The Role of the

G2 Plans NCO in MDMP

by Sergeant First Class Todd A. Voter
and Staff Sergeant Ralph L. Torsone

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The ability of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to plan for future operations is heavily dependent on the G2 Plans noncommissioned officer's (NCO) actions in support of the military decisionmaking process (MDMP). During a mission or exercise, the majority of the division's intelligence staff and assets concentrate on current operations. The G2 Plans section must coordinate with multiple sources to conduct the intelligence preparation of the battlefield that will drive the majority of the MDMP for future operations.

Throughout this process, the G2 Plans NCOs act as a hub, pulling in intelligence and other products, advising the battle staff during wargaming, and driving the development of the intelligence estimate, annexes, tabs, and appendices. In the era of "doing more with less," the Plans NCOs must be able to autonomously conduct their missions with a minimal amount of guidance. In this article, we will describe the actions of the 101st G2 Plans NCOs in support of the MDMP.

The MDMP, as described in FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, is the process the commander and staff use to assist them in assessing the situation and in making decisions.1 Naturally, each step requires that the G2 Planners accomplish certain stated and implied tasks. While all seven steps of the MDMP are important, the four steps shown in Figure 1 comprise the majority of the G2 Plans NCOs' work.


Mission Analysis

Mission analysis begins with the receipt of the mission from higher headquarters or with situational changes that require action.2 In the event of a real-world deployment, an intelligence NCO should be aware enough of current events to anticipate most likely deployments and begin preparation well in advance. In the case of scheduled exercises, the G2 Plans NCOs begin laying the groundwork for planning well before it registers on the rest of the planning staff's "radar." For example, while the annual Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) exercise in South Korea occurs in August, maps needed for planning are identified and ordered in March. While this means that you might end up with more map coverage than you need, the time to order maps is well before the time when the staff begins planning. Additionally, the long lead time allows you to identify and correct any map shortages.

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Figure 1.  The G2 Plans NCO's Responsibilites.

Other preparations needed for planning fall under the heading of "standard NCO functions," such as ensuring that all of the basic references and adequate supplies of acetate, pens, and unit symbols are on hand to support the G2 Planners. While the details vary for both real-world deployments and exercises, the references provide a starting point from which to begin early planning.

In order to stay one step ahead, the 101st Airborne Division G2 Plans NCOs work closely with other intelligence personnel in the division. They obtain daily assessments from the Analysis and Control Element (ACE) Fusion section to identify any changes to the contingency areas in the 101st's area of responsibility (AOR). They also work with G3 Plans and Exercises personnel to stay current on the division's operations and upcoming events on the division's exercise calendar. In general, the G2 Plans section must coordinate with a number of other staff cells to ensure that all of the intelligence products required during the MDMP cycle are complete and timely. Figure 2 shows the various intelligence products required during the MDMP cycle and specifies which staff cells play a part in each product.

Additional tasks for the G2 Plans NCOs early in the MDMP include the creation of computer briefing slides depicting map coverage of the area, order of battle charts, committed and reinforcing forces, probable enemy courses of action (ECOAs), and other products to support the mission analysis briefing. These must be easily interpreted by the division staff, subordinate units, and the division intelligence community. Plans NCOs must anticipate what intelligence products will contribute to the MDMP. An important example is to coordinate with the division terrain detachment to begin the production of topographic products such as the modified combined obstacle overlay (MCOO), elevation and slope tints, bridge classification overlays, and line-of-sight overlays. Imagery covering likely objective areas should also be ordered through the division ACE.

Once the mission analysis phase begins in earnest, the G2 Plans NCOs gear their actions toward the production of the intelligence estimate and the situation template. Both products require extensive coordination with multiple sources--especially the estimate. The Division Terrain Detachment, the Staff Weather Office (SWO), and the ACE are each responsible for large portions of the intelligence estimate. The Plans NCO serves as a coordinator, ensuring, for example, that information from the Terrain Detachment or ACE is taken into consideration when the SWO writes the weather effects portion of the intelligence estimate.

The G2 Plans NCOs conduct quality control on both the form and the substance of the estimate. Frequently, the planner may find that the resources and focus of the estimate's contributors are elsewhere. The G2 Plans NCOs must be prepared to obtain the intelligence needed to write a preliminary draft of the estimate. Once the other intelligence sections have the assets to devote to mission analysis, they will refine and further develop the estimate.

The situation template is another product developed during this phase.3 The situation template, when developed properly, enables the analyst to predict probable COAs based on the current enemy situation, doctrine, weather, and terrain. Situational templating is necessary to build a complete picture of the battlefield and enemy COA.

Thought and research must be invested in this templating since it determines the results of the entire decisionmaking process. The collection management team will use the product to identify gaps in intelligence holdings. Targeting personnel will use the template to identify the possible locations of high-payoff and high-value targets. It provides a baseline for the Fusion Cell of the ACE to build and plan the initial overall picture of the enemy. Later, subordinate units will refine the template for use in their own battlefield development. The situation template must be completed by the NCOs prior to the mission analysis brief. They are used to show the commander what the battlefield situation will look like at a given time. This snapshot will make it easier for him to choose his COA.

The actions described above culminate in the mission analysis brief. This briefing ensures that the entire staff starts from a common reference point, and that they have a thorough understanding of the mission and the subsequent planning required.4

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Figure 2.  Division Intelligence Product Matrix

COA Development

Unfortunately, many intelligence NCO's experience in COA development is limited to posting the enemy situation from an intelligence estimate written by someone else. The 101st Airborne Division G2 Plans NCOs must develop a wide range of skills to assist the Plans staff in enemy COA development and analysis. Tasks that fall primarily on the NCO's shoulders include--

A Plans NCO incapable of providing these skills drains assets from the team, causing a shortfall in intelligence support to the MDMP.

During the COA development phase of the MDMP, the battle staff develops multiple friendly COAs.5 While the heaviest burden does not fall on the intelligence planners, they are integral to the process. Although it is not necessary for the mission analysis briefing, the event template must be completed prior to the start of the COA development phase. This template is used to predict time-related events of the enemy's various possible COAs. While this step of the MDMP is not a wargaming step, the enemy's probable reactions to proposed friendly COAs shape the development of those friendly COAs. Another function of the 101st Airborne Division G2 Plans NCOs at the beginning of this step is to determine force ratios. Those ratios and their consequences are essential information in the next step of the MDMP.


COA Analysis and Comparison

The COAs resulting from event templating are the scenarios that the G2 Plans section uses during wargaming.6 The Plans NCO's tasks during this process include---

Our goal is to get the correct information to the G2 Planner as quickly as possible, preferably before it is needed. While the G2 Plans NCOs need a broad-based knowledge of the enemy and the current situation, they do not have to have every detail memorized. However, they must know where they can quickly retrieve the information.

G2 Plans NCOs of the 101st Airborne Division have access to numerous resources at all levels to assist them. INTELINK (invaluable to the team) and a close working relationship with a number of elements enable us to provide the battle staff with complete and timely resolution of questions arising from the wargaming process. These elements may include the terrain detachment, ACE, other staff elements (e.g., engineers; nuclear, biological, and chemical personnel; air defense artillery), our sister Services, and subordinate units.

The products resulting from the COA analysis and comparison that require the input of the G2 Plans NCOs include the refining of priority intelligence requirements (PIR) and information requirements (IR), and the Intelligence battlefield functional areas synchronization matrix. The G2 Plans section assists G3 Plans to determine the critical events, decision points, and significant factors to build into the decision support template (DST).7


Orders Production

Upon receiving the staff's COA decision brief, the commander issues his decision and final guidance, and directs the staff to prepare and issue the order.8 Traditionally a focus of officers, the development of the intelligence annex in the 101st Airborne Division is driven by the G2 Plans NCOs. Scheduling, turn-in procedures, formatting, and content verification are all functions accomplished primarily by the NCOs.

Actually, the G2 Plans NCOs begin providing the content for the annex during the mission analysis and COA steps of the MDMP. During the COA situational development process, the Plans NCOs assist the ACE with its appendices and collection plan development. Finally, through good information management, the Plans NCOs assist in the coordination and dissemination of the final product: the intelligence annex. It is important for the G2 Plans NCOs to realize that the annex, as with all the intelligence products developed during the MDMP, is never truly final. Constant refinement of products to address the impact of situational changes on division operations is an ongoing function.

Producing an accurate intelligence annex for a particular operation is the final task in the MDMP cycle for the Plans shop. The annex provides the intelligence elements of the division with their missions. To allow adequate planning time for subordinate units, it is important that the annex be produced in a timely manner. Plans NCOs take part in this process from the very beginning. During mission analysis, Plans NCOs assist in identifying the area of interest and the tactical AOR. By working closely with other intelligence assets and the terrain team, the Plans NCOs build a situational awareness essential for the intelligence annex. The products built throughout the MDMP by the G2 Plans NCOs become the basis for the written intelligence portions of the operations order.


Universal Tenets

There are two tenets that the 101st G2 Plans NCOs apply to all of their actions throughout the MDMP: team building and information management. As the lead agency in the division for processing and using intelligence during planning, the G2 Plans section is in a unique position to ensure that the division's intelligence assets work in a common direction, from a common base, avoiding duplication of effort, while cross-referencing their products. Information management the gathering of information, evaluating its relevance to the mission, then presenting it in a usable form is the basis of every 96B Intelligence Analyst's job, especially in G2 Plans.

To keep the MDMP moving smoothly and to allow the G2 Plans officers to concentrate on their jobs, Plans NCOs must

Again, the Plans NCOs are the first intelligence staff members to concentrate on a mission. The intelligence products the G2 Planners produce will gain a life-force of their own, impacting future plans and operations.



The 101st Airborne Division's G2 Plans NCOs perform multifaceted functions within the Division Plans section and act as the coordination point for intelligence as it makes its way to the division battle staff. To perform this mission, the G2 Plans NCOs must anticipate needs, be proactive, react to the ongoing processes, coordinate among multiple intelligence sections, and integrate the products into the MDMP. Working in the 101st Airborne Division G2 Plans section is a challenging assignment for any NCO. In the future, as the Army's operations tempo increases and the number of soldiers decreases, these NCOs will have do more, often working outside the scope of just "NCO business."



1. FM 101-5, Staff Organization and Operations, 31 May 1997, 5-1 through 5-54.

2. FM 101-5, 5-7, 5-11 through 5-13.

3. FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, May 1989, 4-54.

4. FM 101-5, 5-16.

5. FM 101-5, 5-18.

6. FM 101-5, 5-26.

7. FM 34-130, 5-1.

8. FM 101-5, 5-45.

Sergeant First Class Voter is currently the 101st Airborne Division G2 Plans Senior Analyst and NCO in Charge (NCOIC). He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, with a degree in Political Science. His former assignments include positions in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Japan, and the 2d Brigade S2 section, 7th Infantry Division. Readers can reach both of the authors telephonically at (502) 798-7141/2, DSN 635-7141/2, and via E-mail at [email protected]

Staff Sergeant Torsone is an Intelligence Analyst and the G2 Plans Assistant NCOIC. He has served in the Division Artillery, 2d Infantry Division, and the 101st Airborne Division DIVARTY. SSG Torsone has degrees in Political Science and History from Ursinus College.