More on The Squad & the Assault Cycle

Max Velocity Tactical

I posted HERE about ‘The Squad – Size & Organization‘. I advocated for a squad size of twelve or thirteen, with three four man teams. This generated a healthy discussion in comments. I am following up with this post in order to give you more depth on the WHY.

There is a method to the squad size and organization that I am advocating. It is not simply an arbitrary number. The three team squad of either 12 or 13 individuals allows a great deal of flexibility in deployment. What I’m effectively giving you is a half platoon size squad that can operate in the assault cycle just like a platoon does.  

The assault cycle relies on a minimum of three sub units. At any one time a sub unit will be assigned to one of the following tasks in the assault: assault team, fire support team, or flank protection/reserve. This cycle is a flow, for example if you are conducting a deliberate attack (raid) and perhaps you have two slightly separate enemy objectives, perhaps bunkers, to destroy. You may assign one team or squad to the first assault. Once successful that team or squad may then become a fire support element in order to allow the previous reserve or flank protection team to move through and destroy the second position.

Of course the assault cycle does not always have to work in the assault. I noticed somewhere in comments on my initial post someone talking about this being applicable always to assaulting and assuming that we had superior numbers or equipment in order to prosecute such an assault. Not so. Either you are sufficiently well-trained and rehearsed against an inferior enemy where you may be able to assault and destroy larger numbers. Alternatively you use the cycle in order to break contact and extract from a situation.

The importance of the squad of 12 is that it is made up of three separate and distinct teams. You may have the overall squad leader as part of one of those teams (the primary team), but you may also have him as the 13th man as an overall squad leader, controlling three team leaders and their separate teams. I have run the 12 man squad, or ‘multiple’, as the primary team leader (thus multiple commander) in one of the teams, and it works very well. Usually what you do is have a capable person within the primary team as a second in command; he will take the burden of running that particular team away from the squad leader so he can concentrate on the whole squad. However, having the squad leader as the 13th man does have distinct advantages because it allows him to move, and attach or detach, from individual teams as necessary, and thus would allow him to position himself at the main effort.

I realize that as armed civilians preparing for a collapse situation it may be a long reach to plan for a squad of 12, simply due to the difficulty of getting teams together and training together. This is one of the reasons why the squad is made up of three distinct four man teams, and within those teams are two buddy pairs. Depending on the situation, and goals,you can decide what specialisms, what special weapons etc., you may task organize within those teams. However if you are able to generate a four man team then you can take that team, and add them together with one or two other teams, in order to make an 8 or 12 man squad. If you have consistency of training and TTP’s then is not such a stretch to gather the squad as necessary, rehearse, conduct an operation, and then disperse into your teams again. This also gives you the ability to deploy four man teams in roles such as reconnaissance and whatever other tasks you find necessary. So I envisage a situation where four man teams train and get together to operate as a 12 man squad and disperse. This gathering and dispersing can also be something that is done post-collapse in order to conduct operations as necessary. This is something that I had in the novel ‘Patriot Dawn‘ where the resistance force consisted at the basic level of four man teams; within each team a buddy pair were marksman specialists and the other buddy pair were IED specialists. This allowed each team to go out as a team and conduct counter-Regime IED operations. These teams then came together to create squads and platoons and ultimately a resistance company, in order to concentrate force for a specific raid or ambush, then dispersing after the action.

Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises

Thus, the 12 man squad (or 13 man), is a platoon writ small. When moving the squad, depending on the terrain and situation, you have the option of moving in a simple file or column, or in traveling overwatch (with tactical bounds, spacing,  between your teams). Or you can adopt the satellite method. The satellite method involves moving in a way that you can, in simple terms, think of as a rough triangle. You can have one team ‘up’ or two teams ‘up’ (i.e. to the front). Think of it as a rough triangle either with the point in the direction of advance or the base facing the direction of advance. Visualize teams moving perhaps 100 m to 300 m from each other. It doesn’t always have to be a triangle; you can have perhaps the left hand team forwards, the primary team back in the middle in the center, and perhaps the right hand team back in the rear, moving in a kind of echelon diagonal. It just depends on the ground. The beauty of this is that it allows you to move in a dispersed fashion, but providing mutual support and overwatch between the teams. It also allows you the ability to react as platoon would react coming under enemy contact and conducting a hasty attack.

The way it would work for a platoon  moving cross-country, consisting of three squads and a platoon headquarters, plus a platoon sergeants group is the following: the platoon would move with the three squads dispersed in the rough triangular method as described in the paragraph above. The platoon commander’s group will be somewhere in the middle, with the platoon sergeant’s group bringing up the rear. When any individual squad comes under effective enemy fire, they will react as the squad as per squad battle drills. At platoon level this is termed ‘reaction to any squad coming under effective enemy fire’. The platoon will then roll into a platoon level battle drill, under the direction of platoon commander, that at its basic will deploy the assault cycle in order to destroy enemy positions in a hasty attack. Of course we only get to a platoon level attack if the squad that comes under effective enemy fire is unable to assault on its own, due to enemy numbers or other factors.

So really, at platoon level you have to visualize this three element formation crossing the terrain, ready to react if any of those elements come under fire. At its simplest the element coming under fire becomes your fire support element while another element is fired into the assault, with the third element in reserve, or flank protection, awaiting its turn to move into the cycle. Thus if we create a squad of 12 or 13 people, with three teams, which is three elements, then we are working with smaller numbers but able to operate like a platoon. Rather than a two element squad, perhaps the eight man or nine man model, the 12 or 13 man squad has those three elements of the assault cycle. It doesn’t mean you always have to assault. The satellite patrolling method is an excellent way of patrolling. If one of your teams comes under fire and the intent is to break contact and withdraw, then you can use the assault cycle in order to move up another team to a position where they can provide support fire, to help the team withdraw. You also have a third element to provide flank protection, or be used in any other way that will aid the achievement of that break contact.

One of the other topics that came up in comments was the desirability to have a greater number in fire support as compared to those going forward into the assault. If you use the assault cycle at its most basic you will have a team providing fire support while the team assaults. Equal numbers. However, as anyone who’s attended my CRCD class will attest, depending on the objective you are assaulting you have the option within the assault team of dropping off an additional pair as close support, as you prosecute the assault with the other buddy team. Think bunker busting drills. Alternatively you also have a third team which will be assigned at that time to being a simple reserve or perhaps a flank protection team. Depending on the terrain and the enemy there is no reason why you cannot pull a gun group or designated marksman or whatever else you have within the third team into your firebase. You can take a buddy pair from the flank protection team and assign them to suppression of the enemy. If they are located somewhere other than the fire support team that may also be an advantage, one of angle and perhaps suppression of depth or mutually supporting enemy positions. You can leave the other buddy pair as your flank protection. However you want to skin the cat. In fact, the overall purpose of the 12 man squad is to give you flexibility, and there is no reason why you cannot task organize prior to a mission into a more mission relevant group, or deploy assets as necessary during the battle.

Another topic that was raised was the lack of access by the armed civilian to fully automatic support machine guns. Options were discussed including belt fed and drum magazines for semi automatic weapons deployed in a support role. The option of acquiring weapons such as the SAW, after the event, was also discussed. I have a couple of opinions on this topic. Firstly, it is accuracy rather than volume that is critical to suppress the enemy position and thus allow you to maneuver onto it, or away from it. I was at one point a SAW operator. I often used it as a rifle, including moving with it as such during fire and movement, which allowed me to fire short accurate bursts. The great thing about the SAW was the belt of 200 in the box underneath which meant it was a long time before I ran out of ammunition, or had to pause to change magazines. Makes for a great flow in fire and movement! I am thinking it would be excellent training value to be limited to semi automatic bipod mounted support weapons because it teaches accuracy over volume. If machine guns were acquired  this would reinforce the need for short, 3 to 5 round, bursts rather than long raking bursts. Such long bursts may lack accuracy and may not effectively suppress the enemy

If you look at GPMG (240), when used in the sustained fire role mounted on a tripod, this weapon is designed to create what is known as a beaten zone, which is often as long as 100 yards. That is not intended to be suppression by accuracy, or point suppression of a specific enemy position. In the sustained fire role it is not designed as such. However if you have ever seen a light role bipod mounted 240 chewing up cover you’ll understand the value of accurate fire support by such an excellent weapon. If we are getting into the caliber debate, then clearly the caliber debate is reduced when we start talking about point suppression. Because clearly any caliber of round fired accurately into the enemy is going to be effective in the point suppression method. Where the larger calibers have value is in the destruction of cover, for example a bunker, in which the enemy is taking cover.

Therefore, I do not see the need to add complicated or exotic weapon systems to such a squad consisting of armed civilians. There is absolutely nothing wrong with optic mounted AR type rifles. The key to this is accuracy of fire. Accurate fire will kill or suppress the enemy in order to allow you to maneuver. If you feel you want more penetrating ability or ability to destroy cover, then by all means have a designated marksman/gunner in each team carrying something heavier. I also do not see the need to go to some kind of SAW equivalent within the teams if that will simply increase the volume, reduce accuracy, and just lead to greater ammunition expenditure. What must be hammered is accuracy. If you do happen to acquire fully automatic support weapon systems then by all means these will be an excellent addition to the armory. However, when utilizing them in a fire support role focus on accuracy, short bursts, and not volume. I believe that any weapons system deployed down to the squad level should be something that can equally be carried in the assault as can be carried and used as a fire support weapon.

As a rifle platoon commander I personally utilized flexibility and adjusted the composition and deployment of the platoon in my own way. Thus in addition to the three squads, the platoon commander’s group, and the platoon sergeant’s group, I added a group consisting of two GPMG’s (240). This gun group I kept attached to my platoon commander’s group (yea, me and my signaler….). This gave me a fire support group at hand that allowed me to influence the battle along the main effort. Thus, going back to the assault cycle discussed previously, if one squad was providing fire support in preparation for another squad to assault, this platoon commander’s gun group can be deployed to a location in order to bolster that fire support. And there is nothing more awesome than the sound of the 240 firing you in to the objective.

Thus following along with the idea of flexibility, looking at the 13 man squad, if you did acquire heavier machine guns (which also may not be ideal to be carried in the assault), such as the 240, you can still fit these into the squad organization. If you have a couple of 240′s being carried then perhaps that squad leader can keep those in hand as a gun group. Thus you have your three fairly identical fire teams which you will roll through the assault cycle, you have squad leader as the ’13th man’ mobile between where he needs to be on the battlefield, and he also has this added fourth team, which is a gun group and which he can deploy to influence the battle and generate a great amount of fire support.

The theme here is flexibility. Clearly a three fire team element plus a squad leader and then an added gun group is a super squad. It would really be a platoon minus, or a squad plus. You will task organize depending on the mission, your numbers and weaponry available. However, the main point here is the excellence of the three-team squad as a deployable and flexible force.

Live Hard.

Die Free.


Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival



Max Velocity is a tactical self-defense trainer and author providing instruction and advice for those preparing for disaster survival and societal collapse situations.

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