Soldiers setting up MSE antennas at NTCFighting mobile-subscriber equipment with remote teams

by CPT Daniel Reynolds

To provide adequate Signal support, remote radio-access unit and remote-relay teams must survive!

At the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., mobile-subscriber-equipment Signal companies are challenged with providing reliable MSE support to brigade combat teams. One of the companies� critical tasks is to provide mobile-subscriber radiotelephone terminal coverage for the width and depth of the battlefield. Remote teams must be able to execute plans, coordinate and rehearse their movements on the battlefield to survive and provide adequate Signal support.

Trends at NTC indicate that tactical deployment of remote teams needs more emphasis. Remote teams often deploy without being integrated into the brigade�s maneuver scheme. Teams have minimal situation awareness, and they haven�t conducted critical coordination and rehearsals.

Remote teams setting up MSE at NTC Remote teams set up their mobile-subscriber equipment at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

This article�s goal is to provide leaders and soldiers techniques, tactics and procedures taken from lessons-learned at NTC. Readers should gain insights on how to fight MSE and ensure MSE coverage is provided for the battlefield�s full width and depth throughout every mission.

My focus is troop-leading procedures. I include references to the military decision-making process as it applies to remote team-deployment planning. I use references to brigade units or operations throughout this article, but TTP apply to any tactical mission.

I also focus on remote RAU team deployments, but the tactical steps in TLP apply to remote-relay teams. Successful deployments follow the fundamental TLP I list here. (Bulleted paragraphs are the procedures; non-bulleted paragraphs are my notes and discussion about the situation.)

Receive the mission

Network planners must have the division plan, including operational graphics, and use bottom-up refinement from BCTs on where and when MSRT coverage is required for each phase of the mission.
Network planners use MDMP to develop an MSRT coverage plan.
Planners have available tools to analyze current MSRT coverage and plans for coverage. This includes automated terrain-analysis systems (network-planning tool, integrated-system control, Terrabase, etc.)
Planners develop a planning timeline based on time available that meets the 1/3 planning, 2/3 preparation rule.

Issue the warning order

Issue a warning order to the RAU team that contains as much information as possible before any movement.
Include movement orders, open-/close-link orders and special instructions.
Technical data for the radio links and a grid coordinate isn�t enough. The warning order must contain enough information for the RAU team to begin precombat checks/precombat inspections and develop a timeline for movement.
Follow the warning-order format as closely as possible.

Make a tentative plan

Develop an MSRT coverage plan that supports double RAU coverage in forward areas if possible.

To achieve double RAU coverage, each RAU is located so that the radius of one coverage zone intersects the center (RAU location) of the adjacent coverage zone. After the first RAU is located on the overlay and the coverage circle is drawn, locate adjacent RAUs on the circumference of the first circle and, using the new RAU location as the center, draw the adjacent coverage circle.

If double RAU coverage isn�t possible due to limited assets, develop a single RAU coverage plan.

Single RAU coverage requires locating RAUs to ensure a 10-percent overlap in coverage by an adjacent RAU. For more information, see Training Manual 11-5800-216-10-2, the system manual for MSE.

Remote RAU team deployments need to be integrated into the brigade�s maneuver scheme by synchronizing RAU team movements for each phase of the operation.

Too often RAU team movements aren�t coordinated with other units; teams just go directly to the next planned position and become subject to both friendly and enemy fire. By maneuvering with a tactical unit, the RAU team has increased force protection and can move with that combat unit. RAU teams won�t always be able to move with another unit, but even if teams are moving independently, they should have clearly defined triggers for each operation phase and designated routes.

The following figure is taken from an attack mission during an NTC rotation. It shows a remote RAU team that follows the brigade�s tactical command post or tactical-operations center.

Remote RAU team following brigade's tactical command post This illustration, taken from an attack mission during an NTC rotation, shows a remote RAU team that follows the brigade's tactical command post or tactical-operations center.

The operation phases are:

  1. Initial position: H-24. The remote RAU is in system and conducts PCCs/PCIs for future operations.
  2. Staging position: H-10. The node-management facility issues close-link instructions and a movement order for the RAU team to move to the brigade TOC.
  3. Attack position: H+1. The remote RAU moves with the brigade TAC.
  4. Release point: H+2. The brigade TAC moves forward with the RAU following until the RAU reaches the designated release point.
  5. Final location: H+3. The remote RAU moves to its final position and opens the planned link.

A note here: H-hour is the line-of-departure time.

Develop detailed triggers for each movement.
Develop alternate courses of action for each operation phase to eliminate single points of failure.
Analyze enemy-situation templates, including enemy artillery ranges, engagement areas, key enemy avenues of approach and other factors.

Start necessary movement

The RAU team may need to begin movement while planning is taking place.
Conduct any link-up operations if moving with other units.
The extension-switch supervisor or other platoon leadership should be prepared to deliver the final operations order and graphics overlays if the team deploys before they are complete.
When a RAU team moves with a unit, the team chief coordinates with that unit to attend any opord briefings and rehearsals.


Conduct reconnaissance of routes, staging areas and the actual RAU location if the tactical scenario permits. If conducting an attack, request brigade assets to conduct reconnaissance of forward locations.
Don�t forget about reconnaissance of alternate locations and contingency plans.
Signal planners should coordinate with the division G-3 to request subordinate combat units for reconnaissance if the risk of contact with the enemy is high.

One of the keys to successful site selection and setup is relying upon the "eyes on the ground" for bottom-up refinement. The team chief who can see the terrain while conducting a dismounted reconnaissance conducts the best reconnaissance. Network planners use digitized maps to select grid coordinates that provide desired MSRT coverage and line-of-sight connectivity, but they�re limited by the data they have available because they�re not on the ground.

When the team chief conducts reconnaissance, he gathers more information, including accessibility, weather conditions, force protection with adjacent units and cover and concealment. The team chief must have knowledge of where MSRT coverage is needed and the direction of the radio link to the node center, as well as enemy situation and friendly situation.

Once the team finds a location, it may or may not match the original grid coordinate. Network planners should be prepared to use this bottom-up refinement to receive changes, reprofile the radio link, analyze RAU MSRT coverage and, finally, approve or disapprove a different grid coordinate.

The following figure depicts what can happen when all the preceding actions don�t happen. The inset picture is taken from the RAU location looking towards the area it�s supposed to cover.

Gaps in radio coverage, remote RAU team deployment This illustration depicts gaps in radio coverage that happen when all necessary actions do not happen. The inset photo is taken from the RAU location looking toward the area it's supposed to cover.

Complete the plan

By this time, network planners should have complete information (division and brigade opords, operational graphics, enemy-situation templates, etc.), including all information brigade/battalion S-6s have provided to the division G-6.
A final course of action is decided on based on any reconnaissance conducted.
Final coordination is made for the RAU team movement with another unit.
Coordination is made with all units in sectors the RAU team will be moving through and occupying (fratricide prevention).
Coordinate combat-service-support operations, including casualty evacuation, supply and maintenance operations.

Issue the complete order

The complete opord is issued to the RAU team, either in written form or orally based on mission, enemy, troops and time available.
The extension supervisor ensures teams receive situation updates as well as receive and understand opords, and supervises execution. Other duties include supervising and executing logistical support to remote teams.

Priority is based on how critical remote teams are to the current mission, and on the support relationships remote teams have with units in their operations area.

The RAU team chief issues the opord to the team following the five-paragraph format.
The opord contains detailed triggers for all operation phases, including alternate courses of action, alternate sites, displacement plans, actions on contact.


The RAU team conducts rehearsals of all movements, link-ups and site defense tasks.
Integrate the RAU team into all supporting unit rehearsals.
Conduct final PCIs.
Ensure the team has complete situation awareness. Updates to friendly and enemy situations may come from the platoon/S-3 section/S-2 section, according to the unit�s standing operating procedures.
Battle-track throughout the mission to ensure key triggers are executed according to plans and force-protection measures are taken.
The battalion/brigade S-6s, division G-6 and systems control/battalion control must continuously assess the effectiveness of RAU coverage throughout the missions to ensure MSRT coverage is maintained throughout the operations area.

Once a remote site is established, force protection must be implemented. According to Field Manual 11-43, Signal Leaders Guide, "Remote RAU teams deploy alone; consequently, the team must be well briefed on both the friendly maneuver and the enemy situation. RAU teams must understand routes, rally points, casualty evacuation procedures, decontamination data and early-warning (air) procedures. The team chief must maximize use of terrain, vegetation or buildings for concealment and must maintain constant security. RAU teams require constant threat updates and must be quickly moved if necessary. Movement should be planned in detail to prevent fratricide. These same considerations apply to an LOS Version 3 radio when being used as a relay."

The opord should have specific triggers for displacement operations. For example, if the enemy has penetrated past a certain phase line, that�s the trigger for the RAU to pack its equipment and prepare for displacement. A closer phase triggers the actual movement, and further criteria would include a trigger for the team to destroy equipment in place and evacuate personnel.

Refer to the example of specific triggers during a defense-in-sector mission that could be included in Paragraph 5 of an opord.

Offensive operations might require the RAU team to jump to more than one location and displace during the mission based on battlefield triggers. Another key to success, as I�ve mentioned, is using terrain to "hide with pride." In the following figures, the left one demonstrates how a RAU team can effectively use terrain to provide concealment, while the one on the right shows a team not using terrain well and so exposing itself to enemy observation.

RAU team effectively using terrain RAU team exposing itself to enemy observation Left, how a RAU team can effectively use terrain to provide concealment. Right, a team that's not using terrain well and is exposing itself to enemy observation.

Fighting MSE with remote teams is a challenge that is met by detailed planning and by following TLPs. Ensuring all TLPs are accomplished ensures team success. Network planners must integrate remote-team deployments into the brigade�s maneuver scheme. Planners must use MDMP and plan courses of action that not only provide adequate MSRT coverage but also include force protection.

Accurate reconnaissance and site selection by team chiefs on the ground are key to achieving the commander�s intent. Force protection of Signal sites will ensure survival of remote teams so they can provide reliable communications to the warfighter.

By applying the TTP I outline here and by conducting realistic training, remote teams will better prepare themselves to fight MSE throughout the full width and depth of the battlefield.

CPT Daniel Reynolds is the MSE Signal company trainer at NTC. He has been an observer/controller at NTC for 23 rotations. Previous assignments included commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 307th Signal Battalion, Korea; Signal officer, 2d Battalion, 9th Infantry, Korea; Signal officer, 3d Battalion, 64th Armor, Germany; and platoon leader, Company D, 123d Signal Battalion, Germany. While a platoon leader, Reynolds� platoon fielded MSE. He attended both the MSE nodal-management operations course and the MSE systems-planner course.

Readers may contact him with questions by emailing, telephoning (760) 380-5536 (DSN 470-5536), or writing Company A, Operations Group (Bronco Team), Fort Irwin, Calif. 92310.

More references

Acronym QuickScan
BCT � brigade combat team
FM � field manual
LOS � line of sight
MDMP � military decision-making process
MSE � mobile-subscriber equipment
MSRT � mobile-subscriber radiotelephone terminal
NTC � National Training Center
PCC/PCI � precombat checks/precombat inspections
PL � phase line
RAU � radio-access unit
TAC � tactical command post
TLP � troop-leading procedures
TM � training manual
TOC � tactical-operations center
TTP � techniques, tactics and procedures

dividing rule

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