How to Read an OPORD

How To 5 min
Grab your OPORD and follow along to understand what each section is telling you about the situation, mission, and supporting activities necessary to achieve the desired end state.

An Operations Order (OPORD) is a templated plan written for subordinate units to help them and their leadership understand the situation, mission, and supporting activities necessary to achieve the desired end state.

Not all sections and sub-sections may be necessary or applicable, and the order may change depending on the situation, mission and supporting activities. It's important to note that OPORDs normally contain classified information, so remember to handle the documents accordingly, no matter if they are in hard copy or digital format.

Follow along with this fictional Army OPORD to better understand the purpose and key takeaways for each section of the document. Note that the OPORD you receive may include different references.

View Example OPORD

Check with your unit to ensure there are no further local policies or guidelines for this task.

This section, located on pages 1-6 of the sample OPORD, describes the conditions of the operational environment that can impact operations, in the following subsections.

Area of Interest - This section describes all airways and land areas that pose a potential threat or opportunity to our forces.

Area of Operations - This section includes all airways and land areas where ground forces are assembling, including:

  • Terrain - the aspects of the terrain that will impact operations.
  • Weather - conditions that will affect operations such as heavy rainfall that may make under-developed roadways impassable.

Enemy Forces - This section identifies enemy forces as drivers of instability and appraises their general capabilities and territorial motivations. It describes the enemy’s disposition, location, strength, weapons and probable courses of action. It will identify known or potential terrorist threats and adversaries such as organized criminal enterprises, provisional armies and commandos within the area of operation. It also contains the most likely and most dangerous enemy courses of action are included here. Refer to Annex B (Intelligence) as necessary.

Friendly Forces - This section identifies the goals, objectives and mission of civilian organizations and adjacent units. It includes their higher headquarters, mission and intent. This section also includes the missions of adjacent units, both U.S. and allied.

Interagency, Intergovernmental and Nongovernmental Organizations - This section identifies the goals, objectives and primary tasks of non-DoD organizations with a significant role in the area. Examples include USAID, Mercy Corps, World Islamic Humanitarian Aid Group.

Civil Considerations - This section describes any critical aspects of the civil situation that may impact operations.

Attachments and Detachments - This section lists units that are attached to, or detached from, the issuing headquarters. It tells you when each attachment or detachment is effective (for example, on order, on the commitment of the reserve) if it is different from the effective time of the operations plan or OPORD.

Assumptions - This section will describe any assumptions used by the OPORD developer to create the OPORD. This includes information about previous deterrents, neighboring governments and anticipated reinforcements.

The second section, on page 6, gives you mission specifics. This section will cover the who, what, when, where and why of the mission. Knowing your task, the coordinates and the purpose of the mission is essential to mission success.

This section, on pages 6-10, will help you understand how the commander intends on accomplishing the mission.

Commanders Intent - This includes the greater purpose of the operation and its relation to the entire force as well as what a successful mission will look like in its end state.

Key Tasks - These tasks are the activities the force must perform to achieve the desired end state.

End State - The end state outlines the desired future conditions of the friendly force in relationship to desired conditions of the enemy, terrain and civil considerations.

Concept of Operations - The concept of operations directs the manner in which subordinate units cooperate to accomplish the mission and establishes the sequence of actions the force will use to achieve the end state. This section will also give you the principal tasks required, the responsible subordinate units and how the principal tasks complement one another.

Normally, the concept of operations projects the status of the force at the end of the operation. If the mission dictates a significant change in tasks during the operation, the commander may phase the operation.

Scheme of Maneuver - This subsection describes the employment of maneuver units in accordance with the concept of operations. It tells you the primary tasks and purpose of maneuver units conducting decisive or shaping operations. These includes:

  • Mobility/counter mobility including priorities by unit or area
  • Battlefield obscuration including priorities by unit or area
  • Reconnaissance and surveillance to support the concept of operations
  • How intelligence will support the concept of operations
  • How the commander intends to use fires to support the concept of operations with an emphasis on the scheme of maneuver
  • Priorities of protection by unit and area, including survivability
  • Stability operations in coordination with other organizations

Scheme of Fires - This section covers the purpose and objective of fires as well as the subsequent support tasks and allocations.

Scheme of Electronic Warfare - This covers the effects to deny, disrupt and neutralize communication systems.

Scheme of Engineer Operations - This section includes mobility operations, sustainment of the divisions, tasks and priorities.

Intelligence - This section describes how the commander envisions intelligence supporting the concept of operations. These include the priority of effort to situation development, targeting and assessment, as well as the priority of intelligence support to units and areas.

Tasks to Subordinate Units - These include the task(s) assigned to each unit that reports directly to the headquarters issuing the order. Each task will include who (the subordinate unit assigned the task), what (the task itself), when, where and why (purpose).

Coordinating Instructions - This section covers only instructions and tasks applicable to two or more units not covered in the unit's standard operating procedures (SOP), such as:

  • Time or condition when the OPORD becomes effective
  • Commander’s Critical Information Requirements List (CCIRs)
  • Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFIs)
  • Fire Support Coordination Measures
  • Airspace Coordinating Measures
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Risk Reduction Control Measures
  • Personnel Recovery Coordination Measures
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Themes and Messages
  • Other Coordinating Instructions

In the fourth section, see page 10 in the example, you'll find priorities of sustainment by unit or area. This information may include instructions for administrative movements, deployments and transportation, or references to applicable appendixes, if appropriate.

  • Supply
  • Transportation
  • Medical Evacuation
  • Personnel
  • Imagery requirements and time constraints

This section, on pages 10-11 in the example, covers command posts, line of succession and location of command posts. This section also includes signal support, including location and movement of key signal nodes and critical electromagnetic spectrum considerations throughout the operation.

Command - The last section states where the commander intends to be during the operation. If the operation is phased, it will break down this location by phase. A succession of command and liaison requirements are also included, if not covered in the SOP.

This section also describes how command posts (CPs) will be employed, including the location of each CP and its time of opening and closing, as appropriate. It will also state the primary controlling CP for specific tasks or phases of the operation (e.g., “Division tactical command post will control the air assault”).

Signal - This section covers signal support, including:

  • Frequencies and call signs
  • Pyrotechnics and signals
  • Code words

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