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S-6 101: keys to success for battalion S-6.

Battalion signal officers throughout the Army are significantly challenged during their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center. Most signal officers fight to develop a concept of command and control to ensure their unit achieves mission success. Signal officers also fight through issues internally (within their war fighting function, and their unit). Some issues are overcome by the time the unit reaches "Endex", but some are not. The two areas that consistently impair the signal officer's success are the Military Decision Making Process and Staff Coordination/Synchronization. A signal officer mastering issues associated with these items will be successful at JRTC and deployment. You must be a good planner first, which means not only understanding how all of information systems work, but how many are ready to be used.

Mission analysis (asset visibility)

An S-6 has to have an accurate picture of assets available before starting any planning. Determining assets available is probably the most critical point in mission analysis for the S-6. You need to know who is in your organization and what assets they own. The units that struggle the most are the ones where no previous system was developed, followed by units that just don't track to the necessary level of detail, ie: they track end items but not the ancillary equipment like antennas, power supplies, power amplifiers, and battery chargers. It's critical to track these systems because they affect employing your end items. For example, if you obtain a 25K dedicated Satellite Communication segment and have 40 PRC-148 (multi-band) radios in the unit, but only have four SATCOM antennas. The limiting factor is no longer the number of radios you have but the number of antennas.

Ideally there is already some tracking mechanism like an excel spreadsheet that you use to maintain visibility of all C2 assets. Assuming that is true, the sheet must be updated as often as possible, especially as your task organization changes to include units that are not organic to your organization, ie: Special Forces Operational Detachments, Tactical Human Intelligence Teams, Joint Tactical Air Controllers, Military Training Teams, Civil Affairs Teams, etc. (Figure 1) Often these units are resourced with robust communication packages.

Additionally there must be consistent reporting from the communications sergeants in each company to the S-6 to in order to validate the tracking sheet and ensure optimum utility. This is the first instance where staff coordination is critical because if shortages in equipment or training are identified you should coordinate with the battalion executive officer, brigade S6, and/or a sister battalion S-6 to request support for these issues.

PACE development

Most importantly, accurate asset visibility allows development of the primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency PACE communications plan from higher to lower. This will crystallize the focus for the communications exercise. It also enables recommendations to be made quickly to the commander on redistributing assets as the mission changes. For example, if one company needs another power supply to operate an additional frequency modulated net for an upcoming operation and is located on the same forward operating base with the battalion tactical command post that has an extra power supply. In such an instance you'd already have the information available to arm the S-3 to direct the equipment transfer. Valuable time wouldn't be spent to obtain equipment numbers from other units and coordinate logistics to transport equipment from the battalion FOB, or another unit's location.


Once the PACE has been established a plan must be developed for the battalion COMMEX. This is the second instance where inadequate planning causes an issue for the S-6. A successful COMMEX includes a formal plan that is understood by the battalion tactical operations center and all subordinate units. Write the COMMEX plan and issue it in the form of a fragmentary order. This is another instance where staff coordination is critical, because by coordinating with the S-3 to issue the plan in a FRAGO you ensure visibility by the TOC (commander, XO, S-3 and other staff sections), companies, and other units in the task organization. Further ensure success by reviewing the plan for the COMMEX in any updates that are conducted within the battalion up until the point of execution. Additionally, a meeting should be coordinated with all communicators within the battalion, specifically the 25U located at the company level to ensure their preparation and understanding. Ideally this meeting is also addressed in the COMMEX FRAGO to ensure that all company 25Us are available. Finally, ensure participation by tracking the results of the COMMEX and providing a formal roll up of the results to the battalion XO. The roll up can be a single slide that depicts the overall results, participation issues, and maintenance issues. Upon completion of the COMMEX a clear idea of system readiness should be the result.

Course of action

Upon completion of MA the S-6 must begin to develop a C2 plan to support the battalion concept of operations. The current trend is for the battalion to develop a course of action that not only has phases which occur chronologically, but simultaneously, along lines of operation, such as security, governance, and economics. Regardless of how the plan unfolds, the most important product for the S-6 to develop during this phase of MDMP is the concept of C2 plan that integrates the PACE plan, and the establishment of critical C2 nodes (Retransmission teams and the battalion Tactical Command Post) into the concept of operations and the scheme of maneuver. Recognizing the fact that all units in the task organization may not have the same allocation of C2 assets, address not only changes to the PACE during different phases, but the different PACE plans for different units. For example, if one company does not have a tactical satellite radio for a phase of the operation then their primary means of communication for long-haul communications may be Blue Force Tracker or high frequency systems. Again, having clear asset visibility facilitates flexibility in support of a feasible plan.

Operations order

The final phase of MDMP and another consistent source of friction is the OPORD. In preparation for the written OPORD, develop several products in the form of the signal annex. The goal of the signal annex should be to develop a clear and articulate plan that can be understood at the lowest levels, including as much detail as possible. At the very minimum you need to address the following issues in the OPORD:

* PACE by phase

* Communications card

* FM line-of-sight analy COMSEC compromise

* Iraqi Security Forces communications

* Medical Evacuation communications plan

* Use of Sheriff's net

* Adjacent unit coordination.


Some of these items should be addressed in the base OPORD under tasks to subordinate units or coordinating instructions, while others should be covered under paragraph five and in the signal annex. One of the common mistakes signal officers make is putting tasks to subordinate unit's reference communications matters in their signal annex, when they should actually be published under the task to subordinates section of the base OPORD. Again, the goal of the signal annex is to keep it as simple as possible while addressing all issues.

The next issue associated with the OPORD is that even if the S-6 develops an articulate plan he doesn't get to brief it, or is limited to a single slide. It is then up to the S-6 to coordinate with the battalion executive officer to ensure he acknowledges what communications matters are necessary to brief. This is where it is critical to maintain a working relationship with the XO. Once the XO acknowledges your need to brief, and the possibility of briefing more than a single slide, don't waste everyone's time in the OPORD by talking about something that seems trivial to them like Army Battle Command System Internet Protocol addresses. Remember who you are briefing in the OPORD. Simplicity is the key. The bottom line is address all critical issues. Later point out what wasn't addressed but is covered in the written OPORD. The signal officers who are most successful at JRTC brief: the PACE, location of key C2 nodes, the FM LOS analysis, and adjacent unit coordination. Regardless of whether or not everything you want is briefed, it is imperative to review the signal annex with all the 25U in the organization.

Combined arms rehearsal

The CAR is the final preparation event at the battalion level. The S-6 and the C2 WFF are routinely absent from the rehearsal. The CAR is similar to the OPORD in terms of the requirement to coordinate with the S-3 and the XO before hand to ensure that C2 is addressed during the CAR. Ideally, actions that are rehearsed will address the PACE within the framework of the loss of communications procedures.


Staff synchronization

The next major item that impairs S-6 success is synchronization within the C2 WFF and synchronization with the rest of the staff. Information flow in both of these areas is critical.

Most of the synchronization issues within the staff are overcome by one-on-one interaction and meetings. Ideally the battalion XO forces the staff to get together at least once a day to work out any issues. In the absence of such a venue, the S-6 must make the effort to interact with the other staff members and companies to resolve issues relating the C2 and optimally prevent issues before they occur. Additionally you have a responsibility to maintain situational awareness and read the entire battalion OPORD, brigade OPORD and subsequent FRAGOs. Too many staff officers only read the annex or section of an OPORD that pertains to their WFF.

Below are some of the items that should be addressed with the other staff sections during planning and steady state operations.

S1: Establishment of the Administration and Logistics FM net, incoming personnel

S2: ABCS establishment (All Source Analysis System), establishment of the Operations and Intelligence FM net, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance feeds

S3: TOC set up, ABCS establishment (Maneuver Control SystemLight), Combat Net Radio establishment (FM, SATCOM, HF), Web Portal establishment, input for FRAGOs, calendar updates (COMMEX, training), Requests For Information, TAC readiness / deployment

S4: Property book visibility & distribution of assets, funding for training and equipment, establishment of the A&L net and the Administration and Logistics Operations Center

FSO: ABCS establishment (Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System), establishment of the battalion and brigade Fires nets

XO: Support and guidance on all communications matters affecting the battalion, assistance working matters with the companies, other WFF, and the brigade S-6

WFF synchronization

The S-6 also needs to develop a plan to synchronize the S-6 section. This includes the 25U located within the battalion S-6 shop and the 25U located in each company. The deployment of the 25U to the company level greatly enhances the S-6's visibility of issues at that level and facilitates bottom up refinement of the C2 plan and operations. It is important to ensure that the expectations for the company 25U are clear. There should be a clear understanding between you, the company XO and the 25U with respect to what their responsibilities are within the company. The communications sergeant is expected to assist with all C2 matters within the company and similarly expect the time, resources, and authority within the company to execute.

Synchronization with the companies is directly tied to the S-6 shop. The first thing the S-6 can do to ensure synchronization within the C2 WFF is to establish venues for the exchange of information. Ideally, the S-6 conducts a shift change brief within his section, participates in the TOC shift change brief, develops priorities of work, and a battle rhythm. The battle rhythm should include daily and weekly meetings with the company 25U, based on the locations of personnel. The intent is to share information and while it is recommended to try and formalize the process, there is nothing wrong with just sitting down and discussing issues. However, the units that make the most of the opportunities to talk to each other directly, have created a clear agenda and pushed it out to everyone and least a day in advance. This ensures they know what is going to be discussed and are prepared to address all issues in detail. Recommended issues to cover within the C2 WFF:

* Asset visibility / communications status

* PACE acknowledgement

* Maintenance

* Training and support

* Command Post establishment

* Current and future operations

The last part of the WFF synchronization is between the battalion S-6 and the brigade S-6. Ideally the brigade S-6 establishes at least the same venues for the exchange of information between the brigade and the battalion that you created for information flow between the battalion and the companies. Even though you are probably located on different FOBs, the proliferation of digital collaboration systems such as Command Post of the Future and Breeze enable the ability to conduct an S-6 conference call. This is routinely how information is exchanged between S-6s during JRTC rotations. But again, in the absence of such a meeting it is critical to talk to the brigade S-6 daily in order to address the following items:

* RFIs

* Current and future operations

* Communications support (training, technical, equipment and maintenance)


The battalion is the first level where the Army recognizes there is a need for a staff, so the battalion S-6 is clearly the closest to the fight and in position to make the greatest impact. Planning and support of the war fighter are crucial. It is important to be proactive and a successful member of the staff. This means not only mastering the skills associated with your WFF, and developing the necessary tools and products to support the mission, but also understanding how to leverage the C2 WFF and the other members of the staff in support of the C2 plan.

Acronym QuickScan

25U--Signal Support Systems Specialist

ABCS--Army Battle Command System

AFATDS--Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System

ASAS--All Source Analysis System

ALOC--Administrative Logistics Operations Center

A&L--Administrative and Logistics (net)

BFT--Blue Force Tracker

C2--Command and Control

CAR--Combined Arms Rehearsal

CNR--Combat Net Radio

COMMEX--Communications Exercise

COMSEC--Communications Security

CP--Command Post

CPOF--Command Post of the Future

ENDEX--End Exercise

FM--Frequency Modulated

FOB--Forward Operating Base

FRAGO--Fragmentary Order

HF--High Frequency

IP--Internet Protocol

IS--Information System

ISF--Iraqi Security Forces

ISR--Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

JRTC--Joint Readiness Training Center

JTAC--Joint tactical Air Controller


MA--Mission Analysis

MCS-L--Maneuver Control System--Light

MDMP--Military Decision Making Process

MEDEVAC--Medical Evacuation

MTT--Military training team

ODA--Operational Detachment Alpha

OIF--Operation Iraqi Freedom

O&I--Operations and Intelligence (net)

OPORD--Operations Order

PACE--Primary Alternate Contingency Emergency


RFI--Request For information






SATCOM--Satellite Communications

TAC--Tactical Command Post

TACSAT--Tactical Satellite

TOC--Tactical Operations Center

THT--Tactical Human Intelligence Team

WFF--War Fighting Function

XO--Executive Officer

CPT Smyth currently serves as a battalion S-6 observer / controller at the JRTC. He has also served in several S-6 positions during his career. He deployed with 1st Battalion, 187 Infantry Regiment to Afghanistan and Pakistan in November 2001 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His next assignment was to the 101st Airborne Division G-6 where he served as the division radio officer and acted as the G6 in the division assault command post during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1. He also served with 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment where he deployed to Iraq in support of OIF 3.
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Author:Smyth, Howard M.
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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