Infantry Drills

2-65: Primary Formations

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Previous: Section III: Combat Formations

2-65. Combat formations are composed of two variables: lateral frontage, represented by the line formation; and depth, represented by the column formation. The advantages attributed to one of these variables are disadvantages to the other. Leaders combine the elements of lateral frontage and depth to determine the best formation for their situation. In addition to the line and column/file, the other five types of formations—box, vee, wedge, diamond, and echelon—combine these elements into varying degrees. Each does so with different degrees of emphasis resulting in unique advantages and disadvantages.

2-66. The seven combat formations can be grouped into two categories: formations with one lead element, and formations with more than one lead element. The formations with more than one lead element, as a general rule, are better for achieving fire superiority to the front, but are more difficult to control. Conversely, the formations with only one lead element are easier to control but are not as useful for achieving fire superiority to the front.

2-67. Leaders attempt to maintain flexibility in their formations. Doing so enables them to react when unexpected enemy actions occur. The line, echelon, and column formations are the least flexible of the seven formations. The line mass to the front has vulnerable flanks. The echelon is optimized for a flank threat, something units want to avoid. The column has difficulty reinforcing an element in contact. Leaders using these formations should consider ways to reduce the risks associated with their general lack of flexibility. (See table 2-1.)

Table 2-1. Primary formations

Next: 2-68: Fire Team Formations

Go Back To: U.S. Army FM 3-21.8: The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad