Special Operations Mission Planning Spec Ops Post #14
The Flow There is a flow to the way Special Operations Forces conduct operations. We just don’t wake up one morning and decide we’re going to invade Afghanistan, jump on a plane, fly over there, and do it. In the same way, for you to execute the goals you’ve outlined for yourself, you need to develop a flow. The one I’m going to show you is for an organization, but you can also see those elements that would apply to an individual.
The first thing that happens is that the Special Operations Command (the big cheeses with lots of stars) issue a MTP: Mission Tasking Package. A fancy phrase meaning we’re going somewhere to do something real. This goes to the subordinate services (Special Operations Forces rarely act unilaterally—it’s almost always a mulitservice deal. I mean, it’s a long walk to most places in the world. We do like to have the Air Force help). So the subordinate service Special Operations Commands (covered earlier in this book) at theater level conduct their Preliminary Assessments.
While they’re doing this, they don’t sit on the MTP: they pass it down to the Special Forces Operating Base (SFOB). This is key. Too often higher levels of an organization sit on things while they analyze, which reduces the time the people who actually are going to have to implement things will eventually have to plan. In the regular army I watched orders that came down from Corps get so bogged down at Division, Brigade, and Battalion level that by the time the grunt on the ground got the order to move, they barely had time to load their weapon.
Pass the information and tasking along. Yes, it might end up causing some unnecessary work, but if it’s the real deal, you’re giving your subordinates valuable time. In Special Operations this first phase is only supposed to take a maximum of twenty-four hours. (By doctrine this entire process for a time sensitive Special Forces mission planning cycle takes 7 days or 168 hours. Sounds like a lot until you get shot at.
The SFOB also doesn’t sit on things while it does its own preliminary assessment. It passes the MTP to the FOB (Battalion level) so the FOB can begin mission planning.
The theater level Special Operations Command along with the SFOB both send back their preliminary assessments of the MTP to Special Operations Command on day two. On the same day the theater commands and SFOB begin planning how they are going to support this mission. Note: they plan how they are going to support the mission, not run it. Because they don’t run it. We talked about middle management earlier. This is the job of middle management: support the people who get it done. Not telling the people who get it done how to do it. The FOB who has to pick the A-Team to conduct the operation continues its mission planning.
Day three is when the guys who have to do it get the word. The FOB gives them a mission briefing based on the previous two days of planning. Those two days give the people at the FOB enough time to put together a packet with enough information in it that the A-Team can begin its planning. Any earlier than this and the team sits around twiddling its thumbs and bitching about the incompetent boobs at the FOB.
The people at higher levels are now beginning to plan the things they do control: how to support the teams. That first day the team begins its mission planning. Which consists of first bitching about how stupid everyone else is, how the mission is suicidal, and how nobody knows nothing. The team has to go through the five emotional stages very quickly. Then they get to work. I’ll discuss isolation under training so I won’t get into too much detail here on how that goes.
Day four consists of several things. The team briefs back to the FOB the MICON: the mission concept. That is very important and something all organizations can use. Remember, the team is still at the beginning of planning. We’re not too far along. The team tells the FOB what the team thinks the mission is. This would be the Earl of Cardigan sending the courier back to the commander and saying: You want us to attack those guns, right there? It might have taken some minutes, but would have averted disaster. The MICON allows the team to make sure they are planning for the right mission and not going off in the wrong direction.
At the higher levels the support plans are being refined and approved. Remember, the planes, bullets, explosives, etc. that are going to be used by the team need to be in place before the team leaves isolation.
Day five consists of: The team finishes its mission planning and gives its briefback. The briefback will be covered in the next chapter, but basically it’s the team presenting the FOB commander their mission plan and getting his approval. At higher levels the support planning is reaching the action stage.
Day six is the team doing mission preparation. This consists of rehearsals, packing up gear, loading bullets, sharpening knives, packing up gear once more trying to lighten the load, preparing special equipment, packing up gear once more trying to lighten the load, checking radios, etc. etc. And re-packing that rucksack once last time to get rid of truly heavy and un-needed items like that extra plastic spoon in the ration pack.
Day seven is infiltration.