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Commander's Intent: Less is Better

by CPT Joel C. Dotterer
Task, Purpose, Method, Endstate, Operational Concept. . . All too often during company/team operations orders (OPORDs), O/Cs observe company commanders issuing lengthy guidance under the heading of "Commander's Intent." The line between intent and concept of the operation becomes less and less clear. The result? Inadequate mission accomplishment. This paper explores the concept of commander's intent at the co/tm level through a doctrinal review and practical analysis based on CMTC observations.

"ACCORDING TO DOCTRINE. . . ."

As much as player units hate to hear O/Cs utter this phrase, doctrine is perhaps the best place to begin. FM 100-5, 14 June 1993, states that:

The commander's intent describes the desired end state. It is a concise expression of the purpose of the operation and must be understood two echelons below the issuing commander. . . It is the single unifying focus for all subordinate elements. It is not a summary of the concept of the operation. Its purpose is to focus subordinates on the desired end state. Its utility is to focus subordinates on what has to be accomplished in order to achieve success, even when the plan and concept of operations no longer apply, and to discipline their efforts toward that end.

Makes sense, doesn't it? Keep it short, to the point, yet with enough information that subordinates can take it and run when things get confused. Why then don't we do this in our company OPORDs here at the CMTC? Here are some items that O/Cs routinely see during rotations and some analysis on how to overcome the challenges that those items pose.

O/C OBSERVATIONS:

I. MY INTENT MIRRORS AND SUPPORTS WHAT I GET FROM TF AND BDE.

RESULT: Lengthy co/tm intent statements. Often times the TF- and bde-level intents are lengthy, focusing on items that are beyond the co/tm scope. Since intents should complement their higher command, co/tm intent statements become lengthy concept briefs to include all of the elements briefed by TF and BDE.

Techniques:

1. After you receive the TF order, take the time to reread the TF and bde intents.

2. Compare this to your stated and implied tasks from the TF order.

3. Derive from all this what is really the single, most-important thing that your co/tm needs to do during the operation.

4. Make this the focal point for your intent.

II. MY CO/TM MISSION HAS TOO MANY ELEMENTS FOR ONE CONCISE INTENT STATEMENT.

RESULT: Lengthy, convoluted co/tm intent statement due to assignment of divergent and conflicting missions.

Technique: Seek guidance from the TF CDR. "Sir, what is the single, most-important thing that my co/tm has to do for the TF during this operation?"

This may not be an easy question for the TF CDR to answer; however, it is worthy of an answer. If TF is going to give you multiple missions, then TF should help you in prioritizing them.

You may still have to accomplish all of your assigned missions, but now you know which ones must be accomplished for the TF to succeed.

III. HOW CAN I ACHIEVE FOCUS?

RESULT: Lengthy and/or vague intent statements from TF make it difficult for a co cdr to focus on what is really important.

Technique: Complete the following sentences:

If we do nothing else during tomorrow's mission, we must ________________________.

The single, most-important thing that we must do tomorrow is _____________________.

By answering these questions, you have basically written your intent.

Remember, your intent statement provides a framework for the operation. It does not tell your soldiers what to do. It does give them the overall picture of what you say the company needs to accomplish to be successful. By making your intent a clear, concise, and focused statement, you greatly increase the chances that your soldiers will continue the mission, even when the operation doesn't go as planned.



Foreword
Media on the Battlefield (MOB)



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