Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 8 – Section IV – Engagement Area Development

Section IV – Engagement Area Development

8-68.     The engagement area is the place where the platoon leader intends to destroy an enemy force using the massed fires of all available weapons. The success of any engagement depends on how effectively the platoon leader can integrate the obstacle and indirect fire plans with his direct fire plan in the engagement area to achieve the platoon’s purpose. At the platoon level, engagement area development remains a complex function that requires parallel planning and preparation if the platoon is to accomplish its assigned tasks. Despite this complexity, engagement area development resembles a drill. The platoon leader and his subordinate leaders use a standardized set of procedures. Beginning with an evaluation of the factors of METT-TC, the development process covers these steps:

– Identify likely enemy avenues of approach.

– Identify the enemy scheme of maneuver.

– Determine where to kill the enemy.

– Plan and integrate obstacles.

– Emplace weapons systems.

– Plan and integrate indirect fires.

– Conduct an engagement area rehearsal.


8-69.     The platoon leader conducts an initial reconnaissance from the enemy’s perspective along each avenue of approach into the sector or engagement area. During his reconnaissance, he confirms key terrain identified by the company commander, including locations that afford positional advantage over the enemy and natural obstacles and choke points that restrict forward movement. The platoon leader determines which avenues will afford cover and concealment for the enemy while allowing him to maintain his tempo. The platoon leader also evaluates lateral mobility corridors (routes) that adjoin each avenue of approach.


8-70.     The platoon leader greatly enhances this step of the engagement area development process by gaining information early. He receives answers to the following questions from the company commander:

– Where does the enemy want to go?

– Where will the enemy go based on terrain?

– What is the enemy’s mission (or anticipated mission)?

– What are the enemy’s objectives?

– How will the enemy structure his attack?

– How will the enemy employ his reconnaissance assets?

– What are the enemy’s expected rates of movement?

– How will the enemy respond to friendly actions?


8-71.     As part of his TLP, the platoon leader must determine where he will mass combat power on the enemy to accomplish his purpose. This decision is tied to his assessment of how the enemy will fight into the platoon’s engagement area. Normally this entry point is marked by a prominent TRP that all platoon elements can engage with their direct fire weapons. This allows the commander to identify where the platoon will engage enemy forces through the depth of the company engagement area. In addition, the leader—

– Identifies TRPs that match the enemy’s scheme of maneuver, allowing the platoon (or company) to identify where it will engage the enemy through the depth of the engagement area.

– Identifies and records the exact location of each TRP.

– Determines how many weapons systems can focus fires on each TRP to achieve the desired purpose.

– Determines which squad(s) can mass fires on each TRP.

– Begins development of a direct fire plan that focuses at each TRP.


NOTE:  In marking TRPs, use thermal sights to ensure visibility at the appropriate range under varying conditions, including daylight and limited visibility.


8-72.     To be successful in the defense, the platoon leader must integrate tactical obstacles with the direct fire plan, taking into account the intent of each obstacle. At the company level, obstacle intent consists of the target of the obstacle, the desired effect on the target, and the relative location of the group. A platoon must have a clear task and purpose to properly emplace a tactical obstacle. The company or battalion will normally designate the purpose of the tactical obstacle. The purpose will influence many aspects of the operation, from selection and design of obstacle sites, to actual conduct of the defense. Once the tactical obstacle has been emplaced, the platoon leader must report its location and the gaps in the obstacle to the company commander. This ensures that the company commander can integrate obstacles with his direct and indirect fire plans, refining his engagement area development.


8-73.     To position weapons effectively, leaders must know the characteristics, capabilities, and limitations of the weapons as well as the effects of terrain and the tactics used by the enemy. Platoon leaders should position weapons where they have protection, where they can avoid detection, and where they can surprise the enemy with accurate, lethal fires. In order to position the weapons, the platoon leader must know where he wants to destroy the enemy and what effect he wants the weapon to achieve. He should also consider—

– Selecting tentative squad defensive positions.

– Conducting a leader’s reconnaissance of the tentative defensive positions.

– Walking the engagement area to confirm that the selected positions are tactically advantageous.

– Confirming and marking the selected defensive positions.

– Developing a direct fire plan that accomplishes the platoon’s purpose.

– Ensuring the defensive positions do not conflict with those of adjacent units and is effectively tied in with adjacent positions.

– Selecting primary, alternate, and supplementary fighting positions to achieve the desired effect for each TRP.

– Ensuring the squad leaders position weapons systems so the required numbers of weapons or squads effectively cover each TRP.

– Inspecting all positions.


NOTE:  When possible, select fighting and crew-served weapon positions while moving in the engagement area. Using the enemy’s perspective enables the platoon leader to assess survivability of the positions.


8-74.     In planning and integrating indirect fires, the platoon leader must accomplish the following:

– Determine the purpose of fires if the company commander has not already done so.

– Determine where that purpose will best be achieved if the company commander has not done so.

– Establish the observation plan with redundancy for each target. Observers include the platoon leader as well as members of subordinate elements (such as team leaders) with fire support responsibilities.

– Establish triggers based on enemy movement rates.

– Obtain accurate target locations using survey and navigational equipment.

– Refine target locations to ensure coverage of obstacles.

– Register artillery and mortars.

– Plan FPF.


8-75.     The purpose of rehearsal is to ensure that every leader and every Soldier understands the plan (Figure 8-7), and is prepared to cover his assigned areas with direct and indirect fires.


Figure 8-7. Integrated engagement area plan.

8-76.     The platoon will probably participate in a company-level engagement area rehearsal. The company commander has several options for conducting a rehearsal, but the combined arms rehearsal produces the most detailed understanding of the plan. One technique the platoon leader may use for his rehearsal is the full dress rehearsal. In the defense, the platoon leader may have the platoon sergeant and squads conduct a movement through the engagement area to depict the attacking enemy force, while the platoon leader and squad leaders rehearse the battle from the platoon defensive positions. The rehearsal should cover—

– Rearward passage of security forces (as required).

– Closure of lanes (as required).

– Use of fire commands, triggers, and or maximum engagement lines (MELs) to initiate direct and indirect fires.

– Shifting of fires to refocus and redistribute fire effects.

– Disengagement criteria.

– Identification of displacement routes and times.

– Preparation and transmission of critical reports.

– Assessment of the effects of enemy weapons systems.

– Displacement to alternate, supplementary, or subsequent defensive positions.

– Cross-leveling or resupply of Class V items.

– Evacuation of casualties.


NOTE: When conducting his rehearsal, the platoon leader should coordinate the platoon rehearsal with the company to ensure other units’ rehearsals are not planned for the same time and location. Coordination will lead to more efficient use of planning and preparation time for all company units. It will also eliminate the danger of misidentification of friendly forces in the rehearsal area.

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