One of the challenges faced in large MILSIM airsoft events is managing and directing large numbers of forces in order to accomplish assigned missions. Knowing where your forces are on the field, what they are doing (or not able to do), and being able to relay orders/reports to your forces are critical to success. It isn't glamorous work being in the Command Staff running a Command Post or Tactical Operation Center (TAC/TOC), but players appreciate solid leaders that can put them where they can do the most good.
Good, known, Flexible Plans are better than Detailed Ones
Too many times the saying "Plans go out the door once the first shot is fired," but that is an excuse for not doing planning and rehearsals. That excuse is made in order to cover for a lack in ensuring an overall plan is known down to the lowest level. A good, simple, flexible plan survives contact. It should focus on the big picture, that way when players get separated or cannot reach their leaders for a short time, they can fall back on the plan and execute. For example, at Starburst and Trenchknife, one side made it known that defense of critical nodes like the mortars and supply dumps were crucial, and as such players knew to move towards those locations in the event they saw enemy forces massing near them. At Serious Viking 2, Eastern made it a point that certain passage points needed to be secured in order to allow for West to East movement. In the event no fresh orders were received, a player could look at his/her map and attack a terrain OBJ (in order to secure points for their side).
The chain of command works both ways, leaders need to communicate their intent and the mission with the led acknowledging understanding of what is being tasked. This is an art more than a science. With the challenge of making it easy for their players to understand. On the reverse, players need to ask their chain of command what needs to be done. At Overwatch 4, I would ask my leadership "What are my orders?" a simple, direct, question. Once given direction, I would restate the orders to the leader to confirm that I understood what was being tasked. This "back brief" reassured my leader that I understood what was being asked. A good order sounds like "Go here, do this (task), so that we can do that (purpose)." "1st Squad needs to block (task) the Ju Jan Pass, denying (purpose) the enemy access to OBJ Cindy."
Command Post Organization
So what needs to happen next? The tasked unit needs to report its progress in executing the task. The Command Post needs to know if the mission given was executed. How successful or how far did you get? Do you need more help? Or are you having so much success that more forces would could exploit an opportunity? Too many times in Airsoft we have seen an opportunity and if somehow the Faction Commander had been informed, more players could have been sent in to really push a breakthrough. At Overwatch 4, Tan Forces were outnumbered on Sunday, with out of sector missions stretching numbers in the main AO. The AA and Command Post were under pressure by Green and it wasn't allowing for any Tan offensive actions. Players were getting pinned in and morale was taking a plunge. In order to turn things around, we helped form a Command Post and allow the Commander to focus on decision making. He had an XO and Platoon Leaders, but needed someone to battletrack and organize the battlefield for him. This is an ideal role for an Operations Officer or S3. The Ops Officer can help the Command Group see the overall picture and help generate options for the Commander. The CO was freed up from the current fight and allowed to look ahead. The Ops Officer's first task was organizing the big picture 1) where were our units? 2)Where was the enemy in mass? 3)Where were we having success or pressure? The XO could now focus on what XO generally do best and that is organizing the forces, getting teams back into the fight at the direction of the CO and Ops Officer.
Before the Command Post was organized, one assumption was made that Tan was outnumbered by Green. But it was an assumption. Another was how much more Green were there? Did they have enough to counter every move by Tan? Both in the main AO and outside? As the Command Post began battletracking, and the XO and the PLs began to organize players into elements, we could conduct better estimates on seeing ourselves, the enemy and the terrain. We estimated that we had 80 players on Tan, organized into roughly 8 ten man units and that we were in contact with at least 120 Green across the AO. This estimate was proven overtime with reports from tan players that had respawned and checked in with the Command Post, radio reports, runners, and even UAV usage. The Commander needed to know where the Green forces were in larger numbers in order to better move his forces to counter or locate opportunities away from green's strength. The bottle cap with the diamond (Enemy Infantry symbol) with the number 30 was used to show where we guessed (estimated with the reporting given), allowing for the Commander to decide where to employ tan players and his gun truck. When out of sector missions were assigned, the CO and XO could have confidence in pulling players out of the main AO without risk of losing ground inside the main AO due to having better situational awareness provided by the Command Post.
Ok, so how does all that "Command Post Operations and Mission Command" apply to the player and small units at the Fireteam, Squad, and Platoon levels? What do they have to do in order for the Command Post/TOC to be successful for them? They have to report their progress (good or bad), feed information in order to receive good orders in return. The result was those players that were being directed by the Ops Officer and XO had better task and purpose on the field. They were quickly informed on the overall picture and how they would fit into it. They went to a point of friction and played their asses off knowing how their efforts went into the overall push. The end result was tan players having a renewed purpose and going onto the field motivated. Plenty of times, the XO would organize a patched together squad of players, a leader would step forward, get briefed by the Ops Officer and away they went.
Putting it all together
Reviewing Mission Command and Command Post Operations, here is a good checklist,
1) Flexible Plan, that can be known down to the lowest level
2) Dedicated CO, XO, and Ops Officer making up a Command Post
3) An organized Command Post or TOC (map, battletracking tools, communication plan, Ops Officer, XO, and Force CO)
4) Leaders and Players at all levels knowing what the Command Post can do for them and what they have to do for it.