U.S. Marine Corps, Forward Observer

Forward Observer, 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company


The Forward Observer provides the eyes for the Fire Direction Center (FDC) and is normally attached to a line company.

He initiates and adjust mortar indirect fire, smoke and illumination. He provides assistance to the supporting unit commander in planning targets appropriate for the mortars. His rank is Corporal and his weapon is a M-4 carbine assault rifle.

Forward Observer

The FO’s capability to provide effective fire support depends upon his ability to locate targets quickly and accurately.

Understanding and applying the skills of map reading are essential to an FO’s success. The FO’s map is second in importance only to his radio. The FO continuously scans the map and terrain in order to associate features he sees on the ground with those on his map.

Call For Fire

The FO uses the map to determine the location of targets, friendly positions, and of course his own position.

He must also keep oriented during movement, the first step any FO must do is know his position. Then, using his map and other tools, the FO determines the two critical elements of target location. Which happen to be direction and distance.


The core capabilities for the F.O. are to perform tasks required in the 81mm Mortar Platoon, he also carries out orders of the Fire Direction Center plotter.

Performs individual protective measures to counteract the effects of nuclear, biological, and chemical contamination. Of course as U.S. Marine your primary job as an 03 infantryman is to seek out close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.


**Concept of DirectionDegrees and Mills

*DirectionDirection is the most important element of target location and an integral part of terrain/map association and adjustment of fire. Direction can be measured in degrees or mils.

You’re more than likely familiar with degrees (angular measurement 1/360 of a circle), you probably haven’t been introduced to mils.

*Mills: A mil is a unit of angular measurement that is equal to 1/6400 of a circle. Mortarmen use the mil because of its accuracy and the mil relation formula’s ability to easily convert angular deviation into lateral distance.

Mils may be measured from a map (mils grid) or by using a compass (mils magnetic).

The forward observer is a very important piece to an infantry unit, if he’s a few mils off as far as calling for fire innocent people could lose their lives.

You have to be smart, a quick thinker, confident and most importantly be wiling to take charge of a situation.

F.O. Media

This piece was written for anyone who has ever sarcasticaly uttered jar-heads are all stupid, and nothing more than a bullet sponge.

You sir or ma’am can shut your fucking mouth, these are very intelligent men who protect the country in which we live.

Isaac J. Hall II



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