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Intel 102: Warlords, know thy land

A warlord can't rule over a land he doesn't understand. You need to set the boundaries you plan to work within. Too focused, you miss big details. Too unfocused and everything becomes important, but nothing is.

Welcome back to Intel 100 series with Intel Andy. Hopefully the last article didn't fry anyone too much, I recommend from this point forward using it as reference.

Now, set the scene.

Dystopia land, you are American Taliban McGee riding a thoroughbred horse with NVGs. Danger lies ahead and it is time to prepare. Before any planning of operations can begin, you need to get a lay of the land.

IPB Step One, Define the Operational Environment

In this we will be drawing on a map; whether paper or digital, directly or using an overlay, make sure to use a consistent color scheme. Usually these boundaries are drawn in black or blue, sometimes utilizing patterns on the lines. Like dots, dashes and so on.

1. Depict the Area of Operations (AO); The AO is determined by the leader(ship) as the land area that needs to be controlled by an assigned unit. The assumption is unit capabilities can handle the activities in the AO (terrain, weather, adversary, etc.).

Typically, your AO should not cover most of the map that you are using. In order to allow for situational awareness.

Identify boundary locations, establish the limits of the AO. The easiest way to do this is to use what is called 'country directions'. Use terrain features explained in a way that can be repeated easily.

Example: The eastern boundary of our AO is Miners Creek, follow that up north til you hit the old shed by Panners Road. From there, follow Panners Road west until you hit the first intersection for the Northern boundary. Go south down Diggers Road until you hit Wastewater Lake for the western boundary. From that spot, follow Foolsgood Trail until you link up with Panners road again for the southern boundary.

If applicable, label boundaries with the unit who owns it.

Identify the length and width of the AO.

Identify a comparable area to the AO that is familiar to your group.

Identify natural and man-made terrain features that coincide with AO boundaries as stated previously.

2. Depict Area of Influence (AI); The AI is the land area that our group has the capability to reach with the assets, resources, and attachments under their control. If it is not directly controlled by you, it should not be considered. This is typically fire and maneuver capabilities.

Coordinate to determine the maximum range of influence of available maneuver or fire support systems. If you only have small arms, it simply becomes how far you can shoot from the edge of your AO.

Draw the Area of Influence around the AO using the identified range of available assets on the map and/or overlay.

Identify what you have that creates the most influence.

Example: We have AR-15's chambered in 5.56 NATO; of those we have a variant in a short configuration with no magnification (System 1) and one in a long configuration with low power magnification (System 2). We also have a bolt action chambered in 7.62 NATO with high power magnification (System 3). Based on past training and testing; our highest influence combat system is system 3 which has a max effective range of 900 yards, followed by system 2 at 600 yards and system 1 at 400 yards.

3. Depict Area of Interest (AOI); The AOI is primarily a geographic area that encompasses the locations of entities and activities that affect our mission accomplishment. This can include virtual realms and space. This can be the largest of the boundaries.

Example: We know this town over here about 2 miles from our AO is a garrison for our adversary and we have all these routes in between they can take. Let's draw an AOI that encompasses our AO but also these routes and that town outside of it.

This can overlap areas of adjacent and subordinate unit AOs.

Update or change the AOI based on situation changes, and as the leader(ship) determines new information requirements.

Identify what the boundary encompasses and the reasons why.

4. List significant characteristics of the AO and AOI; Focus on the entities, terrain, and activities that have an impact on the way we reach our objectives. Also identify the important entities, terrain, and activities which we do not want to impact negatively with our operations.

Remember; Terrain, Weather, Enemies and Civilians.

In this step, there is minimal graphical depiction of this, often you will just provide a list or summary.

Example: There is Gaefawker Hill at this grid, which is the highest elevation point. This area is known for being marshy and having monsoons. We are a aware of unidentified enemy infantry platoon in Chumptown. Very few people live outside the towns.

Optionally for this step, you can place friendly and/or enemy assumed or known initial battle positions on the map.

5. Determine information gaps or discrepancies; Identify information gaps or discrepancies (any missing, inconsistent, or incorrect information) contained in unit resources or databases in; terrain, weather, threat, and civil consideration information.

Identify any additional lack of holdings that may exist concerning threat composition, disposition, strength, training, tactics, logistics and combat effectiveness.

Create a list of gaps and discrepancies from identified information, OPORD, databases, and unit resources.

Draft Requests for Information (RFIs) (turn gaps into questions, use interrogative questions that encompass the 5 W’s who, when, what, where, why).

(1) Identify who is submitting the RFI, for example the individual or group requesting.

(2) Identify when the commander needs the results and the time the activity indicator is expected to occur (situation dependent). Assign a Latest Time Information Is Of Value (LTIOV) to each RFI. LTIOV is the time by which intelligence must deliver information to the requester in order to provide decision makers with timely intelligence.

(3) Identify what information the requestor needs to know. Ask a single, specific question that requires more than a simple yes/no answer.

(4) Identify where the RFI subject is located or occurring, like a grid coordinate or use country descriptions.

(5) Justify the importance of the RFI, tying the requested information back to our mission and intent.

Start Example Exercise

Below I will provide an example of the above products based on a hypothetical operational environment in the vicinity of (IVO) Sneedville, TN. We will be using this situation for the extent of this series.

You are a small armed book club of 10 men, currently camped out in the forest. A fellow member of the book club network, notified you of enemies in Sneedville, TN nearby.

Your current assigned objective is to disrupt any enemies within your AO with minimal loss of life and equipment.

So then you, as the leader of this small group, issues a WARNO and prepare to conduct a mission.

You decide that a dispersed attack would best suit your needs since you most likely are the smaller force. This type of attack is characterized by; using smaller, independent subordinate elements, conducting rapid moves from dispersed locations, massing at the last possible moment, conducting simultaneous attacks at multiple dispersed locations, and using deception and other elements of INFOWAR to trick your enemy.

To come out ahead you would need to:

Destroy enemy ground reconnaissance.

Deceive enemy imagery and signals sensors.

Create an uncertain air defense environment. (If applicable)

Selectively deny situational awareness.

Maximize use of complex terrain.

First, we depict the AO, AI, AOI (quickly made in

You focus in on the areas that are relevant and begin to think analytically.

Second, we list significant characteristics


Within our AO, the terrain is notable elevation difference but with most slopes being under 30% grade.

Dense wooded vegetation throughout the AO.

Clinch River runs to the south of Sneedville, being the largest source of water. Supplemented by many creeks throughout the AO.

Little to no urban terrain.

Main service route is State Route 33.


Experiences a humid subtropical climate with distinct four seasons.

Average high is 87 °F (31 °C) in July, the warmest month, with the average lows of 24 °F (−4 °C) occurring in January, the coolest month.

During this current season; expect fog in the morning, regular rainfall and hot humid temperatures.

Forecast is rain for the next three days, average high of 75 degrees.


Based on recent reporting and historical information, the staff expects to encounter a section to company sized element in the AO.

The enemy likely has simple battle positions in the vicinity of Sneedville, TN.

The staff expects to encounter small arms.


One major group occupies the AO—the Regional Military Force.

The population receives information primarily through television and social media sites.

The major highway that runs through the AO is a hardball and all weather, but most of roads are dirt.

The airfield nearby is small and can only handle small prop planes, may be closed during the season.

The AO has one town where most of the population resides.

This will increase your situational awareness.

Third, requests for info (to send to the book club network)

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: What is the current composition and disposition of the enemy force?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Justify: Needed to properly assess enemy and plan friendly operations

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: How many civilians remain?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Needed to exploit or protect civilians in the AO

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: Most likely LP/OP locations, friendly or enemy?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Justify: Needed to plan friendly recon or destroy enemy recon

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: Is Clinch River fordable or wadeable?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Justify: Needed to plan movement

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: Can we expect any enemy activity/movement from Mulberry Gap?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Justify: Needed to properly assess enemy and plan friendly operations

From: Book Club Leader 1

LITOV: No later than 72 hours

Question: What is the weather forecast for the next seven days?

Location: IVO Sneedville, TN

Justify: Needed to properly plan friendly operations

Answer any questions or gaps in intel you need to accomplish the mission, specifically relating to your OE.

End Example Exercise

That's the first step of IPB.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but this is the basic first step. The resulting products you get from this will be used in future steps, in order to support your ability to create future products. Which will get more interesting and complex.

Next lesson will be on describing the environmental effects, which is when you will start to focus further on the enemy and other key aspects of the terrain.

Note to reader: I used measurements interchangeably, make sure you convert properly. I didn't use Military Grid Reference System (MGRS), due to the standard topographic map in degrees being more readily available. I included a legend, created by section and a fake classification. I recommend your own SOP implement these things as well.

Intel Andy

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