The infantry has its fair share of not-so-thrilling jobs. Among those is that of the pointman leading from the front. It’s a stressful job that demands one to be alert at all times because you are the first to meet the enemy. However, a well-trained, veteran pointman can seize the initiative for the patrol and be the commander’s best asset against a determined insurgency.
Pointmen are always first
The pointman must know how to navigate the area of operations during patrols. He will be the first to spot anomalies on patrol. You are the eyes and ears of the patrol: ‘That graffiti wasn’t there before,’ ‘There are no children in the bazaar today,’ ‘That stack of rocks wasn’t there yesterday,’ and so on. These are all indicators that something is about to go down.
Pointmen are the first to provide an ADDRAC when engaging the enemy. It stands for Alert, Direction, Description, Range, Assignment, Control. For example, on patrol we start taking small arms fire from a building ahead in an urban setting. Not everyone in the patrol has eyes on what you see. Also, the enemy is dynamically behind cover attempting to outmaneuver you as well.
In this theoretical situation the pointman would shout ‘Contact front! Twelve o’clock, red building, 300 meters, four small arms, danger area to my left.’ This is information provides the patrol with everything they need to react and for the patrol leader to quickly come up with a strategy and employ it. The pointman will also pin down the enemy with effective fire so the patrol can move around him. As the skirmish goes on, he provides updates on what he sees and the patrol advances and eliminates the threat.
Using a CMD is time consuming and dangerous
Pointmen are cross trained by engineers to use CMDs — combat metal detectors. When scanning a compound for Improvised Explosive Devices, weapons caches or contraband is time consuming. No matter how tired a pointman’s arm is, they cannot let the CMD touch the ground. The risk of accidentally setting off a hidden pressure plate is real. One has to be meticulous, methodical and can never get complacent. If a room isn’t clear and a troop attempts to walk past him, a pointman is fully within his right to grab that person by the throat and yell expletives about their mother. It doesn’t matter what rank that person is, when it happens it’s always someone in charge. No one is going to hold the pointman accountable for the disrespect because the Lieutenant almost got everyone killed. Pointmen must have the courage to correct that MF.
Pointmen are used as human shields
When I was pointman, room clearing for the first time, if the pointman goes down, use him as a shield. Marines when stacked together before kicking down a door to do God’s work, hold the pointman by a strap on the back of the flak jacket. If I expire, they are to hold onto that handle and shoot around me. The first months in theater are scary, but you get used to it and it’s just another day at the office. Use me if you have to, I don’t care, I’m in Valhalla already.
The hardest part is that pointmen are loyal and they refuse to be rotated out if they’re the best for the role. A responsible pointman is indispensable to an infantry squad. It’s hard to let go and will only accept passing the torch if promoted out of the job. It’s the worst job because if something bad happens you know you could have done something about it if you were still there.