scorecardHow Army recruits master the "Rolling T" combat formation at boot camp
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How Army recruits master the "Rolling T" combat formation at boot camp

Graham Flanagan   

How Army recruits master the "Rolling T" combat formation at boot camp
DefenseDefense5 min read
  • We got an inside look at how United States Army infantry soldiers train for combat in urban environments during their 22-week One Station Unit Training.
  • Senior video correspondent Graham Flanagan spent four days at the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence inside the Fort Benning military base near Columbus, GA, where future infantry soldiers engage in training known as Military Operations in Urban Terrain, or MOUT.
  • A 200-square-meter compound built to resemble a European village serves as the MOUT training site, where soldiers spend up to 60 hours in training during their time at Fort Benning.
  • One of the key components of MOUT is learning a mobile combat formation known as the "Rolling T."
  • The formation is designed for a four-soldier squad to navigate a hallway or corridor, and adapt when faced with corners or intersections where an unseen threat may exist.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Inside a 200-square-meter compound built to resemble a European village, future Army infantry soldiers spend up to 60 hours in training known as MOUT.

Recruit: To the left, to the left, to the left!

Narrator: Or military operations in urban terrain.

Dewayne Waugh: Infantrymen are expected to fight in different types of terrain and survive and win the fight, and right now they are getting their first taste of what that's like in an urban environment.

Narrator: These environments have added complications, like multiple floors and sharp turns.

Drill sergeant: You can't just say, "Hey, move." 'Cause you're telling him to move. You gotta tell the whole team to move.

Narrator: And one of the key components of MOUT is learning a mobile combat formation known as the "rolling T."

Waugh: The purpose of a rolling T is to secure a hallway so that the fire team and the squad can maneuver from room to room inside of a building.

Recruit: Rolling T. Get back. Keep them low.

Narrator: Soldiers use the rolling T formation when there's a possibility of a hostile threat that could come from multiple directions, keeping the squad safe when navigating narrow hallways and around corners.

Waugh: It allows them to have 360-degree security so that they can deal with any threats inside of that building.

Drill sergeant: Better.

Narrator: The formation requires a four-person team working as a unit to safely navigate through narrow corridors and around turns.

Drill sergeant: And you keep rolling down the hallway.

Narrator: The T shape is clearly visible in this overhead illustration, and each solider plays a specific role.

Waugh: The No. 1 man is a rifleman. The No. 2 man, team leader. The No. 3 man would be the grenadier. And the No. 4 man is the SAW gunner.

Narrator: SAW stands for squad automatic weapon. Drill sergeant: This step here is a big one.

Narrator: Here's how the rolling T breaks down when navigating around a corner. First, two soldiers designated as the high man and the low man swing around the corner to assess the presence of a possible threat on the other side.

Waugh: The purpose for having a high man and low man when we maneuver around a corner is so that we have maximum firepower to secure the unknown threat on that side. And they coordinate so that they both simultaneously appear from that corner so that they can secure the threat as quickly as possible.

Narrator: Once the team leader deems that the hallway is secure, another solider swings out to the far-left position, and the rolling T begins to take shape. The low man moves forward along the right wall, and the high man moves forward in the center of the three-person line. Finally, the SAW gunner walks backward, keeping his head on a swivel in order to provide rear security. The solider providing rear security for the squad ensures there are no blind spots for the forward-facing soldiers.

Drill sergeant: Be looking over your shoulder, all right? You're checking your shoulder. You're not walking backwards. You're gonna be walking this way, just checking. Make sure you're still with the guys, check. All right? Do it again.

Narrator: Along with navigating L-shaped corners, the rolling T formation can adapt to clear other spaces, such as a T-shaped intersection and a four-way intersection where two soldiers adjust their positions to cover the hallways to the left and right of the squad. When the rolling T approaches a new corner to navigate around, the squad forms what's known as a "stack" against the wall ahead of the corner, and the team leader assesses the next move.

Waugh: In operations across Afghanistan, Iraq, we are conducting clearance operations, and it's applicable wherever we go.

Narrator: As seen in this footage of US Army soldiers during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, troops are often tasked with searching and securing villages, but the rolling T is only used in situations when there is a possibility of a hostile threat. For safety, the soldiers' rifles are plugged during training.

Drill sergeant: Cover them as they get up on there. You don't want some guy to just dip around the corner with a knife. That'd be bad. All right, now back on you, team leader.

Narrator: The soldiers practice the formation over and over again.

Drill sergeant: No, no. Wait for him to say it. 3, 2, 1, go. Ready, go. Wait for the squeeze. Don't just go on your own. Boom!

Narrator: After they perfect it, role players pretending to be civilians are used to ensure the mission objectives are accomplished without harming bystanders. According to one former Army soldier who spoke to Business Insider, avoiding civilian casualties is one of the biggest takeaways during MOUT training. Recording: This is a restricted area. Stop the vehicle now!

Brian Long: It's not so much about killing the bad guys, but it's more about protecting the civilian.

Narrator: This video provided by Fort Benning shows a different exercise where future soldiers train with less lethal weapons in order to avoid civilian causalities, so they're ready to protect their fellow soldiers and innocent civilians they may encounter in combat.

Waugh: It's important for the future soldiers' muscle memory, because they are working as a team. A lot of times this is the first time that they've been working in an urban environment as a team.

Drill sergeant: Check over your shoulder. Give a nice long look, quick look to make sure you're with your team.

Waugh: And they have to understand how that coordination works together with minimal communication using a concerted effort in order to have that security to the front.