When moving as a squad moving in a formation is a good way to ensure that all squad/ team members are positioned in such as way as to provide both optimum protection and the ability to retaliate if the squad comes under fire. Essentially, formations are a way of preparing your squad for enemy fire, saving you time in the organisation of your men following contact with the enemy and ensuring minimum casualties in the event that the squad is attacked. There are a number of different formations which will be used
in different circumstances, depending on terrain, direction of travel, likely direction of enemy fire and overall risk of enemy contact.
A note about spacing: Regardless of what formation the squad is operating in at any given time, one overarching principle to remember is that of spacing. Every member of the squad/ team should be maintaining a reasonable
safe distance between him and his comrades on either side of him. This limits the lethal consequences of a suprise attack from either small arms or explosives such as IED's, mortar/ artillery strikes and grenades. If 3 men are stood within 2 meters of each other and a grenade lands amongst them, all 3 will likely be killed. If the same 3 men are stood 20m apart and a grenade lands near them, it is likely only 1 man will be killed/ wounded. Therefore is is vital to constantly maintain safe spacing between men, both during travel and when stopped. Spacing may be adapted according to local conditions or the leader's orders, for example in tight jungle spacing may have to be reduced to as little as 10m to maintain visual contact with one another, however in flat open desert spacing may be increased to as much as 100m. The general rule is that spacing should be kept as wide as possible, whilst still allowing both visual contact and communication to be maintained by every member of the element.
Staggered Column FormationEditThe staggered column is an adaptation of the standard column designed to improve both
security and the squad ability to respond to enemy fire as well as reducing vulnerability
the ambush/ surprise attack. This formation consists of two parallel columns, slightly
offset from one another on the vertical axis. Another way to picture this formation would
be if you took a standard column and had every other man from the point man backwards take
several steps to the left/right in order to form two colums slightly offset from one another.
If you were to draw a line linking each of the men in the formation in order it would create
a zig-zag pattern.
An important rule to remember is that when moving in a staggered column is that every team member behind the pointman must copy the pace, direction and actions of the man infront (the leader of the second column, the one slightly behind the other, should copy the leader of the first column). Pace, direction, etc will be set by the pointman. If the man infront of you stops and crouches, you must also stop and crouch immediately, being sure to maintain spacing. This is vital as the man infront may have spotted a hazard or a threat which you have yet to do
so and if you were to continue onward you may be injured or killed.
Another thing to remember when in a column is that you should tread in the steps of the man in front of you. If the man infront is able to walk over a patch of ground unscathed then you know this route is safe in terms of
being free of mines, IED's etc. If you choose to blaze a trail of your own, stepping on previously untouched ground, you risk stepping on hazards that the men ahead of you have missed.
A third rule when traveling in a staggered column formation (and in any formation to an extent) is that it is important to remember not to simply walk with your eyes fixed on the man in front of you. You should maintain awareness of
what the man in front of you is doing, however you should also be scanning the surrounding area for potential threats. The pointmen will watch the 180 degrees to the front of the column, each man behind him should watch
the 180 degrees to their left or right, alternating which side they watch. The rear-most men are responsible for watching the 180 degrees to the rear of the column, ensuring that no threats are approaching from behind.
(Note: The rear-most man should not walk backwards as this can affect pace and also reduces awareness of the rest of the column's movements, however the rear of the column should be checked by turning around or using free
look every few seconds).
Generally a staggered column should used in all situations where a single column can be used
as it is superior in several ways, for example when travelling between areas and when contact
was strongly expected from the front or rear. The staggered column is a safer and more
versatile formation, generally the only time when a single column should be used over a
staggered column would be when moving through areas such as minefields or areas with a
high risk of victim-triggered explosives.
-Improved ability to return fire front and rear. As the column has now been split into two
columns, the number of people able to return if attacked from the front or rear has now been
doubled as there are now two men at the front and rear with nobody obstructing their line of
fire to the front/ rear. This also doubles the number of people able to observe to the front
and rear, increasingly the likelihood of spotting a threat before it is able to cause any harm.
-Good firing lines to the flanks. Whilst in this formation every single member
of the team will be able to fire to their left and right without risk of hitting
a team mate due to the columns being staggered. This allows for good reaction to fire
if contact comes from either the left or right, with team members simply having to turn
ninety degrees in the appropraite direction before returning fire.
-Reduced vulnerability to attack from front/ rear. As the column has now effectively been split
in half, the entire formation cannot be easily wiped out by a single shooter firing from the
front or rear of the group. At most, only half of the formation can now be eliminated in a single
burst of fire, leaving at least half of the element alive and able to retaliate. In general the
staggered column also ensures that the squad is spaced further apart, reducing the impact that
explosives may have in terms of casualties on the group.
-Easy to control the formation. As the formation is still being led by a single man ahead of the,
formation his actions alone can control the direction, pace etc of the formation, giving
a squad leader good control of the rest of his squad's movement. The leader of the second column
must still be sure to copy the movements of the other column.
-Easy to maintain formation. This formation simple requires squad members
to follow the man in front of them, copying his direction, pace and actions
(with the exception of the point man of course, who sets pace, direction etc
and the leader of the second column who must maintain awareness of the what leader
of the other columns is doing).
-Can be harder to maintain. Depending on the terrain the staggered columns can be more
difficult to maintain whilst keeping good spacing between columns, particularly in tight
or uneven terrain such as jungle or built up areas.
-Increased chance of triggering mines/ explosives. As there are now two columns, there will
be two separate trails being walked on the ground, rather than a single trail behind the leader.
This means that the likelihood of triggering mines or IEDs in greater than if a single column
was used, as one column may miss the explosive but the parallel column may trigger it.