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Chapter V


The terrain model is an excellent tool to plan and rehearse complex operations. Terrain models assist the key leaders to visualize how their actions affect the overall mission and develop a strong sychronization plan.

Time is the biggest factor which determines the terrain model size and complexity. Other factors may include a proper location to construct the model, security from enemy observation, and the commander's guidance. When picking a site for the terrain model, consider visitor parking and plan to get the VIPs from the LZ to the terrain model.

Large terrain models are preferred, with a scale of at least 12 inches per kilometer. A larger terrain model may be prepared if time permits. For an NTC central corridor terrain model, the area should be 45-50 yards long and 20-30 yards wide. An additional area around the terrain model of 5'-10' will be required for spectators and briefers. The area the Terrain Model represents is very important. The Terrain Model must represent the unit's entire Area of Influence to achieve the proper perspective.

Use small terrain models when less detail is required. If the attendee list is small, a GP medium may be used to cover the terrain model. This provides protection from inclement weather, shields the terrain model from enemy eyes, and allows the terrain model to be illuminated at night without compromising noise and light discipline.


Early coordination of engineer support is essential. An ACE or SEE will level the ground or dig runoff channels in case of rain. A method that works well is to pile the dirt along one side of the terrain model to create a viewing stand. This allows VIPs and commanders to look down over the entire model while giving the engineer a place to put the spoil.

The first step in preparing the terrain model is to place stakes in the four outermost corners. Ensure that the terrain model is large enough to incorporate all friendly and enemy graphics. For larger scale terrain models, tent pegs should be at equal distance around the edge of the terrain model. String will then be fitted to the pegs to form a grid network. Each resulting grid will represent a 2-kilometer square. This enables people to walk on the terrain model without becoming entangled in the string. For small-scale models, the resulting grids should represent a l-kilometer square.

Every grid line should be clearly marked at both ends using 5" x 8" index cards. The index card will be attached to either a wooden block or a tent peg. Having the grids marked aids in the construction of the model and keeps spectators oriented.

To ensure the spectators are oriented, have the model overlook the terrain on which the battle will take place. Ensure that the model is oriented in relationship to the true cardinal direction. Use a compass to properly orient the model. As a reminder to the spectators, place a north-seeking arrow next to the model. An arrow indicating wind direction must also be present.


Begin construction of the terrain model in one corner. Keep the number of people walking on the terrain model to a minimum to avoid damage. During the construction process, check continually to ensure that objects are not constructed in the wrong place. Mountains and hills will be constructed using dirt. The dirt must be patted and molded so that the finished product resembles the actual terrain feature. The elevation of the mountains and hills must be proportional.

The road network is one of the most identifiable features when replicating flat terrain. Roads are represented by the 1.5" engineer tape. Care must be taken to ensure the road networks are accurately duplicated.

Trash bags or butcher paper can be used to represent water. If available, spray the paper/plastic with blue paint. Green and gray spray paint may be used if blue is unavailable. Manmade objects are represented by butcher paper. Wooded areas are represented by twigs, needles, grass or green spray paint.

Use camouflage nets to represent woods (green side) or hills (brown side) when time is short, the soil will not allow digging or the rehearsal is conducted indoors.


After all the terrain features are constructed, friendly and enemy graphics must be added. These include, but are not limited to:

BoundariesCoordination points
Phase lines Release points
Engagement areas Battle positions
Routes NAIs/TAIs
Axes of advance Key terrain
Decision pointsAssembly areas
Friendly and enemy unit markers SBF/ABF positions
Friendly and enemy obstacles Objectives
Known or Templated Chemical StrikesBuilt-up areas

Mark boundaries and phase lines with 2' engineer tape. Mark EAs, BPs, routes, axis, AAs, and objectives with 1" engineer tape. Engineer tape must be staked to prevent it from being disturbed. Large nails placed through the tape into the ground in several spots works well.

Friendly and enemy graphics must be marked with 5"x8" index cards. Routes and phase lines must be marked at both ends. Attach the index card to a stake or wooden block.

Threat index cards will be written in red ink. Friendly cards are written in blue ink. A circled K will represent key terrain; red triangles will represent threat Ops. Obstacles (friendly and enemy) are marked in green, chemical strikes in yellow.


For terrain models that are not large enough to walk on, symbols must be available to represent units.

Using 1/4" plywood, cut out symbols of the unit combat vehicles and formations. For heavy units cut out 58 tanks or BFVs and 24 rectangles for the squads. Light units may want to use plastic army men.

Separate the blocks into units, i.e., company, scouts, mortars, etc. Paint one side of each set the unit color, i.e., A Co, red; B Co, blue; C Co, green. Paint the Company HQ the company color on one side and the battalion color on the other. Then paint either a bumper number or unit designation on each block. Paint the battalion HQ vehicles and unit blocks, i.e., HQ 6 and the TAC, the battalion color on both sides and mark them with a bumper number or unit designation.

Turn all the blocks over. Divide the blocks up by platoon or section. Paint each platoon or section a different color, i.e., 1st platoon, red; 2d platoon, white; 3d platoon, blue. Then mark them with unit the designation.

This color coding allows players to keep their own unit symbols in a box and bring them to rehearsals. At brigade-level rehearsals, units are represented by the symbol they brought with their battalion color. Later, at the battalion rehearsal, each company is represented by the commander's vehicle with the company color side turned up. If the Battalion rehearsal is down to platoon leader level, then the entire company can be represented by the colored blocks. These same pieces are then used at the company rehearsal with the platoon and section colors turned up.

btn_tabl.gif 1.21 K
btn_prev.gif 1.18 KChapter IV: Confirmation Briefs and Backbriefs
btn_next.gif 1.17 KAppendix A: Rehearsal Scripts

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