While most of my “preschool” has been oriented towards individual, fundamental and mostly “concrete” concepts; in this lesson we are going to take a little field trip into the realm of military tactical theory, namely the USMC’s doctrine of maneuver warfare. As you look at these concepts, do so with the mindest of translating them into your personal understanding of tactics.
Military judgment is a skill gained through acquired wisdom and experience. When combined with situational awareness, military judgment allows one to see patterns, identify an opponents vulnerabilities and concentrate available combat power.
Understanding the Situation
For every situation, you must determine what pieces of information are reliable and important.
You have to get a clear picture of what is happening and how it will develop. You should be striving to see the situation as the enemy see it. In every situation, the commander must think of what actions will prove decisive. Pattern recognition is an important skill. Decisions must be made in dynamic situations of friction, uncertainty and danger. Sometimes there is time for analytical decision making, sometimes there is not. When you have time to plan, you should compare several courses of action and choose the best one. When engaged, the commander will have little time for analysis. Intuitive decision making is necessary to gain speed and momentum. Intuition is a developed skill based on experience, education and practice.
Leaders with situational awareness and broad experience can act intuitively.
Acting Decisively. When an opportunity arrives, it must be exploited fully and aggressively, committing every ounce of combat power and pushing your effort to the limit.
Critical Vulnerabilities. You must focus all available combat power on the enemy’s critical vulnerabilities in order to destroy some capacity that the enemy needs. Pit your strength against the enemies weakness’ at a time when he is not prepared. Your mindset should be one of committing the greatest damage to him at the least cost to you. Just because a target is vulnerable does not mean that it is worth attacking. Strike at vulnerabilities which will produce the greatest effect upon the enemy. Critical vulnerabilities may be hard to recognize and are different in each situation.
Shaping the Operating Area. Shaping includes planning fires, deception, objectives and routes of advance. Shaping activities can make the enemy vulnerable to attack, blunt his actions, or facilitate your own actions. Shaping forces the enemy to take courses of action which will lead him into a trap.
Main Effort. The main effort is where you center your combat power. The unit designated as the main effort has priority for whatever support is available. Other units must support that effort so that the whole force can succeed. The use of a main effort implies economy of force. Forces not in a position to directly support the main effort can be used in feints or distractions, or for security of rear areas. While there should always be a main effort, the situation may demand that it be shifted. As battle is unpredictable, another unit may make a breakthrough while the main effort is stalled. The successful unit should then be designated the main effort and receive whatever boost in combat power the original main effort had.
Boldness and Ruthlessness. Boldness refers to daring and aggressive behavior. You must desire and dare to “win big”. Ruthlessness refers to pursuing goals mercilessly. Once you have gained the advantage, you must exploit it and increase the pressure on the enemy.