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When referring to combat (as opposed to firefighting), a fire team is a subset of an infantry squad, which is a subset of an infantry platoon. There are usually four squads in a platoon, with two fire teams per squad. This enables the platoon to better organize its firepower to address different threat levels and patrol issues. A fireteam is also the smallest military unit that still contains a mix of weapon types.

The benefit of a mixed-weapons combat unit cannot be underestimated. A machine gun has a high rate of fire, but needs support from riflemen who can accurately engage the enemy at range and who can move without the weight penalty imposed by the heavier weapon. They in turn benefit from the indirect pseudo-artillery-style support a grenade launcher provides.

The usual weapons mix for a US Army fire team (with some variations involving different weapons that may be mission-specific) is:

One M249 squad automatic weapon
One M203 grenade launcher/rifle
Two M16A2 rifles

The Marine Corps uses three squads per platoon (plus one platoon commander and one platoon Sergeant) and three fire teams per squad (plus one squad leader).


Each team contains:

1 Team Leader armed with an M-16A2* Service rifle with M203 grenade launcher attached. He is usually a Corporal or Lance Corporal. In formation charts he is referred to as TEAM. The Team Leader commmands the team and carries out tactical decisions. He uses the M203 to cover dead space (unseen terrain like a reverse slope) in combat. The senior Team Leader also acts as the assistant Squad Leader.

1 SAW gunner. He is usually a Lance Corporal. He is referred to as FIRE or, informally, the Gunner. He uses his Squad Automatic Weapon to lay down covering fire. As the second senior man on the team, he assumes command if the Team Leader is wounded or killed.

1 Assistant Saw gunner armed with an M-16A2 and carrying extra ammo and the spare SAW barrel. He is usually a Lance Corporal or Private First Class. He is referred to as ASSIST or, informally, the A Gunner. He changes Barrels for the Gunner and helps reload the SAW. He also takes the SAW if the Gunner goes down.

1 Rifleman Armed with an M-16A2. He is usually a Private First Class or a Private. He is referred to as READY. In nearly all team formations the READY is the Point Man. As Point he is the most forward member of the team, and thus the most exposed. He finds a trail or enters buildings first.

The order in any formation, for memorization purposes, is READY, TEAM, FIRE, ASSIST, however, their placement in the formation varies.
An example:

In the Skirmishers Right formation the order is, from left to right, READY (forward), TEAM (back), FIRE (forward), ASSIST (back).
If the formation were Skirmishers Left the Marines would be in the above order but from right to left.



*Some units now use M-16A4s or M-4s

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