2 March 2020

Improving Company Performance in Offensive Operations

by Lawrence Csaszar

The U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Battalions (CABs) form the core of the Armored Brigade Combat Team’s (ABCT) striking power. They include main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, 120mm mortars, and infantry squads. This impressive grouping of combat platforms and soldiers requires the company commander to skillfully employ and integrate platoons. Company commanders enable the CAB commander to rapidly combine arms. Based on observations of CABs executing offensive operations at the National Training Center (NTC), numerous shortfalls exist at the company level that impact the CAB’s ability to maintain momentum and extend operational reach. Units that can’t perform fundamental company and platoon-level tasks during the plan, prepare and execute phases of an operation will stall the CAB commander’s efforts to synchronize actions and achieve desired effects against enemy formations. To minimize this degradation in combat power, armor and mechanized infantry company commanders should consider the following best practices.

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The pace of the operations cycle (plan, prepare, execute and assess) in the Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) experienced at the NTC creates an unrelenting pressure on company commanders. This is by design – and done so to replicate likely conditions that units will face during Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO). The company commander must be able to execute the Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs) and plan in parallel with the CAB staff to produce an Operations Order (OPORD) while in contact with enemy forces. The format of the OPORD is far less important than the inclusion of critical information: a detailed task organization, clearly understood task and purpose for each subordinate element, an operational timeline that includes higher headquarters activities and, arguably the most important of all, operational graphics that depict adjacent unit actions and include direct-fire control measures.


Task Organization

After careful consideration of the mission variables, the commander should publish a task organization that organizes the company to achieve its assigned mission. This task organization should be detailed enough to stand alone in explaining the command and support relationships of any non-organic units temporarily added to the company and provide date/time groups for when those relationships become effective. This ensures that subordinate leaders understand what they are responsible for employing, maintaining and sustaining. Next, the commander should provide a detailed task and purpose for each subordinate element within an operational framework such as Main Effort and Supporting Effort to help delineate which platoon will achieve the company’s decisive point. By defining what must be accomplished by the company and how each platoon contributes to the plan, key leaders are empowered to execute tasks toward that end should conditions change or leadership become injured and killed during battle.

Company commanders should consider using the Higher, Operational, Planning, Enemy, Weather (HOPE-W) framework as they develop their company’s timeline. The combination of these variables provides subordinate leaders with the commander’s visualization of how an upcoming operation may unfold and enables synchronization of effort centered on critical events. Key events such as rehearsals, conditions checks and resupply operations should be highlighted.

Graphic Control Measures

Lastly, the commander must generate operations graphics that provide subordinate leaders with adequate control measures to maintain freedom of action while protecting the force. Graphics, whether analog or digital, should include symbols used to maneuver the company such as unit boundaries, phase lines and check points along with direct-fire control measures such as Target Reference Points (TRPs), sectors of fire and weapons control status. Whether caused by a lack of understanding of the relative position of adjacent units (to include the cavalry troops) or inadequately detailed products from higher headquarters, commanders that fail to plan in detail prevent their platoons from maximizing the effects of their weapon systems.


After publishing the OPORD, the commander’s primary responsibility is to prepare the company for its upcoming operation by executing both rehearsals with key leaders and inspections of unit preparations. Initially, the commander should require each platoon leader to provide a back brief to ensure that intent and key portions of the plan are understood. This discussion with platoon leaders also provides the commander with an opportunity to highlight their Friendly Forces Information Requirements (FFIR). The commander should specify what information must be communicated by the platoon leaders regarding friendly combat power. This might include requirements such as the maintenance status of major combat platforms, Class IIIB (fuel) and Class V (ammunition) status, crew/squad manning issues and status of communications equipment.All of these requirements impact the fighting effectiveness of the company and potentially limit options; thus, company commanders must report on the CAB commander’s FFIR as the unit prepares for action.

Often, the compounding effects of higher headquarters’ planning timelines running long limits the amount of time available for the company to execute rehearsals. In lieu of a terrain model rehearsal, commanders can rapidly create shared understanding with subordinates by executing a map rehearsal. This rehearsal allows the company’s leaders to validate their graphics and to review the plan. Additionally, the practice of holding a conditions check over Very High Frequency (VHF) radios prior to departing the Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) serves as an effective means to double check the status of communications equipment and to discuss any last-minute issues. This “Get Set Drill” ensures that platoons are prepared to commence operations and provides the commander with an updated combat power estimate.


The line of contact may be closer than you think, resulting in enemy direct-fire contact earlier than anticipated. The commander must be ready to transition the company from movement to maneuver once they initiate their approach march out of the TAA and cross the line of departure (LD). This location, known as the Probable Line of Deployment (PLD), designates where the commander intends to deploy into assault formations. A commander who successfully plans for and considers enemy courses of action specific to their area of operations effectively adjusts movement techniques and formations to protect their company. However, commanders that fail, for example, to transition from travelling to bounding overwatch movement quickly hemorrhage combat power as anti-tank missile systems and enemy armor attrit their formations. Unfortunately this type of situation occurs routinely at the NTC.

In the wake of major engagements platoons may find themselves the sole remaining element from a company. To prepare subordinate leaders for this situation, commanders should train “No Guidance Drills”. This tactical decision game (TDG) puts leaders in a situation to describe how to assume command of the formation. The company commander should stress the importance of identifying the correct higher headquarters and/or adjacent units, moving their radios to the appropriate net, making contact and checking-in to provide a detailed Situation Report (SITREP). Thus, the subordinate leader will be able to exercise initiative and continue operations.

The core of the CAB’s combat power in offensive operations rests with armor and mechanized infantry companies. This requires that they effectively command and control their platoons and understand how to quickly synchronize to combine arms. To accomplish these requirements, company commanders should consider the recommendations outlined above to prepare their platoons for operations. Home station training should include repetition of TLPs tied to how the company will likely fight during offensive operations. Company commanders enable the CAB to capitalize on windows of opportunity and decisively defeat enemy forces. They do so by practicing detailed planning, thorough rehearsals and aggressive execution of battle drills.

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