09 March 2011

Jack of Everything (Follow-on comments to my previous post)

Really enjoyed the multiple, and broad, responses to my last post. Unfortunately, Blogger didn't like my 1000+ word response. So I decided that instead of cutting it into multiple comments I would just create a new post. My responses by commenter:

@ The Constitutional Insurgent:

I too mostly agree with what you wrote. Every NCO I’ve sent off to an NCOES over the last 3 years (at least) has already served at the level he was attending school for. This goes for 11, 13, and 35-series NCOs who have worked for me across multiple Battalions, so it’s not just a specific unit or MOS that’s behind the power curve.

We’re seeing a major transformation of the POI for the training centers right now. I think the first Hybrid Threat MRX happened just a couple months ago. Starbuck from WoI has a great post on the much ado about nothing that is the hybrid threat here.

In terms of phased operations, this is a major issue that I think many Officers across the board will (and are already) struggle with. My recent first-hand experience shows two types: the first is so tired of COIN/LIC/SASO/SOSO/SO/IW/AW/not-HIC that they see this merely as an opportunity to get back to the “good ol’ days” of getting their K on, and the second group is stuck in the minimization of collateral damage and win hearts and minds absolute far-left end of the spectrum of conflict. Neither, obviously, is better than the other; but more importantly it likely shows the lack of flexibility/adaptability in the thinking of many leaders. The ability to move fluidly along the spectrum of conflict and transition from Full Spectrum Ops to COIN to HA-type operations, or wherever in between, by phase or otherwise, is paramount. What I’ve seen over the last six months is leadership getting stuck on just one phase and forgetting about everything after that one specific phase. More in a couple paragraphs that should help finish this thought.

@ Pat:

Fully agree on all fronts. TRADOC has failed a half decade’s worth of Officers at least. I recently saw an entire Battalion fail one of their low-numbered firing tables; I’m sure a sizeable portion of that failure was attributable to TRADOC. Not that I’m discounting leaders’ responsibility in this, but if you don’t know your job it’s probably a lot more difficult to make it through gunnery tables.

This stroke of brilliance dawned on me as I sat here tonight next to Mama Mac studying for her next ACSC exam. What if the Army adopted a liberal arts style continuing education program for its Company Grade Officers? By this I mean a correspondence program where an Officer must complete one course focusing on a specific portion of the spectrum of conflict annually. The courses could be self-paced but with a mandatory completion date, take two to three months each, be tracked via AKO, accountable on OERs with no deployment waivers authorized, and focus separately on historic HIC, COIN, HA events/wars/uprisings, etc. I think a program like this would have tremendous benefits. It would help fill the gaps that TRADOC wasn’t able to get to. It would help span the spectrum of conflict and perhaps help broaden perspectives under GEN Dempsey’s new training plan. It would also help fill gaps in the Officer’s commissioning source education (think directional schools vs. USMA and Engineering vs. Military History undergraduate degrees). With a written paper or two in each course it would help Officers actually think in and write full sentences (which many cannot). With this program an Officer, while training for the hybrid threat or the Red Horde, would read Galula and Trinquier and learn about the Algerian War; they would learn about British CT efforts in Northern Ireland, WWII, etc., the options along the spectrum of conflict are numerous and would help fill gaps. I know as well as you that you can’t just expect most Officers to learn about this stuff on their own; most of them would rather play Call of Duty than read anything. And I know what many of you reading this are saying, but what about JRTC/NTC/MRX/CPX/field problems? The classes would be self-paced and two to three months long, if it’s mandatory you’ll find the time to do it. This sort of program probably would have kept me a little more sober (and out of trouble) as a young Lieutenant, so there’s another benefit. Enough with my diatribe, but I think the Army would be well served with a program like this.

@ Anonymous (JB… didn’t think I’d catch that did you?!)

I was actually considering a full post about the misapplication of the Full Spectrum Operations term and how most senior leaders are treating it solely as if it is HIC/MCO. Phase IV what? But instead of writing that post I decided to go fly fishing.

Now a couple disagreements from your comment.

First, I think Division and Corps-level exercises, while obviously difficult to execute and manpower intensive on subordinate units, are vitally important. Take I Corps as an example, who will be deploying relatively soon. Should their first non-digital exercise be in the combat environment in which they will take over day-to-day operations for? How do you truly test your systems?

Second, while I do agree with you that policy makers must understand and accept that actual Full Spectrum Ops should be off the table for the next couple years until the Army is back up to par. I think we’re seeing that now in the push back against military intervention in Libya. Or maybe that’s because policy makers have no idea what the goals of intervention would be, a logical stopping point for our intervention if you will, and are loathe to commit US forces to another open-ended operation. Perhaps. I digress. What I disagree with is your sentence where you say we should only do what we do well moving forward. In a perfect world sure, but I don’t see that world coming any time soon and we as an Army should be prepared to serve our Nation’s goals in whatever capacity POTUS decides to employ us in. A more realistic goal perhaps would be to train toward perfecting MCO and then implementing the broadening program I outlined above for CGOs; and then possibly expanding the ILE and War College-level cross-training opportunities for the best and brightest of each annual class. This could help create a solid cadre of senior-level SMEs on the core capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc, of each specific agency of the government. So with this kind of model you’d have a force trained for combat and leaders at every level able to understand and conceptualize Phase IV operations; with senior leaders able to maximize the efforts and contributions of all contributing agencies in a JIIM environment.

04 March 2011

Jack of all Trades

Just came across the GEN Dempsey article from last week's Army Times. This article really hasn't sat well with me over the last couple days. Some thoughts...

Many leaders have significant issues spanning multiple spectrum's of conflict, sometimes on multiple blocks, or in short amounts of time. The reality is that many formations and their leaders simply are not capable of spanning the full spectrum of conflict. This is my biggest issue with this article; the notion that we as leaders must narrow our focus to master only a few key constructs; the “military pentathlete” (or as I call it, Renaissance Ranger) is on his way out the door. In the early days of Iraq, we had formations trained for linear combat against uniformed enemy formations. Major Combat Ops were what they (we) did. As the situation worsened and gained complexity by the day, it quickly became apparent that our SOPs were not working. But many (most) units continued to hammer away. If we only work on and master a couple concepts, people will have a tendency to see through the prism of knowledge and experience; in essence, everything becomes a nail if all we’re carrying is a hammer. We learned the hard way that not everything is a nail, and that we needed to carry more than a hammer. I have already seen this regression to only carrying a hammer again firsthand over my most recent Reset phase of the training cycle.

2. Combined arms warfare is not lost, as many advocate. I would argue at the Battalion-and-below level it is (and has been) alive and well. At the tactical level, most Platoon Leaders and NCOs can effectively maneuver ground elements, provide task/purpose/EEI to FW and RW CAS as well as ISR platforms, while also coordinating with higher and adjacent units. These situations have been (and are) happening on a daily basis. Things get fuzzy at the Brigade level, and downright messy at echelons above Brigade. There’s nothing like being in the heat of a situation and receiving a flurry of mIRC messages or phone calls from someone at Division because the old man is watching and wants to know exactly what we’re up to 200+ miles from his current location. Apparently the myriad storyboards produced after an event just don’t provide quite the same level of satisfaction as watching a Squad Leader maneuver his fire teams near-real time (while also often providing near-real time feedback). So, perhaps the capacity to conduct combined arms warfare at the Division or Corps –level is a more accurate statement.

If we’re going to refocus our future doctrine and training plans to only a couple tasks, it seems imperative that we find a way to broaden leader’s skill sets so we don’t pigeon hole ourselves as an organization. Further, if a jack-of-all-trades doesn’t make a leader, why do we as Officers switch jobs as often as we do? I was always told it was because as a future Commander it would help me understand everything I would need to in order to effectively command. Parallels?