Skip to main content

Three Cs - Planning Observations from Exercise Hamel 2016

A response to ‘Transitioning from Exercise to Warfighting’ posted 21 May 2017

This paper shares planning observations from 3rd Brigade Headquarters Forward during Exercise Hamel, June - July 2016. These planning observations are summarised as Three Cs:

  1. Communicate
  2. Command, control and battlespace
  3. Concurrent planning

As Army’s Reset Brigade from June 2015 until July 2016, 3rd Brigade enabled Exercise Hamel Exercise Control and provided a command and control node at Cultana Field Training Area, South Australia.

The 3rd Brigade’s command and control node was assigned under operational control of Headquarters 1st Division / Deployable Joint Force Headquarters. The node comprised Headquarters Forward, with five digital protected mobility vehicles and approximately 55 staff and communications specialists.

Digital means that each protected mobility vehicle is enabled with the Torch Battle Management System (BMS) and Harris Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLARS) radios. During Exercise Hamel 16, 3rd Brigade artillery staff integrated Link 16 and the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).[1] In addition, 3rd Brigade was introduced to the Mission Secret Network and trialled the Joint Automated Deep Operations Control System (JADOCS).

Exercise Hamel Control personnel support requirements, meant 3rd Brigade Headquarters Forward comprised mostly an ad hoc staff. This required people serving in positions outside their usual roles. Demonstrating the versatility of Army’s people, each person serving in a different headquarters role - performed with aplomb.

Three Cs - Planning Observations


In 3rd Brigade we relearnt the need to regularly communicate with headquarters higher, alongside and below us. On one occasion, a simple phone call to Headquarters 1st Division could have realigned a 3rd Brigade plan to a changing enemy situation.

As we learned, we enhanced communications with Headquarters 1st Division especially by employing three key elements in our concept of operations back-briefs:

  1. At the beginning of the back-brief, articulate decisions and support requested from a higher headquarters. Repeat the decisions and support requested at the end of the back-brief.
  2. Tell your commander what your organisation can do.
  3. Tell your commander what your organisation cannot do and why. Articulation of risk via culminating points assists this process. Culmination commonly occurs in manoeuvre forces, troops to task, aviation, logistics resupply, medical support, communications networks, and maintenance assets.

After a back-brief, with risks and culminating points now defined, a higher commander may allocate an organisation additional resources. Importantly, these additional resources are designed to reduce risk and/or achieve additional tasks, while enabling campaign momentum.

Command, control and battlespace
Exercise Hamel 2016 involved a combined arms / host nation / joint / coalition / and whole-of-government scenario. This organisational complexity reemphasised our need, from the outset of an operation, to clearly establish command, control and battlespace requirements. We understood that even simple plans will somehow change at night, in poor weather and in contact with the enemy. Plainly stated, we carefully defined:

  1. Who works for who, and
  2. Where our people meet (in sea, ground, air, space and cyber environments)  

We doctrinally defined all tasks and command and control arrangements. Definitions of task verbs, such as screen, guard, clear, block and secure, and command and control arrangements, such as tactical control and operational control, are all articulated in doctrine. During planning, a staff officer read doctrinal definitions to the planning group. Precision in the employment of doctrinal definitions ensured our planning teams worked with a shared understanding of tasks ahead.

Torch BMS enables rapid sharing of battlespace coordination measures. A key to the effective use of BMS is the implementation of a centrally controlled digital pre-battle procedure and development of a digital regrouping standard operating procedures. We estimate that 96 hours, 48 hours at home locations and 48 hours at an intermediate staging base, are required for digital battle procedure prior to a deployment.

BMS also democratises the creation of battlespace coordination measures, where disparate people and organisations can apply their own coordination measures directly to BMS. To counter this habit, we mandated a single point of contact auditing the creation of battlespace coordination measures in BMS. We also employed traditional maps and talcs marked with battlespace coordination measures as a backup to potentially lost BMS networks.

The key battlespace coordination measures requiring auditing in BMS include:          

  1. Timings, objectives and decision points
  2. Main and supporting efforts
  3. Boundaries
  4. Coordination points
  5. Report lines
  6. Re-grouping measures
  7. Forward and rearward passage of lines
  8. Route control
  9. Assembly areas
  10. Engagement areas
  11. Fire support coordination measures (FSCM), including: restricted fire lines; restricted fire areas; battle positions; fire support coordination lines; coordinated fire lines; artillery reserve areas
  12. Logistic support coordination measures (LSCM), including: battle field clearance teams; distribution points; daily replenishment implementation program; combat service support teams; forward recovery teams, distribution points; casualty collection points; and, equipment collection points
  13. Aviation support coordination measures (ASCM), including: air mobile force commander; air mission commander; ground tactical commander; lift flight commander; pick-up zones; control officers; start point; initial point; and, landing zones

Concurrent planning

During Exercise Hamel 2016 our Military Appreciation Process (MAP), emphasised concurrent planning for subordinate units. Army’s one-third / two third rule states that a higher headquarters takes one-third of available time for planning, leaving the remaining two-thirds for subordinate unit planning.  Concurrent planning assists in ensuring two-thirds of available time is allocated to subordinate units.

Enabling concurrent planning, we designed a plan-to-plan before commencing the MAP. A plan-to-plan is an agreed timeline between three elements: planning staff; units; and the commander. Once agreed, all three elements must maintain the plan-to-plan’s discipline. The three elements must avoid a temptation to skip elements of the MAP, such as truncating course of action development or wargaming, or missing meetings. Maintaining discipline between the three elements – planning staff, units and commander – enables a comprehensive and commonly understood MAP.

In addition, warning orders or fragmentary orders enable concurrent planning after key stages of the MAP. These orders provided an early articulation of: commander’s intent; mission analysis; course of action wargaming and the rehearsal of concept activities.


This paper shares three planning observations – Three Cs – communicate, command, control and battlespace and concurrent planning – collected from 3rd Brigade Headquarters Forward planning activities during Exercise Hamel 2016. We share these observations as a basis for refining planning capacity in Army. 


[1] Toon Joo Wee and Yu Xian Eldine Ling, Mobility and Cloud: Operating in Intermittent, Austere Network Conditions, US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, September 2014, p. 6

Link-16: Link-16 is a military tactical data exchange network used by the United States, NATO, and nations allowed by the Multifunctional Information Distributed System International Program Office (MIDS IPO). With Link-16, military aircraft as well as ships and ground forces may exchange their tactical picture in near-real time. Link-16 also supports the exchange of text messages and imagery data, and provides two channels of digital voice. Link-16 employs the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) and MIDS data link interfaces. Link 16 is a frequency-hopping, jam-resistant, high-capacity data link. It operates on the principle of Time-Division Multiple Access (TDMA), where 128 time slots per second are allocated among participating JTIDS units.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

Using the Contribute page you can either submit an article in response to this or register/login to make comments.