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Patrolling is a military tactic. Small groups or individual units are deployed from a larger formation to achieve a specific objective and then return. The tactic of patrolling may be applied to ground troops, armoured units, naval units, and combat aircraft. The duration of a patrol will 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. The most common is to collect information by carrying out a reconnaissance patrol. Such a patrol may try to remain clandestine and observe an enemy without themselves being detected. Other reconnaissance patrols are overt, especially those that interact with the civilian population.
A 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.
A 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 stand to in the transition from night to day routine and vice versa.
A Standing Patrol is a static patrol, probably known as an OP/LP(Observation Post/Listening post) in US and NATO terminology. Standing patrols are usually small (half section/section) static patrols intended to provide early warning, security or to guard some geographical feature, such as dead ground.
A Reconnaissance (recce) patrol is a patrol, usually small whose main mission is the gathering of information. Generally speaking recce patrols tend to avoid contact, although it is not completely unknown for recon patrols to "fight for information".
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.
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- Shelby L. Stanton, Rangers at War, Ivy Books: New York (1992).