The following is the second relevant section from the Fight, Win and Survive: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for the Multi-Domain Battlefield, the first part of which is located here. In this portion, the sections on communications are covered. For anyone who’s been to the RTO and Advanced RTO Courses, these should look very familiar. The second section addresses training considerations while in garrison, and in my humble opinion it’s a pretty good guide of things you should also be working on. Take note the first couple items are focused on communications, which should be telling on just how critically important the skill is. 

The addition of an assistant RTO (ARTO) allows for increased communication capability such as understanding radio wave propagation, antenna theory, communication windows, and establishing communication in denied areas deep in enemy territory.

Communication Tips

  1. Communications is one of the most important aspects of any operation. You can have an undetected insertion, gather critical intelligence, but if you are unable to transmit that intelligence back to your higher headquarters, you are nothing more than a liability to your commander.

2. Two types of communication that Soldiers must be subject matter experts in:

  • Line of sight communications (LOS)

  • Beyond line of sight communications (BLOS)

3. Line of sight communication refers to how radio waves travel from the transmit antenna to the receive antenna, limited by the visible horizon, due to the curvature of the earth.

  • Due to the curvature of the earth an antenna that is 6 feet (2 meters) tall will transmit 5.0km.
  • Distance in km = square root of (12.7 x Am)
  • ( Am = the height of the antenna in meters)
  • If either the transmitting or receiving antenna is elevated another 6 feet, the transmission range will theoretically double.

4. Radio communication range is greatly influenced by three factors:

  • Frequency of operation
  • Radio output power
  • Antenna height

5. Increasing antenna height and radio output power are two factors that the user has control over.

6. LOS Radios:

  • ASIP: Single band radio

  • MBITR or AN/PC-148 radio: It is a multiband radio that has the capability to talk BLOS by utilizing satellites, ground based relays and RETRANS

  • AN/ PRC-152: It is a multiband radio that has the capability to talk BLOS by utilizing satellites, ground based relays and RETRANS

7. Beyond line of sight communications is communication that extends past the visible horizon. And can include the possibility of communicating around the world with a single transmission.

8. Two types of BLOS

  • Satellite (AN/PRC-117F, AN/PRC-117G)

  •  High Frequency (AN/PRC-150)

9. Before you leave for a mission you should always:

  • Know the locations (grid) to whom you are reporting to and friendly units in your area of operation (AO).

  • Conduct a COMMEX with the base station and other units in your AO.

  • Have enough batteries to conduct your mission plus one additional day.

  • Know the frequencies and locations of supporting units (MEDEVAC, Link-up, CAS, and Artillery).

  • Know when COMSEC roll times are and the days they occur.

  • Have a primary, secondary, and if possible a tertiary form of communication. (Iridium / Thuraya satellite phones)

  • Understand the Terrain and how it will effect communications when you plan your ORP, HS/SS, etc. (don’t be afraid to move the site if comms are not working)

10. Radio Battery Life Cycles

  • AN/PRC-150 BB-2590 18-20 HOURS

  • AN/PRC-148 Non-Lithium 6-8 HOURS

  • BB-2590 36 HOURS

11. When wire is used in antenna construction, the following formulas are used to construct resonant antennas:

  • Full Wavelength (Divide 936 by the frequency)

  • Half Wavelength (Divide 468 by the frequency)

  • Quarter Wavelength (Divide 234 by the frequency)

12. Whenever possible, utilize omni-directional antennas. It will mitigate your signature and provide your transmissions to go directly to the station you are trying to reach, such as a ground wire / long wire.

13. Understand that vertical antennas are omni directional and cover a 360 degree radius.

These three simple items can be rapidly employed to document, report, and receive information in a concise and low signal manner that will increase the lethality of an infantry platoon

14. When coordinating with higher and other units, create specified communication windows during the operation to where radios are on and communication is going back and forth such as reports, etc in order to mitigate the probability of the enemy detecting you and massing fires.

15. While on patrol, the use of radios is not necessary except for when commo windows are open. Rehearse and ensure your Soldiers know the plan when deaggregated. Utilize the KDDTMK (Known Event, Direction, Distance, Time of Travel, Method of Travel and Key Terrain (Grid) and Fires/Medevac) method for movements without GPS, again to mitigate digital exposure to the enemy.

16. Certain criteria will need for radios to turn on, such as the following:

  • Unplanned breaks in contact

  • TIC

  • Radio check before leader recon steps off

  • The leader on the leader recon calls back to the ORP for far recognition, the ORP never calls the leader recon element first

17. If your communication is poor or not working, then remember to increase the length of the antenna, and point it in the direction of the receiving antenna you are trying to contact.

18. Utilize a commo wheel so that all 16 channels are programmed and everyone knows how many turns of the dial to get to certain stations. This will mitigate unnecessary movement, noise, and possible light from the radios.

Training Tips While not Deployed

“Somewhere, a true believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimum food and water, in austere conditions, day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon. He doesn’t worry about what workout to do, his rucksack weighs whatever it weighs, and he runs until his enemy stop chasing him. The true believer doesn’t care how hard it is. He knows that he either wins or he dies. He doesn’t go home at 17:00, he is home. He only knows the cause.”

– Welcome speech, Special Operations Selection

  1. Have commo equipment staged for soldiers to have to construct, load and establish a radio check on multiple different frequencies after completing some sort of cardio event in order to simulate the elevated heart rate they are likely to experience in combat.

  2. Any soldiers that are injured or cannot conduct training will resort to being the higher headquarters that is receiving and processing all the reports sent through the AN/PRC 150. This will allow them hands on training on how to establish good communications, while also keeping them active in the training by seeing what types of reports will actually help a commander, and what information is useless. Meanwhile the rest of the unit is observing or surveying a targeted area of interest somewhere on post.

  3. When conducting a range, move de-aggregated to the range, consolidate at an assembly area, then conduct your range. Do not use radios or GPS. Become comfortable with the method as it will increase survivability against our enemies.

  4. After successfully conducting a mission, try going back through it but without radios or technology.

  1. When simulating a casualty, do not notionally do anything. Take that casualty to the actual next level care facility. Ensure your element is conducting the proper medical procedures for whatever the injury is to the casualty. Once complete, spot check their work. Take medical training seriously and not hand-waved when the focus might be on a certain STX lane.

  1. At ranges, have your Soldiers simulate getting shot and applying self-aid while still having to accurately return fire on the range.

  1. Provide in-depth training on tracking and counter-tracking so that your element’s signature is reduced to the best of it’s ability.

  1. As a leader, provide mission statement and little guidance and assets to teams within your platoon to get them thinking how they would conduct certain de-aggregated missions. For example, your platoon has a mission, so you give each squad leader a task and purpose and have each come up with a plan to get their squad to the assembly area and then conduct actions-on. It will provide buy-in from your squad leaders, and it will increase understanding of how to mitigate signature and operate more autonomously.

  1. Continually train on field-craft.

  1. Utilize sand pits to train tracking and counter-tracking techniques. Task a few Soldiers to walk through the sand pit or conduct some sort of action while other Soldiers are waiting, not observing, then have the Soldiers that were waiting come look at the sand pit and decipher what, how many, and when an action took place based off of the prints left behind.
  1. Create a food/item deterioration area. Gather a few items that would be likely observed/found on the battlefield and leave them out for extended periods of time. Have your Soldiers observe how the weather and time factors affect such items. This will allow Soldiers to better identify how long something has been in the woods and a better estimated last known location of enemy forces.
  1. Snap Drills”. At a quick moment’s notice, from a squad to battalion size, or whoever the commander sees fit, immediately respond to a mission and execute through the re-consolidation phase. The importance is to most accurately see where the unit is on effectiveness and responsiveness. Waiting for a CTC rotation is too late to accurately analyze a unit’s readiness. With adversaries capable of disrupting our operations in phase zero, it is essential to work through quick response situations.

If they’re placing such a heavy emphasis on communications, you should be too. I’ve got classes coming up. If you want to know how to apply off-the-shelf gear in unconventional ways, the RTO Course should be at the top of your list. Take advantage of the time while you’ve got it.