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FA Battery Troop-Leading Procedures:
The Next Step

by CPT Thomas Kelly, Fire Support Division Observer/Controller

TROOP-LEADING PROCEDURES
  • RECEIVE THE MISSION
  • ISSUE THE WARNING ORDER
  • MAKE A TENTATIVE PLAN
  • INITIATE MOVEMENT
  • CONDUCT RECONNAISSANCE
  • COMPLETE THE PLAN
  • ISSUE THE ORDER
  • SUPERVISE

FIGURE 1

Battery commanders continue to improve their use of troop-leading procedures (TLPs) at the National Training Center (NTC). This simple eight-step process (see figure 1), when modified for artillery battery operations (see figure 2), provides the battery commander with a mental framework to organize battery mission preparation and execution. Despite the observed improvements, battery commanders still have not incorporated key TLP steps into their standing operating procedures (SOPs). As a result, they have to analyze every mission to specify the detailed checks and rehearsals (a.k.a. Pre-Combat Checks (PCCs)) they want the battery to accomplish before the fight; they do not use a concise but detailed warning order (WARNO), and they have difficulty focusing section chiefs on their mission. Commanders need to add PCC checklists, a standard WARNO format, and a section "fill-in-the-blank" order to streamline their TLPs.

FIGURE 2

Not having PCC checklists in their SOPs forces commanders to either spend significant time specifying all the tasks to accomplish or their preparation guidance lacks enough details to be effective. To address this problem, the firing battery observer/controllers (O/Cs) have developed SOP PCC checklists to support the most common mission and survivability preparations a battery will have to execute (see Appendix A). By incorporating some version of these PCCs into a battery SOP, the commander gives himself a "tool box" of battery preparation steps that he can specify to his subordinates based on METT-T (Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain - Time). By having the PCC lists in the hands of all battery leaders, the commander can more efficiently communicate exactly what he wants done. It is easier to direct the section to complete the copperhead (CPHD) PCC than to individually specify all the subtasks required. Besides SOP PCCs, a standard WARNO format can help the commander quickly provide his battery the key information and direction to begin mission preparation even before completing the plan.

While there is no doctrinal standard WARNO format, there is some basic information an artillery battery WARNO should cover. The commander should provide general friendly and enemy situations and the battery mission. He must identify specific PCCs the unit will conduct in priority and identify the critical events (to include PCIs) on a timeline. Additionally, the commander must detail the logistic requirements and preparations required. Appendix B provides a mission analysis worksheet and a WARNO shell that can help focus his initial mission preparation and allow his unit to "begin movement" even before completing the plan. A good WARNO directs actions rather then simply passing information.

Once completing the battery plan, the commander must ensure that sections retain the minimum essential information. One technique that has been successful is a section fill-in-the-blank order. Having the section chiefs and other key leaders use a laminated format to fill in during the Commander's orders brief helps to ensure the leadership walks away with the information that is essential. It also helps the section chief as he briefs his soldiers. More importantly, it forces the commander to focus on battery-level information instead of information not pertinent to battery operations. At Appendix C is a sample battery order.



Clearance of Fires
Appendix A: Sample PCC Checklists



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