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At the platoon and troop level we all know that rehearsals are vital but can be hard to execute under time pressure. I propose a simple, structured approach to rehearsals when under such pressure. As a tank officer by trade, it will be described from the tank perspective but it is applicable to every organisation smaller than a combat team. The method is based around three steps, they are done chronologically but not all have to be performed if there is not time. The three steps are: ID (identify), RoC (rehearsal of concept) and Walk.
Step 1 – ID (identify) (0-5mins)
In this step the platoon commander or troop leader clearly articulates likely friction points to their subordinate commanders. This step should take no longer than 5 minutes and cover no more than 5 friction points. The most likely friction points can be found by the commander asking ‘where has something like this gone wrong before?’ The most likely answers (friction points) are:
- changes of formation and/or method of movement
- negotiation of obstacles
- significant changes in terrain
- change of grouping
- addition or loss of attachments/detachments
- new/not often used ‘actions on’
- likely initial contact with the enemy
Each friction point should be articulated with the location, time and main effort.
If this is the only step conducted (you only have 5 mins between orders and step off) at least subordinate commanders are aware they are approaching friction points and will be alert.
For example: a troop leader and their three crew commanders sit on the engine deck and the troop leader says “three friction points on this clearance; we have the change from the formation two-up amber to box red at report line Ann, the likely defile red at report line Bree and RV with the infantry at the 93” while pointing them out on the map. The troop leader can then be confident that at those three points the crew commanders will be fully focused, expecting what is about to happen and listening out for their direction.
Step 2 – RoC (rehearsal of concept) (5-15mins)
In this step the platoon commander or troop leader articulates to their subordinates verbally and visually, exactly what they intend to occur at each of the identified friction points from step 1. This step greatly benefits from the use of chalk diagrams, model vehicles, rocks or something to represent subordinate manoeuvre units. Each friction point should be described with:
- the start conditions (formations, lay out, bounds etc)
- who moves where, when
- anticipated radio or hand signal direction
- the end state and trigger to continue
At the end of each friction point there should be an opportunity for questions to and questions from before moving on to the next point. This step ensures that every subordinate commander clearly knows the intended method by which the friction point will be over come. This will allow all commanders to have a relatively clear mental image of what is to occur.
For example: the troop leader, still on the engine deck with their crew commanders, says; “at report line Ann we’ll be in two up amber having crossed this open area. Bravo and I will go firm when we reach this treeline; as soon as we are static Charlie and Alpha you’ll bound in line with us on the outside. Bravo and I will then take the first bite in box red”. Whilst explaining verbally, the troop leader moves four little wooden tanks, allowing the crew commanders to simultaneously see and hear what is to occur. The troop leader then asks for questions and asks a question of the Charlie crew commander before doing the same for the other friction points.
Step 3 – Walk (15-30mins)
In this step the platoon commander or troop leader physically walks their subordinate crew commanders through the actions to be taken at each identified friction point identified in step 1 and RoC’d in step 2. In this step the subordinate commanders stand in their actual positions in the formation and the platoon commander or troop leader talks through the actions to be taken as the subordinate commanders act out their movements. This cements in the subordinate commanders’ minds who will be where, who will move when, where they can expect to see/hear friendlies and the triggers for them to move/act. This step is structured exactly as step 2 but instead of models or drawings, the subordinate commanders represent their vehicle/group and move.
For example: the troop leader gets their three crew commanders in the middle of the hide and sets the start condition by drawing a line on the ground with his boot, “this is the creek at report line Bree. We’ll be in box at this point so shake out here facing that way” The crew commanders stand in their respective places short of the line in the ground. “Bravo, you’ve just identified the creek and a defile to your front”, “roger sir, umm 22 this is 22B obstacle front, I have identified a crossing to my 1 o’clock 300, suggest defile red over”. The troop leader then describes how they’ll tackle the defile and the commanders move where appropriate. “Ok I’ll go firm in line with Bravo, Alpha and Charlie you go firm on our outside”. The commanders move then “once Alpha calls home bank Bravo and I will move through and call firm, Alpha and Charlie then follow, go to the outside and call far bank.” By physically ‘walking’ in the method to be used in real life the commanders can see where the other tanks will approach from and where they are likely to move to; raising situational awareness. This step is particularly good as commanders can turn their heads and see who they will see in real life and have a visual idea of arcs and tasks. The troop leader then articulates the end state and trigger to continue, “on far bank being called, Bravo you and I will take the first bite continuing the box red”.
This simple, small scale method of ID-RoC-Walk provides a guide and structure for junior platoon commanders and troop leaders to effectively use what is one of the most important parts of the planning and orders process. It is scalable and widely applicable across all arms, it also caters for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners ensuring everyone has the opportunity to gain clarity. A draft viewee tui insert for this method with a filled out example is available from the downloadable version of ‘ID-ROC-Walk: a structured approach to rehearsals under time pressure’.
About the author
Mark Montague is a tank officer currently posted to the School of Armour as the APC Officer Instructor responsible for training M113AS4 crew commanders and section commanders.