The Thorough Planning and Orders Process- Part 1, By J.E.D.

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After reading articles on this site and many other similar sites over the last few years, it has surprised me that no one has written about the planning process itself. I have read quite a few well written articles that have contained very good information about planning for tasks such as defending your home, bugging out, and other activities. In this article I would like to address the overall planning process that can be used for everyday life. During this piece, I will be throwing a lot of acronyms at you. My goal is to make this as easy to understand as possible. In the end, once the concept is understood it will surprise you how applicable this process is to everyday life.

This planning process comes from the U.S. military, specifically the US Marine Corps. The only reason I specifically state that is because that is my background. I understand that other services use this same method but each differs slightly. Depending on the service you were in or the time frame you served, there will be variations in the format and acronyms used. It’s not just combat units that use this; support units and businesses do, as well. There is nothing wrong with modifying the outline from what is presented here either. The whole point is to make life easier, to plan efficiently, and to not forget crucial items. So, please have fun with it and change it to your own specific needs. Just remember, if you change things, make sure everyone is on the same page.

When we talk about the planning process, we are looking at two distinct things. First is the acronym BAMCIS (pronounced BAM-SIS), which stands Begin the planning, Arrange for reconnaissance, Make reconnaissance, Complete the plan, Issue the order, and Supervise. The second is the operation order. We use the acronym OSMEAC to remember how to construct the operation order. Orientation, Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Logistics, and Command and Signal. BAMCIS is a decision-making cycle where the operation order is the information gathered from BAMCIS. Let’s look at it all put together in an outline form.

  • Begin the planning.
  • Arrange for reconnaissance.
  • Make reconnaissance.
  • Complete the plan.
  • Issue orders.
    • Orientation
    • Situation
    • Mission
    • Execution
    • Administration and Logistics
    • Command and Signal
  • Supervise.

Now there is much more that goes into the planning and orders process, but I like to start “zoomed out” and get that wide-angled look before jumping in. Using BAMCIS properly allows us to organize our thoughts, notes, current information, and unknowns into a workable, easy-to-read and easy-to-disseminate order for team members or others. You know how you want something done, because you’re the one who thought of the plan, but in reality when there are many moving parts, not everyone will be on the same page. To mitigate that and reduce the possibility of confusion, we use the BAMCIS process to come up with a written order, which tells everyone exactly what they should be doing and what should be accomplished as the end result. That written order is the Operations Order, which goes by a few other names as well. Some call it a 5 Paragraph Order, Combat Order, or OSMEAC. So that we are speaking the same language, that written order will be referred to as the Operations Order. Then, and most importantly, we supervise the whole process to make sure it is being done properly.

As stated above BAMCIS is part of the decision-making process. We use the OODA loop process thousands of times per day, and you probably don’t even know it. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The loop part of it means it’s just a constant process or on a loop that never ends. As an example: You are shopping at the grocery store when you observe an unsavory looking character walking in the door. You then orient yourself and your brain power to that person. All that brainpower is working to decide what to do next and how to proceed. Then you act on that decision. So we are just taking this normal everyday human function and assembling it in a way we can write it down and express it to others i.e. BAMCIS. So let’s start breaking down BAMCIS.

1. Begin the planning: This is where it all starts. So you have a problem or issue you are trying to solve, and now your brain needs to start working. During this stage you come up with a preliminary plan that will most likely change. You need to start thinking about the terrain you will be operating in, the weather and time of year, and also the friendly and enemy situation. You are going to identify one or more actions that could be taken and the costs involved, as well as resources needed and inclusion of the right people. Before we get started with our planning, we need to design a timeline to follow, but our timeline should be written in reverse. By planning our timeline in reverse we are able to maximize our use of time allotted, and ensure our subordinates have plenty of time to plan and prepare as well.

Now let’s look at a few more acronyms that will help the planning process. Look at these as questions that need an answer. The answer will help you decide on a plan and make the orders writing process much easier.

  • Mission
  • Enemy
    • SALUTE (Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time, Equipment)
    • DRAW-D (Defend, Reinforce, Attack, Withdraw, Delay)
    • EMPCOA (Enemy’s Most Probable Course of Action)
  • Terrain and Weather
    • KOCOA-W (Key terrain, Observation & Fields of Fire, Cover & Concealment, Obstacles, Avenues of Approach, Weather)
  • Troops and Support Available
  • Time

The acronyms SALUTE, DRAW-D, EMLCOA, and KOCOA-W are going to be used to answer information for METT-T. METT-T is a valuable tool in this whole process.

  • Mission: Here we need a good understanding of the actual mission. We need to identify what is required to accomplish the mission successfully, safely, and efficiently. Other things to think about and understand are our limitations. Do we have any restrictions, rules of engagement, or something specific limiting us?
  • Enemy: The whole purpose in this subparagraph is to understand the enemy’s most probable course of action. What is the enemy most likely going to do? If left to their own devices, what will they do? If I interfere in some way, what will be their reaction? Luckily, we have ways of figuring this stuff out, and this is how we do it.
    • SALUTE: Is going to tell us about their composition, disposition, and strength. We are going to fill in the blanks about what we know of them so far. We’ll consider their size. Are they a team (2 to 4 men), a squad (10 to 14), or a platoon (30 to 40)? What’s their activity. What are they doing? Are they hanging out drinking warm beer, digging fighting holes, cleaning guns, or standing guard? What’s their location? They’re at grid 1234 5678, intersection of SR 42 and Hwy 60, 10 miles North of Fake Town on Jagged Mountain, and they’re a unit with the 22nd Infantry Platoon, 307th Fake Name Battalion, or something that identifies that specific group of people. If it’s unknown, describe them. What type of clothing are they wearing? As far as time, when was the last time they were seen at a particular location? When was the last time they were seen period? Try and put a time line together of their movements, as enemy pattern information is valuable. What kind of equipment do they have? Do they have trucks, armor, small arms, rockets, and/or dogs? Don’t just consider equipment of war but also think about life essential items like water tanks, shelter, food processing. Does it look like they can operate the equipment properly?

      What is their overall appearance? Are they well kept, professional looking, and confidant, or are they disheveled, ragged, tired, and malnourished? SALUTE can tell you a lot about your enemy, but it is just the basic information you need. The more facts you have, the better decisions you can make.

    • DRAW-D: Is going to help us make a decision on their capabilities and limitations. We need to know what the enemy can and cannot do to us. Are they going to defend the little gas station until the last man? Will they reinforce the checkpoint if we attack? Are they going to attack our position? If we probe their lines will they withdraw troops? Do they have the capabilities to delay our movements?

      It is important to understand the capabilities and limitations of the enemy. How do you acquire the knowledge needed? Reconnaissance, scouts, spies, prisoner’s, insider information, the list is endless, but we need good, accurate information. SALUTE is going to help you with some information for DRAW-D. Consider the same information under bad weather or at night. Do they have the capability to attack at night during heavy rain and wind?

    • Out of all the information gathered or thought about, you can come to a conclusion or two about the enemy’s most probable course of action. With that assumption, we are going to use that bit of information in the rest of our planning process. Once our reconnaissance is complete, our information might change completely or we might just have to tweak things a little.
  • Terrain and Weather: We should know the terrain and weather patterns in the area of operations like the back of our hands, or we should at least have a good understanding of them. If you are operating on your own turf it’s better. If not, you need to familiarize yourself very quickly. Here’s another acronym to help us remember key points.
    • KOCOA-W stands for Key Terrain, Observation and Fields of Fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Avenues of Approach, and Weather. We are going to break this one down a little further and discuss each one.
      • Key Terrain: Any location or area of land, water, or air that you believe is strategically or tactically important, your adversary probably does too, and that is key terrain. It could be that spring-fed pond with crystal clear clean water or the only pass through the mountain still left intact. Either way we need to seize, retain, or control that area. Remember, an area does not need to be occupied to be controlled. Example: If the only access to my mountain top retreat is a steep five mile gravel road, I don’t have to stand in the middle of the road to control it. I can position myself in a location where I can observe the road and engage if necessary.
      • Observation and Fields of Fire: Terrain is going to dictate what you can see and what your weapon system can hit. You need to figure out what can be seen from where and what can be hit from where. Example: I am on the roof of my house on my mountain top retreat; through my rifle scope I can see all five miles of that gravel road. My weapon’s capability can hit out to a mile, but my capability is only 800 yards. In order to keep eyes on the entire road, I need to trim trees a few times a year but make it look as natural as possible.
      • Cover and Concealment: First, we need to understand the difference between cover and concealment. Cover is something that will stop a projectile from striking you. Imagine hiding behind a thick, steel reinforced, concrete wall. Concealment is something that will prevent you from being seen but will not stop a projectile fired in your direction. From a cover and concealment aspect as it applies to a defensive position, it is best to have both cover and concealment to increase survivability and effectiveness. When digging fighting positions or planning for them, they must be reinforced with earth, sandbags, concrete, or any other material that is available. They must also be camouflaged in such a way as to make it difficult to be observed from both land and air.
      • Obstacles: You have seen them in the war movies, when landing on the beaches. You’ve seen those multi-point things called Czech Hedgehogs and then all the concertina wire running about. All of those things are obstacles. They are designed to delay, restrict, divert, or canalize movement. That little arm that comes down at the toll booth is designed to restrict entry, while the orange cones that road crews use are designed to divert traffic. Obstacles can be man-made or natural. You can build a fence around your property to canalize people to the gate. While a thick patch of palmettos is going to delay those approaching your wisely chosen camp site, a well thought out obstacle plan incorporates more than one type of obstacle. Example: I have a heavy-duty, reinforced, high fence around my property that is difficult to climb and diverts my enemy to an easier access point. That access point is a reinforced front gate with a steel pole behind it. That set up would not allow a vehicle to smash through, but someone can still climb over it. I have delayed, restricted, diverted, and canalized their movement to one area, which I can cover from a safe distance and location.
      • Avenues of Approach: This is any route to or from a chosen area, like your camp site in the woods. Avenues of approach allow for advance or withdraw and can be as small as a deer trail or as large as an Interstate Highway. Don’t discount waterways as avenues of approach. We consider waterways to be any body of water that can be navigated with watercraft of any type, or simply walked or swam across. Humans, much like lightning, follow the path of least resistance. Knowing this, we must be cautious of avenues of approach and pay particular attention to the guarding of them.
      • Weather: There are five military aspects of weather that we will be looking at: temperature and humidity, precipitation, wind, clouds, and visibility. Weather is an extremely important factor to think about when in the planning process. It affects people, equipment, weapon systems, electronics, vehicles, and terrain. If your defenses are set up incorrectly and you rely on electronics and technology alone, Mother Nature is sure to give you a spanking. If you have never felt 120°F heat with 95% humidity or get out of your sleeping bag in the morning covered in ice and snow, you need to try it out. See firsthand what effects it has on your body. Extreme temperatures in either direction drain the body of energy; just trying to stay cool or warm is a job in itself. For precision shooters, weather extremes can change you’re DOPE, and extreme cold will drain your electronics batteries faster than normal. Extreme heat can overheat slow-moving or idling vehicles. Rain or melting snow can turn foot paths to mushy mud, which is strenuous to walk in. If navigating flooded river systems, it’s difficult to find good spots to spend the night. High winds become difficult to shoot in and can cause damage to your home, structures, and possibly make roads impassable by vehicles. Thick fog can be hazardous to convoys or foot patrols due to decreased visibility. However, all of the same applies to your enemy as well, so take advantage.
      • Troops and Support Available: This is another really important item to consider. Yes, we are talking numbers here. How many people do we have for this mission, and do we have any non-organic support (outside help). We also need to consider and think really hard on this next question. What is the mental and physical shape of our team? What type of training do they possess, and what is the condition of their equipment?
      • Time: We are going to take into account all previous items we discussed here to come up with a timeline. Proper use of time for planning is crucial. We need to use time properly for planning and plan for the use of time. Consider critical times like movement to or from an objective, departure times, and reconnaissance, give yourself plenty of leeway to adjust your timeline left or right. As we all know we can plan the perfect plan, but once in the execution phase Mr. Murphy likes to grace us with his presence.
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