Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 3 – Section III – Movement Techniques

Section III – Movement Techniques

3-65.     Movement techniques are not fixed formations. They refer to the distances between Soldiers, teams, and squads that vary based on mission, enemy, terrain, visibility, and any other factor that affects control. There are three movement techniques: traveling; traveling overwatch; and bounding overwatch. The selection of a movement technique is based on the likelihood of enemy contact and the need for speed. Factors to consider for each technique are control, dispersion, speed, and security (Table 3-5). Individual movement techniques include high and low crawl, and three to five second rushes from one covered position to another (see FM 21-75, Combat Skills of the Soldier).

Table 3-5. Movement techniques and characteristics.

Movement Techniques

When Normally Used






Traveling Contact not likely More Less Fastest Least
Traveling overwatch Contact possible Less More Slower More
Bounding overwatch Contact expected Most Most Slowest Most

3-66.     From these movement techniques, leaders are able to conduct actions on contact, making natural transitions to fire and movement as well as to conducting tactical mission tasks. When analyzing the situation, some enemy positions are known. However, most of the time enemy positions will only be likely (called templated positions). Templated positions are the leader’s “best guess” based on analyzing the terrain and his knowledge of the enemy. Throughout the operation, leaders are continuously trying to confirm or deny both the known positions as well as the likely positions.

Methods of Maneuvering Subordinates

3-67.     There are two methods of bounding the squads: successive; and alternate bounds. In successive bounds the lead element is always the same; in alternate bounds (called leapfrogging), the lead element changes each time (Figure 3-14).

Successive Bounds

3-68.     If the platoon uses successive bounds, the lead squad, covered by the trail squad, advances and occupies a support-by-fire position. The trail squad advances to a support-by-fire position abreast of the lead squad and halts. The lead squad moves to the next position and the move continues. Only one squad moves at a time, and the trail squad avoids advancing beyond the lead squad.

Alternate Bounds

3-69.     Covered by the rear squad, the lead squad moves forward, halts, and assumes overwatch positions. The rear squad advances past the lead squad and takes up overwatch positions. The initial lead squad then advances past the initial rear squad and takes up overwatch positions. Only one squad moves at a time. This method is usually more rapid than successive bounds.


Figure 3-14. Successive and alternate bounds.

Squad Movement Techniques

3-70.      The platoon leader determines and directs which movement technique the squad will use.

Squad Traveling

3-71.      Traveling is used when contact with the enemy is not likely and speed is needed (Figure 3-15).


Figure 3-15. Squad traveling.

Squad Traveling Overwatch

3-72.      Traveling overwatch is used when contact is possible. Attached weapons move near the squad leader and under his control so he can employ them quickly. Rifle squads normally move in column or wedge formation (Figure 3-16). Ideally, the lead team moves at least 50 meters in front of the rest of the element.

Figure 3-16. Squad traveling overwatch.

Squad Bounding Overwatch

3-73.      Bounding overwatch is used when contact is expected, when the squad leader feels the enemy is near (based on movement, noise, reflection, trash, fresh tracks, or even a hunch), or when a large open danger area must be crossed. The lead fire team overwatches first. Soldiers in the overwatch team scan for enemy positions. The squad leader usually stays with the overwatch team. The trail fire team bounds and signals the squad leader when his team completes its bound and is prepared to overwatch the movement of the other team.

3-74.     Both team leaders must know which team the squad leader will be with. The overwatching team leader must know the route and destination of the bounding team. The bounding team leader must know his team’s destination and route, possible enemy locations, and actions to take when he arrives there. He must also know where the overwatching team will be and how he will receive his instructions (Figure 3-17). The cover and concealment on the bounding team’s route dictates how its Soldiers move.

Figure 3-17. Squad bounding overwatch.

3-75.     Teams can bound successively or alternately. Successive bounds are easier to control; alternate bounds can be faster  (Figure 3-18).

Figure 3-18. Squad successive and alternate bounds.

Platoon Movement Techniques

3-76.     The platoon leader determines and directs which movement technique the platoon will use. While moving, leaders typically separate their unit into two groups: a security element and the main body. In most scenarios, the Infantry platoon is not large enough to separate its forces into separate security forces and main body forces. However, it is able to accomplish these security functions by employing movement techniques. A movement technique is the manner a platoon uses to traverse terrain.

3-77.     As the probability of enemy contact increases, the platoon leader adjusts the movement technique to provide greater security. The key factor to consider is the trail unit’s ability to provide mutual support to the lead element. Soldiers must be able to see their fire team leader. The squad leader must be able to see his fire team leaders. The platoon leader should be able to see his lead squad leader.


3-78.     The platoon often uses the traveling technique when contact is unlikely and speed is needed (Figure 3-19). When using the traveling technique, all unit elements move continuously. In continuous movement, all Soldiers travel at a moderate rate of speed, with all personnel alert. During traveling, formations are essentially not altered except for the effects of terrain.

Figure 3-19. Platoon traveling.

Traveling Overwatch

3-79.     Traveling overwatch is an extended form of traveling in which the lead element moves continuously but trailing elements move at varying speeds, sometimes pausing to overwatch movement of the lead element (Figure 3-20). Traveling overwatch is used when enemy contact is possible but not expected. Caution is justified but speed is desirable.

3-80.     The trail element maintains dispersion based on its ability to provide immediate suppressive fires in support of the lead element. The intent is to maintain depth, provide flexibility, and sustain movement in case the lead element is engaged. The trailing elements cue their movement to the terrain, overwatching from a position where they can support the lead element if needed. Trailing elements overwatch from positions and at distances that will not prevent them from firing or moving to support the lead element. The idea is to put enough distance between the lead unit and the trail unit(s) so if the lead unit comes into contact, the trail unit(s) will be out of contact but have the ability to maneuver on the enemy.

3-81.     Traveling overwatch requires the leader to control his subordinate’s spacing to ensure mutual support. This involves a constant process of concentrating (close it up) and dispersion (spread it out). The primary factor is mutual support, with its two critical variables being weapon ranges and terrain. Infantry platoon’s weapon range limitations dictate that units should not generally get separated by more than 300 meters. In compartmentalized terrain this distance is obviously closer while in open terrain this distance is greater.

Figure 3-20. Platoon traveling overwatch.

Bounding Overwatch

3-82.     Bounding overwatch is similar to fire and movement in which one unit overwatches the movement of another (Figure 3-21). The difference is there is no actual enemy contact. Bounding overwatch is used when the leader expects contact. The key to this technique is the proper use of terrain. Subordinate units fall into one of three categories: bounding, overwatching, or awaiting orders.


Figure 3-21. Platoon bounding overwatch.

One Squad Bounding

3-83.     One squad bounds forward to a chosen position; it then becomes the overwatching element unless contact is made en route. The bounding squad can use traveling overwatch, bounding overwatch, or individual movement techniques (low and high crawl, and three to five second rushes by fire team or pairs).

3-84.     Factors of METT-TC dictate the length of the bounds. However, the bounding squad(s) should never move beyond the range at which the base-of-fire squad(s) can effectively suppress known, likely, or suspected enemy positions. In severely restrictive terrain, the bounding squad(s) makes shorter bounds than it would in more open areas. The destination of the bounding element is based on the suitability of the next location as an overwatch position. When deciding where to send his bounding squad, a platoon leader considers—

– The requirements of the mission.

– Where the enemy is likely to be.

– The routes to the next overwatch position.

– The ability of an overwatching element’s weapons to cover the bound.

– The responsiveness of the rest of the platoon.

One Squad Overwatching

3-85.     One squad overwatches the bounding squad from covered positions and from where it can see and suppress likely enemy positions. The platoon leader remains with the overwatching squad. Normally the platoon’s machine guns are located with the overwatching squad.

One Squad Awaiting Orders

3-86.     Based on the situation, one squad is uncommitted and ready for employment as directed by the platoon leader. The platoon sergeant and the leader of the squad awaiting orders position themselves close to the platoon leader. On contact, this unit(s) should be prepared to support the overwatching element, move to assist the bounding squad, or move to another location based on the platoon leader’s assessment.

Weapons Squad

3-87.     Machine guns are normally employed in one of two ways:

– Attached to the overwatch squad or the weapons squad that supports the overwatch element.

– Awaiting orders to move (with the platoon sergeant [PSG]) or as part of a bounding element.

Command and Control of the Bounding Element

3-88.     Ideally, the overwatch element maintains visual contact with the bounding element. However, the leader of the overwatch element may have the ability to digitally track the location of the bounding element without maintaining visual contact. This provides the bounding element more freedom in selecting covered and concealed routes to its next location. Before a bound, the platoon leader gives an order to his squad leaders from the overwatch position (Figure 3-22). He tells and shows them the following:

– The direction or location of the enemy (if known).

– The positions of the overwatching squad.

– The next overwatch position.

– The route of the bounding squad.

– What to do after the bounding squad reaches the next position.

– What signal the bounding squad will use to announce it is prepared to overwatch.

– How the squad will receive its next orders.


Figure 3-22. Example of platoon leader’s orders for bounding overwatch.

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