Version 1 / 7min read / Updated Sat 07 May 2022 / 1025 views / of verified
Formations act as a guide for where people should be to best fit the situation and should be adapted as needed to fit the situation.
Everyone should be familiar with the basic formations, and leaders in particular must have an understanding of what the strengths and weaknesses of each are. Players should not get wound up in trying to maintain a 100% textbook-perfect formation position 100% of the time. Adapt to the situation as needed.
Keep in mind that you can mix different formations at different levels - you could have the platoon in a line formation, the squads in column, and the Fireteams in wedge. Each level of command has their own formations to set, basically. A PltCo might tell the platoon to get in line formation, and the squad leaders might tell their squads to get in column. Fireteam leaders could then be more specific to their teams if they so desired. It sounds complicated, but with the way the hierarchy breaks down, it's really not difficult to work with.
Note: Formations are outlined in the Infantry Guide here
Note that in squad formations, the Squad Leader is positioned so that he can exercise control over the cohesive movements of the entire squad. In a squad, the leading element - the first fireteam, unless otherwise noted - is guiding the movement. In a fireteam formation, however, the fireteam leader is typically leading by example and acting as the guide for his fireteam members to follow. An easy way to remember this is that the Squad Leader "pushes" his fireteams, while a Fireteam Leader "pulls" his fireteam members.
Also note that the depicted formations, as well as the relative placements of teams, are the standard to follow. The only time these formations will rearrange themselves is when a specific need is identified and communicated by the Squad Leader or platoon commander.
When it comes time to establish a formation, a leader must remember that he must give relative offsets. This means that the leader is telling teams where to go, relative to the direction of movement and the leading element.
For example, to describe a standard line formation, a team leader would say:
"Squad, form line oriented south-west. One leading, two on the right."
This is as opposed to saying something like:
"Squad, form line. Two is to the north-west of one."
The former is simple and easy, the latter would require players to look at their maps or compass, and has a higher likelihood of being misunderstood. Particularly when the situation is heated, it is important to use orders that are simple and easily understood. Always strive for giving formation offsets in a manner relative to the direction of movement and the leading element, using simple and clear "front, left, right, rear" style language and simple distance offsets for element intervals.
Controlling formations is the art of ensuring that teams maintain appropriate intervals and offsets relative to the tactical situation and terrain. Establishing a formation is easy, whereas controlling one throughout the duration of a mission is more difficult. Control is exercised by the overall leader of the formation - either a Fireteam Leader (for fireteams), a Squad Leader (for squads), or the Platoon Commander (for the entire platoon formation).
Responsibilities of the Leader when Controlling Formations
- Ensures that the formation being used is appropriate to the situation and terrain
- Helps to guide elements back into place in the event that they stray too far from the formation without just cause
- Responsible for giving changes in overall direction and spacings
- Uses clear and concise tactical language to control the formation
Note that when controlling a formation's movement, the same relative direction rules apply as when initially establishing one. A formation leader must give corrections relative to the direction of movement and the leading formation element.
For example, if a fireteam was out of formation, a team leader would say something like:
"Team 2, shift up and left to get on-line with team 1."
These types of clear, simple directions allow for maximum comprehension and rapid reaction to orders.
Responsibilities of a formation Element
When moving in a formation, each element of the formation has a few standard responsibilities based on whether they're leading or following in the formation.
Responsibilities of the Leading Element
The leading element is typically the 1st Fireteam of a squad, or the Alpha Squad of the platoon, unless otherwise noted. Their responsibilities are as follows.
- Lead the formation in accordance with orders given
- Act as a guide for the other formation elements to maneuver relative to
- Ensure that they do not out-pace the trail formation elements
- Observe to the front, front-left, and front-right as they move
- Provide a point element when necessary
Responsibilities of the Trail Elements
The trail elements are typically the 2nd fireteam of a squad, or the Bravo and Charlie squads of a platoon. Their responsibilities are as follows.
- Maintain appropriate interval and offset from the leading element; prevent gaps from developing
- Communicate with the leading element to let them know if they're going too fast or too slow
- Observe in the direction that they are offset from the lead element. If offset to the left, they watch to the left and front. If offset to the right, they observe to the right and front. If acting as a rear-security element, they observe to the rear. If there is no dedicated rear-security element, they share responsibility for observation to the rear with the other trail elements.
UNITAF Standard Operating procedures (SOP) are adapted primarly from US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Our written and audio procedures are a combination of the following primary source materials, as well as our own learnings, modifications and adaptations:
- US Army Techniques Publication, Infantry Platoon and Squad (ATP 3-21.8)
- Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks Warrior Leader Skills Level 2, 3, and 4 (STP 21-24-SMCT)
- The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills (FM 3-21.75 / FM 21-75)
- Leadership Development (FM 6-22)
- Dyslexi's Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures for Arma 3 (TTP3)