Keeping it Simple

As an ROTC cadet and future Army officer, I spend a lot of time learning about the primary communication source that officers in the Army use. That is the OPORD (Operation Order). To someone who has never seen or heard one, they may seem like alien writing. OPORDs are used at all levels of the Army, from the highest general to the lowest squad member. Everyone in the Army knows about OPORDs. Any time any training or mission is to be completed, several OPORDs are used.

The commander issues an OPORD containing what is supposed to be done, his intentions, considerations for the planning of the mission, a timeline of events, etc. His subordinates receive that OPORD and change it to reflect their intent and so on toward their subordinates. It goes through these changes so that a General can give an OPORD pertaining to some training that he wants to happen at a division level (several thousand troops), and a private receiving the OPORD can know exactly what is going to happen and what he will be doing. Of course, that will be after about 5 or so rounds of changes, but you get the point.

OPORDs are used because they are simple. The Army likes to keep things simple. The Army writing style is defined by the simple acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Basically, writing in the Army is supposed to be easy enough to understand so that anyone with a high school education can easily read and understand it. The Army supposedly writes everything at about an 8th grade reading level.

The order is broken down into manageable paragraphs that contain easily digestible information. Every soldier learns the basics of an OPORD so that when missions come, they can understand what is going on. Again, they are taught in a broken down manner so that even the most unintelligent soldier can receive an OPORD and comprehend his most basic task.

As a budding leader, it is difficult to learn this whole process. The hardest part is learning how to tailor the OPORD toward my subordinates. I am expected to know the information given in an OPORD from my commander, and be able to change all of this information and present it so that my subordinates understand what’s going on. Chances are, once I am an officer, I will be expected to give several OPORDs every week.

The Army writing style makes all of this nice though. Since the writing is supposed to be simple, there is much less of it required on my part. Another aspect of OPORDs are the acronyms. There are seemingly hundreds of acronyms that are used to make the communication simpler and more universal. Several of these are PLT, NLT, PSG, LD, MEDEVAC, FOB, AA,CCP, BTN TTB, EPW, SALUTE. Using these acronyms makes it so that instead of using one of dozens of different words to describe something, we use the acronym so that anyone can understand what we mean.

All in all, OPORDs are a very useful tool to communicate directions to anyone throughout the Army. Other branches of the military also have a similar process that reflects their specialties. This makes it so that OPORDs can be universal throughout the military community. The best part about them is their ease. Once I am an officer, I will be able to receive one, and then send out my own within a period of no longer than 15 minutes. In my future career an OPORD may be just as important to me as my own rifle.

An example of an OPORD can be found here: Sample OPORD


One thought on “Keeping it Simple

  1. Interesting! I never knew this about army operations (acronyms, the reports). It’s also interesting to hear about the style of writing and audience of these reports. In the words of jazz musician Thelonious Monk, though, “simple ain’t easy.”

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