Battle Staff Drill for Logisticians

by Major Gary R. Grimes

The author believes that the battle staff drill is for logisticians, too, and furnishes an example that CSS units can use.

I have heard soldiers from both combat service support (CSS) and non-CSS branches state that battle staff drills are not for logisticians. I believe that logisticians can conduct battle staff drills just as proficiently as combat soldiers, but they must be trained to do so. For that to happen, CSS leaders must recognize the value of battle staff drills and adapt them to CSS operations. There is no better way for a CSS commander to create a well-trained, effective staff than through battle drills.

Through the battle staff drill, a CSS staff will learn that working together is the real key to success. A staff assists a commander in making his decisions, communicating those decisions to subordinates, and ensuring that they are executed. To make accurate decisions, staff officers must have a firm understanding of the decisionmaking process and the tools available. The battle staff drill is one of those tools.

The battle staff drill (command estimate) focuses on the commander and his principal staff as they plan and conduct combat operations. It is proactive, so the commander is not reacting to the situation. Integral to any estimate is management of information. The collection, analysis, and distribution of information is a continuous staff requirement. All information analyzed by each staff section must be exchanged with other sections and briefed during situational updates. This is where the staff learns to mesh.

The battle staff drill focuses on the commander's critical information requirements (CCIR's). The CCIR's are broken out by the staff's functional areas. CCIR's increase the chances for developing a successful plan by providing the right information in an easily understood format to all parties. Staff interaction in a battle drill highlights CCIR's that assist the commander in making decisions. The staff officer uses the results to update his knowledge of the situation and identify and focus on the CCIR's the commander needs to execute combat operations.

What follows is a sample battle staff drill for CSS units. It is based on an existing battle staff plan that I adapted for logisticians.

Battle Staff Drill

1. Objective. The objective of the battle staff drill is to create the best plan within a given time constraint. The time constraint should be managed using the one-third/two-thirds rule: one-third of the available time should be used for staff planning, and two-thirds of the time should be allowed for subordinate companies to plan and execute. Subordinate unit commanders may even want to conduct their own planning process. A warning order should be given to the subordinate units during the one-third of the time allotted for staff planning; this order will alert them to the mission.

The resulting plan will not be perfect, but it will be a good starting point for the operation. Remember that an average plan that is complete and executed on time is better than a superior plan that is incomplete, executed late, or requires all of the subordinate units' planning time to finish.

The battle staff drill is a frame of mind as well as a process. To be successful, information must be as accurate and current as possible. This drill focuses staff efforts on the CCIR's. Use of CCIR's increases the staff's chances of developing a successful plan by providing the right information in an easily understood format. A display called the coordination board is updated with CCIR's to provide a ready reference for the staff during planning and execution.

2. Commander's Critical Information Requirements. The CCIR's are broken out by staff functional area-

a. S1 Personnel CCIR's-

(1) Replacement rate.

(2) Unit personnel status. (Use the red, green, and amber color code system to identify status.)

(3) Ineffective or marginal units (as affected by combat loss).

(4) Shortages of critical military occupational specialties (MOS's).

(5) Soldier personal readiness. (How many hours of continuous operations are possible? medical problems? etc.)

(6) Organizational climate, commitment, and cohesion.

(7) Service support (availability of mail, newspapers, etc.).

[Note: Project these CCIR's into the future based on current operations.]

b. S3 Section CCIR's-

(1) S3 CCIR's-

(a) Base makeup.

(b) Mobility of units.

(c) Integration into host unit operations.

(d) Threat level.

(e) Commander's intent.

(f) Command and control.

(g) Security measures and operations security.

(h) Priority information requirements.

(i) Future operations.

(2) S2 CCIR's-

(a) Enemy's most likely course of action (COA) (avenues of approach, employment of available assets, etc.).

(b) Enemy front line trace.

(c) Current intelligence information from higher headquarters.

(d) Priority information requirements.

(e) Security measures and operations security.

(f) Threat level.

(g) Current and projected weather.

(h) New base and base cluster security.

[Note: Focus more on the threat to your unit and less on the "big picture" of the theater situation.]

(3) Signal Officer CCIR's-

(a) Communications capability.

(b) Communications security problems.

(c) Status of signal subunits and nodes. (Use color code system.)

c. Logistics Operations Officer/Battalion Materiel Management Officer/ Support Operations Officer CCIR's (The title of the support operations officer will vary depending on the unit modification table of organization and equipment)-

(1) External support requirements.

(2) Status of classes of supply by days of supply (use color code system).

(3) Status of main supply routes.

(4) Terrain assessment (size, concealment, road network, security, distance from forward line of own troops and supported units, etc.)

(5) Augmented logistics requirements.

(6) Rear operations considerations.

(7) Mobility of subordinate units.

(8) New base and base cluster security.

(9) Time schedule and phasing of operations.

d. S4/Battalion Maintenance Officer/Property Book Officer (if applicable) CCIR's-

(1) Supply status by class within the battalion (use color code system).

(2) Internal equipment readiness (maintenance status).

(3) Fill of equipment readiness code A and pacing items (use color code system).

(4) Projected supply requirements (estimated usage).

(5) Location of supporting maintenance units.

(6) Maintenance capability.

(7) Mobility of subordinate units.

3. Coordination Board. The coordination board is a visible record of a mission analysis. It helps keep the staff focused on key operational considerations, even in the absence of the executive officer (XO), support operations officer, or S3. The coordination board must be kept current to enhance mission analysis.

4. Battle Staff Tasks. There are 13 different but interrelated tasks in the battle staff drill process. The time allocations next to each task are based on a 6-hour battle staff drill. If the time available for the drill is less than 6 hours, use the percentages in parentheses as a guide for allocating time to each task-

a. Receive the mission: 5 minutes (3 percent of available time [AT] ).

b. Issue warning order: within 15 minutes after mission receipt. (Normally this order is issued verbally.)

c. Situation update: 5-20 minutes (5 percent of AT).

d. Mission analysis: 10-60 minutes (15 percent of AT).

e. Commander's guidance: 5-10 minutes (3 percent of AT).

f. Issue warning order: as soon as possible after commander's guidance.

g. Develop COA's: 10-60 minutes (15 percent of AT).

h. COA briefing (to the staff): 5-30 minutes (8 percent of AT).

i. Analyze COA's: 10-50 minutes (14 percent of AT).

j. Decision briefing (to the commander): 10-45 minutes (12 percent of AT).

k. Develop plan: 15-90 minutes (25 percent of AT).

l. Issue operation plan (OPLAN)/operation order (OPORD)/fragmentary order (FRAGO): immediately after commander approves plan.

m. OPLAN coordination: through execution.

[Note: Available time is the one-third of the drill allotted to staff planning. Two warning orders are issued to subordinate companies during the staff's planning time. The first, issued within 15 minutes of mission receipt, alerts the companies to a new mission. The second is issued immediately after the commander provides guidance to the staff; it provides additional information and adds some commander focus. The goal is to issue the second warning order within the first 30 percent of the time allotted for staff planning. This requires a determination of the staff planning AT, the estimated time schedule for the entire process, and the estimated time for issuing the warning order, the final plan, and FRAGO's.]

5. Task Description. Each of the tasks listed above has several components that are executed simultaneously or sequentially as the situation dictates. The following examines each task and its component actions, as well as who performs them. When more than one individual is listed as the staff element for an action (for example, XO, support operations officer, S3), one of them or a combination of them will execute the action-

a. Receive the mission-

(1) Tactical operations center receives a mission change: S3.

(2) Announce a new mission and alert battle staff: XO.

(3) Prepare drill schedule: S3 noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC).

(4) Prepare situation updates: All staff.

(5) Read OPLAN: XO, S3, support operations officer.

b. Issue warning order. Within 15 minutes of receiving the mission, the S3 prepares and issues a warning order to subordinate units. This first warning order normally will be verbal. The warning order should include-

(1) Mission (in very general terms).

(2) Any commander's guidance (if available).

(3) Area of operations.

(4) Estimated time schedule of major actions.

(5) Movement requirements (if available).

c. Situation update. The battle staff has assembled and is aware of changes in their areas since the last update. Situation updates should cover only changes that have occurred in CCIR's. Staff briefers should be concise and to the point. If no changes have occurred, "No Changes" is all that should be stated. (Don't miss an opportunity to say nothing!) Situational updates are normally verbal, with a chart to visually illustrate the situation and statistics. Situational awareness does not necessarily mean knowing all the information that is out there. Situational awareness is briefing the commander on the most updated, available information that the staff knows. Use the red, green, and amber color code system whenever possible on the briefing chart-

(1) Intelligence and nuclear-biological-chemical update: S2.

(2) Maneuver and CSS forces update: S3.

(3) Direct support and general support logistics status: Support operations officer.

(4) Signal update: Communications officer.

(5) Personnel update: S1.

(6) Battalion logistics update: S4.

[Note: The companies should consider putting a liaison at the battalion for the battle staff drill.]

d. Mission analysis. This is probably the most important step in the process. After staff updates have been completed, the commander and battle staff brainstorm the assigned mission. Sometimes, when facts are lacking, they must make assumptions to facilitate planning. Remember that assumptions made by a higher headquarters are treated as facts at your level until changed at a higher level. The coordination board is used to record the results of the mission analysis-

(1) Create and update overlay and post map: S3 NCO's.

(2) Time analysis (drill schedule) is read out loud: S3 NCOIC.

(3) Coordination boards are updated throughout the drill: S3 NCO's.

(4) OPORD and warning order are briefed to the staff: XO, support operations officer.

(5) Assess area of operations and the enemy's probable COA: S2.

(6) Identify specified tasks: All staff.

(7) Identify implied tasks: All staff.

(8) Identify essential tasks (from list of specified and implied tasks): All staff.

(9) Make assumptions: All staff.

(10) Risk assessment: All staff.

(11) Constraints and restrictions: All staff.

(12) Restated mission: All staff.

e. Commander's guidance. The battalion commander issues guidance to the staff and provides information that is valuable to company commanders. His guidance should include as many of the following items as possible-

(1) CCIR's.

(2) Assumptions.

(3) Specific subunit missions.

(4) Specific COA's to be developed and evaluated.

(5) Non-standing operating procedure (SOP) criteria and comparison factors.

(6) Nuclear-biological-chemical guidance.

(7) Acceptable risks.

(8) Time guidance.

f. Issue warning order. As soon as the commander's guidance is provided, the S3 prepares and issues this second warning order to subordinate units. This warning order should be written and should include-

(1) Restated mission.

(2) Commander's guidance.

(3) Area of operations.

(4) Estimated time schedule for major actions.

(5) Movement requirements.

(6) Overlay sketch.

(7) Time and place to pick up OPLAN, OPORD, and FRAGO's.

(8) When movement is involved, the warning order should state a time before which there will be no movements.

g. Develop courses of action. As a result of the mission analysis, the staff understands the new mission requirements. The S3 has received the necessary steps for developing feasible COA's. Each feasible COA should be briefed to the commander for his review, approval, or modification-

(1) Develop graphics: S3.

(2) Review air and ground avenues of approach and intelligence preparation of the battlefield: S3, S2.

(3) Post enemy forces overlay from higher headquarters: S3.

(4) Develop COA's and task organization: Support operations officer, S3.

(5) Develop COA sketches: Support operations officer, S3.

(6) Refine facts and assumptions: Support operations officer, S3.

h. Course of action briefing to the staff. Once COA's have been developed and sketched, the support operations officer and S3 brief the rest of the staff on each COA. If possible, each staff element receives a sketch and concept statement for each COA. The XO refines guidance as necessary. Questions should be answered before COA's are compared. The commander, XO, or S3 should identify any critical factors for comparing COA's-

(1) Updated intelligence preparation of the battlefield: S3, S2.

(2) Restated mission: XO, support operations officer.

(3) Guidance from commander and higher headquarters: XO, support operations officer.

(4) COA statements and sketches: Support operations officer, S3.

(5) Questions: All staff.

i. Analyze courses of action. Time is short; the staff should be familiar with the area of operations and understand the restated mission. The use of short matrices by each staff element can enhance the comparison step. Evaluation criteria can change with each situation, so each staff element should create general staff criteria for its area and change them as necessary to fit the situation-

(1) War game with S2: Support operations officer, S3.

(2) Prepare estimate matrices: All staff.

(3) Initial OPORD, OPLAN, and FRAGO preparation: Support operations officer, S3.

(4) Graphic preparation (ongoing): S3.

(5) Discuss possible COA with subunit commanders: Support operations officer, S3.

j. Decision briefing to the commander. The battalion commander is briefed on the COA's. A coordinated staff recommendation is stated up front-

(1) Recommended COA: XO, support operations officer.

(2) Updated intelligence preparation of the battlefield (as necessary): S3, S2.

(3) Any unit status change: All staff.

(4) Advantages and disadvantages of COA's: XO, support operations officer, S3.

(5) Decision on COA: Commander.

k. Develop plan. Minimum elements of the OPLAN, OPORD, and FRAGO's include the mission, commander's intent, task organization, concept of the operation, and an overlay. Other elements of the OPORD can be issued as they become available.

[Note: A risk assessment should be conducted on the selected COA to ensure the best safety conditions for accomplishing the mission.]

l. Issue OPLAN, OPORD, and FRAGO's. The subordinate companies should be well along in their own planning, which was initiated after the second warning order. Subordinate units also should conduct risk assessments at their level to achieve acceptable safety conditions to accomplish the mission.

m. OPLAN coordination. There will be questions and issues that arise from the plan. The battle staff will continue to coordinate the OPLAN, OPORD, and FRAGO's throughout execution. This will require a good communications link with subordinate units to ensure that changing conditions are reported and new information is issued quickly; this is a two-way street from higher to lower and from lower to higher headquarters. Accurate information is time sensitive!

This is a process by which a great deal of information is received, analyzed, processed, adjusted, and re-issued within a time constraint. The intent of the process is to ensure complete staff planning that addresses all aspects of a given operation. This guide presents the steps of a battle staff drill in sequence, but realistically some elements occur concurrently. As the battle staff becomes more proficient, the process will become less structured than it appears in this guide. Evaluation criteria can change with each situation, so each staff element should review and change the criteria for its area as necessary. ALOG

Major Gary R. Grimes is the executive officer of the 68th Corps Support Battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado. He previously served as the battalion's support operations officer. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Advanced Course and the Command and General Staff Officer Course. He is also a graduate of the Army Logistics Management College's Logistics Executive Development Course.