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The physical layout of a TOC can have a significant impact on how effective the TOC functions. The layout contributes to how efficiently messages are passed from one staff section to another, and how easily sections communicate with one another. This section describes techniques that have proven useful to units at the CTCs.

OBSERVATION: There is no approved technique on how a TOC should be configured. O/Cs at all the CTCs have seen numerous techniques that work well and others that did not work well. However, most TOCs that functioned effectively had three factors in common. They are:

  • A high degree of organization.
  • Configured in a manner that was functional to the unit and did not segregate staff sections.
  • Planning areas were segregated from TOC briefing and operations areas.

DISCUSSION: The common factors listed above are not surprising or difficult to attain. However, OCs report that finding a TOC that employs all three factors is more difficult than one would imagine.


Organization is the simplest to correct, but the most difficult to maintain. This entails nothing more than employing the old saying, "A place for everything, and everything in its place." How much time have you seen someone spend searching for the roll of 100-MPH tape, while the S2 is standing there holding an enemy SITEMP as he begins the mission analysis brief? This problem, or some form of it, has happened to each of us at one time or another. This may sound ridiculous, but if you watched and monitored the amount of time units spent in similar situations, you would probably be surprised.

TTP: Develop packing lists for supply footlockers and field desks. Once developed, use and enforce them.


Functionality of the TOC refers to how it is physically configured. A BDM study conducted at JRTC in FY 93 determined that TOC operations were better facilitated when the S2 and FSE were both positioned beside the S3. The study also determined that the synchronization of fires was most effective when the FSE and S2 were beside one another. Who is physically positioned where in the TOC is determined by the factors of METT-T. In some environments, such as a peace enforcement or disaster relief operations, you may want the civil affairs officer to be positioned beside the S3/S2 instead of the FSE.

The JRTC/BDM study also identified that when the XO or battle captain was centrally located inside the TOC, it was normally more functional. This technique facilitated more efficient message dissemination, integration, and synchronization of resources.

The last point to be discussed involves miscellaneous activities occurring inside the TOC. Often the TOC becomes a place to congregate, eat an MRE, or to get warm during cold weather. There is a time and a place for each of these requirements, but inside the TOC is not the answer. The most effective TOCs are those that ruthlessly enforce these standards.

TTP: Different environments and conditions may require different TOC configurations. Be flexible, and anticipate these requirements. Some units utilize a red, yellow, and green TOC configuration system. This system is outlined below.

The red TOC configuration is used most during offensive operations. All equipment is stored in vehicles and trailers. The command and control vehicles are then parked in a diamond configuration with the rear bumpers side by side. The operations map is then placed between the vehicles, with ramps or tailgates down. Staff officers then gather around the map to monitor the tactical situation. This technique facilitates rapid movement as necessary.

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The yellow TOC configuration is used most during defensive operations when displacement is expected. All equipment is packed with the exception of one tent. This tent contains the current operations map and charts required to track the battle. This configuration can be dismantled and moved in a short amount of time.

The green configuration is the TOC setup in its entirety. This configuration is normally used during the planning process and when rapid displacement is not expected.

  • When developing your SOPs, consider where elements such as civil affairs, PSYOPS and other nontraditional sections would be positioned. Do not wait until they show up to determine where they will go.

  • Keep your XO and battle captain centrally located in your TOC.

  • Keep traffic in and through your TOC to a bare minimum.

  • Reproduction equipment requires significant amounts of space to store and operate. Some units have dedicated a trailer or 5-ton truck to reproduction equipment and operations. These techniques have proved to be very useful. This will not only save space in the TOC, but also will facilitate more efficient reproduction operations. A dedicated trailer or vehicle with pre-made storage containers prevents unnecessary wear and tear of equipment as well.

  • For additional ideas on how to set up your TOC, see the following sources:

    Chapter 1, FM 71-123, Tactics and Techniques for Combined Arms Heavy Forces: Armored Brigade, Battalion/Task Force, and Company/Team, Sep 92.

    Appendix B, FM 7-20, The Infantry Battalion, Apr 92.

Planning and Briefing Areas

If your planning is going to be effective, planners must have a work area that minimizes distractions. This area must be separate from the current operations cell and, if possible, from the briefing area. Due to limited resources, it is very difficult for a battalion to establish three separate areas solely dedicated to operations, planning, and briefing. However, most units have resources to establish an area that doubles as a planning and briefing area.


  • Use a separate tent as your plans/briefing area. Some units use the older frame tent as a briefing or planning area.

  • During periods of good weather, conduct briefings outside when feasible to free space for your planning cell.

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