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Posted on Dec 3, 2006 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 010. Graphics

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

"Appreciate all those details; they are not without glory. It is the first step that leads to glory."
Frederick The Great

Perhaps, one of the most difficult things to do is to transform those grandiose ideas in your head into something that you and others can fight from. As we often discover, much is lost from the mind to expressing it in verbal or written form. Even more is lost when the form is not understood by others. Consequently, we will devote the next two articles on the articulation of ideas.

This month, we will focus on the use of graphics. It is our experience that this truly becoming a lost art. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the importance of a picture (with clear, implicit graphics) can not be understated. Next month, we will concentrate on the use of words and ensuring what you say is understood by others and yourself.


Our objectives in this article are threefold. First, to ensure we acknowledge the importance of graphics. Second, to give you a basic background on key graphics you can utilize. Finally, we believe that a better knowledge on graphics will give you an enhanced understanding on the scenarios we use in the series. Let’s get started with a little experiment!

Try the following…

Grab four colored markers; 1 black, 1 blue, 1 red, and 1 purple. Set a blank sheet of paper in front of you.

Give yourself 2 minutes to draw a picture given the following description.

– Draw a square big enough to fit four geometric figures.

– Pick up the blue pen and draw a circle. It should be at the bottom of your square and a bit to the right.

– Now pick up your red pen and draw a triangle. The triangle is opaque and should stand on its side with the base overlapping your circle. It is half again as tall as the circle and the line is five or six times thicker.

– Now use you black pen to draw a square that’s about as big as the circle but is not connected to the circle…it hovers above the circle and to the right. The lines for the square are thicker than the line for the circle but are not as thick as the lines for the triangle.

– You’re almost done… Pick up the purple marker and draw a right angle that is dashed and has arrowhead on either end. The base arrow faces the right and the other points to the top of your paper. The actual angle of your right angle should be inside the lower left side of the circle.

Turn your new masterpiece upside down and give yourself 30 seconds to view the diagram at the end of this article after which you have another 30 seconds to recreate what you have just seen. Compare the two drawings and you’ll see why it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words!

This was a simplistic picture containing four rudimentary figures. Imagine the difficulty you would have trying to describe a modern complex operation to a room full of haggard, hungry, and bone tired subordinates. Describe the encirclement of Nancy, the defense of Rorkes Drift, or the destruction of Eban Emael. It’s awfully hard to talk your way through the relationship between friendly and enemy, friendly and friendly, and friendly and terrain. So we use graphics or overlays that drop over maps in the field or go up on computer screens in the command centers. It’s critical that our graphics are accurate because, as we saw above, once the boys see them they will be their guide. They will reference them over and over during the operation and will use them to talk to one another…no one pulls out the OPORD and flips to Annex C, Page 5, para 3, sub para 2, bullet number 3….to see what’s next!

Graphics are a visual representation of the commander’s intent. They are your most critical war fighting tool.

Did your work resemble this? How much easier is it to see this and
replicate it rather than hear it and replicate it?

[continued on next page]

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