Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 9 – Section VII – Patrol Preparations

section VII — Patrol preparations


9-193.  Units send out patrols under many and varied conditions on the battlefield.  Patrols are often used during high-intensity combat.  They are also sent out during stability operations, and when the unit is providing support to civil authorities. The specific actions taken in preparing for a patrol, while conducting the mission, and after returning to the main body will vary depending on the tactical situation. The principles, however, will remain the same. During high-intensity combat, some of the actions described below may be abbreviated. Those same actions may be executed in much greater detail and specificity during stability operations or during support to civil authority. In general, patrol activities are much more closely documented during operations in other than high-intensity combat. Successful patrol operations require considerable preparation before a patrol departs.  The commander or platoon leader should brief the patrol leader and give him clear orders before sending him away from the main body. Patrol members should depart on patrol confident of the patrol’s capabilities. This can be understood through detailed knowledge of the mission’s task and purpose, the threats that may be encountered during the patrol, and good situational awareness.

Briefings and Orders

9-194.  Patrol orders, pre-patrol briefings, and rehearsals should cover the following subjects:

– Environment, local situation and possible threats. The patrol leader should coordinate an intelligence briefing that covers the operating environment, local civil situation, terrain and weather that might affect the patrol’s mission, general and specific threats to the patrol, suspect persons, and vehicles and locations known to be in the patrol’s area.

– Mine and IED threat. The patrol leader should make a mine and IED risk assessment based on the latest information available. This will determine many of the actions of the patrol. Patrol members must be informed of the latest mine and IED threats and the restrictions to the unit’s tactical SOPs that result.

– Operations Update. The patrol leader should coordinate for an up-to-date briefing on the location and intentions of other friendly patrols and units in the patrol’s area. This briefing should include the existing fire and maneuver control measures in effect, any no-go or restricted areas, any special instructions in effect for the patrol’s area, and all other operational issues that may affect the patrol and its mission.

– Mission and Tasks. Every patrol leader should be given a specific task and purpose to accomplish with his patrol. Accordingly, each patrol member must know the mission and be aware of their responsibilities.

– Locations and Route.  The patrol leader must brief his patrol on all pertinent locations and routes.  Locations and routes may include drop-off points, pick-up points, planned routes; rally points, exit and re-entry points, and alternates for each should be covered in detail.

– Posture. This is a key consideration during a presence patrol.  The patrol leader should not depart until he is sure that he completely understands what posture or attitude the commander wishes the patrol to present to the populace it encounters.  The posture may be soft or hard depending on the situation, and the environment. The patrol posture may have to change several times during a patrol.

– Actions on Contact and Actions at the Scene of an Incident. These are likely to be part of the unit’s tactical SOPs but should be covered especially if there are local variations or new members in the patrol.

– Rules of Engagement, Rules of Interaction and Rules for Escalation of Force:  Each member of the patrol must know and understand these rules.

– Communications Plan/Lost Communications Plan. Every patrol member should know the means in which the patrol plans to communicate, to whom, how, and when it should report.  The patrol leader must ensure that he has considered what actions the patrol will take in the event it loses communications.  The unit may have established these actions in its tactical SOP, but all patrol members should be briefed on the communication plan and be given the appropriate frequencies, contact numbers, and passwords that are in effect.

– Electronic Countermeasures Plan. This is especially important if the IED threat level is high.  The patrol leader should clearly explain to all members of the patrol which ECM devices are being employed, and their significant characteristics.  These issues may be covered by the unit’s tactical SOP but all patrol members should be briefed on the ECM plan that is in effect during the patrol.

– Standard and Special Uniforms and Equipment:  Equipment should be distributed evenly among the patrol members.  The location of key or unique equipment should be known by all members of the patrol. SOPs should be developed to stipulate what dress is to be worn for the various types of patrol. The dress state will be linked to threats and posture of the patrol, so patrol members should be briefed in sufficient time to enable proper preparations. All patrols must have a day and night capability regardless of the expected duration of the patrol.

– Medical. Every Soldier should carry his own first aid dressing per the unit tactical SOP.  If possible, every patrol should have at least one combat lifesaver with a CLS bag.  All patrol members must know who is responsible for carrying the pack and know how to use its contents.

– Attachments. The patrol leader must ensure that all personnel attached to the patrol are introduced to the other patrol members and briefed thoroughly on the tactical SOP; all patrol special orders; and the existing chain of command.  The following type personnel may be attached to a unit going out to patrol:

– Interpreters.

n   Police (either military police or local security forces).

n   Specialists in search or explosive demolitions.

n   Female Soldiers specifically designated and trained to search local women.

n   Dog and dog handlers.


9-195.  Equipment carried by the patrol will be environment and task specific.

– Radios and electronic countermeasures (ECM) Equipment. Radios and ECM equipment should be checked prior to every patrol to ensure that it is serviceable and operates correctly. Sufficient batteries must be taken for the expected duration of the patrol plus some extra as backup. Patrol members must be trained in the operation of all ECM and radio equipment. It is the patrol leader’s responsibility to ensure that radios and ECM equipment are switched on and working and communication checks are conducted prior to leaving the base location.

– Weapons. All weapons must be prepared for firing prior to departure from the larger unit. Slings should be used to ensure weapons do not become separated from any Soldier who becomes incapacitated.  This also ensures that a weapon cannot be snatched away from a distracted Soldier while he is speaking with locals and used against him.

– Ammunition. Sufficient ammunition, signal pyrotechnics, smoke, and non-lethal munitions must be carried to enable the patrol to conduct its mission. The amount of each a patrol carries may be established by the unit’s tactical SOP or by the patrol leader based on his evaluation of the situation the patrol will face.

– Load-carrying Equipment. Patrol members should carry sufficient team and personal equipment to enable them to accomplish other missions (such as reassignment to a cordon position before returning to the larger unit for resupply). The unit’s tactical SOP should establish the standard amount of equipment and supplies to be carried.  The commander must consider carefully the burden he places on his Soldiers going on a foot patrol, especially in extreme weather conditions or rugged terrain.

– Documentation. Team leaders are responsible to the patrol leader for ensuring that appropriate documentation is carried by individuals for the conduct of the mission. Under normal circumstances, Soldiers should carry just their identification card and tags.  The unit tactical SOP may prohibit or require the carrying of other appropriate theatre specific documentation such as cards with rules on escalation of force, rules of engagement, or rules of interaction.

Equipment Checks

9-196.  A number of equipment checks should be conducted prior to the patrol departing:

– Individual Equipment Check. It is the responsibility of every patrol member to check his or her individual equipment. Soldiers should ensure any loose items of equipment carried are secured.

– Team Leader’s Equipment Check. Leaders must ensure that individual team members limit what they carry to that which is required for the patrol. Team equipment must be checked for serviceability.

– Patrol Leader’s Equipment Check. Patrol leaders should check individual and team equipment from each team prior to deploying, paying particular attention to the serviceability of mission specific equipment.


9-197.  Patrols should rehearse any specific tactical actions or drills for situations the patrol leader anticipates they might encounter.

Communications checks

9-198.   Communications checks should be conducted with the unit headquarters or the tactical operations center before every patrol. Patrols should not leave the vicinity of the main body until all communication systems are operating correctly.

Patrol Manifest

9-199.  When the situation allows, the patrol leader should submit a written patrol manifest to the commander or to Tactical Operations Center personnel prior to departing the main body.  Regardless of the situation, whenever the unit sends out a patrol there should be a specific list of the patrol members made before it departs.  The unit tactical SOP may establish a specific format for this manifest, but generally it should contain the following information:

– Patrol number or call sign designation.

– Unit designation of unit sending the patrol out.

– Patrol task and purpose (mission).

– Names and rank of patrol leader and all subordinate leaders.

– Estimated DTG Out.

– Estimated DTG In.

– Brief description of the patrol’s intended route.

– Complete names, rank, and unit of all members of the patrol, including attachments.

– Number, nomenclature, and serial number of all weapons with the patrol.

– Number, nomenclature, and serial number of all ECM devices, radios, and any other special or sensitive equipment with the patrol.

– Vehicle type and registration number (if appropriate)

9-200.  The purpose of the manifest is to allow the higher headquarters to keep track of all the patrols that are out and those that have returned.  If the patrol engages the enemy or fails to return on time without reporting, the headquarters has information on the size, capability and intentions of the patrol that it may need.  If the patrol suffers casualties or has a vehicle disabled, this manifest can be used to check that all personnel, weapons and sensitive items were recovered.

Departure Report

9-201.  The patrol leader should render a departure report just as the patrol departs the main body location or the base. Depending on the procedure established by the unit’s tactical SOP, this might include a detailed listing of the patrol’s composition. It may also simply state the patrol’s call sign or patrol number and report its departure.

Weapons Status

9-202.  Immediately upon leaving an established base or the main body position, the patrol leader and team leaders should ensure that all the patrol weapons are loaded and prepared for immediate action.  Electronic countermeasures should be checked to ensure they are turned on if appropriate and all radio frequency settings should be confirmed.


9-203.  When the patrol returns to the base, each Soldier should clear his weapon immediately after entering the protected area.  The unit’s tactical SOP will normally establish precise procedures for this clearing. Patrol leaders should ensure that all individual and crew-served weapons are unloaded.

Exiting and Entering a Fixed Base

9-204.  Exiting and entering a fixed operating base is a high risk activity due to the way troops are channeled through narrow entry or exit points. Insurgents are known to monitor patrols leaving and entering base locations to identify patterns and areas of weakness that they can exploit. Patrols leaving and entering a base can reduce the risks of attack by varying the points used to exit and enter the base, and any routes used to transit the immediate area around the base.  If this is not possible, extreme caution should be used in the vicinity of the exit and entry points. Patrol leaders must ensure their patrols do no become complacent.  Units should ensure close coordination between patrol leaders and guards at the entry point while the patrol is transiting the gate.

Security Checks While on Patrol

9-205.  Patrol members must assist their patrol leader by applying basic patrolling techniques consistently. This gives the team leader more time to concentrate on assisting the patrol leader in the conduct of the patrol. Team members should concentrate on maintaining spacing, formation, alertness, conducting 5 and 20 meter checks and taking up effective fire positions without supervision.

5 and 20 Meter Checks

9-206.  Every time a patrol stops, it should use a fundamental security technique known as the 5 and 20 meter check. The technique involves every patrol member requiring him to make detailed, focused examinations of the area immediately around him, and looking for anything out of the ordinary that might be dangerous or significant.  Five meter checks should be conducted every time a patrol member stops. Twenty meter checks should be conducted when a patrol halts for more than a few minutes.

9-207.  Soldiers should conduct a visual check using their unaided vision, and by using the optics on their weapons and binoculars. They should check for anything suspicious, and anything out of the ordinary.  This might be as minor as bricks missing from walls, new string or wire run across a path, mounds of fresh soil dirt, or any other suspicious signs. Check the area at ground level through to above head height.

9-208.  When the patrol makes a planned halt, the patrol leader identifies an area for occupation and stops 50 meters short of it. While the remainder of the patrol provides security, the patrol leader carries out a visual check using binoculars.  He then moves the patrol forward to 20 meters from the position and conducts a visual check using optics on his weapon or with unaided vision.

9-209.  Before actually occupying the position, each Soldier carries out a thorough visual and physical check for a radius of 5 meters. They must be systematic, take time and show curiosity. Use touch and, at night, white light if appropriate.

9-210.  Any obstacles must be physically checked for command wires. Fences, walls, wires, posts and the ground immediately underneath must be carefully felt by hand, without gloves.

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