Battle Tracking on a Map Board

In addition to my classes on small unit tactics and combat leadership, I also offer custom training for groups.  If you or your group would like tailor-made training specific to your situation, email me at

Two weeks ago I wrote an article about a simple method to set up a map board for battle tracking.  Today I am going to cover how to use that board to track units, events, and combat reports in real time.

Battle Tracking Defined

Battle tracking is the task of keeping track of events as they occur in real time as well as the movement of troops and equipment.  Battle tracking is valuable for:

  • Tracking the location of friendly units
  • Marking locations and times of notable events and combat reports
  • Intelligence analysis of events in the area to detect patterns and anomalies
  • Tracking last known position and composition of hostile, potentially hostile, and neutral elements

Situational awareness in any WROL situation is vital to your survival.  You can sit inside well-emplaced defensive positions all you want, but you will allow yourself to be surprised if you are not constantly seeking information about what is happening in your area.  Reconnaissance must be a continuous effort, as well as establishing an intelligence network of people supplying you with information.

This, however, is a deep dive for another time.  Today I will simply show you a way to keep track of the information you’ve collected.

Tracking Friendly Units

Whenever you send out a security patrol or establish an observation post, it is important that you maintain radio communications with your subordinate elements.  Those units should call your Tactical Operations Center (TOC) at specified comm windows to send Position Reports (POSREPs) or Situation Reports (SITREPs).  Both reports include the unit’s location.  Once the unit has sent their location via grid coordinates or a landmark (such as road intersections), update their position on a small whiteboard set up to track POSREPs.

Draw the grid lines in sharpie, and the POSREPS in dry erase marker.  That way you don’t erase your board when updating it.

Next, mark the unit’s position on the map with the appropriate blue pin.

Note the NATO symbology to mark what kind of unit this is.  In this case, a squad-sized recon element.

Tracking Hostile, Neutral, and Unknown elements (SALUTE Reports)

There will come times when your units in outside your perimeter come across other people that are not yours.  Whether those people are hostile, neutral, or just unknown, your units should report the contact to the TOC.  They should use the SALUTE report format as follows:

  • Size of unit (how many are there?)
  • Activity of the unit (what are they doing?)
  • Location of the unit (grid or landmark location)
  • Uniform (what are they wearing?)
  • Time observed (time and date that they were observed, NOT the time the report was sent)
  • Equipment (What do they have?  Weapons?  Tools?  Radios?  Backpacks?)

In this case, our recon patrol seems to have discovered another neighborhood protection group.

Record the SALUTE report on a sticky note, index card, or other small sheet of paper.  Place it on the edge of the map board.

Next, select the appropriate pin for the unit spotted and place it on the board.  Remember, if you’re using NATO symbology like I am, the colors are as follows:

  • Blue for friendly forces (Units that we control and operate under our chain of command OR work directly alongside us, i.e. a nearby neighborhood protection team that we coordinate with)
  • Red for enemy forces (an opposing force, or OPFOR)
  • Green for independent/neutral forces (not necessarily hostile/friendly.  Law Enforcement falls into this category unless you are working directly with them.)
  • Yellow for unknown forces

Finally, tie a small piece of string around the pin and connect it to the sticky note with the corresponding combat report.  This way anyone can look at pins on the board and quickly know what they are looking at and when it was noted.

You will need to set an expiration period for reports, after which time they are removed from the board.  This expiration period is up to you and the situation.  For current day monitoring of crime reports in your area, you could leave reports up for weeks.  For a quickly-changing WROL situation and a competent reconnaissance effort, you may need to pull pins off the board after 24 hours if you are getting a lot of reports.

Once you remove a report from the board, file the report with all your other combat reports in chronological order (index cards and index card holders are great for this).  This way you can review the reports later to check for patterns and anomalies.


Now you have the basic knowledge to begin battle tracking your AO.  You can use this method for any type of tracking at any scale, you can even start now with a simple street map of your town and marking locations of crime reports published by your local police department.  While it is tempting to rely on electronic maps and tracking software, it is critical to have a low-tech way of tracking your situational awareness with a traditional map board in case the power goes out.  In an increasingly digital world, there are certain advantages to remaining analog.

I intend to write more about running a TOC in future articles, so stay tuned.  Semper paratus, semper discens, semper fidelis.

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at

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