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Posted on Jan 4, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 011. Talking the Talk

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Boundary – We believe most of you are comfortable with what a boundary is. The key concept we want to emphasize is that if the terrain dictates it should be drawn along identifiable features for clarity. Many times we have seen boundaries drawn right in the middle of a feature so units do not know who has ultimate responsibility for it.

Branch/Sequel – Branches and Sequels are often used interchangeably by many. Let’s end the confusion. A branch is a contingency built into the basic plan to exploit success or to deal with something the enemy has thrown at us. Branches are typically discovered during wargaming. A sequel is a major operation that follows another major operation. For instance, if a unit has just defeated its’ opponent, a sequel may be to begin conducting stability operations.

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Decision Point – The point of emphasis here is that you must have the assets in your possession to follow through on the decision. Many times, we see someone saying that this is their decision point, but he requires somebody else’s assets to execute the decision. When that occurs, it is probably not your decision point. Decision points are time sensitive and if you are depending on someone else to assist you then the decision may became moot because of time.

Doctrine – Many people throw the term doctrine out there and may not be entirely sure of its meaning. The key sentence in the definition of doctrine is the following: It is authoritative but requires judgment in application. In other words, doctrine provides you a guideline or your left and right limits. It is up to you based on the environment you are working in how you stay within those limits. Many think that doctrine has no room for interpretation. However, it is that room for interpretation that allows for initiative and is a constant in all good units.

Follow and Assume/Follow and Support/Reserve – The key difference in these three terms is that a unit that is given a follow and assume or follow and support mission is a committed force. Whereas, a unit that is designated the reserve is an uncommitted force (so it can exploit success or deal with potential failure). For clarification, a unit that is assigned a follow and assume mission follows a force conducting an offensive operation and is prepared to continue the mission of the force it is following when the force can not accomplish the mission. In a follow and support mission, the unit follows the unit and supports the mission accomplishment of the unit it is following. This may include destroying bypassed units, guarding prisoners or areas, blocking movement of enemy counterattack forces. In other words, it is doing the dirty work so the other unit can accomplish the mission. It does not continue the mission of the unit it is supporting.

High Payoff Target/ High Value Target – A high payoff target is one whose loss to your enemy will contribute to the success of your own course of action. A high value target is one whose loss to your enemy will contribute to him not being able to accomplish his own course of action. Sometimes these may be the same targets. However, many times they can be different. Which one is more important? It all depends on the specific operation.

Key Terrain/Decisive TerrainKey terrain is area that gives who ever holds it a key advantage over his opponent. Decisive terrain is key terrain that has an extraordinary impact on a mission. Thus whoever seizes that terrain in almost all cases is ensured victory. The majority of missions will have key terrain associated with it. However, you may not see decisive terrain in many operations.

Main Effort – We have discussed main effort before. We want to emphasize that during an operation the main effort can shift throughout. It all depends what is taking place during the various pieces of the operation.

Reorganize/Consolidate – We have got to the point where we have simply blended the two together to create the term reconsolidation. There is a difference between the two! To reorganize is to take measures to maintain the combat effectiveness of your unit or return it to a specific capability. These actions include cross-leveling supplies and ammunition, reforming smaller units, replacing key leaders, treating casualties etc… . To consolidate is the process of organizing and strengthening a position or objective you have just seized so you can defend it against a potential enemy counterattack. These actions include conducting recon, establishing security, repositioning forces, adjusting your fire plan, emplacing obstacles etc… . As you can see there is a difference between reorganize and consolidate!

Just as important as using the right words is not using non- doctrinal terms. Below is a slide we like to utilize that includes some of these terms that you will not find in any doctrinal manual. Unfortunately, many of these are commonplace. Humorous – Yes! Effective – No!


In summary, every profession has their own professional language. This language enables other professionals to communicate effectively with each other. When we combine a common language with graphics understood by everyone we have a powerful combination. It is when we deviate from either that problems arise.

Next month, we will begin a two part series on Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield.

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