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PLATOON TROOP-LEADING PROCEDURES (TLP)
by SFC Leland E. Asbury

Question: How are missions accomplished?
Answer: Missions are accomplished through detailed planning, preparation, and aggressive execution.

Right on! The platoon leader must conduct detailed planning and preparation before each mission to achieve any measure of success during mission execution. The Army leadership knows this. That is why the Army developed an eight-step process for the platoon leader to follow called troop-leading procedures (TLP). Whether the situation requires offensive or defensive tactics, course of action development, or templating enemy actions, TLP can assist any leader in systematically developing plans to coincide with the next higher commander's intent.

The eight steps of TLP are described in various Army Field Manuals (FMs), such as:

  • FM 7-7, The Mechanized Infantry Platoon and Squad
  • FM 7-7J, The Mechanized Infantry Platoon and Squad-Bradley
  • FM 71-3, The Armored and Mechanized Infantry Brigade
  • FM 71-123, Tactics and Techniques for Combined Arms Heavy Forces

In addition, each Army career branch has other branch-specific FMs that address TLP. This vast source of information on TLP should initially ease the research problem for officers or NCOs when planning any mission. The references also demonstrate the significance of TLP in mission accomplishment and the importance placed on them by our Army. Yet with all the available sources and Army emphasis, various steps in the TLP are often overlooked or omitted, with less than desirable results. This article is a simplified discussion of the eight steps of TLP.

The eight steps of TLP are:

  • RECEIVE THE MISSION
  • ISSUE A WARNING ORDER
  • MAKE A TENTATIVE PLAN
  • START NECESSARY MOVEMENT
  • RECONNOITER
  • COMPLETE THE PLAN
  • ISSUE THE COMPLETE ORDER
  • SUPERVISE

YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!! Each TLP step is critical to the overall successful completion of the mission. If the platoon leader omits any step from the planning process, he greatly increases the odds that a mission will not accomplish its full objective or will result in the loss of soldiers and equipment.

Step one - Receive the Mission. Once staff planning is initiated from higher headquarters down through the chain of command to the platoon leader, information concerning the operational mission is gathered and disseminated. Commanders at all levels thoroughly analyze factors such as IPB and METT-TC (the "C" refers to civilians in some FMs). The initial operational analysis is also critically important for the engineer company commander because of the preparation of the engineer battlefield assessment (EBA) that must be included in the overall plan. If the company commander has not completed a full plan, he will still issue a warning order to the platoon leader.

a. The platoon leader begins his troop-leading procedures. In keeping with the rules of time management, the platoon leader uses 1/3 of his overall time for planning the operation.

b. The platoon leader's OPORD preparation is essential to the overall mission accomplishment. It must also be understandable to subordinate personnel. The backward or reverse planning sequence in planning for the mission is recommended.

c. Throughout the planning process, the platoon leader has the option of changing or refining the plan based on the tactical situation, as long as it follows the commander's intent for conducting the mission.

Step two - Issue a warning order. The platoon leader issues a warning order based on information received from the company commander's warning order or OPORD.

a. The platoon leader can present the order in any format. Refer again to the referenced FMs for good examples of the five paragraph OPORD.

b. As a minimum, the platoon should use the company or battalion TACSOP. The best method is a well-developed and rehearsed platoon SOP that covers preparation for offensive or defensive missions.

c. Whatever the mission, the platoon can begin work on its preparation by assessing equipment needs through the various military classes (i.e., Class I, III, IV, or V).

d. Every soldier in the platoon should have a specific task and purpose (identified in the platoon SOP) once the platoon leader has issued a warning order.

Step three - Make a tentative plan. The platoon leader considers the following while preparing the tentative plan:

  • MISSION ANALYSIS
    Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)
    Engineer Battlefield Assessment (EBA)
    Obstacle Intelligence (OBSTINTEL)
  • HIGHER MISSION AND INTENT (Two levels up)

a. The platoon leader must know what systems are available for his use and how to employ them. He must fully understand his own equipment and capabilities as well as those of his enemy.

b. Consider terrain analysis (to include OCOKA), weather, morale, and flexibility to react to last-minute changes. As the commander updates the platoon leader, the platoon leader, in turn, continually updates the platoon with FRAGOs.

c. Experience is a valuable asset for mental preparation. Knowing how soldiers are going to react to situations, based on past experiences, can help any young officer or NCO develop his plan.

d. During the planning process, the leader should have a strong "vision" of the enemy and understand the threat with available intelligence. The better the platoon leader understands the enemy, the greater his opportunity for success.

Step four - Start necessary movement. Even though it is listed as step four, necessary movement can begin as soon as the mission is received.

a. If movement is required, the platoon sergeant, with the assistance of squad leaders, can move the platoon to a new tactical assembly area (TAA). This allows the platoon leader more time to prepare his order and graphics.

b. At the new TAA, preparations continue with pre-combat checks (PCC). This is a good opportunity to conduct PCCs on squad equipment by using the platoon SOP checklists and to certify squad rehearsals. If the platoon sergeant is unable to conduct squad inspections, the platoon SOP should designate someone else, such as the senior squad leader, for the task. In the offense, this is particularly important for mission success.

c. If platoon linkups are time driven, movements and time management become critical. Failure to plan or allow for ample movement time creates late linkups and results in late rehearsals, late PCCs, and various other events that will not be accomplished on time or to standard.

Time management is mission essential!

Step five - Reconnoiter (conduct reconnaissance). This step, although listed fifth, can occur at any time and as often as possible during TLP. Unfortunately, reconnaissance is often overlooked or omitted. Either the risk of enemy contact is too great, or establishing additional orders for reconnaissance parties is too time consuming. Sometimes the coordination is set, but the information retrieved from the task force scouts is not sufficient enough to assist the commander or platoon leaders.

a. A leader's reconnaissance must happen! The more of the obstacle the leader sees firsthand, the greater the success of the mission.

b. From the information gained by the leader's reconnaissance, more accurate terrain models can be built and greater detail can be given when the platoon leader is giving the OPORD.

Step six - Complete the plan.

a. With reconnaissance complete, movement accomplished, and the initial plan established, the platoon leader should have most of the information that is needed to finish writing the full OPORD. Any additional information on task organization should have been finalized before now.

b. Any additional resources needed should be enroute or already on-hand so the platoon leader, when briefing the OPORD, has positive control of additional equipment or manpower.

c. Graphics must be finished before the OPORD is briefed to the platoon and quickly handed down to squad leader level. The CSS graphics must include NBC decontamination points, an aid station location, and platoon and company casualty collection points.

Step seven - Issue the order. If movements were conducted late or linkups were late, the mission timeline will suffer. A platoon leader trying to rush through an OPORD will inadvertently leave pertinent information out.

a. When complete, distribute the OPORD with graphics to each squad and team leader. Also include a terrain model or sandtable to enhance visualization of the terrain.

b. Minimize distractions. Having subordinate leaders in the right mindset to receive the order is critical to allow them to collect and retain all of the information presented at the OPORD brief.

c. If possible, present the OPORD with the terrain in the background to enhance visualization of the mission.

d. After the OPORD has been presented, the platoon leader ensures that the information has been disseminated to every soldier. Backbriefs to the platoon leader should reveal any portion or portions of the OPORD that were missed or not fully understood. Everyone leaving the OPORD should have a clear understanding of the mission.

e. Contingencies need special consideration. If, during the OPORD brief, a potential activity is discussed that has no clear plan, subordinates can help develop a contingency plan, unless the activity is already specified in the platoon SOP. If a topic discussed during the OPORD brief needs more consideration or guidance from higher headquarters, do not allow a hasty decision. If at all possible, allow a follow-up period for clarity on situations and techniques needed to accomplish the mission.

Step eight - Supervise. Rehearse, rehearse, and when finished, rehearse again.

a. Plan time for redundant rehearsals.

b. After each rehearsal, conduct an after-action review (AAR). If conducting platoon rehearsals with attachments, ensure that the platoon leader/sergeant supervises the AAR with attachments. When conducting the AAR, get the troops involved. By this time all soldiers should have a strong understanding of the concept of the operation.

c. When rehearsing the mission, ensure that the rehearsal lane coincides with what was briefed during the OPORD brief. Based on the latest intelligence, the rehearsal lane should match (as much as possible) what will be encountered during the actual mission. Do not allow for complacency. If there is information about the terrain and the obstacle that can be placed in the rehearsal lane to add realism, ensure that obstacle information is built into the lane. A company-level rehearsal is of limited value if the enemy obstacle does not resemble what was reconnoitered or templated.

d. If time constraints do not allow for a full rehearsal, backbriefs, at a minimum, must be conducted. A fair understanding of the mission can be accomplished with key personnel by walking troops through the mission on the terrain model and asking questions. The backbrief is never a substitute for a rehearsal, but is an acceptable recourse when time is limited.

e. Conduct final pre-combat inspections (PCIs). If there are any last-minute concerns, they should be satisfied during this time.

CONCLUSION

Some steps of the troop-leading procedures require more development than others. Regardless of the mission, the platoon leader must not, for any reason, omit any step from the TLP. At the National Training Center, the observer/controllers (O/Cs) often report that lack of rehearsals, little reconnaissance, incomplete operation order preparation, late and unsynchronized movements, and inadequate basic supervisory skills have all contributed to negative and unfortunate results. Home Station training must emphasize TLP in daily operations. Units that train the TLP to proficiency at Home Station are more successful in mission execution at NTC and will be better positioned for success on the real battlefield.


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