Much is said and written about the different environments soldiers need to conduct operations in.
A crucial factor that needs to be appreciated when developing and formulating the operational design/commander’s intent is the operating environment (OE). Failure to appreciate this environment in detail can lead to problems and even disaster once the operational design is implemented. This is because the OE has a major impact on our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).
The operating environment can by defined as the result of the appreciation of a combination of factors that include – but not restricted to - terrain, climatic conditions, population distribution and their feelings towards opposing forces, vegetation, infrastructure (or lack of), tribal distribution, religion, culture and so forth.
The OE can vary within a single AO
The OE is therefore the result of several appreciated factors in order to determine their impact within the Area of Operations (AO) that can, may or will influence combat operations.
This will allow the commander to determine to what extent the OE favours either own forces or those of the enemy and what can be done to negate enemy advantages as well as ease and sustain own forces combat operations.
The OE is classified as friendly, neutral or hostile. In turn, this can result in limited activity operations to highly complex operations and can result in both conventional warfare operations and COIN operations within a single Area of Operations (AO).
Combat operations in Africa can, within a single AO, result in operations being conducted in a savannah-type area to very dense jungle. Dry, flat, sparsely vegetated desert-like conditions to hilly, swampy, water-logged areas are not uncommon. This variation within a single AO will determine the type of transport assets that will be required and will greatly impact on the type of logistical supply lines to sustain combat forces.
A detailed appreciation of the OE will provide guidance on:
1. Classification of the OE
2. Type of area(s) operations may or will be conducted in
3. Type of environment that operations may or will be conducted in
4. Infiltration or deployment possibilities
5. Type of warfare/combat operations soldiers will be expected to carry out
6. Offensive options
7. Adaptions to TTPs
8. Logistical possibilities and options
9. Medical possibilities and options
10. Communications possibilities and options
11. Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to own forces
12. Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to enemy forces
13. Termination and withdrawal options, etc.
Additionally, this appreciation will expose vulnerabilities that own forces may face during the conduct of operations.
Assessing the OE is part of the commander’s appreciation, the result of which is his operational design and intent. This, in turn, forms part of the larger formation design for battle, a design that ultimately stems from the military strategy.