Infantry Drills

2-121: Traveling Overwatch

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2-121. Traveling overwatch is an extended form of traveling in which the lead element moves continuously but trailing elements move at varying speeds, sometimes pausing to overwatch movement of the lead element. (See figure 2-29.) Traveling overwatch is used when enemy contact is possible but not expected. Caution is justified but speed is desirable.

2-122. The trail element maintains dispersion based on its ability to provide immediate suppressive fires in support of the lead element. The intent is to maintain in-depth, provide flexibility, and sustain movement in case the lead element is engaged. The trailing elements cue their movement to the terrain, overwatching from a position where they can support the lead element if needed. Trailing elements overwatch from positions and at distances that do not prevent them from firing or moving to support the lead element. The idea is to put enough distance between the lead units and trail units so that if the lead unit
comes into contact, the trail units will be out of contact but have the ability to maneuver on the enemy.

2-123. Traveling overwatch requires the leader to control his subordinate’s spacing to ensure mutual support. This involves a constant process of concentrating (close it up) and dispersion (spread it out). The primary factor is mutual support, with its two critical variables being weapon ranges and terrain. Infantry platoons’ and squads’ weapon range limitations dictate units generally should not get separated by more than 300 meters. In compartmentalized terrain this distance is closer, but in open terrain this distance is greater.

Figure 2-29. Platoon traveling overwatch

Next: 2-124: Bounding Overwatch

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