Military

SECTION V

LIAISON OFFICER (LO) OPERATIONS


OBSERVATION: Units that habitually exercise and properly resource their Liaison Officers (LOs) are more apt to receive timely and appropriate information from their higher headquarters, resulting in more planning time and a better understanding of how the higher commander sees the battle developing.

DISCUSSION: More often than not, LOs who are observed at the CTCs are newly assigned 2LTs or 1LTs waiting to attend the advanced course. These lieutenants have the best of intentions, but normally lack the experience to make significant contributions to the unit. This shortfall is not due to lack of effort. When asked what their duties and responsibilities are, the typical response is, "to serve as a courier for orders and graphics." This is how the majority of LOs are employed. Lieutenants are capable of making more significant contributions than this.

Once again, the problem begins with clearly defining the specific duties and responsibilities of the LO. For the duties and functions of LOs at lower levels (BN and BDE), FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, May 84, has the most detailed description. The more critical duties and responsibilities include:

Before Departure from Assigned Unit

  • Clearly understand the mission and duties of the LO.
  • Know the current situation of your assigned unit. This includes, but is not limited to: concept of operations, unit locations, combat power status, and status of critical supplies.
  • Possess current graphics.
  • Obtain information and liaison requirements from each staff section.
  • Obtain and understand the commander s critical information requirements (CCIRs).

Upon Arrival at Supported Headquarters

  • Report to Commander or XO; be prepared to brief unit situation.
  • Establish communications with assigned unit.
  • Visit each staff section and exchange information as required.

During Liaison Tour

  • Keep abreast of the situation of assigned unit and provide updates to supported Headquarters.

  • Monitor and assist in the planning process of supported unit. This includes:

    • Advise staff on how to best employ assets of assigned unit. Especially critical for heavy/light operations.

    • Record all critical information and pass to unit as soon as possible. Include specified/implied tasks, mission-essential tasks, constraints/limitations, etc. This will later assist your unit in conducting its mission analysis.

    • Receive and pass all enemy SITEMPs and other intelligence products as soon as possible. This is perhaps the most critical role of the LO during the planning process.

  • Conduct adjacent unit coordination as appropriate.

Upon Return to Assigned Headquarters

  • Immediately brief the Commander, XO, or S3 on information received.
  • Exchange information with appropriate staff sections.
  • Assist unit in conducting the TDMP.
  • Be prepared to respond to additional liaison requirements.

TTPs:

  • Take the time to clearly define what you expect of your LO. Use the above list as a starting point. The list you develop may be significantly different based on individual capabilities and unit requirements.

  • Once you have defined what you expect of your LO, ensure he clearly understands his duties and responsibilities.

  • Don't accept your LO only serving as a courier. He is far more capable and can make significant contributions if provided guidance and direction.

  • Identify your LO and begin training him as soon as possible. This process must take place at home station prior to the rotation or real-world mission.

  • Provide LO with appropriate equipment, such as radios, vehicles, and GPS.

OBSERVATION: Battalion TFs typically have problems developing a fully integrated and synchronized plan in the relatively short amount of time provided at the CTCs. This may not sound like an issue involving LO operations; however, this is one area where a trained LO can make significant contributions to a unit.

DISCUSSION: From the time of receipt of the brigade order until execution, battalions typically have less than 24 hours to plan and prepare for the mission. Doctrinally, a unit should publish its order in approximately 8 hours. This is no simple task. What often hinders the planning process at battalion level is the development of the S2's IPB. If a unit uses the doctrinal planning process, the IPB must be at or near completion prior to the mission analysis brief. Granted, the IPB process is continuous and must be constantly updated, but the initial enemy SITEMPs must be complete. S2s usually do not see any of the brigade intelligence products until the brigade order is issued. As a result, it is difficult for the battalion S2 to develop SITEMPs in a timely fashion. This is where a well-trained LO can be of significant value.

The brigade S2 should have an "initial draft" of his enemy SITEMPs complete well before the brigade order is issued. These SITEMPs are used to develop and analyze friendly COAs. An LO who thoroughly understands the planning process and is playing heads-up ball can immediately get a copy of these and send them to his parent unit. The battalion S2 section may not be able to begin working with them immediately, but at least will have them available so when time does permit, it can use them.

Additionally, as the brigade staff develop and analyze COAs, the LO should be an active participant in the process. He can assist and advise the brigade staff in integrating the capabilities of his unit. This is critical for units who do not habitually work together, such as during heavy/light operations. As the brigade staff selects and begins to refine a COA, the LO can immediately begin the preliminary mission analysis for the battalion staff. This technique can save significant amounts of time and be of great use to the battalion staff.

TTPs: For the techniques discussed here, the LO must be experienced and possess a thorough understanding of the planning process. These skills are not common to most young lieutenants. This may require the battalion to utilize one of the more experienced battle captains as an LO. One recent brigade S3 was approached with this technique and responded by saying, "I cannot afford to give up my best battle captain to serve as an LO." The brigade commander responded by saying, "I disagree, I can't afford not to give up my best battle captain. The role of the LO is too critical."

  • Ensure your LO thoroughly understands the planning process.
  • Have the LO pass any and all brigade intelligence products as soon as they become available.

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