IPB: Defining the Battlefield Environment

This post is the second in the series on Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield and the Community.  In the previous post, I discussed an overview of the IPB process and why it’s important.  You can read it here.  Part Three is Describing the Battlefield’s Effects.  Part Four is Evaluating the Threat.  Part Five is Determining Threat Courses of Action.

Define the Battlefield Environment: Introduction

First, let me start by quoting FM 34-130 on the “consequences of failure” of IPB being untimely, inaccurate, or lacking:

… failure to identify all the relevant characteristics may lead to the command’s surprise and unpreparedness when some overlooked feature of the battlefield exerts an influence on success of the command’s mission.

In short, possible mission failure; dislocation from your home, community, or retreat locale.  We want to avoid any physical or human terrain feature from surprising and “exerting influence” on our success and the best way to avoid that is to account for them all beforehand.

For the purposes of conducting IPB, I’m going to use a topo map of a small community.  It’s mostly surrounded by trees and hills, and has restrictive paved roads for entry zones (aside from aerial entry).  It has a lot of terrain features, some very well-marked mobility corridors, easily recognizable choke points, and relatively few avenues of approach.  It’s not a bad place to defend.  Let’s get started.

Identify significant characteristics of the environment.

What’s special about your community or retreat locale?  What are the geographical features?  Lots of hills, a few hills large enough for spurs and draws (see Terrain Features)?  Are there bodies of water like lakes or rivers?  Ask yourself these types of questions and form a list (identified on the map or your knowledge of the area).  Next, go through this list and annotate the features that are likely to influence an adversary, a looter, or any other threat.  If your adversary has to go around a lake or take a bridge across a river, then it’s a significant feature.  Are there terrain features around your home and, if so, what are they?

What are the demographics of your area?  Is it nearly homogenous or is it mixed?  Think race and economics.  Are there (and this is reality, folks) types of people or behavior that would be odd to see in your community?  Would it be odd to see a Mercedes Benz drive down your street?  How about a redneck-looking monster truck?  Would it be odd to see someone or a group of people wearing baggy clothing?  How about people in a button-up, slacks, and loafers?  It might be just as odd to see a white person in an all-black neighborhood as it would be seeing a black in an all-white neighborhood. The same could be said for Asian and Hispanic neighborhoods.  You’re not a “racist” if you make this observation; you’re a realist.  This is reality in many towns across America.  If a catastrophic event occurs, dislocation will be a reality and race is nearly the easiest observation you can make.

Along the lines of demographics, are there large amounts of religious folks?  How about gangs?  These are all the qualitative characteristics that we need to account for.  Areas with gangs will be predisposed to violence, automatically.  Areas without gangs might be insulated from violence, but if you see gangs move into your community, you should update your IPB.

Is there a lot of economic activity and traffic?  Are there government buildings, schools, or churches?  Are there “targets” nearby that would be considered both valuable and “soft”?  Are there cell towers, transfer stations, garbage dumps, electrical plants, etc?  Are there railroads, subways, or bus lines?  Are there plenty of roads or just a few?  Is there a nearby interstate or major highway with lots of traffic?

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