Combat Order Format

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Combat Orders format

Introduction. Combat orders instruction at TBS is a detailed, rigorous package that strives to develop and evaluate your ability to arrive at a tactical decision, communicate that decision, and execute your plans in a time competitive environment. The focus throughout will be on action. Your tactical actions and necessary communication for action will be evaluated under the dynamic, chaotic, and uncertain lens espoused in MCDP-1. You will be required to brief and/or write numerous combat orders throughout the course. Significant events from the combat orders package include

• Tactical Planning I
• Tactical Planning Sand Table Exercise
• Combat Orders Format
• Patrol Order
• Combat Orders Discussion Group
• Combat Order Format Exam

□ Combat Orders Portfolio. Throughout the instruction, you will be required to write five, detailed combat orders that your staff platoon commanders will collect, review, and critique.

□ Sand Table Exercises and Field Exercises. Throughout the numerous STEXs and FEXs, significant focus will be placed on the tactical decision and effective oral communication of plans.

□ Tactical Decision Games. You will participate in five tactical decision games requiring rapid decision-making and oral communication of plans.

□ Tactical Decision Making Exam. The Tactical Decision Making Exam is the capstone evaluated event of the combat orders package. The exam emphasizes first and foremost the decision and then the clear and effective communication of that decision in an uncertain and time-competitive environment.

How to Prepare for This Lesson

Read this handout and the attached articles. Be prepared to participate in this class and be evaluated. The combat orders instruction will consist primarily of lectures, a discussion group, and various evaluations. You will be evaluated on your knowledge of and ability to deliver combat orders throughout this course of instruction, both in the field and in the classroom.


Not only is the commander's will decisive in war, but also his manner of expressing that will. Commanders use orders to express their will and translate their decisions into actions. MCRP 5-12A, Operational Terms and Graphics, defines an order as

"A communication, written, oral, or by signal which conveys instructions from a superior to a subordinate. In a broad sense, the term order and command are synonymous. However, an order implies discretion as to the details of execution whereas a command does not."

Combat orders are the second step in the three steps of action:

• Decision
• Communication
• Execution

An experienced combat leader phrased it this way:

The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by the will. --General Hans Von Seekt

In essence, combat orders express the will or intent of the commander. They must be brief, clear, and definite. A decision, however promising, will probably fail if the commander cannot express it in an order.

The stages of action defined above are similar to the famous Boyd cycle—observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) loop. The key point is that the orders process is continuous. It begins when we receive or decide a mission and ends when the mission is complete. (Never mistake the orders process as merely the development of the order itself.)

A commander's ability to deliver orders corresponds directly to his tactical skill. If the commander makes an accurate estimate of the situation and arrives at a definite tactical decision, then he typically issues an effective order. Conversely, a commander who cannot make a decision will not produce an effective order.

Delivering combat orders, like tactical decision-making, is an art. To be effective, commanders must...
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