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By Chief Instructor, Tactical School


This series, written by the Chief Instructor of Tactical School, is comprised of three individual articles that will be published individually in succession over the period of 10 days. The three articles are titled: Tactical and Planning Excellence: Changes to the NZ Army’s Planning Doctrine and Tactical School Courses, Changes to Doctrine and Process: Enhancing Interoperability, and Teaching Tactics: Changes to the Grade 2 and Grade 3 Courses. This is the third and last article in the series and will detail the changes being made to the NZ Army’s Grade 2 and Grade 3 courses.

In order to meet the LCC’s intent on focussing on training competent combined-arms planners with a strong manoeuvrist mind-set, there is a renewed focus on ensuring students coming through Tactical School have a strong mechanical foundation from which to plan tactical tasks. This has seen a number of modifications to the way the Grade 2 course is structured and to the way the Grade 2 and 3 courses are delivered.

Additional Grade 2 packages. There is a renewed focus on instructing and training tactical mechanics as well as than complex decision making. Additional instructional packages (and assessments) to cover the Brigade Attack and Brigade Sustainment are being introduced to the Grade 2 for 2022.

The After Action Review process. Review, Implementation and Practice days that allowed students to review and revise their plans following an assessment were introduced in the 2015/16 revisions and have been very well received. To reinforce this success, Tactical School has updated how these are conducted and now runs formal After Action Review (AAR) activities following formative assessments. This is a structured activity that incorporates student-led learning, instructor-led discussions and feedback, and a series of box wargames developing deeper understanding behind the mechanics and outcomes in key parts of the tactical plan. Students review the feedback from discussions, workshops and the boxed wargames, incorporating the observations and lessons to provide a revised scheme of manoeuvre. This is followed by a general ‘sustain / fix / improve’ review of their individual planning process, building knowledge around general planning schools and specific tactical doctrine.

Using Simulation in the Classroom. Tactical School, with support from the Command and Control Systems School (C2SS), has been trialling simulation options to enhance the instructional value gained from AAR days. This has allowed defined and bounded wargaming of key variables and aspects when conducting an AAR to be conducted with students, including discussions on the use of terrain and weapon effects between various platforms. Importantly, this allows students to visualise, consider and discuss factors and points during an AAR. This use of simulation in the AAR activity allows Tactical School instructors to avoid simply dictating or decreeing answers, instead creating an environment that allows students to observe, critique and reflect on their terrain-based and tactical planning decisions, and the associated ‘so what’ factors or consequences. This remains an area under experimentation and development, but has been positively validated since its introduction last year.

Tactical School Handbooks. Tactical School has reviewed the content of lessons and instruction, and has prioritised a return to instruction from approved, primary-source doctrine over legacy powerpoint presentations. This has seen a range of handbooks developed for each tactical package instructed on the Grade 2 and Grade 3, which includes relevant doctrinal extracts and Tactical School guidance on how certain aspects should be applied in planning. This allows students to apply tactics and plan with confidence, knowing what is authoritative (doctrine) and what is subjective (Tactical School’s guidance). The Tactical School Handbooks are available on the Tactical School homepage, and will continue to be revised and updated.


Combined Arms planning. The Tactical School Handbook series includes a Combined Arms Planning volume, which summarises how students are expected to incorporate various systems, capabilities and warfighting functions they may not have real-world experience with. The requirement for a Combined Arms Planning volume emerged from discussions with warfighting function subject matter experts as feedback was received after the Grade 2, and is intended to codify expectations and guidance across the spectrum of warfighting functions. This clarifies, for example, how an all-arms planner is expected to incorporate RPAS, artillery and EW systems, and ensures that Tactical School is using practices that are approved and endorsed by the Army’s SMEs.


Tactical planning concepts and teachings. Having returned to teaching primary doctrine, a number of ‘Tactical School teachings’ have been identified as being subjective, based on internal School logic rather than doctrinal principles. These concepts are still taught and assessed but are now being identified as Tactical School concepts for subjective application outside of doctrine partner forces will be aware of or necessarily be following. The clear labelling of what is primary doctrine and what is a localised ‘rule’ for application on Tactical School courses will help improve interoperability and ensure tactical instruction in the NZ Army remains relevant, credible and professional. Some of the concepts now labelled and taught as Tactical School-specific teachings that are not stipulated in primary source doctrine include:

  • Destroying an enemy on or off-position in an attack or advance. This is a central premise of how Tactical School asks students to consider and apply manoeuvrist theory in the offense, but there is no link to doctrine or identifiable historical case-studies that allow Brigade or Battle Group commanders to shape an enemy into remaining on or withdrawing off position. However, it is a very useful mechanism for indicating how vulnerabilities can be targeted so is useful for demonstrating tactical planning in the classroom.
  • 2 Steps to the Vital Terrain in the defence. This is a useful heuristic or ‘rule of thumb’ when planning a tactical defence, but is not referenced or defined in doctrine but remains as an instruction and assessment criteria within the School.
  • Tasking the Reserve. Tactical School teaches that a reserve should never be tasked, although this is not specifically stated in doctrine.
  • Updated tactical groupings across all phases of war. Some guidance has become increasingly rigid as rules over time, and Tactical School now teaches groupings based off the relevant primary (Australian) doctrine. Attacks do not always require a cut-off to achieve destruction, and stability operations (such as cordon and searches) have very simple, flexible groupings compared to historical teachings at Tactical School.
  • Minor and more mechanical rules around the employment of capabilities, such as only Joint Fire Teams can call in air support and the need for air-mobile operations to be covered by offensive support have been revised and clarified in the Tactical School’s Combined Arms Planning Handbook.

Land Tactics Centre of Excellence. With a number of changes made to the way Tactical School delivers instruction, a Centre of Excellence has been formed to bring together and enable best practices to be shared amongst all army units and schools that are considered stakeholders in instructing land tactics. This forum met quarterly in 2021 and allowed information sharing, resource and best practice sharing, the discussion of observations and emerging issues, and feedback to be gained pan-TRADOC with other Army and Defence stakeholders invited and included. The NZP 86-1 and associated NZ MAP was drafted and introduced in under 6 months, with this accelerated timeline only made possible by the rapid socialisation and feedback loop the Land Tactics Centre of Excellence provided. The Land Tactics Centre of Excellence will be sustained into 2022 and beyond, and will assist Tactical School in championing and driving best practices in tactics and tactical planning across the army.