About the ShackTac Platoon
The ShackTac Platoon is based off of a standard US Marine Corps rifle platoon, with some minor differences. Weighing in at 46 players when fully fleshed out, the platoon consists of four main elements - the platoon headquarters (also known as the 'command element') and three rifle squads, Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Each squad consists of three fireteams - labeled as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fireteam - and each fireteam contains three players plus their fireteam leader. The main difference between the ShackTac Platoon and a USMC platoon is the addition of corpsmen (medics) at the squad level as well as the platoon level, giving us a total of four medics in the platoon.
The ShackTac Platoon Structure traces it's history back to the later half of 2006, a time in which ShackTac was ever so steadily becoming more cohesive and coordinated in Operation Flashpoint's 'Wargames League' mod. With the increased competence of the players, and the tighter knit community, it was a good time to introduce a standardized structure by which the group could continue to expand and improve.
The key point of our platoon structure is that it was never intended to blindly replicate military organization simply for the sake of doing so. Instead, it ended up being introduced for many of the same reasons that such a structure evolved long ago in reality. For the purposes of command and control, as well as the development of standardized team-level tactics, it is necessary to have a group structured in a fairly standardized way that all players (and particularly the leaders) can be familiar with and know how to work with. Our platoon structure accomplished this goal for us.
Leadership "Rule of Threes"
Leadership in our platoon works on the principle that any given leader should only have to worry about three subordinates at any given time. The platoon commander deals with his three squad leaders, the squad leaders deal with their three fireteam leaders, and each fireteam leader deals with the three other players under his command. The consistent application of the 'rule of threes' to leadership allows for rapid development of players from a junior leader all the way up to platoon commander without having to learn entirely new structures at each step of the developmental journey. It naturally makes for a very flexible and relatively easy structure to work with. There is good reason why the Marine Corps uses this method.
F2 Mission Framework
To help mission makers get this structure implemented, as well as provide an easy-to-use framework that facilitates a variety of other common mission development issues, the F2 mission development framework was created for ArmA2. A description of it from F2 project lead Fer follows.
F2 is a mission development framework for ArmA2. Based on the popular BAS f framework for ArmA, F2 is aimed at newcomers to mission editing. The framework is an MP mission folder containing a library of scripts, functions and template files, supported by an illustrated online manual containing easy-to-follow, detailed instructions in English and Russian.
The F2 framework offers mission designers over 30 different components, all of which have been pre-tested to work in the ArmA 2 MP environment. These components are designed to provide the mission designer, after minimal additional configuration, with functionality that will improve the overall quality and re-playability of his/her mission. Examples include features that allow server admins to select different time and weather conditions for the same mission, or control the relative skill levels of friendly and enemy AI units. Crucially, by quickly taking care of most common mission set-up tasks, F2 frees the designer to really focus on quickly realizing his/her own idea.
For mission makers keen to use the formations and mechanics outlined in the this guide, F2 contains pre-placed instances of the standard ShackTac platoon (plus supporting units) for all the factions, as well as pre-configured settings for unit tracking markers and support for High Command. F2's predecessor, BAS f, formed the core of nearly all ShackTac missions for ArmA, and moving forward F2 will be the baseline for all ShackTac ArmA2 missions.
To read the F2 online manuals please see:
In-game, our elements - fireteams, squad leader elements, and the command element - are tracked via a combination of the (F2) ShackTac group tracking system and ArmA2's 'High Command' feature.
The markers we use are modified NATO markers which we custom-made for ShackTac, and look like this:
The "box with an X" is a standard infantry NATO marker. The circle with a slash through it is the fireteam marker. If there was a solid dot, it'd be a squad. Two dots, a section, three dots, a platoon. The flag-like marker is a simple command marker. Everything is color-coded by squad, with Alpha being red, Bravo blue, and Charlie green. PltHQ is typically orange or yellow.
Succession of Command
The succession of command in a ShackTac platoon is clearly established, allowing every member to know precisely what circumstances would result in them taking command of an element. In a squad, seniority comes from the order of the fireteams. 1st is senior, 2nd next in line, 3rd last. In a fireteam, the fireteam leader is senior, followed by the automatic rifleman, the assistant automatic rifleman, and finally the rifleman.
In the overall scheme of things, seniority is as follows.
- Platoon Commander
- Platoon Sergeant (if used)
- Alpha SL
- Bravo SL
- Charlie SL
- A1 FTL
- B1 FTL
- C1 FTL
- Senior Remaining Fireteam Leader or Member
Note that in the unlikely event that the PltCo, PltSgt, squad leaders, and first-fireteam leaders are all dead, the senior remaining member of the platoon takes command of the remainder. Note also that you probably have bigger problems at that point than worrying about who specifically needs to be leading the handful of survivors. :)
ShackTac Rank Structure
Theory & Intent
A ranking system is one of those elements that tends to give people a bad impression of realism-oriented gaming groups. Oftentimes this is rightfully earned by over-the-top implementations - for instance, take a group which has twenty or more different ranks, from the basic Private all the way up to some absurdly high officer rank such as Lieutenant General or whatnot. That same group may consist of twenty members at most, too, which makes one question the logic behind such an elaborate and seemingly unnecessary ranking structure.
For ShackTac, we avoided a ranking system of any sort for quite some time. Eventually it came to the point where it seemed a good idea to establish a system by which levels of responsibility, accountability, and proficiency could be defined.
Thus was born the system consisting of five ShackTac ranks. Through our development in ArmA, to account for our ever-expanding playerbase and our maturation as a group, we added two additional ranks, bringing the total to seven. Our original intent behind creating the ranking system still holds as true today as when it was initiated. In short, we wanted to:
- Establish a system by which any player, new or old, could easily recognize a fellow player and know what to expect from them on a leadership level. This becomes more and more important the larger a group gets - it's unreasonable to expect your average player to be able to remember the leadership skills of 150 players, not all of who play in every single session.
- Make it possible to define the ShackTac Platoon Organization in detail as well as define the ranks and their typical places within the platoon. Established responsibilities and roles make it possible for us to have our platoon structure and make it work in a gaming environment. While this would be possible without ranks, it would not be as easy and would likely be quite a bit more confusing for the average player. Since accessibility to our playerbase is a key part of a healthy group system, this became a critical element for us.
- Use the least number of ranks possible to accurately describe the varied player types present in the group. This has evolved to be seven ranks, and they span the spectrum nicely. You have the probationary members (pre-FNGs), the accepted-but-still-new players (FNGs), the guys who are there to be basic grunts and have a good time (Grunts), the guys who have played with us for awhile and take the lower-level leadership roles (Regulars), the ones who want to lead fireteams and squads or take very specialized roles (Specialists), the players who have taken on additional responsibilities both in- and out-of-game regarding leadership, community development, etc (Corporals), and the players who want to act as leaders more than soldiers and also bear the greatest responsibilities in group development (NCOs).
- Present the ranks in a way that emphasizes their practical necessity and minimizes any concerns of excessive "mil-sim", "roleplaying", or "elitist" behavior. This was a key point for me - I did not want to alienate players by making them feel that they're somehow not as worthy as a "higher-ranked" player. All ShackTac players are treated equally, and those who wear the higher-level ranks have earned them and carry greater responsibility because of them.
- Avoid introducing any excessive "mil-sim" or "roleplaying" behavior. Military formalities are excessive in a gaming environment - thus, you will not hear - aside from in jest - any players calling each other "Sir" or becoming bogged down in similarly ego-stroking mil-mimicking behaviors. We are all friends, and we have no need to pretend that we're superior to anyone else on a personal level simply because we have a given role within the group.
- Allow players to choose their level of participation in the group. We believe that nobody should be pressured to do what they don't want to do, and the ranks allow us to give our players an option to opt out of leadership if they so desire. If someone wants to lead, the path is open to them, but they are not forced into it against their will. If a player wants to just be one of the guys toting a rifle and having a good time while following orders, that path is his to choose and noone will ever be looked down on because of it.
I share that primarily to emphasize the mentality behind what I feel has become a very successful group rank structure. I will not go into the specifics of what each rank entails here (the information is part of our group forums instead), aside from stating the order of the ranks in the event that they are mentioned elsewhere in the guide:
Fireteam Structure & Leadership
Fireteam Organization & Purpose
In ShackTac's organizational structure, the Fireteam is the smallest combat element employed at the platoon level. Three fireteams and a squad leader element make up one ShackTac squad, resulting in 14 people in total. Three squads and a Platoon Headquarters element make up the ShackTac Platoon. There are nine fireteams per platoon, not counting the SL and PltHQ elements.
Fireteams are lead by players who are interested in the challenge of acting as a small-unit leader. The fireteam leader is the first major step in the leadership development of a player, and everyone is encouraged to try their hand at this leadership role.
Each fireteam carries a well-rounded assortment of firepower. Generally, this consists of two standard rifles, one rifle with grenade launcher, and one automatic rifle or light machinegun. This gives the fireteam an indirect-fire capability (grenade launcher), a sustained-fire capability (AR or LMG), and volume in point-fire (three rifles).
Fireteam w/AT. From left to right, AR, FTL, R(AT), AAR
The fireteam members, along with their seniority and roles, are as follows:
- Fireteam Leader (FTL)
- Senior team member
- Leads the fireteam
- Carries a rifle with attached grenade launcher
- Leads the first buddy team, consisting of himself and the rifleman
- Automatic Rifleman (AR)
- Second in command of the team
- Carries and employs the automatic rifle or light machinegun
- Leads the second buddy team, consisting of himself and the assistant automatic rifleman
- Assistant Automatic Rifleman (AAR)
- Third in command of the team
- Carries extra ammo for the Automatic Rifleman
- Armed with a rifle
- Follows and supports the Automatic Rifleman as his combat buddy
- Rifleman (R)
- Junior member of the team
- Armed with a rifle
- Follows the Fireteam Leader as his combat buddy
The Fireteam Leader
The Fireteam Leader's mantra is "Follow me and do as I do". He is the most combat-oriented leader position on the battlefield, and leads his fireteam from the front while acting as the example that his team members will follow.
Fireteam leader with an M203 grenade launcher attached to his rifle
- Get their orders from their Squad Leader. This may include aspects like the formation required, special rules of engagement, sectors of responsibility, order of movement, and so forth.
- Are tactically proficient and capable of exercising good initiative and sound judgment. Micromanagement of fireteam leaders should not be required. Once given a task, a FTL should be capable of understanding the intent of the order and executing it with competence. A FTL should be capable and competent at using his fireteam members to carry out any order given by the SL.
- Work towards accomplishing the squad mission while attempting to minimize loss of life in their fireteam. They know that ultimately, mission accomplishment takes priority over "troop welfare". Ideally, the fireteam leader accomplishes that mission without losing any of his fireteam members. With that being said, he does not shy away from dangerous assignments, and is ready to put his fireteam into a difficult situation if there is no better course of action and it contributes significantly towards mission accomplishment, or when ordered by his squad leader.
- Augment the Squad Leader's situational awareness by reporting significant observations to him. A fireteam leader has a perspective that is generally slightly 'forward' of the squad leader, even if only by a dozen meters. Because of this, it is important that he succinctly and accurately report significant observations back to his squad leader. This includes enemy contacts, terrain considerations, and anything else that may be tactically significant.
- Talk to their teams and keep them informed. They are clear and concise when speaking, and ensure that their team members know everything relevant to the successful fulfillment of their mission.
- Ensure that their fireteam members maintain good interval and situational awareness. This is accomplished in part by giving simple formations (typically line, wedge, or staggered column) and emphasizing proper sector coverage and security. The FTL must be vigilant and proactive in preventing his team members from becoming target fixated or bunched up.
- Control and direct the team's fire. While the fireteam leader can often let his team members engage at will, there will come times when the careful direction of their fire will be critical to success. Engagement of high-priority targets such as snipers, machineguns, and vehicles are examples of when the fireteam leader will need to control and direct the team's fire.
- Maintain disciplined initiative and momentum. When the squad commits to a fight, the fireteam leaders are at the cutting edge of the battle. It is often up to them to use initiative based on what they see, and maintain momentum and combat action in accordance with the stated intent of the squad leader or platoon commander. When in doubt, they request additional guidance from the Squad Leader.
- Use the AR/AAR R/FTL buddy team concept. By having a standard split to work with, each fireteam leader is able to more rapidly and effectively order his subordinates.
- Designate point men as required. Having a single man on point can work quite well in many situations. In other situations using an entire fireteam is more ideal. This is a judgment call that needs to be made by the Fireteam Leader or Squad Leader, situation dictating.
- Maintain accountability of their team members. It is up to the fireteam leader to ensure that no team members are left behind. An FTL should do a team check after every engagement, and multiple times during extended fights. Having a team member go down without the FTL knowing about it can be a major issue and must be avoided.
- Ensure that machinegun and anti-tank assets are retained in the event of team member casualties. If the fireteam's AR goes down, it's up to the team leader to ensure that the assistant recovers the machinegun. The same is true if the fireteam has any anti-tank capability.
- Are proficient with their M203 grenade launchers. See the following section for more.
Fireteam Leader M203 Employment
The fireteam leader must be able to use his M203 to carry out a number of tasks, such as firing high-explosive shells at significant enemy positions, screening friendly movement, marking/masking the enemy with smoke shells, or using illumination shells in low light conditions. A team leader is expected to spend a lot of 'offline time' familiarizing themself and becoming skilled in the usage of the grenade launcher.
Some general guidelines for M203 employment follow. These can be used by any grenade launcher-equipped infantryman, of course.
The 5.56mm M16A4 with a 40mm M203 attached
- The M203 grenade requires up to 35 meters of travel distance before it will arm. If you land an M203 shot within this distance, the grenade will be a dud. This can come into significance when engaging in MOUT combat, so keep it in mind.
- When employing high explosive grenades, a grenadier should focus on high-value targets (ie crew-served machineguns, snipers, etc) or clusters of the enemy. Due to the limited supply of grenades a FTL typically has, it is important to reserve and employ them to inflict maximum damage. Let your team members deal with what they can with their AR and rifles, and employ the M203 grenades to supplement them and cover any gaps in their fires.
- Ensure that you are able to estimate range properly, and also are aware of what range you are most effective at with your grenades. First-round accuracy is important - using rounds to 'feel out' the range is to be avoided, as it wastes precious ammo. In , an aiming assistant helps to compensate for the lack of 3d adjustable sights - learn it and use it; it will increase your efficiency greatly.
- Grenades can be used to put fire into dead zones (areas that a defense cannot hit with direct-fire, such as depressions in the terrain) and otherwise provide basic, light indirect fire support. This is generally imprecise and should be reserved for when the grenadier has a good idea of where the enemy is, how he needs to fire to hit him, if the probability of a kill is unusually high, or it is important to harass the enemy and attempt to disrupt their attack. Alternatively, if the grenadier has an excess of grenades or a crate full of them, indirect fire can be a useful option.
- Illumination can be used to great effect at night via aerial flares. When firing flares, avoid firing them behind the enemy, especially in wooded terrain. This causes the flare light to silhouette them while leaving you and your team clearly illuminated. It is better to either fire the flare between you and the enemy or off to one side of them.
A fireteam leader launches a white flare for night illumination
- 40mm smoke grenades can be used to great effect for a variety of tasks. These can include marking targets or friendly positions for close air support assets, obscuring the enemy's line of sight, masking friendly movement, and marking landing zones for helicopters. Individual initiative and good judgment is the key to being successful and timely with smoke grenades.
Fireteam Member Roles
In addition to the responsibilities of a fireteam member outlined in the initial "Basic Rifleman" section, each fireteam member will have additional responsibilities based upon their role in the team.
The automatic rifleman, or "AR", is the fireteam's heavy firepower. He carries an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) by default, giving him the ability to throw hundreds of rounds downrange in short order.
The 5.56mm M249 SAW
The AR is second in command of the fireteam. In the event that his team leader becomes a casualty, he immediately takes charge of the fireteam and communicates his new role to his squad leader.
The AR is responsible for employing his weapon in a manner that maximizes the killing and suppressive power of it, allowing his fellow players to maneuver with the support of his fire.
Automatic Rifleman with an M249 SAW
- Control their fire. Short bursts tend to be the best way to employ a machinegun. The general guideline is to fire in 6-8 round bursts, pausing between bursts to observe the effects of your fire, assess, and then reengage as necessary. With that being said, bear in mind that as contacts appear closer to the team, longer bursts can be used due to the greater chances of hitting closer targets.
- Stay aware of their ammunition state. This takes two forms - one, know how many rounds are left in your current belt or box. Make sure you don't get caught with only a few rounds on the belt when contact is made. The second part is to stay aware of your overall ammo count - you must ensure that you're carrying as much ammo as feasible, and as you free up space for more ammo, your assistant should be ready to pass you fresh belts or boxes.
- Take initiative on contact & achieve fire superiority. Upon receiving enemy fire, each AR knows that it is their responsibility to return as heavy of a volume of fire as possible, with the intent of achieving fire superiority over the attacking forces. The amount of return fire given by each AR is a decisive factor in the ability of his fireteam members to maneuver to advantageous positions, or towards cover or concealment as required.
- Are comfortable with being employed in the base of fire element. ARs must be familiar with the concept of acting as part of a 'base of fire' element. This includes being proficient at long-range fire, knowing how to shift fire to account for friendly forces reaching and moving through the objective area, and how to fire controlled, sustained, and effective suppression.
- Maintain appropriate positioning. When the fireteam leader does not explicitly dictate otherwise, it's up to the automatic rifleman to maintain a position in the formation appropriate to the terrain, enemy, et cetera. He must constantly be aware of possible firing positions from which he can best employ his AR, and be able to move to them and begin engaging the enemy at a moment's notice.
Assistant Automatic Rifleman
The assistant automatic rifleman, or "AAR", is the right-hand man of the automatic rifleman. He helps spread-load the ammunition duties with the AR by carrying additional ammunition for the SAW.
The AAR's role is to stick with his AR - the two always form a 'buddy team' - and provide support for him. This comes in the form of providing security, helping to spot, engage, and adjust fire on targets, and generally working as part of a team.
If the automatic rifleman is killed, the assistant will take control of the M249 SAW and become the fireteam's new automatic rifleman. In the event that both the AR and FTL become casualties, the AAR will take control of the team's rifleman and merge into another fireteam in the squad.
A typical assistant automatic rifleman, kitted out to carry M249 magazines in addition to his rifle mags
Assistant Automatic Riflemen...
- Look out for their Automatic Rifleman combat buddy. Your role is to protect the AR and help to augment his effectiveness. Do whatever you can to help keep him in the fight. Be especially alert for any enemies attempting to flank him. While the entire fireteam should be concerned with flank security, the AAR should be even more active in scanning for such threats. The AR is a devastating unit when employed properly, and the enemy will recognize that and do what they can to kill him.
- Scan for, spot, & call out targets for the AR. Particularly while the AR is engaging, it's up to the assistant to search for, spot, and communicate the positions of any priority targets.
- Are proactive in ammo distribution. Don't wait until the AR asks for a reload - instead, be ready to supply a new box of ammo during lulls in combat, and always ensure that the AR is loaded and good to go.
- Assist in making fire adjustments. The assistant can often see the results of the AR's fire more clearly than the AR can. If need be, the assistant should be ready to call out fire adjustments to help the AR work his rounds onto target. For instance - "bring it up, you're hitting low", "more left, more left", etc.
- Never drop M249 ammo because it's "heavy" . The AAR's role is in large part to bring along extra ammunition for his automatic rifleman buddy. He will never drop any of this ammo and leave it behind because it was 'too heavy'.
- Maintain appropriate positioning. The assistant should generally be within shouting distance of the automatic rifleman, and oftentimes much closer.
Every member of the platoon is a rifleman first and foremost. In a fireteam, the rifleman is the lowest ranking or newest member of the team. ShackTac uses this role to give new players a way to get into the action, without burdening them with additional responsibilities such as those carried by the AR and AAR.
The fireteam's rifleman sticks with the fireteam leader and acts as his combat buddy.
A rifleman taking a knee during a firefight
- Look out for their Fireteam Leader. Your fireteam leader is your combat buddy - stay with him and flow off of what he does. To locate him, simply tap 'esc' twice rapidly. This will highlight his position on your HUD and give you a range reading to him, if necessary.
- Scan for, spot, & call out targets. Always be alert, always be scanning. Provide security when halted.
- Maintain appropriate positioning. The rifleman should generally be within shouting distance of his fireteam leader, and oftentimes much closer.
Alternate Fireteam Roles
Fireteam compositions can change to reflect the mission of the platoon in any given scenario. The most common alternate fireteam member role is that of the Light Anti-Tank Rifleman, which is described below.
Anti-Tank Rifleman, Light
Fireteams will typically carry light anti-tank weaponry if enemy armor is expected to be present in an area. Generally, this will result in the team's rifleman being given a single-shot M136 AT-4. The anti-tank rifleman will carry out his normal rifleman duties, and in the event that enemy armor is encountered, he will immediately transition into anti-tank mode and attempt to take it out based upon his team and squad leader's directives.
The M136 is an effective weapon for usage against light armor such as armored personnel carriers, while heavier armor such as that found on main battle tanks will require multiple M136s to defeat.
An anti-tank rifleman prepares to fire their M136 at enemy light armor
Note that if the standard rifleman role is replaced by an AT gunner in the fireteam, the AAR becomes the junior role, followed by the AT gunner, then the AR, and finally the FTL. This is to ensure that the junior team member does not have AT responsibilities, as they can be rather significant roles in missions that need them.
Anti-Tank Riflemen (Light)...
- Are proficient with the M136 AT4 and are able to engage enemy armor with confidence out to at least 300 meters. The more, the merrier - 300m is the bare minimum expected. To attain this proficiency, AT riflemen are expected to spend 'range time' engaging stationary and moving targets at various distances until they are confident in their first-shot abilities.
The M136 AT4, a single-shot disposable AT weapon
- Take only the shots they know they can hit. Due to it being a single-shot weapon, an AT rifleman cannot afford to miss his shot. When in doubt, if time and the tactical situation allow for it, don't hesitate to pass the M136 off to a player who is more proficient if you feel that you cannot be successful with it - preferably before combat starts.
- Aim for the flanks, rear, or top of an armored vehicle. Armored vehicles tend to have their heaviest armor in the front, with the sides, rear, and top being thinner and more favorable places to hit them. Bear in mind that flank shots will have a chance to induce a "mobility kill" via 'tracking' (destroying the tank tracks) a tank. A tank that has been "mobility killed" is still a threat if the turret is still functional, so ensure that it is fully knocked out with an additional AT4 shot from another squad member.
- Take cover once they've fired their AT weapon. Tank crews tend to react with anger towards being shot at by things that can actually harm them. Your backblast will kick up a dust signature that will allow a tank crew to spot you if you do not take cover or relocate.
- Know the capabilities and limitations of their weapon and utilize the principle of "volley firing" on targets when in doubt of a one-shot kill. Light anti-tank weapons have a tendency to not be terribly effective against medium and heavy armor. With this in mind, anti-tank personnel are expected to work towards using 'volley firing' to engage difficult targets (either hard armor or difficult shots). Volley firing is the act of having multiple AT gunners ready to engage a target at the same time. This maximizes the chance to knock out a target - if one gunner misses, the other can adjust and fire a killing shot. Or, for hard targets like tanks, multiple hits can be delivered in the span of seconds.
- Are familiar with the backblast danger presented by their weapon, and know how to clear it . AT weapons produce a hazardous backblast when they are fired - typically in the form of a cone extending about 60-90° from the rear of the launch tube, and producing damage anywhere from 30-60 meters behind the launcher. The backblast of most AT weapons has the capacity to kill or seriously wound people who are in the backblast danger area, though it falls off over distance significantly.
Where to Aim
As a general rule, armored vehicles have their strongest armor in the front and on the turret, with weaker armor on the sides, and the weakest armor on the top, bottom, and rear of the vehicle. For this reason, it's important to avoid taking shots - particularly with light AT assets like the AT-4 - on the heavy armored parts of vehicles. Taking flank or rear shots is the best course of action, and occasionally you will even find yourself in positions where top or bottom shots become possible.
Rear (L), Flank (R)
Frontal (L), Frontal Oblique (C), Rear Oblique (R)
To prevent his AT-4 (or RPG, etc) from injuring or even killing friendly troops, an anti-tank rifleman must "clear backblast" before firing his weapon.
- When preparing to make an AT shot, the gunner quickly scans to his left and right while using "Direct Speaking" VON to loudly declare for other players to "Clear backblast!". The gunner's scan is intended to give him visibility on who or what may be behind him, and help him visually verify that the backblast area is clear of friendly personnel.
- Any team members nearby, upon hearing "Clear backblast!" spoken, immediately shift position out of the danger area.
- Anyone who has cleared the danger area, upon visually scanning it, is expected to declare "Backblast all clear!" to let the gunner know that he is able to safely fire.
- Upon hearing "Backblast all clear!", or having visually confirmed that the area is clear, the AT gunner confirms his sight picture before loudly declaring "Rocket!" and firing the AT4.
Firing from Enclosures
In , firing AT weapons indoors can be very hazardous to your health. Avoid doing so when possible, as the backblast can kill or seriously injure you due to the restrictions of the structure.
Soft-launch weapons like the Javelin can be safely fired out of an enclosed space, but RPGs, AT4s, SMAWs, and other common hard-launch AT weapons cannot.
Squad Structure & Leadership
Squad Organization & Purpose
A ShackTac rifle squad is formidable force on the battlefield. Consisting of three fireteams of four players, and a squad leader element of two players, this 14-player unit is able to have a significant impact on the flow of a battle.
Standard rifle squad, with Squad Leader and Medic in foreground
A squad is typically lead by a Specialist, Corporal, or NCO, but can also be lead by Regulars aspiring to higher leadership.
Squads consist of an impressive array of firepower, and are just as well-rounded as the fireteams that they are composed of. In addition to their ability to inflict significant harm, they also are accompanied by a corpsman (medic) who can tend to any wounds that may be received through the course of a fight. He acts as the second man in the two-man Squad Leader element, providing security for the Squad Leader when he's not tasked out with tending to wounded squad members.
The order of leadership succession in a squad goes from the Squad Leader to the first, second, and finally the third fireteam leaders.
Squad Leader Responsibilities
The Squad Leader has similar responsibilities to the Fireteam Leader, except instead of controlling individual players, he controls entire fireteams. He is tasked with leading his squad in accordance with the Platoon Commander's intent and direction, as well as coordinating laterally with his fellow squads. The squad leader's motto is to "Lead from the front", since they know that they cannot direct their fireteams most efficiently if they cannot observe their movements and combat.
Squad Leader, left, and Squad Medic, right
- Get their direction from the Platoon Commander. They are expected to be able to take a broad goal set by the Platoon Commander and turn it into a plan that they can pass down to their fireteam leaders. This includes setting rules of engagement, formations, waypoints, rally points, movement speeds, and any other relevant information.
- Ensure that their team leaders and squad members know what the plan is. The "commander's intent" is conveyed to all squad members so that whatever happens, regardless of casualties, everyone knows what the end goal is and can adapt and work towards that with flexibility and responsiveness.
- Position themselves so that they can best observe their fireteams and exercise command and control over them. A squad leader who isn't staying close to his fireteams is quickly rendered ineffective. Squad leaders must always be with their fireteams, in a position from which they can make sound and timely tactical judgments and issue clear and appropriate orders. Typically a squad leader will be just behind the 'front line', positioned to where he can see as much of his squad as the tactical situation allows for.
- Dictate squad formations, rules of engagement, and general combat posture, adapting to the situation at hand and the Platoon Commander's guidance. The squad leader must be ever vigilant regarding the tactical situation and must be able to make timely adjustments to the squad's formation, ROE, posture, and more.
- Communicate key information across to other squad leaders and up to the Platoon Commander. This includes information like casualties incurred, enemy contacts, ammunition status, and other vital pieces of information that maintain the platoon's situational awareness and assist the other squad leaders and platoon commander in their planning. This also requires a good understanding of how to employ the "Channel Commander" functionality of our Teamspeak setup, as well as being able to be concise and clear in speaking on that channel.
- Maintain situational awareness on the platoon's disposition, as well as that of the enemy. Knowing where friendly forces are is critical to avoiding friendly fire incidents, and knowing where the enemy is gives the squad leader important information to use in making tactical decisions. The SL should be actively telling his squad members where friendly forces are, to ensure that the risk of blue-on-blue is minimized.
- Wield their fireteams as their weapons by directing and controlling their fire, picking out and assigning key targets, and maneuvering the fireteams across the battlefield. A squad leader who is giving good, timely orders, maneuvering his fireteams through combat and directing their fire, does far more damage to the enemy than one who is preoccupied with his own rifle. A squad leader avoids becoming personally engaged in firefights when possible, instead focusing on designating targets, maintaining awareness of the tactical situation, communicating with higher, maneuvering the teams, directing and controlling their fires, and coordinating the handling of any casualties that occur. The squad leader may use his rifle's tracers to direct fire, or M203 smoke or flare rounds to designate targets or screen movement, but he generally spends more time commanding than he does shooting. This has the additional benefit of making him less likely to draw the attention of the enemy, and helps to prevent 'tunnel vision' from taking effect.
- Know how to consolidate and reorganize teams when casualties occur. This includes using group management features in an expedient fashion, as well as consolidating communication channels when required.
- Keep his squad tied-in with other friendly squads when moving in a platoon formation. The SL must stay aware of how close his squad is to other squads, to ensure that dangerous gaps do not develop in the overall formation. The tighter and more broken the terrain, the more important this becomes.
Squad Medic / Corpsman
When so many rounds are flying around, someone's bound to get hit sooner or later. Unfortunately, this 'someone' is occasionally a fellow squad member. When it happens, the squad medic is the man to turn to. The squad medic is critically important - they are the key to maintaining the combat effectiveness of the squad when heavy contact has been made.
Medic tending to an incapacitated teammate
- Are concerned first and foremost with the welfare of their squad members. While a medic carries a rifle, it is nowhere near as powerful as the skill he brings as a healer. Medics leave the fighting to the infantry, instead focusing on patching up the wounded and getting them back into the fight. Medics should only fire their weapon in self-defense, or in the defense of the wounded.
- Stay a bit back off of the front line. This gives the medic a view of the bulk of the squad disposition and helps to prevent tunnel vision. By staying off of the front line, the medic is able to maneuver to different fireteams more easily in response to people being wounded, without drawing the same kind of fire as a frontline player.
- Look out for their Squad Leader and provide rear and flank security when not acting in a medical capacity. The squad leader often is preoccupied with commanding his fireteams, leaving him less time to watch his back and flanks. The medic fills this gap whenever not actively helping out wounded players.
- Are comfortable with using smoke to provide concealment for the wounded. Medics carry a number of smoke grenades that are intended to be used to conceal wounded players so that someone else can rush out and drag them to safety. Knowing where and when to throw these smoke grenades is a key skill for a medic to develop. He must be conscious of masking the wounded person from enemy observation, while at the same time not compromising the visibility of friendly elements.
- Triage their patients. In , a medic must be able to rapidly diagnosis casualties and pick out the ones that need the most urgent attention. Find those who are heavily bleeding, have had their hearts stop, or otherwise are urgent cases. People who have been lightly wounded and are in pain can wait - the urgent ones cannot.
- Know how to properly deal with battle damage. In , the medic has three basic medical supplies that can be used to address various damage aspects. The first is the bandage - this simply reduces or stops bleeding. The second is morphine, which reduces a player's pain and the associated penalties. Finally, there is epinephrine. "Epi" for short, this is used to restart a person's heart if they go into cardiac arrest. Without "epi", a heavily wounded heart-stopped player will die in short order. With it, he may very well survive.
Platoon Structure & Leadership
Platoon Organization & Purpose
Composed of three squads - Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie - as well as a four-man Command Element, the ShackTac Platoon is one of the largest exclusively-player-controlled units that can be fielded in ArmA2.
The Platoon is typically commanded by a ShackTac NCO or Corporal, but may also be commanded by any willing Specialist interested in advancement towards the senior leadership ranks.
ShackTac Platoon, with command element on the right side
The Platoon Headquarters element (PltHQ) consists of:
- Platoon Commander (PltCo). Head honcho. Final word in all things.
- Platoon Sergeant (PltSgt). The right-hand man of the PltCo, fulfilling a wide variety of roles depending on the mission type given.
- Platoon Medic (PltMed). Acts as the senior medic of the platoon. He deals with any casualties that the squad medics cannot handle, and stands ready to reinforce a rifle squad in the event that their medic becomes a casualty
- Rifleman. Tasked with providing security for the PltHQ element.
Platoon Commander Responsibilities
The Platoon Commander has a great many responsibilities, starting well before the mission has even begun. He is the final say in things and is responsible for the conduct of the assigned mission from start to finish. He directs the three main squads of the ShackTac Platoon, as well as any attachments, and uses a multitude of skills to accomplish the mission with the minimum of friendly and the maximum of enemy casualties.
The Platoon Commander's motto is "Life or death, from my commands". This is intended to remind him of the fact that the virtual lives and, more importantly, the gaming enjoyment of every member of the platoon are ultimately his responsibility, and that his orders, good or bad, will at some point result in someone (and in bad cases, many someones!) having to sit out due to a virtual death. It is important that the PltCo is able to function as a leader even when things aren't going according to plan and virtual bodies are stacking up. His cool-headed orders, given in the midst of raging fights, are often the deciding factor between victory and defeat.
The Platoon Commander...
- Plans the mission, briefs the squad leaders and element leaders and ensures that the plan is understood.
- Conveys the "Commander's Intent" to all of his squad and element leaders. His intent allows for squad and element leaders to know why they're doing what they're doing, how they're doing it, and what the desired end state is. Thus, if necessary, an element leader can make a rapid tactical decision, or assume command of the entire platoon if casualties are taken, while acting within the guidance of the intent of the PltCo.
- Distributes special assets. This includes attaching machinegun or antitank teams to squads, assigning vehicles to support squads, and assigning transport vehicles or aircraft to specific squads when available.
- Dictates the Rules Of Engagement (ROE). Any special considerations are made and conveyed, and the platoon receives updated ROE from the PltCo when appropriate.
- Determines how the platoon will be split into different Teamspeak channels pre-mission. Squads generally go into the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squad channels, while special assets may be organized into different channels, or merged into the squad channels, at the PltCo's judgment and discretion.
- Supervises the execution of the mission, issuing new or updated orders as it progresses. The PltCo stays on top of the tactical situation and issues appropriate, timely orders as the tactical situation evolves.
- Positions himself where he can exercise the best command and control of his squads. In order to guide the fight effectively, it is important that the PltCo is able to see it. To this end, he must constantly judge where he can best accomplish this, and ensure he's able to safely maintain such a position. In the event that the platoon splits into assault and support elements, the PltCo will either go with the assault or stay at the support position - whichever he chooses, he ensures that his PltSgt goes with the other element.
- Uses his PltSgt to share the workload. The PltSgt is there to assist the PltCo wherever possible, and should be used as needed.
- Avoids micromanagement, trusts in the judgment of his squad leaders, and allows them to develop the fight when possible. ShackTac Squad Leaders are smart, capable individuals. The PltCo treats them as such, and in turn, they shine in the fight. Giving them an opportunity to be creative in how they carry out orders, and trusting their assessment of the situation when given, is an important aspect of being PltCo.
- Keeps his squads within mutual supporting distance of each other whenever possible. A PltCo must be capable of making plans in which the platoon does not run off helter-skelter all over the place, attempting to do everything at once. This dilutes the combat power of the platoon and sacrifices the squads' ability to mutually support each other. The PltCo must be able to make judgment calls as to when the platoon should stay tightly focused and mutually-supporting, and when it is necessary to detach a squad (or more) to facilitate mission accomplishment.
- Reorganizes the platoon as needed to fulfill the mission. This can include merging understrength elements into larger elements, or reorganizing the platoon in the event of significant casualties. We use an in-house developed Group Management dialog to control this.
- Coordinates with support elements such as arty and CAS, via their Forward Observers and Forward Air Controllers, if available.
- Maintains awareness on the platoon's combat status, casualties, ammo, and other capabilities. This includes getting ACE (ammo, casualties, equipment) reports after fights.
- Ensures that resupply is conducted as needed. Resupply can take several forms. They all basically involve a vehicle being loaded with ammo and gear and moved to the platoon's location. If resupply is impossible, the PltCo makes the decision as to whether friendly forces should acquire enemy weapons (ie: if ammo is low), or coordinates with all units to redistribute remaining ammunition throughout the platoon.
Platoon HQ Roles
The Platoon Medic is the medic who is grouped with the Platoon Headquarters at the start of a mission. The Platoon Medic has several responsibilities above and beyond what a normal medic has, and is considered to be the senior medic in any given mission.
The Platoon Medic...
- Sets up the Platoon Aid Station when in the defense. The Platoon Aid Station should be situated in the middle of the platoon's defense, close to equidistant from each squad. The PAS will serve two primary purposes. One, it will allow for the Platoon HQ element to receive medical care furthest away from the fighting. Two, it will allow for all platoon members an alternate place to get medical attention if their Squad Aid Station is compromised or otherwise unusable.
- Reinforces squads who lose their medic when in the attack, and sometimes in the defense. This is a call that must be made by the Platoon Commander. In some situations he will detach the PltMed to a different squad, whereas in other situations it may prove safer to keep the PltMed further to the rear and simply bring all casualties from that squad to him or to another squad's medic.
- Acts as security for the PltHQ element. This simply means that when he's not doing something medical, he watches the back of the PltCo.
Tending to a severely wounded teammate
The ShackTac Platoon Sergeant is an interesting leadership role that can be used for a variety of purposes. Primarily, they are as follows.
- To increase the platoon's efficiency in any mission by spreading the workload between the PltCo and PltSgt
- To assist a PltCo in a particularly intense, complicated mission
- To help a player learn how to PltCo, or to observe an existing PltCo and help them develop
The Platoon Sergeant...
- Actively searches for ways that he can assist the PltCo in carrying out the assigned mission and is prepared to carry out any tasks that the PltCo assigns to him.
- Positions himself so that his view of the battlefield complements that of the Platoon Commander. When squads are split up, such as when employing support-by-fire and assault elements, the PltSgt will go with the element that the PltCo is not with. This allows him to report directly to the PltCo via squad TS and give timely orders to the element he is with, based on his direct observation of the tactical situation they are in.
- Exercises command and control over the following elements when required:
- Vehicle or weapons elements
- Close air support
- Artillery support
- Ammo resupply
- Helicopter insertions or extractions
These are of particular importance when the Platoon Commander is busy directing squads in a fight - the PltSgt's involvement keeps him from being distracted and allows for greater efficiency.
- Is prepared to step up and take command of the platoon if required.
Now that we've covered the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the basic ShackTac Platoon, let's take a moment to talk about individual initiative and how critical it is to foster within players. It is extremely important that all players of the platoon understand that they need to have individual initiative in the game. Micromanagement is to be avoided whenever possible, and this means that there is a good possibility that you'll have to take initiative at your level to do something that may not have been specifically spelled out to you but is clearly in the "commander's intent", whether that commander is a FTL, SL, or PltCo.
Here are a few examples of individual initiative at various levels.
Fireteam Member Individual Initiative
While in "stealth" mode, you suddenly see an enemy infantryman taking aim at another fireteam nearby. You immediately take aim and fire upon the enemy while simultaneously giving a hasty contact report to your squad leader. Your action neutralizes the enemy and quite possibly saves the life of one or more players in the other fireteam that was about to be hit.
In this example, it is clear that the "stealth" consideration is secondary to preserving the lives of friendly players. Since the enemy appeared ready to shoot, it was imperative that you took him under fire as soon as possible, without worrying about getting authorization.
Fireteam Leader Individual Initiative
As a Fireteam Leader, the Squad Leader tells you to hold up while he waits for another squad to catch up to the platoon. You see that the location that you're presently at is about 20 meters short of having a good perspective on the terrain in front of you, due to a brush line that is obstructing your view. You take initiative and move your fireteam 20 meters forward so that they can observe the terrain past the brush line.
In this example, the commander's intent is clearly to stop and take good defensive positions while waiting for friendly units to get in position. Although he did not specifically tell you where to position your fireteam, it is logical that you should be in the best possible position to cover your assigned sector. Since you only need to move 20 meters to accomplish this, it's an easy decision to make.
Squad Leader Individual Initiative
During heavy fighting, communication is lost with the Platoon HQ section. It is unclear whether they were ambushed. Without hesitation, you announce over command channel that you are taking control of the platoon temporarily. Once assuming command, you order the squads to continue fighting in accordance with what the PltCo's plan was, and change things/react to events as necessary. Once the fighting is over, you try to find out what happened to the PLTHQ section.
In this example, you realize that it is imperative that a clear commander is established as soon as possible due to the heavy fighting. Whether or not the PltCo had his mic crap out, lost connection to TeamSpeak, or anything else is secondary to this - the important part is to gain control of the platoon and command it until the fate of the PltCo can be determined.
Other Examples of Individual Initiative
- A medic setting up an aid station during a defense mission without having to ask whether he should, or where he should place it
- An artillery observer plotting fire on various likely targets and having the artillery stand by to fire at his command if necessary
- A mortar crew setting up their position and plotting targets without having to be specifically instructed by the PltCo
- Calling out "Check fire!" or "Cease fire, you're shooting at friendlies!" when you have reason to believe that you are being fired on by friendly forces or that friendly forces are firing on friendlies. To be clear, this is as opposed to just saying "hay guys I think we're being shot at by friendlies". "Check fire!" or "Cease fire, you're shooting at friendlies!" is much more decisive and ceases shooting much faster than anything else.