The Warning Order – Preparing For OperationsJason Crawford July 4, 2018 2 Comments
The warning order (Warno) is one of the most critical planning tools available to leaders in the military. Unfortunately, it’s often one of the most underutilized.
A warning order (WARNO) gives subordinates advance notice of an upcoming operation. This gives them time to prepare. A warning order is brief but complete.
The warning order follows the same basic structure as an operations order. It should include the situation, mission, execution, service and support, and command and signal. The mission statement should be complete, but the other aspects of the order should be an introduction to the mission and/or information leading up to the operations order.
I recently wrote about the value and techniques for applying the 1/3-2/3 rule when planning operations. In that article, I discussed bringing in subordinates to help in the planning process and providing information as early as possible to give subordinates more time to prepare. The Warno can help do that.
In fact, there may be situations where it is the only order given. Obviously, in a regular situation, a full operations order is the standard. However, when notice is short and immediate action is required, a warning order may be the only option available. This is usually the result of some poor planning, but it does happen.
But the warno is more than just another briefing. It’s the critical event that initiates the movement of the entire operation. Once you issue the warning order troops can begin packing, preparing subordinate orders, rehearsing, or coordinating support assets.
How To Prepare A Warning Order
The first step in the troop leading procedures is to receive the mission. Once you receive the mission, you should share as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.
Don’t get stuck trying to figure out your entire plan. Take the information you already have available and fill in gaps that you can answer quickly.
Highlight any significant information that contributed to your assignment. This may be specific intel on enemy movements or friendly forces operations that you are supporting. Also, ensure that you include the higher commander’s intent at least one level up. This should be enough information to allow subordinates involved in the planning process to begin contributing to the plan.
Your mission statement should have been provided in your task to subordinate units. You should be able to plug this in without any change. If you’re not supporting a higher mission, make sure to create a mission statement that explains what you need to do and why. This should be formatted in the 5W format: who, what, when, where, and why.
At this point, keep your execution limited. Highlight your intent and clearly explain what will define success. If possible, provide a limited concept of the operation. Don’t include anything that is likely to change. Past experience should guide you in understanding what key ingredients are unlikely to change. Your tasks to subordinate units should primarily focus on the tasks you need those elements to accomplish prior to the operations order, such as preparing a terrain model or collecting supplies.
Service and Support (AKA Sustainment)
Service and support should focus on known information and needed information. If you will be operating within your normal scope and area of operations (AO), most of this paragraph can be taken from previous orders. If you will be operating outside of your normal parameters, identify key information you will need to complete this plan. This includes information such as medivac details and resupply points.
Command and Signal (Command and control)
This information should all be set as standard operating procedure (SOP). You must list details, such as callsigns and frequencies, to ensure that radios can be programmed and any attachments have the information. If there are any significant changes to the chain of command, you can highlight them here. And if you are operating outside of your normal parameters, you can instruct the Radio-Telephone Operator (RTO) or another subordinate to acquire the necessary communications procedures for the new AO.
The Warning Order Board Format
The warning order board is a presentation tool. It assists you to deliver the information in an organized, transferable method. It also allows for more collaboration as multiple people can add to it without having to pass around a paper order.
Update information on the board regularly. It should serve as a reference for subordinates assisting with the planning process.
Use colored markers to indicate responsibilities of specific subordinate units/elements. For example: use a blue marker for Alpha Team and a red marker for Bravo Team. This will help subordinates quickly identify their task and speed up the process.
There are many examples of warning order board. They should include the information you find most relevant and want to pass on quickly.
Here is an example very similar to the one I used in Afghanistan.
Test various formats to see what information works best for you. Consider how the board flows with your presentation style.
Do you need more details? Consider adding separate sections in Uniform & Equipment for gear common to all and special teams.
Do you need reminders for critical points? Consider adding a section within the Execution block for Commander’s Intent.
Take the example provided and make it your own. Figure out what works for you and where you need to improve.
What changes can you expect to see with 4th Generation Warfare?
Decentralization is a key component of modern warfare. Insurgent forces can’t afford to risk gathering large numbers of troops in one area. Gathering thousands of troops in one spot only makes them all a better target for a single drone strike or bombing run.
Additionally, without profound supply channels, feeding and housing these troops would be impossible.
Look for the modern warriors to lean on technology to allow for planning remotely. A modern rifle platoon leader could issue a warning order to his subordinates without waiting for them to all gather in one place using tools like Google Docs.
Here you can see a Google Sheets template for a warno board that could be used to collaborate planning without gathering everyone in one place.
These tools will also drastically improve mobility. No longer does a platoon sergeant need to return to the planning bay to update his progress on the warning order board and look for new instructions. He can see that he’s been tasked to pick up batteries while he’s picking up ammunition.
Ranger Handbook (SH 21-76)
With 12 years as an Infantryman in the United States Army, Jason has served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has served in positions from Rifleman to Platoon Sergeant, and as an Observer/Controller. During his time in the Army, he received the Ranger Tab, Airborne and Pathfinder Badges, a Bronze Star Medal for service and more. After leaving the Army, Jason served as a WPS contractor in Baghdad for 2 years and now has a bachelor's degree in Web Design and Development.