In-game, leadership is what allows a 46-player platoon (plus attachments) to act as one cohesive and combat-effective unit. From the fireteam leader up to the platoon commander, the success of every mission hinges upon their collective abilities as leaders. While leadership on the 'wild blue internet' can be an intimidating and oft frustrating thing, we have the good fortune in ShackTac to have a well-established cadre of leaders who are capable of performing at any capacity needed, as well as an excellent collection of players available to carry out the orders of their leaders with skill and enthusiasm.
This section is intended to act as a refresher and reference to those who do lead, as well as introduce the concepts of all levels of leadership to those who are interested in pursuing and advancing to such leadership positions in the future, or refining their current abilities. Years of Operation Flashpoint and Armed Assault gameplay, countless hours of discussion, debate, and optimization of our leadership methods, as well as a generous amount of research into the US Marine and US Army leadership methods and discussion between our current and prior-service military members has resulted in this section. Much effort has been invested over the years into finding things that work in a gaming context, sans milsim "fluff".
I hope that anyone with leadership aspirations finds this piece to be helpful in their quest for leadership roles and responsibilities.
At the most basic level, leadership in ArmA2 is the art of getting multiple people to act in a coordinated fashion towards a common goal. Leaders come with a variety of roles and responsibilities, with each requiring different approaches to how they do things. From the fireteam leader up to the platoon commander, though, they all share some common responsibilities. Those responsibilities are as follows.
1. Survival. Whenever possible, the leading players should make an effort to preserve themselves. This becomes more important the higher in the chain you are - if you're a Fireteam Leader, you're most expendable, with the Platoon Commander being the least expendable. "Survival" is accomplished by acting in a fashion that will not put you at extraordinary risk or single you out to the enemy. This means that a leader should not be using anti-tank weapons, machineguns, or anything that will place a giant "SHOOT ME" marker over their head for the enemy. Your best weapons are the players you command, and they depend on your level-headedness to keep them alive throughout a fight. Don't fail them by putting yourself recklessly on the line and being taken out by the enemy.
2. Know the job of the leader above and below you and be prepared to assume the role of your immediate superior if he becomes a casualty. Know the role of the leader below you so that you can most effectively command him and his troops. Know the role of the leader above you so that you are able to take his place if he becomes casualty.
3. Be clear and concise when giving orders. Being able to give an easy-to-understand order during the heat of virtual combat and getting your teammates to work towards accomplishing it can turn the tide of a battle. Brevity is critical to understanding - everyone in a firefight is going to have to worry about many things at once, and having to concentrate on a long and wordy order from their element leader will cause nothing but trouble.
4. Decide quickly and act. You do not always have time to figure out the perfect way to approach things. Being able to decide on a good plan and get it put into play as rapidly as possible is more valuable than spending a large amount of time thinking of the perfect plan and trying to implement it. "A good plan now is better than a perfect plan later". This is especially true when combat is ongoing and every second of delay puts you further behind the curve.
5. Task by name, especially when bullets are flying. Saying that "Someone needs to grab that AT-4" is not a decisive order, and since nobody is singled out specifically, it may be forgotten or ignored in the confusion of battle. It is much better to single out people in your element to do specific tasks - i.e. "Madcows, get the AT-4 off of Frenchie's corpse" or "Oakley, get on the .50cal for kevb0's HMMWV". Call people by name and task them directly and you'll see that things will get done much faster with less ambiguity and confusion.
6. Avoid micro-management. Leaders need to let leaders lead - it sounds blindingly obvious, but it has to be said. Orders should be given that allow a subordinate to get them done in the way that they deem to be best. Lower-level leaders require tactical flexibility to get their jobs done - dictating exactly how an element should move and rigidly enforcing it can get people killed. It is better to give guidelines - that you need them to move to a certain place, and that they should try to follow waypoints you set for them - and allow them to adapt to it as they see fit. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but they are just that - exceptions, not the rule. Micro-management stifles tactical flexibility and lower-level leadership and should be avoided.
7. Exercise tactical patience. Tactical patience is defined as "giving a situation enough time to develop and unfold before trying to determine its meaning, significance and how to react to it". There will be times in ArmA2 where the leaders will have to sit back and allow the situation to unfold, without trying to jump in and start giving orders before it is prudent. As an example, just because you see a few infantrymen approaching from one flank does not mean that the bulk of the attack will be coming there, so it would be unwise to shift your defenses before the situation developed further and you could come to a more informed decision.
8. Exercise disciplined initiative. Remember the earlier section talking about the importance of individual initiative at all levels? Leaders are no exception - one of the core aspects of our group's leadership mentality is the ability to exercise initiative in a disciplined manner that aligns itself with the higher commander's intent. Leaders are expected to be able to make good decisions on their own when the situation requires it, without having to consult with the higher commander for permission. It is a sign of our trust in our junior leaders and it gives them the freedom to adapt to a rapidly changing situation.
Proper direction of the flow of battle depends on each leadership element in the Platoon applying the appropriate amount of attention to tasks critical to his role. These positions have drastically differing perspectives and correspondingly different levels of communications load.
At the FTL level, the leader is mostly concerned with directing his three team members by maneuvering his team and engaging the enemy according to his Squad Leader's direction. He is not concerned with the overall plan of the mission in the immediate sense. Instead, he trusts his superiors to handle strategic concerns and concentrates on leveraging his assets—himself and his team—towards the destruction of the enemy. His communication responsibilities extend primarily to his fire team members, his SL, and to a lesser extent the rest of his squad. The FTL should be prepared to send a SITREP or CASREP to the SL upon request and will be in a position to directly monitor the status of all of his team members due to proximity. Because he occupies the lowest level position in the leadership hierarchy of the platoon, he is in a unique position to observe combat in a direct sense and thus must be depended on to provide accurate reports to higher leadership.
Moving from FTL to Squad Leader increases the communications burden significantly. At this level, the Squad leader must coordinate his three fire teams, monitor squad level comms for important information (such as contact with or location of enemy forces) and at the same time coordinate with and take orders from Platoon HQ. The Squad Leader is also responsible for delivering important information to Platoon HQ in the form of contact reports, SITREPs and CASREPs upon request or as needed. In addition, the movement and fires of all three fire teams must be managed for maximum tactical efficiency. Squad Leaders must therefore divide their attention judiciously. Due to the additional comms load as well as their relative command value compared to FTLs, the Squad Leader is not always going to be as intimate with direct combat as his FTLs are, and his perspective is adjusted accordingly. He will often be in a position to directly observe certain events, but usually depends on FTLs to relay granular tactical information so that he can “complete the picture” for HQ as needed.
Platoon lead has the highest level of responsibility from a leadership standpoint, but the least amount of direct observation power. Without accurate information from his squads, he cannot lead effectively, and the situation will quickly become frustrating. While the communications burden is nearly as high as for the Squad Leader, the Platoon leader may have a much higher communications burden when Company or Battalion level assets (such as mortar, close air, or armor support) are added to the mix. Because he is responsible for the entire outcome of the mission, it is absolutely critical that the Platoon leader stay out of direct combat to the highest extent possible. His perspective on the situation “at the front” and thus the “picture” on which to base decisions is therefore going to depend very heavily on how well his Squad Leaders can relay information to him.
One immensely helpful aid for all players, and particularly leaders, is the usage of a pad and paper for note taking. It is highly recommended that all players have note taking gear available while playing in a session.
Typically, you will want to take notes on the composition of the platoon, as related to your role. For example, a Squad Leader will write the names of the PltCo, each Squad Leader, and then detail the names of his Fireteam Leaders. If a specific formation is going to be used, he will write a quick sketch of it to assist in remembering the relative positions of each element. A fireteam leader will write down his squad leader's name, the names of each fireteam leader in his squad, and the names of the players within his own fireteam as well as their individual roles (in shorthand).
Additionally, the notepad can be used to write anything special that may need to be referred to later in the mission. This varies from mission to mission.
Notepads are also great for writing down anything significant that happened in a mission, such as things that could form the basis for 'lessons learned', or those that deserve particular praise in the after-action review of the events.
All in-game leadership is ultimately focused at working towards mission accomplishment. Regardless of what the particular mission may be, there are certain common steps taken to go from the slot-selection screen of A2, all the way into the actual mission itself, with the end goal being to arrive in-mission with a solid plan that has been briefed to all players and leaders.
This section will cover everything involved in the process, from picking slots to planning and ultimately executing the plan. All players should be familiar with the steps involved, and leaders (or aspiring leaders) should pay extra attention to all that is involved.
The first thing you will find before conducting a mission is the slot selection screen.
With the F2 mission framework and our ShackTac platoon structure, the slots will be laid out by fireteam and leader elements and clearly labeled. Any special elements will typically be at the end of the list.
The order of events once at the slot selection screen is as follows, with the server admin directing the process.
It is generally understood that the person who developed the mission is the "Company Commander" during the pre-mission setup phase.
What this means is that if the Platoon Commander or other leadership elements have a question that is not covered in the written operations order, the mission designer can act as the Company Commander and give an answer appropriate to what the 'real' Company Commander would be able to say in such a situation. This is helpful for anything that the leadership needs to know that may have been overlooked in the briefing.
After picking your role, the next pre-mission step is the briefing stage. During this, all players will have access to the in-game map, the briefing, notes, gear loadouts, and will be able to place map markers and text to assist in mission planning.
The mission briefing is designed to give all of the information needed to create a proper plan that can be carried out by the platoon. It is the responsibility of all squad leaders, fireteam leaders, special element leaders, and the Platoon Commander to be familiar with the details of the briefing. Knowing the briefing benefits everyone, as it allows for everyone to be familiar with the 'big picture' of what they are expected to be accomplishing within the mission and helps to unify the entire unit. All players are highly encouraged to read it as well.
Mission briefings with the F2 mission framework generally follow the "Five paragraph order" format - also known as "SMEAC" - condensed to fit in the framework of A2. In this, information is presented in a standardized fashion, allowing for any player to easily find out what he needs to know about the mission with minimum fuss.
SMEAC breaks down as follows. Bear in mind that it is up to the mission designer to decide what elements are important to be presented in the briefing - the "Keep it simple" rule is employed when writing the actual briefing, while this information is used to help guide that process.
The following is a simple OPORD for a town assault mission. Note that complexity is not necessary to convey the main points of the mission. Keeping a briefing simple, while conveying the important parts, will result in more people reading it and getting more from it than from a similar but overly-complex briefing. Writing a novel in your OPORD is definitely to be avoided. If you want to include background information, put it in a separate section that is optional reading, and ensure that any important information from it is conveyed succinctly in the OPORD.
One of the biggest differences in planning for a game like ArmA2, as compared to doing the same in reality, is the timeframe typically given for the planning process. The way ShackTac plays A2 emphasizes rapid plan development, quick-thinking, and the fact that a good plan now is better than a perfect plan later. In reality, hours, days, or even weeks can be spent drafting up missions, with entire staffs being devoted to the processes involved.
In ArmA2, with ShackTac, we aren't interested in spending that sort of time investment. With the quantity of missions we play in a given session, spending "real world" amounts of time in planning them out would result in a month of planning to play a single session, and our operational tempo is much, much higher than that. Not to mention the simple fact that playing is a lot of fun, while overly in-depth orders are a lot of (oftentimes extraneous) work.
When it comes to your average session, we believe that a plan should generally take no more than 20 minutes from start to finish. This means that once you reach the briefing screen, the entire process from "reading the briefing" to "getting the 'ready' from every squad leader" should typically happen in under 20 minutes. Depending on the complexity of the mission, the type of mission, the leader(s) involved, and a variety of other factors, this can often be much shorter, and occasionally a bit longer for particularly complex missions.
The breakdown of such a time period is typically as follows, though it can often go much faster depending on the complexity of the mission:
As you can see, a leader is expected to be able to make a good plan in a fairly compressed timeframe. The proficiency required to make good plans in short timeframes comes from a variety of factors - one of them being a good understanding of the planning process as well as how to give good verbal orders. We'll cover that next and go from there onto various other leadership aspects.
When it comes to actually making the plan, one must consider a great many things in order to ensure that the best course of action is taken, with the highest probability of accomplishing the designated mission with the fewest casualties. The military has summarized these considerations into what they call "METT-TC", and it's something that any leader should become familiar with.
METT-TC consists of the following elements - Mission, Enemy, Terrain & Weather, Troops Available, Time, and Civilians. Be familiar with METT-TC will help to guide your mental planning process and remind you of all the key things you should be considering in each plan. As time goes on and experience is gained, these will largely become second-nature. While any military acronym such as that is intimidating at first glance, this one in particular is of great value and is worth learning, remembering, and using.
Keep in mind that METT-TC is used constantly, at all levels of the battle, whether one is conscious of it or not. You could sum it up as "the tactical situation" for our purposes - it is everything that you think about when moving around the battlefield, whether under fire or not.
METT-TC is used at the higher level while creating the 5-paragraph order cited above, and once you as a commander received that operations order, you use the same METT-TC process to help develop your own plan of action based off of what you know from the OPORD.
The difference between METT-TC and SMEAC is that METT-TC is how the situation is perceived to be at a given time (typically the present, or the time when the operation will be conducted). It is not a plan in and of itself, but rather the elements that are required to be interpreted and used to craft a successful plan. SMEAC is the plan that comes about because of that, and is based on METT-TC factors as they existed (or were predicted) at a given time during the planning process.
Once the battle is underway, you (and your subordinates) frequently reevaluate the METT-TC considerations as they change, issuing new orders as appropriate to guide your forces towards success, exploit enemy weaknesses, and generally conduct the battle to its conclusion.
Bear in mind that you should be looking at METT-TC from the enemy's perspective as well, to help give you insight into what the enemy might do with the situation as you believe they see it. Being able to "visualize yourself in the enemy's position" can be a powerful tool to use when planning for your own unit's actions.
In ArmA2 terms, the elements of METT-TC break down as follows:
As in the "5 paragraph order" described above, this deals with what your unit is tasked with accomplishing. The type of mission will determine many aspects of how you craft your plan.
The mission considerations include:
Next up we cover the enemy. Understandably, the enemy is a tremendously significant aspect of how you plan a mission. You must consider every tactically relevant aspect of them, such as:
When put together, these form a partial "threat assessment" for the mission.
Terrain and weather comes next. The military mnemonic used to remember the factors used in evaluating terrain is "OCOKA". Like METT-TC, it is another good mnemonic to learn. Also, like METT-TC, you will find yourself using this almost subconsciously with a bit of experience.
OCOKA stands for:
Basically, these are all of the factors that dictate the suitability of any given piece of terrain, or a given terrain area. These are the elements that describe the difference between a flat, open desert, and a dense, concealing forest. Terrain heavily dictates planning, and thus being familiar with how to judge it becomes important. OCOKA helps you remember all of the elements that will matter in such a judgment.
Let's take a look at what this all means in A2 terms, from the perspective of our forces.
This is the aspect of terrain that determines the effectiveness of friendly fire coming from it, as well as the ability to observe the battlefield. When judging terrain for these aspects, you will want to pay mind of:
The cover and concealment afforded by terrain can be both natural (trees, bushes, broken ground) and man-made (houses, walls, ditches). As learned in the basic rifleman section, cover provides protection from enemy fire, whereas concealment simply prevents observation but has no protective aspects aside from that.
When judging terrain, keep a keen awareness of the fact that elevation differences act as a major source of cover and concealment. Large numbers of troops can move in a protected fashion thanks to the concealing nature of features like valleys, dips in terrain, or by masking themselves with hills and such. When fighting from the military crest of a hill, the ground itself becomes one large piece of cover based on the location of the enemy relative to it.
You can expect the enemy to gravitate towards locations that provide good cover and concealment from your observation and fires. Likewise, when moving, you should attempt to conduct movement in a fashion that maximizes your cover and concealment from them, as well secure fighting positions that give you good cover and concealment relative to the expected enemy threat. Naturally, all of the other factors described must be considered as well.
Obstacles in A2 can take several forms. Terrain itself can be an obstacle - hills that are too steep to traverse by foot or vehicle, for instance, or bodies of water that cannot be forded with the given equipment. Man-made obstacles will also make appearances - the most common are sandbags, concertina wire, and mines. Bridges fit the bill as well, and in urban areas you can expect to see civilian vehicles used to construct hasty roadblocks and attempt to impede, channelize, or otherwise redirect vehicle movement.
Obstacles are intended to prevent you from successfully moving through an area, forcing you in another pre-chosen direction that benefits the enemy, slowing you down to make you vulnerable, or simply delay you.
In some adversarial missions, a defending team will have a number of obstacles and defensive positions that can be placed to help shape the battlefield to their advantage. Crafty and skilled employment of such obstacles can cause significant headaches for the attacking team to try to surmount.
Key or decisive terrain is any terrain that gives some kind of significant advantage to any who control it. This can come in a variety of forms - dominating hills, buildings, an area overlooking a significant bridge or road, etc.
Being able to identify key or decisive terrain allows for a leader to plan how to best deny it to the enemy, or negate the effects of the enemy potentially controlling it as best as possible.
Key terrain often ends up as objectives in a mission.
This is about what it sounds like - routes that can be used to navigate the terrain, in relation to objectives, key terrain, and anything else of significance. It is most typically in relation to the main objective of the mission.
Note that the easiest avenue of approach is not always the best. Coming in from an unexpected or unlikely direction can give your forces a level of tactical surprise that can prove decisive in a fight. On the other hand, there will occasionally be situations in which you are restricted to only one real viable avenue of approach due to a variety of influencing terrain factors. In that situation, one must remember that the only time it matters when the enemy knows what direction you're coming from is when they're able to actually do something about it to stop you. Your job in that situation thus becomes one of leveraging every possible advantage to ensure that they cannot stop you, no matter how obvious your attack avenue is forced to be.
Weather ultimately means visibility in ArmA2. There are several things that influence visibility, including:
Weather can change over the course of a mission, too - just because it starts off with a clear sky does not mean that it will stay that way. Likewise, if it is near dusk or dawn, visibility conditions can change dramatically over the duration of a mission as it gets darker or brighter due to the setting or rising of the sun. Note too that moonsets and moonrises at night can play a role, particularly on clear skies with full moons.
That's the end of the OCOKA/Weather considerations. Additional information about OCOKA as it applies specifically to attacking and defending follows later in the "Tactics" section. For now, let's continue on with the rest of METT-TC.
This includes all assets available in the mission. Not only are your own troops included, but any special attachments are detailed, as are vehicles that may be supporting you, and artillery or air assets that might be available for addition on-call support. In short, this details everything you have at your disposal to get the mission done, whatever the mission may be.
While you will often be free to spend a reasonably unlimited amount of time to accomplish your mission, there will also be occasions when time is a factor and certain tasks must be carried out in specific time constraints. For instance, a night infiltration mission may need to be concluded before sunrise, a patrol may need to be done before sunset, or an ambush may need to be conducted before an enemy convoy has reached a specific town.
Knowing the amount of time available in the mission helps a leader to plan out how rapidly the different phases of the mission must be carried out, which can have a significant impact on the tactics employed.
While many battlefields will be free of civilian presence, it is not uncommon to have to account for civilians in urban engagements. Civilians can be very tricky to deal with - it behooves friendly forces to not harm them, but at the same time, there is always the possibility of insurgents working within their midst. Some civilians may be acting as lookouts for such insurgents as well. It is important to carefully detail rules of engagement when moving into an area where civilians may be present. You want to ensure that players know exactly when they can engage, and when they need to hold fire. A player should never be put in a position where he feels that he is under threat from a hostile civilian yet is unable to take action due to overly restrictive ROEs.
After reviewing the operation order and considering METT-TC factors, the Platoon Commander has two options. The first is to craft his plan by himself; the second is to ask for input from his squad and special element leaders. Typically a PltCo will at least ask for input from the special element leaders, as they are proficient at their roles and will have a good perspective on how they can best be employed in the mission.
After receiving feedback (if requested), the PltCo will begin to work up the plan. The mission assigned, of course, determines much of this. A defensive mission will require the PltCo to deal with a different set of concerns than an offensive one, and his planning will reflect that.
In general, he will detail the movement routes that the squads will use via marking up the map, establish what squads or elements will be dictating the pace of movement, decide on the rules of engagement, usage of vehicle assets and how they will be distributed amongst the squads, designate recon elements as required, determine rally points or staging areas, as well as any changes to standard operating procedure - such as a non-typical method to use when a given battle situation happens. Generally, standard operating procedure (SOP) are expected to be known by all leaders, and will not be briefed unless considered to be of particular importance to the given mission. For example, a mission which lists artillery as a threat to the platoon may have the PltCo take some extra time to discuss the battle drill they will use to react to the artillery if it engages them.
Depending on the mission type, he will also dictate defensive positions, sectors of responsibility, base-of-fire positions, usage of fire support assets, designate special units to support other units or attach to them, and so on and so forth.
The Pltco must decide on how far ahead he'll do detailed planning. Since plans have a tendency to "not go according to plan" once bullets start flying, it can be helpful to only plan specifically for the first major part of the mission, then give general guidance for the rest of it. This allows the PltCo to consider updated METT-TC concerns once the first section of the mission has been successfully completed, and issue new orders based upon what actually happened, versus what the planned outcome was. Allowing for flexibility at the squad level tends to result in more "adapting to the situation" and prevents squads from carrying out a plan that may not be the best course of action based on the actual vs expected tactical situation.
Generally, the PltCo will attempt to identify key decision points in the mission, and plan his orders around them. For instance - if the platoon is attacking, he may decide that a key decision point exists when the platoon secures the initial objective. At that point, he knows that he has to direct the positioning of the squads in anticipation of a counter-attack, or to "mop up" any stragglers left on the objective area.
When describing a key decision point in a briefing, the Platoon Commander will give the most likely courses of action as options for the squad leaders to be aware of - in the above example, these options would be:
Giving them as options allows the junior leaders to consider what they will need to do in either eventuality and prepare for it.
A "Commander's Intent" is a helpful guideline to give the platoon direction during the mission, even in the absence of orders. The idea behind the "Commander's Intent" is that all levels of the platoon should be familiar with what the "big picture" of the mission is, and what the desired end state is.
Knowing the "Commander's Intent" gives tactical flexibility to all players, and especially leaders, in the platoon. It allows for tactical decisions to be made even when it is impossible or impractical to get direct orders from the PltHQ element. This can play a major part in "VON-only" missions where communications are severely restricted (by design) and all leaders have to exercise more small-unit initiative and leadership. It also protects against loss of leadership - if a senior leader becomes a casualty or loses comms, the junior leaders still know what they are supposed to be doing and why, and they'll be able to quickly adapt and continue on.
Issuing orders verbally - also known as a 'verbal briefing' - requires that the speaker be familiar with a few basic premises.
Note that once in-mission, it is often helpful for a leader to find the person he is giving orders to, have them come to his position, and then explain his orders while showing the subordinate the terrain involved. This helps to let the subordinate see the terrain from his leader's point of view, so that he can better achieve the intent of the order. For instance - if the Platoon Commander wants to have a squad advance along an aspect of the terrain that is not obvious from a map, but is obvious from where he is standing, this method works very well.
Once the mission briefing has been received, METT-TC factors have been considered, and a plan has been drafted up, it's time for the orders to be issued to the next junior level of command. For the Platoon Commander, this is his Squad Leaders. They, in turn, will brief their Fireteam Leaders and other squad members after receiving their orders from the PltCo.
To begin, a channel command check is done to ensure that all leaders are present and are set up to hear the command Teamspeak channel.
PltCo: "All, this is Command. Channel commander check."
Alpha SL: "Alpha lead here."
Bravo SL: "Bravo lead here."
Charlie SL: "Charlie lead here."
SMAW Assault Lead: "SMAW team lead here."
PltCo: "Ok, we're all set. Orders follow."
The next thing a leader must do is provide orientation. This is done to get everyone 'synced up' as to where they are and what they'll be doing. This can be as simple as giving a brief description of where the platoon starts off, and what direction the objective is.
"The platoon starts together in grid 043 038 behind a small hill. Our main objective is to the north at the town of Louvain, about a kilometer past our starting point."
After orientation, the key parts of the mission briefing are reiterated verbally. This simply consists of the PltCo rephrasing the operations order into his own words.
"We are tasked with assaulting, clearing, and occupying Louvain in order to support follow-on forces. We expect anti-tank defenses to be present in the town, which we will destroy. Finally, we will establish a defense of Louvain in anticipation of an enemy counter-attack."
After reiterating the mission briefing, the Platoon Commander will detail his "Commander's Intent". This helps to frame the upcoming detailed orders.
"My intent is to take Louvain quickly through an aggressive fire & maneuver scheme. We will attack with maximum surprise, take the town, clear it, and have a hasty defense organized within 25 minutes of the first shot being fired. Will we continue to refine our defense for as long as we have before the expected counterattack arrives."
After the commander's intent has been given detailed orders are passed. Each squad receives it's assignment and any special guidance required. This is the PltCo's own SMEAC operations order, delivered verbally.
"Alpha squad will be the assault squad. Bravo and Charlie will provide security and act as a base of fire. Bravo and Charlie will position themselves along Hill 123, oriented towards Louvain. Both SMAW assault teams will remain with Charlie for this stage.
Rules of engagement will be 'weapons hold' until Bravo and Charlie are in their support-by-fire position and Alpha is prepared to move, at which point we will go 'weapons free'.
Alpha will assault via fire and maneuver to Louvain under the cover of Bravo and Charlie's supporting fires. Upon reaching the town, Alpha will clear the town south of the T-junction and then go defensive, oriented north.
Bravo will then maneuver to Louvain to clear the northern half after passing through Alpha, while Charlie will shift fires away from the town and engage any reinforcing enemy elements. On the PltCo's order, Charlie will move to the town and assist in mopping up any resistance. All squads will destroy anti-tank assets as they find them. Each fireteam has a satchel charge to assist in this.
Once Louvain has been secured, all squads will establish defensive positions. Bravo will defend to the north/north-west/north-east. Alpha will defend to the east and south-east. Charlie will defend to the west and south-west. PltHQ will establish a position and aid station on the south side of town and provide security to the south.
I expect the counter-attack to come from the north or east - Assault Team 1 will orient north with Bravo squad; Assault Team 2 will orient east with Alpha."
As the orders are completed, the PltCo opens the floor to questions about the plan.
"Are there any questions?"
"If the enemy anti-tank emplacements are oriented north or east, should we capture and use them instead of destroying them?"
"(Alpha SL playername) brings up a good point. If the enemy AT emplacements support our defense, we will take advantage of them. If they are instead oriented towards friendly lines, we will destroy them. If in doubt, ask over the platoon radio net.
Are there any further questions?
If not, head to your squad channels and brief your squads. Give me a text "Ready" when your squad is ready to go."
Once all questions have been asked and answered, the PltCo will send the squad leaders and element leaders back to their squad/element channels so that they can brief their subordinates.
Alpha Squad Leader (in Alpha squad channel):
"Alpha, listen up. I have my fireteam leaders listed as (team leader 1 name), (team leader 2 name), (team leader 3 name). Is that correct?"
Alpha Squad Leader:
"Good. Our orders are as follows. We are tasked as the initial assault squad and will be attacking Louvain from the south. Bravo and Charlie, as well as the SMAW teams, will act as our support-by-fire position on our assault. They will be positioned on hill 123 and will be able to cover the southern half of the town as well as the west and east approaches to it.
Once we reach the town, we will clear everything south of the T-junction and then go defensive, orienting to the north. Bravo will then move in behind us, pass through our position, and secure the northern half of town. Finally, Charlie will join us in town.
Defensive positions will be set up as follows - we will defend to the east and south-east; Bravo will have the north/north-west/north-east, Charlie will have the west and south-west, and PltHQ will establish an aid station to the south, as well as provide security. We will have the 2nd SMAW Assault Team positioned with us.
The PltCo believes that any enemy counter-attack will most likely come from the north or east. Stay vigilant and watch your sectors. Our squad frontage will be approximately 100 meters if not more, so you should have plenty of room to find good fighting positions.
We will assault in a wedge, with A1 leading and guiding our movement, A2 on the left, and A3 on the right. We will maintain the 2,1,3 order once we have gone defensive as well.
Are there any questions?"
Alpha 1 Fireteam Leader:
"Are we expecting any civilians in this town?"
"Good question. We are not expecting any civilian presence in Louvain. If it has a weapon, you are cleared to engage it once we have gone 'Weapons Free'.
Any further questions?
Stand by for mission start."
Alpha SL, on command net:
"Command, this is Alpha. We're good to go."
Platoon Commander, on command net:
"Roger that, stand by."
While the Squad Leaders are briefing their squads, the Platoon Commander will give any special guidance to his PltHQ element. Once done with that, the PltCo will spend the remaining time going over the plan he created, thinking about the problems that might arise, how to address them, and generally trying to anticipate as much as possible and be ready to adapt and be flexible.
Once the Squad Leaders all give the "Ready", the mission begins, and the PltCo's job becomes one of supervision, constant assessment of the tactical situation, and adjustments to the plan in a timely fashion as needed.
When receiving verbal orders, a player must...
The job of a leader becomes one of execution, supervision, adaptation, and flexibility once the mission begins. With the operations order as a guideline, each leader ensures that his element's part of the plan is carried out to the best possible degree. Whether a fireteam leader, squad leader, or platoon commander, every leader shares a set of common responsibilities that scale with their level of leadership.
The first of these responsibilities is simply those things that any leader must be on the watch for throughout the mission. In the pre-combat phases of a mission, leadership is concerned with a variety of things that are intended to maximize the chance for friendly success while at the same time minimizing the possible influence or impact of the enemy.
Once combat has begun, leaders work to get an understanding of the tactical situation so that they can employ their troops most effectively. The higher the leadership level, the less they are concerned with actually fighting, and the more they are looking to find weaknesses in the enemy and exploit them.
In combat, leaders pay attention to the following aspects. All of these help them to size up the situation, make tactical decisions, and issue orders appropriate to the situation at hand.
After the fight has been won, leaders work towards consolidating, establishing security, finding out the status of all units, and then getting their troops into shape to fight again if need be. They ask themselves the following questions as soon as the post-combat phase begins, and take whatever action is necessary to correct any issues that may exist.
This section is oriented around dealing with some of the more common concerns that can arise regarding leadership in our platoon.
One of the simplest realities of combat is that leaders are not invincible. There will be times when a fireteam leader, squad leader, or platoon commander become unexpected casualties. Because of this, it is important that all players know the jobs of those above and below them, and are able to "step up" and take command of a higher level of leadership than they initially started the mission as. The ability to properly "step up" and take charge can often be the difference between victory and defeat in a tough situation. Nobody plans to lose a leader at a key moment, but with a proper understanding of the steps required to deal with this, the negative effects of a loss of leadership can be minimized.
Seniority in our platoon is a simple, easy to understand hierarchy, as detailed below from most senior to least. Seniority goes in order - from the Platoon Commander, to the Platoon Sergeant, then Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie squad leaders, and within each squad, the first, second, and third fireteams. In the event that it ever gets passed that, it simply becomes the most senior remaining member of the platoon, regardless of position.
Transitioning from a fireteam member to a fireteam leader can be intimidating for those who are new to leadership or otherwise have little experience as a leader. In the end, however, it is not as difficult as it seems - as a fireteam member, you typically always known what your fireteam's plan or role in the squad's mission was. When it's necessary to step up and become the new fireteam leader, follow these actions to conduct the transfer of leadership effectively.
Transitioning from a fireteam leader to a squad leader is a bit more difficult of a transition. If the squad leader was clear in giving his orders and initial briefing, you should know what the squad's plan and role in the mission was, which helps to smooth the transition. When it's necessary to make the transition from team leader to squad leader, follow these actions.
Note that when taking squad command, you may or may not want to designate a new fireteam leader for your fireteam. It is generally a matter of personal preference whether this is done, and either way can work.
Moving from a position as a Squad Leader to that of the Platoon Commander is the most difficult transition. Fortunately, it is also a fairly rare one to have to make - good Platoon Commanders don't generally put themselves in positions from which they're likely to become a casualty.
As a squad leader, you were present for the mission briefing, which means that you know what the plan is. You've also been on the command channel listening to all the updated orders and situation reports throughout the mission. This knowledge allows for you to be able to take command and get the squads working towards accomplishing the current mission with the minimum of fuss.
The actions for assuming Platoon Command are as follows.
As the "Close Combat Marine Workbook" states, "Without anti-armor at the Platoon level, a Platoon encountering armor is either overrun or retreating". This sums up one of the most difficult challengers a leader can face - that of dealing with enemy armor without AT capabilities. There generally aren't any easy ways to deal with this, which makes it all the more difficult for a leader to handle.
Without an organic AT capacity at the platoon, squad, or fireteam level, one must be creative to counter enemy armor. Depending on the strength of the enemy armor, these may be more or less successful.
In ArmA2, an element becomes "combat ineffective" if it is no longer able to carry out the specific mission it has been assigned, or the types of tasks typically given to an element of its size. If an element is left in a combat ineffective condition, yet still tasked out with doing things that a 'healthy' element would be more appropriate for, the risk of losing the element entirely becomes a significant danger.
Being able to recognize a "combat ineffective" element and take appropriate steps to salvage it is a critical leader skill to have. The more fierce the fighting, the more important this becomes.
There are several things that can cause combat ineffectiveness. The main ones are as follows.
As a leader, you can identify combat ineffectiveness by paying attention to some key indicators. The primary ones are as follows. While there are multiple things that can cause each of these issues to occur individually, the combination of several of them typically points to a state of general combat ineffectiveness.
Once a combat ineffective state has been determined, it is up to the senior element leader to take actions to preserve the remaining strength of the element as well as place it into a position from which it can have a more significant influence on the course of the battle.
This is generally done by merging the remainder of an element into a parent or sister element, and thus augmenting or replacing casualties in said parent or sister element.
The senior element leader should follow these steps in dealing with combat ineffectiveness via merging with another element.
Those should be the most typical difficult leadership situations one will find themself in while playing Arma2. Being able to react to them appropriately and without hesitation always helps to minimize their negative effects on the platoon, and familiarity with the steps and situations involved becomes key for all leaders to know and be capable of executing on demand.
The development of a leader in ShackTac is something that takes time. It is a process which must be cultivated by a positive group atmosphere and a willingness and desire on the part of junior leaders to play at a 'higher level'. We believe strongly that a player must rise through the ranks - from fireteam member, to fireteam leader, squad leader, and finally, platoon commander - in order to effectively command those in subordinate roles. Too often we have seen examples elsewhere where a player who was not a proficient squad or fireteam leader was put into a platoon-commander-esque position and failed due to not being comfortable with how the lower leadership levels worked in the context of a large mission. We avoid that through our emphasis on leadership development from the ground up.
To help develop the ShackTac leaders, there are a few different methods that can be employed to gain experience, proficiency, and ultimately lead one down the path towards whatever leadership level they are interested in pursuing. Those methods are described below.
Learning by example is a great way to get experience as to how leadership is done in our group. For this, you simply need to play with us and pay attention to your leaders. Listen to how they give orders, how they make decisions, how they maneuver and fight using their unit, how they react to difficult circumstances, and so on. Taking notes helps as well, particularly if you want to transition into "Learning by Discussion" post-session.
Learning by observation is the easiest of all methods to use, and can be employed in every mission with just a bit of extra attention paid towards it.
Learning by reading comes in a variety of forms. You can read our past after-action review threads, go through video AARs or screen compilations, or even read actual military publications. There is a wealth of material available to read and learn from - the only thing that's needed is time, and a desire for self-improvement.
Learning by reading is the easiest way to learn in a solo capacity outside of the sessions.
Learning by discussion is one of the most interactive ways to learn leadership values, and analyze past scenarios and what went right or wrong in them. Learning by discussion is done in a variety of fashions - through after-action reviews, through group leadership discussions, through soliciting feedback about your own leadership, or via the mentorship of another player.
Unlike Learning by Observation or Learning by Reading, Learning by Discussion is an active process that requires another participant to involve themselves in the learning process.
The after-action review is a process by which players discuss a mission or series of missions post-session, in order to share their experiences and tell their side of the story, see how the mission(s) played out and why things happened the way they did, as well as distill lesson-learned and find ways to improve teamwork and gameplay in the future.
AARs are critical towards learning lessons as a group, as well as showing the variety of experiences that occur in each and every mission. Being able to see how the actions of a seemingly unrelated player impacted your experience in a mission is always rather interesting, and the lessons that can be learned from the group discussions that result can provide great material for players and leaders alike to learn from.
As you can see, the AAR process is a very important one for group evolution, esprit de corps, and more. It is important at all times for leaders and senior players to foster an atmosphere that encourages people to post their thoughts - both positive and negative - in order to maintain a healthy outlook on things. Posting just the positive is deceptive and useless - even the best missions have something that can be improved on. Likewise, being exclusively negative is useless as well - even when things go completely to shit, someone, and usually quite a few someone's, did the best they could and went down fighting. The proper balance is important to maintain, and I like to think that we have demonstrated throughout our Flashpoint and ArmA years that we are very honest and even-handed with our AARs. It will only improve from here.
To close this subsection out, here is a bit from a real-world after-action review by Marines fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, which talks about the after-action review process they used and encouraged during their time in combat.
Constructive criticism should be encouraged. Every Marine debriefs each other, telling good and bad observations. The squad leader will also be critiqued by his Marines in an appropriate fashion. The criticism is not meant to undermine the squad leaders’ authority. It is to allow the squad leader to instruct the Marines on why he chose to run the squad the way he did. Young Marines will gain knowledge about squad tactics that they may never have figured out if the squad leader did not tell them. It will prepare them for leadership billets. It will also give them confidence in their squad leader because they will trust him and his knowledge.
When it comes to soliciting feedback on your own leadership, ensure that you remind the relevant people (subordinates, or leader) that you would like them to give you feedback after the current mission on how they did during it. This cues them to take their own notes so that they can be better equipped to discuss things with you post-session.
Tactical Decision Games (TDGs) are another interesting way to discuss leadership. In this, you have a leader give you a scenario description, and in a specific timeframe, you must come up with a plan, write the orders for the plan, and send them back to the leader. From that, a discussion can be made as to what the pros/cons of your orders might have been, how you could improve on things, et cetera. This can be an interesting way to get leadership insight in a one-on-one fashion without having to go in-game.
When you want to learn through mentorship, you simply find a player whose opinion you value and ask them about how they do things, what they think about when leading, any tips or tricks they may have, etc. If you've ran into issues with certain aspects of leadership - find out how they do the same things. If you saw them do something interesting in a mission, get into their head and see how their decisionmaking process worked in that instance. There is a lot you can learn from the other ShackTac leaders - you just need to seek it out.
'Learning by doing' is the most intimidating of all methods of developing leadership abilities, at least when done with live players.
To help lessen the intimidation, players can 'wargame' in singleplayer, via practicing with AI teams (and the help of the "High Command" control interface). They can also solicit the help of other players in doing limited-playercount leadership training - for example, running a single fireteam, or a single squad, can help warm people up towards leadership in a less-intimidating fashion.
Leadership sessions are also held from time to time, allowing the junior players to lead while more senior players play the roles of fireteam members, observing the leadership of the junior players and giving them constructive feedback at the end of each mission.
Finally, 'learning by doing' is facilitated by a group atmosphere that encourages juniors to step up and take command as soon as they feel ready for it, as well as help to cultivate them into someone who will feel ready and capable of leading his fellow players.
The full range of leadership requirements found in the TTP2 can be daunting in sheer scope and depth. All of the information found here is important for anyone interested in leading within the confines of ArmA2, but can be equally as valid for a leader in any other kind of gaming environment. This relevance becomes the key element when it comes to being a leader in any gaming situation, whether coordinating 70 players in ArmA2, or a raid of 40 in any one of the MMORPG titles on the market. There are considerations that must be made as someone coordinating a group of gamers across the Internet, rather than simply as virtual soldiers in a simulated battlefield. You must treat yourself as a manager, human resources director, and event coordinator all in one package. You must also remember that the people you are working with are just that - people. Don't lose perspective on what you're doing simply because of the context. These are people who are looking to have a good time. Gaming is about entertainment, and your primary goal as a leader is to coordinate that entertainment and facilitate the enjoyment of all participants through a streamlined, well directed event.
If there is one thing that you repeat to yourself, over and over again, while leading any group of people in a gaming environment is that they are volunteers. This isn't voluntary in the sense that all of our current service men and women decide to sign up for military service. This is voluntary in the sense that all of your participants are electing to give up a portion of their personal time to enjoy a game. They are there to have fun, be rewarded for their participation, and gain a real sense of accomplishment through the game. This kind of volunteer participation is far smaller in scope and meaning than more traditional forms. There is little given to, and typically more taken away, from the experience. This means that bad experiences can lose volunteers quickly. It, then, is critical that you remember who you are leading within the game. These are people who expect you to help them have a good time, and there isn't much room for disappointment. If you consistently fail to meet the expectations of your players, they will choose a new leader or simply stop participating.
Playing a game like ArmA2 can easily lead to the trap of "milsim". This is most often seen in the form of military role playing both inside and outside of the game. Milsim situations can often be abrasive for gamers who are looking to have a more realistic gaming experience, or simulation, without actually signing up. Milsim leaders often treat their players in a manner similar to actual military discipline, which is designed to provide harsh consequences for deviating outside of the norm.
This kind of military discipline will only diminish your player base and alienate those players who are simply looking to enjoy themselves and have a good time within the confines of the simulation. You must remember that your players are gamers - not soldiers. Even players who are former service men or women aren't typically interested in meeting a leader who attempts to be their long-lost drill sergeant. In the best case scenario you will be laughable, getting remarks about your abrasive and over-the-top nature outside of the game. In the worst case, you will cause conflicts within your group and drive members away. In many cases, these are often the outstanding members that you lose. Consider many of the comedy videos found on YouTube of gaming leaders screaming tantrums to their players, and exactly how ridiculous they sound. You don't want to be that leader. To avoid this situation, you need to keep control of yourself and know what kinds of players you have in your group. Thankfully, some broad definitions exist to help you get a sense of who you are leading.
To lead most effectively, you must know who you are leading. The types of gamers found here apply primarily to ArmA2, but can also be closely linked to other game types as well. For the most part, you will be leading three kinds of gamers: the cooperative, the adversarial, and the experience-seeker. Each type has different quirks and attributes that you must understand and seek to fulfill as you lead them through their gaming experience.
The cooperative gamer is a real team-player. These members are most interested in doing anything that involves heavy teamwork, coordination, and betterment through group effort. This is a relatively easy type of gamer to work with because they seek strong teamwork and coordination first, which is also your primary goal as a leader. Cooperative gamers can be very helpful in assisting you with the task of leadership. They make excellent junior leaders, enthusiastic participants, and are typically willing to go beyond standard participation for the good of the group. Keeping a cooperative gamer happy and active is just a matter of striving for strong teamwork, good organization, and effective communication. The suggested organization methods found here in the TTP2 will address much of this for you.
Cooperative gamers become unhappy when teamwork breaks down, communication becomes ineffective or misunderstood, or "lone-wolf" players take advantage of the whole for their own gain. Keep your organization strong and your lone-wolf players to a minimum, and cooperative gamers will be very pleased with you.
You might expect that the adversarial gamer is the opposite of cooperative, eschewing team participation and spending most of their time being the lone-wolf that cooperative players loathe. This, however, is not always accurate. The adversarial gamer is typically driven by in-game goals and achievements, preferring to demonstrate their prowess to other members as a form of self-worth. Accomplishments for adversarial gamers are not found simply within group participation, but come from concrete metrics such as score, mission accomplishment, or degree of success. Because demonstrating skill and accomplishment are so important to adversarial gamers, they often want to test their skill against other players. You will often find members like this in competition with one another for score, kill count, mission success, or other measurable criteria.
Keeping the adversarial gamer happy is a matter of allowing them to flex their competitive muscles. Make sure they feel that they are able to participate in a direct and effective way. Allow these players to take the combat heavy or other front line roles to get a strong sense of efficacy in-game. Cooperative players will often happily occupy support roles for adversarial gamers, allowing them to get into the fight. In this way, the two groups compliment one another nicely.
Adversarial gamers begin to become unhappy with situations where they feel that their personal skills are being wasted, or that they are being "cheated" of legitimate results. Try to avoid long dry spells in action content, as the longer these go, the more frustrated adversarial gamers become. From the ArmA2 standpoint, remember that a series of lighter action missions may require that you follow with something much heavier and more direct to capture the interest of your adversarial gamers once again.
The experience-seekers are often the easiest of your members to please. These players are typically involved to get a sense of "being there". They want to be a part of the spectacle of a platoon charging into a town, or calling in air strikes. These players will often drift from cooperative to adversarial in their current interest, but the experience is always what drives them to participate.
An experience-seeker just wants to have an engrossing time. This means that it's often a good idea to give them something in-depth to do. Being in charge of support assets like artillery or air support does a great job of keeping experience-seekers interested. They get to make the fancy visual fireworks, after all. This not only makes a great scene, but allows them to indulge either their cooperative or adversarial leaning, whatever it may be at the time.
Typically, an experience-seeker will be happy so long as you avoid simple scenarios. Don't play missions oriented toward death matches, or other more "sports-like" activities, and they will be glad to be a part of the group.
Though not technically one of the three main groups of players, you must pay special attention to the lone-wolf players. Any game that involves leadership of large groups inherently calls for team play. Lone-wolf players avoid team play to go it their own way, doing what they please and indulging whatever sense of accomplishment they are looking for. Lone-wolf players are indicative of a few things: group health, member efficacy, and organization. Specifically, the appearance of lone-wolf players means there is a problem in one, or many, of those areas.
Dissatisfied members are likely to become lone-wolf players, no matter which major group they are typically a part of. If the player stops getting what they are looking for as part of their involvement, they may decide to get that fulfillment themselves by going it alone. This will inevitably anger other members who are still working for the team. It's important to address lone-wolf players quickly and effectively. Either figure out what needs to be done to get them back into team participation, or determine that they have simply reached the end of their participation and remove them. Strong communication and established relationships with your members will help you address lone-wolves quickly and effectively.
With an understanding of the type of players you will be leading, you must constantly keep their interests in mind as you conduct your leadership. This goes beyond simply what you are doing from a moment to moment adjustment in a mission. This begins with mission selection. You should keep your mission choices varied and planned in a way that keeps all of your members happy. Large scale, combined arms cooperative missions will certainly please your cooperative and experience-seekers, but your adversarial members might feel that their goals are diminished with the scale.
Break this up for your adversarial members by including well-designed competitive missions with a strong theme. Cooperative members will appreciate the teamwork and coordination, adversarial members will enjoy the competition with other players and the sense of accomplishment, and experience-seekers will enjoy the theme and participation. Keep your mission variety high, and always listen to your members. Know what they are interested in doing to ensure that you pick the right mission at the right time.
In-game, call for members who suit a particular task. If you need someone to bring up support assets at some point, call a known cooperative member by name and ask them to do it. They will feel involved, appreciated, and effective. By the same token, if a special task calls for someone strongly combat-oriented, ask one of your adversarial gamers to take the job. They will get the same sense of accomplishment.
Obviously, you cannot make the right decision at the right time if you don't know your members. It is critically important that you interact with your members on a regular basis. Get to know who they are and what kind of play they enjoy. This will help you better understand them, communicate more effectively with them, and help them have a far better time. Do not fall prey to the ivory tower mentality. A good leader participates with his community and enjoys the people he games with. If you don't like who you lead, you need to go elsewhere. You will only serve to upset yourself and diminish the enjoyment of your entire community.
Remember that your members are volunteers who have something they want to get from their participation. Military discipline and harsh treatment will alienate your members - not encourage them. Treat your members as people, with genuine consideration for what they want, who they are, and how they feel. Always be considerate, even-handed, and fair. Apply community rules equally, work with your community, and do what your job calls for you to do: make your community a great place to game, and a place where everyone can have a great time doing what they enjoy the most.