Intro to the Platoon

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 Representation

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.

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:

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:

The Fireteam

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:

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

Fireteam leaders...

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

Basic Grenadier Guidelines

A fireteam leader launches a white flare for night illumination

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.

Automatic Rifleman

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

Automatic Riflemen...

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...


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


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)...


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.

Good AT Shots

Rear (L), Flank (R)

Bad AT Shots

Frontal (L), Frontal Oblique (C), Rear Oblique (R)

Clearing Backblast

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Any team members nearby, upon hearing "Clear backblast!" spoken, immediately shift position out of the danger area.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 ACE2, 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

Squad leaders...

Squad Roles

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

Squad medics...

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 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...

Platoon HQ Roles

Platoon Medic

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...

Tending to a severely wounded teammate

Platoon Sergeant

The ShackTac Platoon Sergeant is an interesting leadership role that can be used for a variety of purposes. Primarily, they are as follows.

The Platoon Sergeant...

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