--Fives Steps of Actions on Contact


2-152. The Infantry unit should execute actions on contact using a logical, well-organized process of decisionmaking and action entailing these five steps ─

  • Deploy and report.
  • Evaluate and develop the situation.
  • Choose a course of action.
  • Execute the selected course of action.
  • Recommend a course of action to the higher commander.

2-153. This five-step process is not intended to generate a rigid, lockstep response to the enemy. Rather, the goal is to provide an orderly framework enabling the company and its platoons and squads to survive the initial contact, and apply sound decisionmaking and timely actions to complete the operation. Ideally, the unit sees the enemy (visual contact) before being seen by the enemy; it then can initiate direct contact on its own terms by executing the designated COA.

2-154. Once the lead elements of a force conducting movement to contact encounter the enemy, they conduct actions on contact. The unit treats obstacles like enemy contact, assuming the obstacles are covered by fire. The unit’s security force gains tactical advantage over an enemy by using tempo and initiative to conduct these actions, allowing it to gain and maintain contact without becoming decisively engaged. How quickly the unit develops the situation is directly related to its security, and the tempo is directly related to the unit's use of well-rehearsed SOP and drills.

2-155. Leaders understand properly executed actions on contact require time at the squad and platoon levels. To develop the situation, a platoon or company may have to execute flanking movements, conduct reconnaissance by fire, or call for and adjust indirect fires. Each of these activities requires time, and the leader balances the time required for subordinate elements to conduct actions on contact with the need for the company or battalion to maintain momentum. (Refer to FM 3-90-1 for more information.)


2-156. If the leader expects contact based upon reports, through reconnaissance, or other means, the company or platoon is deployed by transitioning to the bounding overwatch movement technique. If the company or platoon is alert to the likely presence of the enemy, it has a better chance of establishing the first visual and physical contact on its own terms. This contact usually is made by an overwatching or bounding platoon, which initiates the companies or platoons’ actions on contact. In a worst-case scenario, a previously undetected (but expected) enemy element may engage the platoon or squad. The platoon or squad in contact then conducts a battle drill for its own survival and initiates actions on contact.

2-157. In some cases, the rifle platoon or squad makes unexpected contact with the enemy while using traveling or traveling overwatch. The element in contact or, if necessary, the entire platoon or squad may deploy using battle drills to survive the initial contact. When making unexpected contact, the platoon or squad in contact immediately sends a contact report. The most efficient way the battalion intelligence staff officer S-2 provides situational understanding and the common operational picture ( COP) to the battalion is through digital reports sent by those in contact. The Infantry company platoons and squads develop SOP utilizing the capabilities of digital reports while destroying the enemy force and protecting the unit.


2-158. While the Infantry unit deploys, the leader evaluates and continues to develop the situation. The leader quickly gathers as much information as possible, either visually or, more often, through reports of the platoons or squad s in contact and analyzes the information to determine critical operational considerations, including the ─

  • Size of enemy element.
  • Location, composition, activity, and orientation of enemy force.
  • Impact of obstacles and terrain.
  • Enemy capabilities.
  • Probable enemy intentions.
  • Method of gaining positional advantage over the enemy.
  • Friendly situation (location, strength, and capabilities).
  • Possible friendly courses of action to achieve the specified end state.

2-159. Once the leader determines the size of enemy force encountered by the Infantry unit, a report is sent to the platoon or company. However, after evaluating the situation, the leader may discover there is not enough information to identify the necessary operational considerations. To make this determination, the leader further develops the situation according to the commander’s intent, using a combination of techniques such as ─

  • Surveillance, employing Infantry squads, unmanned aircraft systems, and snipers using binoculars and other optical aids.
  • Maneuver, including flanking maneuvers to gain additional information by viewing the enemy from another perspective.
  • Indirect fire.
  • Reconnaissance by fire.


2-160. After developing the situation and determining he has enough information to make a decision, the leader selects a COA meeting the requirements of the commander’s intent that is within the unit’s capabilities.


2-161. In executing a COA, the Infantry unit transitions to maneuver. It then continues to maneuver throughout execution as part of a tactical task, or to advance while in contact to reach the point on the battlefield from which it executes its tactical task. The unit can employ a number of tactical tasks as COA, which may be preceded or followed by additional maneuver. Some of these tasks are —

  • Attack by fire.
  • Breach.
  • Bypass.
  • Clear.
  • Control.
  • Counterreconnaissance.
  • Disengagement.
  • Exfiltrate.
  • Follow and assume.
  • Follow and support.
  • Occupy.
  • Retain.
  • Secure.
  • Seize.
  • Support by fire.

2-162. As execution continues, more information becomes available to the leader. Based upon the emerging details of the enemy situation, the leader may have to alter his COA during execution. For example, as the Infantry rifle platoon maneuvers to destroy what appears to be a dismounted squad, it discovers two additional squads in prepared positions. The leader analyzes and develops the new situation. He then selects an alternate COA, such as establishing a support by fire position to support another platoon’s maneuver against the newly discovered enemy force.


2-163. Once the platoon leader selects a COA, keeping in mind the commander’s intent, the company commander is informed, and he has the option of approving or disapproving it based upon its impact on the overall mission. To avoid delay, a unit SOP may provide automatic approval of certain actions.