Marines Field Guide

Marines Field Guide


Fire Commands

Since enemy troops are trained in the use of cover and concealment, targets are often indistinct or invisible, seen only for a short time, and rarely remain uncovered for long. When a target is discovered, leaders and squad members must define its location rapidly and clearly. Squad members are trained to identify the target area quickly and accurately and to place a high volume of fire on it even though no enemy personnel may be visible. A small point target like an enemy sniper might be assigned to only one or two riflemen, while a target of considerable width like an enemy skirmish line requires the combined fires of the entire squad. As an aid in designating various types of targets, all members of the squad must become familiar with the topographical terms frequently used in designating targets; e.g., crest, hill, cut, fill, ridge, bluff, ravine, crossroads, road junction, and skyline. When the squad or fire team leader has made a decision to fire on a target, he gives certain instructions as to how the target is to be engaged. These instructions form the fire command. The leader directs and controls the fire of his fire unit by fire commands.


A fire command contains six basic elements that are always announced or implied. Fire commands for all weapons follow a similar order and include similar elements. Only essential elements are included. The six elements (ADDRAC) of the fire command are:

  • Alert
  • Direction
  • Target Description
  • Range
  • Target Assignment
  • Fire Control


This element alerts the fire unit to be ready to receive further information. It may also tell who is to fire. Usually, it is an oral command, SQUAD or FIRE TEAM. The leader may alert only a few individuals by calling them by name. The alert may also be given by signals, personal contact, or by any other method the situation may indicate.


The direction element tells which way to look to see the target. The direction of the target may be indicated in one of the following ways:

  1. Orally

    The general direction to the target may be given orally and should indicate the direction to the target from the unit. For example, RIGHT FRONT.

  2. Tracer Ammunition

    Tracer ammunition is a quick and sure way to indicate direction and is the most accurate method of pinpointing targets. Whenever possible, the leader should give the general direction orally. This will direct the squad's attention to the desired area; for example:

    • FRONT
    • (Fire 1st round) RIGHT FLANK (of the target)
    • (Fire 2d round) LEFT FLANK (of the target)
  3. Firing tracer ammunition to designated targets may give away the Marine's position and it will most certainly alert the enemy and reduce the advantage of surprise. To minimize the loss of surprise, the leader may wait until all other elements of the fire command are given before firing his tracer. In this case, the firing of the tracer can be the signal to commence firing.
  4. Reference Points
    1. To help the members of the fire unit locate indistinct targets, the leader may use reference points to give direction to the target. He selects a reference point that is near the target and easy to recognize.
    2. When using a reference point, the word REFERENCE in describing the reference point and the word TARGET in describing the target are used. This prevents the members of the fire unit from confusing the two; for example:
      • SQUAD
      • FRONT
  5. When using a reference point, the direction refers to the reference point, but the range is the range to the target.
  6. Sometimes a target can best be located by using successive reference points; for example:
    • SHED

Target Description

The third element of the fire command is a brief and accurate description of the target.


Range gives the information needed to set the sight or to adjust the point of aim. The word RANGE is not used. Examples of range are ONE SEVEN FIVE, TWO FIVE ZERO, or FOUR HUNDRED.

Target Assignment

The target assignment element tells who is to fire on the target and is broken down into two sub-elements as follows:

  • First, the squad leader prescribes whether the entire squad will fire on the target or whether only one or two fire teams will fire. If the unit to fire is the same as announced in the alert element, it may be omitted from the target assignment element. When the squad leader intends to alert the entire unit, but plans to use only one or two fire teams to fire on a target, the target assignment element is included.
  • The squad leader also uses this element to determine what weapons will be fired and the rate of fire for the automatic rifle. Rifles always fire at the average rate. Fire team leaders normally do not fire their rifles unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead, they direct the fires of the members of their fire team on various targets within the assigned sector of fire and remain ready to transmit subsequent fire commands from the squad leader to their fire team. The following rules apply:
    1. AutomatIc Riflemen. If the squad leader wants the automatic rifles fired at the rapid rate he commands RAPID. If the command RAPID is not given, automatic rifles are fired at the sustained rate. In response to the command RAPID, the automatic riflemen fire initially at the rapid rate for two minutes and then change to the sustained rate. This prevents the weapon from overheating.
    2. Fire Team Leader/Grenadier. If the squad leader desires grenade launcher fire, he commands GRENADIER. If the command GRENADIER is not given, the fire team leaders/grenadiers do not normally fire their rifles.
  • In the following examples of the target assignment element, let us assume that in the alert element, the command SQUAD was given.
    1. If the target assignment element is omitted completely, all three fire teams prepare to fire as follows:
      • Riflemen and assistant automatic riflemen fire their rifles at the average rate.
      • Automatic riflemen fire their weapons at the sustained rate.
    2. GRENADIER; RAPID. All fire teams prepare to fire as follows:
      • Riflemen, and assistant automatic riflemen prepare to fire their rifles at the average rate.
      • Fire team leaders/grenadiers prepare to fire at the average rate.
      • Automatic riflemen prepare to fire their weapons at the rapid rate.
  • FIRST TEAM; GRENADIER; RAPID. The first fire team prepares to fire as follows:
    • Riflemen and assistant automatic riflemen fire their rifles at the average rate.
    • Fire team leaders/grenadiers fire at the average rate.
    • Automatic riflemen fire their weapons at the rapid rate.

Fire Control

The fire control element consists of a command or signal to open fire. If surprise fire is not required, the command, COMMENCE FIRING normally is given without a pause as the last element of the fire command. When the leader wants all his weapons to open fire at once in order to achieve maximum surprise and shock effect, he will say, AT MY COMMAND or ON MY SIGNAL. When all men are ready, the leader gives the command or signal to commence firing.


Since oral commands are likely at times to be unheard because of battle noise, it is essential that the members of fire units also understand visual and other signals. These signals must be used constantly in training. Standard arm and hand signals applicable to fire commands are described in chapter 3.

Delivery of Fire Commands

Examples of complete fire commands are as follows:

  1. In this example, the squad leader wants to place a heavy volume of surprise rifle and automatic rifle (sustained rate) fire of his entire squad on an easily recognized target:
    • SQUAD
    • FRONT
    • TROOPS
  2. In this example, the squad leader desires to designate the target to his entire squad, but wants only the second fire team to engage it. He desires one team to fire on the target and the automatic rifleman to fire at the rapid rate. Because the target is indistinct, he uses a reference point.
    • SQUAD

Subsequent Fire Commands

A subsequent fire command is used by the squad leader to change an element of his initial command or to cease fire.

  1. To change an element of the initial command, the squad leader gives the alert and then announces the element he desires to change. Normally, the elements that will require changing are the target assignment and/or the fire control. The following example illustrates the use of a subsequent fire command.
    1. In the following initial fire command the squad leader alerts his entire squad but only assigns one fire team to engage the target with rifle and automatic rifle (sustained rate) fire.
      • SQUAD
      • FRONT
      • TROOPS
    2. The squad leader now desires the entire squad to fire on the target, fire team leaders/grenadiers and automatic riflemen to fire at the rapid rate. Note that the squad leader does not repeat SQUAD in the target assignment since he alerted the entire squad and wants the entire squad to fire. The squad leader's subsequent command will be as follows:
      • SQUAD
  2. To have the squad cease fire, the squad leader simply commands, CEASE FIRE.
  3. In issuing subsequent fire commands, the squad leader must keep in mind that in most cases the noise of the battlefield will prevent the squad members from hearing him. In most cases the squad leader will pass subsequent fire commands through the fire team leaders. It is for this reason that fire team leaders do not normally fire their rifles but remain attentive to the directions of the squad leader.

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