5 Principles of Patrolling explained, with select quotes from Patton

In Ranger school or the equivalent that I attended, there was a common joke that when coming to a point of decision, when do you remind the person in a leadership position about the “5th Principle of Patrolling” (as if that would make their life easier).

By the way the Principles of Patrolling are not a checklist, you have to do all five at the same time and the principles apply to EVERYONE on the patrol, not just leadership.

Even a rifleman should know the route, should be actively engaged in planning (even if it is just over his personal kit and duties), should know where he falls in the chain of command and be able to accomplish the mission (though I be the lone survivor).  Oh, and you get to do it all in a time crunch most of the time.

5 Principles  of Patrolling:

  • Planning
  • Recon
  • Security
  • Control
  • Common Sense

Planning: what are you going to do?  What do you need to do to accomplish what you are going to do?  What route are you planning on taking?  What is the backup route?  What are your checkpoints on each route?  What are your backstops, handrails, and rally points?  What is your plan if you cannot accomplish your assigned mission?  What is your medical plan?  What is your Escape and Evade plan?  What is your resupply plan?  What is your Communications (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency: PACE) plan?

This goes hand in hand with Recon, as oftentimes you plan your route while conducting a map recon.  GEN Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is priceless.”  I fully agree.

“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.”General George Patton Jr.

Recon: Don’t just look at a map, look at imagery, look at the terrain.  Look at any intel you have on the enemy, movements and objectives.  Look at the patterns of life for the area you are going through.  Look at the vegetation, people, infrastructure, obstacles, weather.  Will the soil give for easy walking or will it be a trudge through the mud, sand, rocks, or snow and ice?

“Just drive down that road, until you get blown up”General George Patton Jr., about reconnaissance troops.

Security: Security should always be the first priority of work, during movement, at rests, in the patrol base, everywhere and always.

Why it is listed as the third principle and not the first I can’t say.  You are never secure enough, you should constantly seek to  improve your security.  The moment you think you are secure enough is the moment where you have deluded yourself into vulnerability.

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man.”  General George Patton Jr.

Control: How do you move your formation? File? Wedge? How do you coordinate fires between teams and squads?  What is your plan for who takes over when you go down?

A well coordinate team of average grunts is going to whup up on an uncoordinated team of Super Soldiers.  While there is always strength in numbers, but those numbers only matter when they are coordinated and working together.  Gung Ho means “work together.”

“Success demands a high level of logistical and organizational competence.” General George S. Patton, Jr.

Common sense: Fight the enemy, not the plan.  If something feels wrong, figure out why or if you can’t then go with your gut.  If something seems too easy, make sure you aren’t walking into a trap.

“Make your plans to fit the circumstances.”  – General George S. Patton, Jr.

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