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Posted on Jun 18, 2006 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 005. The Tactical Task

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland


These are tasks that when achieved by the friendly force will enable you to accomplish your purpose. Below you will find the most common tasks utilized and their definition.

ATTACK BY FIRE – utilize direct fires, supported by indirect fires, to engage an enemy without closing with him.

BREACH – utilize any means available are employed to break through or secure a passage through an enemy defense, obstacle, or minefield, or fortification.

BYPASS — maneuvering around an obstacle, position or enemy force to, maintain the momentum of advance.

FOLLOW AND ASSUME — A second committed force which follows a force conducting an offensive operation and is prepared to continue the mission if the lead force is fixed, attritted, or unable to continue.


FOLLOW AND SUPPORT — A committed force follows and supports a lead force conducting an offensive operation.

SUPPORT-BY-FIRE — maneuver element moves to a position on the battlefield where it can engage the enemy by direst fire to support a maneuvering force by either support by fire, or by overwatching, or by establishing a base of fire. The maneuver element does not attempt to maneuver to capture enemy forces or terrain.


These are tasks that when achieved on a specific piece of terrain will enable you to accomplish your purpose. These tasks usually have an enemy or friendly force flavor to them. Below you will find the most common tasks utilized and their definition.

CLEAR – remove all enemy forces and eliminate organized resistance in an assigned zone, area, or location, by destroying, capturing, or forcing the withdrawal of enemy forces such that they cannot interfere with the friendly unit’s ability to accomplish its mission.

OCCUPY – force moves onto an objective, or other man-made or natural terrain area without opposition, and controls that entire area.

RETAIN – occupy and hold a terrain feature to ensure it is free of enemy, occupation, or use.

SECURE – gain possession of a position or terrain feature with or without force and to deploy in a manner which prevents its destruction or loss to enemy action. The attacking force may or may not have to physically occupy the area.

SEIZE — clear a designated area and obtain it for control of it.

Let’s now put it altogether by going back to last month’s scenario. To better understand the relationship between purpose and task, let’s review last month’s article. As a refresher, here is the diagram we constructed that highlights the purpose for each of our major units. Click on the image for a larger version.


After assigning purposes, we can now determine the minimum essential task needed for the unit to accomplish its purpose. Remember two key points. First, we do not want to assign a unit a more difficult task than necessary. This normally translates into you paying a higher price in resources consumed that could be utilized elsewhere. Again, you do not have to destroy everything on the battlefield to accomplish your mission. Second, in the heat of battle your units will determine if the task is appropriate in order to achieve their purpose. They may decide another task is more suitable. A unit commander who gives his subordinate commanders that freedom is engraining initiative in his unit (a very good thing)!

Let’s look at each unit and tie a task with their purpose.

Just as we did with our purposes, we begin assigning tasks at the decisive point. Since the purpose of our decisive point is heavily terrain oriented (prevent the enemy from using the north/south corridor), our initial task is terrain related. Looking at our definitions above (in the terrain related tasks), we believe the task of secure is the optimal task to achieve our purpose. This task tells our unit that we want him to gain possession of the area and not to allow the enemy to seize it himself.

After determining the decisive point task, you know begin to assign tasks to accompany your other purposes. Beginning in the northern sector, our purpose was to divert the enemy from using East Range Road and force him to the south into our engagement area. Since our purpose is principally enemy related, we look at our enemy related tasks. Although several may be appropriate, we believe the task of block is the optimal task to achieve our purpose. This task tells our unit that we want to deny him the ability to maneuver west of the road near Hill 780.

Next, we focus on our brigade engagement area. As a review, our purpose is to cause the enemy attack to fail in its attempt to seize Logstown. Again, our purpose is obviously enemy related, so we review our enemy related tasks. Many of you, would instinctively say we most choose destroy. Certainly, destroy would allow you to achieve your purpose. However, as discussed above, destroy is a resource intensive task. It is costly in ammunition and likely Soldiers lives to destroy an opponent. To make your foe combat ineffective, you most focus on nearly every system he has. In this case, the optimum task to achieve our purpose is defeat. If we defeat him and thus, he is unwilling or unable to pursue his course of action (seize Logstown) we have achieved our purpose (with less drain on resources than if we choose the task – destroy).

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