Conducting reconnaissance; a multiple part post.

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Combat and self-defense in Middle-earth

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Conducting reconnaissance; a multiple part post.

Postby Grimolt » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:06 pm

Greetings all,
I've been thinking about what I could share with the forum that might not have already been thoroughly discussed, and have settled here. I didn't want to just launch into a sort of class on how to conduct reconnaissance without examining what the forum had in it's collective memory regarding the topic, and so have been catching up for the last several days, reading old posts and the like.

Today I'd like to talk about conducting reconnaissance, and I'll do so within the framework of five phases of operations, Planning, Insertion/Infiltration, Execution, Exfiltration/Extraction, and Recovery. Each phase will get it's own post.
I *might* add some images taken from a powerpoint I received at a school I attended while in the army. Please keep in mind that some of the topics will have a military feel to them, but I will do my best to ensure that the principles would sound just as natural coming out of Halbarad or Faramir's mouth as they will out of mine.

I'd like to start with planning. Planning (the way I learned it,) goes from top down, from general to specific. Planning is what provides a ranger with their task and purpose, which then informs all further decision making criteria. That task and purpose should be clear, and it should have achievable goals that can be met in a variety of ways.
If a ranger received guidance like, "go to Fornost and see if there are enemies there and if so, what they are up to", there is enough information to get started, but not enough to really inform that ranger on how to prioritize the information they find...because they have received a task with no purpose attached.
Likewise, if the guidance was "...we are thinking of going on campaign to systematically destroy all the wights in the barrow-downs in spring, and are concerned about leaving the borders unprotected when we go.", now we have a purpose for conducting reconnaissance, but with no task attached. Either way, what seemed at first like enough information to go on, quickly becomes inadequate when we start breaking down the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" of actually accomplishing a mission.

If we combine the two pieces of guidance in the examples, we've got enough to work with. Now we have a task, (conduct reconnaissance of Fornost area), and a purpose, (in order to determine if borders will be secure for spring campaign in the barrow-downs.) This task and purpose gives rangers the information we need to effectively plan our mission.

In planning, time is a critical element. For instance, It's currently summer, and we'll need to have gathered all the intelligence on the enemy forces at Fornost by late fall/early winter if we want to have a reasonable expectation of knowing whether or not they intend to threaten us in spring, (presuming that large movements of forces in winter is impractical). By knowing when we have to get the information back to the Angle, (or Rivendell), we can "backwards plan" which is an effective way to generate the other stuff we need to know in order to complete our mission.

Backwards planning involves starting at our successful end state, and working backwards from there until we've gotten to the state we are in now. A few steps of it might look like this:

Deliver report regarding enemy forces around Fornost no later than mid-winter---which requires me to

Conduct reconnaissance and gather all information regarding enemy forces in the vicinity no later than when the ground freezes and snow will stick---which requires me to

Establish an undetected outpost in the area to conduct reconnaissance and gather information from, no later than late summer/early fall---which requires me to

...and so on and so forth.

During the course of backwards planning, other questions will be revealed and answered. By knowing how much time we have, and when things need to be accomplished by, we find out how many rangers we need and all of the logistics necessary to support our force. After we've figured our team and the logistics, we can focus on any tasks we need to accomplish before we actually step off, like additional training or a host of other preparatory tasks.

In the army, this process is called "troop leading procedures". There is (unsurprisingly), a pedagogy and doctrine in place and these procedures are formally taught across multiple levels of leadership. Even before achieving a leadership position, junior soldiers will be at the receiving end of these troop leading procedures, so there is a sort of natural inculcation into the "army way" of doing business. I believe that for rangers in middle-earth, there is a similar sort of process. Aragorn, for instance, learned his "troop leading procedures" during his fosterage at Rivendell, both informally through observation of how Elrond and his sons went about leading their people, as well as through his formal education.

Grimolt's Note: Planning and it's importance are often glossed over in fantasy literature because they don't make for exciting reading. Authors can get away with saying, "...and then they made all their plans...", and just move on to the good stuff. However, like many of you, I like to hike and camp in the real world. If I fail to plan appropriately, (especially if I am going to hike in to a primitive area in ranger kit), I could easily end up in a real world emergency situation. So we have a curious blend of fantasy and reality in this forum.

I'll stop here for now, and if anyone has contributions to make, insight to offer, or questions to ask, please do! We'll move on to part II in a few days.

Very respectfully,
Last edited by Grimolt on Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West and cometh from the sea.
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Re: Conducting reconnaissance; a multiple part post.

Postby Peter Remling » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:14 am

Interesting insight, I look forward to the next phase.
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Re: Conducting reconnaissance; a multiple part post.

Postby Iodo » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:55 am

I don't think i've ever given planning much thought up until reading this, fascinating, thankyou :P
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Re: Conducting reconnaissance; a multiple part post.

Postby Elleth » Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:31 pm

This is very interesting Grimolt - thank you!

I've heard people using the phrase "task and purpose" before, but had never actually stopped to think about what that must mean.
Thank you!

Your example is particularly interesting: I'd be curious to see you flesh it out a bit if you've ever the time.

One of the things that always strikes me about Middle Earth is how empty Eriador seems to be. As we've discussed, that seems to imply a fairly heavy pressure on the human population there... which in turn would seem to imply significant resources need to be devoted to just staying alive. The closest real world analog I can think of would be the early woodland frontier settlements here in the Americas, but without the technological and logistic advantages over the native peoples.

Anyhow - very much looking forward to "Grimolt's Campaign Season Plan" :)
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.

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