What is METT-TC Part 5: Troops & Time Available

We’ve worked through Mission, Enemy, Terrain, and Weather, and now we are going to cover the next two mission variables: 1) Troops & Fire Support Available and 2) Time Available.

Troops & Fire Support Available (METT-TC)

In What is METT-TC Part 3: Enemy we looked at analyzing your enemy’s capabilities and limitations. This step is about analyzing your own. You can plug in the same acronyms used during your enemy analysis (SALUTE, DRAW-D) to evaluate your own capabilities and limitations as well as HAS/A (Higher, Adjacent, Supporting, Attachments/Detachments) to understand what friendly elements are around you, who is supporting you, and what attachments are available to you. The type of things you should already know is: what level of training your troops have, their equipment (and if they know how to use it effectively), as well as their physical condition.

In a military context, it is common to utilize attachments and detach various assets from your unit to best meet mission requirements. Put a little more simply, when looking at what your mission, ask who and what do you have at your disposal to accomplish it? In a military unit, you’d typically look first at your organic elements (the team or unit that you train with the majority of the time). You would then consider attachments/detachments that would be necessary, as well as higher or adjacent units and how they may affect your scheme of maneuver.  

Finally, we’ll look at Fire Support Available. This can range from air support to artillery. What are their priority of fires, what are the effects of their fires, and what is the extent of their support? This is an entirely separate topic, and one that is not as immediately relevant to the average citizen since we do not have the support of air assets or artillery. However, with the uptick in drone usage and employment, don’t make the mistake of skipping this step entirely if you have those capabilities. For example, a very common use case is utilizing a drone for unarmed ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance). Fire Support planning is crucial for most military operations and should always be considered whether you are planning offensive or defensive operations. If you would like to dive deeper into this topic, here are some reference publications to get you started: 

ADP 3-19 Fires 

MCRP 3-10F.2 Supporting Arms Observer, Spotter, and Controller

Time Available (METT-TC)

The Marine Corps refers to Time, Space, and Logistics here, and I prefer this as it is more comprehensive than just Time Available.

Time available is exactly what it sounds like, the amount of time you have from being told you need to do something to the time that it must be done. Time required is then slotting in all the tasks that must be performed before (or during) the mission until the mission objective is completed. That’s where reverse planning is helpful to see from the start how much time you have and how can you fill that time with the tasks that need to be accomplished. It is implied in your time analysis that you are prioritizing events and sequencing those.

Reverse planning (also called backward planning) is a common method to prioritize and sequence events. Much like planning your turkey dinner, sides, and desserts on Thanksgiving Day, having your mealtime set beforehand and then planning backwards on how long it will take for each dish to prepare can save a lot of headaches. The same concept applies to mission planning. Hypothetically, it could look something like this:

Time (Reverse Planning)Task
1500Depart Friendly Lines
1430Conduct PCCs/PCIs (Pre-combat check and inspections)
1330OPORD Brief (At terrain model)
1100Rehearsals (Led by small unit leaders)
0745Begin OPORD development
0730Publish WARNO (Subordinates are then given time to prepare equipment, task organize, build the terrain model, get chow, and conduct rehearsals)
0700Receipt of Mission from Higher

*This is not a comprehensive timeline.

Time available versus time required will drive virtually all your planning, rehearsals, and scheme of maneuver. It is critical to identify this early—in fact, it should be identified when you are receiving your mission and then further analyzed when you issue a Warning Order before you dive into your planning process. This is a good example of how METT-TC does not dictate the order in which you analyze these variables but is simply a mnemonic to help you remember what to consider when planning.

In addition to reverse planning, another tip is to utilize the one-thirds, two-thirds rule. When reviewing the time you have available, the planner should account for one-third of that time being dedicated to tasks he must supervise or lead. The remaining two-thirds of available time should be delegated to subordinate leaders to accomplish their tasks without direct supervision. In the example above, from receipt of mission to departing friendly lines, the leader has 8 hours available. For the first 30 minutes, the leader is putting together the Warning Order—once published, small unit leaders are then given time to prepare accordingly without direct supervision until everyone reconvenes for the OPORD. The leader then comes back into play to brief the Operations Order and supervise PCCs/PCIs until staging and departure. Of the 8 available hours, the leader used roughly 2 hours of the time available and gave his troops the remaining 6 hours to refit and prepare for the mission. 

The planner needs to know their Area of Operation (AO) and establish Tactical Control Measures (TCM), Fire Support Coordination Measures (FSCM), and Airspace Control Measures (ACM). The planner should deconflict forces and fires between these entities within the given space (AO) where they are conducting their mission. This is closely related to Fire Support Available, as detailed earlier.

Finally, you must identify the required resources that will carry you through the entirety of the mission (and then some). Identifying shortfalls is another vital component of logistical planning and should be built into your planning timeline. The 3 B’s is a common tool to use here and stands for beans (food), bullets (ammunition requirement), and band-aids (medical supplies). You may also see an added fourth B—batteries, since so much of our equipment is battery/power dependent, especially communications equipment. Using the 4 B’s, you can plan for adequate food and water, ammunition, medical supplies, and batteries to carry you through the mission. An example of a shortfall could be a lack of water resupply. This is extremely common since collecting and purifying water on the mission is ill-advised in most environments. Typically, water features are avoided, and the risk is not worth it. Instead, everyone will need to carry all the water they need for the duration of the mission.

Much like the other mission variables, Troops and Time are topics that can be dug into at a much deeper level, but I wanted to keep this breakdown short and sweet. Putting these simply and into context for the majority of our readers, I would say the main questions to ask yourself would be the following: 

Troops Available: What are my capabilities and limitations? Do I have anyone who can assist in my mission, and if so, what are their capabilities and limitations?
Time, Space, and Logistics: How much time is available to plan and conduct my mission, and how much time is required? What are the geographical confines of my mission (if any)? What materials do I need to support my mission?

Use reverse planning. If you are working with a group of people, use the one-thirds two-thirds rule. Understand the geographical space you are conducting your mission in (this is closely tied to Terrain and Weather covered previously) but with more focus on the map of the area, rather than environmental conditions. Finally, what do you need to support the entirety of your mission? If things go wrong, how many extra supplies will you need? If I establish a supply chain, where is that chain the weakest, and how can we plan on alternatives?

As we near the end of this series on METT-TC, my hope is that it is becoming more and more clear that mission planning requires a lot of time and effort. You can scale down or scale up how in-depth you go on these mission variables, but time is most likely going to be your limiting factor. We will wrap things up with the next article on Civilian Considerations and a brief write-up on the US Army’s latest METT-TC addition (I) and how it is applied.  

If you would like to discuss this topic further, shoot us an email at [email protected]