--Tactical Road Marches


5-9. A tactical road march is a rapid movement used to relocate units within area of operation to prepare for combat operations. Units maintain security against enemy air attack and prepare to take immediate action against an enemy ambush, although they do not expect contact with significant enemy ground forces. (If the moving unit anticipates making contact with significant enemy ground forces then it will use a mix of combat formations and movement techniques.)

5-10. The primary consideration of the tactical road march is rapid movement. However, the moving force employs security measures, even when contact with enemy ground forces is not expected. Units conducting road marches may or may not be organized into a combined arms formation. During a tactical road march, the march always is prepared to take immediate action if the enemy attacks. (Refer to FM 21.18 for more information.)



5-11. The organization for a tactical road march is the march column. A march column consists of all elements using the same route for a single movement under control of a single commander. The four elements of a march column include, reconnaissance, quartering/advance party, main body, and trail party.

5-12. A brigade conducting a tactical road march is an example of a march column. The subordinate elements of a march column are a march serial and a march unit. A march serial is a major subdivision of a march column that is organized under one commander who plans, regulates, and controls the serial. An example is a battalion serial formed from a brigade-size march column. A march unit is a subdivision of a march serial. It moves and halts under the control of a single commander who uses voice and visual signals. An example of a march unit is a company from a battalion-size march serial.

5-13. A march column provides excellent speed, control, and flexibility, but sacrifices flank security. It provides the ability to deploy forces to the front of the column. A march column is utilized when speed is essential and enemy contact is unlikely. However, functional and multifunctional support elements, such as air defense and engineers, are spaced throughout the column to protect and support the movement. (Refer to FM 3-90-2 for more information.)



5-14. An overlay or strip map often is used to graphically depict critical information about a tactical road march route to subordinates. The overlay (see figure 5-1, page 5-4) or strip map (see figure 5-2, page 5-5) typically shows the route of march, start points, release points, checkpoints, critical points (such as bridges), light line, and traffic control post. Other graphic control measures include AA and phase lines. The terms are defined below ─

Overlay with route control measures

Figure 5-1. Overlay with route control measures


Strip map

Figure 5-2. Strip map

  • Start point is a location on a route where the marching elements fall under the control of a designated march commander.
  • Release point is a location on a route where marching elements are released from centralized control.
  • Checkpoint is a point designated along the route to assist marching units in complying with the timetable.
  • Critical point is a point that identifies along the route where interference with movement might occur.
  • Light line is a designated phase line, forward of which vehicles are required to use blackout lights during limited visibility.
  • Traffic control post are positioned along the route to prevent congestion and confusion. Points may be manned by military police or unit personnel. These Soldiers report to the appropriate area movement control organization when each convoy, march column, and march serial arrives at and completes passage of their location.
  • Movement corridor is a designated area; established to protect and enable ground movement along a route, establish a movement corridor to set the conditions to protect and enable movement of traffic along a designated surface route.



5-15. Tactical road marches are employed using three tactical march techniques: open column, close column, and infiltration. Each of these techniques uses scheduled halts to control and sustain the road march. METT-TC requires adjustments in the standard distances between vehicles and dismounts.

5-16. During movement, elements within a column may encounter many different types of routes and obstacles simultaneously. Consequently, parts of the column may be moving at different speeds, which can produce an undesirable accordion-like effect. The movement order establishes the order of march, rate of march, interval or time gaps between units, column gap, and maximum catch-up speed. Unless the commander directs them not to do so for security reasons, march units report when they have crossed each control measure. Throughout the move, air and ground security are maintained.

Open Column
5-17. The open column is the most common tactical march technique because it offers the most security while still providing a reasonable degree of control. It normally is used during daylight but also may be used at night with infrared lights, blackout lights, or passive night-vision equipment. Using an open column roughly doubles the column’s length and thereby doubles the time it takes to clear a point when compared to a close column moving at the same speed.

5-18. Vehicle distance varies from 50 to 100 meters, and may be greater if required. The distance between dismounted Soldiers varies from two to five meters to allow for dispersion and space for marching comfort. Any distance that exceeds five meters between dismounted Soldiers increases the length of the column and hinders control. In an open column, vehicle density varies from 15 to 20 vehicles per kilometer. A single Infantry company, with intervals between its platoons, occupies roughly a kilometer of road or trail.

Close Column
5-19. A close column normally is employed for marches during darkness under blackout driving conditions or for marches in restricted terrain. This march technique takes maximum advantage of the traffic capacity of a route but provides little dispersion. Distance between vehicles varies from 20 to 25 meters. At night, vehicles are spaced so each driver can see the two lights in the blackout marker of the vehicle ahead. Normally, vehicle density is from 40 to 50 vehicles per kilometer along the route in a close column.

5-20. The dismounted equivalent to the close column is a limited-visibility march. The distance between individual Soldiers is reduced to one to three meters to help maintain contact and facilitate control. Limited-visibility marches are characterized by close formations, difficult mission command and reconnaissance, a slow rate of march, and good concealment from enemy observation and air attack.

5-21. Infiltration provides the best possible passive defense against enemy observation and attack. It is suited when time, space, security, deception, and dispersion are necessary. During infiltration, vehicles are dispatched in small groups, or at irregular intervals, at a rate that keeps the traffic density low and prevents undue massing of vehicles during the movement.

5-22. The disadvantages of an infiltration are that more time is required to complete the move, column control is nearly impossible, and recovery of broken-down vehicles by the trail party is more protracted when compared to vehicle recovery in close and open columns. Additionally, unit integrity is not restored until the last vehicle arrives at the destination, complicating the unit’s onward deployment. Infiltration during troop movement should not be confused with infiltration as a form of maneuver as discussed in chapter 2 of this publication.

5-23. During extended road marches, halts are necessary to rest personnel, service vehicles, and adjust movement schedules. The march order or unit SOP regulates when to take halts, and addresses actions for various tapes of halts, such as maintenance, security, and unexpected halts. During halts, each unit normally clears the march route and moves to a previously selected AA to prevent route congestion and avoid being a lucrative target. Units establish security and take other measures to protect the force.

5-24. In motor movements, short halts are scheduled every two to three hours of movement and halts may last up to an hour. Long halts occur on marches that exceed 24 hours and last no more than two hours. Long halts are not scheduled at night, which allows maximum time for night movement. Unit leaders promptly notify commanders of the time and approximate length of unscheduled halts.