From the Screen Line: Cavalry Organization and Task Terminology

On Sept. 11, 2013, GEN Robert W. Cone, former U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) commander, signed and approved a staffing memo generated by the Maneuver Center of Excellence recommending a standard naming convention for all cavalry organizations. The renaming initiative eliminated the multiple descriptions and labels of cavalry organizations that served only to confuse rather than to inform the force about the purpose of cavalry organizations.

As the U.S. Army looks to the future concepts of Force 2025 and re-establishes proficiency in the Army core competencies of combined-arms maneuver and wide-area security, it is important to revisit and re-emphasize proper terminology, particularly for cavalry organizations and for both reconnaissance and security tasks. Common understanding and use of a professional vocabulary describing organizations and tasks is essential to providing descriptive and explanatory language guiding the successful practice of mission command. The standard naming convention for cavalry organizations increases uniformity, clarity and efficiency in descriptive language and understanding of the purpose of cavalry organizations.

The approval memorandum streamlined the names of four organizations: cavalry squadrons, cavalry troops, scout platoons and scout squads. The memorandum officially rescinded use of the names and terms armored reconnaissance squadron; reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition; reconnaissance squadron; recce troop; reconnaissance troop; motorized reconnaissance troop; dismounted reconnaissance troop; and recce platoon. By standardizing the names of cavalry units, the Army highlights the unique but uniform requirements and capabilities of all cavalry forces, regardless of composition.

The primary purpose of all cavalry units is to conduct information collection through the execution of reconnaissance and security tasks for unit commanders to identify opportunities to seize, retain and exploit the initiative in close contact with enemy forces and civilian populations. Regardless of whether assigned to an infantry brigade combat team (BCT), Stryker BCT or armored BCT, cavalry formations satisfy the same function to the commander – that is, to develop information and intelligence about the enemy, terrain, civilian populace and infrastructure that informs decisions impacting current and future operations. Use of the terms cavalry squadron, cavalry troop, scout platoon or scout squad dictate that despite the materiel composition of the unit, the basic functions of each are the same.

Reconnaissance is defined as “a mission undertaken to obtain, by visual observation or other detection methods, information about the activities and resources of an enemy or adversary, or to secure data concerning the meteorological, hydrographic or geographic characteristics of a particular area” (Army Doctrinal Reference Publication (ADRP) 1-02). Reconnaissance has five forms: area reconnaissance, zone reconnaissance, route reconnaissance, reconnaissance in force and special reconnaissance. Reconnaissance missions determine the answers to information requirements that allow the commander to make informed decisions and employ combat power at the appropriate time and place to enable mission success.

Reconnaissance is a task, a troop-leading procedure (TLP) and a fundamental of security (ensure continuous reconnaissance). As a TLP, reconnaissance is required for all operations. As a task, reconnaissance provides answers to information voids and gaps and helps commanders understand and visualize the operational environment. As a fundamental of security, reconnaissance is a continuous imperative that ensures continuous information collection as one of the methods to providing protection and early warning to the protected main body.

Reconnaissance is not equal to surveillance, nor does the shorthand “R and S” mean “reconnaissance and surveillance.” Surveillance is defined as “the systematic observation of aerospace, surface or subsurface areas, places, persons or things by visual, aural, electronic, photographic or other means” (ADRP 1-02). Surveillance is an activity used to help accomplish the task of reconnaissance. Too often we incorrectly use the term “surveillance” as a substitute for “reconnaissance,” which further confuses units and Soldiers. Reconnaissance is a task accomplished through multiple methods and means, one of which is surveillance.

Security is defined as “those operations undertaken by a commander to provide early and accurate warning of enemy operations, to provide the force being protected with time and maneuver space within which to react to the enemy, and to develop the situation to allow the commander to effectively use the protected force” (ADRP 1-02). Security is the “S” in the shorthand of “R and S.” Security is always the first priority of work and a task conducted to provide early warning, protect the main body and allow the commander reaction time and maneuver space creating options, alternatives and opportunities to seize, retain and exploit the initiative through combined-arms maneuver. Security has five forms: screen, guard, cover, area security and local security. Continuous reconnaissance assists the reaction time and protection aspects of security through information collection and the filling of information voids.

Cavalry squadrons, cavalry troops, scout platoons and scout squads conduct reconnaissance and security tasks to provide their command information to improve decision-making and allow the unit to identify opportunities to seize, retain and exploit the initiative. All cavalry organizations satisfy the same function for their commanders, and though materiel differences separate different types of cavalry units, their function and purpose remains consistent regardless of organizational composition. The TRADOC commander’s approval of standardized naming conventions in September 2013 emphasizes the functional similarity of all cavalry formations through standardized labeling from squad to squadron. To execute the Army’s core competencies of combined-arms maneuver and wide-area security, leaders at all levels must ensure uniform understanding of the meaning and purpose of the terms reconnaissance, security and surveillance.

Lastly, proper use of professional language is vital to effective application and practice of mission command. Common understanding of our professional terminology achieved through leadership education and development requires local, small-unit development programs and initiatives, individual self-study and institutionalized professional military education to ensure future success. Lack of clarity or common understanding serves only to confuse and affects mission accomplishment.