A fire command is given to deliver effective fire on a target quickly and without confusion. When the leader decides to engage a target that is not obvious to the squad members, he must provide them with the information they need to effectively engage the target. He must alert the squad members; give a target direction, description, and range; name the method of fire; and give the command to fire.
There are initial fire commands and subsequent fire commands. Initial fire commands are given to begin firing at a target, and subsequent fire commands are given to adjust onto the target, change the rate of fire after a fire mission is in progress, interrupt fire, or terminate the alert.
a. ELEMENTS OF THE FIRE COMMANDS. Fire commands for all direct fire weapons follow a pattern that includes similar elements. There are six elements in the fire command for the SAW: ALERT, DIRECTION, DESCRIPTION, RANGE, METHOD OF FIRE, and COMMANDTO OPEN FIRE. The gunners repeat each element of fire command as it is given.
(1) Alert. This element gets the gunners ready to receive further instructions. The leader may alert both guns in the squad or only one, depending upon the situation. To alert and fire both guns, the leader announces, FIRE MISSION. If the leader desires to alert and fire only one gun, he will announce, GUNNER NUMBER ONE (TWO), FIRE MISSION. If he desires to alert both gunners but fire only one, he will announce, FIRE MISSION, GUNNER NUMBER ONE (TWO).
(2) Direction. This element indicates the general direction to the target and may be given in one or a combination of the following methods:
(a) Orally. The leader gives the direction to the target in relation to the position of the gunner.
(b) Pointing. The leader can designate a small or obscure target by pointing with his arm or aiming with a weapon. When he points with his arm, a man standing behind him should be able to look over his shoulder and sight along his arm and index finger to locate the target. When a weapon has been aimed at a target, a soldier looking through the sights should be able to see the target.
<c) Using Tracer Ammunition. Tracer ammunition is a quick and sure method of designating a target which iB not clearly visible. I When using this method, the leader should first give the general direction in order to direct the gunner's attention to the target area.
To prevent the loss of surprise when using tracer ammunition, the leader does not fire until he has given all of the elements of the fire command except the command to fire. The leader may fire his individual weapon or fire one or more bursts from a machine gun. The firing of the tracer(s) then becomes the last element of the fire command and is the signal to open fire.
WATCH MY TRACER(S)
(d) Using Reference Points. Another method of designating obscure targets is to use easy-to-recognize reference points. All leaders and gunners must be familiar with terrain features and the terminology used to describe them (FM 21-26). When using a reference point, the word "reference" precedes its description. This is done to avoid confusion. The general direction to the reference point should be given. An example of the use of a reference point is as shown below.
FIRE MISSION, GUNNER NUMBER ONE
REFERENCE: LONE PINE TREE
Sometimes a target must be designated by using successive reference points.
GUNNER NUMBER TWO, FIRE MISSION
RIGHT FRONT .
REFERENCE: RED-ROOFED HOUSE, LEFT TO HAYSTACK, LEFT TO
Finger measurements can be used to direct the gunners' attention to the right or left of reference points.
Example: FIRE MISSION LEFT FRONT
REFERENCE: CROSSROADS, RIGHT FOUR FINGERS
(3) Description. The target description is used to create a picture of the target in the minds of the gunners. To properly apply their fire, the gunners must know the type of target they are to engage. The leader should describe it briefly. The word "target" precedes the target description, as in TARGET: TROOPS; TARGET: TANK; TARGET: AIRCRAFT. If the target is obvious, no description is necessary.
(4) Range. The leader will always announce the estimated range to the target. The range is given so the gunners know how far to look for the target and what range setting to put on the rear sight. Range is announced in meters; however, since the meter is the standard unit of range measurement, the word "meters" is not used. With SAWs, the range is determined and announced to the nearest hundred or thousand (in other words, THREE HUNDRED, or ONE THOUSAND, or ONE ONE HUNDRED).
Example: FIRE MISSION FRONT
REFERENCE: KNOCKED-OUT TANK, LEFT FOUR ZERO
(5) Method of Fire. This element includes manipulation and rate of fire. Manipulation is used to prescribe the class of fire with respect U. the weapon. It is announced as FIXED, TRAVERSE, SEARCH, oi TRAVERSE AND SEARCH. Rate is used to control the amount ol fire. There are three rates which may be announced: sustained, *apid and cyclic. The rate of fire may be omitted from the fire command" however, when a rate is omitted, the rapid rate is implied.
Example: FIRE MISSION
REFERENCE: KNOCKED-OUT TANK, LEFT FOUR ZERO
(6) Command to Open Fire. It is often important that fire be withheld so that surprise fire can be delivered on a target, or to ensure that both gunnerB open fire at the same time. The leader may preface the command to commence firing with, AT MY COMMAND, or AT MY SIGNAL. When the gunners are ready to engage the target, they report, READY, to the leader. The leader then gives the command, FIRE, at the specific time desired.
Example: FIRE MISSION FRONT TROOPS 400
AT MY COMMAND or AT MY SIGNAL (Pause until gunners are ready and fire is desired.)
FIRE (or prearranged signal)
If immediate fire is required, the command, FIRE, is given without pause and the gunners fire as soon as they are ready.
b. SUBSEQUENT FIRE COMMANDS
(1) Subsequent fire commands are used to make adjustments in direction and elevation, change rates of fire after a fire mission is in progress, interrupt fires, or terminate the alert. If the gunner fails to properly engage a target, the leader must promptly correct him by announcing or signaling the desired changes. When these changes are given, the gunner makes the corrections and resumes firing without further command.
(2) Adjustment for direction is given first. (Examples: RIGHTONE ZERO; LEFT FIVE.) Adjustment for elevation is given next. (Examples: ADD FIVE; DROP ONE FIVE.) These may be given orally or with arm-and-hand signals. Adjustments in direction and elevation with the bipod are always given in meters by using one finger to indicate 1 meter.
(3) Changes in the rate of fire are given orally or by arm-and-hand signals.
(4) To interrupt firing, the leader announces, CEASE FIRE, or signals to cease fire. The gunners remain on the alert. They resume firing when given the command, FIRE.
(5) To terminate the alert, the leader announces CEASE FIRE, END OF MISSION.
c. DOUBTFUL ELEMENTS AND CORRECTIONS
(1) When the gunner is in doubt about any element of the fire command, he replies, SAY AGAIN RANGE, TARGET. The leader then announces, THE COMMAND WAS, repeats the element in question, and continues with the fire command.
(2) When the leader makes an error in the initial fire command, he corrects it by announcing, CORRECTION, and then gives the corrected element.
Example: FIRE MISSION FRONT TROOPS 500
(3) When the leader makes an error in the subsequent fire command, he may correct it by announcing, CORRECTION, and then repeating the entire subsequent fire command.
Example: LEFT FIVE, DROP ONE CORRECTION
LEFT FIVE, DROP ONE ZERO
d. ABBREVIATED FIRE COMMANDS. Fire commands need not be complete to be effective. In combat, the leader's fire command will give only the elements necessary to place fire on a target quickly and without confusion. During training, however, he should use all of the elements to get gunners in the habit of thinking and reacting properly when a target is to be engaged. After the gunners' initial training in fire commands, they should be taught to react to abbreviated fire commands, using one of the following methods of control:
(1) Oral. The leader may want to place the fire of one SAW on an enemy machine gun he has located.
FIRE MISSION, GUNNER NUMBER ONE MACHINE GUN 600 FIRE
(2) Abbreviated Arm-and-Hand Signals. The leader gets the gunner's attention and then points to the target. When the gunner returns the READY signal, the leader commands, FIRE.
(3) Prearranged Signals. If the leader wants to shift fire at a certain time, he gives a prearranged signal, such as smoke or pyrotechnics. Upon seeing the signal, the gunners shift their fire to a prearranged point.
(4) Personal Contact. The leader may also move to the gunner whose fire he wants to shift, get his attention, point out the new target, and command, FIRE.
STANDING OPERATING PROCEDURES. SOPs for certain actions and commands can be developed to make gunners more effective. Some examples follow:
(1) Observation. The gunners continuously observe their sector.
(2) Fire. Gunners open fire without command on appropriate targets that appear within their sector.
(3) Check. While the gunner is firing, he will periodically check with the leader for instructions.
(4) Return Fire. The gunners return enemy fire, concentrating on enemy automatic weapons, without order.
(5) Shift Fire. Gunners shift their fire without command when more dangerous targets appear.
(6) Rate of Fire. When gunners engage a target, they initially fire at the rate necessary to gain and maintain fire superiority.
(7) Mutual Support. When two or more gunners are engaging the same target and one gunner stops firing, the other gunnels) increases the rate of fire and covers the entire target. When only one gunner is required to engage a target and the leader has alerted two or more gunners, the gunner not firing lays on the target and follows the movements of the target so that he can fire instantly should the other SAW malfunction or cease fire before the target has been eliminated.
ARM-AND-HAND SIGNALS. Battlefield noise and the distance between the gunner and the leader often make it necessary to use arm-and-hand signals to control fire. When an action or movement is to be executed by only one of the gunners, a preliminary signal is given to that gunner only. The following are commonly used signals for fire control.
(1) Ready. The gunner signals that he is ready to fire by raising his right hand and arm above his head toward the leader.
(2) Commence Firing, or Change Rate of Firing. The leader brings his hand, palm down, to the front of his body, about waist level, and moves it horizontally in front of his body. To signal faster fire, he increases the speed of the hand movement; to fire slower, he decreases the speed of the hand movement.
(3) Change Direction/Elevation (Bipod-SAW). The leader extends his arm and hand in the new direction and indicates, by the number of fingers extended, the amount of change necessary. The fingers must be spread so the gunner can easily see the number of fingers extended.
Each finger indicates 1 meter of change for the bipod-mounted weapon. If the desired change is more than 5 meters, the leader extends his hand the number of times necessary to indicate the total amount of change. For example, RIGHT NINE would be indicated by extending the hand once with five fingers showing and a second time with four fingers showing for a total of nine fingers.
(4) Interrupt or Cease Firing. The leader raises his arm and hand, palm outward, in front of his forehead and brings it downward sharply.
(5) Other Signals. The leader can devise other signals to control his weapons. A detailed description of arm-and-hand signals is given in FM 21-60.
CHANGE DIRECTION/ELEVATION (BIPOD-SAW)
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