Version 2 / 7min read / Updated Mon 22 Feb 2021 / 893 views
All operations require someone to make them, someone to lead them and a group of people to sign up for them. This section on mission planning will aid in all aspects of navigating that challenge.
Before we look at the specifics of Mission Planning, let's take a look at an overview of the process in most cases, as well as some of the key terms and people involved. Regardless of what the particular mission may be, there are certain common steps taken to go from the initial concept of an operation, all the way into the actual mission itself, with the end goal being a solid plan that has been briefed to all players and leaders.
This section will cover everything involved in the process, from choosing an ORBAT to planning, briefing and ultimately executing the plan. All those taking part should be familiar with the steps involved, and leaders (or aspiring leaders) should pay extra attention to all that is involved.
Field Leader (FL) - the most senior field leader on the deployment. The FL controls the orbat and is responsible for the execution of the mission from planning to completion.
Campaign Manager (CM) the person(s) who control the campaign the operation is attached to. CMs control asset availability, OPFOR intelligence, situation and mission segments of an OPORD.
Game Master (GM) the person(s) who control the OPFOR on a specific deployment, this is sometimes the same person(s) as the CM but not always. GMs execute the OPFOR plan.
Operations Order (OPORD) a standard 5 paragraph order in the SMEAC format (Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration, Command) compiled by the CM/GM/FL.
Order of Battle (ORBAT) the planned size, composition and formation of the force being deployed to execute the mission
Back Brief the process of any subordinate unit (such as a squad) informing their superior unit (such as platoon) on their constructed plan
Concept of Operation the rough concept for an operation, such as it's look and feel - before details have been fully fleshed out
- Higher Headquarters is a Campaign Manager or Game Master who acts in place of a real-life 'Higher HQ' who can advise the FL on the clarification of mission items, before, during and after execution.
Concept Stage (typically T-1 week from execution)
- Campaign Manager (CM) assigns a Game Master (GM) for the operation and locates a Field Leader (FL)
- CM and FL agree an operation concept
An execution date is set, and the operation is submitted to the schedule for approval
Planning Stage (typically 6 days from execution)
- CM or GM briefs the FL with the "Higher Headquarters Briefing"
- FL agrees an initial ORBAT concept with the CM/GM, including rough size and supporting assets
Final ORBAT is compiled by the FL
Muster Stage (typically T-4 days from execution)
- Situational OPORD is sent to Field Leadership candidates
- Pre-slotting for leadership commences
- FL meets with subordinate leaders to develop an execution plan
ORBAT is released
- Execution plan is published and the OPORD is released
- Subordinate leaders back-brief superiors
- FL back-briefs the CM/GM
- Operation is executed
- Field leaders hold debriefings
- FL debriefs with CM/GM
It's important to build good relationships between field leaders and campaign managers and game masters. Concepts for operations can come from many places, but typically those running a campaign, or those leading it will come up with ideas for operations based on the previous progression of a campaign. In theory it's possible to bring any concept to life, so long as a CM, GM and FL sign up to make it happen. A concept is a baseline idea for how the operation will look, the time of day, the weather, the size of the deployment and the assets that would or could be utilized. Before we can move from the Concept to the planning stage, we need to ensure that both the CM, GM and FL agree on the concept.
Now that your concept is agreed, and the operation approved to the schedule, the CM, GM and FL meet to conduct the higher-headquarters briefing. This is the official SM part of the SMEAC OPORD format, containing the SITUATION and the MISSION. These parts of the OPORD are provided to the FL by the CM or GM and contain information about the situation in the area of operations and the mission that has been assigned to them. It usually also contains information about enemy movements, intelligence as well as friendlies in the area of operations, and assets at our disposal.
Ultimately, execution is at the discretion of the FL - in simple terms the higher-headquarters assigns the mission defined as "what we must do" and the FL assigns the execution "how we will do it", and any specific direction that higher-headquarters has is usually by direction of the former points. For example, the limitation of assets or the presence of METT-TC considerations which funnel the FL into taking a specific path. Ultimately the concept must still make sense, and so any specifics are worked out here.
This is typically a verbal briefing and while looking at a map - so markers can be produced, the map is then taken by the FL to the muster stage. At this point, if any amendments need to be made, or questions asked the FL and CM/GM discuss it here in the planning stage, to ensure that the operation is the best it can be. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
The FL takes the higher-headquarters briefing and using it's information, finalizes their ORBAT for the operation, releasing it to leadership in order to assemble their execution team, after this happens, the leaders immediately subordinate to the FL meet to have the execution briefing, this is where the specific elements of the SMEAC OPORD are decided from movement to logistics and so on. The leaders will take the original map and detail it into phases, outlining how the operation will be executed. The FL will then detail this into the OPORD, which can then be publicly released.
Following the execution briefing (or "main briefing") the FL will back-brief the higher-headquarters, this is so they understand how we will plan to move, to aid in mission design. Subordinate leaders will then use the OPORD to issue fragmentary orders down the chain of command, usually by way of informal verbal briefings.
It is generally understood that the person who developed the mission, typically the CM or GM is acting as the 'Higher Headquarters' during the planning and execution phase in the case of Zeus. What this means is that if the FL - be they a Company Commander or Platoon Commander - or other leadership elements have a question that is not covered in the written operations order, the CM/GM can act as the higher headquarters and give an answer appropriate to what the 'real' higher HQ would be able to say in such a situation. This is helpful for anything that the leadership needs to know that may have been overlooked or unintentionally unclear in the briefing.
Following the operation and after all AARs are complete, the FL will meet with the higher-headquarters for the final debriefing, where all feedback from the executing force is relayed through operational chain of command, the things that went well or badly can be discussed and address for next time.
UNITAF Standard Operating procedures (SOP) are adapted primarly from US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Our written and audio procedures are a combination of the following primary source materials, as well as our own learnings, modifications and adaptations:
- US Army Techniques Publication, Infantry Platoon and Squad (ATP 3-21.8)
- Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks Warrior Leader Skills Level 2, 3, and 4 (STP 21-24-SMCT)
- The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills (FM 3-21.75 / FM 21-75)
- Leadership Development (FM 6-22)
- Dyslexi's Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures for Arma 3 (TTP3)