By Tore Haugli
This article describes how METT-TC is used in a military context when conducting mission planning. I will also provide some context as to how the entire order process works. I will limit the discussion to the platoon and the Troop Leading Procedures (TLP) used at the platoon level. METT-TC is also applied at the company level, during the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP).
Before METT-TC is applied, some other steps have been taken. The first is that the Company Commander has issued his Operations Order (OPORD) to his platoon commanders. The OPORD is a standardized format that covers 5 points, each with it’s own sub-points (not going to cover those here) :
5. Command and Control
Upon receipt of the OPORD, the PL will issue a Warning Order (WARNO) to his squad leaders, so that they can start preparations while he conducts his mission analysis and prepares his OPORD.
The WARNO covers the following points:
3. Time and place for orders meeting
4. Earliest time for departure
5. Special considerations
*A WARNO can also be issued at the company level
As the squad leaders start to prepare, the PL will start formulating his plan. This is where METT-TC is applied. As stated above, METT-TC is an acronym, that stands for:
Terrain and Weather
Troops and Support available
METT-TC is a method or tool used by commanders when assessing the operational situation, in order to develop a course of action.
The method promotes using a systematic approach to assessing and evaluating various factors, that each letter of the acronym represents, that can affect our ability to complete the mission, what the effect is and how we will adress it:
Assessment -> Conclusion (Does it affect me?) -> Yes/No -> If Yes, develop actions/measures -> Order
The PL must conduct a mission analysis, looking at the following factors:
1. Commanders Intent
Understanding the intent of the mission is vital in order to bring initiative and action to the table. Knowing the intent of the mission forms the basis of mission-type tactics. The PL must understand commanders intent two levels above him – Company and Battalion.
The PL must identify any limitations or mandatory actions imposed by the company commander, or if any limitations can be derived from how the mission is formulated
3. Decisive tasks
The decisive task is the tactical task that when completed, means that the commanders intent is achieved. To identify the decisive task, the PL must:
-Understand how his mission coincides with the missions of the other platoons
-Identify which platoon the company commander defines as main effort. Normally the mission of the main effort coincides with the decisive task for the company
-Supporting platoons must understand how their mission aims to support the main effort
4. Specified tasks
The PL will find his specified task under 3. Execution of the company commanders OPORD. Specified tasks are tasks assigned by higher, and is clearly described in an order or through task symbols on a map overlay
5. Derived tasks
Normally, the PL will be assigned specific tasks and provisions. That said, the PL still needs to map out what the mission entails.
Normally, a mission can be forumlated exactly like in the company OPORD. Reformulation can be done to structure any information. A reformulated mission must include the following:
-Who (which unit)
-When (when does the operation start)
-What (tactical task to be accomplished)
-Where (which target, which AO or which place)
-Why (commanders intent)
The terrain assessment and enemy assessment are closely tied together. A good understanding of the terrain is crucial to make qualified assumptions about where the enemy will be and how he will behave. The enemy must be assessed based on known facts, terrain assessment and the company commanders assessment on size, capacity, mission and disposition. When the enemy assessment is complete, the PL should have developed the enemy’s most likely course of action and a sketch showing the enemy’s disposition in the area.
Number and types of fighting vehicles
Number and types of weapon systems
Actual reach and ability to break through
Strengths (volume of fire, mobility etc)
Weaknesses/limitations (IR capability, flight times etc)
Why is the enemy conducting this operation?
What are his goals (block, delay, retain, seize etc)?
Which opportunities presented by the terrain will the enemy exploit?
How and where has he grouped his forces and weapons systems?
Where is the weak link in his disposition? (isolated forces, difficult withdrawal, lack of mutual support etc)
Enemy most likely course of action
This is described in the company commanders OPORD, and should not change at the platoon level, but the PL should adapt and develop it. The description of the enemy should be short, concise and relevant for the order recipients.
TERRAIN AND WEATHER
The nature of the terrain and it’s value can be affected by weather, surface conditions and light conditions. As such, the terrain analysis starts with an assessment of these factors.
Weather, surface condiitions and lighting conditions
Weather, surface condiitions and lighting conditions are assessed based on collected factual information about wind, temperature, visibility, cloud cover and precipitation.
The PL should base his assessment on what the company commander has already done.
What is the estimated wind speed and direction during the mission?
How will the wind affect the mission?
What is the temperature for the duration of the mission?
How will the temperature affect the mission (mobility, equipment, combat capability)?
How will weather conditions affect normal visibilty? (haze, fog, rain, snow etc)
How will weather conditions affect thermal optics?
4. Cloud cover
What are the lighting conditions during day and night, and what are conditions for I2 (NVG)?
How will these lighting conditions affect my command and control of the platoon?
How will precipitation affect the situation?
How will precipitation affect the mission?
Terrain is assessed by looking at 5 main criteria:
1. Artificial and natural obstacles
Obstacles are meant to slow, stop or shape
Artifical obstacles are man made obstacles such as minefields, anti-tank trenches, barbed wire obstacles, craters etc.
Natural obstacles are things such as gullies, ravines, rivers, lakes, marches
Where and how will natural obstacles and terrain affect mobility and/or maneuver?
Where and how will artificial obstacles provide the best effect?
Where is it best to circumvent or breach the obstacle?
2. Avenues of approach
An avenue of approach is a ground corridor that leads to the target, fighting postition or important terrain
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each selected avenue of approach?
What size unit can be maneuvered?
What are likely counter-attack areas?
Prioritize avenues of approach
3. Important terrain
Important terrain are features of importance during the mission as they provide a significant advantage to the party that has control over it. Examples are high ground that dominates and avenue of approach or target area, high ground that facilitates observation and fields of fire or vital infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels etc.
Which terrain features are important to the platoon and company, and why?
Does the enemy control this terrain?
Which terrain is important for the enemy, and why?
How can the enemy’s important terrain affect our mission?
4. Observation and fields of fire
Here we assess observation and fields of fire the various parties have in the area we are going in to. This assessment can provide:
-Possible fighting positions for the platoon
-Areas where enemy contact can be expected
What areas provide the enemy with observation and fields of fire, and to where?
Where can the enemy mass fires?
Where cannot the enemy mass fires?
What areas provides observation and fields of fire agasint the enemy avenues of approach?
From where can I mass fires against the enemy?
What blind areas are there in my sector?
What are natural ground reference points?
5. Cover and concealment
Here we assess which areas provide cover and concealment for the parties in the area we are going in to. This can provide:
-Possibility for concealed and covered advance
-Possibility for concealed and covered exfiltration
Where does the terrain facilitate a covered and concealed approach?
How does that affect our fields of fire?
Where does the terrain NOT allow a covered and concealed approach?
Are there identifiable exposure lines in the terrain?
How will the enemy exploit cover and concealment during their approach?
Which areas provide ample cover and concealment, while also providing good fields of fire?
The terrain analysis must be applied for both the PL’s own forces and the enemy, and must be focused towards what can affect the platoon’s mission.
Based on the terrain analysis /obstacles and avenues of approach), terrain can be classified in the following categories:
GO – terrain that requires no action
SLOW GO – terrain that requires small measures to be taken to increase mobility
NO-GO – Engineer resources required (clearing mine fields for example)
TROOPS AND SUPPORT AVAILABLE
The platoon commander needs to have an updated and realistic understanding of what his platoon can do. In addition, the PL needs to understand other units mission and effect.
What is the status on training, supply, equipment and morale/fighting spirit in the unit?
Are other units attached to the platoon?
How is the platoon supported by other resources and other units?
3. Other units
What are the missions of neighbouring units and how do those missions affect the platoon?
Based on the analysis thus far: Is further support required to complete the mission?
Are there any ambiguities regarding support that needs to be clarified?
During this phase the PL must establsh a timeline for the events that will take place. The purpose of this is to visualize what the sucess criteria are, and what the desired effects are. By doing this, an understanding of one’s role in the plan is established. This understanding is vital to making sure that the company and battalion can keep up momentum during the operation.
Not really relevant at the platoon level, as this is handled by the company. Any conclusions drawn from assessing this will be presented to the PL in the company OPORD.
Instead, the PL should do a tactical risk assessment in order to assess the risk vs. effect of his plan in order to highlight any neccessary control measures. The company commander should have covered this in his OPORD, and the PL should assess these measures and if need be implement others.
Once all of the above is complete, the PL can start to develop a course of action.
A bit long winded, but I hope it shows the thought process behind METT-TC, what it is used for and how to THINK while applying it.