This chapter discusses three aspects of information management that units typically experience problems with during CTC rotations:
- information display techniques
- message handling
- battle tracking
The ability of a TOC to function effectively is largely due to its ability to manage information. This is not a simple task when considering the volumes of message traffic that pass through a battalion or brigade TOC daily. It is very easy for units to experience information overload unless they have simple and effective systems in place to receive and process information.
INFORMATION DISPLAY TECHNIQUES
OBSERVATION: Most units do not have an effective means of displaying information within the TOC to provide commanders and other key personnel a quick update of the unit's status.
DISCUSSION: A commander should be able to sit in front of his map board and get a complete situation report (SITREP) for his unit without asking the shift officer numerous questions. This will only happen if the unit has an effective system in place to visually display critical data.
Effective visual information display techniques have numerous advantages. First, they offer the commander a quick and easy means of getting a snap shot of his unit. Questions to the staff should be the exception rather than the norm. Also, they provide the staff with a quick and efficient means of processing information. These techniques minimize the passing of message slips between staff sections and making numerous entries in the staff journal.
The use of status boards or charts are normally applied during four phases of an operation. These phases are: planning, battle preparation, execution, and post battle. Identifying the required charts for each phase is difficult and may produce an abundance of charts if not managed carefully. Avoid having too many charts. TOO MANY CHARTS IS WORSE THAN TOO FEW CHARTS. Not only are they overwhelming inside the TOC, but they require room to transport.
Below is a recommended starting point to assist in identifying what information should be displayed and monitored. Not all of the information or charts listed below are required or recommended.
- Specified, implied, and mission-essential tasks.
- Higher headquarters mission statement and intent.
- Weather data.
- Constraints and limitations.
- Critical facts and assumptions.
- Time line (include expected enemy events).
- Restated mission.
- Task organization.
- Commander s guidance.
- COA development sketch.
- Synchronization matrix.
- Wargame worksheet.
- COA comparison.
- Decision support matrix.
Battle Preparation Phase
- CL III/V status.
- Subordinate units order issue and rehearsal status.
- PCI tracking.
- Task organization completion status.
- Maintenance status.
- Combat power.
- Status of breach assets and rehearsals.
- Defensive Operations:
- CL III/IV/V status.
- Obstacle completion status.
- Combat power.
- Survivability status.
- Engagement area (EA) and repositioning rehearsals.
- Target reference point (TRP) emplacement.
- Subordinate units order issue and rehearsal status.
Note: This type of information (Battle Preparation Phase) lends itself to one large chart used to track numerous tasks and subordinate units (See Appendix A for examples).
- Combat power.
- Unit locations and activities.
- CL III/V status.
- Enemy contacts, locations, and movements.
- Enemy BDA.
- Main aid station and forward aid station locations.
- Brigade or division assets in your sector (GSR, MPs, etc.)
- Status of adjacent units.
Post Battle Phase
- Unit equipment readiness.
- Unit personnel strength.
- Resupply status of CL III/V/IX.
- Unit locations.
- Consolidations and reorganization status.
- Maintenance and casualty collection status.
TTP: Units that have and utilize charts tend to manage large amounts of information better than those that do not. Charts alone will not make you successful. You must first identify what critical information must be tracked. A TOC cannot process every piece of information that it receives, especially during the battle. Units must prioritize and train their personnel to distinguish between critical information and routine information. Charts have proved to be useful in handling some types of information. Before developing charts, consider the following:
- Determine what critical information must be tracked and displayed. Avoid information and chart overload.
- Charts used during the planning process significantly reduce briefing time.
- Build a box to store and transport charts. This reduces unnecessary wear and tear, and also helps maximize use of available cargo space.
- Keep a miniature version of all charts in a notebook for use while moving. This will facilitate maintaining an accurate status during offensive operations or while moving the TOC.
- Some units use 36"x18" boards; others use 8.5"x11" sheets of paper in document protectors. Both techniques are fine and have proven successful. The only draw back to the small sheets is that they are difficult to read from a distance while conducting a briefing or wargaming session.
- Use your charts in garrison to discover their value and to train your personnel on their use. Conduct AARs on your tracking systems. Identify what is useful and what needs to be improved.
- Appendix A contains sample charts.
OBSERVATION: Units who have established methods and procedures for processing messages and other types of information are more effective than those who do not.
DISCUSSION: Units at the CTCs typically receive, process, and disseminate information rather efficiently during slow-paced operations. Units achieve this success even though they normally do not have established procedures to ensure uniformity and efficiency. However, during fast-paced operations, the end result is significantly different. Typically the unit is so overwhelmed with information during the peak of the battle that it quickly becomes bogged down. Once the TOC is overwhelmed, the first function to disappear or be degraded is the analysis of the situation by the staff.
Let's first determine what happens as a message is received in the TOC. Before we discuss this, review the basic functions of the TOC. This will assist us in determining what must happen as a message is received. As you recall they are: receive information, distribute information, analyze information, recommend, and integrate/synchronize resources. To assist us in understanding this process, a tactical scenario will be used to explain and identify techniques used to process information.
Place: National Training Center
Mission: Mechanized Battalion Task Force conducts a defense in sector.
Situation: TF Scout platoon screening forward of TF front; TF elements preparing defensive positions and conducting local security patrols.
|1905||Scout OP observes suspected enemy dismounted movement vic. boundary between TM B and TM C.||1. Scout Platoon Ldr reports on TF O& net; requests mortar fire on enemy grid location.|
|1906||TF S2 RTO receives the report.||1.
RTO writes SPOTREP using SALUTE format (on pre- printed form that produces
multiple copies); keeps one copy and hands other copies to Battle CPT; records
msg in S2 journal and passes msg to S2 NCOIC. |
2. S2 NCOIC plots report and begins analysis of enemy SITEMP previously prepared.
3. Battle CPT reads msg; gives copy to S3 shift NOC and TF FSE NCO; plots report on his map.
|1911||Battle CPT realizes fire msn located vic boundary between TM B and TM C, within 800m of friendly location.||1.
Battle CPT directs FSE NCO to tell Mortar Pldr to be prepared to fire the mission.
2. Battle CPT directs S3 Shift NCO to contact Tms B & C to verify their locations for clearance of fires.
3. S3 shift NCO logs rpt to journal; posts report on S3 operations overlay, and clears the grid with TMs B & C.
|1919||Battle CPT gets confirmation on location for clearance of fires.||1. Battle CPT directs the FSE to notify the mortars to fire the mission and stand by for adjustments from the Scout Pldr.|
|1927||Analysis by S2 NCOIC, Battle CPT, FSE NCO and TF XO confirms that enemy dismounted patrol location did not conform to his SITEMP.||1.
Battle CPT recommends to TF XO that TM B conduct a mounted patrol through the
area after the fire mission is complete. |
2. TF XO directs the S2 to relook the overall enemy situation and report back with his analysis in NLT 30 minutes.
3. XO discusses the situation with the TF commander and recommends TM B conduct the patrol. TF commander concurs.
4. Battle CPT contacts TM B to execute the patrol mission.
This scenario is an example of what might occur in the TOC. Although this example is rather basic, critical actions occurred that involved numerous staff sections and personnel within each staff section.
Here are some of the actions that occurred by TOC function:
- RTOs received report and recorded it on pre-printed message forms.
- RTOs logged message in duty journal.
- Staff sections plot report on map.
- Battle Captain reviews and distributes report to all applicable sections.
- Battle Captain reviews and plots report.
- Battle Captain realized that fire mission is vicinity boundary between two units, and identifies need to notify TM B/C for clearance of fires.
- S2, X0, Battle Captain, and other staff officers continue to analyze enemy situation.
- Battle Captain recommends TF conduct mounted patrol throughout area upon completion of fire mission.
- Clears fires with TM B/C.
- Integrates mortar platoon into mission.
The diagram below may help to visualize how the process may occur.
TTP: First identify how specific types of messages and information must be processed within the TOC. Not all information is processed the same. After identifying the different types of messages to be processed, determine who conducts the actions required. (See Section II, TOC Functions, and Section III, Duties and Responsibilities.) Lastly, practice the process. Only repetition will increase the efficiency of processing information within the TOC. As the efficiency of the staff increases while practicing, slowly begin to increase the volume of the traffic. Additionally:
- Use pre-printed message forms that automatically produce multiple copies.
- Keep noise level in the TOC to a minimum. The most effective TOCs are very quiet (even during the battle). RTOs using headsets will help.
OBSERVATION: Units who are successful in battle tracking have established systems in place and enforce them.
DISCUSSION: Information display, message handling, and battle-tracking techniques are inseparable. This observation integrates the techniques and procedures discussed previously in the chapter. You cannot effectively track the battle unless you can handle basic message traffic, and have an effective means of displaying or recording information. Most units do well tracking the battle during slow-paced operations. What separates functional TOCs from dysfunctional TOCs is their ability to track the battle effectively during fast-paced operations.
The initial problem that units experience involves identification of what information to track. This area is already discussed in detail in the Information Display Techniques section. This is the most critical step in developing an effective battle-tracking system. There is such a thing as tracking too little/much information. By tracking too much information, a TOC will get bogged down by information of little or no significance. When this occurs, critical messages are often lost in the process.
The next challenge becomes, how does the TOCs process the information once they receive it. Experience shows that TOCs normally receive the right types and amounts of information, but they do not have a system to process it. This system may include the use of charts, overlays, matrices, or some other means of recording or processing the information.
Another problem units have involves information, activities, and locations regarding both friendly and enemy units. Often a report is received in the TOC that needs to be posted onto a map with additional information that needs to be posted elsewhere (such as a journal or log). This situation creates confusion and often results in loss of critical information. The unit location may get posted on the map, but the description of what the unit is doing often gets lost in a pile of similar SPOTREPs. The "activity" portion of the SPOTREP is often the most critical. This is especially true while attempting to track an attacking enemy. A technique that has worked for some units involves developing unit symbol stickers that can be applied to a map, and also a SPOTREP/activity chart. To explain how this technique is used, we will refer back to our tactical situation.
As you recall from the previous example, the Blue TF is defending against an attacking enemy. The unit has completed its preparation of the defense, and has already made contact with the enemy CRPs. The enemy main body formations have not been observed. Activity within the TOC is slowly approaching its peak. However, an untrained observer would not realize what is going on due to the lack of typical yelling and blaring radios within the TOC. The TF XO and battle captain have complete control of the situation. Radio volumes are relatively low and RTOs are using headsets. Instead of yelling, individuals are walking over to the appropriate individuals and either passing or getting information as required. The XO and battle captain are sitting in front of the operations map. The XO is focused on the big picture, while the battle captain is focused on supervising the activities of only S3 section personnel and assisting the XO when required.
The S3 RTO receives a SPOTREP from the scout platoon leader, now on the battalion command net, who reports observing over 30 enemy combat vehicles moving west to east. The RTO quickly records the information using the pre-printed message form. The XO and battle captain monitor the report and immediately realize the significance of the report. The battle captain takes the remaining copies of the report and passes a copy to the S2 and FSE. The S3 RTO passes his copy of the message to his shift NCO. Normally the shift NCO would log the message in the staff journal, but due to the lack of time, he posts the message on a butcher board positioned between the S3 and S2 map boards (Blue remarks indicate friendly information; Red indicates enemy). The message is then placed in a folder and will be recorded in the journal when time permits after the battle. The S2 pulls an enemy battalion-sized sticker out of his binder where he has stickers premade for the various types of enemy units he expects to plot. He assigns and places a number on the sticker that corresponds to a number he will annotate on the butcher board. As the situation continues to develop, combat power reports, friendly LOGREPs, and enemy BDA, will be updated on charts and posters positioned throughout the TOC. Journals will not be used until time is available to record the reports. Messages are still logged using the message form, but the messages are now placed in a folder until later. This technique is extremely useful in the defense. Variations of this technique can be developed for offensive operations.
TTP: Tracking a fast-paced operation, such as an attacking motorized rifle regiment (MRR) at the NTC, is difficult at best, but is far from impossible. Implementing some of these recommended techniques may help:
- Identify and prioritize critical information to be tracked.
- Develop a system to track the information determined necessary to track. This system may include charts, matrices, unit symbols, or a butcher board.
- Develop a system to track both friendly and enemy units. Successful techniques include using color-coded cellophane stickers, color-coded thumb tacks, or color-coded dot-type stickers.
- Ensure all participants understand and use the system.
- Ensure everyone plays a role. Do not let two or three personnel attempt to accomplish this themselves while the other 10 people drink coffee.
- Keep the noise level in the TOC to an absolute minimum. This will contribute significantly to the overall effectiveness of the TOC.
- Do not let the entering of messages into a journal create a backlog in your information management system at the expense of posting maps, disseminating information, and receiving reports. If time does not facilitate updating your journal as you receive them, keep them in a folder and record them later.
- Develop standardized map boards so overlays can be easily and quickly transferred from map to map. An inexpensive metal eyelet device is available and can be used to assist with overlays.
- Consider laying your current operations map on a table instead of hanging it from a tent frame. This technique allows more personnel to gather around and view the map more effectively, instead of looking over someone else's shoulder.
Section III: Duties and Responsibilites of TOC Personnel
Section V: Liaison Officer (LO) Operations
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