The Command Sergeant Major’s Place on the Battlefield

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By LeVares Jackson

Part of the job of a Squadron Command Sergeant Major (CSM) is determining where you should be on the battlefield.There are several doctrinal references that describes the duties and responsibilities. I found the one that best describes where we should be is ADRP 6-0, Mission Command.   

In operations, commanders employ their command sergeant major throughout the area of operations to extend command influence, assess morale of the force, and assist during critical events.

While I was the Command Sergeant Major of a Cavalry Squadron, I struggled at first to find my place on the battlefield during training exercises.

Over time, I realized that I best served my organization and my commander by being at the point of friction. As CSMs, our individual freedom of maneuver, wealth of experience, and unique insight into the commander’s intent make us ideally suited to alleviate the inevitable friction that arises over the course of an operation.

At The Point of Friction

Since the CSM does not have a prescribed doctrinal location in a combat formation, we’re the perfect leader to provide the grease when the machine starts to slow down. During NTC 18-03 I tried to identify those areas where I could bring my experience and knowledge of the commander’s intent  to those staff officers, leaders, and Soldiers working through stressful situations. I felt like this is how I could contribute to the success of the mission.

Throughout our NTC rotation, I did not stick beside the commander who was focused on the main effort, I remained mobile. During our first resupply operation, I moved to the resupply point to make sure it didn’t slow down the pace of combat operations. At another point in the fight, I helped the XO in the TOC deconflict air MEDEVAC. During mission planning, I helped coach members of the staff to ensure sustainment was synchronized with operations.

Because I wasn’t tied down to a mission command node or a particular mision set in the tactical fight, I didn’t carry the same level of stress that a company commander, staff officer, or first sergeant carried. There were several times I saw the problem more clearly than they did. And, because I was involved with the planning process, it helped me identify those areas where I could best support the unit and my commander during operations.

Knowing Commander’s Intent

To be able to extend the command influence and be at the critical events mentioned in ADRP 6-0, the CSM must understand the commander’s intent. This understanding comes from the close relationship the CSM has with the commander, giving us a unique insight into rationale behind decisions and the intended end state of the mission.

While there is benefit in the commander and CSM moving together as a team, I found a greater benefit in being in the places he was not. As I moved across the formation, I was able to reinforce the commander’s intent throughout the operation. Afterwards, I found myself in a position to provide him with feedback on how his intent was received by the Soldiers on the ground. I couldn’t have done this being a wingman.

Putting Our Experience to Use

There are 1000 different places where a CSM could be on a battlefield. The trick is identifying those one or two places where things could start falling apart. When we figure out where those are at, we’ve determined our place on the battlefield.

I learned that we can put our experience as senior NCOs to good use by looking for friction, and then moving to it. I found that my experiences, my knowledge of the commander’s intent, and my freedom of movement helped other leaders and the organization be successful.

Finally, I encourage new battalion and squadron CSMs to grab a copy of ADRP 5-0, ADRP 6-0, or TC 7-22.7 and have a conversation with your commander. While we always talk about roles and responsibilities in garrison, these publications provide a doctrinal base to discuss roles and responsibilities in combat.   

Command Sergeant Major LeVares J. Jackson is an Armor Cavalry Senior Leader. He has held every leadership position from a tank driver to Command Sergeant Major of the 2nd Squadron 1st United States Cavalry Regiment. He is currently the Brigade CSM for 1st ABCT, 1ID. 

Finding CSM Roles and Responsibilities in Doctrine:

Noncommissioned Officer Guide TC 7-22.7: pp 4-20

ADRP 5-0: para 4-14

ADRP 6-0: para 3-38

 

 

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6 comments

  1. CSM Jackson I’m so glad you were able to finish writing this article. I remember when you first had the idea to start writing on this topic. Great insight, and I’m glad I got to be one of those staff officers who benefited from having such a common sense approach senior NCO with us to help us along.

  2. CSM Jackson — that makes a lot of sense. This article is easily understood because it is very well-written.

    Figuring out where those friction points are, and helping in a way that enables subordinates to succeed using your outside perspective and experience — that’s all we could ask for.

    You really sound like you have the good of the unit first and foremost in your mind. Thank you.

  3. CSM,

    A solid and refreshing read. Too many CSM’s get wrapped up in their rank and believe their job consists of some combination of sniping uniform deficiencies, yelling at 1SG’s, finding a 2LT to pick on, and never ever learning a new thing they don’t already know. The Army could use more like you.

  4. CSM Jackson, leadership and understanding the scope of the entire operations plays a key role to being successful on the battle field. The Command team must have a relationship and the Command Sergeant Major must support his Commander intent and concept of the entire mission. The CSM must show his NCO’s and Soldiers that he trust them and their judgment and always give positive feed back for change. The way you train and operate in the garrison environment will be the out come on the “BATTLE FIELD”,

    • CSM Jackson, you have answered the fundametal question of where, “the point of friction” however, the question of how or why still remains. The how is the the use of the LOGPAC. In essence, the CSM (or the 1SG) must be at the “tip of the logistics spear. As a product of the Cold War, I was taught that the CSM must circulate the battlefield and engage at the point of friction. Before GWOT this was accomplished simply by rolling out with our drivers but OIF and OEF taught us that this method was dangerous so we created “PSDs” out of hide in order to protect our leaders as they conducted BFCs. Since our MTOEs have not adjusted to include PSDs, this TTP will not work in Large scale combat operations. LOGPACs provide senior leaders the protection to move from place to place IOT arrive at the point of friction. Additionally, LOGPACs contain food breaks so that CSMs can ensure that proper feeding is being done (the why). LOGPACs also contain maintenance parts and mechanics, so CSMs can ensure proper mantenance is being done (the why). Lastly, LOGPACs enable CSMs to move from location to location to ensure Soldiers and leaders understand commander’s intent and are executing that intent, as well as an opportunity for subordinate leaders to ask questions about said intent with someone who understands it straight from the commander. (The why)

      • CSM Jackson is right on point with a clear understanding of mission command. Real combat operations do not allow the opportunity to move around the battle.
        PSDs were specifically designed to maneuver. The security of Command leadership is important.
        Every CSM knows the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. I do agree with all other information written by CSM Jackson.
        1. Clearly understanding the commanders intent.
        2. Decisive action in offensive operations.
        3. I.D. Friction points on the battlefield before and during the planning process. To include understanding adjacent units and the enemy.

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