Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 3 – Section V – Actions at Danger Areas

Section V – Actions at Danger Areas

3-123.  When analyzing the terrain (in the METT-TC analysis) during the TLP, the platoon leader may identify danger areas. When planning the route, the platoon leader marks the danger areas on his overlay. The term danger area refers to any area on the route where the terrain could expose the platoon to enemy observation, fire, or both. If possible, the platoon leader plans to avoid danger areas, but sometimes he cannot. When the unit must cross a danger area, it does so as quickly and as carefully as possible. During planning, the leader designates near-side and far-side rally points. If the platoon encounters an unexpected danger area, it uses the en route rally points closest to the danger area as far-side and near-side rally points. Examples of danger areas include—

– Open Areas. Conceal the platoon on the near side and observe the area. Post security to give early warning. Send an element across to clear the far side. When cleared, cross the remainder of the platoon at the shortest exposed distance and as quickly as possible.

– Roads and Trails. Cross roads or trails at or near a bend, a narrow spot, or on low ground.

– Villages. Pass villages on the downwind side and well away from them. Avoid animals, especially dogs, which might reveal the presence of the platoon.

– Enemy Positions. Pass on the downwind side (the enemy might have scout dogs). Be alert for trip wires and warning devices.

– Minefields. Bypass minefields if at all possible, even if it requires changing the route by a great distance. Clear a path through minefields only if necessary.

– Streams. Select a narrow spot in the stream that offers concealment on both banks. Observe the far side carefully. Emplace near- and far-side security for early warning. Clear the far side and then cross rapidly but quietly.

– Wire Obstacles. Avoid wire obstacles (the enemy covers obstacles with observation and fire).

Crossing of Danger Areas

3-124.  Regardless of the type of danger area, when the platoon must cross one independently, or as the lead element of a larger force, it must perform the following:

– When the lead team signals “danger area” (relayed throughout the platoon), the platoon halts.

– The platoon leader moves forward, confirms the danger area, and determines what technique the platoon will use to cross. The platoon sergeant also moves forward to the platoon leader.

– The platoon leader informs all squad leaders of the situation and the near-side and far-side rally points.

– The platoon sergeant directs positioning of the near-side security (usually conducted by the trail squad). These two security teams may follow him forward when the platoon halts and a danger area signal is passed back.

– The platoon leader reconnoiters the danger area and selects the crossing point that provides the best cover and concealment.

– Near-side security observes to the flanks and overmatches the crossing.

– When the near-side security is in place, the platoon leader directs the far-side security team to cross the danger area.

– The far-side security team clears the far side.

– The far-side security team leader establishes an observation post forward of the cleared area.

– The far-side security team signals to the squad leader that the area is clear. The squad leader relays the message to the platoon leader.

– The platoon leader selects the method the platoon will use to cross the danger area.

– The platoon quickly and quietly crosses the danger area.

– Once across the danger area, the main body begins moving slowly on the required azimuth.

– The near-side security element, controlled by the platoon sergeant, crosses the danger area where the platoon crossed. They may attempt to cover any tracks left by the platoon.

– The platoon sergeant ensures everyone crosses and sends up the report.

– The platoon leader ensures accountability and resumes movement at normal speed.


NOTE: The same principles stated above are used when crossing a smaller unit (such as a squad) across a danger area.

3-125.  The platoon leader or squad leader decides how the unit will cross based on the time he has, size of the unit, size of the danger area, fields of fire into the area, and the amount of security he can post. An Infantry platoon or squad may cross all at once, in buddy teams, or one Soldier at a time. A large unit normally crosses its elements one at a time. As each element crosses, it moves to an overwatch position or to the far-side rally point until told to continue movement.

Crossing of linear Danger Areas (Platoon)

3-126.  A linear danger area is an area where the platoon’s flanks are exposed along a relatively narrow field of fire. Examples include streets, roads, trails, and streams. The platoon crosses a linear danger area in the formation and location specified by the platoon leader (Figure 3-24).

Figure 3-24. Crossing a linear danger area.

Crossing of Large Open Areas

3-127.  If the large open area is so large that the platoon cannot bypass it due to the time needed to accomplish the mission, a combination of traveling overwatch and bounding overwatch is used to cross the large open area (Figure 3-25). The traveling overwatch technique is used to save time. The squad or platoon moves using the bounding overwatch technique at any point in the open area where enemy contact may be expected. The technique may also be used once the squad or platoon comes within range of enemy small-arms fire from the far side (about 250 meters). Once beyond the open area, the squad or platoon re-forms and continues the mission.


Figure 3-25. Crossing a large open area.

Crossing of Small Open Areas

3-128.  Small open areas are small enough to bypass in the time allowed for the mission. Two techniques can be used (Figure 3-26).

Contouring Around the Open Area

3-129.  The leader designates a rally point on the far side with the movement azimuth. He then decides which side of the open area to contour around (after considering the distance, terrain, cover and concealment), and moves around the open area. He uses the wood line and vegetation for cover and concealment. When the squad or platoon arrives at the rally point on the far side, the leader reassumes the azimuth to the objective area and continues the mission (Figure 3-26).

Detour Bypass Method

3-130.  The squad or platoon turns 90 degrees to the right or left around the open area and moves in the direction of travel. Once the squad or platoon has passed the danger area, the unit completes the box with another 90-degree turn and arrives at the far-side rally point, then continues the mission. The pace count of the offset and return legs is not added to the distance of the planned route (Figure 3-26).


Figure 3-26. Crossing a small open area.

Enemy Contact at Danger Areas

3-131.  An increased awareness of the situation helps the platoon leader control the platoon when it makes contact with the enemy. If the platoon makes contact in or near the danger area, it moves to the designated rally points. Based on the direction of enemy contact, the leader still designates the far- or near-side rally point. During limited visibility, he can also use his laser systems to point out the rally points at a distance. If the platoon has a difficult time linking up at the rally point, the first element to arrive should mark the rally point with an infrared light source. This will help direct the rest of the platoon to the location. During movement to the rally point, position updates allow separated elements to identify each other’s locations. These updates help them link up at the rally point by identifying friends and foes.


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