3 Sections of eight men... why?

#1
Is there a reason why we have 3 sections of 8 men in a plt? Is it a firepower reason, manpower (covering stags) or is it just what we have always done?

I noticed that other Armies don't neccesarily have this lay out.

So does 3 Sections of 8 have an advantage over (for exampe) 3 'squads' of 12 or 3 sections of 10.

Could we have 4 sections of 6?
 
#2
It's not "8" it's "between 8 and 10 men" in a section, it also breaks down into two fire teams that can be independently tasked, this breaks down further into battle pairs for close quarter battle.

It's not set in stone, it can be a greater number dependent on the taskings given at orders and the support element required.

Stop over thinking it.
 
#3
Three elements to cover suppress, assault, reserve. So three sections in a platoon, three platoons in a rifle coy and three rifle Coys in a Bn.

We try now to generate 4 - suppress, assault, reserve and echelon. FSGs have gone some way to this.

8 man sections aren't set in stone. There has been serious thought gone towards larger sections to cover leave/casualties etc and maybe spread the load thinner.
 
#4
It's an interesting question. A reasonable answer might mention:

1 the idea of 'span of control' - early management theory said that a single person cannot really manage more than a handful of subordinates. I think there is something in this, though the modern trend to delayering and flatter oganisations is worth thinking about. You might see a fire team of four as the basic building block. The same idea is relevant to the pl cdr's job - commanding three section commanders, maybe a couple of support weapons of some kind and a small log/admin package in the form of the pl sgt's bergan

2 History - the introduction of the Bren to the section giving two manoeuvre units within it but retaining sufficient bayonets to assault a small position gives a section of about the same size. The need to concentrate force under a single command may make four smaller sections less effective. On the other hand, I think I am right in saying that the pl was the basic manoeuvre unit later in WW1 and included four specialised sections: bombers, Lewis gun(s), rifle grenadiers and riflemen. But those pls were rather larger.

3 Tradition - the rugger chaps lead the soccer chaps in the ratio of about twenty to one. Having small platoons spreads the experience and provides a pretty large pool of candidates for command of companies and specialised platoons. Contrast the German method of having very few commissioned officers in a unit.

4 Defence - eight in a section gives two four-man trenches - is this enough for double sentries at night?

5 Manoeuvre - three sub-units under one command is a common approach, and follows through at company, bn and even bde level. While it doesn't cover every situation it does allow a two up, one in reserve plan in both attack and defence.

6 Finance - it's been like that for a long time - any change would have establishment implications and would have to be carefully justified. Seriously.
 
P

PrinceAlbert

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#5
It's because crates of beer come in packs of 24. 1 crate means that each man gets 1 beer.

It makes planning smokers easier.

Obvious really.
 
#8
IIRC, the US Army has squads of 11 and the USMC squads of 13, so even the Americans can't seem to agree between their two principle land force elements.
 
#9
If its anything like my Troop of Sappers, the ORBAT will change several times in close succession due to specific (trade related) tasks.

A recce may involve the Troop's Recce Sgt or myself going out with a standard 8 man (or whatever was available) section for protection.

A route upgrade may only require the Planties (mine was a support troop) and the Troop's Plant Sgt to command them. A task like that may require infantry support instead freeing up the rest of the Troop.

A large construction like a bridge build would require the entire Troop with small teams on specific tasks, not conventional sections as such but more 'left of bridge', 'right of bridge' etc. Again with myself acting as commander and the Troop Senior controlling the build.
(By the way, due to numbers all three of these Sgts were all the same man.)

In barracks I never had the Troop in sections, it just didn't work for the way we did things. It was far better to keep them as a flexible Troop and break them down as necessary under the Section Commander best suited for the specific task.
 
#10
IIRC, the US Army has squads of 11 and the USMC squads of 13, so even the Americans can't seem to agree between their two principle land force elements.
US Army has changed the number of men in their squads so often it's hard to keep track. At the moment it's 9.

ENHANCING COMBAT EFFECTIVENESS, THE
EVOLUTION OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY
INFANTRY RIFLE SQUAD SINCE THE
END OF WORLD WAR II

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA407058

For more on rifle sections and platoons from a Canadian perspective (it also covers the US, UK and Aus to an extent) see here:

http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/documents/vol_13/iss_3/caj_vol13.3_06_e.pdf
 
#11
It is an interesting question as to why the 3 (or 4) into 3, into 3, etc heirarchy doesn't extend to fire teams.

An interesting question would be if we did go for 3 x fire team squads, would they be the same or tailored for role (e.g. putting the heavier weapons in a support fire-team, gun-group style)... and would you have 3 fire-team commanders and a sect commander, or 2 +1?
 
#12
I always thought it originated from the Army's doctrine of 3 to 1 superiority. Take out the command and support companies and you had 3 rifle companies in a battalion, 3 battalions in a brigade and so on. Again, take out the platoon commanders section in a platoon and you had 3 sections in a platoon. So, a section would attack an individual, a platoon would attack a section, a company would attack a platoon, a battalion would attack a company and a brigade would attack a battalion etc.

A section when I was in was 8 men which consisted of a two man fire group, often the 2/ic and the gunner with the remaining 6 men including the section commander being the assault group. This changed when on Northern Ireland tours to two bricks of four men each, one led by the section commander and the other led by the 2/ic, a lance jack.

Then there was the wartime doctrine where it became 4 to 1. I'm not writing all that again!
 
#13
It can't just be an exact 3:1 thing though, otherwise a section would have 3 guys in it!
 
#14
It can't just be an exact 3:1 thing though, otherwise a section would have 3 guys in it!
Well the 3 to 1 ratio has to start at the lowest common denominator in the structure which is a section, not an individual.
 
#15
It is an interesting question as to why the 3 (or 4) into 3, into 3, etc heirarchy doesn't extend to fire teams.
Could it be the size of the section came before the division into fire-teams?

An interesting question would be if we did go for 3 x fire team squads, would they be the same or tailored for role (e.g. putting the heavier weapons in a support fire-team, gun-group style)... and would you have 3 fire-team commanders and a sect commander, or 2 +1?
The USMC has three identical fire-teams plus a squad leader, but the Aussies have experimented with different section organisations. This included an 8-man section divided into two fire-teams, a 9-man section with three 3-man teams and a 12-man section of three teams with the third having a GPMG. For more details see the Canadian Army Journal I linked to above, lots of good stuff in that.
 
#16
.....the Aussies have experimented with different section organisations. This included......, a 9-man section with three 3-man teams ....
When I joined the (IDF) army they were still working with this infantry doctrine. Sections in the advance to contact would be 2 up (front) which allowed for a "strong" assault line but also allowed for security to the flank/s and rear of the section or f/team if required by "no.3" rifleman and or fire team. Subsequently this orbat & tactic has been discarded.
 
#17
Well the 3 to 1 ratio has to start at the lowest common denominator in the structure which is a section, not an individual.
Exactly - which means that 3:1 explains the number of sects in a plt, plts in a coy, etc but not why there are 8 men in a sect.


It does bring up one question though, is the size of a sect set by a higher-up number? Eg it's decided that 20-something is the right size for a platoon, so it's split into 3 to give 8 man sects.
 
#18
There are often logistical considerations which help determine the sections size.
The smallest unit in the Roman Army was the eight man contubernium. That was the optimum size to share a tent and a mule.
Todays armoured/mechanised infantry are subject to similar considerations. If you can only fit six or seven dismounts in your IFV/APC then the decision has been made for you.
 
#19
Exactly - which means that 3:1 explains the number of sects in a plt, plts in a coy, etc but not why there are 8 men in a sect.


It does bring up one question though, is the size of a sect set by a higher-up number? Eg it's decided that 20-something is the right size for a platoon, so it's split into 3 to give 8 man sects.
It used to be ten men in a section- and in WW1 there were four sections in a platoon, four platoons in a coy and four coys in a battalion. By WW2 this had changed to 3/3/4- I think the fourth rifle coy went in the '60s sometime. The Canadian and Aus Armies had four rifle coys in a bn until the '80s or '90s.

In the CAJ article the authors reckon the almost universal change from 10 to 8 men in a section in Commonwealth armies came about as a result of 2 personnel slots going to vehicle crews in the '50s/'60s, whether those crewmen were still part of the section itself or not.
 
#20
When I joined the (IDF) army they were still working with this infantry doctrine. Sections in the advance to contact would be 2 up (front) which allowed for a "strong" assault line but also allowed for security to the flank/s and rear of the section or f/team if required by "no.3" rifleman and or fire team. Subsequently this orbat & tactic has been discarded.
What do you guys use now?
 
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