- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A friend familiar with the exercise that revealed serious combat weaknesses in an Army regiment comments:
1. Over 50 percent of the 2CR staffs’ will transition out of the unit by March 2013 just three months prior to deployment — nasty habit by the Army, most units do it just prior to deployment or right after redeployment — meaning for all those officers trained up to now will not be deploying — what a wasted effort and it is over and over, thus no institutional knowledge is ever developed. Now one has to retrain the new inbound ones in just three months.
2. The official responses are interesting in that based on CALLS article lead in — the CALL writer got input from the OC-Ts and the O7s, who are the LTC/COL OC team leads to include the RGT Staff observers, so it was overall a fairly accurate picture. CALL based a reviewer at all CTCs — if one goes back and reviews all DATE exercises — and there have been two at JMRC, several at the NTC — they ALL show similar issues. The Force has simply in ten years of COIN lost their basic conventional Army skill sets.
3. With each section it indicated what warfighter functions were being addressed and when it stated "All" then you know it just was not a pre-summary report, or a shortened report or a snap shot — it was an overall assessment for the six warfighter functions. Yes, there were on occasions success, but few and far between — was actually surprised at the official responses.
4. The underlying tone of the report reflects a serious lack of trust, serious micro-management, and a deep lack of communication, i.e. dialogue — all items deeply embedded in mission command, but not spoken about in the report. Heard from the field that the OCs basically hit the check marks on a standard critique list — also OCs tend to not cover the warm and fuzzy items in mission command, i.e. trust, dialogue, team building, as they themselves are not anchored in the necessary education/experience in mentoring those items.
Just a note — all of the bloggers and those who used the term mission command and mission orders to include CALL’s use of mission orders blow completely by what MC really is — i.e. even the doctrinal side is confusing — in ADP 5.0 mission orders emphasize Cmdrs intent — in ADP 6.0 mission order is assumed to be the standard three orders that also have been issued FRAGOs, WARNOs and OPORDs.
If mission command is mentored correctly and the staffs are educated and trained in MC — even when cut off from the RGT Cmdr, and even when things are going south individual units should and must adjust on the fly using independent decisionmaking — follow the Cmdrs intent and drive on in the knowledge that the RGT Cmdr has allowed them to succeed even though he is nowhere to be seen or even heard on the radios.
You will notice in the CALL article that even while seeing some of the problems experienced right out of the mission command, ADP 6.0 really did not address them — this goes to our current way we evaluate units. We have a series of organizations all calling themselves Mission Command Training Programs, but absolutely none of them mentor, none of them while using the term MC, and none mentor the core problem that jumps out of this CALL article — the need for trust and dialogue in a fear free environment — all fuzzy things which calls on one’s confidence as a mentor, as you must be stable yourself in the areas of trust and dialogue."
Tom again: Meanwhile, a former 2nd SCR soldier writes in to say that the erosion was exceptional, and resulted from poor leadership:
I’ve been watching the comments here for a while, and I’ve finally decided to say something. I was a part of 2SCR for few years. Now when I first got to the unit, I was under exceptional leaders (2007). Towards the end of my time (2012), it eroded very, very quickly. I speak from personal experience when I say that the unit doesn’t train to standard, it trains to time. Once we hit the time, it didn’t matter if we met the standard. Basic soldiering skills are almost non-existent. One example is we did training on field maneuvers and we never went to the field to practice, we watched it on a powerpoint slide then checked the block as if it were done. Also, we never followed a training schedule. A false training schedule was put up every week, sent up, but we never even so much as glanced at it.
Overall, I think it is a shame. The unit definitely disheartened me from the military. For a long time I thought that the military values, the Soldier’s Creed, the NCO creed were things people just pretended to be passionate about in boards and then threw it all away when they left. I think it is also eroding soldiers’ values and work ethic. The only good thing I can say after walking away from this unit is that after all of the hate and rage I had, it brought me closer to Jesus Christ and God. I just hope and pray that people stop worrying and identifying with what is on their chest and realize what an immense honor and responsibility it is. The rank is honorable because of the responsibility you have to live up to. I just see a bunch of people who want the "honor" but not the responsibility, not realizing that you cannot have one without the other. My hopes and prayers are that people come home safely.