Lesson 13 - Operation Order (OPORD)

    This process of thinking through a mission and presenting information is essential in combat. I've even found it useful in my civilian life, of course you have to translate it to your profession - it's the process that works. Screw those MBA business plans - this works if you want to start and run a business.

   This is probably the most important thing you can learn. It is the common language of military forces around the world. It is a methodical, step by step presentation of information in a precise sequence to pass information from one level down to the next level without interpretation.

     This is probably the most important thing you can learn. It is the common language of military forces around the world. It is a methodical, step by step presentation of information in a precise sequence to pass information from one level down to the next level without interpretation.

    You have all heard of the party game where someone starts a message and whispers it to the next person. The message is whispered from person to person until it gets to the last person. The last person states the message aloud. It is never the same as the original. Just imagine if this process occurred in a military operation - division to brigade to battalion to company to platoon to squad to fire team to soldier. It would be chaos! Here's a technique to ensure the party game is not happening, when you issue an OPORD spot check down the chain of command asking critical questions to the lowest level. If there is a disconnect, work it back up the chain of command to identify the breakdown and correct it at the appropriate level. It is rarely the soldier's fault for misinformation - find the leader responsible.

    This process is so standardized that many people carry blank OPORD formats and just fill in the blanks as the information is presented.  Never leave an OPORD briefing with questions in your mind - get them answered right there on the spot from the person who is issuing the OPORD.

    The following OPORD format has an interesting history that is worth sharing. The field manuals contain a standard five paragraph field order format - it's the skeleton. When I was a student at the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, we were put together in small groups of about 12 students. Our primary task was writing OPORDs - again and again and again. Early in the course we were all getting smacked on these because each division required different information in each paragraph - none of us individually had all the answers. We finally put our heads together and condensed our knowledge into a common OPORD format - we put the meat on the skeleton. We spanked OPORDs for the remainder of the course and our careers.

    What is presented here is the collective input from that effort. It basically writes the OPORD for you - you just have to consider each item and provide the information. That's the key - consider every item. If it is applicable to your mission, then fill in the information. If it is not applicable to your mission, then don't include it or put NOT APPLICABLE (N/A for short). That way you know you've considered everything and not forgotten something.

    Nothing is ever perfect forever - improve this as you become more experienced. It's a great foundation. I've done the best I could on formatting - limitations of Facebook.


1. Situation

 A. Enemy Forces

     1) Weather

     2) Terrain

     3) Disposition, composition, strength

     4) Capabilities

     5) Most probable course of action

     6) Avenues of approach

     7) Degree of defensive preparation

     8) Counterattack capability

 B. Friendly Forces

     1) Higher unit’s mission and intent of commander

     2) Mission of unit on left

     3) Mission of unit on right

     4) Mission on unit to your front

     5) Mission of unit in reserve

     6) Units in support of your higher

 C. Attachments and detachments


2. Mission – who, what, where, when, & why

3. Execution – how

 A. Concept of operation

     1) Your intent

     2) Maneuver – from left to right, identify main and supporting efforts, routes, movement formations, order of march, checkpoints, etc

     3) Fires

         a) Intent of fire support plan

         b) Priority given to whom

         c) Identify priority targets

         d) Identify target reference points

         e) Close air support

         f) Attack helicopters

         g) FASCAM

         h) Final protective fires

         i) Priority/method of engagement

     4) Intelligence and electronic warfare

     5) Obstacles

         a) Intent of obstacle plan

         b) Priority of work/effort

         c) Obstacle handover

         d) Demolition guard

         e) Reserve demolition

 B. Subunit instructions – who, what, where, when, & why

 C. Consolidation & reorganization

 D. Coordinating instructions

     1) Rehearsals

     2) Inspections

     3) Forward passage of lines

     4) Actions at checkpoints

     5) Rally points

     6) Actions at rally points

     7) Actions at danger areas

     8)  Actions on enemy contact

     9) Actions at the objective

     10) Rearward passage of lines

     11) Fire support

     12) Air defense status

         a) WHITE – attack not expected, use passive measures

         b) YELLOW – attack expected, post air guards

         c) RED – attack imminent or in progress, be prepared to engage

     13) Air defense weapons status

         a) HOLD – don’t fire at aircraft except in self defense

         b) TIGHT – fire only at aircraft positively identified as enemy

         c) FREE – fire at any aircraft not positively identified as friendly

     14) Engineer support

     15) MOPP Level

         a) 0 – carry mask

         b) 1 – wear MOPP suit

         c) 2 – wear booties

         d) 3 – wear mask

         e) 4 – wear gloves

     16) Adjacent unit coordination

     17) Priority information

         a) Observation of enemy in MOPP

         b) Use of NBC weapons

         c) Enemy overflights

         d) Location of enemy engineer or air defense equipment

     18) Priority of direct fire engagement

     19) Fire control measures for direct fire weapons

     20) Reconnaissance and surveillance


4. Service Support

 A. General

     1) Location of combat trains

     2) Location of field trains

     3) Location of brigade support area

 B. Material & Services

     1) Class I – subsistence

     2) Class II – clothing, individual equipment, tools, tentage

     3) Class III – petroleum, oil & lubricants

     4) Class IV – construction material

     5) Class V – ammunition

     6) Class VI – personal demand items

     7) Class VII – major end items

     8)  Class VIII – medical supplies

     9) Class IX – repair parts

     10) Class X – non-military programs

     11) Transportation

     12) Maintenance

     13) Uniform & equipment for mission

 C. Medical

     1) Location of aid station

     2) Evacuation of wounded (WIA)

     3) Evacuation of killed (KIA)

     4) Graves registration


     6) Location of casualty collection point

 D. Personnel

     1) Prisoner of war handling

     2) Location of POW collection point

     3) Wounded POW handling

     4) Civilian/refugee handling

 E. Miscellaneous

     1) Captured equipment handling

     2) Civil/military cooperation


5. Command & Signal

 A. Command

     1) Location of command post

     2) Location of commander/leader

     3) Location of second in command (2IC)

     4) Location of higher unit command post

     5) Chain of command

 B. Signal

     1) Signal Operation Instructions (SOI) Index

     2) Visual signals (smoke & flares)

     3) Arm & hand signals (whistles)

     4) Challenge and running password

     5) Number combination (ODD)

     6) Frequencies & call signs



     Name of person issuing OPORD









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