The All-Bradley Scout Platoon at National Training Center Rotation 14-04

Slide 1
Figure 1. Typically, the greatest limiting factor in the formation’s frontage is the training environment’s terrain constraints.
Slide 2
Figure 2. Great care will need to be taken to ensure that Bradley crews have the equipment, ammunition and sustainment they need to operate well forward of the brigade for significant periods.

During National Training Center (NTC) Rotation 14-04, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment validated the utility of a six-Bradley, 36-Soldier scout platoon as a viable formation within the armored brigade combat team (ABCT) cavalry squadron. Through effective use of this formation, the maneuver troops and the squadron as a whole dominated the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight while providing early and accurate warning to 1st ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division.

While 1-7 Cav was highly successful at conducting reconnaissance and security (R&S) operations in the decisive-action training environment (DATE), the three maneuver troops identified significant planning challenges, mitigated for real-world gaps at NTC and identified future focus areas for study and training. This article is the collaborative notes from the A, B and C troop commanders on what they encountered on the training road to NTC and at NTC itself – and how they believe the future should be shaped for the continued success of the all-Bradley scout platoon.


Troop-leading procedures (TLP) serve as the foundation for all planning conducted at troop level. Company-grade leaders generally feel confident in their ability to complete the eight steps and have practiced them countless times during training exercises and at various leadership schools throughout the Army. However, decisive-action operations pose a challenge for cavalry organizations that few leadership schools can replicate.

While at the NTC, Troop A never set in a tactical-assembly area (TAA) during the force-on-force iteration. We began the iteration conducting security operations to protect the brigade TAA and did not consolidate as a troop until we received a change of mission eight days later. During that time, the troop conducted all TLP while screening and in contact with the enemy. A routine task, conducted to standard several times during training for our rotation, became one of our largest challenges.

TLP in DATE become difficult due to terrain, distance and time. To mitigate these factors, our unit had to have a strong understanding of TLP before we arrived at NTC. Before our deployment, our squadron placed an emphasis on mission command and leader development during all operations. During each training exercise, we focused on developing leaders as they conducted TLP and then evaluated the lower echelons’ execution.

For example, during our section situational-training exercise, platoon leaders were given a day to conduct their TLP while commanders mentored and supervised the process. Section sergeants were given a constrained timeline to plan their portion of the operation and then were evaluated by the troop commanders.

This process continued through each subsequent training event until the entire troop executed the process under time-constrained conditions. By applying a progressively more challenging situation each field exercise, leaders at all levels had multiple repetitions of conducting TLP in an unpredictable environment.

While our training provided us a solid foundation, we also developed tactics, techniques and procedures while at NTC to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. We had to relearn how to conduct an operations order over the radio to standard. This included what information was essential to hear over the radio and what could be distributed digitally. We found that the general friendly and enemy situation, mission statement, R&S guidance and commander’s intent were best delivered directly by the commander to the troop leadership over the radio. We used digital systems to provide detailed enemy analysis, operational graphics priority-intelligence requirements and sustainment plans. This method provided the necessary information efficiently without disrupting routine radio traffic.

While our proficiency in conducting TLP over the radio improved, we also learned that complex operations still required key leaders to meet in person. Our transition to scout platoons consisting of six Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) provided the flexibility needed to conduct these link-ups. The increased lethality, survivability and dismounts provided by this configuration allowed us to cover much greater width and depth. When key leaders were needed at the troop command post (CP), we consolidated them at one location and then moved a Bradley section from each platoon to the rear. Our dismounts could successfully cover any gaps created by the section’s absence.

The troop successfully overcame most of the challenges posed by distance but struggled to deal with issues that arose from time – either being constrained by it or not using what time we had efficiently. While we were able to meet in person if needed, we generally did not have enough time to do so. Maneuvering off the screen line back to the troop CP usually took several hours. Platoon leaders could have used those hours to conduct more in-depth planning at the platoon level.

Also, time constraints prevented us from conducting detailed rehearsals. We attempted to conduct rehearsals over the radio, but we had limited practice in doing so, and they were not very effective.

We also struggled in determining how to best use our time while conducting security operations. Our typical screen line generally lasted 24 to 48 hours. Once set on the screen, we focused primarily on security. In retrospect, once we had completed our priorities of work and security was established, we could have used the additional time to refine our plan or prepare for follow-on operations.

To successfully conduct TLP during decisive-action operations, units need to be prepared to deal with the challenges posed by distance and time. While preparing to conduct these operations, units should first focus their training on ensuring all leaders have a strong understanding of all the steps and subtasks associated with TLP. Training should then increase in complexity until platoons and troops must plan operations outside a TAA. Based on our experiences at NTC, a unit could achieve this training objective by transitioning from security operations to reconnaissance during the same training scenario. This would require units to conduct TLP on a screen line. The earlier units begin to train in this manner, the more proficient they will be once they must do it on a deployment.

Reconnaissance and maneuver

The six-Bradley concept allowed subordinate leaders to plan and employ movement and maneuver more effectively than the previous humvee/Bradley mix. Platoons were not constrained by incorporating humvee limitations in maneuver plans.

This was most evident in the opening battle period, where the reconnaissance squadron moved forward of the brigade conducting a zone reconnaissance to pull the brigade forward. First Platoon, B Troop, maneuvered through the central corridor using the north wall’s restricted terrain to mask its movement in terrain that would not have supported humvee maneuver at the tempo required to set conditions for the brigade. The platoon maneuvered more than 20 kilometers in less than six hours safely and securely, setting the conditions for the squadron to pull the brigade forward to engage the enemy from positions of advantage.

With the added firepower of the six-Bradley configuration, 1/B Troop gained contact with the enemy brigade reconnaissance team, engaging and destroying three enemy reconnaissance vehicles, two personnel carrier vehicles and 27 dismount personnel. This action set the conditions for 2/B Troop to move rapidly though open terrain and gain a subsequent piece of terrain to maximize observation deep in enemy territory. As the platoons set in a screen in Battle Period 1, they were able to maximize observation and provide the squadron and brigade a very detailed picture of where and how the enemy was deploying into combat formations.

An area of concern during the NTC rotation was the deployment and use of dismounts in support of reconnaissance operations. With dismounts assigned to troops late in the training cycle prior to NTC, platoons were not afforded time to develop dismount training plans that encompassed when and how to employ dismount. With adequate time to incorporate dismounts into the train-up, this would be easily mitigated. Regarding reconnaissance, the six-Bradley platoon configuration enabled maximum reconnaissance and observation from positions that were previously unattainable on the humvee platform. Platoons were able to provide different angles of observation onto reconnaissance objectives as the six-Bradley concept enabled screen-line operations in-depth, which provided better situational awareness to the squadron and brigade on enemy locations and capabilities.

The six-Bradley configuration also enabled better information collection to support targeting of enemy capabilities. During Battle Period 2, 2/B Troop was able to gain observation of enemy assembly areas at a distance of 22 kilometers. The platoon was able to gain several key positions of observation, which enabled redundant observation on enemy positions at different angles. This allowed the squadron to cue intelligence-gathering on enemy capabilities, which ultimately led to the destruction of enemy reconnaissance teams as well as destruction of the enemy brigade tactical group that included key enemy staff.

The six-Bradley configuration allowed platoons using direct fire to fight to gain terrain that provided the best observation of the enemy order of battle. As the platoons achieved direct-fire overmatch facing enemy reconnaissance elements and reached terrain that enabled the best observation, it was organic fires and fires provided from brigade assets that allowed the troop to degrade enemy combat power.

For example, during both Battle Period 1 and Battle Period 2, Blackhawk Red and White platoons were able to seize dominant terrain that allowed observation deep into enemy assembly areas. From this terrain, platoons used Bradley optics at mounted observation posts (OPs) as well as dismounts with Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) 5 thermal optics to call for fire on enemy formations. This was especially evident as dismounts – in conjunction with an attached Joint Terminal Attack Controller and Joint Fires Observer – were able to destroy most of the enemy’s three fixing forces that attacked the platoon’s screen line.

During Battle Period 1, dismounts were able to conduct reconnaissance handover to mounted OPs with enemy reconnaissance assets and were subsequently able to destroy a large portion of attacking enemy fixing forces with brigade fires and close-air support. This enabled the brigade to engage the smallest enemy formations and destroy them before commitment of the brigade reserve until a time and place of the brigade’s choosing.

The increased lethality and armor provided by the six-Bradley configuration allowed leadership options in applying combat power to different missions. This directly increased the security of our operations and enhanced our protection, as we were able to provide a wider area of coverage and still achieve depth for the troop and squadron.

At platoon level, the six-Bradley configuration enabled a thorough plan of direct-fire control measures, integration of observation and clearance of ground fires in mitigating possible fratricide incidents. This was evident as enemy attempting to infiltrate screen-line operations were engaged and destroyed by multiple Bradley vehicles with no incidents of fratricide.

This was observed during Battle Period 2, when Troop B platoons came in contact with enemy aircraft. The 1/B Troop and 2/B Troop each engaged and destroyed one enemy aircraft as Bradley vehicles provided interlocking direct fire. This was a result of the platoon leadership’s detailed planning in assigning interlocking sectors of fire and ensuring variable scanning techniques were used to identify threat from ground to air.

A possible point of future training that needs discussion is providing a Stinger or ground-to-air fire capability to dismount teams. The dismount teams did not come into contact with an enemy air threat, but if they had, their only ability to defend would have been the M240B crew-served machinegun or the Javelin – neither of which are designed as a primary enemy air-defeat capability.


One of the worries at troop and platoon level was that removing the humvee platform from the formation would lead to a gap in the depth of the formation between dismounts forward and Bradleys further behind. We identified three areas in which depth was addressed as a variable in training: in the applied frontage of the formation, in the depth of the formation between dismounts and mounted elements, and in the Bradley's audible signature.

Frontage: At NTC, our real-world depth at troop level amounted to an average of five to seven kilometers of frontage in the screen and five to 10 kilometers while conducting a zone reconnaissance (between two platoons) – and around five kilometers of depth on average. Typically, the greatest limiting factor in the formation's frontage was the terrain constraints of the training environment, especially in the Colorado Wash, the Debnam and Brown Pass complexes, and the canalization north and south in the central corridor. Due to these constraints in frontage, no noticeable gap in frontage occurred either dismounted or mounted. In fact, this reduced frontage may have led to our great success on the screen, with more lethal and robust Bradley platforms evenly distributed in the screen.

With a more permissive terrain environment, the frontage of the formation would approach a more doctrinally sound 12-15 kilometers, with the planning factor of the effective direct-fire range of the Bradley’s main gun at 1,500 meters.

Depth: Our depth is another matter, as on average our dismounted formations operated within 1,000 meters of the forward-mounted OP. The major constraint here was limitation to line-of-sight radio communications with mounted elements, resulting in dismounts having to stay within visual contact of the Bradleys. Each Bradley needs a Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio for its dismount teams (for less than 1,000-meter maneuver) and a dismounted man-portable radio with an high-frequency capability and resourcing (antennae and cabling) for dismounted operations farther forward (greater than 1,000 meters) in a medium- to long-duration OP.

During Battle Period 3, the brigade counterattack, Troop C enjoyed great success in long-range identification with a dismount OP about 400 meters forward of our mounted elements. The dismount OP took less than 90 minutes to move into position and establish. In the future, given a general metric of one kilometer per hour for movement, a robust dismounted element with clear communications for reconnaissance and direct-fire handoff to mounted elements; a clear indirect-fires engagement plan with dismounts involved; a dismounted/mounted integrated training plan with a hunter/killer orientation; and at least Fire-Support Sensor System-level optics in the fire-support team (FIST) Bradley platform would mitigate the void left by removing the humvee platform.

Audible signature: As observed by our dismounts, the audible signature of more Bradleys in the formation was negligible. Bradleys have always had a distinct audible signature, but NTC’s terrain effects allowed sound to carry over a greater distance than the five kilometers of depth we achieved at troop level. Further refinement in training is needed to determine the maximum range of a Bradley's audible signature and whether this repudiates the argument of a humvee providing stealthy depth to the formation. Overall, with some changes at the section and platoon training level, as well as in equipping this formation, any loss of capability by removing humvees from the formation will be mitigated.

Fires integration

Troop C enjoyed great success with its FIST team’s integration forward of the headquarters element; robust call-for-fire training; support at the dismount and crew level; and integrated planning of troop and squadron fires. Overall, with very clear engagement criteria embraced and implemented at troop level, Troop C was extraordinarily lethal, destroying (mobility, firepower or catastrophically) at least two mechanized-infantry company formations during force-on-force at NTC.

Troop C achieved this through an aggressive training program, which put its dismounts and gunners/Bradley commanders in the Fort Hood, TX, Call-for-Fire Trainer with its FIST team. This got the team talking with the "customers" and interacting beyond the basics of grid and polar fire missions. Time was spent observing linear targets, confirming or refining grids with other dismounts and communicating with the FIST team for shared understanding and refinement to targets. This significantly reduced target error at NTC.

A future refinement to this integration moving forward is sustained planning classes at squadron level to refine our airspace management with graphic-control measures and time/space deconfliction. This will help us efficiently manage our fires and the time it takes to clear air.

Sustainment operations

Leading up to Rotation 14-04, as platoons transitioned to the six-Bradley platoon configuration, troop maintenance teams did not receive more sustainment and maintenance support. A method the troops used to mitigate this risk was incorporating maintenance support forward of the combat trains to within one to two kilometers of the front line of troops. This enabled the troop and platoons to have near-immediate resolution on vehicle-maintenance issues without requiring more levels of support from the combat trains or the field trains. Platoons were able to go 48 hours without resupply of petroleum or oil and still maintain a near-100-percent operational-readiness rate.

For example, the only vehicles for Troop B that regularly were not fully mission capable throughout the operation were a humvee that sustained a cracked oil pan while maneuvering in support of securing the CP and a mortar track that had a malfunction on the mortar fire-control system. This was especially important during Battle Period 3, when Troop B was attached to 2-5 Cavalry.

A significant lesson-learned and employed through this NTC rotation involved casualty-evacuation procedures. Troop standard operating procedures (SOPs) developed before the NTC rotation specified that the first sergeant's and medic vehicles moved forward to the point of injury – well forward of medical care – to retrieve casualties and return to the medical aid station. A method used to decrease time between the point of injury and the next level of medical care incorporated Bradley vehicles from the platoon as non-standard ground casualty evacuation to a prearranged ambulance exchange point. This was possible because of the six-Bradley configuration; we were able to achieve our reconnaissance objectives in observing named areas of interest, and at no point did we move the first sergeant or medic into a position where the enemy could target them. This procedure changed our casualty-evacuation standards and led to no Soldiers died-of-wounds from injuries sustained.

Packing lists

As often seems to take place at NTC, a lot of discussion and refinement was spent on load planning. With the increase to the number of dismounts, as well as the recommended platform shift from the M3 Bradley variant to a mixture of the M7 and M2, load planning will be a critical focus for platoon, troop and potentially squadron SOPs.

For our dismounts, the duration of the OPs and the size of the OP element are the critical factors in determining the proper packing list and load plan for the dismount element. Non-negotiable to the packing list in the NTC environment were the Soldier’s primary weapon system and ammunition basic load (ABL), personal night-vision device, advanced combat helmet, Joint-Service Lightweight Integrated-Suit Technology, protective mask and improved outer tactical vest. Individual items considered in planning included cold-weather gear and Class I for up to 48 hours. Crew-serve items considered in planning for a six-Soldier team included communications systems (manpacks), anti-tank (AT) system (Javelin) with up to two more missiles, target-identification optic with lazing capabilities (PED 5), crew-serve weapon system (M240B) with ABL and PAS-13, and batteries to power all this gear for up to 48 hours.

We assessed risk at various points during the rotation to determine what equipment the dismounts would deploy. The way-ahead may be a threat/terrain focus package in dismount deployment. Personal defense, communications and protection will always be part of a core packing list, but we need a tailored package based on either threat (air-defense-artillery package, AT package, local-security package, forward-observer package) or terrain (area-reconnaissance package, zone-reconnaissance package). Any equipping area where a lighter alternative is available, even at the cost of slightly diminished capability, should be seriously considered in load planning for dismounts.

In addition to all the dismount enablers, a new focus on expeditionary load planning needs to be addressed in troop training geared toward the mindset that "if you don't pack it, you won't have it." Great care will need to be taken to ensure that Bradley crews have the equipment, ammunition and sustainment they need to operate well forward of the brigade for significant periods, as well as the capability to deploy dismounts forward for significant periods in a variety of configurations to maintain agility.


Overall, the integration of the six-Bradley, 36-scout reconnaissance platoon was highly successful. The concept proved to be survivable and lethal, and it offered more combat power options to the troop, squadron and brigade.

The six-BFV concept allows commanders ease of mission command to generate and maintain combat power in planning missions. This concept prevents commanders and platoon leadership from duplicate planning in providing maneuver, recovery and ability to provide observation such as was required in the humvee and Bradley mix.

The six-Bradley configuration also simplifies supporting relationships in attaching platoons or troops to combined-arms battalions, as this configuration is self-supporting longer. The alignment of the scout platoons to a single family of mounted platforms will greatly enhance the utility of the reconnaissance squadron to the ABCT. The squadron will be able to aggressively conduct reconnaissance and security operations with increased survivability and lethality, and with direct fires. Training with one type of platform will allow more efficiency in training management, and will allow greater flexibility in shifting personnel to like vehicles. The single-platform design will ensure that cavalry organizations in ABCTs will maintain their agility well into the future.