This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses how to maximize operations and Troop Leading Procedures efficiency in your company.
With the often-overwhelming requirements placed on companies, coupled with continuous time constraints, it is hard to implement the Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs) in their entirety. Throughout my command, I often felt that my company and I should be doing more to maximize TLP effectiveness. This is why it is imperative that commanders and companies codify how to conduct TLPs and expectations throughout. This post introduces some aspects that made TLPs successful in my experience, and a few recommendations based on lessons learned. As with all content in these posts, these serve as options for commanders to consider and implement. I encourage readers to share their experiences and lessons in how to effectively leverage TLPs beyond this.
Company OPORD Format. The best thing I did to make my company TLPs effective was create a standard operation order (OPORD) shell for the company. Referencing FM 6-0, Ranger Handbook, and personal experience, I created a shell with all necessary sub-paragraphs and designated blank boxes to fill in information for each. I laminated my copy; that became my shell on which I received all higher HQ orders, completed my plan, and issued my company OPORD during training. I customized it with additional engineer-specific sub-paragraphs to cover necessary details for my company’s scheme of engineer operations. Without any directive or requirement from me, this shell quickly became the company standard which PLs and SLs used for TLPs at their levels.
Though I personally don’t see much value in a WARNO or FRAGO format at the company level (you issue the information you have), I do encourage commanders to create a hasty mission brief format. During my brigade FTX and several times at NTC, I experienced several one hour-long windows of time between receiving the mission, and the time when my company needed to initiate movement for the mission. Without the time to fumble through my full OPORD shell to fill out what I could, creating a short shell for hasty planning and briefing would have benefited me greatly. All the shell needs are sections for task organization (changes), mission, commander’s intent, concept of the operation, and tasks to subordinate units. From there, you can provide additional information during movement (enemy / friendly situations, changes to sustainment, etc.).
Company Command Post. Your company CP exists to support you as the commander; it is the apparatus that creates the company’s common operating picture (COP). First, determine whether or not you need a company CP structure; identify what purposes it will serve, and if that requires a structure. Airborne and most light formations will likely not require a physical CP. Many of my Stryker Infantry commander peers did not have one and ran operations out of their Strykers. My company decided to establish one to manage engineer efforts in defensive and stability operations, and to support engineer attachments when we received them.
During initial counselings, I explicitly assigned ownership of the CP to my company XO and Operations SGT. After taking over, you should establish three CP exercises (CPX) for your company; they are small set up events to ensure the CP meets your and your company’s needs.
- Event 1: After you take over, the XO and OPS SGT set up the CP in its existing configuration so you can see it as-is; this can occur in the motor pool or outside the company operations facility (COF).
- Event 2: Personally list out all information you require the CP to track in order to create an effective COP; provide that list to the XO/OPS SGT and allow them to reconfigure the CP and tracking systems to support that. Have them set it up a second time in the new configuration.
- Event 3: After you inspect the new CP set up, provide any remaining changes or updates you still see and have them make the fixes.
If you have lower level training (individual, squad) occurring, use those field exercises for your HQ to set up the CP and go through the validation events. Once complete, your OPS SGT should standardize layout, structure materials, and set up process in an SOP. Finally, remember your CP is not a HQ hang out area, casualty or sick Soldier collection point, or cell phone charging station; ensure your OPS SGT enforces that.
Terrain Models. These are critical to any OPORD brief at any level. As with the CP, I charged my XO and OPS SGT with the responsibility for constructing any company terrain model. This gave me time to continue my CDR TLPs, as well as verified that they mastered the terrain and graphic control measures for our mission. If my gunner was not gainfully employed elsewhere, I required him to help build the terrain model for the same reasons. As part of your PCCs/PCIs prior to deployment out to training, ensure your company terrain model kit is stocked and packed (or have 1SG do so). In a perfect world, I expect every PL and SL to have a terrain model kit to support their TLPs; a SL’s terrain model kit can be small enough to easily fit into an acquired ammo can or zip lock bag.
Orders Based Company. I endeavored to operationalize all training requirements in my company, despite constantly satisfying daunting tasks and competing with other priorities, both internal and external, for precious time. If you are able to facilitate it, I encourage commanders to make everything your company does orders based, from training events, to ranges, to taskings from higher headquarters. This can take many forms; methods can include issuing an OPORD for the next quarter’s weapons ranges assigning commander’s intent and responsibility to the different platoons, or using an order to assign clean up details between platoons for common areas, and such. I also encourage commanders to vary their method of orders delivery. CTC rotations (NTC, JRTC) and company-level collective training are your “super bowls;” use those events to employ your TLP SOPs. However, outside of that, in low pressure environments, deliver orders via alternate means such as strictly oral or written, via FM or JCR, etc. This develops your personal communication abilities and unit technical systems, as well as stretches your subordinate leaders’ competencies in the orders process.
What methods or systems did you leverage to operationalize your company (or unit)? What are other ways can leaders employ TLPs that have proven successful? Feel free to share!
The next Company Command series post, part X, discusses deployment readiness for a company, and how to effectively implement deployment readiness exercises.