October 20, 2020
  • 11:08 am The Warning Order – Preparing For Operations
  • 12:40 pm 3 Essential Elements Of A Combat Patrol
  • 9:46 am Five Tips For Using The 1/3-2/3 Rule
  • 2:20 pm How to Report Sightings of Enemy Combatants
  • 10:42 pm Drawing Forces Into Collateral Damage
Reporting Enemy Combatants

What is the most efficient way (syntax) for infantry to report sighting of enemy combatants? Is it their number-direction-distance-additional detail (third red house on the left)?

This is a fantastic question that deserves a well-considered answer.

Ultimately, this breaks down into two categories: internal or external communication.

External Reporting

Let’s start with external communications, reporting these combatants to other units or a higher headquarters.  Traditionally, we would use what is known as the SALUTE format.


  • Size
  • Activity
  • Location
  • Unit/Uniform
  • Time
  • Equipment

This format has its roots in reconnaissance and was originally intended to provide observational information to decision makers and maneuver units.  Ideally, this same format could be used to report contact information, but there are some limiting factors.

First, on today’s 4th generational battlefield, the enemy often does not have a uniform or belong to a unit.  You may also not be able to identify equipment.  Firearms are often concealed under a man-dress, IEDs hidden under the ground, equipment stored inside a building or vehicle, etc.

As a result, theater commanders in Iraq switched the format to the SALT format.

  • Size
  • Activity
  • Location
  • Time

This is all great information and should be used in conjunction with modern technology such as video cameras when performing reconnaissance.

However, on today’s battlefield, you often don’t know who the enemy is until he is shooting at you.  In a contact situation, an attacker will find cover and concealment before attacking, making it very difficult to Identify information, especially the size of an element.

Activity is also pretty useless information if you’re reporting enemy contact.  In this case, the activity is shooting at the reporting unit.

Location is critical.  However, with modern battlefield tracking tools, many units will have your exact location as you move.

While time is an important consideration, it is also obvious if you are reporting as you are in contact.

Ultimately, the most important information to report in a contact situation is that you are in contact.  The military recognized this and created another initial report.


TIC stands for Troops In Contact.  This report is intended to clear all radio communications and begin immediate responses in the TOC (Tactical Operation Center).  This information, along with the element’s call-sign, is all anyone really needs (assuming GPS tracking is being utilized.

This is the bare minimum information a higher command would need to start necessary movement, one of the 8 Troop Leading Procedures.  Essentially, with this information alone, a commander can begin sending out support assets or a quick response force (QRF).

Internal Reporting

For internal reporting, the same principles apply.  What is the bare minimum information that is required for your team, squad, platoon, etc. to do their jobs.  Once again, these requirements have changed with time.

Traditionally, you would have used what is known as the 3-Ds.  In the original question, you can see that an additional point was added: additional details.

  • Distance
  • Direction
  • Description
  • Additional Details

Distance and direction are absolutely critical.  On today’s battlefield, it can often be difficult to identify the location of a shooter.  Gone are the days of walls of smoke coming from enemy muskets.  When contact is made, every person needs to immediately look for the source of the contact.

Distance and direction are reported based on the location and direction the soldier identifying the threat was traveling.  So if an element is heading north and receives contact from the east, the direction is 3 o’clock.  The U.S. military uses meters to determine distance, but you can use whatever you feel comfortable with.

A good description is often not available.  As I mentioned when explaining the Size aspect of the SALUTE report, it is rare that you will be able to obtain a good description of the enemy you are engaged with.

Additional details can be tricky.  If you are confident that additional details can be provided without confusing the situation, go ahead and provide them.  However, keep in mind that things do not always look the same from other perspectives and communications can get confused in the heat of battle.

Key Points to Remember about how to Report Enemy Combatants

  • When conducting reconnaissance, use all the tools at your disposal to provide the most detailed information possible for commanders and maneuver units.
  • When in contact, an accurate location is the most critical piece of information that you need to share.

Do you want my response to a question on Quora?  You can follow me at: https://www.quora.com/profile/Jason-Crawford-66


Jason Crawford

With 12 years as an Infantryman in the United States Army, Jason has served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has served in positions from Rifleman to Platoon Sergeant, and as an Observer/Controller. During his time in the Army, he received the Ranger Tab, Airborne and Pathfinder Badges, a Bronze Star Medal for service and more. After leaving the Army, Jason served as a WPS contractor in Baghdad for 2 years and now has a bachelor's degree in Web Design and Development.