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General Principles

Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual Advanced Training

Security embraces all those measures taken by a command to protect

itself from observation, annoyance, or surprise by the enemy.

Ordinarily this security is provided in part by cavalry. But as a

command is not always preceded by cavalry, and as this cavalry can not

always prevent sudden incursions of the enemy or discover his patrols,

additional security becomes necessary. This is obtained by covering the

immediate front of the command with detachments.

On the march these detachments are called advance, flank, or rear

guards; in camp or bivouac they are called outposts.

The object of the former is to facilitate the movement of the main body

and to protect it from surprise and observation; the object of the

latter is to secure the camp or bivouac against surprise and to prevent

an attack upon it before the troops can prepare to resist.

On the march these detachments facilitate the advance of the main body

by promptly driving off small bodies of the enemy who seek to harass or

delay it; by removing obstacles from the line of advance; by repairing

roads, bridges, etc., thus enabling the main body to advance

uninterruptedly in convenient marching formations.

They protect the main body by preventing the enemy from firing into it

when in close formation; by holding the enemy and enabling the main body

to deploy before coming under effective fire; by preventing its size and

condition being observed by the enemy; and, in retreat, by gaining time

for it to make its escape or to reorganize its forces.

As the principal duty of these bodies is the same, viz., that of

protecting the main body, there is a general similarity in the

formations assumed by them. There is (1) the cavalry covering the front;

next, (2) a group, or line of groups, in observation; then (3) the

support, or line of supports, whose duty is to furnish the observation

groups, and check the enemy pending the arrival of reinforcements; still

farther in rear is (4) the reserve.

An advance or flank guard commander marches well to the front, and, from

time to time, orders such additional reconnaissance or makes such

changes in his dispositions as the circumstances of the case demand.

In large commands troops from all arms are generally detailed, the

proportion from each being determined by the tactical situation; but

commanders detail no more troops than the situation actually requires,

as an excessive amount of such duty rapidly impairs the efficiency of a

command. As a general rule troops detailed on the service of security

vary in strength from one twentieth to one third of the entire command,

but seldom exceed the latter. When practicable, the integrity of

tactical units is preserved.

In mixed commands infantry usually forms the greater part of the troops

detailed to the service of security. Cavalry is assigned to that duty

whenever advantage can be taken of its superior mobility. The kind and

amount of artillery are determined by circumstances.

The field trains of troops on this duty generally remain with the field

train of the command, but if conditions permit they may join their


Troops on the service of security pay no compliments; individuals salute

when they address, or are addressed by, a superior officer.