When in doubt, call higher.
The TOC is higher. TOC stands for Tactical Operations Center. It is the higher headquarters. Its mission is to act as a hub for information, track the fight on the battlefield, and support the troops in the field. The TOC in an Infantry unit is staffed with permanent party infantry guys as well as dudes inbetween line assignments (for whatever reason).
As a young enlisted infantryman, the TOC was a place I never wanted to be. If I was tasked to go to the TOC for something, I always felt terribly uncomfortable and unwelcome. I’d duck my head under the canvas net to see Captains stacked upon Captains, sucking down coffee and eyeing me with disdain. This was there space, and they didn’t really want to be there, but it was their space dammit! Sometimes I might linger at the TOC because we always thought that was where information originated (it doesn’t) or sometimes they had air conditioning (they did).
Now, as a new junior officer waiting on a platoon, I’m assigned to an S3 shop, meaning TOC life is my new norm. As such, I’ve been learning more about how it works and what it does. Incidentally, I also saw this post on Best Defense last week, which I’m copying here for anyone that’s interested in this, with my comments in red.
One of the lessons I’ve learned about TOC Operations is that every single person in the TOC thinks they have the most important job. It takes a lot of discipline to admit to yourself that your piece of the pie is small, and the best thing for you to do is keep quiet.
Charlie Sherpa’s 26 Rules of TOC Operations
1. Continually ask: “Who else needs to know what I know?” (and do I need to tell them RIGHT NOW?)
2. Continually ask: “Who else knows what I need to know?”
3. Never speak with complete authority regarding that which you lack direct knowledge, observation, and/or suppressive fires.
4. Never pull rank over a radio net. (the equivalent of getting arrested and saying “Don’t you know who I am? It’s just embarressing)
5. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.
6. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to communicate.
7. “I am responsible for everything my commander’s organization knows and fails to know, learns and fails to learn.”
8. Know when to wake up the Old Man. Also, know how to wake him up without getting punched, shot, or fired. (if you’re on at night, make sure you know all the criteria – don’t get caught asking each other if you should wake him/her up)
9. The three most important things in the TOC are: Track the battle. Track the battle. Track the battle.
10. Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries. (and don’t use it if you don’t use it in real war)
11. Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person on the map.
12. Rank has its privileges. It also has its limitations.
13. Let Joe surprise you. (they see things you aren’t seeing)
14. Don’t let Joe surprise you. (they don’t see the things you see)
15. The first report is always wrong. Except when it isn’t.
16. The problem is always at the distant end. Except when it isn’t.
17. Exercise digital/tactical patience. Communications works at the speed of light. People do not. (clicking more won’t make it happen faster)
19. The warfighter is your customer, and the customer is always right.
20. Bullets don’t kill people. Logistics kills people.
21. Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it’s supposed to work. (use the lulls to get a 5 minute class on how it works)
22. Cite sources on demand. State opinions when asked.
23. Work by, with, and through others. It’s all about empowerment.
24. Do not seek the spotlight, Ranger. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.
26. Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn’t.