by Staff Sergeants Brent W. Dick and Kevin M. Lydon

Long-range surveillance units (LRSUs) provide an invaluable human intelligence (HUMINT) collection asset to a corps or division commander. Understanding long- range surveillance (LRS) and how these units operate guarantees a high mission-success rate, proper use of the units, and timely answering of the commander’s priority intelligence requirements (PIR). An LRSU is ultimately the “eyes of the commander” in any operational environment.

LRS is an extremely valuable intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) collection asset available to a division or corps commander. Information received from LRS is highly reliable because it is gathered by well-trained soldiers who have “eyes on” the target. These LRS soldiers provide the commander with a collection capability that is in near-real time, all weather, and all terrain. A typical LRS mission consists of—

The LRS team accomplishes the mission in accordance with the corps or division G2’s collection plan. A mission can be as short as 24 hours or longer than 7 days.

Phases of LRS Operations

The success of LRS operations depends on  thorough  planning,  acquiring the PIR, and reporting them in a timely manner, while at the same time avoiding detection. Five distinct phases comprise LRS team operations: planning, infiltration, execution, exfiltration, and recovery.

Planning. Planning is the first phase in an LRS operation. This phase starts when the G2 nom- inates an LRS mission based on how it supports the collection plan. The corps or division commander or the assistant division commander for maneuver normally approves the mission. The G2 tasks the LRS unit through input to paragraph 3 of the corps or division operations order (OPORD) or a fragmentary order (FRAGO). The LRS unit prepares and issues a warning order (WARNORD) and an OPORD to the team and assists the G2 with developing the mission-planning folder (MPF). The MPF provides the team with detailed information on the mission to include maps, photographs, sketches and climatology, terrain, and recent enemy activity reports.

Once the team receives the mission, it develops several courses of action (COAs). The basis of the COAs is detailed information about the METT-TC (mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops, and time available and civilians) on the battlefield. The LRS team leader presents the COAs to the LRS commander, and together they choose the best one. After selecting the best COA, the team develops a detailed team OPORD. During this phase, the LRS team sends requests for information (RFIs) and requests for intelligence information (RIIs) to the G2 and G3 to clarify any questions or discrepancies identified during the COA and OPORD development. All team members participate in developing the OPORD, with team members contributing in their given areas of expertise. For example, the senior scout observer studies the terrain and selects the best route, the radio operator develops the communications plan, and so forth. Once they develop the final plan, the team presents the OPORD to the team commander with an emphasis on paragraph 3, Execution. The LRS commander scrutinizes the plan and ensures it is sound before he approves it. With the issuance and approval of the plan, the team conducts thorough rehearsals and battle drills.

The final step of the planning phase, the brief-back, is similar to the OPORD but highlights the mission-essential information. Its purpose is to brief the plan to the G2, division or corps commander, or a suitable representative; the G2 and the commander will then accept, modify, or reject the briefed plan. Upon approval of the plan, the LRS team conducts its final inspections and moves to the embarkation point.

Infiltration. The infiltration phase begins at the point of embarkation and ends with the movement to a security halt near the hide-site location. LRS teams train to infiltrate over a variety of terrain (urban, desert, mountain, jungle, or water) using multiple insertion techniques. There are a number of infiltration and insern- tion options available to an LRS team ).

The selected method of infiltration depends on the mission, enemy situation, resources available, weather and terrain, depth of infiltration, training of the team, team survival, and simplicity. The best method is the one that the adversary is least likely to detect. The team’s infiltration usually occurs during hours of limited visibility; however, the time the team must have “eyes on” the target drives the time of infiltration. Depending on the insertion technique chosen, suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) and close air support (CAS) assist the team’s infiltration enroute to the insertion point. The actual insertion will end after the team caches any insertion equipment and the infiltration platform departs the loiter area.

The infiltration phase continues as the team moves from the point of insertion to the hide-site near the NAI. Due to the method and length of movement as well as enemy activity, a team may take several days to complete its infiltration. If so, it will establish a clandestine patrol base and continue the infiltration the following night. During infiltration, the team records all of the details of the movement in a patrol log or on a voice recorder. This log includes details on the terrain, vegetation, weather, enemy sightings, signs of activity, and any peculiarities encountered. It assists the team with details during the debriefing.

Execution. This phase actually begins during the planning phase in that, to achieve success, it requires detailed planning and rehearsals. Execution begins after infiltration when the LRS team establishes a security halt and sends a leader’s reconnaissance patrol to find a tentative hide-site. After the establishment of the hide-site, the leader’s reconnaissance patrol moves out to pinpoint the objective (NAI) and to establish surveillance of the target. After the leader’s reconnaissance is complete and surveillance of the NAI has begun, the remaining team members return to the hide-site and establish HF communications with the LRS detachment or company operations base (DOB/COB).

During execution, the LRS team often occupies two sites that may be several kilometers apart—a surveillance site used to observe the NAI and a hide-site that maintains communications with the surveillance site and the DOB/COB. Those members at the surveillance site observe and report on the objective and maintain continuous communications with the hide-site. The soldiers at the surveillance site report the specific information obtained to the hide-site; team members there then send it to the DOB/COB via their long-range HF communications. The LRS DOB/ COB forwards the information to the analysis and control element (ACE) at the division or corps G2. The LRS team reports the observed activity during predesignated communication windows; however, if the information answers PIR, they will report out of their communications window. The LRS team continues to send reports to the DOB/COB until the latest time information of value (LTIOV) given to them by the G2 and G3. After the “eyes off” time, the personnel at the two sites link up, disseminate their final information, collect all surveillance logs and objective sketches, and prepare for exfiltration.


Exfiltration. During the exfil- tration phase, the team stealthily departs the objective area and moves to a pick-up zone (PZ). Exfiltrations can be over land or water and the exfiltration route normally differs from the infiltration route. Again, the team leader keeps a detailed patrol log recording the pertinent information. Exfiltration also encompasses the extraction of an LRS team. Some extraction methods available to the LRS commander consist of link-up (friendly or partisan), air mobile, special patrol insertion extraction system (SPIES), waterborne, and roll-over. The exfiltration phase ends once the LRS team has returned safely behind friendly lines.

Recovery. The recovery phase consists of debriefing, equipment maintenance, stand-down, and training. The recovery begins with the debriefing. This debriefing of the entire LRS team begins no more than two hours after the team has returned from the mission. A G2 representative (96B Intelligence Analyst or 97B Counter- intelligence Agent) or an LRS operations soldier conducts the debriefing. The debrief starts at the point of embarkation and follows the chronological sequence of events from infiltration through execution to exfiltration. Interested staff sections (G3, terrain, and so forth) that require information the LRS team possesses are encouraged to attend the debriefing to ask pertinent questions.

The debriefing is very important because the timely collection, analysis, and dissemination of information recovered in the debrief may answer many questions generated for follow-on operational missions. Once the debrief is complete, the team begins maintenance of equipment, refit oper- ations, and training for the follow-on missions.

Advantages of LRS Teams

There are many advantages of having an LRS team perform its assigned surveillance and reconnaissance mission. An LRS team consists of six highly trained, physically fit, mentally tough infantry soldiers. They are one of the few collection assets that have a 24-hour, all-weather collection capability. They report any SIR (including information on enemy activity, terrain, weather, etc.) within their NAI directly to the LRS operations base (COB/DOB) in near-real time using a detailed SALUTE (size, activity, location, unit, time and equipment) report format. The COB/DOB immediately reports this information to the corps or division G2. With the addition of digital cameras, LRS teams can provide imagery intelligence (IMINT) with their ability to photograph objects at angles otherwise hidden from aerial or satellite surveillance—under trees, clouds, camouflage, and in buildings, shelters, etc. The team carries or caches all the equipment required for the mission, thus becoming self-sustaining for week-long missions. Other operational advantages of LRS teams exist with the numerous options on the insertion and extraction of a team. Only the imagination and the METT-TC factors limit their insertion and extraction techniques.

LRS team members are among the most highly trained individuals in the corps or division. They receive extensive training on vehicle and equipment identification and thus provide reliable combat information (by nomenclature) on enemy sightings. Additionally, they train on most of the insertion and extraction techniques listed above. All LRS members are airborne qualified and many are Ranger- and Long-Range Surveillance Leaders Course- (LRSLC) qualified as well. LRS teams learn stealth and thus leave little evidence of their presence. However, if compromised, they have received extensive survival training. Additionally, all missions include an evasion and recovery plan if the adversary compromises the team or if it loses its communications capabilities. Each team possesses at least one emergency medical technician-trained soldier who treats trauma or illnesses while on the mission.

Disadvantages of LRS Teams

Compared to the advantages, the disadvantages of an LRS team are minimal. The largest disadvantage is that a U.S. soldier may be lost behind enemy lines. LRS teams accept this possibility and follow the principle of the Ranger Creed: “I shall never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.” However, each LRS soldier knows that the loss of a team member, depending on the mission, may save the lives of hundreds or even thousands of fellow U.S. soldiers. Another disadvantage is the difficulties of life support: conducting logistical resupply 80 to 250 kilometers beyond the forward line of troops or line of contact is difficult and dangerous. While on the mission, resupply may not be practical.

As mentioned above, LRS members are highly trained soldiers; however, this is both an advantage and disadvantage. To acquire the needed proficiency and to sustain that proficiency, LRS teams require extensive training on communication equipment, observation devices, weapons, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP). Planning the extraction of an LRS team is the last disadvantage. An LRS insertion is easy to plan because it can be occur in conjunction with a deep attack mission but the extraction plan must have the same detail and it often does not.


The strong points of LRS teams are their versatility, flexibility, and high level of training. Unfortunately, LRS is often misunderstood. Educating the division, corps, and echelons above corps (EAC) commanders and staffs, particularly the G2 and G3 staffs, on LRS operations starts with FM 7-93, Long Range Surveillance Units Operations. Another method that can help to educate the staff on LRS capabilities is the LRSLC. This course is open to LRS soldiers and selected division and corps staff officers who perform LRS operations. Attending this course provides insight on all phases of LRS operations. We encourage G2 staff officers, especially collection managers, to attend this course and to develop the necessary understanding to better plan, coordinate, and execute an LRS mission. The LRSLC is taught at  Fort Benning, Georgia. The LRSLC address is Comman- der, Company D, 4th Ranger Training Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia 31905. Readers can contact the current Commander, Captain Mike Viera, at E-mail [email protected] 

The authors thank Major Sloan Oliver, Concepts Division, Futures Directorate, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, for his substantive suggestions.


1. Stay behind is a method whereby the LRS soldiers actually “stay behind” in a hide postion and wait for the enemy to pass by.

2. LRS teams members are infantry soldiers (military occupational specialties 11B and 1. At onetime, an additional skills identifiers Q6 designated soldiers as LRS-qualified.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Brent Dick is currently an instructor and the Intelligence Platoon Sergeant at D Company, 4th RTB, home of the Long-Range Surveillance Leaders Course (LRSLC).  He is a graduate of the Airborne and Ranger Courses and LRSLC. SSG Dick is currently working on his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pierce College. Readers can contact him via E-mail at [email protected] and telephonically at (706) 544-6506 or DSN 784-6506.

SSG Kevin Lydon is currently the Intelligence Platoon’s Primary Instructor at D Company, 4th RTB. He is a graduate of the Airborne and Ranger Courses, LRSLC, and Combat Diver Qualification School. He is currently working on his Bachelor of Science degree in History from Columbus State University                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Readers can reach SSG Lydon via E-mail at lydonkm @hotmail .com.