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Tactics are the means of promoting a desired end result. In an army, a military tactical operations leader is a platoon leader. A platoon is generally the smallest military unit and can consist of 26 to 50 soldiers. It is led by an officer who is usually a lieutenant. In special units such as special forces, the platoon leader is a captain due to the increased responsibility of the position.
A platoon sergeant provides assistance to a tactical operations leader. The tactical operations leader usually has a comparative wealth of experience, and should be heeded to unless there is good reason to act otherwise. In addition to the leader, there are normally 42 soldiers in a platoon in the U.S. army, 24 in the Australian army and 27 in the British army.
Tactics are of critical importance before, during, and after a battle. Good tactics before and during a battle give soldiers a critical edge while poor tactics cost lives. Good tactics after a battle can prevent an effective counter-attack by the enemy, or prevent enemy soldiers being missed. Tactical doctrine varies between nations. A democratic government is more likely to wish its soldiers to survive, as dead soldiers constitute bad public relations. The mother, father, and siblings of a dead soldier can cause a government considerable problems. In a more oppressive nation, the survival of the state is more important than that of an individual.
A platoon is divided into headquarters and three or four squads/sections. Headquarters consists of the leader, his sergeant, a radio operator, and some runners.
As the U.S. Army Field Manual 7-10 puts it, "the platoon commander is responsible for the training, discipline, control, and tactical employment of his platoon." Soldiers need to be capable of marksmanship, land navigation, first aid, communications, NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) defense, and survival techniques, and the tactical operations leader is responsible for this. Their responsibilities include the equipment of the platoon. Everything a platoon does or does not do is the responsibility of its leader.
A tactical operations leader will need to enjoy outdoor activities and shooting. Much of their activities may be concentrated on the field, either the training field or war field. They may also work from make-shift offices especially during war time.
Wars are now led by smaller formations, placing a greater burden on lower-ranking officers. Tactical operations leaders should be at least 21 years of age, although most soldiers at that age do not get as much authority as a tactical operations leader. What should a person who is in charge of dozens of people and millions of dollars of equipment bring to the table? A famous study in 1959 found that the seven characteristic of an effective officer were higher intelligence, higher self-confidence, adaptability, dominance, extroversion, sensitivity to the desires and viewpoints of others, and a lower level of conservatism. Additionally, with so many men under their command, a tactical operations leader must learn to delegate since successful operations require that decisions be made at the lowest level. A tactical operations leader must also have the ability to mentor the soldiers under his command.
The qualities desirable of a tactical operations leader are different in war and peace. One study found that professionalism was ranked by soldiers as #1 in war and #2 in peace, but honesty was ranked #6 in war and #1 in peace, and openness was ranked #9 in war and #3.5 in peace. In essence, in wartime the most desirable characteristics are leadership skills, psychological stability and military skills while in peacetime they are military skills, management skills, and honesty.
Tactical operations leaders set the tone for the morality of their subordinates' actions. This is particularly difficult in counter-insurgency situations like Iraq or Afghanistan where the enemy does not play fair and there is a constant feeling of being under threat. Morality can be contrary to operational effectiveness. While it is tempting to say, "I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by six," civilians are the ones who tell you where the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are.
Some knowledge of telecommunications and human resources is also required. This individual will take risks. There will be a need to manage people of widely different backgrounds. A tactical operations leader will remember that he is his soldiers' leader, and not their friend. Friendship is also not available from this individual's superior, the company commander, who is a mentor. Even if a tactical operations leader disagrees with some of the decisions of the company commander or dislikes their leadership style, they are obliged to follow orders.
A tactical operations leader must maintain the highest levels of organization within their platoon. Morale is one of the most important aspects of a platoon's ability to complete a mission, and this is the responsibility of the tactical operations leader. This can be achieved by scheduled rest and regular meals.