Today Steve Bryant guest-hosted the Why Is This Interesting Newsletter and listed out applications and misapplications of the triangle in different contexts. Talking with Chris Papasadero about the triangle most common in a Green Beret’s world – the patrol base, Chris had this to say:
As an 18B Weapons Sergeant, my job was to make sure that the team was tactically proficient and knew how to operate all of the weapons organic to a U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment (ODA).
I look at the world in overlapping triangles. They actually represent cones of fire – the three-dimensional space a particular weapon can cover with fire – but for the purposes of laying out good defensive positions and describing them simply, we use a lot of triangles to build ‘overlapping fields of fire’. The idea here is that in a small team made up of individual riflemen, they can cover large areas of territory by moving their rifle up and down and left and right (elevate and traverse, respectively.)
In a defensive position – say a platoon of soldiers creeping through the jungle – one of the most efficient ways to lay a team of riflemen out is in a triangle; in this way you can efficiently cover 360º of defensive perimeter, using overlapping fields of fire – and still have space in the middle to eat, check the map, etc.
In the U.S. military we especially like the triangle because it provides the opportunity to bring two ‘crew served’ weapons (machine guns) to bear on an enemy no matter what direction they approach from.
When I set up this triangle, I’m looking not only for ways to maximize the number of crew served weapons I can bring to bear at any given time, I’m having my soldiers line up in such a way that there’s overlapping fields of fire all the way around the triangle.