Tactics 101: 002. The Importance of Mission Analysis in Planning
Understanding the Terrain:
The old acronym ‘OAKOC’ is still a good systematic approach to analyzing terrain. Each type of environment (desert, woods, urban terrain, etc.) provides different variables. Below you will find questions you should consider regarding how terrain (plus weather and civilians on the battlefield) influence friendly and enemy actions.
O (Obstacles) – Where are the existing (natural) obstacles? Where are the emplaced (manmade) obstacles? How will they or could they influence maneuver and the flow of forces?
A (Avenues of Approach) – Based on the obstacles; where can you and the enemy move and with what impact on formation and rate? Where are the mounted avenues? Where are the dismounted avenues? Where are the air avenues?
K (Key Terrain) – Where are the areas along the avenues of approach that provide a decided advantage for you or the enemy??
O (Observation and Fields of Fire) – Where can you or the enemy detect each other? Where can you or the enemy physically engage each other with weapon systems? Where are the potential engagement areas and kill sacks? Defensible terrain?
C (Cover and Concealment) – Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade fire? Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade visual detection?
How does weather effect visibility, mobility, and survivability on men and equipment?
How can civilians on the battlefield effect operations? Are they friendly, hostile, or neutral?
With an understanding of yourself, the enemy, and the terrain, you can "now" start working that course of action. The first step in developing a course of action is determining your decisive point. We’ll discuss this in our next session of Tactics 101 in April.
RICK BAILLERGEON is a retired U.S. Army Infantry Officer. His assignments included serving as a member of the Opposing Force and as an Observer/ Controller at the National Training Center, an assignment as a Brigade Operations Planner, two company commands (including an infantry company during Desert Shield/Desert Storm), and serving two tours as a battalion executive officer and one tour as a brigade deputy commander in infantry units. He has taught tactics at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College for six years. During his tenure, he has received many awards including being twice named Instructor of the Year. He is currently an associate professor at the College and is serving as Chief of Faculty Development in the Center for Army Tactics (as well as teaching). Mr. Baillergeon has published numerous articles in the area of tactics and dozens of military history book reviews. He additionally completed a master’s thesis on the performance of Field Marshal William Slim during the World War II Burma Campaign.
JOHN SUTHERLAND is a retired U.S. Army Infantry Officer. His past assignments include: OPFOR at the National Training Center, assistant battalion operations officer, company commander during Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm, assistant Brigade Operations Officer, chief of plans and exercises and deputy operations officer in Korea, land component planner in Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) and Coalition Forces Headquarters (CFH / CENTCOM) during Operation Enduring Freedom / Iraqi Freedom, and Chief of Studies and Analysis for the Joint Center for Operational Analysis, Joint Forces Command (JCOA, JFCOM). He has taught tactics at the U.S. Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning and at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Mr. Sutherland is a published author and is currently working as a government employee at the Joint Center for Operational Analysis in Suffolk, Virginia.
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