An introduction to Tactical Squad Leading

This guide will offer some general advice followed by some examples of situations you may find yourself in, however be warned, this is purely an introduction as the split second decision making nature of combat squad leading in the more hectic fights is very closely tied to your experience as a squad leader and is best learned out on the battlefield.

Squad Cohesion

squad leader 1

This is the most key aspect of an effective squad and all efforts should be made to maintain squad cohesion at all times. A squad which retains cohesion will be able to react to the changing battlefield effectively. They are more likely to follow orders and direction quickly and efficiently, and upon engaging the enemy are likely to have local superiority due to the concentration of the squad and more weapons directed at the enemy. A cohesive squad is also easier to follow on the map and reduces the risk of squad members becoming confused as to the intended objective and route.

Communication

Effective communications determine your worth as a squad leader and are vital to support your combat actions. As a squad leader you should be in constant communication with your squad, ensuring all your members are aware of the current situation, movements and objectives. You should ensure that your squad is prepared for an action, when to perform the action and what to do when the action is complete. Never forget to also congratulate your squad, or individual members on a job well done, from capturing a base to simply taking a good shot or stepping into a support role, letting your squad members know you appreciate your actions will go a long way to improving morale.

Squad composition

It is your responsibility as squad leader to ensure that those under your command are properly equipped for the situations they will find themselves in. You should aim to field a squad which has a range of classes to ensure its combat effectiveness, while simultaneously catering to the needs of individual playstyles and cert loadouts as much as possible. While it is not desirable to have a squad comprised solely of engineers and lacking any medics or true combat classes, it will do your cause no good to insist a player changes to a class they do not enjoy or have not upgraded. (In short use common sense).

In my own squads I generally like to run with an abundance of medics to keep the whole squad running, limit player down time and lessen the dependency on beacons, squad deploy and Sunderers. I also like using MAX’s as they are both powerful combat units and highly visible point men for the squad. My own preferred squad is:

Medic

Medic

Medic

Medic

MAX

MAX

Engineer

Engineer

Infiltrator

Heavy Assault

Heavy Assault

Heavy Assault

I find this squad has enough punch and staying power to deal with almost any obstacle. The MAX’s lead any movement using their superior armour and size to attract any incoming fire while their slower speed reduces the risk of sprint-happy soldiers running into difficulties. A dedicated engineer each also allows the MAX units to keep operating at peak efficiency while the large number of medics keep the squad alive and topped up. With a good number of Heavy Assaults, the engineers equipment and the different weapons available for the MAX’s this squad also has ample firepower to deal with vehicular threats.

You will note the lack of light assaults in my squads. Though I do not doubt their flexibility, I find they can be difficult to integrate into  my playstyle and their jetpacks situational in the engagements the squad often finds itself.

Point Man

The point man is an integral concept relating to moving the squad especially when there is no waypoint placed at the next destination.  In its most simple form the point man is the individual who the squad members will follow and is the person directly responsible for determining the route from position to position, the speed at which you will move and is concerned primarily with contacts to the front.

Squad members who find themselves on the sides of the formation should concern themselves with checking their side for threats and reporting contacts as the occur.

It is worth considering placing a highly visible player as point man. As mentioned previously I prefer a MAX for the role, though you as squad leader are also a good candidate due to the star next to your name in other players HUD, though you need to balance this against the potential risk of disorganisation your squad may encounter should you die as being point man carries an increased risk of being shot.

Objectives

Your squads objective should be achievable, convey a sense of achievement when accomplished, and provide an entertaining experience. Objectives can often be broken down into Planned Objectives and Hasty Objectives.

Planned objectives:

These objectives are typically assigned at the beginning of an engagement or during a lull in the combat. They may be more strategic in nature and will see your squad moved in an ordered fashion to achieve objectives which will provide your squad or empire with an advantage, or to deny the attempts of the enemy to do the same. You will often have time to plan and communicate your intentions and requirements for these objectives, so I would advise you make the most of this opportunity.

An order to capture a particular base, take and hold a strong tactical position in anticipation of enemy advance or open up a new flank on the enemy are examples of this.

Occasionally you will open the map and be presented with no objective that really stands out as suitable for your squad, you should not worry unduly and should either ask for suggestions, or simply pick a large conflict, deploy near the edge of the engagement and assess the local situation on the ground.

Hasty Objectives:

These are the on the fly objectives which you will encounter during combat. Reacting to the enemy’s capture of a control point or an opportunity to take the initiative and quickly flank an enemy force are examples of this deployment. Although you will be given little time to make your decision you should attempt to communicate your intentions quickly and concisely with your squad so they understand your intentions and are able to follow your instructions. You should pay particular attention to communicating where you wish to deploy, and your intentions once you reach the deployment area. When leading I will often take and hold a position, holding a line and not advancing further, even though this action is a common event I will always remind the squad they are to hold position. Conversely I will relay orders for any assault including point man and any special grenades or tactics to be used.

It is important to stay together as a unit when pursuing a hasty objective and a squad leader should be aware of the increased risk of players becoming separated in a fluid combat situation.

Single unit leadership

Most squads fall under the single unit banner. They move and react as one unit under the direction of the squad leader. They are comparatively easy to command as you only need worry about one waypoint, and are often ideal when moving alongside allies or taking a single defensive position. The easiest way to lead such a squad is to think of them as an extension of your own character. Assess what you would do as an individual in a situation and then have the squad perform the action. This makes deciding which route to take and which areas of cover to move to much easier. Limitations to this method of leadership become apparent when you need to split the squad for any reason, defending or assaulting multiple entrances become more difficult as you are forced to split numbers without preparation or rely on your squad’s own judgement to cover the required locations.

In a defensive situation with multiple entrances to a location and  a single unit squad I will try to ensure that the entrances are as well covered as possible by taking a step back and calling for support at particular locations, then make it my own responsibility to patrol entrances which may be used to flank our position as a precaution against squad members moving position or being distracted by any main push by the enemy.

Fire Teams

taking the time to assign roles and split your squad into two or more fire teams is a way to provide a greater tactical flexibility in the field. You will require individuals willing and able to act as fire team leaders in your support. Where possible the fire teams can be assigned to different squads to aid flexibility creating a “mini platoon” which will  follow direction from the platoon leader. If you are unable to achieve this due to being in a larger platoon then the alternative is to assign fire teams based on squad number, though this is not as intuitive as the “mini platoon”.

In normal engagements the fire teams are able to operate along the same lines as the single unit, though when required they are able to quickly react and perform more complex tasks which would be difficult for a single unit to achieve.

It is important to have competent fire team leaders who you trust, and are able to show initiative when splitting the squad as this will free you from worry about the teams performance and also enable you to manage your own fire team to maximum effect.

spawn discipline

Spawn discipline should be enforced at the squad leaders discretion and will include rules presented to the squad governing when and where they are to spawn. In my squads standard procedure is to call for a medic revive before spawning on a beacon (if it is local to the squad) then squad deploy, before finally using Sunderers or other spawns to deploy as a last resort.

On occasion you may wish to assign a tighter spawn protocol and removing sunderers or base spawns from the permitted spawns, or even only asking your squad to not respawn without a medic. These restrictions are often brought into place in a hectic combat situation where the time it takes to respawn and move to the combat (even in a drop pod) is too great to meet the current demands of the situation.

Leading within a Platoon

Up to this point this guide has primarily been focussed on leading a distinct squad which you have complete control over, but what should you do if you are leading a squad within a larger platoon. The first thing you should establish is the degree of operational freedom you will enjoy as a squad leader, and whether the Platoon leader has any role in mind for your particular squad.

I will often run a platoon of two full squads and while flexible will use one squad as my assault squad and one as my suppression squad. (https://squadside.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/fire-and-movement/). While I will place waypoints for each squad, my squad leaders have been briefed on their role and objectives  and know that they are able to lead their squad in the manner which they see fit when on the ground in an attempt to achieve their objective in the best way possible while communicating any deviation to their movement.

It is important to define the restrictions and freedoms you will be working with under your platoon leader, as failure to do so may result in you not being at the position the leader expects, which may impact other squads, or conversely being wiped out to due to poor deployment when the platoon leader was expecting you to move your squad to cover.

firing line

Deployments

The Safe Deployment

In this example the squad is deployed in a position a distance from the enemy force, and in a location the enemy will find challenging to access. The combination of distance and difficulty in closing with you will often cause the enemy to not even try to engage you.

Squad leading in this situation is probably the easiest you can find in a combat environment, as the leader will not have to worry too greatly about movement beyond adjusting position to maintain a good field of fire or advancing /retreating should the need arise (which will often cause a change from the safe deployment). A small, unexpected flanking force is often this deployments greatest threat due to members having a tendency to be  tunnel visioned and focussed on one particular target and the squad leader should be aware of this threat and take steps to mitigate against it . The leader should still endeavour to stay in communication with the squad, relaying priority targets or threat detections.

While I have defined this as a safe deployment, executed correctly this can be a battle changer allowing a single squad to successfully engage an enemy zerg causing heavy casualties and potentially forcing them to retreat.

Deployment in open line of battle.

This deployment shares many of the characteristics of a safe deployment, as  the squad will be mostly stationary behind their cover and firing upon the an enemy in front of them. As a squad leader however your role shifts somewhat from one of primarily target designation to one where you become more concerned with the enemies movements (and to a lesser extent your allies). You should make a mental note of a likely position to advance to or fall back to depending on the outcome of the fight and also be on the lookout for flanking forces which should be relayed as a priority for the squad (you can also delegate this role, though I prefer to handle it myself if possible and cut any communication delay out of the equation).

This type of engagement can often result in a stalemate or slow advance or retreat, and redeployment to another position may be necessary to break the stalemate, as an infantry assault across open ground in this situation is doomed to fail.

Fluid deployment

Often entered into after one side has emerged victorious in a line of battle this deployment is characterised by your squad advancing or retreating from one position to another, normally in the form of some sort of cover. This form of deployment requires you to be extremely aware of your enemies positions and disposition, noting whether they are suppressed and it is safe to move, or whether they are advancing upon you forcing you to move. In this form of deployment it is important to keep a close watch on your squad in case members become separated during the movements, in which case they should be recalled to keep a tight cohesive squad which will enable you to move and react quickly and efficiently.

CQB Assault

This is where the split second judgements really start to make an impact and clear communications and a disciplined and cohesive squad will allow you to shine. The squad should remain as  close together as is reasonable to increase the likelihood of local superiority and should be on alert at all times. Upon contact with the enemy resist the temptation to focus your attention fully on fighting as an individual, instead take a step back and direct your squad. Keep them in cover, call for special grenades when required and ensure you have a rally point to fall back on. now is a good time to enforce yourr respawn policy to ensure the squad does not get strung out leaving you trying to attack the enemy individually or in small groups.

Control point assaults

Actively leading a squad in an assault can be a tricky business. You are often forced into a close quarters engagement with the enemy, which will increase the likelihood of casualties. This combined with the suppressive fire in an assault often makes revives difficult, and combined with the fight often being mobile or limited in local spawn options will lead for a tendency for the squad to become quickly scattered and attack as individuals as more members die and quickly respawn in an attempt to get back into the fight as quickly as possible. This may cause a problem  for a squad leader if the initial attack fails as you need to balance the need to keep the enemy under pressure with the reduction in the squads overall effectiveness as they become more spread out. The leader should if possible designate a rally point and order the squad to group at that location and attack in force once it becomes clear that their effectiveness has reduced.

An effective squad leader will make use of the abilities at their disposal, leading an advance into a close quarters engagement with a charging MAX is an excellent way of sowing confusion in the defence, while concussion grenades will also have a similar result. If you are leading a multiple fre team squad you can also consider attacking from multiple angles, or making use of suppressive fire to cover an assault or divert the enemy’s attention away from a particular location.

Defence of a control point

A deployment which may or may not start with time to prepare, you should ensure you and your squad are aware of the likely direction and strength of the enemy attack and ensure all approaches are watched. You should decide whether you will be defending from the objective or a different location and put in place a plan to fall back effectively should this be the case. upon contact with the enemy you should continually assess the situation and ensure you have adequate forces in place to meet any threat diverting them from their initial deployments if necessary. Effective communication and intelligence gathering is vital here as you may be forced to break line of sight with members of your squad if fighting indoors. The squad leader should also make sure that those members of the squad not directly engaged do not become distracted by the combat causing them to abandon their observation of their assigned entrance without orders.

Aside from flanking attacks the main threat to your position will come in the form of organised MAX crashes, assaults using concussion or flash grenades or a combination of the above, and steps should be taken where possible to mitigate against this.

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