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Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

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  • Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

    Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership
    I have seen some good SLs/PLs and some not so good ones. I have come up with a short list of the traits/actions I think are most helpful to create a good working platoon or squad. I barrow a lot of this from good leaders I have seen both on PS2 and on ArmA II. I do not mean these to be definitive or “correct” as compared to other “wrong" ways to run a squad and a platoon, but merely to share my thoughts on the matter.

    Squad Leadership

    1.) Be Clear and PRECISE
    It is important to be both clear, and precise. Too often I hear “let’s attack this base guys!” This is clear (the squad can tell what you want them to do), but not precise (they cannot tell how to do it). For instance a better order would be, “Our plan is to move north from sundurer through the mountains, group up at squad waypoint, then move together as one unit to C point and hold it. Again, we are grouping up at squad mark for the rush on C. Once we take it, defend C, the other squads will handle the other points. Let’s go!”

    Orders that are not precise cannot be obeyed by loyal soldiers, and are easily ignored by disloyal or “I am not listening” players. Clarity and precision in your orders helps the good guys do their job (execute your orders), and helps you as the SL weed out the bad guys for kicking. There is NO reason to give a general order without some specificity, (such as “hey everyone attack the tech plant!”) as the SL unless the fight is too quickly changing for you to manage, which should be a rarity.

    2.) Sweat the Details and Be the Boss:

    Many people think the squad leader's job is to echo the platoon leader's objective to his squad. This is only part of his job. If this is all he does, he is failing in his role.

    The squad leader’s job is to fill in the details; exactly HOW will the squad achieve the platoon leader’s objective. Its the difference between: "Attack the Amp station," and "Gather at the sunderer South east of the amp station, pull maxes, engineers and medics, and MAX crash through the eastern sheild entrance to the shield gen room, marked by squad waypoint. We are going to destroy it and open the door for the armor." If the platoon leader tells you, "recall to wrp gate, we will be preparing to Gal drop into a biolab!" Well you know a biolab is a close quarters fight, and you see 4 infiltrators in your squad. Your job is to tell them to change class. Likewise if you are expecting armor and see 5 medics. If you see guys not following orders, or wandering away from the squad, or in a vehicle not requested by SL or PL, your job is to tell them to get out. Consider yourself a sergeant. The PL has the luxury of a general plan, you have the responsibility to make it work on the ground and that means making sure the squad members under you follow it.

    Much of the time this will involve herding cats; tough, that’s your job. (example: If someone is not having good comms discipline and saying anything that comes into their head, stop them. If they are the wrong class, or if they are fighting in the wrong area, stop them.) If you don’t want to be the boss, don’t take the job. This includes individually assigning duties: If you ask for volunteers for getting a sundurer and no one steps up, assign it to someone specfic. Do not simply assume someone will do it. Diffuse responsibilities don't get done, specific responsibilities assigned to one person get done.

    Often times good players leave the platoon because of lax discipline and focus within the squad and you are left with guys who don’t want to work together and are basically lone wolfing in the same area. You can kill morale by your failure to take charge just as surely as you can kill it by being a tyrant. The counter point though is that you should be careful to be constructive and positive in your comments whenever possible. Do not be rude or mean. With that said though, there is no detail too small for your notice, comment, and correction. Most people in this game hunger for tactical play, and the squad leader is truely the one that makes that happen.

    3.) Ensure The Objective is Known By All
    There should never be a moment when your soldiers do not know what the squad is trying to achieve. I have often heard a squad leader say “Hey, let’s take A.” “Roger” I reply, and push towards A. 15 minutes later, when I am the only one on point A, I will ask him “So sir, what is our objective?” (trying to figure out why no one else is here.) He will respond, “To take, A, B, and C.” This is clearly a change from his previous statement. The fact the squad leader either does not remember or does not care about the change in orders is simply a mistake of leadership. If there is misunderstanding of the squad’s orders it falls on the squad leader to make it abundantly clear what should be done. If you are changing orders, say so specifically to the squad knows what they are striving for. Even in circumstances when you cannot give specific “how to” (precise) instructions, you can make sure everyone knows the same goal. If the platoon leader does not give you any orders, take the initiative and make some up that seem to fit with his general plan. Your men should not sit idle or be uncertain as to their goal.

    4.) Encourage use of local chat among fire teams or to address local concerns.
    Squad chat ideally goes to 10-12 people. Encourage players to use local chat when that is appropriate to their needs. (For instance, a max/engineer pair can use local chat to stay together. A detached fireteam assigned to a specific task like holding a point can use local to tell others which door an attacker is coming through.

    5.) Think one step ahead
    When you are nearly done capping a base, be thinking “what is the next move?” Start preparing your men for it. If you don’t hear anything from platoon lead, take your best guess about what he would want next and prepare for that. For instance, when there is 4 min left on cap and things look safe, get an infiltrator to hack a vehicle terminal. When there are 2 minutes left give the order to pull a sundy. When there is 30 seconds left, tell people to load into the sundy. Allow enough time for each part of the preparation, so when it caps, you are ready to move out to the platoon leaders next objective immediately.

    Platoon Leading:

    Think Big:
    Establish general objectives, or a general plan. You can assign the details as well if that is your style, or you do not know/trust your squad leads. But your main goal is the bigger picture. Let the SLs figure out the small stuff, you have bigger fish to fry. Tell your squad leaders your general intent so if they need to improvise, they know what you are trying to achieve.

    Your Platoon is your Weapon, Your Rifle is Your Enemy:
    As platoon lead you should not be getting kills. You should not be in a situation where you have to put the majority of your focus on being an infantryman or tank gunner, or pilot. You should instead employ your platoon and your brain as your weapons. Every second you spend shooting your gun is one you should have spent thinking about the bigger picture. You are the only one whose whole job is the bigger picture, so do it.

    Minimize Platoon Chat:

    Let me say that again: minimize platoon chat.

    Most people know about this, but they fail to understand WHY it is so critical, even if you are the platoon leader. Many people think: "The platoon leader gets to talk on platoon chat all he or she wants. Everyone else should minimize it so the platoon soldiers can hear the platoon leader give his or her orders." This is partly right, but partly wrong. The reason it is right is everyone should be listening to the platoon lead on that channel, fair enough. The reason it is wrong is most of the time they have more important things to be listening to on other channels, and so should not have to listen to the platoon leader.

    Platoon chat overrules ALL other chat at the squad and local level. Every second oyu speak drowns out 5 other conversations between the 30 people in the squad which could be vital to winning the battle. Imagine if every private in a pitched battle had to listen to nd obey his squad leader in the fox hole next to him, but he could not hear his squad leader because he was forced to listen to the generals and majors back at HQ discussing the overall plan for the whole war. That soldier would be distracted from doing his job. Imagine if he had to tell his squad "incoming tank east!" but no one could hear him becuase the general was saying something to a whole different squad at that moment. His squad does not get the message about the tank and is killed. They heard the General giving general orders about the fight, but they missed the information that would have saved their lives. This is the same in planetside!) Therefore you should use platoon chat as rarely as possible to enable your squad leaders and squads to communicate amongst themselves. If you have a TS channel you can use for you and SL’s only, great. Only use platoon net when necessary, as the communication it prevents can be more valuable than the orders it relays in a lot of circumstances. Even though you are platoon lead, be aware that your soldiers need to listen to their squad leads and each other more often then you.

    It goes without saying that ANYONE besides the platoon lead who uses platoon net more than necessary should be immediately warned and punished if they persist; they do not have that right, and the distraction they are causing to the platoon is, in my book, an unforgivable sin.

    Let me repeat it again; minimize platoon chat.

    Think Two Steps Ahead:
    Think some about the battle you are fighting now, but think more about the next battle. Where are your troops going next if you win this fight, where are they falling back to if they lose? How are they getting there? If you tell your squads “After this we are pulling armor and pushing north to Xelas Bio Lab” when there is still 5 minutes on the cap timer, your guys can use that 5 minutes to get ready. If you tell them when the cap finishes, they spend 5 minutes getting ready which they could have spent rolling out. Never wait for the squad leader to ask you “Ok so what next?” If the squad leader is thinking about the next objective, you should have already thought about it and told them. The SL is focused on the battle they are fighting mostly, and thinking a little ahead. He PL is thinking mostly ahead, and a little bit on the present battle.

    Consult your Squad Leads
    Squad leads are in the thick of it. They know how the battle is going, perhaps better than you. Do not be afraid to consult them to gather information to make decisions.

    Encourage your Men
    Remember to tell your troops “good job” now and again. It helps keep morale up.

    Tone of Leadership
    Everyone in the platoon hears your voice. You set the tone for the organization; if you are laughing and joking, other people will too. If you are using proper comms procedures and behaving in a serious manner, that too will trickle down into the platoon. I am not here to tell you which attitude to adopt, just make sure you are aware of the one you are giving off.

    These are my thoughts on leadership. Others may disagree, and I welcome that discussion.
    The question foremost in my mind is "what will bring the most tactical fun to the server?"

  • #2
    Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

    Excellent write up Garthra! Thank you!! I know I for one can learn a few things from this to help me improve.

    Thanks again Todd


    • #3
      Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

      Great write up. Just to stress also though if as SL you are sure there is no enemy those organize to leave setups are great. Just make sure the area is cleared of all enemy. Only time I clear out is if I see the regulars on the area. If you get caught up in the cap leave, you are only doing half of your job only to have to comeback in 45 seconds to deal with the 2 guys you left alive.

      Platoon chat is for SL's only. Turn it off if your not a leader. Although I still understand what your saying and how distracting it is. Again turn off platoon chat if you don't wanna be bothered. Not the Platoon leaders problem. He yells at SL and SL yells at you. Oh and you then yell in proximity :)

      FUN FUN


      • #4
        Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

        Good post Garthra.

        We also discussed squad leadership in our first PS2 Roundtable with BigGaayAl and E-Male. You can listen to the audio from that conversation here:


        • #5
          Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

          I like this.
          In game handle: Steel Scion


          • #6
            Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

            Great points man, and timely, as we are getting a lot of new guys into TG and therefore new SLs and PLs.


            I have noticed E-Male is very good at reducing his comms to the necessary minimum as PL and it is something I strive to do as well.

            Love your points also regarding setting the tone as PL.

            I am going to keep the link to this post handy, as an NCO I am going to use it as a tool and refer those interested in becoming SLs and or PLs to it.
            "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


            • #7
              Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

              Make sure that as SL you know that your squad knows whats going on............I've heard the SL say way too many times "Ok you heard the PL, let's get Maxs". Well the answer to that is no I didn't hear PL because I have it turned off. As SL it's your job to tell me what the objective is and how we plan to pursue that objective.

              And I can't remember who was squad leading at the time a few days ago when we decided to pursue an Alert, but we were over powered out side the TR warpgate and in my opinion were doing a bang up job with just a squad against a platoon. The SL apologized about how the event was turning out and questioned his own leadership in Squad comms. My opinion on that is simple, leadership is a few simple points.

              1. Show up
              2. Make a decision, right or wrong doesn't matter
              3. Never but never show lack of confidence, in yourself or your squad
              4. Never be above asking for the opinions of others, they should know it's your job to take them or leave them
              5. Accept the responsibility or don't take the job

              And I want to follow up with that I thought the SL that night was doing and excellent job, I can't remember if it was ndeep, or todd, or someone else.


              • #8
                Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                Another thing to help minimize the chatter through Platoon radio is the "custom channel" in game. This is a method you can get your SL's in it and even other platoon/Squad leaders inside to get the orders across without any traffic problems from/to other channels, and can have a full platoon of infantry and another squad outside acting as air support but still within the Platoon lead's comms.
                I want to try using this method of communications with a full infantry platoon and having air support exterior and get the SL's to call in airstrikes on specific targets if needed.
                Though this method may be broken as I havent tried it in my last session as Platoon lead
                to create a custom channel in-game it "should" be:
                /voice join Tacticalgamer


                • #9
                  Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                  Yeah the problem with the custom channel is that it is broken sometimes. Also, once you create a custom channel, you cannot create another one until you restart your client. Finally, it has sort of been decided that we should use the in game comms (especially platoon) for orders and SL to PL comms, in order to be inclusive of everyone (including non Outfit members) and to give everyone in the platoon that TG experience. What we learned was that by using custom channel for orders, squad members did not realize comms were going on and would be talking in the background, creating noise and making (very important, orders level) comms much more difficult.

                  I think a better use of custom channel would be for in vehicle comms between gunner and driver, in a Lib or Harasser for instance. It would be better than prox because prox does not work at speed. It would be better than squad because your squadmates would not need to hear your within-vehicle comms.
                  "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


                  • #10
                    Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                    As a new SL, this is a great read, thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to do these.
                    |TG-Irr| di1lweed1212


                    • #11
                      Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                      Originally posted by Garthra View Post

                      Tone of Leadership
                      Everyone in the platoon hears your voice. You set the tone for the organization; if you are laughing and joking, other people will too. If you are using proper comms procedures and behaving in a serious manner, that too will trickle down into the platoon. I am not here to tell you which attitude to adopt, just make sure you are aware of the one you are giving off.
                      Hi. Nice contribution Garthra.


                      I picked this out to comment on. It is much more powerful element than people think. For me it is important to have a mixture of serious-time; in a pitched battle, I want clear, concise comms, no emotion or "omg I got killed by a noob with op gun".

                      In between those times, ideally there will be some jolly banter going on in squad or proxy chat. I feel it doesn't work if you have one OR the other. If it is serious all the time, it can get boring or too tense. If there is jolly banter but no proper discipline when needed, you are ineffective. If it IS going well, and you have both, then it creates sort of a dramatic arc of tension like in a good book or movie. That is imo when people find gameplay most memorable.


                      Anger mamagement class:
                      In relation to the quote above, I want to warn people; mind the times when you (PL) find yourself getting angry. Anger is a red flag. Because following the quote, if you set the tone of anger in your platoon... that is where things fall apart... Well no, 'fly apart' is a better description.

                      When you find yourself angry at your platoon, I want you(all) to have that red flag alert go off in the back of your head. Take a deep breath. There are two options.

                      1) Resign for the night. It is only going to get worse if you are unwilling/unable to fold back the anger. You will only damage teamwork, your self-esteem, your reputation, and the reputation of TG as a whole.

                      2) Stop it. If you identify in time that you are angry, you can choose to stop it. Most of the time when the PL is angry it is because he asked something from the platoon that is nearly impossible or very tedious to do. And the platoon didn't. Sometimes the platoon just is unresponsive. The reason is not really relevant, nor who is to blame. What is relevant is to identify this angry tone so that it becomes possible to stop it.

                      I know for many starting to PL is rife with frustration, mostly when the pawns are not doing what the PL has in his head. When I feel this sort of irritation, I usually tend to ventilate my frustration with a sarcastic remark or something. Everyone sort of has to find their way that fits them I think. But as I make that remark, already that red flag is being raised at the back of my head telling me to stop after that comment. I think it is ok to sometimes let your platoon know that you are disappointed with speed of execution, or that you are expecting more, you have to as a PL. But you can never get trapped in that emotion.

                      I have made this mistake several times. And sometimes I have passed on command because I was unable to curb my feelings of frustration. In hindsight, passing of command in those situations was usually the best tactical choice I made on that night :D.


                      • #12
                        Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                        Nothing breaks respect and discipline faster than anger. Good reminder, Al.

                        A leader (in this game) must realize that at least 20% of a squad or platoon make up at any given time (with some obvious exceptions) is made up of individuals with very immature attitudes towards rules, teamwork, and authority, some who just don't care, and some who feel above orders.

                        So keep your standards high, communicate clear expectations, set the bar high, and always remember that you are leading many members of the "unwashed masses". Occasionally shoot one to keep the herd in line.

                        A soft voice and occasional use of the "kick" button goes a long way.


                        • #13
                          Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                          If I might add, it's important for the PL to support the SL's when they ask for a kick. If the SL has asked for their squad to gather and specifically for one or more individuals to gather and they don't. When asked by the SL to please kick number(s). The PL has to have faith that the SL has asked those individuals to please conform to an order several times and those individuals have chosen to not comply or respond with a reason for not doing so.

                          Not kicking as requested only adds additional time to everyone's wait while in queuing to regroup. The squad slots in TG in my opinion are precious commodities and are being ought after by the type of players we attract. To not let them in while dealing with people that don't want to participate the TG way, is not good for the NC or us.

                          And if the PL doesn't have the "faith" in the SL then maybe that person shouldn't be SL'ing.............


                          • #14
                            Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                            Here is how I do it.

                            Whenever a SL requests a kick I IMMEDIATELY do it. I say nothing. I do not confirm or deny the request (no need to add comm chatter). I trust my SLs completely and I act ASAP upon their request.

                            I think (hope) this sends a powerful message regarding discipline, trust, and authority.

                            I am not saying this is the best or the only way to proceed.


                            • #15
                              Re: Principles of Squad/Platoon Leadership

                              If possible, SL's should also kick themselves, with the chat line instruction. That way you have even more control over your squad + you are lessening the load on pl.

                              /squad kick playername

                              I believe that was the command.




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