National Training Center.
The Engineer Company Tactical Operations Center (ETOC) is often overlooked and receives minimal training or resourcing during a unit's preparation for a rotation at the National Training Center (NTC). However, many trends indicate that the effectiveness of an engineer company at the NTC is greatly influenced by the performance of the ETOC. This squad-sized element fills several roles: command post (CP) for the engineer company, mobility/survivability (M/S) Battlefield Operating System (BOS) representative for the supported maneuver task force (TF), and a direct liaison officer between the brigade combat team's direct-support engineer battalion and the maneuver TF.
An ETOC must perform the following six functions to effectively provide command and control for engineer elements operating in the TF sector and M/S BOS support to the TF:
Receive Information. An ETOC must receive information from the parent engineer battalion, the supported maneuver TF, and subordinate or attached engineer units operating within its area of operation (AO) to execute the remaining five TOC functions effectively. It is this function that dictates the need for the ETOC to possess the same command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) capabilities as the engineer-company commander, supported TF, and parent engineer battalion.
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Receive messages, reports, orders, and overlays digitally or by frequency modulation (FM) or courier.
2. Monitor and understand tactical situation.
3. Maintain a log of significant activities and reports.
4. Maintain status of critical classes of supply.
* Noted trend-ETOCs are often unable to maintain effective communication with subordinate and higher-echelon engineer units. This trend can be reversed by fully leveraging the C41 capabilities available within the engineer unit and supported TF. Digitized units must fully exercise the capabilities of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below System, and nondigitized units must fully leverage FM systems--including TF- and brigade-level retransmission capabilities, mobile subscriber radio-telephone coverage, and tactical facsimile, if available.
Distribute Information. An ETOC must be capable of rapidly distributing the information it has received to the elements requiring the information. This function must have adequate C41 capabilities and personnel trained to use the equipment.
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Submit reports to higher engineer and supported TF headquarters.
2. Serve as a communication relay between units.
3. Publish orders and instructions.
4. Process and distribute information to appropriate units or staffs.
* Noted trend-Units do not effectively track and disseminate obstacle information affecting TF mobility. This includes friendly obstacles, planned or executed, and enemy obstacles confirmed within the TF, AO, or area of interest. The assistant task-force engineer (ATFE) should ensure that this information is posted on the engineer battle-tracking boards and the TF's current operations map and disseminated to the lowest level possible using obstacle overlays and FM updates. The use of a doctrinally correct obstacle-numbering system within the TF sector will improve the communication of obstacle status to the maneuver elements. It is also important that the ETOC monitors the communication of scatterable-mine warnings within the TF sector and to higher headquarters. The ETOC must be the critical node in collecting, verifying, and forward processing of hard copies of Department of the Army Form 1355, Minefield Reporting. Emplacing any land mines by U.S. forces must be thoroughly documented and then forwarded to t he higher headquarters.
Analyze Information. The personnel manning an ETOC must continuously analyze the information from subordinate sources and higher echelons as to how it is affecting the M/S support of the current TF's scheme of maneuver. This function requires that the members of the ETOC fully use their training and professional experience as combat engineers.
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Identify information related to the commanders' critical information requirements (CCTRs), essential elements of friendly information (EEFIs), priority information requirements (PIRs), and decision points.
2. Prepare an engineer estimate.
3. Conduct predictive analysis.
4. Conduct terrain analysis.
* Noted trend-Personnel in ETOCs are not trained to identify critical information, conduct predictive analysis, or use a decision-support matrix. All members of the company CP must be familiar with the CCIRs, EEFIs, and PIRs designated for each operation. They must also understand the three components of the engineer battlefield assessment to analyze critical information in a timely manner.
Make Recommendations to the Commander. Filling the role of company operations officer and TF special staff officer, the ATFE and other members of an ETOC must be capable of rapidly and effectively communicating sound recommendations to the TF and engineer-company commanders.
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Develop and use decision-support template.
2. Conduct tactical decision-making process (TDMP).
3. Create/publish countermobility and survivability timelines.
4. Recommend priority of employment of engineer assets.
* Noted trend-ETOCs do not rapidly provide alternate courses of action (COAs) when fluctuations in time or assets available cause MIS effort to deviate from original plan. All personnel in the ETOC must understand the engineer company and supported unit commander's intent. During the TDMP, the TF engineer must develop alternate engineer COAs based on likely changes in time and assets available. These COAs should be tied to specific actions that occur on the battlefield. They must be developed enough to be presented to the TF commander and implemented upon his approval.
Integrate Resources. An ETOC is responsible for coordinating actions internal to the engineer company and the M/S actions of the supported TF. Also, the ETOC must integrate vertically with higher engineer headquarters and horizontally with adjacent engineer units. It is essential that all members of the ETOC understand how to integrate with the remaining six BOSs during planning and execution of combat operations. The ETOC participates in all steps of the TF planning process and all TF-level rehearsals. During the military decision-making process, the ATFE conducts direct coordination with BOS representatives to ensure that all elements operating in the TF sector understand the scheme of engineer operations (SOEO).
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Conduct report procedures.
2. Develop the SOEO.
3. Conduct obstacle integration.
4. Plan combined-arms breaching operations.
* Noted trend-ETOCs do not address the essential elements of integration with the other BOSs during the planning, preparation, and execution phases of each operation. All members of the ETOC must understand the role of the seven BOSs. It is essential that they understand how the MIS BOS supports and/or is supported by the other six. This is accomplished by maximizing opportunities to cross-train all members of the ETOC with members of the TF TOC.
Synchronize Resources. An ETOC must coordinate and synchronize the activities of all MIS assets within the TF AO. This process begins during the TDMP, as the ATFE ensures that the MIS BOS is represented during the war-gaming process and the development of the TF synchronization matrix. All members of the ETOC must understand how planned engineer actions relate to the actions of the other BOSs in the TF. The ATFE conducts the coordination before and during the war-gaming process. Thorough coordination before the COA analysis ensures that the SOEO is feasible and supports the TF commander's intent.
* Critical supporting tasks:
1. Prepare an engineer annex.
2. Participate in a TF war-gaming session.
3. Conduct battle tracking of engineer assets.
* Noted trend-ETOCs do not fully leverage the war-gaming process and TF-level rehearsals to adequately synchronize the MIS effort within the supported TF sector. The ETOC must fully participate in all synchronization activities of the supported TF. During the war-gaming process and development of the synchronization matrix, all actions and effects of MIS assets must be included. During TF-level rehearsals, the presence of MIS factors must be addressed along with the actions of key engineer elements. Full participation in these activities will ensure synchronization with the other BOSs in the TF.
NTC Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures
Battle Rhythm. The ETOC must be effective during all phases of each mission (planning, preparation, and execution) for 14+ days of continuous operations. Each phase requires input from the MIS BOS; therefore, it is critical that trained and combat-effective personnel are on duty and contributing to each phase of the mission. The ETOC leadership must ensure that an effective battle-handover/shift-change plan is in place to ensure no loss of situational awareness (see Figure 1). To ensure that roles are filled and executed effectively, specific duties and responsibilities for each position should be documented and placed in a TOC standing operating procedure (TOCSOP). This document will allow new personnel to quickly understand their roles and responsibilities as part of the ETOC. Smooth integration of new personnel will minimize the effects of personnel changes.
Individual Roles. The ATFE must not try to accomplish all missions and handle issues during all phases. He must be heavily involved in planning for future operations with the supported TF. This forces the operations noncommissioned officer (NCO) and remainder of personnel assigned to the ETOC to support the executive officer (XO) and handle current operations. This means the TF current operations section must rely heavily on the ETOC noncommissioned officer in charge and shift NCOs. Most often these individuals have not been battle-staff trained, but they must execute home-station training that educates them to that level. It is essential that the ETOC function without the presence of the engineer-company XO.
Providing Engineer Expertise to the TF XO/S3/Battle Captain. All personnel within the ETOC should be trained to provide timely and accurate engineer advice to the supported TF. Each member of the section should be current on engineer doctrine, engineer munitions, engineer planning factors, and engineer equipment/logistical requirements. Therefore, a functional field manual/technical manual (FM/TM) library should be accessible along with a battle book that is tailored to the needs of the supported TF. The ATFE must be the M/S BOS expert with the capability to analyze any friendly or enemy engineer actions and provide effective recommendations to the TF commander. The following items are essential to provide doctrinally sound M/S advice to a maneuver TF:
* FM 5-34, Engineer Field Data, August 1999.
* FM 20-32, Mine/Countermine Operations, May 1998.
* FM 90-7, Combined Arms Obstacle Integration, September 1994.
* FM 3-34.2, Combined-Arms Breaching Operations, date pending.
* FM 5-71-2, Armored Task-Force Engineer Combat Operations, June 1996.
* Supported unit's tactical SOP.
All personnel in the ETOC should be trained to conduct basic terrain analysis effectively. This means they must have access and be trained to fully leverage any terrain-analysis product or system available. Also, every member of the ETOC should be trained to operate the available terrain-analysis software.
Synchronizing the Mobility/Countermobility/Survivability (M/CM/S) Effort Among Maneuver Companies/Teams. The ATFE and ETOC are responsible for synchronizing M/CM/S effort across the TF. Clearly communicating the tasks that must be completed and their respective sequence can accomplish this synchronization. The first step toward this goal is publishing an effective engineer annex in the TF operations order (OPORD). This annex should include easily understandable execution matrixes for the TF M/CM/S efforts. The engineer cell should also provide accurate and up-to-date overlays to support each of these plans. The ATFE must ensure that M/S tasks for maneuver elements, essential to TF mission completion, are published in the TF OPORD in paragraph 3--Tasks to Maneuver Units. To help support the engineer annex, there are several graphical tools that can improve the planner's ability to communicate the key tasks and their relation to the time available:
* Gantt Chart (See Figure 2, page 66). This tool, often referred to as a timeline, can quickly communicate the task, location, and resource requirements for all critical M/S units or resources. This assists the TF in tracking and logistically supporting engineer assets as they are shifted across the battlefield during preparation for defensive operations.
* Glide Path (See Figure 3, page 66). This graphical tool displays actual versus estimated production. Counter-mobility or survivability effort can be tracked on a glide path. It allows the leadership to determine if units are producing at the level estimated and to project the actual end state. The glide path can identify when decision points are reached to shift key assets to achieve the desired amount of counter mobility or survivability effort. This product will allow leadership the opportunity to adjust resource allocation or the tactical plan based on the current production level and an extrapolated estimate of final production for M/S resources.
* Commander's Card (See Figures 4 and 5, page 67). This graphical tool keeps the TF commander abreast of the progress of the key M/S assets within the TF sector. It serves as a "blueprint" of the planned engineer effort in sector. The TF's current operations cell and the ETOC update the card at a regular interval, designated by the TF commander.
Publishing the Engineer-Company OPORD. An ETOC should be trained to create and publish the engineer-company OPORD, supplemented with supporting terrain-analysis products, a consolidated graphics overlay, and a comprehensive risk-management document. The engineer annex created during the TF orders process can serve as the base for this product. By using the engineer annex as the base document and adding the engineer-commander's intent, paragraph IV (Service Support), and paragraph V (Command and Signal)- related to the engineer company-a company-level order is created before publishing the TF OPORD. Executing this parallel planning by the ETOC will ensure that the engineer commander is prepared to issue a full company OPORD before task-organizing subordinates to supported maneuver units.
Usable terrain products must be provided to the subordinate units as part of the company OPORD package. This will allow the engineer leaders in the company to better understand the critical aspects of the terrain they will be operating on and communicate those factors to the maneuver elements that they support. Placing these products directly in the hands of the engineer units will ensure that they are fully leveraged to support completion of the critical MIS tasks.
The ETOC has the capability to consolidate all available TF graphics and create a product that is usable by key leaders within the engineer company. This consolidated graphics product should contain information from the following sources:
* TF situation template.
* TF reconnaissance-and-surveillance overlay.
* TF maneuver overlay.
* TF fire-support overlay.
* TF combat-service-support overlay.
* TF M/S overlay.
By using the professional experience of the personnel in the ETOC, and access to the mentioned products, a single graphical product can be created that is tailored to the needs of the engineer leaders. This product can then be issued along with the company OPORD before task organization takes effect. The ETOC can also create a comprehensive risk-management product that the company commander can brief and distribute to the subordinate leaders. By combining the risks and the control measures published by the supported TF and the parent engineer battalion, along with those identified by members of the ETOC, the company-level risk-management product should minimize any loss of combat power or chance of mission failure.
ETOC Individual-Skills Training. Due to the small number of personnel assigned to an ETOC and the requirement to support continuous operations, all personnel assigned to the engineer CP must be trained and ready to execute any task required. To be an effective member of the ETOC team, each member must be trained and certified to execute the following tasks before an NTC rotation:
* Operate all assigned vehicles-preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS).
* Operate all assigned equipment (communications, automation, TerraBase)--PMCS.
* Perform specific tasks in TOG relocation battle drill.
* Serve as radio/telephone operator-understand how to receive and send reports at both company and battalion levels.
* Understand military maneuver graphics and all reports required by higher and lower echelons-battle tracking.
* Conduct shift-change briefing or brief critical MIS events/ issues to TF battle captain or TF commander.
Adhering to these recommendations and executing the critical tasks do not guarantee success at the NTC. These are recommendations that will greatly increase the potential for successful engineer operations in support of armor, mechanized infantry, or light infantry TFs. True success at NTC is achieved by continuously improving through each mission and then taking lessons learned back to the home station and creating a comprehensive training program to prepare for real-world contingency operations.
Lieutenant Colonel Magness is the engineer battalion S3 trainer on the Sidewinder Team at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Previous assignments include brigade and battalion S3, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; company commander, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Division, Germany; and platoon leader and battalion staff officer, 17th Engineer Battalion, 2d Armored Division. LTC Magness holds a master's from the University of Texas and is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the Command and General Staff College.
Captain Ray is a task force engineer observer/controller on the Sidewinder Team at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Previous assignments include company commander, 84th Engineer Battalion, Fort Richardson, Alaska; platoon leader and battalion staff officer, 91st Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division; and platoon leader 2d Engineer Battalion, 2d Infantry Division. CPT Ray is a graduate of the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Colorado School of Mines.
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|Author:||Magness, Thomas H.; Ray, David G.|
|Publication:||Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2001|
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