'Platoons seal the fate of Armies'. SLA Marshall[1]

The following is perhaps what you would call a vignette of sorts. It is my recollection of the experiences I gained during Exercise HAMEL 18 - the 7th Combat Brigade’s Road to Ready, the 8th/9th Battalion’s Integrated Sea Land Series certification, Charlie Company’s tactical actions and finally, my platoon’s time as part of the brigade’s main effort.

Designating main and supporting efforts is an effective function of achieving command and control as well as a method to strategically reinforce units at decisive times and at decisive locations – a force cannot be strong everywhere, all the time.[2] My platoon was the company’s main effort – a long awaited and exciting task for any infantry officer, I was also very aware of the responsibility that had been placed in my team and I – it was all eyes on us.

As a consequence of being part of the main effort, commanders are allocated more support. As a motorised combat team, at any one time my officer commanding (OC) had a troop of tanks, troop of ASLAVs, a troop of combat engineers, a detachment of electronic warfare (EW) specialists, a sniper pair, a joint fires officer and an anti-armour section at his disposal. Within a 36 hour period, I was allocated all of these assets, some for extended periods, some for less than thirty minutes. I found my platoon's team size ranging from 20 troops in three protected mobility vehicles to up to 50 in a variety of vehicle platforms. We were mounted one moment, dismounted the next – the tempo was high and the ORBAT (order of battle) was dynamic.

Upon being given the task to follow and support the company’s lead platoon during a route clearance, I found myself on the platoon net with an engineer and tank in support – I was the supporting effort. As the lead platoon contacted and cleared hasty enemy positions, my platoon quickly found itself again part of the main effort - the OC tasked me to assume as lead platoon to continue the company’s clearance. Some hours and several cleared features later we handed the battalion's main effort over to a flanking company and our platoon’s stint as part of the main effort would come to a close for HAMEL 18.

When we were tasked with the main effort it was an excellent experience to have such a diverse range of assets available with different corps attached to my small platoon team. Throughout the exercise, and more broadly, the Integrated Sea Land Series, I developed a better understanding of how my OC would weight his main efforts at different times and in different locations. Being able to understand the OC’s intent allowed me to predict when and where I might be sent and with what assets might be attached to me. This allowed my team to act more decisively, deliver orders more efficiently and most importantly, to achieve tasks successfully.

[1] Malone, D. Small Unit Leadership: A Common Sense Approach 2009

[2] Land Warfare Doctrine 3-0-3 Formation Tactics 2016 (p35)