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Posted on May 23, 2006 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 004. Purpose

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Let’s use a new scenario as an example. You are the commander for 2 Brigade – a Mechanized Task Force. Your mission is the following:

2 BDE defends the central corridor no later then (NLT) 220600ZMay06 to block the 3rd Threat Division attack in order to protect the logistical facilities in Logstown.

Note your Division just seized Logstown and expects the enemy to counterattack to take it back. The following sketch shows the terrain and the probable enemy course of action (click all images for larger versions).


Here is your quick mission analysis (again not detailed, just enough to be dangerous!):



You are currently located in Logstown (25 kilometers southwest of The Whale).

You possess one mechanized infantry battalion (Four Bradley equipped companies).

You have the ability to place 240 dismounted infantry on the ground.

You possess two tank battalions (Eight Abrams equipped tank companies).

You have an artillery battalion, fixed wing air support and direct support of an Apache Attack Helicopter Battalion.

You have 48 hours to prepare a defense and have sufficient engineer support (plows) and obstacle material (mines and wire).

You have no logistical concerns


The Division you anticipate attacking is composed of 2 Mechanized Infantry Brigades and 1 Tank Brigade.

He is equipped with T72 Tanks and BMP 1 Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

The Division mission is to seize Logstown in order to support future offensive operations to the west.

You believe his probable course of action is to maneuver one mechanized Brigade to the North to protect his main effort’s northern flank. This Brigade will additionally maneuver forces through the gap between hills 751 and 781 to reinforce the Division’s main attack.

In the southern sector, he will maneuver a mechanized Brigade to secure the pass between South Boundary Ridge and The Whale in order to facilitate the maneuver of the main effort to seize Logstown.

Once the pass is secured, the enemy will pass through the follow-on Armor Brigade to seize Logstown. If the enemy is having difficulty passing through the gap, he will utilize forces from the northern Mechanized Brigade to expand his combat power.


It is a very harsh and unforgiving desert environment, which is brutal on both Soldiers and equipment.

East Range Road is a hard ball road which in itself offers a high speed avenue of maneuver. However, each side of the road is characterized by large boulders making vehicle maneuver almost impossible.

The terrain in the southern sector is dominated by large hill complexes. The area between the hills is relatively flat, with hard packed sand. It is favorable for vehicle movement.

The gaps between most of the hill complexes will facilitate the maneuver of one mechanized or armor company at a time. However, these gaps are perfect for the use of obstacles which will affect maneuver.

The large area between Hills 781/761 and the Whale Gap is well-suited for the establishment of an engagement area.

Because of the extreme day-time temperatures, most physical activity (including dismounted infantry attacks) is likely to occur in the daylight hours.


After completing your mission analysis, you surmise that the key to accomplishing your mission is denying the enemy the ability to maneuver forces from the northern sector to reinforce their main attack in the southern sector. You believe that if you can isolate the battlefield you can defeat the enemy by forming a large engagement between the Hills 781/751 and The Whale Gap. Because of this analysis, you decide that the decisive point is the maneuver corridor running north to south between Hills 781/751. If you can ensure that the enemy is unable to maneuver forces between the hills and reinforce the southern sector that will give you the marked advantage over the enemy. With the decisive point determined, you can now begin to assign purposes.



We begin to assign purposes by starting with the decisive point. As we have discussed earlier, we want to prevent the enemy from utilizing this corridor to reinforce their main attack. Thus, we have answered the “why” and now have a purpose. We will then assign it an accompanying task to accomplish this purpose and finally a unit to accomplish the purpose and task. It may seem a little complex, but after a few times using this technique it will become second nature. Most importantly, it is a technique that will give you a distinct advantage over your enemy.

After determining the decisive point purpose, you now begin to assign remaining purposes to achieve mission accomplishment. Starting in the northern sector, we need to ensure that the enemy does not use the East Range Road to maneuver his forces (if he senses it is clear) and focuses his maneuver to the southern sector. Thus, this purpose is to divert the enemy from using East Range Road forcing them into the Brigade engagement area in the south. Again, we will then determine a task to accomplish the purpose and finally assign a unit to accomplish the purpose and task.

Next, we want to make use of the potential engagement area we discovered in our mission analysis. Our purpose in this engagement area is to cause the enemy’s main effort attack to fail in its’ attempt to seize Logstown. Once more, we will assign a task to accomplish the purpose and finally a force to accomplish the purpose and task.

Finally, we like to assign potential purposes for our reserve. Although we have not discussed the reserve (we will devote an entire article on this subject) , it is in our opinion that a reserve is a necessity in any operation. A reserve allows the Commander (you) to reinforce success (things are going well) or assist you when things are not going well. In this case, we see the need to have a force prepared to support our operations in the southern sector to reinforce success or if we are having problems in causing the enemy’s main attack to fail. We may also consider utilizing a reserve to assist operations in the northern sector if the enemy decides to utilize East Range Road for his main attack. Once again, we assign purposes, be-prepared tasks, and allocate a force to constitute the reserve.

Here’s how this looks in total on our sketch:


With the completion of purposes, we have now determined the “why” for each of our key units we plan to utilize in the operation. It appears we will require 4 key units to accomplish our mission. First, a force is needed to prevent the enemy from using the north/south maneuver corridor to reinforce the enemy’s main effort attack. Second, we need a force (in sufficient strength) to divert the enemy from using East Range Road. Third, a maneuver force is required to combine with air and artillery assets to defeat the enemy in our main engagement area. Finally, we will designate a force as our reserve to reinforce success or provide added combat power if required.

Hopefully, this article has assisted you in understanding an extremely important concept. Purpose is critical in acquiring unity of effort, which is a necessity in mission accomplishment. In our next article, we will discuss the concept of task. We will define the concept, provide you with a group of tasks commonly utilized, and go back to this scenario and provide tasks to combine with our purposes.

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  1. I was just wondering if we could get the images back on these earlier articles.

    I tried emailing the feedback email about this but it failed to respond.

    • I’ll check with Tech Support here at AG and see if we can’t figure something out. Thanks Mark for letting us know there is a problem.

      • Unfortunately, tech support says the pictures are lost. This was probably due to a rebuild a while back. I’m very sorry.

      • That’s a shame. But, thank you for getting back to me and having a look at it.

    • I never would have thought of the wayback machine. That’s brilliant!

      Thank you very much!

      • No problem but the wayback machine save only the small pictures not the large version. Could be a little problem if you want to see more details.


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