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Page 2-6, FM 100-5 says that "In battle, initiative requires the decentralization of decision authority to the lowest practical level." Decentralization, however, "risks some loss of synchronization," and commanders must "balance these competing risks, recognizing that loss of immediate control is preferable to inaction."

PROBLEM: Decentralization during OOTW operations too often result in squads operating without a coordinated purpose, or the ability to mass and concentrate, and without mutual support and adequate sustainability.

RESULT: Consistent loss of synchronization.

SCENARIO for a Company or Company/Team

Operation: Same Peace Enforcement, as part of 1st Battalion.

Purpose: Same as above, at battalion level.

Supporting effort: Designate one company or Co/Tm to accomplish one of the specified or implied tasks that support the accomplishment of the essential task, i.e., the main effort.

Technique: The supporting effort must be linked to the main effort.

The subordinate element planning and executing the supporting effort must clearly understand that if the supporting effort fails, the success of the main effort is jeopardized.

CONDITION: Within Area of Operations Alpha 1 (AO A1), there are belligerent forces close enough to K-town to potentially interfere with the main effort to clear K-town.

ASSESSMENT: To maximize the probability of the main effort's success, belligerent forces in AO A1 must be prevented from interfering with the main effort.

Company-level Restated mission: Company B clears AO A1 NLT 241200 Sep xx to prevent interference with the main effort in K-town.

Technique: The company commander conducting the supporting effort must designate a main effort within his company.


Step 1: Determine the decisive point within AO A1.

Checkpoint Romeo is on the main road leading to K-town and serves as the primary means of belligerent traffic in and out of K-town.

Step 2: Designate a main effort.

The company commander decides to use a platoon (+) at Checkpoint Romeo as the main effort.

Step 3: Platoon-level Restated mission: 1st platoon (+) establishes Checkpoint Romeo NLT 231200 Sep xx to block belligerent traffic that could interfere with the battalion main effort in K-town.

Step 4: Designate supporting efforts.

Company commander wants to support the main effort by securing the flanks of Checkpoint Romeo. He divides AO A1 in half and assigns two other platoons missions in support of the company main effort.

Step 5: Platoon-level Restated missions:

-2d platoon (-) clears AO East NLT 230600 Sep xx to prevent interference with the company main effort at Checkpoint Romeo.
-3d platoon clears AO West NLT 230600 Sep xx to prevent interference with the company main effort at Checkpoint Romeo.

NOTE: Hourly, one mobile patrol manned by MP PLT(-) covers MSN 1-2 and 1-9 sites. These patrols are escorted by Compton Police Dept. Cruiser.

Mission Matrix Chart

Figure 1. Example of a Typical Mission Matrix Chart

The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) successfully used the chart above during its involvement in quelling the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Specifically, the chart proved useful in monitoring the OOTW phenomenon of "mission creep." The 10th Mountain Division noted after its mission in Somalia that "mission creep is an invariable part of any operation." (10th Mountain, Operation RESTORE HOPE AAR, p. 49.) Mission creep occurs because of an undefined end state, coupled with a lack of mission focus and unclear definitions. (10th Mountain Operation RESTORE HOPE AAR, p. 34.)

Techniques for Using the Mission Matrix Chart

1) The chart provides a single picture of the tasks and resources committed and available.

EXAMPLE: If a commander's mission analysis indicates that a platoon is necessary to operate a given checkpoint, and only a squad is available, the commander should not accept the mission without the necessary resourcing.

2) Include all tasks on the matrix as well as liaison requirements. This will prevent the commander from knowingly spreading himself too thin.

3) The chart provides an effective graphic aid to instantly depict unit status to higher headquarters.

From 10th Mountain Operation RESTORE HOPE AAR, p. 35: Commanders must drive mission statements, task organizations, and end states from the bottom up. . . . This driving from the bottom will either get ideas approved, or it will force higher headquarters to give more detailed guidance on what they expect to be accomplished. Using this Mission Matrix Chart can preclude units from being overtasked when they are not resourced to execute.

4) The chart can assist in task prioritization. Setting priorities will enhance identification of essential tasks, and, therefore, the designation of the main and supporting efforts. Priorities will also determine which tasks cannot be accomplished with the resources at hand.


In the original Peace Enforcement scenario, the Battalion/Task Force had a UN mandate to 1) separate belligerents; 2) protect civilians; 3) assist PWs and interned noncombatants; 4) conduct mine awareness training; and 5) assist NGOs.

The mission analysis of these requirements placed separate belligerents as the essential task for this operation, and that is what the battalion was resourced to specifically accomplish.

It is likely that in the course of establishing the buffer zone and clearing it of belligerents, the other parts of the mandate could be achieved as a by-product.

The use of common terminology and the designating and linking of main and supporting efforts can greatly enhance OOTW mission analysis. Successful mission analysis, in turn, leads to successful mission planning, preparation and execution.

Table of Contents
Designating Main Effort
Chapter 3 - NTC Trends

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