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Operation Orders

The Operation Order, or OPORD, is a structured, formatted expression of a commander's mission intent and concept for conducting operations to accomplish mission objectives. The OPORD, in its most basic form, provides subordinate commanders, staff, and personnel with instructions on how to execute the various steps of a mission safely and effectively. 


Five-Paragraph Operation Order

The standard OPORD is constructed in five paragraphs: 

  1. Situation

  2. Mission

  3. Execution

  4. Service Support

  5. Command and Signal


Situation Paragraph

The Situation paragraph provides details about what is going on that warrants the mission to be conducted. The Situation paragraph consists of four sub-sections: 

  1. Enemy Forces — Describes the disposition (location, size, and capability) of adversaries or possible opponents to the mission

  2. Friendly Forces — Describes the adjacent friendlies conducting operations in the vicinity of, or in support of, the mission but not under the direct control of the commander of the echelon conducting this mission (i.e., the commander approving the OPORD)

  3. Environment — Details the conditions in which the mission will be conducted, to include: 

         a. Terrain What the physical Area of Operations (AO) consists of and how it can positively or negative impact the mission

         b. Weather:  How the forecasted visibility, day/night conditions, precipitation, and other factors influence the operation

         c. Civil considerations:  How the mission can influence and impact the civilian population or local infrastructure 

  4. Attachments and Detachments — Lists additional units or personnel bot normally under this chain of command but are assigned to the operation, as well as units under this chain of command that have been removed from this mission for another assignment


Mission Paragraph

The Mission paragraph provides a clear and concise statement as to the unit's task. This is the who, what, where, when, and why of the mission. 


Execution Paragraph

The Execution paragraph—usually the largest portion of the OPORD—provides a detailed outline of how the mission will be carried out by the unit. The Execution paragraph includes the:

  • Commander's Intent — The end state of the operation, or what the conditions of mission success "look like"

  • Concept of Operations — The method and plan of action to conduct the mission, detailing how "all of the moving parts fit together" to conduct a synchronized and harmonious operation; the Concept of Operations should be as long or short as the commander feels is appropriate to provide clear instructions to subordinate troops for execution all parts of the mission with the greatest amount of flexibility to adapt to situational changes as the mission progresses

The Execution concept is often expressed as five phases of the mission sequence: 

  • Phase 1: Pre-Deployment — The necessary actions to ready for the upcoming mission

  • Phase 2: Deployment — The concept of conducting movement to the Area of Operations

  • Phase 3: Execution — The actions to be taken during the operation to accomplish mission objectives

  • Phase 4: Demobilization — The actions to be taken after mission objectives have been accomplished; may be expressed as a tear-down plan or the steps to remobilize for the next mission

  • Phase 5: Recovery — The "next steps" for personnel after demobilizing, to include post-mission debriefs, rest periods, meals, resupply, etc. 


Service Support Paragraph

The Service Support paragraph—also utilized as the Administration & Logistics or Sustainment paragraph (becoming the more modern approach for military OPORDs)—explains how the operation will be supported logistically (i.e., materials and transportation) and includes special personnel services, such as medical support, chaplain support, and/or financial services, all as appropriate for the mission. 

It is common that a separate Service Support Plan is developed due to the complexities of support operations and since the support elements are often not under the command governing this OPORD. 


Command and Signal Paragraph

The Command and Signal paragraph consists of two sub-sections which detail the operation's concepts for: 

  1. Command — The location of higher command and command posts, and the succession of command in the event that the commander is absent or incapacitated

  2. Signal — Special instructions for conducting communications during the operation, codewords, passwords, and any deviations from standard operating procedures 


Responsibility for the Operation Order

The Role of the S3

OPORDs are primarily constructed by the S3 Operations office to provide: 

  • Details for upcoming missions

  • Instructions for conducting training and readiness operations in preparation for actual or potential missions

In addition to writing the OPORD, the S3 may be tasked with conducting the briefing the of OPORD to the echelon staff and subordinate commanders. 

The S3 is also often responsible for facilitating After-Action Reviews (AAR) so that they can restate the purpose and intent of the mission—based on what the OPORD contained—and review the actual execution of the mission to see what parts of the OPORD were irrelevant or ineffective for the personnel executing it. 


The Role of the Commander

An OPORD is never considered authorized for execution unless the commander has approved it by signing it. 

In many instances, the next-higher echelon commander may wish to endorse subordinate echelon OPORDs to ensure that they align with the more strategic mission plan. Commanders should always try to review their OPORD with their superior commander prior to issuing it to their troops. 


Troop Leading Procedure and the One-Thirds, Two-Thirds Rule

Commanders must remember that the OPORD is the final step in the "First Third" portion of the One-Thirds, Two-Thirds planning timeline—the seventh step in the Troop Leading Procedure

The OPORD must be developed with enough detail and quality so that personnel can appropriately prepare themselves to conduct the mission in a timely manner. 

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