20th Century GI

"Observer Controllers", (OC's) => "Observers Controllers" => Topic started by: papajoad on December 13, 2009, 02:12:37 PM

Title: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: papajoad on December 13, 2009, 02:12:37 PM
After Action Report, River Battle 2009

River Battle in an historical sense has always been a good time, with some verbal altercations taking place for what ever reason, but this year, the 5 year old mentality seemed to be the order of the day.  It is a crying shame when grown men have to scream at cuss at and throw equipment at other re-enactors for not taking hits.  I personally broke up 2 fights and one other OC stopped a differant fight, now no punches were thrown because I placed myself between the 5 yearolds and physically stopped them, WHY?  

Members of the First Special Service Force have always been taught to walk past a re-enactor who after a certain amount of time refused to take there hits and just leave them behind, AND MOST OF ALL DO NOT CUSS OUT ANYONE FOR ANY REASON!  I most certainly hope that your mothers taught you that.  At times the OC's became the target of the verbal abuse.  I feel that the biggest problem was the OC's and there involvement in the battle was not clearly defined to the players and that there were no penalties involved for not following the rules.  There were certain element's on both sides who should have been ejected from the battle field for misconduct, If I had been treated that way in a public place, one or the other of us would have been in a world of hurt.

For the past two years I have been trying to have the River Battle use OC's, (umpires), to help alleviate this type of problem, this year the Rangers decided to tryout the idea and I applaud them for there effort, the problem was that not enough time had been allowed to work out the proper procedures, command and control, communications, penalties and basic rules, we had 2 days to put it together.  The other major problem, even though we have fought over the same ground, no one took the time to recon the battle field before the event to see if it was suitable to use.

I have been in this hobby for about 7 years, I average 25-35 events a year, I have only ever been at one event, 4 years running now that uses OC's, and it works!!!  They have been the best events which I have attended.  River Battle can and should be in that same category, it just needs some better family planning and coordination, again I wish to thank the 2nd Rangers for making the effort to improve the River Battle and I truly hope that the tradition will continue into the future.

Personal observations.

1.  The playing field must be reconed in advance during the time of year in which you are going to play.  It can be done days weeks or months in advance but the landscape changes with the seasons so it must be timely.

2.  If the number of participants is less than 60 players, you can run 1 lane, if you have 80 - 100 or more run 2 lanes or more, as we all know River Battle is a tight playing ground and it always runs into a bottle neck along the river road, by making it small unit action and running more than one lane each located in differant parts of the park you can have better command and control.  100 or more participated this weekend, you can not control that many in a tight area.

3.  Communications:  Each OC must have a radio, each overall commander on each side in each lane must have communications and if vehicles are part of the operations but not the battle, the driver must have communications.  Unit commanders do not get radios, only overall lane commanders,(which could be the largest unit in that lane on each side), they pass down the orders to the unit commanders, the overall commanders and the OC's run the show, no player no unit commander should take it upon themaselves to redirect units with out clearing it first and orders must be folowed.

4.  The rules of engagement must be set and explained in advance.  Example, snipers have to be detailed to all players before the battle and an OC has to be attached to the sniper, half way through a battle is not the time to stop play because your mad that 30 G.I.'s didn't take there hit from a snipper.  Grenade launchers must be attached to a weapon and an OC has to be present, to declare that you have a grenade launcher when you don't and you claim a hit on an MG is just wrong.  In other words, all special tactics, weapons etc must be declared before the battle and all players, OC's, overall commanders and unit commanders have to be aware of it.
     All players must be made aware that when an OC tells you to take a hit you will take the hit and you WILL FALL BACK cussing out the OC or refusing to take the hit or refusing to move from you position SHOULD be reason enough to administer a penalty of time or expulsion from that seniro. ALL PLAYERS HAVE TO REMOVE THERE HELMITS AND FALL BACK!!!!   Staying in place is just WRONG, grow up and fall back!!!  Again refusal should have some time penalty or expulsion from the scenario.    Too harsh you say, GROW-UP WE ARE ADULTS WHO HAVE BEEN TOUGHT BY SOCIETY TO FOLLOW THE RULES!!!!

5.  I agree that the OC's should be silent during the performance of the battle, we should not be talking tactics or giving away positions, however, when everyone finds that perfect tree or hole in the ground the the battle becomes a staring contest, it is time to get things moving, OC's know more about what is going on around you, OC's may have to involve themselves by divulging information to make things happen.  This is to be discouraged but it may be necessary, you came to this event to have fun not take root behind some tree.  

OC's should act as guides for the overall lane commanders as well as the unit commanders up-to-the point of reaching the predesignated point of battle, unit commanders who want to go there own way because they figure they can flank the enemy is WRONG.  How can you flank the enemy when you do not know where they are.  Follow the OC's directions to the battle ground, then the overall commanders and unit commanders take over.  Once the battle commences then the commanders run the show as far as tactics, but the OC's keep the pace going.

Example:  The OC on the German side, (attacking) leads the German element to the line of departure, then the commanders take over.  The OC on the Allied side, (who is defending), leads the allies to the area to be defended, commanders set out there OP/LP's then there MLR and there final fall back position.  The OP/LP in time will either be overwhelmed or wiped out, they fall back to the MLR, those in the MLR take there hits and fall back to the final position, when you take a hit in the final position you are done.  The Germans keep up the pressure until either they capture the position, or it becomes a no win for the final position and the battle is called.  The Germans have to take there hits but they get 2 lives as do the Allies, they are on the attack, they must fall back to a pre disgnated spot close to the battle but not to be seen, after there final hit they are done.   Battle wins and losses will be determined by the OC's.  This is just one idea, I will post this with the idea of opening up dialogue with the hope of creating some basic rules for Umpiring Tactical Battles.

Again, thank you 2nd Ranger Battalion of St. Louis, for another River Battle!


Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: papajoad on January 03, 2010, 11:35:29 AM
looking for good ideas to properly set up a Tactical using OC's, please post your comments here.  Please respond to the poll posted above.


Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Scott Wilke on January 03, 2010, 02:26:22 PM
I feel the use of O.C. is effective for the most part. Example is Camp Clark. This is one of the best events in the Midwest. The reason I say this is because their attention to detail. The group of guy's are professional. They have solid plans that are reviewed by seasoned reenactors.  The event planners go out to the site and look over the battle area and know what to expect from the terrain. Also, the  Camp Clark site is a prime spot to re-enact.
If O.C. are briefed on the overall plans, they make the battles flow and are what make a good event a great event.
I've been to several battles where the O.C.'s didn't know there butt from a hole in the ground and the event suffered because of it.
In a nutshell, I think O.C's are good if they are informed about what going on and spend time at the battle site. It also helps if the O.C's are good reenactors that have been doing events for over 5 years.

Capt. Sparky

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Dinadin on January 03, 2010, 11:20:32 PM
I have to admit that I have yet to attend a tactical, but I have been playing scenario paintball for at least the past 5 years.  I know many reenactors seem to cringe when I talk about paintball, what I play is very similar to tacticals.  We have timed objectives, missions and bases/locations to attack or defend.   The games I have played in have ranged in size from 40 to 4000 players, most being 100 to 200 players.  In that time I have directly help run at least 4 games and indirectly helped with several more.  From this experience having refrees/ umpires knowing thier role is very important.  Most of what Papajoad said already is similar to the roles of refs in paintball. 

For several weekends before every game the condition of the field is checked, cleaned, improved and repaired if necessary. 

Communications is essential for running an event smoothly.  Because FRS radios are cheap, have good range, and readily availible to anyone, the refrees would use a specific channel and the players could not use it unless they were trying to get a ref.  The field owner eventually started using Marine band radios which cost more, but they have FRS plus Marine channels and long range than most FRS.

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Dinadin on January 03, 2010, 11:53:37 PM
Hmmm for some reason my post seemed to quit on me.  To continue.

The basic rules should be posted somewhere well beforehand where everyone to see.  Then they should be reviewed just before the start of the event.  The Umpires should be able to answer any rules questions or know who to contact if they don't know.  This goes back to good communications. 

I think having an OC attached to a sniper or weapons crew is a good idea.  If you have enough assigning at least one OC to each squad or group might be a good idea.  With an OC attached to a sniper they can radio the OC attached to the group he is engaging and person being targeted can be singled out, but the sniper should required to describe who he is targeting.  Also any weapons crews need to notify the OC of what they are doing before that are about to do it.

There should be consequences for violations for the rules.  In our games the players had to carry game identification cards on them.  These are numbered and that person is assigned that number and recorded.  The players were allowed two or three violations, these are recorded with a hole punch on the card.  If the limit is reached the card is taken away and they are asked to leave.  Repeat or extreme violatiors will not be allowed to future events.

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Dinadin on January 04, 2010, 12:19:54 AM
It did it again.

Having a consquences for bad behavior will help prevent it.  Especially if it means that you will not be able to attend any future events hosted by a particular group.  There is a some players that have become notorious and have been banned from several fields because of their actions.

Finally for the games I help run as a part of a team, every team member was involved.  The helped prevent favoritism in distbutes, because decisions made would not benefit the results for the team.  Involving the entire unit balances out the work load.  While there may be a core of planners/officers, they cannot do everything.  I have seen it where a few people have done the majority of the work while others in the same group enjoy an equal share of the benefits by doing very little to nothing to earn it.

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: papajoad on January 04, 2010, 05:53:12 AM
It sounds good.  The one thing that I think Scott missed was that not only the OC's need to fully understand but the players must have that same information. 

I have used hit cards in the past, several years ago we did an Anzio event using aid stations and a card to be punched for each hit, after a certain number of punches you were done for that scenario.  As a player, you took your hit removed yourself from the playing field,(crucial) went to the nearby Aid Station,(it moves with the battle in plain site), you get your card punched, take your time out if any then go back to play.  It works!!!

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Dinadin on January 04, 2010, 06:13:36 PM
Another thing that is very useful in our games is everyone can get a map of the field showing the extent of the area being used and key locations.  Along with that, everyone is given a basic schedule of when key locations are worth points.  This allows the participants pace themselves plan out what they are going to do and where they need to be.  While most people tended to lose these, the natural leaders usually kept or acquired copies and took charge of those around them.  Special missions were not included on the schedule but given out to the leader of each side at a particular time.

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: papajoad on January 04, 2010, 10:30:43 PM

To date I have seen all sorts of weird and wild approaches to tactical from RETO to the usual BUG HUNT and sadly very few have worked.

Dave Hruska’s tactical event at Nevada. MO is one of the few that works the best of all of them that I have taken part in over the last 20+ years. He is able to maintain control of the forces in the field through OC presence and yet keeps the scenarios from being too rigid. His scenarios require land navigation as well as tactical prowess.

Now in Civil War  tacticals I have also served as an OC and some of those tactical have had tactical aids supplied to the OCs through the use of laminated information cards.  These laminated cards listed weaponry, rate of fire, effective range, etc. This would help the novice OCs. Additionally, any special rules or circumstances would also be listed on these laminated cards. It was a good way to keep everyone on the same page.

The Eastern Front tactical we do in Iowa is designed to run without the need of OCs for each maneuvering unit. We normally have one or two roving OCs who check in at each sector to make sure things are running smoothly. The tactical is divided into sectors(two or three) or lanes and units are assigned to each sector and have to remain in that sector for the duration of their scenario. This keeps everything in  a controlled atmosphere and reduces or eliminates situations where some  units get no action while others get all the action. The units in each sector are issued orders which explain objectives and any special rules which are important to that scenario. If they leave their sector to follow the sound of the guns they fail their mission and are disqualified and can be asked to leave the event. So far we have had no issues. Everyone has played nice and the only work the OCs have had to do was to give some clarifications to

This approach allows me to focus on writing up challenging scenarios instead of focusing on how to deal with all of the what ifs to be tested by the brain dead trouble makers of re-enacting. LOL!

Here are some comments or suggestions for a tactical as well as if you plan to use OCs.

1.       OCs have absolute final authority during the tactical. Arguing can get a unit kicked out.

2.       Have enough OCs to keep control of the matter. One OC per maneuvering unit is critical. Must have radio contact between OCs.

3.       Have OCs who have the knowledge of weapons and what they can do at various ranges and situations. Or have standard info cards or sheets on hand to issue to OCs.

4.       Design scenarios that have a solid outer frame work to keep forces under control but be somewhat flexible with the interior details to allow for creativity to address various situations. Try not to micro manage the scenario unless the scenario requires .

5.       Incorporate props into scenarios (hedge hogs to be destroyed, mock bunkers to be destroyed, mock land mines to be detected and removed, air drop canisters to be found, etc.

6.       Make use of specialty units such as medics to help bring casualties back into the fight quicker, engineers to simulate building or destroying things.


Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: crazydima on January 05, 2010, 10:24:47 AM

What Gary posted above listing my comments and what I post here is based upon over 26 years in this wonderful world we call re-enacting. Those years cover multiple time periods starting at ACW(1861-1865) and includes Spanish-American War(1898), WWII(US & Soviet) and most recently Vietnam as VC irregulars. This is not meant to brag but to give folks an idea of my background.

The basic thing to remember is that you will only get out of a tactical what you invest int it. So if folks bust their humps to organize and run a first class event then the participants will have a good time and through their enthusiasm and participation will add to overall quality of the event.

In an ideal world we wouldn't need OCs because:
1. Everyone would play nice together and conduct themselves in a mature manner.
2. Everyone would be thoroughly versed on capabilities of weapons in all terrain.
3. Everyone would understand that there are inherent problems with trying to simulate warfare without really hurting anyone.
4. Everyone understands that this is just a hobby not the real military nor a real combat zone.

However, it is not an ideal world and thus most of the above items mentioned become null and void.

So in order to try to maintain some sort of order and prevent total chaos it is a very good idea to use OCs when possible. Sometimes you can get away without the presence of OCs but that is normally not the case if you want a real quality tactical which simulates military operations and not a glorified bug hunt or Scavenger hunt.

The basic thing to remember is that you will only get out of a tactical what you invest int it. So if folks bust their humps to organize and run a first class event then the participants will have a good time and through their enthusiasm and participation will add to overall quality of the event. If you do a crappy job organizing and running  it then it will be a crappy event
IMHO a good military tactical should be an exercise which requires the forces in the field to replicate actual actions which historically would have been undertaken by those forces during the actual war.

Such things as land navigation through use of maps and compass, logistical concerns such as food, water and ammunition as well as the ability to issue and carry out orders using protocol and tactics of the period are critical.

When it comes to the number, variety of scenarios....well that is for another post all by itself. Let's just say that the sky is the limit.


(one who knows  a good tactical when he sees it)

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: papajoad on January 05, 2010, 04:59:11 PM
  The Army trained me how to be an OC, so now I just am one!  Actually, what the Army calls "Observer Controllers" and what most reenactors think when they hear the term are two different things.  Reenactors tend to view OC's as umpires, judges, or some type of event authority figure who has final say on things.  A true OC in the Army's view is a trainer first, a safety officer second, and a moderator of events third.  OC's are there to watch their counterpart, answer tactical questions when asked, make sure the soldiers are properly equipped and prepared for their missions, and then watch the actions to make sure people stay safe and generally follow their orders.  Their biggest role is in conducting the After Action Review with their unit.  This is where a great deal of the learning comes from.  It is the most important thing an OC does, short of watching the safety issues, and is why the Army invested so heavily in the process.  During the AAR, the OC guides the discussion by the participants to make them see what they did, how they did it, what went right, what went wrong, and how they can improve.
At a reenactment tactical, I see the "OC's" as more of a controller than an observer looking for lessons learned.  Since the units involved are not really military units and have had little if any training, it is pointless for the OC's to be in the teaching mode.  They should make sure the unit commanders carry out their orders, keep the units from getting too lost, maintain the flow of the scenario by moving people along or holding them up as needed, and adjudicating the "I shot you first" BS arguments that occasionally arise.
Dave Hurska

Title: Re: Using OC's (Umpires) at Tacticals
Post by: Railsplitter on February 15, 2010, 10:27:54 AM
I have been an Army O/C and Gary has the priorities basically right, although the training involved and scenario management are hand in hand.  I ran about 200 squad lanes one summer, on two hour increments, and wrote evaluations on each...yes 200 evaluations. 

The reasons it works at Clark is the O/Cs are prior military or experienced reenactors who are trained.  O/Cs are different than umpires...O/Cs loyalty should be to the scenario and event versus a unit or side.  You keep the scenario going and if people violate the scenario rules or arrangements, there is pain involved.  The other part of it is management of the two sides to get them into contact.  This is a touchy business of dropping hints, cajoling, or just telling them what to do (if they can't get it any other way).

At Clark we attacked our objective, which was a pavilion, and took it without a shot.  That is where the german were supposed to be, but they decided it was more fun to set up somewhere else.  They called us and asked us to attack this walled facility surrounded by open ground.  First off, I would never have attacked that site with dismounted infantry..I would have mortared, MGd and bazooka'd it for about an hour first and then walked in to collect the wounded.  Second, we did it to play nice, and what ensued was a pretty stupid unsafe scenario that a 15 year old would have enjoyed...someone with no sense of responsibility of keeping your troops safe.  Close range firing, spraying and praying over walls...it was bad.  I was glad it ended soon.  If the other side would have done what they were supposed to, we could have had a nice safe battle over the assigned objective.