Training fact sheet: Annual training guidance, the commander's intent for training

By Training Management Directorate, Combined Arms Center-TrainingSeptember 25, 2023

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted Platoon Live Fire Exercises at Chipori Range South Korea, May 4, 2023. Each platoon performed mounted and dismounted maneuver, integrating all organic platoon weapon systems, in preparation for an upcoming company live fire exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua DuRant)
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted Platoon Live Fire Exercises at Chipori Range South Korea, May 4, 2023. Each platoon performed mounted and dismounted maneuver, integrating all organic platoon weapon systems, in preparation for an upcoming company live fire exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua DuRant) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Joshua DuRant) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted Platoon Live Fire Exercises at Chipori Range South Korea, May 4, 2023. Each platoon performed mounted and dismounted maneuver, integrating all organic platoon weapon systems, in preparation for an upcoming company live fire exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua DuRant)

Army leaders seek to conduct challenging, relevant, and realistic training performed at the highest standards to prepare units to fight and win. Critical to commanders achieving their training objectives is the ability to implement the training management cycle. This includes:

  • Identifying the prioritized mission-essential tasks
  • Conducting planning and preparation to train the task priorities
  • Executing the training to standard
  • Evaluating performance on the task and the commander’s assessment of unit training proficiency

Long-range planning and preparation requires commanders to gather the information needed to establish training plans. Commanders analyze the training guidance received from their higher commander to identify the prioritized tasks and weapons to train, the required proficiency level to achieve, and the date at which the higher commander expects to achieve the proficiency level. Commanders conduct long-range planning to sequence training events with resources over time to determine who, what, when, and where to train.

Once the unit briefs the training plan and the commander two echelons above approves it, commanders publish the plan to subordinate units. Annual training guidance (ATG), along with the long-range training calendar,` provides the method for commanders to communicate their vision of the long-range training plan to their subordinates.

Annual training guidance

The output of the long-range planning process is the ATG. The commander issues formal instructions to subordinate units by publishing the ATG to describe their long-range training plan. The ATG format is at the commander's discretion (FM 7-0 table 3-1 note 1, and para 3-9) so the ATG may look different in different commands. The published ATG provides subordinate commanders and leaders with a clear vision of training expectations giving the unit direction, purpose, and motivation to train effectively. FM 7-0 recommends elements for inclusion in the guidance (para 3-6 and Appendix A-6) regardless of the format, but as a minimum the ATG includes:

  • The unit’s prioritized mission essential tasks, weapons qualification requirements, collective live fire tasks to train during the FY and the required proficiency level to achieve.
  • The date to achieve the directed training proficiency level.
  • Scheduled training events for the FY. The events are described in the training guidance with associated training objectives for each event. The long-range training calendar provides a graphic depiction of the flow of training over the year but is not by itself a sufficient description of the scheduled training event.
  • The command’s time management system for the FY. The time management system helps commanders allocate training resources and protect training time from training distractors while accounting for necessary Army requirements.

Commanders require this minimum information to develop their long-range training plan. It is incumbent that commanders seek out training guidance from their higher commander if it is not already provided, or if the guidance lacks the necessary specificity to properly focus a unit’s training plan. Commanders can anticipate ATG from their higher headquarters on a predicable schedule. The doctrinal schedule is anchored by fiscal year which begins on 1 October each year.

The fiscal year framework

FM 7-0 provides a FY framework for publishing ATG which helps synchronize training and training resources from the Army level through company level. During the year of execution, all components and all echelons of the total Army are either executing a mission (deployed), conducting force generation operations, or executing a training plan developed to prepare them for future missions.

Even deployed units have specified training that occurs in theater to maintain proficiency in essential tasks or to generate a capability the combatant commander needs. Units need direction from their higher headquarters long before 1 October of the execution year to allow them to develop their own long-range training plan, coordinate and synchronize resources, and prepare their units to begin execution.

Training guidance publication windows

FM 7-0 staggers the suggested publication windows to allow subordinate commanders time to understand their higher commander’s guidance, visualize the desired end state of their future training year, describe the visualization in time and resources, lead their staff in the long-range planning process, and assess their training status. These commander activities, described in FM 3-0 and FM 5-0, drive the training management cycle in the same way they drive the operations process.

Each echelon and component of the Army have suggested windows in which to plan and publish their ATG. Figure 1 shows the regular Army publication table and figure 2 shows the reserve component publication table. Both tables, available in FM 7-0, provide the suggested publication windows as well as the number of months the guidance should be published before the beginning of the new training year.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fig 1. Company/troop/battery commanders publish their ATG but may refine their guidance informally during training meetings. Refinements or changes to the ATG are codified in published quarterly training guidance at brigade and below.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fig 2. The planning horizon for reserve component units extends beyond a single FY. Reserve component units focus their ATG on the elements of their long-range training plan which will occur in the given FY.

Looking at a regular Army division organization, the doctrinal publication window is 12 months prior to the beginning of the training year, in other words, in October. The installation and subordinate brigades have a recommended publication window of 10 months and nine months before the start of the training year, respectively. The publication windows continue sequentially until the companies publish their ATG and long-range training calendar four months prior to 1 October. The recommended sequence provides planning and preparation time for subordinate units.

Optimize available planning time

One-third/two-thirds rule

Subordinate commanders need the ATG from their higher commander to properly plan and resource their training. The recommended planning timeline in FM 7-0 roughly follows the one-third, two-thirds rule discussed in FM 5-0. The commander uses one-third of the available time before execution for their planning and allocates two-thirds of the available time before execution to their subordinates for planning and preparation.

If a brigade publishes their ATG nine months out, that provides their subordinate battalions three months to plan with publication of the battalion ATG six months before execution. The companies then have two months to plan with publication of the company ATG four months before execution. In a static environment, this process is routinely replicable. However, the world interjects its requirements into the system, and commanders need to react to the situation at hand, not the desired situation.

Requirements of the Army may necessitate a shortened planning window. Commanders must consider ways to optimize the available planning time when planning time is limited. If a command can’t meet the suggested publication windows, they must still provide training guidance to their subordinate commands. Parallel and collaborative planning can help address shortened planning windows.

Parallel and collaborative planning

FM 7-0, appendix A, paragraph A-5, mentions parallel and collaborative planning as potential methods to optimize available time. Parallel and collaborative planning allows organizations to develop feasible, coordinated training plans before the FY training year begins without the constraint of the doctrinal training guidance publication windows. Training plans which are developed using parallel and collaborative planning must still receive the approval of the commander two levels up.

Collaborative planning allows a commander and subordinate organizations to work together simultaneously to build their long-range training plans and ATG. Subordinate units participate in planning by sharing information, perceptions, ideas, and collaborate on decisions in conjunction with their higher echelon. Collaborative planning should result in training plans which are well nested and synchronized with the higher commander’s training guidance.

Parallel planning involves the higher headquarters and their subordinate organizations planning their training nearly simultaneously, typically facilitated by warning orders from the higher commander. The higher commander communicates decisions to their subordinates as they are made to allow subordinate commanders to use the decisions in their planning. Parallel planning shortens the planning time but requires frequent communication between commanders and staffs to share information to help subordinates plan. Commanders may be more directive when using either of these techniques to shorten the planning process. Subordinate commanders and staffs should focus their planning effort on the course of action that has the highest likelihood of being adopted.

Is your annual training guidance published?

The ATG is the output of the long-range training plan process. The ATG and the long-range training calendar allow commanders to communicate their long-range training plan, in other words their training vision and end-state, to their subordinates. The ATG includes the prioritized tasks, weapons, directed proficiency levels, scheduled events with training objectives, coordinated resources, and time to train to established standards. Commanders who provide their subordinates with sufficient guidance, planning time, and resources can anticipate achieving their training objectives through challenging, relevant, and realistic training performed at the highest standards to prepare units to fight and win.

For more information on developing annual training guidance, read FM 7-0, Training and visit the Army Training Network (ATN).