“Wall Walk” Yourself and Your Team to Better Briefings and Papers


By: Colonel Michael Lawhorn

I have delivered, and I have been on the receiving end of less than stellar briefings that usually involve a lot of tedious Power Point slides.

Now there is plenty of advice out there both on personal briefing techniques and how to make better slides. In fact, on my short professional reading list, is Garr Reynolds’s Presentation Zen, which is both a book and a blog dedicated to helping people create and deliver better briefings.

Another way to help you create quality presentations can be by using a helpful technique called the “Wall Walk”. This technique is something I learned while serving on the Joint Staff’s Deployable Training Team.

Our team would deploy around the world to major military exercises, and after the exercise was complete, we would conduct a Wall Walk to create post-exercise (or After Action Review) briefings to the four-star commanding generals and their staffs.

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When Organizational Change Goes Wrong

AF Space Operations

By Dan Sanders

Five months into my Air Force operations officer tour, my boss and I reflected on how we were doing. I came to the conclusion that while we had made great strides in achieving his vision of unifying our team, and professionalizing the organization as a whole, we also stumbled hard along the way. We tried to implement change too quickly and the organization wasn’t ready for that. As a result, we created more friction than necessary.

Luckily, at the time of that conversation, I happened to be reading Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Their message was simple and powerful.  “Leaders must own everything in their world.  There is no one else to blame.” In the month or so since that conversation with my commander, I have spent a lot of time thinking about those early months in the squadron.  Experience is a great teacher if we’re willing to learn.  Hopefully some of you won’t have to stick your hand on the hot stove and you can learn from my mistakes.

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Turning Defeat into Development


Dempsey and Firpo by George Bellows

By Joe Byerly

On September 14, 1923, over 80,000 spectators packed into the New York City Polo Grounds to watch one of the most famous prizefights in boxing history. The heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey, who stood at 6’1 and weighed around 185 pounds, defended his title against Luis Firpo, the Wild Bull of Pampas. Firpo had two inches on Dempsey and outweighed him by thirty-five pounds. This matchup was so popular it didn’t even need commercials or Facebook ads to promote it. For example, Dempsey’s train-up prior to the fight drew 3,000 people a day to watch the champ prepare and the gate alone drew $1.2 million- in 1920’s money!

As soon as the bell rang, the two fighters gave everyone their money’s worth. Within the first few minutes, both boxers found themselves on their backs after some brutal exchanges. Dempsey knocked Firpo down seven times in the first round and he probably thought he had the fight in the bag. With less than thirty seconds remaining, Firpo caught Dempsey with a blow that sent him through the ropes (head first) onto one of the tables below. The referee began his count.

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When War Comes Home: An Interview



I heard about American War back in December, and finally got my hands on a copy a few days after it was available for purchase. After reading the first couple of pages, I was hooked. It wasn’t only the subject matter that pulled me in, but the way in which Omar El Akkad writes brings his story into vivid color.  I recently caught up with the author and we discussed American War. 

Joe: Omar, the title of your debut novel is the first thing that caught my eye several months ago. Can you tell us what American War: A Novel is about?

Omar: American War tells the story of a second American civil war that takes place about 60 years from now. The war begins after the federal government decides to impose a prohibition on the use of fossil fuels. Even though most of the world has moved on to other sources of fuel by then, and climate change has destroyed much of the U.S. coastline and drowned Florida entirely, a number of southern states still decide to secede rather than go along with prohibition. The novel follows the Chestnuts, a family living in southernmost Louisiana, as they are displaced from their home by war and forced into a southern refugee camp.

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Lead Like a CHAMPION

Public Affairs Supervisor Advanced Leader Course, Class 501–17, posing after a physical fitness test.

By SSG Alex R. Ramos

The sport of boxing has had a rich tradition in my family. My father used to box, my uncles and cousins were pugilists, even my grandma laced up the gloves to practice the sport.

My dad, Rafael Ramos, has been inducted into three different Halls of Fame (at the time of this commentary) for his role as a professional boxing referee. He never wanted me to box, and because of that reason, I did not start training until I was 16, which is considered a late age to start the discipline when compared to elite boxers.

One of my father’s friends started teaching me near the end of my junior year of high school. I did my best to impersonate a sponge when I first received my boxing tutelage. I soaked up all of my coach’s advice. I practiced every day with conviction. I methodically trained on my footwork stepping forward and stepping backward way before I even started working on any punches.

I then worked on perfecting my jab before moving to combinations. It wasn’t long before I started fantasizing about lifting the championship belt and hearing the ring announcer say, “…and the NEW featherweight champion of the world, Alexis…Rafael…Ramos.” I could hear the crowd chant my nickname, “Ramito, Ramito, Ramito” in my head.

While I did garner a few accolades in the sport of amateur boxing, I never reached the level I wished to attain. Several years have passed since my last match, and my dream of being a world renowned boxing title holder did not pan out the way I had hoped.

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#DAweek: Welcome to Atropia


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.

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


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.

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#DAweek Somebody…Anybody…Revise the TACSOP


By: Jeff Meinders

One of the few documents a unit uses to help describe how they fight is their tactical standard operating procedure (TACSOP) book. The Army’s manual on how to write an SOP, ATP 3-90.90, lists 32 questions to help guide the production of an SOP.  This information is somewhat helpful, and answers the what, but what about the how of writing an SOP?

Most unit SOPs look like my neighbor’s old fence; some new boards, some old boards, a few sagging sections and some small patches of scrap wood. My unit’s previous SOP was a conglomeration of doctrine, TTPs, and borrowed information.  This resulted in a unit that had an SOP, but no one used, and its relevance was minimal to tactical operations.  Version control was a problem; before I arrived, there were 3 different SOPs on digits and no one knew which one to use.  If your unit isn’t using a hard copy to reference, it’s a good indication of its neglected state.

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#DAweek Winning the Fight To See


By Alan Hastings

Our Cavalry formations have a maneuver problem. Somewhere between the line of departure and the reconnaissance objective, our reconnaissance stops. In our efforts to conduct reconnaissance, we find ourselves falling well short of achieving the reconnaissance objective – answering the BCT Commander’s priority information requirements to inform his decision points. COL Ross Coffman, Commander of Operations Group at the National Training Center, asserts that there are five reasons why reconnaissance operations might stop:

  1. We achieve the reconnaissance objective. We answer the PIR that informs the BCT Commander’s decision-making.
  2. We gain contact with an enemy beyond our capability to defeat and we are unable to bypass
  3. We outrun the range of our fire support
  4. We outrun the reach of our sustainment
  5. We outrun the range of our communications systems

Of these, it is the enemy that most frequently bars the way, preventing us from orienting on the reconnaissance objective. Some might mistakenly believe that simply by gaining contact with the enemy and fighting them where we find them, we are conducting reconnaissance. After all, in doing so, we have obtained information about the enemy. While true, we aren’t obtaining the right information – information that confirms or denies how the enemy intends to fight. As COL Curtis Taylor, commander of 1/4 ID SBCT recently commented, we must get away from the idea that we ‘see to fight’ and understand that we ‘fight to see.’

In this ‘fight to see,’ we must leverage the Cavalry formation’s capability to conduct combined-arms maneuver to defeat this threat. Indeed, ‘clear[ing] all enemy forces in the designated AO within the capability of the unit conducting reconnaissance” remains a critical task of zone reconnaissance, as listed in FM 3-98, Reconnaissance and Security Operations. To accomplish this, three things are required. First, Commanders and their staffs must conduct detailed maneuver planning for the fight between the line of departure and the reconnaissance objective. In a recent Armor Magazine article, CPT Luke Bowers aptly compared a Cavalry Troop’s assigned NAIs to objectives assigned to an infantry or tank company. The latter would never cross the line of departure without graphic control measures to enable their maneuver towards the objective, so why would a Cavalry Troop (Figure 1)? Second, we must develop shared understanding, through iterative training, of how we fight at echelon against enemy counter-reconnaissance forces. Put another way, we must achieve mastery of actions on contact and battle drills. When a Cavalry formation gains contact with an enemy within it’s capability to defeat, how should it go about doing so? How should it react when gaining contact with an enemy force beyond its capability to defeat? Finally, Commanders must tailor their Commander’s reconnaissance guidance (focus, tempo, engagement/disengagement and displacement criteria) to communicate how they expect to fight during reconnaissance operations. Detailed planning, mastery in conducting actions on contact and battle drills, and well-crafted Commander’s reconnaissance guidance enable us to win the ‘fight to see.’

Figure 1

Figure 1 – Typical Troop-level graphics for Troop zone reconnaissance between PL AMSTEL and PL DOS EQUIS, with enemy situation overlay depicting known and templated enemy counter reconnaissance forces.

Detailed planning results in a course of action that integrates and synchronizes combat power into a combined arms approach to the tactical problem. At the BCT-level, we must regard reconnaissance and security operations as not a tactical task assigned solely to the Cavalry Squadron, but as a ‘whole-of-BCT fight’. Often, we plan the information collection operation at a very conceptual level, issuing an Annex L (Information Collection) with little course of action development and analysis for how we expect to traverse the distance between LD and the locations from which to observe our NAIs. The BCT staff must plan and provide mission command for the ‘fight to see.’ This requires detailed planning for the integration of BCT-level UAS, ground maneuver forces, attack aviation, close air support, and field artillery fires. At the Squadron-level, the staff must analyze the potential enemy courses of action and, in course of action development, array combined forces in favorable combat power ratios against those templated threats. Developing branch plans for the employment of the direct fire company is one possible technique for accomplishing this. At the Troop-level, synchronizing the maneuver of multiple platoons is necessary to defeat enemy platoon-sized counter-reconaissance forces within the Troop’s AO (Figure 2). Detailed planning and development of the necessary graphic control measures to support this maneuver provides Cavalry formations the flexibility to mass combat power at the location and time of their, rather than the enemy’s, choosing. Enabled thus, the Squadron and the BCT’s organic information collection assets are able to defeat enemy counter-reconnaissance formations that they would otherwise be unable to defeat.

Figure 2

Figure 2 – Troop-level hasty attack on known enemy positions during conduct of a rapid and forceful Troop zone reconnaissance between PL AMSTEL and PL DOS EQUIS. When the enemy situation is unknown, Cavalry formations can rapidly develop the situation and maneuver using well-rehearsed battle drills and actions on contact.

Mastery of actions on contact and the conduct of battle drills at echelon enable us to rapidly develop the situation and maneuver on enemy in our AO that are within our collective capability to defeat. We must conduct the combined arms maneuver to defeat the enemy within our capability to do so. Our Cavalry formations conduct iterative training to be able maneuver at the moment that they gain contact. Further, we must understand when making recommendations to higher headquarters for the commitment of additional combat power is required. Frequently, our Cavalry Troops gain contact with similarly-sized enemy forces in hasty defensive positions and, lacking favorable combat power ratios, impale themselves in valiant attempts to defeat the enemy within their assigned area of operations and continue reconnaissance. We must resist this ‘to hell with it, we’ll do it live’ approach. Cavalry leaders gaining contact with an enemy beyond their capability to defeat must be able to visualize the way in which the higher headquarters will defeat the threat and, exercising disciplined initiative, coordinate with adjacent units or make recommendations to the Commander. In this way, we will reduce the length of our decision cycles, resulting in rapid development of the situation.

Finally, the Commander’s reconnaissance guidance provides an opportunity for the commander to communicate his vision of how the reconnaissance fight will unfold given the mission variables specific to the operation. In particular, engagement/disengagement criteria serve to specify how much risk the commander is willing to assume at echelon while fighting to defeat enemy counter-reconnaissance forces. Combined with intimate knowledge of his formation’s battle drills, this reconnaissance guidance enables the Cavalry leader to envision what threats he is expected to defeat, how he might do so, and against which threats additional combat power is required to defeat.

When our commanders and staffs conduct detailed planning to integrate and synchronize combat power in support of Cavalry formations we become better able to defeat those enemy that we might otherwise prove unable to defeat. When our formations master actions on contact and battle drills, we become better able to defeat the enemy within our organic capability to defeat. When the Commander issues well-tailored reconnaissance guidance, we gain a shared understanding for how he envisions defeating the enemy’s security zone. With these capabilities, we will win the ‘fight to see’ and the enemy will rarely prove to be the reason why our reconnaissance operations stop.

CPT Alan Hastings currently serves as a Senior Tactical Analyst at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. He holds a B.S from the United States Military Academy. An armor officer, he has served as a Cavalry Troop OC/T, Troop Commander, and Tank Platoon Leader.



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#DAweek: The Survivability Mix


By: Remy Hemez

In today’s rapidly evolving security environment, and after years of COIN operations, our armies are shifting their focus towards combined-arms maneuvers, which enables them to better prepare for combat against a wider array of adversaries, including near-peer competitors. This shift implies a renewed interest in the concept of survivability, defined as the holistic capacity of a weapon system to avoid, resist or recover from damage caused by hostile action that threatens it with destruction, and the ability to pursue the mission.

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