Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 5 – Section II – Plans and Orders

Section II – Plans and Orders

5-10.     Plans are the basis for any mission. To develop his plan (concept of the operation), the platoon leader summarizes how best to accomplish his mission within the scope of the commander’s intent one and two levels up. The platoon leader uses TLP to turn the concept into a fully developed plan and to prepare a concise, accurate operation order (OPORD). He assigns additional tasks (and outlines their purpose) for subordinate elements, allocates available resources, and establishes priorities to make the concept work. The following discussion covers important aspects of orders development and serves as an introduction to the discussion of the TLP. This section focuses on the mission statement and the commander’s intent, which provide the doctrinal foundation for the OPORD. It also includes a basic discussion of the three types of orders (warning orders [WARNOs], OPORDs, and FRAGOs) used by the platoon leader. The platoon leader and his subordinates must have a thorough understanding of the building blocks for everything else that they do.


5-11.     The platoon leader uses the mission statement to summarize the upcoming operation. This brief paragraph (usually a single sentence) describes the type of operation, the unit’s tactical task, and purpose. It is written based on the five Ws: who (unit), what (task[s]), when (date-time group), where (grid location or geographical reference for the AO or objective), and why (purpose). The platoon leader must ensure that the mission is thoroughly understood by all leaders and Soldiers one and two echelons down. The following considerations apply in development of the mission statement.


5-12.     Full spectrum operations are groupings of related activities in four broad categories: offense, defense, stability, and civil support.


5-13.     Tactical tasks are specific activities performed by the unit while it is conducting a form of tactical operation or a choice of maneuver. The title of each task can also be used as an action verb in the unit’s mission statement to describe actions during the operation. Tasks should be definable, attainable, and measurable. Tactical tasks that require specific tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) for the platoon are covered in detail throughout this manual. Figure 5-1 gives examples of tactical tasks the platoon and its subordinate elements may be called upon to conduct. Refer to FM 1-02 for definition of the tactical tasks listed in Figure 5-1.

Figure 5-1. Examples of tactical tasks.


5-14.     A simple, clearly stated purpose tells subordinates the reason the platoon is conducting the mission.

Placement in OPORD

5-15.     The platoon leader has several options as to where in the OPORD he outlines his subordinates’ tasks and purpose. His main concern is that placement of the mission statement should assist subordinate leaders in understanding the task and purpose and each of the five W elements exactly. Figure 5-2 shows an example of a mission statement the platoon leader might include in his order.

Figure 5-2. Example mission statement.


5-16.     Combat orders are the means by which the platoon leader receives and transmits information from the earliest notification that an operation will occur through the final steps of execution. WARNOs, OPORDs, and FRAGOs are absolutely critical to mission success. In a tactical situation, the platoon leader and subordinate leaders work with combat orders on a daily basis, and they must have precise knowledge of the correct format for each type of order. At the same time, they must ensure that every Soldier in the platoon understands how to receive and respond to the various types of orders. The skills associated with orders are highly perishable. Therefore, the platoon leader must take every opportunity to train the platoon in the use of combat orders with realistic practice.

Warning Order

5-17.     Platoon leaders alert their platoons by using a WARNO during the planning for an operation. WARNOs also initiate the platoon leader’s most valuable time management tool—the parallel planning process. The platoon leader may issue a series of warning orders to his subordinate leaders to help them prepare for new missions. The directions and guidelines in the WARNO allow subordinates to begin their own planning and preparation activities.

(1)     The content of WARNOs is based on two major variables: information available about the upcoming operation and special instructions. The information usually comes from the company commander. The platoon leader wants his subordinates to take appropriate action, so he normally issues his WARNOs either as he receives additional orders from the company or as he completes his own analysis of the situation.

(2)     In addition to alerting the unit to the upcoming operation, WARNOs allow the platoon leader to issue tactical information incrementally and, ultimately, to shorten the length of the actual OPORD. WARNOs do not have a specific format, but one technique to follow is the five-paragraph OPORD format. Table 5-2 shows an example of how the platoon leader might use WARNOs to alert the platoon and provide initial planning guidance.

Table 5-2. Example of multiple warning orders.




Receive the company warning order

Warning order #1 covers:

Type of mission and tentative task organization.

Movement plan.

Tentative timeline.

Standard drills to be rehearsed.

Prepare squads for movement to  the tactical assembly area.

Obtain map sheets.

Conduct METT‑TC analysis

Warning order #2 covers:

Friendly situation.

Enemy situation.

Security plan.

Terrain analysis.

Platoon mission.

Initiate squad-level mission analysis.

Initiate generic rehearsals (drill- and task-related).

Prepare for combat.

Develop a plan

Warning order #3 covers:

Concept of the operation.

Concept of fires.

Subordinate unit tasks and purposes.

Updated graphics.

Identify platoon-level reconnaissance requirements.

Direct leader’s reconnaissance.

Prepare for combat.

Operations Order

5-18.     The OPORD is the five-paragraph directive issued by a leader to subordinates for the purpose of implementing the coordinated execution of an operation. When time and information are available, the platoon leader will normally issue a complete OPORD as part of his TLP. However, after issuing a series of WARNOs, he does not need to repeat information previously covered. He can simply review previously issued information or brief the changes or earlier omissions. He then will have more time to concentrate on visualizing his concept of the fight for his subordinates. As noted in his WARNOs, the platoon leader also may issue an execution matrix either to supplement the OPORD or as a tool to aid in the execution of the mission. However, the matrix order technique does not replace a five-paragraph OPORD.

Fragmentary Order

5-19.     A FRAGO is an abbreviated form of an OPORD (verbal, written, or digital) that normally follows the five-paragraph format. It is usually issued on a day-to-day basis that eliminates the need for restating information contained in a basic OPORD. It may be issued in sections. It is issued after an OPORD to change or modify that order and is normally focused on the next mission. The platoon leader uses a FRAGO to—

– Communicate changes in the enemy or friendly situation.

– Task subordinate elements based on changes in the situation.

– Implement timely changes to existing orders.

– Provide pertinent extracts from more detailed orders.

– Provide interim instructions until he can develop a detailed order.

– Specify instructions for subordinates who do not need a complete order.

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