tactical decisionmaking is the ability to make decisions during all phases of the operations process (plan, prepare, execute, and assess). Within this framework, Infantry platoon and squad leaders exercise command and control (C2) to be both effective and efficient in accomplishing their mission. Effectiveness entails making accurate assessments and good decisions about how to fight the enemy. Control complements command by using the most efficient means available. Key supporting concepts are troop- leading procedures, actions on contact, and risk management.

Individual Leadership

1-15.     Leadership at the Infantry platoon and squad level is comprised of three fundamental concepts: leadership by example, authority, and mission command. Leadership by example is simply and most powerfully expressed by the Infantry’s motto: Follow Me! Authority is the power to act. Mission command is the Army’s command philosophy that focuses on leaders telling subordinates what must be accomplished and why. Leaving the how to do it up to the subordinate.

Warfighting Functions

1-16.     A warfighting function is a group of tasks and systems (people, organization, information, and processes) united by a common purpose that commanders use to accomplish missions and training objectives. The warfighting functions are intelligence, movement and maneuver, fire support, protection, sustainment, and command and control. These warfighting functions replace the battlefield operating systems.

1-17.     Commanders visualize, describe, direct, and lead operations and training in terms of the warfighting functions. Decisive, shaping, and sustaining operations combine all the warfighting functions. No function is exclusively decisive, shaping, or sustaining.  Figure 1-1 illustrates the warfighting elements of combat power.


Figure 1‑1. Warfighting elements of combat power.


1-18.     The intelligence warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that facilitate understanding of the enemy, terrain, weather, and civil considerations. It includes those tasks associated with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The intelligence warfighting function combines a flexible and adjustable architecture of procedures, personnel, organizations, and equipment to provide commanders with relevant information and products relating to an area’s threat, civil populace, and environment.


1-19.     The movement and maneuver warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that move forces to achieve a position of advantage in relation to the enemy. It includes those tasks associated with employing forces in combination with direct fire or fire potential (maneuver), force projection (movement), and mobility and countermobility. Movement and maneuver are the means through which commanders concentrate combat power to achieve surprise, shock, momentum, and dominance.


1-20.     The fire support warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that provide collective and coordinated use of Army indirect fires, joint fires, and offensive information operations. It includes those tasks associated with integrating and synchronizing the effects of these types of fires with the other warfighting functions to accomplish operational and tactical objectives.


1-21.     The protection warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that preserve the force so the commander can apply maximum combat power. Preserving the force includes protecting personnel (combatant and noncombatant), physical assets, and information of the United States and multinational partners. The following tasks are included in the protection warfighting function:

– Safety.

– Fratricide avoidance.

– Survivability.

– Air and missile defense.

– Antiterrorism.

– Counterproliferation and consequence management actions associated with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high‑yield explosive weapons.

– Defensive information operations.

– Force health protection.


1-22.     The sustainment warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that provide support and services to ensure freedom of action, extend operational reach, and prolong endurance. Sustainment includes those tasks associated with—

– Maintenance.

– Transportation.

– Supply.

– Field services.

– Explosive ordnance disposal.

– Human resources support.

– Financial management.

– Health service support.

– Religious support.

– Band support.

– Related general engineering.

1-23.     Sustainment allows uninterrupted operations through adequate and continuous logistical support such as supply systems, maintenance, and other services.


1-24.     The command and control warfighting function involves the related tasks and systems that support commanders in exercising authority and direction. It includes the tasks of acquiring friendly information, managing relevant information, and directing and leading subordinates.

1-25.     Command and control has two parts: the commander; and the command and control system. Information systems—including communications systems, intelligence‑support systems, and computer networks—back the command and control systems. They let the commander lead from anywhere in their area of operations (AO). Through command and control, the commander initiates and integrates all warfighting functions.

Combat Power

1-26.     Combat power is a unit’s ability to fight. The primary challenge of leadership at the tactical level is mastering the art of generating and applying combat power at a decisive point to accomplish a mission. Leaders use the operations process (plan, prepare, execute, and assess) to generate combat power. They conduct operations following the Find, Fix, Finish, and Follow-through model to apply combat power.

1-27.     At the core of a unit’s ability to fight are three time-tested components of close combat:

(1)     Firepower.

(2)     Mobility.

(3)     Protection/Security.

1-28.     These components appear throughout military history under various names as the central elements required to fight and win against the enemy. Firepower consists of the weapons used to inflict casualties upon the enemy. Firepower alone is indecisive without movement. Mobility is the ability to move on the battlefield, dictating the speed, tempo, and tactical positioning of forces. Inherent in both firepower and mobility is the need for protection from the enemy’s firepower and mobility. Leaders employ protection and security measures to preserve their unit’s ability to fight. They deny the enemy protection through creative combinations of unit firepower and mobility.


1-29.     Every combat situation is unique. Leaders do their best to accurately assess the situation and make good decisions about employing their units. The environment of combat, the application of military principles, and the desired end state of Army operations culminate with the close fight of Infantry platoons and squads. The leader should understand the larger military purpose and how his actions and decisions might affect the outcome of the larger operation.

characteristics of Close combat

1-30.     Close combat is characterized by danger, physical exertion and suffering, uncertainty, and chance. To combat these characteristics, Soldiers must have courage, physical and mental toughness, mental stamina, and flexibility.


1-31.     Courage is the quality Soldiers must possess to face and overcome danger. Hazards, real or potential, are an ever-present aspect of the battlefield. Physical courage is necessary to deal with combat hazards. Physical courage results from two sources: mental conditioning that comes from demanding training; and motives such as personal pride, enthusiasm, and patriotism. Moral courage is necessary to face responsibilities and do what is necessary and right.

Physical and Mental Toughness

“The first quality of the Soldier is fortitude in enduring fatigue and privation; valor is only the second. Poverty, privation, and misery are the school of the good Soldier.”

Napoleon, Maxim LVIII

1-32.     Physical and mental toughness are the qualities Soldiers must have to combat physical exertion and suffering. Physical toughness enables the Soldier to endure hardship and perform his rigorous duties. Mental toughness enables the Soldier to put the harshness of the environment and his duties into proper perspective. Mentally tough Soldiers can do what needs to be done to accomplish the mission.

Mental Stamina

1-33.     The individual’s awareness during combat is never complete. There is no such thing as perfect awareness or understanding of the situation. Mental stamina is the quality Soldiers must have to combat this uncertainty. Mental stamina provides the ability to assess the situation based on whatever facts are at hand, to intuitively make reasonable assumptions about what is not known, and to make logical decisions based on that information.


1-34.     Chance is luck, opportunity, and fortune, and happens to both sides in close combat. It is not predictable. However, it must be dealt with in that Soldiers must be flexible, resolute, and able to continuously look forward.

Leave a Reply


Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Other Military Sites