2-83. The actual number of useful combinations of squad and fire team combat formations within the platoon combat formations is numerous, creating a significant training requirement for the unit. Add to the requirement to modify formations with movement techniques, immediate action drills, and other techniques, and it is readily apparent what the platoon leader needs a few simple methods. These methods should be detailed in the unit SOP.
PLATOON LEADER RESPONSIBILITIES
2-84. Like the squad leader, the platoon leader exercises mission command primarily through his subordinates and moves in the formation where he can best achieve this. The squad leader and team leader execute the combat formations and movement techniques within their capabilities based on the platoon leader’s guidance.
2-85. The platoon leader is responsible for 360-degree security, for ensuring each subordinate unit’s sectors of fire are mutually supporting, and for being able to rapidly transition the platoon upon contact. He adjusts the platoon’s formation as necessary while moving, primarily through the three movement techniques. Like the squad and team, this determination is a result of the task, the nature of the threat, the closeness of terrain, and visibility.
2-86. The platoon leader also is responsible for ensuring his squads can perform their required actions. He does this through training before combat and rehearsals during combat. Well-trained squads are able to employ combat formations, movement techniques, actions on contact, and stationary formations.
2-87. The platoon leader also has to decide how to disperse the platoon headquarters elements (himself, his RTO, his interpreter, forward observer, platoon sergeant, and medic). These elements do not have fixed positions in the formations. Rather, they should be positioned where they can best accomplish their tasks. The platoon leader’s element should be where he conducts actions on contact, where he can supervise navigation, and where he can communicate with higher. The forward observer’s element should be where he can best see the battlefield and where he can communicate with the platoon leader and battalion fire support officer. This is normally in close proximity to the platoon leader. The platoon sergeant’s element should be wherever the platoon leader is not. Typically, this means the platoon leader is toward the front of the formation, while the platoon sergeant is toward the rear of the formation. Because of the platoon sergeant’s experience, he should be given the freedom to assess the situation and advise the platoon leader accordingly.
2-88. The platoon leader designates one of the squads as the base squad. He controls the platoon’s speed and direction of movement through the base squad, while the other squads and attachments cue their movement off of the base squad.
MOVING AS A PART OF A LARGER UNIT
2-89. Infantry platoons and squads often move as part of a larger unit’s movement. The next higher commander assigns the platoon a position within the formation. The platoon leader assigns his subordinates an appropriate formation based on the situation, and uses the appropriate movement technique. Regardless of the platoon’s position within the formation, it must be ready to make contact or to support the other elements by movement, by fire, or by both.
2-90. When moving in a company formation, the company commander normally designates a base platoon to facilitate control. The other platoons cue their speed and direction on the base platoon. This permits quick changes and lets the commander control the movement of the entire company by controlling only the base platoon. The company commander normally locates himself within the formation where he can best see and direct the movement of the base platoon. The base platoon’s center squad is usually its base squad. When the platoon is not acting as the base platoon, its base squad is its flank squad nearest the base platoon.
PRIMARY PLATOON FORMATIONS
2-91. Platoon formations include the column, the line (squads on line or in column), the vee, the wedge, and the file. The leader should weigh these carefully to select the best formation based on his mission and on METT-TC analysis. Comparisons of the different formations are in table 2-4. The figures below are examples and do not dictate the location of the platoon leader or platoon sergeant.
Table 2-4. Comparison of platoon formations.
2-92. In the platoon column formation, the lead squad is the base squad. (See figure 2-12.) It normally is used for traveling only.
Figure 2-12. Platoon column.
Note. METT-TC considerations determine where the weapons squad or medium machine gun teams locate in the platoon formation.
Platoon Line, Squads on Line
2-93. In the platoon line, squads on line formation, or when two or more platoons are attacking, the company commander chooses one of them as the base platoon. The base platoon’s center squad is its base squad. When the platoon is not acting as the base platoon, its base squad is its flank squad nearest the base platoon. The weapons squad may move with the platoon or it can provide the support by fire position. This is the basic platoon assault formation. (See figure 2-13.)
2-94. The platoon line with squads on line is the most difficult formation from which to make the transition to other formations.
2-95. It may be used in the assault to maximize the firepower and shock effect of the platoon. This normally is done when there is no intervening terrain between the unit and the enemy when antitank systems is suppressed, or when the unit is exposed to artillery fire and must move rapidly.
Figure 2-13. Platoon line, squads on line.
Platoon Line, Squads in Column
2-96. When two or more platoons are moving, the company commander chooses one of them as the base platoon. The base platoon’s center squad is its base squad. When the platoon is not the base platoon, its base squad is its flank squad nearest the base platoon. (See figure 2-14.) The platoon line with squads in column formation is difficult to transition to other formations.
Figure 2-14. Platoon line, squads in column.
2-97. This formation has two squads up front to provide a heavy volume of fire on contact. (See figure 2-15.) It also has one squad in the rear either overwatching or trailing the other squads. The platoon leader designates one of the front squads as the platoon’s base squad.
Figure 2-15. Platoon vee.
2-98. This formation has two squads in the rear overwatching or trailing the lead squad. (See figure 2-16.) The lead squad is the base squad. The wedge formation:
Can be used with the traveling and traveling overwatch techniques.
Allows rapid transition to bounding overwatch.
Figure 2-16. Platoon wedge.
2-99. This formation may be set up in several methods. (See figure 2-17.) One method is to have three-squad files follow one another using one of the movement techniques. Another method is to have a single platoon file with a front security element (point) and flank security elements. The distance between Soldiers is less than normal to allow communication by passing messages up and down the file. The platoon file has the same characteristics as the fire team and squad files. It normally is used for traveling only.
Figure 2-17. Platoon file.
MOUNTED MOVEMENT FORMATIONS
2-100. The platoon leader uses formations to relate one vehicle or squad to another on the ground and to position firepower to support the direct fire plan. He uses them to establish responsibilities for security between vehicles or squads and to aid in the execution of battle drills and directed course of action.
2-101. When mounted, the platoon uses the column, wedge, line, echelon, coil, and herringbone formations (based on METT-TC variables). The platoon leader tracks his platoon’s formation and movement in conjunction with the company’s formation. Table 2-5 shows characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of each type of standard mounted formations.
Table 2-5. Mounted formation characteristics.
2-102. The platoon uses the column when moving fast, when moving through restricted terrain on a specific route, or when it does not expect enemy contact. Each vehicle normally follows directly behind the vehicle in front of it. However, if the situation dictates, vehicles can disperse laterally to enhance security. This is sometimes referred to as a staggered column.
2-103. The staggered column formation is a modified column formation with one section leading, and one section trailing to provide overwatch. The staggered column permits good fire to the front and flanks. It is used when speed is critical, when there is a limited area for lateral dispersion, or when enemy contact is possible. Figure 2-18 shows this type of column movement.
Figure 2-18. Staggered column formation with dispersal for added security.
2-104. The wedge formation (see figure 2-19) permits excellent firepower to the front and good fire to each flank. The platoon leader can easily control all vehicles and deploy rapidly into other formations. The wedge formation is often used when the enemy situation is vague. The orientation of the pairs is left and right. The platoon leader and platoon sergeant control the other vehicle (wingman) of their pair by directing it to follow to the outside and to orient its weapons toward the flanks.
2-105. When the platoon leader’s vehicle is slightly forward one flank has more firepower. Depending on METT-TC, the platoon leader makes the adjustment to which side needs the most firepower.
Figure 2-19. Wedge formation.
2-106. When assaulting a weakly defended objective, crossing open areas, or occupying a support-by-fire position, the platoon mainly uses the line formation shown in figure 2-20. The platoon can use the line formation in the assault to maximize the platoon’s firepower and shock effect. The platoon normally uses the line formation when no terrain remains between it and the enemy, when the platoon has suppressed the enemy’s AT weapons, or when the platoon is vulnerable to artillery fire and must move fast.
Figure 2-20. Line formation.
2-107. When the company team wants to maintain security or observation of one flank, and when the platoon does not expect enemy contact, the platoon uses the echelon formation shown in figure 2-21.
Note. The echelon formation can be used either left or right.
Figure 2-21. Echelon right formation.
Coil and Herringbone
2-108. The coil and herringbone are platoon-level formations employed when elements of the company team are stationary and must maintain 360-degree security.
2-109. The coil (see figure 2-22) provides all-round security and observation when the platoon is stationary. It is useful for tactical refueling, resupply, and issuing platoon orders. Security is posted to include air guards and dismounted fire teams. The vehicle turrets are manned.
Figure 2-22. Coil formation.
2-110. The platoon uses the herringbone to disperse when traveling in column formation (see figure 2-23). They can use it during air attacks or when they must stop during movement. It lets them move to covered and concealed positions off a road or from an open area and set up all-round security without detailed instructions. They reposition the vehicles as needed to take advantage of the best cover, concealment, and fields of fire. Fire team members dismount and establish security.