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Posted on Oct 15, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101 031 – The Engagement Area

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland


  1. Build the EA inside out. Start with where you want to achieve success and move out from there.
  2. Make the most out of all leaders’ recons. This means involving the right people, having a clear purpose as to what you want to achieve during the recon, and not wasting critical time.
  3. Well–placed obstacles + effective direct fire + effective indirect fire = success.
  4. As in all tactics, critical in planning and executing an engagement area is the understanding of the enemy, yourself and the terrain. This sets the conditions for success.
  5. The designation of TRPs and ensuring everyone understands their purpose is key in the success of an engagement area.
  6. The engagement area rehearsal is a necessity not a luxury. Not conducting one is a risk that should not be taken.
  7. Ensure your obstacles are where you want them. They are in most cases resource intensive to construct. Changing obstacles in midstream is a recipe for disaster.
  8. Subject-matter experts (engineers, fire support officers, etc…) must ensure they tell their commander when something can’t be achieved. For instance, the obstacle plan the commander desires is too ambitious for the current preparation time. The engineer must ensure the commander understands this and tells him what can be accomplished.
  9. Knowing your limitations is as important as knowing your capabilities.
  10. As always, the enemy has a vote. However, effective use of terrain in Engagement Area planning can dramatically restrict the number of candidates (options) he can vote upon.

The planning and preparation of the engagement area is crucial in setting the conditions for mission accomplishment in the defense. As you have seen, there is much more involved than simply occupying a piece of ground and telling your Soldiers to get ready the enemy is coming. The planning and preparation of the engagement area contains both the elements of art and science. The successful commander knows how to implement both!


One of the key components in achieving success at the engagement area and subsequently achieving your mission is a sound obstacle plan. Next month, we will focus on the use of obstacles in the defense. We will discuss the various types of obstacles that can be used in the defense and provide some techniques and how to get the most out of your obstacles. After all, they are a significant investment in manpower and resources.

“It is not so much the mode of formation as the proper combined use of the different arms which will ensure victory.”



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  1. mr sutherland please drop me aline. been waiting for some time now.

  2. This is serious work. Why is it made so difficult to follow it? As far as I can tell…one must tediously seek articles in this series by paging through all the stuff in the college page by page?

    Surely there must be a better way?

    Mike In Phoenix

    • Mike, on the ACG home page type “Tactics 101” in the search box; be sure you enclose Tactics 101 in quotation marks. That will bring up links to each article in the series.

      • TY, GDS,

        Will do…have the folks at AG considered adding the wikibook function? Might be outstanding.