Von Steuben T&C Sends: How to Set Up a Map Board for Battle Tracking

In addition to my classes on small unit tactics and combat leadership, I also offer custom training for groups and individuals.  If you or your group would like special training on running an operations center, email me at vonsteubentraining@protonmail.com to set up a private training event.

Whether you’re standing up a neighborhood protection team, security at your homestead, or even just monitoring protest/riot activity in your area, you should make a map board and set it up so you can keep track of events as they unfold.  There are many ways to do this, the following is what I have used in a regiment-level Combat Operations Center.  It’s simple, analog, and easy to do with minimal materials.  All that is required (besides your map) is the following simple office supplies:

  • multi-colored pushpins (I use Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, and White)
  • white out (the kind in a bottle)
  • a fine-tip marker, such as the map pens I use here
  • Cork board
  • paracord
  • duct tape
  • scrap cardboard

To start, select the colors of pushpins you will use and color code them to identify different types of forces/events for your board.  I use NATO standard symbology and color coding, 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
  • White for holding stuff on the board

What I want to do next is mark the pins with different unit symbols and types so it’s easier for me to look at the board and see what kind of unit a pin indicates.  To do this, stick the pins you want to mark into your scrap cardboard and use the white out to “paint” the tops of the pins white.

What this does is give you a clear, blank surface to draw/write on.  Next use the fine-tip markers to draw/write whatever identifying marks you want on the pins.

I use NATO map symbology for the most part, with some special symbols for non-standard units.

If you mess up or want to change a symbol, simply cover the pin with another layer of white out and try again.

Now we move to the board itself.  Attach your map to the cork board with pins or clamps.  If your map is larger than the board, wrap the unwanted part of the map behind the board so it is out of the way.  Hang the board on the wall, or use an easel like me.

You may use satellite imagery as shown here, blown up and printed off, or an actual map.  If you’re in a rural area, your map should have grid lines on it to make it easy to report positions of units.  In an urban area, a street map will do.  You can add your own coordinate system to a street map to further obscure radio traffic.

The next step is to make a pin board to store the pins you just marked where you can easily use them.  I made this using 5 layers of scrap cardboard held together with duct tape.

Note the duct tape tab at the top.  That is there so I can hang this on the map board.

Once the pin board is made stick your pins into it in an organized manner.  I separated mine by butting different unit types on different rows.  Do whatever you want, as long as it’s organized so you can quickly find what you want.

Yellow pins are for unknown forces and are therefore left blank.

Now your board is ready for battle tracking.  In part 2, I will share one way to receive combat reports and clearly mark them on the board.

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 vonsteubentraining@protonmail.com

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