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Troop Leading Procedures applicable to many situations

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Matt Baker
  • 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron
In September, Col. John Price, 375th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, provided a superlative professional development brief on military planning. His comprehensive planning overview primarily addressed higher level planning with some links to tactical planning.

The 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron personnel attending the brief certainly learned a lot and expressed that they would like to build upon Price's brief with additional tactical planning guidance. A relatively recent addition to USAF tactical doctrine fulfills that request. Air Force Tactics, Techniques and Procedures 3-4.1., Expeditionary Combat Support Planning, dated 27 January 2013, present small-unit tactical planning starting with the Troop Leading Procedures concept.

The TLP concept is borrowed from the Army and is probably familiar to the many Airmen who have performed joint tactical operations. Quoting from AFTTP 3-4.1., TLP "provides the framework for an analytical decision making process that helps leaders optimize tactical decisions" through a dynamic process to help "leaders analyze a mission, develop a plan, and prepare for an operation by extending the military decision making process, or MDMP, to the small-unit level."

MDMP is typically conducted at no lower than the battalion/squadron level due to increased staff requirements, so small-unit tactical planning (company/flight level and below) involves the less rigorous TLP.

There are eight TLP steps:

1. Receive the mission

2. Issue a warning order

3. Make a tentative plan

4. Initiate movement

5. Conduct reconnaissance

6. Complete the plan

7. Issue the complete order

8. Supervise and refine

While TLP is tactical ground operations oriented, it is applicable to planning virtually any activity. For example, if one is asked to host a barbecue, first take a look at the who, what, when, where and why aspects of the barbecue "mission." Then give folks a heads-up about the upcoming barbecue with more details to follow. Outline what you want to do, make sure the venue is adequate (enough grills, parking and restrooms, adequate horseshoe pits and volleyball courts), and perhaps reserve a bouncy house or order a special cake if the budget and time allows. Next, finalize the barbecue details such as who is bringing what type and quantity of food. Make sure everyone involved knows what the final barbecue plan is, then make sure everything is in place and serviceable,- and that the event runs smoothly. Note that there are some additional planning tasks not covered in this illustration, such as developing an alternate inclement weather plan or how to best present the plan. Small-unit tactical planning incorporates some additional tools to cover these areas.

Within the eight TLP steps are additional key planning tasks. One mnemonic tool helps to capture planning considerations in the form of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available and civil considerations, or METT-TC. This prompts the barbecue planner to consider things that may disrupt the festivities, such as rain or the parks department closing the barbecue area for maintenance. Another task, plan development, takes METT-TC considerations to develop and analyze courses of action. By using these tools, the barbecue planner may identify a need for an alternate location, tents or wet weather gear. All of these planning tasks are finally rolled into the executive document known as the operations order. The OPORD is a standardized five-paragraph order format of situation, execution, mission, administration and logistics, and command and control, commonly referred to as SMEAC. This ensures that all critical aspects of an operation are covered in an easily recognizable form. The final step is reviewing how everything went after an activity and capturing lessons learned. The after-action review outlined in AFTTP 3-4.1., ensures that whatever went both right and wrong is identified and recorded to improve future events. This feedback loop is the best way to prevent repeating the mistakes of the past and reinforcing success. So, the next time you have to plan a patrol outside the wire, family vacation or tactical barbecue make sure you follow the small-unit tactical planning procedures and you won't go wrong.