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Chapter 8

Rules of Engagement





Commander's Responsibility

Purposes of ROE

Drafting Considerations

Situation Considerations

Definitions & Key Concepts

Types of ROE







War is tough, uncompromising, and unforgiving. For soldiers, the rigors of battle demand mental and physical toughness and close-knit teamwork. Between the anxiety of battle, soldiers spend long hours doing routine but necessary tasks in the cold, wet weather and mud, moving from position to position, often without hot meals, clean clothes, or sleep. In war, the potential for breakdown in discipline is always present. The Army operates with applicable rules of engagement (ROE), conducting warfare in compliance with international laws and within the conditions specified by the higher commander. Army forces apply the combat power necessary to ensure victory through appropriate and disciplined use of force.

Field Manual 100-5, Operations

It is not uncommon in MOOTW, for example peacemaking, for junior leaders to make decisions which have significant political implications.

Joint Publication 3-07, Joint Doctrine for Military Operations Other than War


    OPLAW provides vital links between the strategic and tactical levels of conflict. The strongest of these links are often rules of engagement (ROE). ROE enable mission accomplishment, force protection, and compliance with law and policy. While ROE are always commanders' rules, the interpretation, drafting, dissemination, and training of ROE are also the business of OPLAW JAs.

    Every chapter of this manual records the importance of ROE to the practice of OPLAW. ROE integrate many of the six disciplines of legal support to operations and epitomize the counselor function of OPLAW JAs. Development of expertise with ROE is a prominent duty and responsibility of SJAs. Involvement with ROE places judge advocates firmly within the command and control of operations. Theater operations implement the ROE established by Commanders in Chief (CINCs) of combatant commands. Corps and Division Deep Operations Coordination Cells (DOCCs), or Information Operations Cells of the future, rely upon OPLAW JAs to incorporate ROE considerations into the targeting process. Military operations other than war (MOOTW) tend to be characterized by ROE demanding greater restraint in applying combat power, a factor that creates great challenges for judge advocates deployed with forward brigade task forces.


8.2.1    Commander's Responsibility

    ROE are commanders' rules for the use of force. Operations personnel are principally responsible to ensure that the ROE further operational requirements. OPLAW JAs assist the commander to interpret, draft, disseminate, and train ROE because all ROE must conform to international law, because a Department of Defense Directive and service regulations give military attorneys a role in ROE compliance, and because the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has directed that attorneys will review all operations plans and participate in targeting meetings of military staffs.

    Also, the Hague and Geneva Conventions contain dissemination provisions that encourage the involvement of judge advocates in ROE matters. A provision of the 1977 Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions-which though not ratified by the United States is considered declarative of customary international law on this point-expressly mentions the role of "legal advisors."

8.2.2    Purposes of ROE

    ROE are driven by three sets of considerations: policy, legal, and military. An example of a policy-driven rule is Executive Order 11850, which prohibits first use of riot control agents and herbicides without Presidential approval. An example of a legal-driven rule is the prohibition, "hospitals, churches, shrines, schools, museums, and any other historical or cultural sites will not be engaged except in self- defense." An example of a military-driven rule is the commonly encountered requirement for observed indirect fires for the purpose of effective target engagement. ROE are not the same as fire control measures. Fire control measures are implemented by commanders based on tactical considerations. An example of a fire control measure serving tactical purposes is the common requirement in ground operations that the artillery tubes organic to a unit will not fire beyond a designated fire support coordination line (FSCL); this ensures an efficient division of labor between fires controlled at one level and those controlled by higher levels of command. Moreover, it helps prevent fratricide by indirect fire.

    The purposes of ROE quite often overlap; rules implementing strategic policy decisions may serve an operational or tactical military goal while simultaneously bringing U.S. forces in compliance with domestic or international law. As a result, troops in the field may not always appreciate the reasons why a leader fashioned a particular rule.

    ROE must evolve with mission requirements and be tailored to mission realities. ROE should be a flexible instrument designed to best support the mission through various operational phases and should reflect changes in the threat.

8.2.3    Drafting Considerations

    Operational requirements, policy, and law define ROE. ROE always recognize the soldier's right of self-defense, the commander's right and obligation to self-defense, and America's national right to defend itself and its allies and coalition partners against aggression. In the Standing Rules of Engagement (SROE) for U.S. Forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff provide baseline guidance and procedures for supplementing this guidance for specific operations. Effective ROE are enforceable, understandable, tactically sound, and legally sufficient. Further, effective ROE are responsive to the mission and consistent with unit initiative.

    In all operations, ROE may impose political, operational, and legal limitations upon commanders. Withholding employment of particular classes of weapons or exempting the territory of certain nations from attack are examples of such limitations. At the tactical level, ROE may extend to criteria for initiating engagements with certain weapon systems (for example, unobserved fires) or reacting to attack.

    Effective ROE comply with domestic and international law, including the body of international law pertaining to armed conflict. Thus, ROE never justify illegal actions. In all situations, soldiers and commanders use force that is necessary and proportional.

    Effective ROE do not assign specific tasks or drive specific tactical solutions; they allow a commander to quickly and clearly convey to subordinate units a desired posture regarding the use of force. In passing orders to subordinates, a commander must act within the ROE received. However, ROE never relieve the commander from his responsibility to formulate the end state, objectives, mission, and other elements of operational design. Commanders at all levels continually review the ROE to ensure their effectiveness in light of current and projected conditions in their area of operations.

8.2.4    Situation Considerations - METT-TC

E--Enemy (and threat)
T--Terrain (and weather)
T--Time Available
C--Civilian Considerations

    A given operational setting is described by the factors of mission, enemy and threat, terrain and weather, troops, time available, and civilian considerations (METT- TC). The situation is the context that dominates every aspect of planning, including ROE. Across the range of potential military operations, commanders can encounter situations of bewildering complexity. This complexity is reduced, at the operational and tactical levels of conflict, by applying the conceptual template of METT-TC.

  • Mission establishes the purpose of the operation.

  • Planners must consider the dispositions, equipment, doctrine, capabilities, and probable intentions of an Enemy-actual and potential. The current conflict environment is increasingly characterized by shades of gray in which enemies are less apparent. Commanders also evaluate potential threats to mission success, such as disease, political instability, and misinformation.

  • Terrain and weather affect mobility, concealment, observation, cover, avenues of approach, and the effectiveness of military operating systems.

  • The commander must consider the nature of Troops-his military capabilities. Troop characteristics such as numbers, mobility, protection, training, and morale influence plans for their employment.

  • Time available for preparation and execution of the mission is critical and can dramatically influence the scope and nature of the plan.

  • Civilian considerations are a key factor of the situation across the entire range of operations. Attitudes and activities of the civilian population in the area of operation influence the outcome of military operations. Refugees and humanitarian assistance requirements are frequent concerns, not only in stability operations or support operations, but also in conventional combat. Interagency operations bring to bear the civilian resources of DoD, non-DoD components of the government, and private voluntary and nongovernmental organizations, thereby multiplying the effectiveness of our operations.

8.2.5    Definitions and Key Concepts

    ROE are defined in Joint Publication 1-02 as "directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered." A few examples illustrate the broad range of rules that fall within this definition: requiring an F-111 crew to confirm that all target acquisition systems are operable to bomb a Libyan barracks abutting a civilian population center; prohibiting entry by U.S. Navy ships into territorial seas or internal waters of a neutral nation; or authorizing an infantryman at a guard post to use deadly force against saboteurs of mission-essential equipment.

    Wartime Versus Standing ROE. In general, ROE differ in wartime to reflect the increased justification for using force. Wartime ROE permit U.S. forces to open fire upon all identified enemy targets, regardless of whether those targets represent actual, immediate threats. By contrast, the SROE, which will be discussed later in this chapter, merely permit engagement in individual, unit, or national self-defense. Most legal grounds for international use of force during peacetime are traceable to self-defense. Wartime ROE are familiar to units and soldiers because battle focused training concentrates on wartime tasks. Individual Army privates and officer trainees in all occupational specialties receive instruction and undergo evaluation on basic wartime rules, such as "attack only combat targets" and "do not destroy property unless required by the necessities of war." In war, national leaders will seek to make the ROE no more restrictive than international law.

  The principles of necessity and proportionality help define the peacetime justification to use force in self-defense and are thus fundamental to understanding ROE for MOOTW. The necessity principle permits friendly forces to engage only those forces committing hostile acts or clearly demonstrating hostile intent. This formulation-a quite restrictive rule for the use of force-captures the essence of peacetime necessity under international law. In 1840, Secretary of State Daniel Webster articulated the essence of the necessity rule. He wrote that use of force in self-defense is justified only in cases in which "the necessity of that self-defense is instant, overwhelming and leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation." The rule of necessity applies to individuals as well as to military units or sovereign states.

    Definitions of "hostile act" and "hostile intent" complete the meaning of "necessity." A hostile act is an attack or other use of force. Hostile intent "is the threat of imminent use of force." The precise contents of these definitions become sensitive when the ROE describe specific behaviors as hostile acts or equate particular objective characteristics with hostile intent. For instance, the ROE might define a foreign uniformed soldier aiming a machine-gun from behind a prepared firing position as a clear demonstration of hostile intent, regardless of whether that soldier truly intends to harm U.S. forces.

    The principle of proportionality requires that the force used be reasonable in intensity, duration, and magnitude, based on all facts known to the commander at the time, to decisively counter the hostile act or hostile intent and to ensure the continued safety of U.S. forces. As with necessity, the proportionality principle reflects an ancient international legal norm.

8.2.6    Types of ROE

    Mere restatement of the core legal principles of proportionality and necessity does not indicate specifically enough the circumstances under which soldiers may fire weapons in national, unit, or individual self-defense. Nor do these principles articulate the myriad restrictions that a commander may impose on a force to serve the non-legal purposes mentioned above. Commands insert numerous types of specific rules into ROE annexes and soldier cards to elaborate further the rules of necessity and proportionality and to dictate precise terms of restrictions that are not derived from law. The following descriptions of types of rules permit OPLAW JAs and others to speak with precision about ROE.

  • Type I - Hostility Criteria. Provide those making decisions whether to fire with a set of objective factors to assist in determining whether a potential assailant exhibits hostile intent and thus clarify whether shots can be fired before receiving fire.
  • Type II - Scale of Force/Challenging Procedure. Specify a graduated show of force that ground troops should use in ambiguous situations before resorting to deadly force. Include such measures as giving a verbal warning, using a riot stick, or perhaps firing an aimed warning shot. May place limits on the pursuit of an attacker.

  • Type III - Protection of Property and Foreign Nationals. Detail what and whom may be defended with force aside from the lives of U.S. soldiers and citizens. Include measures to be taken to prevent crimes in progress or the fleeing of criminals.

  • Type IV - Weapons Control Status/ Alert Conditions. Announce, for air defense assets, a posture for resolving doubts over whether to engage. Announce for units observing alert conditions a series of measures designed to adjust unit readiness for attack to the level of perceived threat. The measures may include some or all of the other functional types of rules.

  • Type V - Arming Orders. Dictate which soldiers in the force are armed and with what weapons and ammunition. Specify which precise orders given by whom will permit the loading and charging of firearms.

  • Type VI - Approval to Use Weapons Systems. Designate what level commander must approve use of particular weapons systems. Perhaps prohibit use of a weapon entirely.

  • Type VII - Eyes on Target. Require that the object of fire be observed by one or more human or electronic means.

  • Type VIII - Territorial or Geographic Restraints. Create geographic zones or areas into which forces may not fire. May designate a territorial-perhaps political-boundary, beyond which forces may neither fire nor enter except perhaps in hot pursuit of an attacking force. Include tactical control measures that coordinate fire and maneuver by means of graphic illustrations on operations map overlays.

  • Type IX - Restrictions on Manpower. Prescribe numbers and types of soldiers to be committed to a theater or area of operations. Perhaps prohibit use of U.S. manpower in politically or diplomatically sensitive personnel assignments requiring allied manning.

  • Type X - Restrictions on Point Targets and Means of Warfare. Prohibit targeting of certain individuals or facilities. May restate basic rules of the law of war for situations in which a hostile force is identified and prolonged armed conflict ensues.

8.3    CJCS Standing ROE

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3121.01, Standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. Forces (SROE) is the keystone document in the area of ROE. It provides implementation guidance to CINCs on the inherent right of self defense and the application of force for mission accomplishment. It is the result of an all-service review and revision of the former JCS Peacetime Rules of Engagement (PROE). The SROE apply to all U.S. forces-with limited exceptions for Multinational Force (MNF), Civil Disturbance, and disaster relief operations-and is designed to provide a common template for development and implementation of ROE across the range of military operations. The SROE are divided into three principle sections or enclosures:

    Enclosure A (Standing Rules of Engagement): This enclosure details the general purpose, intent and scope of the SROE, emphasizing the commander's right--and obligation-to use force in self-defense. Critical principles-such as unit, national, and collective self-defense, hostile acts and intent, and the determination to declare forces hostile--are addressed as foundational elements of all ROE. Appendices provide specific guidance with respect to the scope of authority to use force, delegation of authority to declare forces hostile and exercise the right of national self-defense, and application of the principle of proportionality, and they address special considerations associated with peacekeeping, command, control and information warfare (C2I), counterdrug, and noncombatant evacuation operations. In addition, force-specific (i.e., seaborne, land, and air) appendices detail indicators of hostile intent, geographic limitations of authority, and other concerns that are particular to operations within the defined force structure.

    Enclosure B (Supplemental Measures): Supplemental Measures are menu lists of ROE measures that may be adopted, requested, granted, or not used at all. Supplemental measures found in this enclosure enable the commander to obtain or grant those additional authorities necessary to accomplish an assigned mission. Tables of supplemental measures are divided into those actions requiring NCA approval, those that require either NCA or Combatant Commander approval and those that may be delegated to subordinate commanders. It is important to remember that the SROE are fundamentally permissive in nature, allowing a commander to use any weapon or tactic available and employ reasonable force to accomplish his mission. Supplemental measures provided in Enclosure B are intended to serve as a planning tool. Inclusion in the SROE supplemental list does not suggest that the commander needs to seek authority to use any of the listed items - that only occurs when incorporated into ROE issued for a specific operation. Supplemental ROE relate to mission accomplishment, not to self-defense, and never limit the commander's inherent right and obligation of self-defense.

    Enclosure C (Compendium and Combatant Commanders' Special ROE): Enclosure C contains a list of effective CJCS directives providing ROE guidance and Area of Responsibility specific rules of engagement submitted by the Combatant Commanders. Those special ROE address specific strategic and political sensitivities of the Combatant Commander's AOR and must be approved by CJCS. They are included in the SROE as a means to assist commanders and units participating in operations outside their assigned AORS.

    The SROE also contain technical definitions of self defense:

  • Self Defense: The SROE do not limit a commander's inherent authority and obligation to use all necessary means available and to take all appropriate action in self-defense of the commander's unit and other U.S. forces in the vicinity.

  • Unit Self Defense: The act of defending elements or personnel of a defined unit-as well as U.S. forces in the vicinity thereof -against a hostile act or intent. As applied to the soldier on the ground, unit self-defense includes the concept of individual self-defense.


  • National Self Defense: The act of defending the U.S.; U.S. forces; and in certain circumstances, U.S. citizens and their property, U.S. commercial assets, other designated non-U.S. forces, foreign nationals and their property, from a hostile act or hostile intent. As a subset of national self-defense, the act of defending other designated non-U.S. citizens, forces, property, and interests is referred to as collective self-defense. Authority to exercise national self-defense rests with the NCA, but may be delegated under specified circumstances; however, only the NCA may authorize the exercise of collective self-defense.

    The SROE distinguish between the right and obligation of self-defense-which is not limited-and use of force for the accomplishment of an assigned mission. Authority to use force in mission accomplishment may be limited in light of political, military or legal concerns, but such limitations have no impact on the commander's right and obligation of self-defense.

    Once a threat has been declared a hostile force, United States units and individual soldiers may engage without observing a hostile act or demonstration of hostile intent. The basis for engagement becomes status rather than conduct. The authority to declare a force hostile is given only to particular individuals in special circumstances. Appendix A to Enclosure A of the SROE contains guidance on this authority.


THE I-D-D-T Methodology



    Commanders and staffs at all echelons use the Interpret-Draft-Disseminate-Train (I-D-D-T) methodology to incorporate ROE into the conduct of military operations. OPLAW JAs participate in all four facets of this methodology. Each facet is connected with and influences the others, and together the facets describe a process of continuous refinement and revision. The facets in the I-D-D-T methodology are interactive rather than sequential.

    In joint task forces and at higher joint echelons, the I-D-D-T methodology is conducted by an ROE Planning Cell. The ROE Cell consists of the J-3, the J-2, the J-5, and the SJA or designated representatives, in addition to other special staff officers as appropriate. The Joint Task Force J-3 is responsible for ROE in crisis action planning, and the ROE Cell provides a formal planning structure through which the J-3 can effectively perform this responsibility.

    At corps and divisions, the I-D-D-T methodology is conducted by the members of the Deep Operations Coordination Cell (DOCC) and any Information Operations Cell, in conjunction with their duties in the targeting process. At brigade level, the Brigade Judge Advocate coordinates throughout the military decision-making process with the S-3 and with all staff officers engaged in targeting to ensure that the I-D-D-T methodology is conducted.

8.4.1    Interpret

    At the operational and tactical levels of conflict, commanders and staffs must interpret the ROE issued by higher headquarters. At the theater level, the CINC and his staff must interpret the SROE and any mission-specific ROE that may emanate from CJCS or the National Command Authorities. Interpretation of ROE demands skills that are well-honed in the legal profession and specifically cultivated within the "judge" function of legal support to operations. Thus, while the commander will ultimately determine what a rule issued by higher headquarters demands of his command, OPLAW JAs will provide expert assistance.

    The interpretive expertise of the OPLAW JA begins from a thorough familiarity with the SROE. It relies upon aggressive research to find all operations plans, orders, messages, standing operating procedures, treaties and coalition documents, directives, and regulations that purport to establish or change the ROE. It demands careful organization of these documents (chronologically, by issuing headquarters) to determine which is authoritative on which point. It requires skill at reconciling two rules that appear to contradict by considering broader imperatives contained in the text of the rules or other guidance as well as clearheaded reasoning from any available precedents as to how the contradictory rules have been interpreted in the past. It presumes intimate knowledge of the "facts" of the military operation and sufficient knowledge of staff organization and procedures to gather information from those who can provide additional needed facts.

    The OPLAW JA's contribution to the interpretation of ROE sometimes requires more than the skills of textual construction and factual analysis, however. In some situations, the OPLAW JA will be the sole member of the ROE Planning Cell, the DOCC, or the staff possessing the necessary training in objectivity and impartiality to state unpleasant interpretations of a higher headquarter's ROE. This requires constant situational awareness made possible through secure and nonsecure communication nodes, mobility, the commander's task organization of placing OPLAW JAs in command posts as discussed in earlier chapters.

8.4.2    Draft

    In some operations, ROE will be top-driven, meaning that a higher echelon commander-for instance a CINC-establishes ROE that must be disseminated verbatim to all lower echelons. The preference of military doctrine, because it preserves lower echelon initiative, is for ROE to be top-fed, meaning that a higher-echelon commander establishes rules for immediate subordinate echelons. These subordinate echelons in turn disseminate ROE that are consistent with those of higher headquarters but tailored to the particular unit's mission. These methods may also coexist within a particular operation, as some rules may be top-driven while others may be subject to discretion on the manner of dissemination and thus top-fed.

    When the rules are not top-driven, commanders and staffs from theater level down to brigade draft ROE for their commands. At theater and JTF levels, the drafting of ROE results in Appendix 8 (Rules of Engagement) to Annex C (Operations) of the operations plan (OPLAN) or operations order (OPORD), in accordance with the Joint Operations Planning and Execution System (JOPES), Joint Publication 5-03. At corps, division, and brigade level, the drafting of ROE results in Annex E to the OPLAN or OPORD in accordance with Army doctrine. Army doctrine also calls for the integration of ROE in the coordinating instructions subparagraph of paragraph 3 (Execution) of the body of the OPLAN or OPORD.

    JOPES and Army doctrine provide minimal guidance as to the contents and format of these ROE documents. Standing operating procedures (SOPs), which exist in part to enable OPLANs and OPORDs to be brief, frequently provide extensive content and format guidance. This guidance, in turn, typically draws heavily upon the SROE, incorporating both standing rules and supplemental rules according to a command-specific format that is periodically updated and continuously trained. Appendix E to Enclosure B of the SROE contains a message format by which CINCs request and receive supplemental ROE.

    The drafting of ROE in the context of multinational operations presents additional challenges. The SROE state that United States forces assigned to the operational control (OPCON) of a multinational force will follow the ROE of the multinational force unless otherwise directed by the National Command Authorities (NCA). The SROE further state that United States forces will be assigned and remain OPCON to a multinational force only if the combatant commander and higher authority determine that the ROE for that multinational force are consistent with the policy guidance on unit self-defense and with the rules for individual self-defense contained in this document. When U.S. forces, under United States OPCON, operate in conjunction with a multinational force, reasonable efforts will be made to effect common ROE. If such ROE cannot be established, U.S. forces will exercise the right and obligation of self-defense contained in the SROE while seeking guidance from the appropriate combatant command.

    Participation in multinational operations may be complicated by varying national obligations derived from international agreements; i.e., other members in a coalition may not be signatories to treaties that bind the United States, or they may be bound by treaties to which the United States is not a party. United States forces still remain bound by U.S. treaty obligations even if the other members in a coalition are not signatories to a treaty and need not adhere to its terms.

    A multinational partner's domestic law, policy, and social values may also effect multinational planning at the strategic and operational level. Lessons learned from recent multinational exercises and operations reflect significant differences in how various countries understand and view the application of military force through the ROE. These factors can severely limit or expand a Multinational Commander's ability to use a national contingent's capabilities. Legal advisors at all levels of planning can assist in the interpretation and drafting of ROE.

    The United States places an importance on the ROE that other nations may not share, attaches meaning to terms with which other nations' forces may not be familiar, and implements ROE within a context of doctrine that may differ markedly from that of other nations. When operating with forces from non-English-speaking countries, these differences will be accentuated. Energetic participation by operational lawyers in the drafting process helps ensure that final ROE products reflect the legitimate interests of all sides. In such circumstances, United States forces benefit by having a completed draft (i.e., the SROE) available as a basis for discussion. When developing ROE in conjunction with the United Nations, diplomatic or policy constraints occasionally dictate language peculiar to United Nations operations. In these cases, the availability of a complete, preferred alternative (again, the SROE) give United States forces a medium with which to communicate their concerns.

    The sound drafting of ROE will adhere to several principles:

  • Consider the METT-TC. The mission will drive the ROE, and as an operation unfolds in phases, the mission may trigger significant shifts in the ROE. The existence of enemy forces or other threats will change the ROE from conduct-based rules to status-based rules with respect to those threats that have been declared hostile forces. The terrain will limit the feasibility of certain force options. The capabilities and level of training of friendly troops will determine whether certain ROE need to be spelled out in the order. The amount of time available may dictate both what force options can be used and what preparations can be made to implement a particular rule. The presence or absence of civilians will inevitably raise questions about whom friendly forces can protect under the ROE.

  • Push Upward on the Drafting Process. The SROE provides the means to request supplementals. Use such requests. If the METT-TC suggests a ROE that is not contained in the higher headquarters annex, push a suggested rule to the higher headquarters for approval. Keep in mind, however, that the SROE are permissive, as discussed above.

  • Avoid Restating Strategy and Doctrine. ROE should not be used as the means to state strategy or doctrine. A common mistake of the inexperienced is to attempt to use the ROE annex to accomplish something for which an entire system exists in Army doctrine.

  • Avoid Restating the Law of War. ROE should not restate the law of war. Commanders may desire to emphasize an aspect of the law of war that is particularly relevant to a specific operation (e.g., see Desert Storm ROE regarding cultural property), but they should not include an extensive discussion of the Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions.

  • Avoid Restating Tactics. Because the purposes of ROE (political, legal, military) are sometimes difficult to discern, a boundary line drawn upon an operations overlay may be the result of a commander's concept of operations while simultaneously transmitting a rule of engagement stemming from political considerations. Still, many phase lines, control points, and other fire and tactical control measures have no meaningful connection to political or legal considerations. These measures belong in other portions of the OPLAN or OPORD, not in the ROE.

  • Avoid Safety-Related Restrictions. ROE should not deal with safety-related restrictions. Certain weapons require specific safety-related, pre-operation steps. These should not be detailed in the ROE, but may appear in the tactical or field SOP.

  • Avoid Excessively Qualified Language. ROE are useful and effective only when understood, remembered, and readily applied under stress. Well formulated ROE anticipate the circumstances of an operation and provide unambiguous guidance to the soldier, sailor, airman and marine before he confronts a threat.

8.4.3    Disseminate

    The OPLAN or OPORD annex is only the minimum means of disseminating the ROE. The annex at each echelon will build upon the command's SOP, which is the primary, continuous means of disseminating those ROE that tend to appear in successive operations. Various methods effectively capture dissemination across a command. The Commander, S3/G3/J3, and SJA must determine its system on quickly and efficiently disseminating changes in the ROE and train its staff and subordinate commanders accordingly.

    When particular ROE issued by higher headquarters are not anticipated in the TACSOP, the OPORD annex must state these rules outright, without reference to an ROE menu item. Also, the commander and staff must provide mission-specific ROE training for deploying soldiers. Judge advocates must be prepared to assist in this training. While never a substitute for training, an ROE card is often helpful as a ready reference to soldiers at the lowest level-this is done in virtually every instance.

8.4.4    Train

    ROE must be disseminated throughout the force and reinforced by training and rehearsal. Soldiers execute in the manner they train; they will carry out their tasks in compliance with the ROE when trained to do so. In today's operations, where a single soldier's action can change not only the tactical but the strategic and political setting, it is vital that commanders and judge advocates disseminate and train ROE to all lowest levels. All training opportunities should reinforce ROE and teach soldiers how to apply the basic rules of self-defense. Individual and unit preparation for specific missions must incorporate training that challenges soldiers to apply mission-specific ROE. In crisis response situations, ROE training may consist of leaders and soldiers receiving and training on the mission-specific ROE en route to the departure airfield. In that case, the knowledge gained on the basic rules of self-defense and scenario-specific, situational ROE during past scheduled training enables commanders and soldiers to better understand and adhere to the crisis situation ROE. When preparing for missions such as peacekeeping or disaster relief, commanders should remember that these missions normally require soldiers to use greater restraint and discipline than in offensive or defensive operations.

    ROE should always include situational training. This situational training should challenge soldiers in employing weapons, levels of force, and other ROE. Situational training exercises (STXs) focus on one or a small group of tasks- within a particular mission scenario-and require that soldiers practice until the tasks can be executed to some pre-established standard. Trainers refer to these scenarios unofficially as "vignettes," and to this type of training as "lane training." To conduct STXs on ROE, a commander, judge advocate, or other trainer places a soldier in a particular simulated operational scenario and then confronts him with an event, such as the crashing of a traffic checkpoint barrier by a speeding vehicle. The trainer evaluates the soldier's response, and afterward discusses alternative responses available within the ROE. The STX brings to life abstract rules contained in written ROE, giving the soldier concrete terms of reference within which to determine his response. In this way, the soldier achieves the balance between initiative and restraint so important to success, particularly in MOOTW. The SJA must be prepared to assist in providing ROE training, including vignette-driven training, and to ensure that subordinate SJAs are involved in providing similar assistance for ROE training.

    The SROE articulate baseline principles that are useful in conducting soldier training within STXs, prior to a deployment. These principles can be restated within an acronym that permits individual common task training (CTT) by establishing a standard against which to evaluate the soldier's response during the STX. One training device that captures the baseline SROE principles is the mnemonic RAMP. The box below outlines the elements of R-A-M-P, which when used within a context of repetitive and varied situational training, inculcates effective responses under conditions of stress. Because R-A-M-P principles incorporate necessity and proportionality, RAMP training provides a solid framework upon which mission-specific ROE training can build. Nevertheless, legal personnel must assist soldiers in understanding that R-A-M-P self-defense principles are not a substitute for mission-specific ROE training.

    In all ongoing operations, but particularly in volatile and rapidly changing peace operations, commanders must conduct continuous refresher training. Commanders in Bosnia effectively developed and updated situational ROE training based on actual recorded events that took place in the theater of operations from previous weeks. In the gray zone surrounding ROE in peace enforcement operations, commanders, with their OPLAW JAs, must continually hone their soldiers' ability to balance initiative and restraint.


R - Return Fire with Aimed Fire.
Return force with force. You always have the right to repel hostile acts with necessary force.
A - Anticipate Attack. Use force if, but only if, you see clear indicators of hostile intent.
M - Measure the amount of Force that you use, if time and circumstances permit. Use only the amount of force necessary to protect lives and accomplish the mission.
P - Protect with deadly force only human life, and property designated by your commander. Stop short of deadly force when protecting other property.


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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias