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The Task Force XO: Roles and Responsibilities

by MAJ Juan Hernandez (T02)

This article will help the task force XO prepare for the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) by providing tasks on which he can focus his efforts during a rotation. These tasks fall into two areas:

1. The XO as the battalion/task force Chief of Staff.

2. The XO as the Chief Logistician.

This article reviews the XO's duties in both these areas and spells out the doctrinal responsibilities. This assessment is based on recent observations of units going through both high-intensity conflict (HIC) and stability actions and support actions rotations at CMTC. The article describes key functions that ultimately contribute to a task force's success and directs the task force XO to readily available publications that will help prepare him to execute as a task force XO at the CMTC. The intent is to equip the task force XO to more efficiently manage what little time is available during missions in "the box."

XO Responsibilities:

The XO's responsibilities in combat as described in the Commander's Battle Staff Handbook,1are:

  • Establishing staff operating procedures.
  • Ensuring the commander and the staff are informed on matters affecting the command.
  • Assembling and supervising the staff during the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP), and ensuring a coordinated, synchronized plan.
  • Establishing timelines (1/3-2/3 rule).
  • Establishing the required liaison.
  • Ensuring information flow between the staff and commander on staff recommendations and the commander's decisions.
  • Representing the commander (when required) and supervising the main CP and its operations.
  • Monitoring the overall battle and supervision planning of future operations.
  • Directing the staff.
  • Displacing the main CP.
  • Enforcing SOPs.
  • Providing for battalion logistical support.

What the XO needs first: Find out from the battalion commander how he intends to use the XO. "The commander may use the XO to operate the unit's main CP.or supervise the overall logistical effort. He must decide how he can use the XO most effectively given individual staff strengths, mission requirements and METT-TC, and then communicate his intentions clearly."2(NOTE: METT-T will change to mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time available and civil considerations (METT-TC) in the revised version of FM 100-5, Operations.) Therefore, some questions that the XO must ask well before ever coming to the CMTC are:

  • What is my battalion commander's command philosophy?
  • What is my commander's intent and guidance?
  • How does the battalion commander plan to use me?
  • What are my responsibilities in TOC operations?
  • What is my relationship to the S3?
  • What is my decision-making authority for the commander/command structure?

The answers to these questions provide the groundwork for the XO to decide how he wants to allocate his time and effort as the Chief of Staff and/or Chief Logistician.

XO as Chief of Staff:

The XO is the principal agent responsible for synchronizing the entire battle staff. The XO:

  • orchestrates each step of the MDMP.
  • ensures staff integration throughout the planning, preparation and execution phases of the operation.
  • enforces the timeline.

Using the Plan/Prepare/Execute methodology, key functions of the XO are:


  • Chief of staff during the MDMP. Two helpful sources are CALL Newsletters Nos. 93-33and 95-12.4
  • XO as keeper of the timeline.
    • Upon receipt of the Bde FRAGO, publish the timeline for the operation. Post for all in the TOC to see. Update as required!
    • Include all rehearsals (fires, task force, CSS, Bde level, etc.) in the timeline.
    • Most importantly, enforce the timeline.
      • Once enforced, the battlestaff will live by it.
      • The XO is the guy with the club to beat up those that stray out of line.


  • Quality control for OPORD and graphics.
  • Rehearsals.
    • It's the commander's rehearsal, but the XO runs it.
    • Don't let it turn into a wargame.
    • Rehearse the rehearsal with the battle staff.
    • Keep the rehearsal length to an hour or less.
    • Maintain the standard defined in CALL Newsletter No. 91-1, Rehearsals, Apr 91.
  • Review the OPORD for quality control. Again, as in the rehearsal, rehearse the OPORD.


  • During the battle, ensure cross talk laterally (Co/Tms) and higher/lower (Bde/Bn).
  • Ensure that the battle staff is drilled to the point that it can analyze, develop, synchronize and recommend a course of action within minutes of receiving a FRAGO from the task force Commander or Brigade.
  • Know the Rules of Engagement (ROE)!

XO as Chief Logistician:

"The TF XO is the most critical player on the CSS team.

  • Synchronizes all staff actions to support the mission.
  • Must know the functions and responsibilities of the CSS team.
  • Effectively supervises them on the battlefield."5

Task-force CSS Rehearsals are probably the most important events the XO can do to ensure complete synchronization and understanding of the task force CSS Concept of Support. Units coming to the CMTC do this poorly and the end result is an unsynchronized CSS plan that does not support the task force. Refer to CALL Newsletter No. 91-1, Rehearsals, Apr 91, for excellent rehearsal techniques.

Listed below are a number of CSS areas traditionally requiring the XO's attention during a rotation which are often addressed during unit AARs:

  • Logistics integration into the MDMP.
  • CSS integration of attached units into the task force.
  • In paragraph 4 of the OPORD. Who checks the CSS plan for completeness and synchronization?
  • Is the task force Concept of Support synchronized with the Bde Concept of Support?
  • CSS Rehearsals.
  • LOGPAC operations (plan/prepare/execute).
  • Combat Trains Command Post (CTCP) and Field Trains Command Post (FTCP) SOPs and operations.
  • Maintenance:
    • "Circle X" and Deadline criteria in the task force.
    • Who in the task force has "Circle X" authority?
    • Cross-leveling within the task force.
    • SOPs.
    • Daily PMCS/5988-E turn-in. How many are being submitted versus the task force vehicle density?
    • Daily Class IX requisitions.
    • Disk turn-in in the absence of e-mail or Electronic Logistics System (ELS).
    • PLL management.
    • Recovery Operations.
    • Full-up Power Pack (FUPP) availability.
    • Battalion Representation at the daily BSA Tenant Meetings and brigade-level CSS rehearsals.
  • Personnel Accountability.
  • Processing 1156 Casualty Feeder Reports for all casualties.
  • MEDEVAC and CASEVAC procedures.
  • Combat Lifesavers and Combat Lifesaver Bags in the task force.
  • Medical Treatment.
  • Field Sanitation.
  • Reconstitution Procedures.


1. Commander's Battle Staff Handbook, U.S. Army Research Institute, Fort Benning Field Unit, 15 May 93, p. 2-3.
2. Commander's Battle Staff Handbook, U.S. Army Research Institute, Fort Benning Field Unit, 15 May 93, p. 2.
3. The Battalion and Brigade Battle Staff, CALL Newsletter No. 93-3, TRADOC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Jul 93.
4. Tactical Decision Making: Abbreviated Planning, CALL Newsletter No. 95-12, TRADOC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Dec 95.
5. "Techniques for Sustaining Your Task Force," Armor Magazine, Mar-Apr 94, pp. 18-20.

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