Operating as a Platoon (Part II)

by Steve Baule

4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't ever lie to a Ranger or an officer.

It is absolutely essential that sentries and patrols are absolutely honest in debriefings. Draw pictures when necessary to assist in getting your point across. When possible, debrief members of the same patrol in small groups so that the answers of some soldiers do not affect the answers of the other members of the patrol. Develop a standard reporting format to assist the soldiers in remembering what kind of things they should be looking for. Always inform patrols of the essential pieces of information you are looking for.

5. Don't ever take a chance you don't have to.

Taking unnecessary chances is never in the best interest of your unit or your own hide. It is extremely important for small unit commanders to be especially judicious with their soldiers and equipment since each individual within a small unit is exponentially more important to the unit's overall combat power than say the individual's contribution to a brigade. Exposing yourself to enemy observation or fire, using major roads, speaking with civilians, smoking or talking unnecessarily, and not collecting and burying your trash are all examples of taking unnecessary chances. Rogers' is also telling his rangers not to get into a skirmish with enemy soldiers unless the need for the combat is essential. It is more vital for the patrol to return with information about the enemy and the terrain than to return having beaten the enemy.

6. When you're on the march we march single file, far enough apart so that one shot can't go through two men.

It is important for soldiers to march as spread out as possible on patrol. This gives the patrol a wider field of vision, makes it more difficult the kill the patrol with either musketry or artillery, and often makes the patrol's trail more difficult to follow than if the whole unit follows the exact same path. The other side of this argument is the issue of control. The patrol must stay close enough together that the patrol leader can still maintain total and instantaneous control over all elements of the patrol. In darkness and other forms of limited visibility, patrols will need to move in a tighter formation than they would on a sunny day. One of the simplest preventatives when moving along a trail or road is to alternate the side of the road each man moves along. This allows a fairly wide distance between soldiers, but still keeps the patrol together.

7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast so that it is hard to track us.

As in Order No. 6 above, it is more difficult to track twenty men each on separate parallel paths than twenty men using the same path. It is important to do all you can to not leave the enemy any clue that you were there. Ensure that trash has not been left behind, cartridge papers should always be picked up, loose items of clothing or equipment secured so not to be lost on the march, and noise and light discipline strictly adhered to (e.g. don't talk, sing, smoke, or light a fire). When crossing roads or paths, it is good practice to have the last men drag brush behind them to help wipe out any signs of you passing.

To be continued ...