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Posted on Oct 14, 2011 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101-065: Rehearsals, Part 2

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

REHEARSALS—EXECUTION

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

Yogi Berra

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

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Vince Lombardi

LAST MONTH

In our last article, we began our discussion on rehearsals. We addressed several topics related to rehearsals. They included: 1) The definition, purpose and goals of a rehearsal. 2) The types of rehearsals available to a Commander. 3) How to plan a rehearsal. and 4) How to prepare for a rehearsal. This discussion should have left you the following conclusions. First, a Commander has several rehearsal options available to him to utilize. Second, the type of rehearsal the Commander ultimately decides upon is based on many factors. Third, a quality rehearsal just doesn’t happen. It requires its’ own quality planning and preparation.

THIS MONTH

This month, we will complete our look at rehearsals by focusing on execution. We will key on two key areas. First, we will dissect the execution of a rehearsal. Second, we will provide you with a script for executing a rehearsal. Let’s move out!

EXECUTING A REHEARSAL

You have conducted quality planning and have been prudent in preparation; now it is time for rehearsal execution. As in any endeavor, effective planning and preparation certainly set the conditions for a quality rehearsal. However, even the best planning and preparation does not necessarily lead to an outstanding rehearsal. Many things can go awry during the execution phase of the rehearsal. Below are some things that you should consider or adhere to in order to conduct a quality rehearsal.

  • The first thing to remember during the rehearsal is that the Commander is in charge. Thus, he must ensure the rehearsal is executed so that it achieves his objectives and his endstate. If during execution, the rehearsal is not flowing in the direction he desires; then the Commander must steer it into that direction.
  • In most units, the Executive Officer (XO/2IC) will direct the rehearsal. Because of this, he will normally formulate the script for the rehearsal with guidance from the Commander. Since the Executive Officer usually facilitates many aspects of the battle from the command post, it makes sense for him to direct the rehearsal. This enables him to gain a unique perspective to the operation that he may not have otherwise. It is a perspective which will be of tremendous value during the fight.
  • If the unit is large enough (Battalion size and higher) to have an Operations Officer (S3), they will play a valuable part in a rehearsal. The best way to utilize them during a rehearsal is for him to discuss the maneuver aspects of the Commander’s plan. Thus, if it is a battalion size unit, he will be the ‘speaker’ on all things that revolve around the overall battalion plan. These could include reviewing the mission statement, the concept of operation, and addressing operations of adjacent units.
  • Battalion size and larger units will have an Intelligence Officer (S2) on its’ staff. Obviously, this officer will be an integral part of a rehearsal because of their understanding of the enemy. A key attribute that the Intelligence Officer must possess is consistency. The rehearsal is not the time to tell the unit that the enemy will conduct certain actions; when you have not addressed them earlier. Clearly, this can have a huge impact on the plan and thus the rehearsal.
  • One of the participants behind the scenes, but very important is the recorder. The recorder will normally come out of the S3 Shop. His role is to capture unresolved issues or decisions that were made at the rehearsal. Following the formal portion of the rehearsal, he will restate changes that the Commander has approved, clarification of areas, and directed actions by the Commander to the group. Because of his role, the recorder must have an excellent understanding of the plan prior to the rehearsal.
  • Depending on the type of rehearsal, there will be a need for various pieces of equipment to facilitate that rehearsal. One of the most valued pieces of equipment is the old easel and paper (butcher block). This can be utilized to illustrate task organization, mission statement, issues, agenda, map with graphics, response sequence, etc… Another thing that may need to be created is symbols/markers for participants to move during the rehearsal. Again, this will depend on the rehearsal type.
  • As highlighted above, there are several products that should be available at the rehearsal to facilitate execution and updated for use during the mission. These include the Task Organization (we will discuss this in a future article), Synchronization Matrix, Decision Support Matrix and/or Template (again, we will address this in a future article), the Operations Order and Operational Graphics. It is good practice (very good practice) for someone knowledgeable to review the products and make sure they are the latest ones.
  • As we all know, time is a resource that you can’t get back. Consequently, it is critical that if a rehearsal is supposed to start at a certain time; it starts at that time. It is the responsibility of participants to be on time. It is the responsibility of the Commander to ensure that if someone is late for his rehearsal; that participant clearly understands that being late is unacceptable! Obviously, if lateness is tolerated it becomes the standard.
  • One of most annoying actions in any meeting or event is the sidebar discussion. Within a rehearsal, the sidebar is not only annoying, but can have a negative impact on its’ execution. Again, the Commander must ensure rehearsal participants understand sidebars are unacceptable!
  • One of the keys to facilitating a rehearsal that finishes on time and above all, is beneficial is the preparation of the participants. Participants must come to the rehearsal with the right equipment (maps/graphics, operation orders, binos, pointers etc…). They must come to the rehearsal with a complete understanding of the plan and their role in it. Finally, they must come to the rehearsal with an understanding of their role in the rehearsal. This includes when they are to speak (response sequence) and what they should be articulating upon (response etiquette).
  • Related to the above, is the necessity for participants to speak in doctrinal language. Throwing out non-doctrinal terms confuses everyone. Consequently, an event which should contribute to synchronizing operations begins to de-synchronize operations.
  • As discussed in our last article, security must be paramount during the execution of a rehearsal. A successful enemy action (direct or indirect fire) at an event with all of the unit’s leadership would be devastating.
  • Operational security is also vital during conduct of the rehearsal. A rehearsal can be a great event for the enemy to gather intelligence without them being there physically. Sharp eyes and ears (human or machine) can pick up much in the way of intentions.
  • Prior to the beginning of the rehearsal, participants should familiarize themselves with the rehearsal site. If it is a terrain model, participants should walk around it. If it is a sketch, look at it and ensure your understanding. The start of a rehearsal is not the first time participants should see the site.

THE SCRIPT

As we addressed last month, a rehearsal script can be an extremely valuable tool during execution. As the name suggest, a rehearsal script is the blueprint to conduct the rehearsal. As mentioned earlier, the director of the rehearsal (in most cases, the unit’s XO) will craft up the script. Before developing the script, he will seek guidance from the Commander on various topics. These include:

  • His objectives for the rehearsal.
  • His endstate for the rehearsal.
  • Time allocated for the rehearsal.
  • The key events/actions he wants to rehearse.
  • The course of action (s) of the enemy he wants to rehearse against.
  • Any special considerations he wants incorporated into the rehearsal.

With this information, he can now formulate his script. There are several options available to him to put these thoughts into words. These include: jotting them down on the trusty note-card, utilizing a fill-in the blank template, using a sharpie and butcher block, or a laptop or other pieces of technology.

To assist you in understanding what goes into a script, we will use a basic scenario to guide our discussion. The scenario is based on the following conditions:

  • We are conducting a terrain-model rehearsal.
  • We are a Mechanized Battalion Task Force with two armor companies and two mechanized infantry companies.
  • Our mission is to conduct a deliberate attack to seize a piece of terrain which will facilitate the attack of a follow-on unit.
  • The terrain is being defended by an enemy tank company supported by a platoon of dismounted infantry.
  • The task force will begin the attack at 0430 and will depart from an assembly area that is located in difficult terrain. Thus, the maneuver out of the assembly area will be a significant challenge.
  • Prior to assaulting the objective, the task force must conduct a breaching operation of a complex obstacle system.
  • There is a strong possibility that if the task force is successful in seizing the objective, the enemy will conduct a counterattack with at least a tank company to reoccupy this key terrain.
  • Based on the above, the commander has decided that he would like to rehearse the following events: 1) The maneuver out of the assembly area. 2) The breaching of the obstacle. 3) The assault and seizure of the objective. 4) The defense of the objective in preparation of the enemy counterattack.

Below we will provide an example of what the script for this rehearsal could look like. We will highlight what should be discussed, why it is important to be discussed, and who should discuss it.

STEP 1– Roll Call

The Task Force Executive Officer will begin the rehearsal by conducting a roll call of all the rehearsal participants. Participants should include company commanders, any supporting platoon leaders (field artillery, engineer, chemical, etc…) internal specialty platoon leaders (scouts, mortars, medical, support, maintenance), primary staff officers and anyone else that the Commander has determined he wants to attend. The roll call serves several purposes. First, it signifies the start of the rehearsal. Second, it of course confirms who is there and more importantly, who is not at the rehearsal.

STEP 2 – Introduction/Welcome

After the roll call, the Commander takes over briefly. At this time, he will welcome all to the rehearsal. He will also introduce any new members to the Task Force. This should be pretty brief, but is a good personal touch for the commander. However, this is no time for a long motivational talk – the seconds are clicking away until the mission commences.

STEP 3 – Overview

Once again, the Executive Officer takes over the rehearsal. At this time, he will go over the specifics of the rehearsal. There are several areas he should cover. These include the following:

  • What we will Rehearse. Begin by addressing what actions/events/decisions will be addressed in the rehearsal. In the case of this example, the Commander has decided on the following: 1) The maneuver out of the assembly area. 2) The breaching of the obstacle. 3) The assault and seizure of the objective. 4) The defense of the objective in preparation of the enemy counterattack.
  • Sequence of the Rehearsal. Next, define the sequence of the rehearsal. In our example, it is pretty apparent. First, we will discuss the maneuver out of the assembly area. Second, we will rehearse the breaching of the obstacle. Third, we will rehearse the assault and seizure of the objective. Finally, we will discuss the defense of the objective, once seized, and how we will repel any enemy counterattack.
  • Timeline. In some instances, the Executive Officer may state how much time is allocated for each event to be rehearsed. In our example, he may state 10 minutes for the first event, 15 minutes for the second event, 20 minutes for the third event, and 15 minutes for the final event. This timeline keeps all on track during the rehearsal. The XO should identify someone as the timekeeper and that person should let the XO know when events are beginning to run over the allotted time.
  • Safety Factors. Although this may not be a concern in our particular type of rehearsal; this should be addressed in others (full scale and leader in particular).
  • Objectives. As highlighted before, the Commander should provide the Executive Officer with his objectives for the rehearsal. In our example, the objectives would probably be fairly straightforward. It would seem that the Commander believes four events are imperative in accomplishing his overall mission. These are: an organized maneuver out of the assembly area, breaching the obstacle without degradation in momentum, successfully seizing the objective, and being able to repel any enemy attempts to re-seize the objective. In our scenario, the Commander clearly understands that the first two events set the conditions for seizing the objective. He also knows that the unit must be in position to repel the inevitable counterattack. Thus, he wants to ensure the unit utilizes the rehearsal to assist in synchronizing his assets to achieve success in these four events.
  • End State. The Commander should have provided the Executive Officer with his expected endstate for the rehearsal. This endstate should be articulated to the participants. As in all areas of tactics, subordinates must understand the expectations before execution.
  • Time Constraint. The final piece of the overview is to let the participants know how long the Commander has allocated for the rehearsal. As mentioned numerous times, time is in short supply prior to mission execution. If the Commander allocates 1 ½ hours for the rehearsal, then participants should know and assist in adhering to it.

STEP 4 – Orientation

You must understand your environment. In this example, the environment is the terrain model. To assist in this, the Operations Officer (S3) will orient all to the terrain model. This orientation will include the following:

  • Where is north? Always begin by defining where magnetic north is on the model/sketch etc… is.
  • Terrain Features. As the name implies, a terrain model should contain terrain features. The S3 should point out these key terrain features to the group. This is a great aid in the visualization process.
  • Graphic Control Measures. Once the S3 has provided a general orientation of the terrain, he can give the specifics for the mission. Most important in this is highlighting the graphic control measures which will be utilized for the mission. In our example, this would include measures such as the initial assembly area, the line of departure, objectives, boundaries, and checkpoints. Of course, these control measures must be the same ones utilized on graphics issued to the units.
  • The Rehearsal Site Itself. The final piece of the orientation should be of the entire rehearsal site. In our example, there would probably be several easels set around the terrain model containing information. One may have a map with graphics posted on it. Another may have the mission’s task organization illustrated. One may have the agenda or sequence of events for the rehearsal. There could be one with the unit’s Decision Support Template/Matrix posted on it. There may also be one where the recorder will post issues and questions. As you can see, there are many options here. The Commander will decide what he wants incorporated into the site to aid in rehearsal execution.
  • Questions. The S3 should conclude his overview with a call for any questions. This is important because everyone must understand the rehearsal site itself

STEP 5 – Final Preliminaries

Before delving into the rehearsal proper, there are a few other pieces of business that should be addressed. These all should be covered by the Executive Officer. They are:

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Good units know the importance of rehearsals. Thus, most will have crafted an SOP which is tailored to them and outlines the planning, preparation, and execution of rehearsals. If there are some parts of the SOP that the Executive Officer wants to emphasize prior to formal execution this is the time to do it. This is particularly true if there are several participants who are new to the unit.
  • Response Etiquette. One of the keys to time management in the execution of a rehearsal and achieving a quality rehearsal is response etiquette for the participants. There are several pieces to this:
    • There is only one language spoken at a rehearsal – doctrinal language.
    • Be concise. The best way to do this is to speak purpose and task.
    • If there is no change to the response you gave prior then participants state, “no change.”
    • Only one rehearsal participant speaks at a time.
    • No side-bar discussions!
    • Adhere to the response sequence (see next topic).
    • Utilize radio procedures. It is an excellent technique to utilize radio procedures during the execution of the rehearsal. Let’s elaborate:
    1. Each participant should address the Task Force Commander when discussing his action. Let’s say his call sign is Barbarian 6.
    2. Each participant has their own call sign. For our example, let’s say the Delta Company Commander is Gator 6.
    3. It is now time in the rehearsal for the D Company Commander to tell the Task Force Commander his purpose and task on the assault of the objective. He states, “Barbarian 6, this is Gator 6. Purpose is Protect the flank of the main effort as they seize Objective China. Task is destroy enemy forces on Objective Lion.”
    • It may be wise for the Executive Officer to emphasize some of these points to the group. This is especially prudent if there are several new participants to the rehearsal or if there are some points that the unit has struggled with in past rehearsals.
    • Response Sequence. The best way to structure responses during execution is with a clearly understood response sequence. Just as the name implies, the response sequence defines the response order during the rehearsal. Thus, once the formal rehearsal begins, participants will answer their actions during each event as per the established order. There are two basic ways to establish a response sequence. First, is to simply make it part of the rehearsal SOP and keep it the same for each rehearsal. The big positive for this is the normal participants know at all times where they fall in the sequence. Consequently, there should not be any ‘awkward’ moments of silence when someone doesn’t know the order. Second, is to develop a response sequence that is tailored for the specific mission. The biggest strength of this technique is that the sequence should flow much better which should equate to a better executed rehearsal.
    • Prior to the formal part of the rehearsal, the Executive Officer should review the sequence with the group. It is also a good idea to post the sequence at the rehearsal site so participants can review it.

    At the conclusion of the step, the Executive Officer should ask the group if they have any questions regarding how the rehearsal will be run or any things that were said that may need clarification. If not, it’s time for the formal portion of the rehearsal to begin.

    STEP 6 — The Rehearsal Begins

    The preliminaries are out of the way and now the conditions are set for the formal part of the rehearsal. During this portion, nearly all of the participants will be involved in some function. During our discussion, we will address what should be addressed and who should be addressing it. Below we will provide a potential chronological order of a rehearsal.

    1. Mission Statement. The S3 begins by reading the unit’s mission statement. This is critical, because as we know, the mission drives everything.
    2. Commander’s Intent. The Commander then verbally issues his intent. There should be no surprises here. This should be the intent he crafted for the operations order. Now if the Commander throws out something no one has heard before, then we have a problem here.
    3. Task Organization. It is a good technique for the S3 or the Executive Officer to review the task organization that will accomplish the mission and the Commander’s intent.
    4. Adjacent Units. Obviously, outside forces can have a huge impact on your operation. Because of this, it is wise for the S3 to review the missions of the forces around them and the impact these forces could potentially have on the accomplishment of the mission.
    5. Initial Deployment of Enemy Forces. The S2 then shows what the current laydown of the enemy is. This will be a combination of known enemy locations and those he has templated. Particularly critical in our example is the recon forces, forces near the obstacle (and status of the obstacle), forces on/near the objective, and those potential counterattack forces.
    6. Initial Deployment of Friendly Forces. There are two ways you can portray the initial friendly laydown. First, you can allow all the participants in the rehearsal to show their initial location. Thus, utilizing the response sequence, each unit participant would move onto the terrain model and place their unit marker on their location and state their current actions. Second, you could allow the S3 to place each marker and state the actions. If the time is available it is preferable to let the participants speak for themselves. This enables them to get their feet wet and of course, who knows their unit better than them. However, if time is a concern, then the S3 will undoubtedly get through the actions quicker.

    7. First Event – Maneuver out of the Assembly Area. With the battlefield set, we can now address the first event the Commander would like to rehearse – the Maneuver out of the Assembly Area. Below is an example of the flow of this event:

    • a. The Executive Officer will assume the role as orchestrator and will begin by saying “It’s 0430 and we will begin maneuver out of the assembly area.”
    • b. The S2 will then concisely define the enemy actions at 0430.
    • c. Participants (adhering to the response sequence) utilizing radio procedures inform the Task Force Commander on their actions. As a note, because of the uniqueness of the four events we will utilize a different response sequence for each event. This may be done at times if it assists with the flow of the rehearsal.
    • d. Once actions are complete (the unit is now out of the assembly area), the S2 will address any pertinent enemy actions during this period.
    • e. Based on the above, the S3 will tell the Commander if there are any changes to the plan and any of the execution documents (Operations Order, Graphics, DST/DSM, etc…).
    • f. The Commander will now decide if he is satisfied with this event. If he is, the Executive Officer will shift to the second event. If he is not, he may determine he wants to spend some more time and discussion on the event. If so, he will guide this action.

    8. Second Event Breach of Obstacle. In this example, we will say the Commander is content with the first event. The Executive Officer, will now initiate the second event, the breach of the obstacle.

    • The Executive Officer will announce, “It’s 0700 and we will begin to breach the obstacle located on Objective Brown.” As a note, the 0700 time is an estimate of the time this will occur.
    • The S2 deploys the enemy forces which would influence the breaching operation. He additionally discusses their intentions and probable course of action.
    • The S3 places the markers of the friendly forces in the locations where he anticipates them being prior to breaching operations. (The unit leaders could do this as well, but letting the S3 conduct this action will save some valuable time.)
    • Participants (adhering to the response sequence) utilizing radio procedures inform the Task Force Commander on their actions during the breach. As a reminder, we utilized a different response sequence to better facilitate this event.
    • Once actions are complete (the unit has now completed the breach), the S2 will address any pertinent enemy actions during this period.
    • Because of the nature of this event, it is likely that there may be a potential Commander’s decision within it. Thus, the XO should review the DSM/DST to determine if it is still valid or needs changes. Of course, the Commander will make that decision.
    • The S3 will additionally tell the Commander if there are any other changes to the plan and any of the execution products based on the rehearsal of this event.
    • The Commander will now decide if he is satisfied with this event. If he is, the Executive Officer will shift to the third event. If he is not, he may determine he wants to spend some more time and discussion on the event. If so, he will guide this action.

    9. Third Event – Assault and Seizure of the Main Objective. In our example, we will say the Commander is content with the second event. The Executive Officer, will now initiate the third event, the assault and seizure of the objective.

    • a. The Executive Officer will announce, “It’s 0745 and we will begin the assault and subsequent seizure of Objective Gerald.”
    • b. The S2 will again review the enemy defensive posture on the objective.
    • c. Since the obstacle and the objective are in close proximity with each other, there is no need to reposition forces to rehearse this event. They will start from the positions they ended at in the last event.
    • d. Participants (adhering to the response sequence) utilizing radio procedures inform the Task Force Commander on their actions during the assault and seizure. As a reminder, we utilized a different response sequence to better facilitate this event.
    • e. Once actions are complete (the unit has now seized the objective), the S2 will address any pertinent enemy actions during this period. This discussion will set the stage for the next event.
    • f. Because of the nature of this event, it is likely that there may be a potential Commander’s decision within it. Thus, the XO should review the DSM/DST to determine if it is still valid or needs changes. Of course, the Commander will make that decision.
    • g. The S3 will additionally tell the Commander if there are any other changes to the plan and any of the execution products based on the rehearsal of this event.
    • h. The Commander will now decide if he is satisfied with this event. If he is, the Executive Officer will shift to the fourth event. If he is not, he may determine he wants to spend some more time and discussion on the event. If so, he will guide this action.
    1. 10. Fourth Event — Repel of Enemy Counterattack. In our example, we will say the Commander is content with the third event. The Executive Officer, will now initiate the fourth event, the repel of the enemy counterattack.

      1. a. The Executive Officer will announce, “It’s 0900 and have seized our objective.”
      2. b. The S2 will discuss the course of action the enemy will execute to reclaim the objective.
      3. c. The S3 will position forces where he sees them defending from. Obviously, this is a best estimate.
      4. d. Participants (adhering to the last response sequence) utilizing radio procedures inform the Task Force Commander on their actions in preparing for the enemy counterattack.
      5. e. Once actions are complete (the unit has now repelled the enemy counterattack), the S2 will address any pertinent enemy actions during this period.
      6. f. Because of the nature of this event, it is likely that there may be a potential Commander’s decision within it. Thus, the XO should review the DSM/DST to determine if it is still valid or needs changes. Of course, the Commander will make that decision.
      7. g. The S3 will additionally tell the Commander if there are any other changes to the plan and any of the execution products based on the rehearsal of this event.
      8. h. It is now time for the Commander to decide if his overall standards were met for the rehearsal. If they were great, then we can move to the next step. If not, and there is time available, the Commander may decide to once again, readdress portions of the rehearsal. In our example, he may not be satisfied with the assault and seizure of the objective. Thus, he may have the unit re-rehearse (if that is a word) this portion of the operation.

      STEP 7 – Review the Bidding

      One of the last acts of the rehearsal is to review what took place. There are several key players in this. First, the S3 will articulate any changes to the plan. If there are changes to the written operations order (these will be provided in a fragmentary order – FRAGO) or the operations graphics, he will let the group know when they will complete and sent to them. Second, the Recorder will address any unresolved issues that have come up during the rehearsal. The Commander or Executive Officer should state when these issues will be resolved. Once the bidding is complete, the Commander will normally end the rehearsal with a few comments. This is entirely personality driven. Comments may be inspirational, motivational, solemn, etc… again, personality driven.

      REHEARSAL COMPLETE – A FEW ACTIONS LEFT TO COMPLETE

      Subordinate Commanders are driving away, but there are a few things that the staff must achieve before their rehearsal is over. These include:

      • The Executive Officer should get his staff together and do a quick After Action Review (AAR) of the conduct of the rehearsal. The AAR should focus in two areas. First, we are looking to discover what we did right and want to continue and what we did not do so well and how we will improve upon it.
      • The staff must verify any outstanding issues that were not settled at the rehearsal. The Executive Officer will provide direction as to who has responsibility for the issue and should give them a no later than time to solve the issue.
      • As we highlighted earlier, the rehearsal could have very well resulted in changes to the operations order and graphics. Prior to the end of the rehearsal, changes were discussed and the subordinates were told when updated products would be made available to them. At this time, the Executive Officer must ensure the staff is working these products.
      • Once changes are incorporated, they should also be communicated to your higher headquarters and adjacent units. They obviously need to know changes because those changes may very well impact them.
      • Certainly, the key reason for taking attendance at the beginning of the rehearsal is to determine who is not there. The staff must ensure that those who for various reasons were not in attendance receive the critical information that come out of the rehearsal.
      • Perhaps, the final thing that must be achieved is tearing down the rehearsal site. Before tearing it down, you must ensure that no one else would like to use the site. Many times, a subordinate unit can save time and resources by conducting their own rehearsal at the site. If that is the case, you must ensure there is security around the site until the next rehearsal takes place. Once the final rehearsal is complete, it is time to tear down the site. Make sure you salvage any materials that may be able to be used in future rehearsals (recycle!). Obviously, it is much easier to take apart than put together!

      REVIEW

      If nothing else, our discussion on rehearsals should make it clear that a rehearsal just doesn’t happen. Let us clarify; an effective rehearsal just doesn’t happen. It takes diligent planning, efficient preparation, and sound execution. The benefits from an effective rehearsal are many. Above all, it is essentially the last formal event a unit can conduct before the beginning of a mission. If it a successful event; that success is contagious and seems to carry over throughout mission execution. If it is a waste of time; well, you know the rest of the story.

      NEXT MONTH

      In our next article, we will address the Matrix Operations Order. This is an excellent technique for a unit to utilize vice a complete written operations order. Within our discussion, we will address the purpose of this technique, how to construct one, and an example of one. This is clearly a technique you can use on whatever battlefield you are fighting upon.

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