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Posted on Feb 2, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 012. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Pt. 1)

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Below you will find a chart of symbology you can use when creating your modified combined obstacle overlay. As always, colors are important when creating graphics.


Here is a simple example of a MCOO.



"Weather is not only to a great extent a controller of the condition of ground, but also of movement. It is scarcely necessary to point out the influence of heat and cold on the human body, or the effect of rain, fog, and frost on tactical and administrative mobility; but it is necessary to appreciate the moral effect of weather and climate, for in the past stupendous mistakes have resulted through deficiency in this appreciation."
J.F.C. Fuller


As we all know, weather can (and has numerous times in history) have a huge impact on military operations. In IPB, we want to answer the following question: How does weather affect visibility, mobility, and survivability on men and equipment?

As we analyze the impact it may have on potential courses of action (for us and the enemy) we look at the following aspects:

Visibility – We look at when the sun rises and sets, when the moon rises and sets and percent illumination at night. All of these factor on uses of weapon systems, illumination devices needed, when attacks may start or when they need to end. Clearly, technology can assist in this aspect.

Wind – Strong winds can cause dust (effecting visibility) and limit your use of any operations involving air. Winds can affect the use of technological devices and can even limit road movement. Blowing winds and sand tremendously degrade equipment.

Precipitation – This can degrade technology and obviously degrades road networks and travel.

Cloud Cover – Heavy cloud cover can degrade illumination and limit your thermal effectiveness and hinder air operations. Obviously, cloud cover can support the element of surprise depending on your enemy.

Temperature – Too hot and too cold certainly have a negative impact on morale. This translates into less work and effectiveness of soldiers (especially dismounted infantry). Extreme temperatures have a severe impact on equipment.

Humidity – High humidity is not a good thing for many advanced weapon systems. High humidity limits the effectiveness of soldiers.

As before, conduct some analysis and determine how these weather aspects influence potential operations on both sides. Remember; focus on the Effects of the Weather rather than the Weather itself.

Civil Considerations

“When entering the territory of an offender do no violence to the shrines of the deities. Do not hunt over the rice fields or damage the earth works. Do not burn houses or cut trees. Do not seize domestic animals or grain or agricultural implements. Where you find old people or children allow them to go home unharmed, and do not antagonize even able-bodied men if they do not challenge you."
Ssu Ma Jang Chu 500 BC

Besides terrain and weather, there are many civil considerations that effect operations. The Army has recently developed the acronym ASCOPE to categorize these aspects. These aspects are heavily tied to the people, culture, and infrastructure existing in the area in which you are fighting in. Below you find a brief description of each aspect and some examples. We will delve more into this concept later in the series. Again, the key thing to do is analyze. How do these aspects affect me and my opponent? What happens if we do something to the aspect? What are the immediate effects and the long-term effects of the aspect?


Areas – These are key civilian areas within your area of operations that are normally not of military significance. They could include political boundaries, centers of government, potential areas to relocate displaced civilians, and regions focused on agricultural and mining regions.

Structures – These are generally manmade edifices that can have key military and civilian consequences. These include cultural sites (churches, mosques, and temples), medical facilities, bridges, communication facilities, energy structures, warehouses, and schools.

Capabilities – These are the abilities of the host nation, an ally or aggressor to provide services and functions to the local populace. In regards to these functions and services, you look at current capabilities and predict what those capabilities will be following combat. You analyze what your role will be and what resources you will have to expend to keep the functions and services continuing. Potential services and functions are: providing water and electricity, public transportation, public security, medical care, and transporting food and supplies.

Organizations – These are organized non-military groups that exist in the area that are a current part of the community or may arrive in the area based on operations. Current organizations could include religious groups, legal and law enforcement organizations, labor unions, and even criminal groups and gangs. Organizations that may arrive later are Non-Governmental Organizations (Red Cross, etc.), United Nations agencies, and multinational corporations.

People –These are the non-military personnel that live in the area. In analyzing the people you want to focus on languages, culture, history, formal and informal leaders, religion etc… This is demanding work and in many instances critical to achieving your final endstate.

Events – These can be routine, planned, unplanned or cyclical activities that can affect your overall operations in an area. Among the myriad of events that have the potential to affect operations are holidays, elections, paydays, normal religious activities, and disasters that occur because of combat operations.

Obviously, IPB is hard work! Yet, the benefits of conducting a thorough IPB are tremendous. We have discussed the first two steps and you are probably already tired. The above steps must be conducted with appropriate analysis. If not, the remaining two steps will be of little value to you. Next month, we will key on those remaining steps of IPB: Evaluate the Threat and Determine Threat COAs. As always drop us a line on the forum if questions arise.

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