In the last article we talked about Mission Command and skimmed over the Operations Order. Today we’ll go over the process to turn the Commander’s Intent into an OPORD. The military and the fire service use similar processes with profound differences, mainly military planning is proactive (planning a future operation) while public safety is generally reactive (responding to a fire, flood, storms, etc.).

Military Decision-Making Process

Historically, the Army has used the 1/3 – 2/3s rule for time management. Once the mission is received, the leadership takes 1/3 of the time to prepare the plan (OPORD), while the subordinates have 2/3 of the time to prepare, pack, rehearse and coordinate. Not to say the staff stops planning and coordinating once that 1/3 is done and the OPORD goes out, but the timeline ensures the subordinate unit(s) have enough time to prepare. How the command uses that time is through the Military Decision-Making Process. This is a thumbnail sketch of the class that taught at the War College, Battle staff Course, and advanced Officer and NCO courses.

  • Receive the mission – Who? What? Where? When? How?
    • Issue the Warning Order to subordinates
  • Mission Analysis – What do we exactly need to do? How?
    • Update/add more details to the Warning Order
  • Course of Action Development – Most likely/Least Likely/Best COA, for the enemy and us
  • Course of Action Analysis – Are these accurate? Likely? Effective? Doable?
  • Course of Action Comparison – Which is the best COA for the mission?
  • Course of Action Approval – Which one are we going with?
    • Update Warning order
  • Orders Production – Write the Operations Order and Annexes
    • Issue the Operations Order and brief back
  • Rehearsal – Map rehearsal, walk through, full scale rehearsal
  • Execution and Assessment – Conduct the mission and conduct a debrief/hotwash post mission
    • What worked? What didn’t? What can improve? Lessons learned?


Troop Leading Procedures

This is the small unit portion of the planning process, the 2/3’s part.

  • Receive the mission
  • Issue a Warning order
  • Make a tentative plan
  • Start necessary movement
  • Reconnoiter
  • Complete the plan
  • Issue the complete order
  • Supervise

So, let’s put this together in a scenario so you understand how it works in a military setting then we’ll break down into the prepared civilian setting.


The XV CORPS is to conduct defensive operations along the Tallah Chee River and prevent or delay enemy crossings within the Corps Area of Responsibility (AOR).


2nd Squadron/14th Cavalry Regiment will assume a deliberate defense along Phase Line Tallah Chee and complete a demolition plan of the I-41 bridge vicinity Bastogne.


Apache Troop will conduct a zone reconnaissance vicinity Bastogne centered on the crossings of the I-41 bridge. Apache Troop will detach one platoon to prepare a demolition plan of the bridge supported by elements of the 14th Engineer Company. On order of the Squadron Commander, Apache Troop will execute the demolition plan and fall back to the Squadron defensive line to conduct a deliberate defense of Phase Line Tallah Chee.


The troop will recon and asses the bridge, crossing point and surrounding terrain with the zone bordered by Phase Line Blue to the East, Highway 23 to the North and Highway 64 to the South with emphasis on lines of drift to emplace minefields and obstacles to channelize the OPFOR into Engagement Area (EA) Victor. 2nd Platoon will complete the demolition plan with a platoon attached from the 14th Engineer Company while the remainder of the troop completes the reconnaissance. On order, 2nd Platoon will demolish the bridge, while the FIST provides DPICM into EA Victor. The remainder of the troop and attachments will fall back to Phase Line Tallah Chee to their prepared fighting positions to hold the defensive line until relieved.

So how does this work out in reality?

Troop Commander: “Apache Troop, we’re going to be moving out to conduct a zone recon around the I-41 bridge east of Bastogne. 2nd Platoon, you’re getting the engineers to do a bridge reconnaissance and demolition plan. Rig the bridge. Once the OPFOR gets to the river, we’re going to blow the bridge while we’re in our defensive positions. We will be screening along the river at PL Tallah Chee. Platoons will scout out and mark fighting positions while 2nd takes care of the bridge. Go get ready, OPORD in 3 hours.”

Then the platoon and squad leaders would be doing the same while beginning their planning. This was the Receive the Mission and Issue the Warning Order portion.

Next, we begin Necessary Movements, meaning get the units to the Area of Operations. If I need to have my guys east of Bastogne, but we’re in a staging area west of Bastogne by 5 miles, we need to shift. Once we’re in a staging area near to where we will be conducting operations, the Leader’s Recon, consisting of the Commander/Team Leader and critical subordinates, moves up to visual range or as close as practical and completes a visual reconnaissance to complete the insertion plan and the Operations Order. Something like “the roads are washed out because of the heavy rains last night” would be a critical item to the planning process.

The unit is brought together and briefed on the final plan and it is briefed up the chain of command to ensure there is no confliction with other units’ objectives or friendly fire incidents. Then we execute the plan and supervise that execution. The Commander, once the mission is moving, shouldn’t have to issue any orders unless the tactical or strategic situation changes. He should trust his subordinates to develop and complete the mission because they understand the intent. Meanwhile the mission(s) is monitored and coordinated by the TOC.

Next we’ll talk about the planning and coordination parts.

 Save as PDF

Welcome American Partisans!

Sign up to receive articles daily

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!