Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 5 – Section III – Troop Leading Procedures


5-20.     The TLP begin when the platoon leader receives the first indication of an upcoming mission. They continue throughout the operational process (plan, prepare, execute, and assess). The TLP comprise a sequence of actions that help platoon leaders use available time effectively and efficiently to issue orders and execute tactical operations. TLP are not a hard and fast set of rules. Some actions may be performed simultaneously or in an order different than shown in Figure 5-3. They are a guide that must be applied consistent with the situation and the experience of the platoon leader and his subordinate leaders. The tasks involved in some actions (such as initiate movement, issue the WARNO, and conduct reconnaissance) may recur several times during the process. The last action (activities associated with supervising and refining the plan) occurs continuously throughout TLP and execution of the operation. The following information concerning the TLP assumes that the platoon leader will plan in a time-constrained environment. All steps should be done, even if done in abbreviated fashion. As such, the suggested techniques are oriented to help a platoon leader quickly develop and issue a combat order.

 Figure 5-3. Troop-leading procedures.


5-21.     This step begins with the receipt of an initial WARNO from the company. It also may begin when the platoon leader receives the commander’s OPORD, or it may result from a change in the overall situation. Receipt of mission initiates the planning and preparation process so the platoon leader can prepare an initial WARNO as quickly as possible. At this stage of the TLP, mission analysis should focus on determining the unit’s mission and the amount of available time. For the platoon leader, mission analysis is essentially the analysis of the factors of METT-TC, but he must not become involved in a detailed METT-TC analysis. This will occur after issuing the initial WARNO. The platoon leader should use METT-TC from the enemy’s perspective to develop the details of possible enemy courses of action (COA). The following can assist in this process.

– Understand the enemy’s mission. Will the enemy’s likely mission be based on his doctrine, knowledge of the situation, and capabilities? This may be difficult to determine if the enemy has no established order of battle. Enemy analysis must consider situational reports of enemy patterns. When does the enemy strike, and where? Where does the enemy get logistical support and fire support? What cultural or religious factors are involved?

n         Why is the enemy conducting this operation?

n         What are the enemy’s goals and are they tied to specific events or times?

n         What are the enemy’s capabilities?

n         What are the enemy’s objectives? Based on the situation template (SITEMP) and the
projected enemy mission, what are the enemy’s march objectives (offense) or the terrain
or force he intends to protect (defense)? The commander normally provides this

– If the enemy is attacking, which avenues will he use to reach his objectives in executing his COAs and why?

– How will terrain affect his speed and formations?

– How will he use key terrain and locations with clear observation and fields of fire?

– Does the weather aid or hinder the enemy in accomplishing his mission or does the weather degrade the enemy’s weapons or equipment effectiveness?

– Enemy obstacles are locations provided by the company commander, platoon leader’s assessment, or obtained from reconnaissance that give the platoon leader insight into how the enemy is trying to accomplish his mission.

– Perhaps the most critical aspect of mission analysis is determining the combat power potential of one’s force. The platoon leader must realistically and unemotionally determine what tasks his Soldiers are capable of performing. This analysis includes the troops attached to or in direct support of the platoon. The platoon leader must know the status of his Soldiers’ experience and training level, and the strengths and weaknesses of his subordinate leaders. His assessment includes knowing the status of his Soldiers and their equipment, and it includes understanding the full array of assets that are in support of the platoon such as additional AT weapons, snipers, and engineers. For example, how much indirect fire is available and when is it available?

5-22.     As addressed in the “receive the mission” TLP, time analysis is a critical aspect to planning, preparation, and execution. Not only must the platoon leader appreciate how much time is available, he must be able to appreciate the time-space aspects of preparing, moving, fighting, and sustaining. He must be able to see his own tasks and enemy actions in relation to time. The platoon leader should conduct backward planning and observe the “1/3 – 2/3 rule” to allow subordinates their own planning time. Examples of time analysis are as follows.

(1)     He must be able to assess the impact of limited visibility conditions on the TLP.

(2)     He must know how long it takes to conduct certain tasks such as order preparation, rehearsals, back-briefs, and other time-sensitive preparations for subordinate elements.

(3)     He must understand how long it takes to deploy a support by fire (SBF) element, probably the weapons squad, and determine the amount of ammunition needed to sustain the support for a specific period of time.

(4)     He must know how long it takes to assemble a bangalore torpedo and to breach a wire obstacle.

(5)     Most importantly, as events occur, the platoon leader must adjust his analysis of time available to him and assess the impact on what he wants to accomplish.

(6)     Finally, he must update previous timelines for his subordinates, listing all events that affect the platoon.

5-23.     The commander will provide the platoon leader with civil considerations that may affect the company and platoon missions. The platoon leader also must identify any civil considerations that may affect only his platoon’s mission.  Platoons are likely to conduct missions in areas where there are numerous non-combatants and civilians on the battlefield.  Some considerations may include refugee movement, humanitarian assistance requirements, or specific requirements related to the rules of engagement (ROE) or rules of interaction (ROI).


5-24.     After the platoon leader determines the platoon’s mission and gauges the time available for planning, preparation, and execution, he immediately issues an oral WARNO to his subordinates. In addition to telling his subordinates of the platoon’s new mission, the WARNO also gives them the platoon leader’s planning timeline. The platoon leader relays all other instructions or information that he thinks will assist the platoon in preparing for the new mission. Such information includes information about the enemy, the nature of the overall plan, and specific instructions for preparation. Most importantly, by issuing the initial WARNO as quickly as possible, the platoon leader enables his subordinates to begin their own planning and preparation while he begins to develop the platoon operation order. An example may include the squads rehearsing designated battle drills. This is called parallel planning.


5-25.     After receiving the company OPORD (or FRAGO), the platoon leader develops a tentative plan. The process of developing this plan in a time-constrained environment usually has six steps: receipt of the mission, mission analysis, COA development, COA analysis, COA selection, and issue the order. The platoon leader relies heavily on the company commander’s METT-TC analysis. This allows the platoon leader to save time by focusing his analysis effort on areas that affect his plan. Typically, a platoon leader will develop one COA. If more time is available, he may develop more than one, in which case he will need to compare these COAs and select the best one.

Mission Analysis

5-26.     This is a continuous process during the course of the operation. It requires the platoon leader to analyze all the factors of METT-TC in as much depth as time and quality of information will allow. The factors of METT-TC are not always analyzed sequentially. How and when the platoon leader analyzes each factor depends on when information is made available to him. One technique for the analysis is based on the sequence of products that the company commander receives and produces: mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops, time, civil considerations. The platoon leader must develop significant conclusions about how each element will affect mission accomplishment and then account for it in his plan.


5-27.     Leaders at every echelon must have a clear understanding of the mission, intent, and concept of the operation of the commanders one and two levels higher. Without this understanding, it would be difficult to exercise disciplined initiative. One technique to quickly understand the operation is to draw a simple sketch of the battalion and company’s concepts of the operation (if not provided by the commander). The platoon leader now can understand how the platoon mission relates to the missions of other units and how his mission fits into the overall plan, and he can capture this understanding of the purpose (why) in his restated mission statement. The platoon leader will write a restated mission statement using his analysis of these areas: the battalion mission, intent, and concept; the company mission, intent, and concept; identification of specified, implied, and essential tasks; identification of risks; and any constraints.

– Battalion Mission, Intent, and Concept. The platoon leader must understand the battalion commander’s concept of the operation. He identifies the battalion’s task and purpose, and how his company is contributing to the battalion’s fight. The platoon leader also must understand the battalion commander’s intent found in the friendly forces paragraph (paragraph 1b) of the company order.

– Company Mission, Intent, and Concept. The platoon leader must understand the company’s concept of the operation. He identifies the company’s task and purpose, as well as his contribution to the company’s fight. The platoon leader must clearly understand the commander’s intent from the order (paragraph 3a). Additionally, the platoon leader identifies the task, purpose, and disposition for all adjacent maneuver elements under company control.

– Platoon Mission. The platoon leader finds his platoon’s mission in the company’s concept of the operation paragraph. The purpose of the main effort platoon usually matches the purpose of the company. Similarly, shaping operation platoons’ purposes must relate to the purpose of the main effort platoon. The platoon leader must understand how his purpose relates to the other platoons in the company. He determines the platoon’s essential tactical task to successfully accomplish his given purpose. Finally, he must understand why the commander gave his platoon a particular tactical task and how it fits into the company’s concept of the operation.

– Constraints. Constraints are restrictions placed on the platoon leader by the commander to dictate action or inaction, thus restricting the freedom of action the platoon leader has for planning by stating the things that must or must not be done. The two types of constraints are: requirements for action (for example, maintain a squad in reserve); and prohibitions of action (for example, do not cross phaseline [PL] BULL until authorized).

– Identification of Tasks. The platoon leader must identify and understand the tasks required to accomplish the mission. There are three types of tasks: specified; implied; and essential.

n         Specified Tasks. These are tasks specifically assigned to a platoon by the commander.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 from the company OPORD state specified tasks. Specified tasks
may also be found in annexes and overlays.

n         Implied Tasks. These are tasks that must be performed to accomplish a specified task,
but which are not stated in the OPORD. Implied tasks are derived from a detailed
analysis of the OPORD, the enemy situation, the COAs, and the terrain. Analysis of the
platoon’s current location in relation to future areas of operation as well as the doctrinal
requirements for each specified task also might provide implied tasks. SOP tasks are not
considered implied tasks.

n         Essential Tasks. An essential task is one that must be executed to accomplish the
mission derived from a review of the specified and implied tasks. This is normally the
task found in the mission statement

– Identification of Risks. Risk is the chance of injury or death to individuals and damage to or loss of vehicles and equipment. Risk, or the potential for risk, is always present in every combat and training situation the platoon faces. Risk management must take place at all levels of the chain of command during every operation. It is an integral part of tactical planning. The platoon leader, his NCOs, and all other platoon Soldiers must know how to use risk management, coupled with fratricide avoidance measures, to ensure that the mission is executed in the safest possible environment within mission constraints. The platoon leader should review risk from a tactical perspective (how can they best accomplish the mission with the least damage to their unit?) and an individual perspective (how do I minimize the chances of my Soldiers getting hurt and keep my equipment from being damaged?). Refer to Chapter 4 for a detailed discussion of risk management and fratricide avoidance.

– Restated Platoon Mission Statement. The platoon leader restates his mission statement using the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. The “who” is the platoon. The “what” is the type of operation and the platoon’s essential tactical task. The “when” is the date-time group (DTG) given in the OPORD. The “where” is the objective or location taken from the OPORD. The “why” is the purpose for the platoon’s essential tactical task taken from the commander’s paragraph 3.

Analysis of Terrain and Weather

5-28.     The platoon leader must conduct a detailed analysis of the terrain to determine how it will uniquely affect his unit and the enemy he anticipates fighting. The platoon leader must gain an appreciation of the terrain before attempting to develop either enemy or friendly COA. He must exceed merely making observations (for example, this is high ground, this is an avenue of approach). He must arrive at significant conclusions concerning how the ground will affect the enemy and his unit. Because of limited planning time, the platoon leader normally prioritizes his terrain analysis. For example, in the conduct of an assault, his priority may be the area around the objective followed by the platoon’s specific axis leading to the objective.

5-29.     Terrain mobility is classified in one of three categories:

(1)     Unrestricted. This is terrain free of any movement restrictions. No actions are required to enhance mobility. For mechanized forces, unrestricted terrain is typically flat or moderately sloped, with scattered or widely spaced obstacles such as trees or rocks. Unrestricted terrain generally allows wide maneuver and offers unlimited travel over well-developed road networks. Unrestricted terrain is an advantage in situations requiring rapid movement for mechanized forces.

(2)     Restricted. This terrain hinders movement to some degree, and units may need to detour frequently. Restricted terrain may cause difficulty in maintaining optimal speed, moving in some types of combat formations, or transitioning from one formation to another. This terrain typically encompasses moderate to steep slopes or moderate to dense spacing of obstacles such as trees, rocks, or buildings. The terrain may not require additional assets or time to traverse, but it may hinder movement to some degree due to increased security requirements. In instances when security is the paramount concern, both friendly and enemy elements may move in more restricted terrain that may provide more cover and concealment.

(3)     Severely Restricted. This terrain severely hinders or slows movement in combat formations unless some effort is made to enhance mobility. It may require a commitment of engineer forces to improve mobility or a deviation from doctrinal tactics, such as using a column rather than a wedge formation or moving at speeds much slower than otherwise preferred. Severely restricted terrain includes any terrain that requires equipment not organic to the unit to cross (for example, a large body of water and slopes requiring mountaineering equipment).

5-30.     The military aspects of terrain observation (Figure 5-4) are used to analyze the ground. The sequence used to analyze the military aspects of terrain can vary. The platoon leader may prefer to determine obstacles first, avenues of approach second, key terrain third, observation and fields of fire fourth, and cover and concealment last. For each aspect of terrain, the platoon leader determines its effect on both friendly and enemy forces. The following are OAKOC aspects of terrain.


Figure 5-4. Military aspects of terrain.


5-31.     The platoon leader first identifies existing and reinforcing obstacles in his AO that limit his mobility with regards to the mission. Existing obstacles are typically natural terrain features present on the battlefield. These may include ravines, gaps, or ditches over 3-meters wide; tree stumps and large rocks over 18-inches high; forests with trees 8 inches or greater in diameter and with less than 4 meters between trees; and manmade obstacles such as towns or cities. Reinforcing obstacles are typically manmade obstacles that augment existing obstacles. These may include minefields, AT ditches, road craters, abatis and log cribs, wire obstacles, and infantry strongpoints. Figure 5-5 lists several offensive and defensive considerations the platoon leader can include in his analysis of obstacles and restricted terrain.



Figure 5-5. Considerations in obstacle and terrain analysis.

Avenues of Approach

5-32.     An avenue of approach is an air or ground route of an attacking force leading to its objective or key terrain. For each avenue of approach, the platoon leader determines the type (mounted, dismounted, air, or subterranean), size, and formation and speed of the largest unit that can travel along it. The commander may give him this information. Mounted forces may move on avenues along unrestricted or restricted terrain (or both). Dismounted avenues and avenues used by reconnaissance elements and infantry platoons normally include terrain that is restricted and at times severely restricted to mounted forces. The terrain analysis also must identify avenues of approach for both friendly and enemy units. Figure 5-6 lists several considerations for avenue of approach analysis.


Figure 5-6. Considerations for avenue of approach analysis.

Key Terrain

5-33.     Key terrain affords a marked advantage to the combatant who seizes, retains, or controls it. The platoon leader identifies key terrain starting at the objective or main battle area and working backwards to his current position. It is a conclusion rather than an observation. The platoon leader must assess what terrain is key to accomplishing his mission. Key terrain may allow the platoon leader to apply direct fire or achieve observation of the objective (or avenue of approach). Key terrain may also be enemy oriented, meaning that if the enemy controls the terrain it could prevent the platoon from accomplishing its mission.

– An example of key terrain for a platoon could be a tree line on a hillside that provides overwatch of a high-speed avenue of approach. Controlling this tree line may be critical in passing follow-on forces (main effort) to their objective. High ground is not necessarily key terrain. A prominent hilltop that overlooks an avenue of approach and offers clear observation and fields of fire, if it is easily bypassed, is not key terrain.

– Although unlikely, the platoon leader may identify decisive terrain—key terrain that holds such importance that the seizure, retention, and control of it will be necessary for mission accomplishment and may decide the outcome of the battle. Use the following two military aspects of terrain (observation and fields of fire, and cover and concealment) to analyze each piece of key terrain. Figure 5-7 depicts operational considerations to use when analyzing key terrain.

Figure 5-7. Considerations in key terrain analysis.

Observation and Fields of Fire

5-34.     The platoon leader analyzes areas surrounding key terrain, objectives, avenues of approach, and obstacles to determine if they provide clear observation and fields of fire for both friendly and enemy forces. He locates intervisibility lines (terrain that inhibits observation from one point to another) that have not been identified by the commander and determines where visual contact between the two forces occurs. When analyzing fields of fire, the platoon leader focuses on both friendly and enemy direct fire capabilities. Additionally, he identifies positions that enable artillery observers to call for indirect fires and permit snipers to engage targets. Figure 5-8 provides considerations for analysis of observation and fields of fire. Whenever possible, the platoon leader conducts a ground reconnaissance from both the friendly and enemy perspective.



Figure 5-8. Considerations for analysis of observation and fields of fire.

Cover and Concealment

5-35.      Cover is protection from the effects of fires. Concealment is protection from observation but not direct fire or indirect fires. Figure 5-9 provides considerations for analysis of cover and concealment. Consideration of these elements can leads the platoon leader to identify areas that can, at best, achieve both facets. The platoon leader looks at the terrain, foliage, structures, and other features on the key terrain, objective, and avenues of approach to identify sites that offer cover and concealment.


 Figure 5-9. Considerations in analysis of cover and concealment.

Five military aspects of weather

(1)     Visibility.

(2)     Winds.

(3)     Precipitation.

(4)     Cloud cover.

(5)     Temperature/humidity.


5-36.     The platoon leader must go beyond merely making observations. He must arrive at significant conclusions about how the weather will affect his platoon and the enemy. He receives conclusions from the commander and identifies his own critical conclusions about the weather. Most importantly, the platoon leader must apply these conclusions when he develops friendly and enemy COAs. The five military aspects of weather are—

– Visibility. The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about visibility factors (such as fog, smog, and humidity) and battlefield obscurants (such as smoke and dust). Some visibility considerations are—

n         Will the current weather favor the use of smoke to obscure during breaching?

n         Will fog affect friendly and enemy target acquisition?

– Light Data. The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about beginning morning nautical twilight (BMNT), sunrise (SR), sunset (SS), end of evening nautical twilight (EENT), moonrise (MR), moonset (MS), and percentage of illumination. Some light data considerations are—

n         Will the sun rise behind my attack?

n         How can I take advantage of the limited illumination?

n         How will limited illumination affect friendly and enemy target acquisition?

– Temperature. The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about temperature factors (such as high and low temperatures and infrared crossover times) and battlefield factors (such as use of smoke or chemicals). Some temperature considerations are—

n         How will temperature (hot or cold) affect rate of foot march for the platoon?

n         How will temperature (hot or cold) affect the Soldiers and equipment?

n         Will temperatures favor the use of nonpersistent chemicals?

– Precipitation. The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about precipitation factors (such as type, amount, and duration). Some precipitation considerations are—

n         How will precipitation affect mobility?

n         How can precipitation add to the platoon achieving surprise?

– Winds. The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about wind factors (such as direction and speed). Some wind considerations are—

n         Will wind speed cause smoke to dissipate quickly?

n         Will wind speed and direction favor enemy use of smoke?

5-37.     The platoon leader identifies critical conclusions about cloud cover (such as target acquisition degradation, aircraft approach, and radar effectiveness).  Some cloud cover considerations are—

– Will heavy cloud cover limit illumination and solar heating of targets?

– Will heavy cloud cover degrade the use of infrared-guided artillery?

– Will cloud cover cause glare, a condition that attacking aircraft might use to conceal their approach?

– Will the cloud cover affect ground surveillance radar (GSR) coverage of the AO?

Analysis of Enemy

5-38.     This step allows the platoon leader to identify the enemy’s strength and potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities so he can exploit them to generate overwhelming combat power in achieving his mission. The platoon leader must understand the assumptions the commander used to portray the enemy’s COAs covered in the company’s plan. Furthermore, the platoon leader’s assumptions about the enemy must be consistent with those of the company commander. To effectively analyze the enemy, the platoon leader must know how the enemy may fight. It is equally important for the platoon leader to understand what is actually known about the enemy as opposed to what is only assumed or templated.

5-39.         During doctrinal analysis, it is not enough only to know the number and types of vehicles, soldiers, and weapons the enemy has. The platoon leader’s analysis must extend down to the individual key weapon system. During stability operations or small-scale contingency (SSC) operations in an underdeveloped area where little is known about the combatants, it may be difficult to portray or template the enemy doctrinally. In this case, the platoon leader must rely on brigade and battalion analyses funneled through the company commander as well as his own knowledge of recent enemy activities. The platoon leader should consider the following areas as he analyzes the enemy.

– Composition. The platoon leader’s analysis must determine the number and types of enemy vehicles, soldiers, and equipment that could be used against his platoon. He gets this information from paragraph 1a of the company OPORD. His analysis also must examine how the enemy organizes for combat to include the possible use of a reserve.

– Disposition. From the commander’s information, the platoon leader identifies how the enemy that his platoon will fight is arrayed.

– Strength. The platoon leader identifies the strength of the enemy. It is imperative that the platoon leader determines the actual numbers of equipment and personnel that his platoon is expected to fight or that may affect his platoon. Again, much of this information is gained through the detailed OPORD.

– Capabilities. Based on the commander’s assessment and the enemy’s doctrine and current location, the platoon leader must determine what the enemy is capable of doing against his platoon during the mission. Such an analysis must include the planning ranges for each enemy weapons system that the platoon may encounter.

– Anticipated Enemy Courses of Action. To identify potential enemy COAs, the platoon leader weighs the result of his initial analysis of terrain and weather against the enemy’s composition, capabilities, and doctrinal objectives. He then develops an enemy SITEMP for his portion of the company plan. The end product is a platoon SITEMP, a graphic overlay depiction of how he believes the enemy will fight under the specific conditions expected on the battlefield. The commander’s analysis and understanding of the current enemy and friendly situation will provide the platoon leader with most of this information. Included in the SITEMP is the range fan of the enemy’s weapons and any tactical and protective obstacles, either identified or merely templated. Once the SITEMP has been developed it should be transferred to a large-scale sketch to enable subordinates to see the details of the anticipated enemy COA. After the platoon leader briefs the enemy analysis to his subordinates, he must ensure they understand what is known, what is suspected, and what merely templated (educated guess) is. The platoon’s SITEMP should depict individual Soldier and weapons positions and is a refinement of the commander’s SITEMP.

Summary of Mission Analysis

5-40.     The end result of mission analysis, as done during the formulation of a tentative plan, is a number of insights and conclusions regarding how the factors of METT-TC affect accomplishment of the platoon’s mission. The platoon leader must determine how he can apply his strengths against enemy weakness, while protecting his weaknesses from enemy strength. From these the platoon leader will develop a COA.

Course of Action Development

5-41.     The purpose of COA development is to determine one (or more) way(s) to achieve the mission by applying the overwhelming effects of combat power at the decisive place or time with the least cost in friendly casualties. If time permits, the platoon leader may develop several COAs. The platoon leader makes each COA as detailed as possible to describe clearly how he plans to use his forces to achieve the unit’s purpose and mission-essential task(s) consistent with the commander’s intent. He focuses on the actions the unit must take at the decisive point and works backward to his start point. A COA should satisfy the criteria listed in Table 5-3.


NOTE:  The platoon leader should consider (METT-TC dependent) incorporating his squad leaders and platoon sergeant in COA development. Incorporating the squad leaders and platoon sergeant in the process may add time to the initial COA development process, but it will save time by increasing their understanding of the platoon’s plan.

Table 5-3. Course of action criteria.


If the COA were successfully executed, would the unit accomplish the mission consistent with the battalion and company commander’s concept and intent?



The platoon must have the technical and tactical skill and resources to successfully accomplish the COA. In short, given the enemy situation and terrain, the unit must have the training, equipment, leadership, and rehearsal time necessary to successfully execute the mission.


If more than one COA is developed, then each COA must be sufficiently different from the others to justify full development and consideration. At platoon level, this is very difficult to accomplish, particularly if the platoon has limited freedom of action or time to plan and prepare.


The COA must include the operational factors of who, what, when, where, and how. The COA must address the doctrinal aspects of the operation. For example, in the attack against a defending enemy, the COA must cover movement to, deployment against, assault of, and consolidation upon the objective.


(1)     COA Development Step 1: Analyze Relative Combat Power. This step compares combat power strengths and weaknesses of both friendly and enemy forces. At the platoon level this should not be a complex process. However, if the platoon is attacking or defending against a force that has no order of battle but has exhibited guerrilla- or terrorist-type tactics, it could be difficult. For the platoon leader, it starts by returning to the conclusions the commander arrived at during mission analysis, specifically the conclusions about the enemy’s strength, weakness, and vulnerabilities. In short, the platoon leader is trying to ascertain where, when, and how the platoon’s combat power (Intelligence, Movement and Maneuver, Fire Support, Protection, Sustainment, and Command and Control) can be superior to the enemy’s while achieving the mission. This analysis should lead to techniques, procedures, and a potential decisive point that will focus the COA development. See FM 1-02 for the definition of a decisive point.

– COA Development Step 2: Generate Options. The platoon leader must first identify the objectives or times at which the unit will mass overwhelming firepower to achieve a specific result (with respect to terrain, enemy, and or time) that will accomplish the platoon’s mission. He should take the following action.

– Determine the Doctrinal Requirements. As the platoon leader begins to develop a COA he should consider, if he has not done so in mission analysis, what doctrine suggests in terms of accomplishing the mission. For example, in an attack of a strongpoint, doctrine outlines several steps: isolate the objective area and the selected breach site, attack to penetrate and seize a foothold in the strongpoint, exploit the penetration, and clear the objective. In this case, doctrine gives the platoon leader a framework to begin developing a way to accomplish the mission.

– Determine the Decisive Point. The next and most important action is to identify a decisive point in order to progress with COA development. The decisive point may be given to the platoon leader by the company commander or be determined by the platoon leader through his relative combat power analysis.

– Determine the Purpose of Each Element. Determine the purpose of the subordinate elements starting with the main effort. The main effort’s purpose is nested to the platoon’s purpose and is achieved at the platoon leader’s decisive point. The platoon leader next identifies the purposes of shaping efforts. These purposes are nested to the main effort’s purpose by setting the conditions for success of the main effort.

– Determine Tasks of Subordinate Elements. Starting with the main effort, the platoon leader specifies the essential tactical tasks that will enable the main and shaping efforts to achieve their purpose.

(2)     COA Development Step 3: Array Initial Forces. The platoon leader next must determine the specific
number of squads and weapons necessary to accomplish the mission and provide a basis for  development of a scheme of maneuver. He will consider the platoon’s restated mission statement, the commander’s intent, and the enemy’s most probable COA. He should allocate resources to the main effort (at the decisive point) and continue with shaping efforts in descending order of importance to accomplish the tasks and purposes he assigned during Step 2. For example, the main effort in an attack of a strong point may require a rifle squad and an engineer squad to secure a foothold, whereas an SBF force may require the entire weapons squad.

(3)     COA Development Step 4: Develop Schemes of Maneuver. The scheme of maneuver is a description of how the platoon leader envisions his subordinates will accomplish the mission from the start of the operation until its completion. He does this by determining how the achievement of one task will lead to the execution of the next. He clarifies in his mind the best ways to use the available terrain as well as how best to employ the platoon’s strengths against the enemy’s weaknesses (gained from his relative combat power analysis). This includes the requirements of indirect fire to support the maneuver. The platoon leader then develops the maneuver control measures necessary to enhance understanding of the scheme of maneuver, ensure fratricide avoidance, and to clarify the task and purpose of the main and shaping efforts. (Refer to Chapter 4 for a detailed discussion of fratricide avoidance.) He also determines the supply and medical evacuation aspects of the COA.

(4)     COA Development Step 5: Assign Headquarters. The platoon leader assigns specific elements (for example, squads) as the main and shaping efforts. The platoon leader ensures that he has employed every element of the unit and has C2 for each element.

(5)     COA Development Step 6: Prepare COA Statements and Sketches. The platoon leader’s ability to prepare COA sketches and statements will depend on the amount of time available and his skill and experience as a platoon leader. Whenever possible, the platoon leader should prepare a sketch showing the COA. The COA statement is based on the scheme of maneuver the commander has already developed and the platoon leader’s situational analysis. It focuses on all significant actions from the start of the COA to its finish. The company commander should provide the platoon and squad leaders his COA analysis when time is a limiting factor. Particularly if the order is verbal, it is extremely useful to have one or more sketches of critical events within the plan that require coordinated movement of two or more subordinate units.

–  Wargaming of COA. After developing a COA, the platoon leader wargames it to determine its advantages and disadvantages, to visualize the flow of the battle, and to identify requirements to synchronize actual execution. This is typically done during a discussion with the squad leaders, platoon sergeant, or other key personnel. This technique is not complicated, and it facilitates a total understanding of the plan. This is not a rehearsal. The wargame is designed to synchronize all platoon actions, whereas during COA development the leader is focused on simply integrating all platoon assets into the fight.

– COA Comparison and Selection. If the platoon leader develops more than one COA, he must compare them by weighing the specific advantages, disadvantages, strengths, and weaknesses of each. These attributes may pertain to the accomplishment of the platoon purpose, the use of terrain, the destruction of the enemy, or any other aspect of the operation that the platoon leader believes is important. The platoon leader uses these factors as his frame of reference in tentatively selecting the best COA. He makes the final selection of a COA based on his own analysis.


5-42.     The platoon leader initiates any movement that is necessary to continue preparations or to posture the unit for the operation. This may include movement to an assembly area (AA), battle position, perimeter defense, or attack position; movement of reconnaissance elements; or movement to compute time-distance factors for the unit’s mission.


NOTE:  The following discussion on reconnaissance and the amount or type of reconnaissance conducted must be evaluated by the amount of information needed, the risk to leaders conducting the reconnaissance, and time available, and it must be a coordinated effort with higher command.


5-43.     Even if the platoon leader has made a leader’s reconnaissance with the company commander at some point during TLP, he should still conduct a reconnaissance after he has developed his plan. The focus of the reconnaissance is to confirm the priority intelligence requirements (PIRs) that support the tentative plan.

– These PIRs are critical requirements needed to confirm or deny some aspect of the enemy (location, strength, movement). The PIRs also include assumptions about the terrain (to verify, for example, that a tentative SBF position actually will allow for suppression of the enemy, or to verify the utility of an avenue of approach).

– The platoon leader may include his subordinate leaders in this reconnaissance (or he may instruct a squad to conduct a reconnaissance patrol with specific objectives). This allows them to see as much of the terrain and enemy as possible. It also helps each leader visualize the plan more clearly.

– At the platoon level, the leader’s reconnaissance may include movement to or beyond a line of departure (LD) or from the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) back to and through the engagement area along likely enemy routes. If possible, the platoon leader should select a vantage point that provides the group with the best possible view of the decisive point.

– The platoon leader may also conduct a leader’s reconnaissance through other means. Examples of this type of reconnaissance include surveillance of an area by subordinate elements, patrols by infantry squads to determine where the enemy is (and is not) located, and establishment of OPs to gain additional information. If available, the leaders may use video from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or video footage provided from helicopter gun cameras and digital downloads of 2D terrain products. The nature of the reconnaissance, including what it covers and how long it lasts, depends on the tactical situation and the time available. The platoon leader should use the results from the COA development process to identify information and security requirements for the platoon’s reconnaissance operations.


5-44.     Completion of the plan includes several actions that transform the commander’s intent and concept and the platoon concept into a fully developed platoon OPORD. These actions include preparing overlays, refining the indirect fire list, completing sustainment and C2 requirements, and updating the tentative plan as a result of the reconnaissance. It also allows the platoon leader to prepare the briefing site, briefing medium and briefing material he will need to present the OPORD to his subordinates. Completing the plan allows the platoon leader to make final coordination with other units or the commander before issuing the OPORD to his subordinates.


5-45.     The OPORD precisely and concisely explains the mission, the commander’s intent and concept of how he wants his squads to accomplish the mission. The OPORD must not contain unnecessary information that could obscure what is essential and important. The platoon leader must ensure his squads know exactly what must be done, when it must be done, and how the platoon must work together to accomplish the mission and stay consistent with the intentions of the commander.

– The platoon leader issues the order in person, looking into the eyes of all his Soldiers to ensure each leader and Soldier understands the mission and what his element must achieve. The platoon leader also uses visual aids, such as sand tables and concept sketches, to depict actions on the objective or movement.

– The format of the five-paragraph OPORD helps the platoon leader paint a complete picture of all aspects of the operation: terrain, enemy, higher and adjacent friendly units, platoon mission, execution, support, and command. The format also helps him address all relevant details of the operation. Finally, it provides subordinates with a predictable, smooth flow of information from beginning to end.


5-46.     The platoon leader supervises the unit’s preparation for combat by conducting confirmation briefs, rehearsals, and inspections. Table 5-4 lists the items the unit should have.

Table 5-4. Precombat checklist.

Precombat Checklist

ID card


Grappling hook

ID tags

T&E mechanisms

Sling sets


Spare barrels

PZ marking kit


Spare barrel bags


Protective mask

Extraction tools



Asbestos gloves

Handheld microphones


Barrel changing handles


Radios and backup communication

Headspace and timing gauges

Batteries and spare batteries

Communication cards

M249 tools

Picket pounder

9-line MEDEVAC procedures


Engineer stakes

Oil & transmission fluids



Anti-freeze coolant

Concertina wire


5-gallon water jugs

TCP signs



IR lights

Graphics, routes, OBJs, LZs, and PZs

Load plans

Glint tape


Fuel cans

Chemical lights

Alcohol pens

Fuel spout

Spare hand sets

Alcohol erasers

Tow bars

Pencil with eraser

Pen and paper

Slave cables

Weapon tie downs


Concertina wire gloves

5-47.     Platoon leaders should conduct a confirmation brief after issuing the oral OPORD to ensure subordinates know the mission, the commander’s intent, the concept of the operation, and their assigned tasks. Confirmation briefs can be conducted face to face or by radio, depending on the situation. Face to face is the desired method, because all section and squad leaders are together to resolve questions, and it ensures that each leader knows what the adjacent squad is doing.

5-48.     The platoon conducts rehearsals. During the rehearsals, leaders practice sending tactical reports IAW the unit’s SOPs. Reporting before, during, and after contact with the enemy is rehearsed in detail starting with actions on the objective. Rehearsals are not intended to analyze a COA.

(1)     The platoon leader uses well-planned, efficiently run rehearsals to accomplish the following:

– Reinforce training and increase proficiency in critical tasks.

– Reveal weaknesses or problems in the plan.

– Integrate and synchronize the actions of attached elements.

– Confirm coordination requirements between the platoon and adjacent units.

– Confirm each Soldier’s understanding of the mission, concept of the operation, the direct fire plan, anticipated contingencies, and possible actions and reactions for various situations that may arise during the operation.

(2)     Rehearsal techniques include the following:

– Map Rehearsal. A map rehearsal is usually conducted as part of a confirmation brief involving subordinate leaders or portions of their elements. The leader uses the map and overlay to guide participants as they brief their role in the operation. If necessary, he can use a sketch map. A sketch map provides the same information as a terrain model and can be used at any time.

– Sand Table or Terrain Model. This reduced-force or full-force technique employs a small-scale sand table or model that depicts graphic control measures and important terrain features for reference and orientation. Participants walk around the sand table or model to practice the actions of their own elements or vehicles (if working with mechanized units) in relation to other members of the platoon.

– Radio Rehearsal. This is a reduced-force or full-force rehearsal conducted when the situation does not allow the platoon to gather at one location. Subordinate elements check their communications systems and rehearse key elements of the platoon plan.

– Reduced-Force Rehearsal. In this rehearsal, leaders discuss the mission while moving over key terrain or similar terrain.

– Full-Force Rehearsal. This technique is used during a full-force rehearsal. Rehearsals begin in good visibility over open terrain and become increasingly realistic until conditions approximate those expected in the AO.


NOTE:  If time permits, the platoon should conduct a full-force rehearsal of the plan.


5-49.     The squad leader follows the same format as in Figure 5-10 and issues his five-paragraph format OPORD to his squad. Because the squad is the smallest maneuver element, he does not develop COAs. He must, however, assign specific tasks and purposes to his team leaders to ensure his squad mission is accomplished.


Figure 5-10. Five-paragraph format OPORD example.

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