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Engineer equipment platoon leadership: operating in support of a light brigade combat team.

A trend in recent rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center is that the platoon leader (PL) and platoon sergeant (PSG) perform duties as the blade team leader (BTL). This trend has developed as the BTL consistently takes a back seat to either the PL or the PSG during the linkup, control, and execution of blade teams in support of maneuver units. A direct result is that there are shortcomings in preparing and executing the brigades' survivability effort. Either the PL or the PSG is becoming the main point of contact for the supported unit when previously it was the BTL. To the supported unit, the PL or PSG appears to be the BTL rather than the brigade-level survivability command and control element. Each of the platoon's key leaders has a very important role in the platoon's survivability mission in the planning, preparation, and execution phases of the platoon's operation.

PL Duties and Responsibilities

The PL has the primary responsibility for planning and executing the brigade's force protection efforts and ensuring that his survivability plan is integrated with the maneuver plan. This great responsibility requires the PL to be very proactive. During recent rotations, the PL has been leading a single blade team throughout the operation. The PL can--and sometimes should--provide command and control for the blade teams during execution. However, the PL must collocate with the brigade tactical operations center (TOC) during critical times in the planning process and return to the battlefield during the preparation and execution phases. The required product from the planning process is the survivability timeline. The PL should assist with and provide expert feedback on the platoon's capabilities and its ability to support the brigade commander's priorities of work, including the maintenance and rest plans. The PL works closely and maintains constant communications with the brigade engineer, assistant brigade engineer, and PSG to coordinate details for execution of missions such as providing fuel, maintenance, and security escorts.

During execution, the PL should battle track the survivability efforts and the overall common operational picture of the battlefield. He must ensure that every member of the platoon knows the status of the routes, obstacles, and friendly and enemy minefields and forces. A method that works well for tracking the survivability effort is for the BTL to send updated survivability status reports on the company net to the PL. Reporting on the company net allows the company command post in the brigade rear engineer cell (BREC) to receive the updates at the same time the PL is receiving them from the BTL. This gives the BREC the current status and reduces the amount of times the information is handled from the point of origin. The BREC can then forward the updates to the brigade main engineer cell (BMEC) at the brigade TOC.

As the PL observes the current tactical situation, be may need to reassess and update the survivability timeline in order to give the brigade engineer the most current estimate and updated firneline. Additionally, the PL is responsible for the overall standard of the survivability positions provided for the brigade task force. The PL should coordinate logistics with the PSG for important sustainment items such as vehicle parts, food, fuel, water, and ammunition. The PL ensures the quick identification, evacuation, and repair of all critical engineer equipment assets and should coordinate with supported units for security and movement escorts to and from jobsites. There are many similarities in duties between the equipment PL and the task force engineer. (The duties and responsibilities of the task force engineer are in FM 5-7-30, Brigade Engineer and Engineer Company Combat Operations [Airborne, Air Assault, Light].)

PSG Duties and Responsibilities

The PSG plays a unique role in the survivability process. Not only does he have the numerous responsibilities of his own position, but he also must know and understand the PL's job and be able to step in without notice to execute those duties. The PSG should maintain the current tactical and logistical battlefield situation. He is the primary technical adviser to the PL and should provide expert advice on the platoon's capabilities during survivability planning. The PSG is the technical expert on operator proficiency and noncommissioned officer skills. In addition to focusing on the overall platoon effort, he should be available for technical advice to the BTLs when needed. Most importantly, the PSG must track the platoon logistically and supervise the requisitioning of its supplies. This involves a great deal of coordination and constant follow-up with the company and forward support battalion in order to be successful.

The PSG should control the collection of casualties and that casualties are evacuated to the appropriate level. An easily overlooked part of this process is following up on the requisition for personnel to replace those that are lost and then focusing on the integration of the new personnel as replacements are received. The PSG must take the lead in enforcing the platoon's maintenance program, ensuring that parts are getting ordered, and tracking the document numbers until the parts arrive. Once the parts are on hand, the PSG must either get the parts to the vehicles or get the vehicles evacuated back to the maintenance area for repair. The PSG should receive and distribute the platoon's load of food, water, ammunition, and fuel. Most of these items will be provided by the supported units through daily logistics packages. However, if the supported unit does not adequately provide the items, the PSG must step in and make sure the platoon gets the supplies it needs to function.

BTL Duties and Responsibilities

The BTL is the direct link between the platoon and the supported unit and must conduct linkups with the "CINC" dozer or other designated unit representative. For initial linkup procedures, the BTL must have a battle drill that is easily understood and executed by the blade team once it arrives on site. Much of the idle time on the battlefield can be attributed to the time waiting at a unit while the BTL is conducting linkup. Once on site, the blade operators must know what they are digging in and know that no matter what happens, they can get started on high-priority survivability efforts for that unit. During the linkup process, the BTL must coordinate for fuel, food, water, or any other support needed from the supported unit. After the linkup, the BTL should know the unit representative, the survivability requirements for the unit, when and where refueling will take place, and the location of all logistical support. Additionally, the BTL should confirm the unit's mission, the current enemy threat, the number of assets, and the terrain within the unit's area of operations in order to provide survivability recommendations based on the ability of the blade team to provide a sound survivability position. The BTL must adhere to the survivability timeline, to include the implementation and management of the maintenance and rest plans. Furthermore, the BTL should forward an updated status of the survivability effort at the position and coordinate early for the linkup, movement, and preparation of the next unit he will be supporting.


Each of the key leaders--the PL, the PSG, and the BTL--has an important role in planning, preparing, and executing the survivability plan. Proper understanding and implementation of these roles will provide the best opportunity for a successful plan. A good survivability timeline--with emphasis on the survivability standards--will leave every brigade asset on the battlefield with a doctrinally proven survivability position.

Sergeant First Class SanPedro is an Engineer Equipment Platoon observer-controller at JRTC. Previous assignments include Assault and Barrier Platoon sergeant, 562d Engineer Company (SEP), Fort Wainright, Alaska; and squad leader, Light Equipment Platoon, 27th Engineer Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sergeant Dunn is an Engineer Equipment Platoon observer-controller at JRTC. Previous assignments include instructor/writer Dozer Phase, 62E Course, 577th Engineer Battalion, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and construction equipment supervisor and squad leader, Light Equipment Platoon, 27th Engineer Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
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Title Annotation:Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC)
Author:San Pedro, Steven J.; Dunn, Joey W.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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