The company FSO/FSNCO: to brief, but not too brief.
An FSO has to brief, but he can't be that brief. No one will know what his delegated responsibilities are. No one will understand the scheme of fires. Fires will not be synchronized with maneuver.
This article outlines and defines some things you or your fire support NCO (FSNCO) can do when briefing the fire support plan to make the plan more easily understood and synchronize fires with the company's maneuver plan.
Big Boys with their Toys. Many units use models of vehicles on the sand table to represent their platoon or other element. These are often plastic models of a Bradley fighting vehicle or Abrams tank. You should obtain some models (even an Ml 13) to depict your vehicle location, so the maneuver platoon leaders and platoon sergeants can more easily understand where the fire support team (FIST) is in relation to the support or attack by fire positions. When the unit describes movement from one position to another, often by phases of the operation, you also show where your team will move or be located.
You must describe the FIST movement, especially if the FIST is not going to be traveling inside the company formation. Define the time you expect it to take the team to occupy the new observation post (OP) and what the task and purpose is at the new OP location. Because you can't see the entire battlefield, you must delegate responsibility to the maneuver platoon elements and describe these responsibilities phase by phase.
"X" Marks the Spot. FSOs often brief, "We have two planned targets, AE 2005 and AE2010. AE2005 is at grid NV123456, and AE 2010, the smoke target, is at NV234567." This information doesn't clarify anything for anyone.
You should have a visual marker to locate the target on the ground. Some units use index cards, some use four-inch square ceramic tiles and some use Popsicle sticks run through an index card. The second two models are better in that they are less likely to blow away in the middle of your briefing. The point is to have something on the ground to help the maneuver personnel visualize how fires are supporting them.
In the case of a linear target, such as smoke, use more of maneuver terminology in describing how the target supports them. Rather than saying the target is on an attitude of 2400 mils, tell them the direction in degrees because that is what they understand. Or tell them it runs in a south/southeastern direction and then show them visually on either a map or the terrain model. Clarity and understanding are your ultimate goals.
You also should have visual aides to depict planned OPs. Number them and point them out by phase as the rehearsal or OPORD is conducted.
Why There and Why Then? These are good questions about planned targets. The problem is, they are rarely asked. What is even worse is letting company leaders walk away from the rehearsal not understanding the plan.
Just as the maneuver companies know their task and purpose, you must know and then brief the task and purpose for each target the company is responsible for. Confusion enters when the task and purpose at your fire support rehearsal does not make sense to your maneuver companies.
You must know doctrine and be able to discuss the planned targets with respect to task, purpose, method and effects. And when discussing method, break it down further to define priority, allocation and restrictions. These are terms maneuver companies know and understand. Terms like "suppress" and "destroy" are defined differently by the fire support and maneuver communities.
Explain the purpose of the target. Be vehicle-quantity specific when expressing desired effects. Also, explain how long obscuration will last and what must happen during that time.
Explain priorities. This is your opportunity to cover the essential fire support tasks (EFSTs) for your maneuver company personnel in a manner they will understand. Describe who has priorities of fires, both artillery and mortar. It is at this point in the briefing that a platoon takes responsibility for targets, if any organic maneuver element is going to have responsibilities.
You don't explain allocation simply by describing how many battalions six-rounds of dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) missions are allocated to the targets. You don't tell the company how many smoke rounds are on hand. But do tell them in numbers how many fire-for-effect (EFE) missions they can expect or how many rounds will land when a target is fired. Tell them how long it really takes to fire a battalion six-round DPICM mission or how many minutes of obscuration they will have. You already will have done the time and distance analysis and backward planning for the trigger with the company commander and your task force (TF) FSO, so you will know that information.
When talking about restrictions, explain why certain targets will have high-explosive (HE) rounds fired instead of DPICM rounds. DPICM has an inherent two to three percent dud rate, so you won't want to fire DPICM where friendly dismounts will later have to walk and clear. "Lights will begin to go on," if you explain the task and purpose in terms maneuver can understand.
I Brought Presents for Everyone. When coming to the OPORD briefing or rehearsal, bring fires overlays for the maneuver elements. You need one for the commander, the executive officer and each platoon leader. The overlays need to be small enough to use but not so busy with data that they are confusing. On a small legend to the side, you can show the targets each platoon is responsible for.
Who....Me? The FIST can't be everywhere during the battle. It can't see every enemy vehicle. When its OP is off to a flank providing over watch or scanning a targeted area of interest (TAI), it may not see the enemy platoon on the other side. The FIST needs the help of the maneuver unit to be his alternate set of eyes.
You must delegate alternate responsibility for observation of a target to whichever platoon is most likely to be in that area. The platoon is determined during the planning process. Target responsibility also must be assigned during planning. You verify understanding during the rehearsal. If the responsibility is assigned to a platoon, it assigns primary and alternate responsibilities within the platoon.
During the rehearsal, it is critical that platoons talk through this piece to ensure they understand their responsibilities in the event they need to fire the target. Each platoon must know the proper frequency and call signs. It must be intimately familiar with the terrain to identify the target and how to send a call-for-fire request. It also must know what type of ordnance will be coming and in what quantity. (This is the information you provide in your fire support rehearsals.)
Naturally, the rehearsal is not the time to discover maneuver's lack of training. It is incumbent upon fire supporters to train any soldier asked to help execute fires. This is where the FSNCO plays the leading role. The FSNCO should offer to incorporate the Bradley commanders into his Sergeant's Time training whenever he conducts call-for-fire training. When he schedules time on the training set fire observation (TSFO) or Guard unit armory device full-crew interactive simulation trainer (GUARD-FIST), he should invite the maneuver element to the training. Whenever the FIST conducts mortar live-fire training, the FSNCO should consider asking the Bradley commanders to come along.
The more training maneuver personnel receive in calling for fires, the more comfortable they will become doing it. With time, training and that comfort, they will become proficient and even lethal.
Sounds Simple Enough. Life is difficult enough for a company/team FSO during the planning process. You have meetings to attend and rehearsals to prepare for. You have a lot of work to do. To help the plan succeed, you need an FSNCO helping so you can concentrate on the "meat and not the vegetables." Once you have your plan in mind, share it with your team and the maneuver elements that will be with you on the battlefield.
At the OPORD briefing, you need to step up and speak. Be clear, concise and ensure understanding by asking the right questions. If this isn't the way you've conducted the briefing before, be prepared for some resistance at first. People naturally steer clear of change. But don't allow your briefing to be skipped over or rushed. Persistence is the key.
After all, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten.
Sergeant First Class Stephen D. McCane, until recently, was a Company/Team Fire Support Combat Trainer on the Scorpion Team at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California. While at the NTC, he trained 19 units as both a Mechanized and Armor Company Team Trainer and served eight rotations as the Task Force Fire Support Element Trainer. He is now a Squadron Fire Support NCO (FSNCO) with the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado. In previous assignments, he was the FSNCO at J3 Operations in the United Nations Command of the Combined Forces Command in Korea. He also was the Assistant Task Force FSNCO and a Company Fire Support Sergeant at Fort Carson.