MAJ Jay Peterson and MAJ Rob Haycock
Success on a fluid battlefield depends upon a unit's ability to identify potential targets and employ combat power at the decisive point to eliminate the target. Synchronization meetings are a technique that commanders utilize during the LIC phase at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) to achieve this end. There are many terms units use to describe this process: synchronization meetings, synch drills, and targeting meetings are just a few. Whatever the units label the process, staffs intend to accomplish the same goal--synchronizing assets in a condensed timeline and sustaining the fight. Currently, units use the Decide, Detect, Deliver, and Assess (D3A) format to determine potential targets and synchronize assets.
Unfortunately, most units are unfamiliar with the conduct of these meetings and have no detailed home-station training plan to maintain a synchronized staff. Consequently, units deploy to the JRTC unclear as to who attends the meeting, what is a useable format, and what products each BOS must develop to support the synchronization meeting. This same unfamiliarity continues into the actual synchronization meeting and resulting FRAGO. The staff's inability to set the conditions for a successful synchronization meeting, integrated into the brigade and battalion battle rhythm, make it nearly impossible to synchronize assets and remain focused on the commander's intent. This article introduces one targeting tool that will help set the conditions for successful targeting--synchronizing battalion assets in the fight to facilitate the detection and destruction of enemy.
CONTROL OF THE PROCESS
First, and foremost, this process cannot be conducted at the commander's whim. The staff must include the synchronization meeting in the battalion's battle rhythm. This will allow the staff time to prepare for the process and will lend predictability to TOC operations. Second, the commander must appoint one individual to control the meeting and ensure that all required products for the FRAGO are completed and reviewed for the pending mission. This is usually the executive officer (XO). As the targeting process develops within the unit battle rhythm (we cannot always say "1000 hours, synch meeting"), the XO can supervise the current operations to ensure that the BOS cells within the TOC are capturing data to facilitate the next FRAGO. Since every mission is unique, the XO can inform all participants of their required input to the next process early. This can be done a number of ways. TOCs typically hold battle update briefs (BUBs), TOC shift changeover briefs, or have a routine to maintain situational awareness in the TOC (typically called TOC huddles). During any one of these events, the XO can inform the participants of the time and information/materials needed for the next synchronization meeting. Should a participant not be available because of current operations, he must send his requirements to the TOC prior to the meeting via written documents, mobile subscriber radio-telephone (MSRT), tactical facsimile (TACFAX), or FM channels.
During the process, the XO has numerous roles. He first ensures that the process remains concise, and that the staff does not begin to drift away from the purpose of the meeting. As the products are developed, he can review them, place them on a map, and ensure that the graphics synchronize the fight (maneuver, situation template (SITEMP), minefield overlay, fires plan, etc.). Additionally, time management remains, as in a detailed military decisionmaking process (MDMP), a major piece of the XO's responsibilities. Similar to proofing the graphics, the XO can ensure that sub-unit instructions and timing of critical key events are synchronized. This might include receiving attachments, conducting resupply, or coordinating with adjacent units. Furthermore, the XO can supervise any required revisions and the reproduction of the FRAGO, and ensure that the dissemination time to sub-unit commanders remains predictable so that commanders can receive the FRAGO.
Finally, the XO ensures that the support side of the operation is informed of the synchronization meeting. Although not typically included in the targeting process, the S1 and S4 play a vital role in sustaining the current battle rhythm of the battalion. Through the course of the process, support issues will arise, and the XO can facilitate S1 and S4 coordination for follow-on operations. For instance, as the sub-units press the fight, lines of communications are lengthened. Where do the ambulances go for ground evacuation--in the BSA or at a pre-established secure ambulance exchange point? As the battalion executes the current mission, personnel replacements could be arriving. How do they get to their unit? The S1 and S4 can provide answers to questions such as these, and the XO can assist the coordination through the battalion staff and sub-units.
Experience at the JRTC indicates that units with one individual in charge of supervising the preparation for the meeting, facilitating the targeting process, and reviewing the endstate tend to have concise and mission-focused synchronization meetings, which leads to success on the battlefield.
Generally, the synchronization meeting at battalion level focuses on events 24 hours out, 48 hours out at brigade level. Failure to include targeting within the battalion's battle rhythm often results in TOC personnel coming unprepared to the meeting, leading to a disorganized and time-consuming targeting process. The meeting often ends in frustration and confusion, with the unit targeting "everything" and forcing subordinate units to conduct an unfocused search in zone for unnecessary targets. Depicted below is a model portraying a daily battalion battle rhythm that incorporates the targeting process:
Once the unit has determined when it will conduct its targeting process, the staff must ensure that it comes prepared to facilitate an effective synchronization meeting. The staff should not have to surge to prepare for the synchronization meeting. A trained staff, through proper reporting, thorough analysis, and information management, has the up-to-date tools necessary to facilitate the process. Listed below are some of the information requirements the staff should gather prior to the meeting which would set the conditions for a concise targeting process. This information will help ensure that the commander has a clear and current understanding of the battlefield.
Units can depict this information to the battalion commander and subordinate commanders through the use of a simple matrix. The following matrix was developed, modified, and validated over numerous JRTC rotations. This matrix is not intended to tell battalion staffs how to conduct business, but instead reminds them of decisive information necessary to focus combat power at critical target(s) on the battlefield. Further, this matrix serves as an effective agenda for a concise targeting brief to the commander. Each page of the targeting matrix will be discussed individually for the sake of clarity.
BLOCK 1 - S2 gives a weather update. This is vitally important in airborne and air assault operations and allows the leadership to tailor a soldier's load to the given mission.
BLOCK 2 - S2 briefs past enemy activity and battle damage assessment (BDA). This information is taken from battle tracking conducted in the TOC and from the intelligence cell's pattern analysis and will further enhance predictive analysis of future enemy missions.
BLOCK 3 - This indicates the current enemy situation and is briefed in conjunction with a SITEMP indicating the array of enemy forces.
BLOCK 4 - Through analysis, the S2 can depict the enemy's targeting process and what is driving his operations. We must remember that the enemy also conducts analysis and synchronization drills to pick their high-payoff targets (HPTs).
BLOCK 5 - The commander must have a valid enemy event template to predict how the enemy will fight and to determine targets. This is a critical part of the targeting process, for the staff can now identify assets crucial to the enemy's fight, be it a casualty-producing weapon (such as a mortar) or a combat multiplier (such as the civilian population). Too often the S2 will identify all enemy assets as enemy high-value targets (HVTs). This, in turn, will confuse the process and expand the focus of the subordinate units' missions. This typically results in the unit conducting overextended operations which puts them in a situation where they are likely to be reactive versus proactive.
BLOCK 6 - Briefed by the S3, this block helps the battalion commander to understand the current status of his organic assets. The commander can then determine where best to direct his forces against the enemy. To facilitate this, the commander must know the current disposition of his forces before assigning sub-missions. Critical combat losses (both in personnel and equipment), logistics status, and past and current activities can be added to provide a detailed picture of subordinate units.
BLOCK 7 - Here the S2 and S3 can review current PIR. This makes enemy asset disposition clear to the commander and confirms or denies the previous template. Additionally, this may prevent the staff from targeting a system that has already been destroyed (or confirmed or denied according to its previously templated location).
BLOCKS 8 and 9 - The S3 provides the commander with guidance from higher headquarters (in the form of intent and concept). Brigade may not issue a FRAGO for the next period; this block will help keep the battalion focused on the brigade commander's intent.
BLOCK 10 - Briefed by the S3, but includes all BOS assets currently task-organized to the unit. If a FRAGO is produced and a task organization change will occur, future assets can also be discussed here. Furthermore, units might consider addressing adjacent units for two reasons. First, identifying brigade assets operating in the battalion's area of operation (AO) assists in the prevention of fratricide and identifies coordination requirements. Second, although other assets may be operating independently from the battalion, the information they gather may have an impact on future battalion operations. Information should include location, identification, and disposition of all other available assets. This could include, but is not limited to, DS artillery, Q36 radar, ADA assets, HUMINT assets, and engineer assets.
BLOCK 11 - All the information listed above can be consolidated prior to the actual synchronization meeting. With this information available, the commander will have the data to determine the enemy assets operating in his zone and allow him to provide necessary guidance. An additional block has been added for the commander to list friendly HVTs and provide force protection guidance for those assets.
BLOCK 12 - The staff has now provided the commander with the enemy (current/future) and friendly unit formation. Prior to the meeting, critical BOS (S3, S2, and FSO) should have an initial HPTL. The staff can collectively recommend to the commander prioritized HPTs in their zone for the next time period. The commander, now being better informed, can approve targets and prioritize future operations. He can begin planning the use of reconnaissance assets and structure combat power oriented at the enemy (find, fix, and finish). Likewise, his knowledge of friendly forces will assist his decisions regarding conservation of forces in areas where enemy contact is less likely.
BLOCK 13 - The staff can brief the D3A (Decide, Detect, Deliver, and Assess) matrix, which will allocate available assets to the nominated HPTs. This useful matrix synchronizes all assets and validates troop to task lists. During the Decide phase, the S2 indicates when enemy assets are active. This will assist the S3 and commander in developing the course of action for the battalion operation in the subsequent FRAGO. Also, it can aid the XO in determining a resupply plan for subordinate units by identifying when subordinate units will be able to receive supplies and replacements. In the Detect, Deliver and Assess format, it is recommended that the unit list all assets by actual unit designation and not by a generic BOS; i.e., MANEUVER. This will prevent the staff from overtasking assets. One additional item added to the D3A matrix is the enemy's reaction to the unit's current operations; enemy assets inside or outside the AO could reposition in response. Tracking this will set the conditions for the next synchronization meeting.
BLOCK 14 - The staff has completed its analysis and briefed the commander so designation/synchronization of sub-unit missions can begin. Included is a generic checklist to suggest some of the products that typically accompany the resulting FRAGO. This is not to embarrass anyone, but staffs become tired, and a checklist can assist in the development of a complete plan.
BLOCK 15 - This block is a collection of key events that may require coordination by either members of the command group, BOS representatives, or subordinate leaders.
BLOCK 16 - This block serves as the XO's tool to designate and track time, product status, and key events as they pertain to the staff. In preparing the next FRAGO, time must be allocated for the S3 and XO to review products and recommend changes. Also, remember that TOC personnel must have time to reproduce the products for subordinate leaders. Although seemingly apparent, it has been observed that reproduction time is often left out of planning cycles.
BLOCKS 17 and 18 - This will provide coordination measures prior to, during, or after mission accomplishment. Furthermore, a unit can use this matrix to annotate any necessary notes for required outside agency coordination.
BLOCK 19 - The battalion commander can further facilitate the outcome of the synchronization meeting by letting his staff understand his personal agenda. This will allow the XO to curtail his timeline with the staff and synchronize staff activities with the commander's agenda. The battalion commander may then decide to distribute the resulting FRAGO during the conduct of battlefield circulation.
This article is based on observations made during LIC operations at the JRTC. It has, however, application to all current training operations of an infantry brigade task force. In defensive operations, this approach can assist units in fighting a counter-reconnaissance battle. Additionally, after the attacking force has been destroyed, the process can further accelerate the destruction of any remaining enemy in the battalion sector. The same applies to offensive operations where enemy objectives have been located, and a deliberate attack is planned. Units can utilize the process in setting the conditions for the deliberate attack, identifying and destroying the enemy's counter-reconnaissance assets prior to introducing the main and supporting efforts for the objective. Similar to the defense, once the destruction of the objective occurs, the process can aid in locating future objectives or remaining enemy, re-establishing the posture of the battalion, and allowing the unit to maintain the initiative.
It is the maneuver commander's responsibility to conduct targeting within his designated area of operation. The endstate of the synchronization meeting is to maintain the initiative and focus combat power to critical enemy targets at the decisive time and place. The commander must train his staff on the use of a logical information management process which will facilitate a scheduled synchronization meeting. A staff that has the ability to collect, analyze, and present data on both friendly and enemy operations can expedite the targeting process. This allows continuous operations to remain continuous. The staff's ability to use established tools that collate data which easily transitions from one targeting process to another is critical in maintaining the unit's battle rhythm. A staff equipped and trained on tested targeting tools will be able to productively foresee events, organize the proper force ratios, synchronize the battlefield operating systems, and ultimately destroy the enemy.
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