Lead with the best version of yourself.

The Field Grade Leader and Domestic Operations: A Primer

 

by Rick Chersicla                                                                             

You’re in garrison, and you get the Warning Order (WARNO) for the Battalion (or Brigade) to deploy for a real world mission. Your organization, however, is not preparing to deploy overseas, or for an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE), but is instead preparing to deploy and support civil authorities within the United States. 

The odds are that very few—or perhaps none—of the personnel in your organization has conducted Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations. You and your leadership may find yourselves asking “what is DSCA?” on the eve of an operation, and more importantly “how can we prepare for it?”

Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) is support provided by federal military forces (and DoD civilians, DoD contract personnel, and National Guard forces in a Title 32 status) in response to a request for assistance (RFA) submitted by civil authorities. DSCA operations can be in response to manmade or natural events and can range from hurricane relief, to supporting wildland fire fighting, to COVID-19 vaccination support at the request of FEMA. 

Given the frequency with which some Governors activate their National Guard for emergency response operations, many Guardsmen are well versed in DSCA operations. While Active Duty forces respond to domestic crises with less regularity than National Guard compatriots, they can still prepare for DSCA missions, rather than end up in an on-the-job-training situation when time could be of the essence.

The SFAB: A Lieutenants Experience

by Christopher Wilson  

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Infantry magazine and has been reproduced with permission.

As I in-processed to the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade (2SFAB) at Ft. Bragg, NC last summer, I anticipated running into at least a few peer-lieutenants. It did not take many double-takes and greetings of “So you’re the LT,” before I realized that I was the singular variable in 2SFAB’s lieutenant-trial experiment. I immediately assumed that my relative inexperience would be a great weakness here, but I was wrong. SFAB is structured so that everyone adds a niche capability to the team, one’s unconventional experiences become his or her value-added. I was not even in the organization for two weeks when I walked-in on a battalion meeting at the tactical operation center during a live fire exercise. CSM Jacob D. Provence immediately turned to me and said, “Sir, I’m so glad you’re here. You know why? Because you’ve got fresh eyes. Tell us what you think about this [situation].” Now a whole room of senior or at least disparately experienced Soldiers stare at you expecting you to provide them with something worthwhile. That’s what it is to be an Advisor.

The Top 10 Things I Learned as a Battalion Commander at the National Training Center

by Ethan Olberding

Editor’s Note: Over the next week, we will be running a series of articles from 4-70 AR on their lessons learned at the National Training Center (NTC). Each article is unique in that it will present a different perspective from the organization’s key leaders and staff members. Our hope is that these articles will help prepare you for success in your current or future roles in your organization. 

I recently completed a National Training Center (NTC) rotation at Fort Irwin, California as the battalion commander of 4-70 AR, 1st ABCT, 1st AD. I personally learned several lessons that I am still reviewing to inform future training plans and leader development strategies. In the interest of sharing information and creating professional dialogue, please see below for the Top 10 Things I learned through this experience. I hope these points generate conversation and useful leader discussions. 

How to Know if Your Presence Matters

By Sean Finnan

Several years ago, I came across this quote:

“If your absence doesn’t affect them, your presence never mattered.”

As I was nearing the end of my O-5 command, I began to reflect on what I was leaving behind.  Would my absence affect the squadron?  Did my presence matter?  Like all of us, I’m human.  In a way, I wanted to be missed.  I wanted to think that my presence over the previous two years had made a difference.  I think we all naturally feel that way.  But as I thought more about those questions, I realized that if I truly accomplished the second part of the concept (making a difference during my time), then the first part (my absence affecting the squadron) likely would not occur. That was a good thing.

How to Succeed in a World of Merciless Taskers

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By Colonel Glenn A. Henke

The Problem

     Every Army command team faces the same challenge: how to manage the ceaseless onslaught of tasks that come from higher headquarters while conducting your own training and operations. Battery, company, and troop commanders are the leaders who direct actual Soldiers to execute missions dreamed up by their higher headquarters, all the way from the Department of Defense on down. To make matters more unfair, every commander above them has a staff to organize these tasks. A battery has the commander, 1SG, XO, and perhaps a training room NCO.

     Battery command teams frequently mention this challenge as the most significant issue preventing them from leading effectively. This is exacerbated when higher headquarters fail to observe established training lock-in windows, or when they task a unit for more than they can physically execute. This challenge accumulates at each echelon, so a battery that is lucky enough to have a perfect battalion staff is not protected if the brigade or division staffs are not equally disciplined. Even when the higher headquarters spread tasks equitably in a timely manner, allowing units time to plan, the sheer volume can overwhelm the best training plan.

     Leaders at the battery can manage this challenge by using planning horizons and applying fundamental Army processes, specifically the 8 Step Training Model and Troop Leading Procedures. This approach is more likely to succeed than fighting the battalion over every tasking. Commanders can’t control what happens, but they can control how they deal with what happens. 

The Map on the Wall

The Map on the Wall

By Jack “Farva” Curtis

Whenever I write, I try hard to avoid expressing political or partisan opinions. Not only do I doubt you care about my opinions, but it would also be wholly inappropriate for me, in my current position as an active duty squadron commanding officer, to make them publicly known. Last year when I wrote “Ship to Shore” it was fascinating to see as many MAGA hat-wearers as Bernie Bros applaud. I considered that a win — strange, perhaps, but a win nonetheless. So with that said…here we go again.

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In my office, I’ve got a large map of the United States with dozens of small pins stuck all over it. Almost every day visitors to my office (most likely there to get some paperwork signed) try to guess what all the pins represent. Seeing as I’m an aviator, many guess the pins represent airports I’ve visited — not a bad guess. Others take a little more general tack and ask if the pins denote cities I’ve visited. Also not a bad guess but, like the first, it’s not correct. The real answer is simpler and more complex. Those pins represent what makes my organization strong; that they’re dispersed so widely around the map underscores the point.

When a new member joins our team, regardless of rank or time in service, they go through a standardized check-in process that culminates in a one-on-one conversation with both the Executive Officer (XO) and the Commanding Officer (CO). When I assumed my role as XO last year, I hung the map and placed one lonely pin in my hometown. With each subsequent check-in, the map gained a new pin. An entirely different discussion could be had about the cultural and social implications of where the pins have begun to cluster (to include the not insignificant number that isn’t from within the US), but that’s another day. The point is that in a little over a year the map has slowly begun to fill; each new pin makes my original purpose in hanging it easier to demonstrate.

How to Turn Performance Counseling into a Conversation

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By Joe Byerly

When it comes to intentionally developing our subordinates, one of the greatest tools in a leader’s kit bag is one-on-one counseling. Unfortunately, counseling is hit or miss across the Army. I would argue that the majority of officers and NCOs receive formal performance counseling only a handful of times over the course of their careers, leaving inflated officer and non-commissioned officer evaluation reports as their only source of professional feedback. When we don’t provide subordinates with feedback, their professional growth is left up to chance; as a result we see toxic and weak leaders rise through the system, thus damaging the effectiveness of the overall Army.

I personally witnessed the power of counseling as I watched a young officer transform from an unproductive and poor leader into a highly effective one in a just a few short months. All it took was a commander who was willing to take the time and sit down with him to have an open and honest dialogue. The commander’s commitment to that individual helped him become a stronger platoon leader, and in turn improved the performance of the platoon and the company.

As a lieutenant, I only received formal feedback once or twice outside of my initial counseling sessions with my commanders. Because of this lack of feedback, I believe I missed great opportunities for professional growth early on in my career. Once in command, I made it a habit of setting aside time on my calendar to counsel all of the officers and NCOs that I rated. But like most leaders, I look back on my time in command with more than a few regrets. I wish I would have taken my counseling sessions beyond sustains and improves, and turned them into conversations.

Thankfully, one of my former platoon leaders, who eventually became my HHT commander when I was a S3, developed a quarterly counseling program built on trust, reflection, and quality conversations. To begin with, he let his subordinates know up front what to expect when sitting down by providing them with an outline of the conversation before they ever step into his office:

  1. My general perceptions of you as a Leader.
  2. A discussion of key areas in which you are performing well.
  3. A discussion of key areas in which you need to improve your performance.
  4. My assessments of your values (satisfactory or unsatisfactory), performance, and potential (stated with respect to that of an “average” leader of your rank and experience.)
  5. A discussion of your future priorities.
  6. Your assessment of our organization.
  7. Your feedback to me on my leadership style and performance.
Assessing the Army of the Living’s Targeting in Winterfell

Assessing the Army of the Living’s Targeting in Winterfell

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Helen Sloan/HBO

By: Justin Beverly

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Other authors have made much ado about the Army of the Living’s (AoL) tactical blunders at Winterfell, including their failure to effectively use obstacles,  their misuse of cavalry, and their inability to effectively employ air support. However, none of them have addressed one of the key processes that allows conventional armies to fight and win in a complex world: shaping operations in the deep area, as planned and executed within the targeting cycle. Looking through that lens, this fictional battle offers a number of lessons for the modern military professional, and bears examination.

First, a few terms for the uninitiated. We will avoid doctrinal definitions, and try to communicate the concepts in easily understandable terms. The ‘deep area’ is an area that generally falls outside of the range of your maneuver forces, but within the range of your fire support and air assets, including reconnaissance. This is where you will find the bulk of the enemy forces before the engagement, and some of their support elements during it. ‘Shaping’ is simply a nice word for killing, specifically in the deep area. The idea is to use the long-range fires and air support at your disposal to whittle down the enemy’s numbers to the point that you can defeat them in direct combat. ‘Targeting’ is the process by which you shape enemy forces, which we will discuss in detail below.

The targeting process in tactical Army elements is known as ‘D3A.’ This stands for Decide, Detect, Deliver, and Assess. In this process, the commander Decides what enemy targets to strike, the reconnaissance and intelligence elements Detect (find) the targets, the fires or air support assets Deliver (strike) on the target, and the targeting team collectively Assesses the effectiveness of the process as regards the given target. This is a cycle because the assessment from the end of the iteration informs the commander’s decision in the next targeting iteration whether to re-engage the same target again or to move on to a new target. There are other processes, generally used in the joint and special operations communities, but the simplicity and effectiveness of D3A make it an ideal framework for this discussion. So, how well did the AoL target and shape the Night King’s army?

Field Grade Tales From a Former OC/T

Field Grade Tales From a Former OC/T

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By Jim King

One of the benefits of being an Observer Controller/Trainer (OC/T) is that we get to stand with one leg in doctrine and the other in reality. We learn the theory, but then watch countless units fight it out in the Mojave desert, moving theory into practice. As an OC/T, I watched 34 field grades lead their staffs in the military decision-making process (MDMP). Below, are some of my observations that new majors can use to bridge the gap between doctrine and practice and make their units more successful in planning.

For the uninitiated, MDMP may be considered a four letter word. Most junior majors know the steps but are unsure how to make the process work for them. This article summarizes MDMP, noting divergence between theory and practice.

#DAweek: Welcome to Atropia

#DAweek: Welcome to Atropia

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By: James King

Large columns of dust rise up from the desert floor as a hundred T-80 tanks and BMPs are on the move. The commander of the Donovian Operational Strategic Command South (OSC-South) has just given the order to invade Atropia. Supported by separatist fighters from the Belusavar Freedom Brigade (BFB), their task is to seize key natural resources and annex the newly acquired territory. Standing in the way of the five mechanized divisions of the OSC-South is one United States Army division, one division from the United Kingdom, and one Atropian division. In other words, a thin line of defense exists against this near-peer competitor.

This is the situation units find themselves in when they arrive at the National Training Center. Developed by TRADOC, the Decisive Action Training Environment, a combination of Combined Arms Maneuver and Wide Area Security, in which units at NTC, JRTC, and JMRC come to train against was designed to bring the Army back to its roots after a decade and a half of fighting counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. While there are many people within a rotational unit wearing combat patches on their right arm, few if any have experienced tank on tank combat operations and none have experienced a fight against a near-peer threat like the one they are about to face.

#DAweek Getting Intelligence to Move at the Speed of Decisive Action

#DAweek Getting Intelligence to Move at the Speed of Decisive Action

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By: Alex Morrow and Michael Dompierre

 

“To find, know, and never lose the enemy”– Military Intelligence Creed

At the outset of the Army’s return to Decisive Action and Unified Land Operations, National Training Center (NTC) Command Sgt Major Lance P. Lehr identified that a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan had left us “very good at COIN operations… going into a mature theater where we have all of our enablers and all of our sustainment [in place].” As a consequence, he admitted that “we got a little rusty on the combined-arms maneuver – going out and fighting the near-peer competitor with tanks and Bradleys and artillery.” This assessment has been echoed by countless leaders at every echelon in the years since, and is just as applicable to our intelligence enablers and assets as it is to our maneuver forces. On the analytical side, Major David Johnston, who served as the BCT S2 for 3ABCT, 3rd Infantry Division, noted after the first NTC DA rotation back in 2012 that “It quickly became apparent that our skill and methodology for accurately templating a near-peer conventional force had deteriorated.” Similarly, on the enabler side, when BG Jeffrey Broadwater served as as the commander of 2/I ID, he identified a shortfall in effective dissemination of intelligence, commenting that “The details, or in this case lack thereof, of how information moves from sensor to shooter became critical in the fast paced environment of offensive operations.”

The Army’s Intelligence Warfighting Function (IWFF) has been aware of these problems for years now, but progress towards solving them has come slowly, challenging the entrenched and hard-earned experience of Iraq and Afghanistan. The primary mission of military intelligence in the United States Army is to provide timely, relevant, accurate, and synchronized intelligence to tactical, operational and strategic-level commanders. To accomplish this mission in a Decisive Action environment requires teams of intelligence Soldiers and leaders that are prepared to cope with a complex and fast paced battlefield.