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For other uses, see Patrol (disambiguation).
U.S. Army Ranger team leader, Vietnam, 1968.

Patrolling is a military tactic. Small groups or individual units are deployed from a larger formation to achieve a specific objective, such as reconnaissance or security, and then return.[1] The tactic of patrolling may apply to ground troops, armored units, naval units, and combat aircraft. The duration of a patrol can vary from a few hours to several weeks depending on the nature of the objective and the type of units involved.


There are several different types of patrol each with a different objective. Examples include:

  • Combat Patrol is a group with sufficient size (usually platoon or company) and resources to raid or ambush a specific enemy. It primarily differs from an attack in that the aim is not to hold ground.
  • Clearing Patrol is a brief patrol around a newly occupied defensive position in order to ensure that the immediate area is secure. Clearing patrols are often undertaken on the occupation of a location, and during the transition from night to day and vice versa.
  • Standing Patrol is a static or stationary patrol, known as an OP/LP (Observation Post/Listening Post) in US and NATO terminology. Standing patrols are usually intended to provide early warning or to maintain constant surveillance a geographical feature, such as a trail, river, bridge, or road.[1]
Two U.S. LRRP / Ranger teams, Quang Tri, Vietnam, 1968.
  • Reconnaissance Patrol is a patrol, usually small in numbers of men whose main mission is locate the enemy, to ensure a specific area is clear, or to serve as an early warning to prevent their main force from a flanking attack while it mounts an attack or retreat. Such a patrol makes great effort to remain clandestine and observe the enemy without being detected. Other reconnaissance patrols are overt, especially those that interact with the civilian population. Generally speaking reconnaissance patrols avoid contact, although it is very common for such personnel to direct artillery or aircraft against enemy sightings.[1]
  • Screening Patrol combines a number of patrols to 'screen' a large area. This type of patrol is used by armored formations in desert theaters, and also by ground troops operating in urban areas. A screen is generally composed of a number of static observation posts.[2]

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