Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 1 – Section VIII – Situation

Section VIII – Situation

1-234.  Every military situation is unique and must be solved on its own merits. To better equip leaders to solve tactical problems, this section discusses some of the background issues that directly or indirectly affect Infantry platoons and squads. They are—

– The human dimension.

– The laws of war.

– The operational environment.

Human Dimension

“Were we able to examine all battles through a military microscope, it is probable that we would almost always find the small seed of victory sowed by a determined leader and a handful of determined men.”

Infantry in Battle, 1939

1-235.  One of the toughest challenges faced by Infantry platoons is the need to reconcile the necessary orderliness of doctrine and training with a disorderly battlefield. The human dimension of “Army life” in garrison tends to be centralized and predictable. This is not true in combat, because operations usually do not proceed exactly as planned. For these reasons, leaders and their Soldiers must first understand that apparent contradiction between order and disorder is a normal aspect of combat. A working knowledge of the importance of will, skill, and the friction of combat is essential to fully comprehend the battlefield situation.


1-236.  The human will is close combat’s wild card. At times, human dynamics contribute more to victory in close combat than weapons and tactics. Close combat is messy, violent, and dirty. Although much of what happens in battle can be reduced to useful formulas (OPORDs, processes, drills, and methods), fighting and winning always includes the human dimension.


1-237.  Skill is tactical and technical competence. It is mastery of the generally-accepted tactics, techniques, and procedures used to carry out combat. Doctrine and training exist to promote the Soldier’s skill to the highest level prior to combat, and to sustain it once in combat.

1-238.  In close combat, commitment to winning and surviving the fight is the manifestation of human will. No other element has the potential of equalizing seemingly unequal opponents. Because the human will is difficult to measure, it is difficult to infuse into discussions of tactics. Concepts like tempo, initiative, flexibility, audacity, and momentum attempt to convey this critical aspect in doctrine. To win in combat, leaders and Soldiers must develop the will to adapt their training and doctrine to unique situations.


1-239.  Friction is the resistance that comes from the environment that leaders and their units experience during the course of an operation. It is comprised of all the elements in the operational environment that come together to reduce the unit’s ability to accomplish its mission. Some (but not all) factors that contribute to these incidents are—

– Danger.

– Unclear information or orders; misinterpreted orders.

– Rapidly-changing situations and continuous demands.

– Environmental factors such as noise, dirt, weather, and complex terrain.

– Physical factors such as hunger, fatigue, and lack of sleep.

– Fear.

1-240.  Combat is where the positive aspects of will and skill battle with the negative aspects of friction. When will and skill are strong, no amount of friction can prevent a victory. Failure often results when the friction of close combat overcomes will and skill.

Law of War

1-241.  The law of land warfare is an ever-present aspect of the operational environment. Leaders and their Soldiers have a legal and moral obligation to follow it. The law of war (LOW) explains rights afforded to everyone on the battlefield; both combatants and noncombatants.

Why We Follow the Law of war

1-242.  U.S. Soldiers follow the LOW for five basic reasons. First, it is the law. Violations of the LOW are punishable under the UCMJ, the 1996 War Crimes Act, and international law. Second, following the LOW enhances public support for the military cause, contrasted by the lack of support displayed after incidents like the My Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case. Third, following the law of war may encourage some of our enemies to follow the law of war. Fourth, because they know American Soldiers will care for them, there is a greater chance our enemies will surrender rather than continue fighting. Fifth, it is morally right.

1-243.  Although U.S. forces and their allies must respect the LOW, leaders remain aware that some of our enemies do not. In some cases, enemies seek an advantage by exploiting the LOW, after which some American Soldiers may have difficulty understanding why they should continue to follow the LOW. Leaders must set the example by adhering to the letter as well as the spirit of the LOW, even in the face of enemy violations.


1-244.  Under the LOW, leaders are legally accountable for the deadly force their units use during battle. Four principles exist to assist leaders in following the LOW: military necessity; distinction; avoiding unnecessary suffering; and proportionality. These principles guide the leader in making decisions that are consistent with international law:

(1)     Military Necessity. The principle of military necessity states: “Soldiers may use force not
forbidden by international law that is necessary to secure the proper submission of the enemy
military force.” In short, if you target someone or something with deadly force, doing so must
offer a direct and concrete military advantage.

(2)     Distinction. The principle of distinction states that combatants must distinguish combatants
from noncombatants and military objects from civilian objects. On some contemporary
battlefields, enemies may try to exploit this principle by fighting in civilian clothes and using
civilian or protected structures.

(3)     Avoid Unnecessary Suffering. The principle of avoiding unnecessary suffering allows you to
cause only the amount of injury, destruction, and suffering that is necessary to accomplish
your legitimate military purposes. Do not alter weapons to cause unnecessary suffering (such
as making dumb-dumb rounds). Do not kill or destroy more than is necessary to win the fight
or save another Soldier’s life.

(4)     Proportionality. The principle of proportionality states that “military forces may not cause
suffering, injury, or destruction to noncombatants or civilian objects which would be
excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” In other
words, the military necessity of the target must outweigh the collateral damage caused by the
commander’s act.

1-245.  Rules of engagement (ROE) are directives issued by competent military authority that delineate the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces will initiate or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered (FM 1-02). The ROE define the commander’s rules for use of force and limit the commander’s options to comply within the LOW. They take into account practical and political considerations and may limit the commander’s use of force more than the LOW.

Enemy Prisoners of War and Other Detainees

1-246.  The Geneva Convention acts as a shield to prevent the capturing force from prosecuting the captured force for lawful warlike acts. It requires all captured personnel to be treated humanely as enemy prisoner(s) of war (EPW) until a competent military tribunal determines that the captured personnel are not entitled to that status. AR 190-8, Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees, and Other Detainees, covers the proper treatment of EPWs and other detainees.

1-247.  Injured enemy soldiers who are out of the fight and enemy soldiers making a clear attempt to surrender are protected under the LOW.   However, because America’s enemies know we follow the LOW, they may try to exploit the LOW to gain a tactical advantage. An enemy may not feign injury or surrender. For this reason, American Soldiers must maintain readiness to use deadly force when dealing with the injured or surrendering enemy until these individuals are in custody. Once American Soldiers determine that an enemy soldier is attempting to surrender or is injured so badly that he is out of the fight, that enemy soldier is protected unless he enters back into the fight.

1-248.  At the Infantry platoon and squad levels, the six simple rules for EPWs are search, silence, segregate, safeguard, speed to the rear (the five S’s), and tag. The tag includes the date of capture, location of capture (grid coordinate), capturing unit, and special circumstances of capture (how the person was captured). The five S’s include:

(1)     Search the EPW thoroughly and disarm him.

(2)     Silence—require the EPW to be silent.

(3)     Segregate the EPW from other EPWs (by sex and rank).

(4)     Safeguard the EPW from harm while preventing him from escaping.

(5)     Speed the EPW to the designated EPW collection point.

1-249.  Once the enemy is under friendly control, they assume the protected status of detainee. This is an umbrella term that includes any person captured or otherwise detained by armed force. Under the LOW, leaders and Soldiers are personally responsible for detainees under their control. Mistreatment of EPWs is a criminal offense under the Geneva Convention, AR 190-8, and The 1996 War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 2441). The War Crimes Act makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment.

Ten Soldier Rules

1-250.  The following 10 simple rules will assist Soldiers in living and enforcing the law of war (LOW) (use the mnemonic OBLIGATION):

(1)     Only fight individuals who are identified as uniformed combatants, terrorists, or insurgents committing hostile acts or demonstrating hostile intent.

(2)     Based on triage, medically care for all wounded, whether friend, foe, or noncombatant.

(3)     Leave medical personnel, facilities, or equipment out of the fight unless they are being used by the enemy to attack U.S. forces.

(4)     Injured or surrendering Soldiers who no longer have the means to fight are protected. Disarm them, treat their wounds, and speedily turn them over to the appropriate authorities.

(5)     Guarantee humane treatment of noncombatants and enemy prisoners of war.

(6)     Abusing prisoners is never authorized. Do not kill, torture, or mistreat enemy prisoners of war or those being detained by U.S. forces.

(7)     Taking private possessions is stealing. Respect private property.

(8)     Intervene, stop, or prevent violations of the law of war to the best of your ability.

(9)     Only use necessary force to eliminate the threat and accomplish the mission.

(10)  Never tolerate a LOW violation. Report all violations of the LOW to your superiors.

Operational Environment

1-251.  The operational environment is a composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that affect the employment of military forces and bear on the decisions of the unit leader (FM 1-02). In every day language, the operational environment is all of the variables that affect the leader’s mission. It is essential for leaders to educate themselves on how to analyze and understand the variables within their operational environment.

1-252.  Understanding the operational environment is perhaps the most difficult aspect of making decisions and conducting operations. The TTP for accomplishing tasks are fairly straightforward. This manual and many others contain numerous TTP for how to perform tasks and missions. Choosing and applying the appropriate TTP based on the specific conditions of a given operational environment, however, is never straightforward and always carries with it second and third order effects. Leaders must therefore educate themselves to understand their environment and the factors that affect their decisionmaking. This will contribute greatly to the development of their judgment in complex and uncertain situations.

1-253.  Infantry platoon and squad leaders use the factors of METT-TC to understand and describe the operational environment. These six widely-known and used factors are categories for cataloging and analyzing information. Leaders and their Soldiers are constantly observing and assessing their environment.

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