Determining the Conduct of a Combat Operation
The size of the unit or the level of combat do not determine the conduct of
a combat operation. The object sought and the methods used by a commander
determine actions at the tactical or operational level.
units have greater flexibility to select methods and objectives than small
units. So, large units have more options to function at the operational.
example, a corps defensive concept of operation called for the defending
divisions to destroy the assaulting enemy divisions.
simultaneously conducted deep attacks.
This was to delay and disrupt the
time table of the follow-on echelon.
In anticipation of future
opportunities, the corps also retained a counterattack/proactive force to
destroy the follow-on force.
In this example, the corps was operating at
the operational level. The corps was in a multi-service role. It conducted
a series of successive and simultaneous battles.
This example represents
corps level maneuver. The goal was to defeat the enemy force by attacking
On the other hand, the corps would have been operating at the tactical level
if the planned destruction of the enemy focus was not sufficient to cause
the enemy commander to either change his plan and/or by itself create an
opportunity for initiative on the part of the corps commander.
Levels of Combat Operations
Engagements are a matter of tactics.
They involve combat
between elements of small units. This would include individual soldiers and
units up through brigade. In engagements, combined movement and firepower
normally seek to destroy the enemy force. It could be noted that firepower
and movement are distinct entities only in theory. They are inseparable on
Engagements focus on techniques and tactics of combined
Terrain, in terms of OCOKA (OCOKA means Observation and
Fields of fire, Cover and concealment, Obstacles, Key and decisive terrain,
Battles concern the operational and tactical Levels of Warfare.
They are the province of divisions, corps, and on occasion armies. Battles
are the synchronization of engagements in time and space to create favorable
conditions for success.
Battles may extend in time for days or weeks.
Battles are usually multi-dimensional.