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Col John Boyd’s OODA Loop is a decision-making cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. A warfighter that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can interrupt the enemy’s decision cycle (OODA loop) and gain dominance. Boyd emphasized that "the loop" is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat. These observations are the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. We should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries--or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary's Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop.

                                                (1) Observe. Assess the enemy’s actions and intentions. What is the enemy doing at this time, what is he planning to do? All decisions are based on observations of the evolving situation compared to the situation being addressed. Take the unfolding circumstances and any outside information and apply that information to your mission. These observations are the raw information from the battlefield on which decisions and actions are based. By observing the enemy and predicting his next course of action Warfighter can attempt to disrupt the enemy’s OODA loop before it starts.

                                                2. Orient. Take the information from the observe step and compare to known information to establish orientation. The Warfighter must comprehend his position and ability in relation to the enemy. All considerations need to be taken into account while orientation is being conducted.  The cultural traditions, genetic heritage, previous experiences, or any new intelligence on the area of operation should be processed while orienting yourself.

                                                3. Decide. After all of the information from observation and orientation has been processed a decision needs to be made. If new information unfolds that warrants a new decision the OODA loop starts at whatever step is necessary to adapt to the new situation. The Warfighter must now create a new course of action in relation to the threat and his position relative to the threat. This may be a simple decision such as shoot at the threat’s head, or much more complicated, such as planning troop positions and air-support requirements.

                                                4. Act. Obviously the act step in the OODA loop is the point at which a Warfighter puts his plan into action. The goal is to act before the enemy. After the action step the whole process begins again.

Your enemy must also execute his own OODA Loop in response to the actions of the Soldier or the Soldier’s team. Denying the ability of the enemy to move through his OODA Loop will make the enemy much easier to defeat. An enemy that cannot see friendly forces cannot observe them or orient on them. If the pressure of the engagement forces the enemy to stay in one position, their decisions will be much more limited than if they are free to move at will. Without a new decision, the enemy will simply stay stuck in their last decision, which will be irrelevant to the superior force, as they will be able to move through their OODA Loop and destroy the enemy with sound decisions and actions. With all other factors being equal, the victor in an engagement will be the one that can most rapidly cycle through the OODA Loop.

I love the OODA Loop….I always think about my enemy having an OODA Loop he has to go through too, and our job is to go through our's faster, more efficiently, and with more focus and force,  thereby making them get stuck in theirs so they can’t go to the next step b/c we’re taking that option away….here’s the example I love as a typical “running and gunning” assault….

In this case the enemy is on the defensive so they’ve created a suitable response plan to repel your assault. First, they fire artillery and mortars at the attacking force, then the individual soldier directly fires rifles and RPG’s at the attackers, then once in grenade range, they hurl those bad boys at the force while still engaging with their primary weapon, then they fall back to an alternate position and continue to engage. They intend to do all this in a nice orderly fashion.  Our job is to interrupt that little plan. First we drop cluster bombs and huge artillery shells that cause huge craters virtually redesigning the landscape in a matter of seconds. Then we drop white phosphorous rounds that burn everything it comes in contact with (including their battle buddies that didn’t choose their cover very well), to prevent the enemy from observing our approach. The landscape doesn’t look the same as it did when they went into their firing positions, they can’t see very well due to all the fire and smoke, they can’t really see their attackers, yet are still taking effective fire and heavy casualties…

Now imagine this at the individual level where it really gets fun…So imagine you’re an individual enemy insurgent having survived the initial attack above. You hear the sounds of the explosions and small arms fire getting closer and closer. As you poke your eyes around the corner for a look, the concrete explodes in your eyes where the bullets strike the wall, narrowly missing your head. The last glimpse you saw as you fall backward a step and try to shake it off was that of several dark shadowy shapes closing in on you. You learned your lesson about sticking your head out around corners, so you regain your composure and prepare to angle your AK-47 around the corner and give them a burst of automatic fire to give those attackers something to think about. “Yeah”, you think to yourself, “I’m doing good.” Just then, you notice a small green object clanking past the corner about three feet from you. Your eyes focus on it and you realize that little green deadly egg is a fragmentation grenade just in time to see it explode. You feel the steel pushing through parts of your body and you fall backward from the blast. You try to stand, but for some reason, your upper leg seems to push past your lower leg and touches the ground. You try to take a breath and you realize that it is like trying to breathe through a sopping wet rag. Then you realize the reason for this is that most of your lungs are sticking to the wall behind you. As you gurgle for air and your vision dims, the last picture your mind snaps is that of an American flash suppressor spitting fire in your face. Too late for you…someone has moved through the Loop faster and more efficiently than you.

Of course this is a combat example but the OODA Loop applies to everything we do. Think about someone in sales...the faster she goes through her OODA Loop the more sales she'll likely make (Especially if she progresses through the Loop faster than her client addressing any potential roadblocks to her sale before they even arise). Think about the football quarterback, the MMA fighter, the marathon runner....


 


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