Mission Command and leader development are essential to each other
June 19, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 18, 2013) -- The essence of executing Mission Command rests on leader development according to Lt. Gen. David G. Perkins, commander, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth. His comment set the stage for the panel, "Leadership and Education for Mission Command."
Perkins noted that many leaders in today's Army understand the attributes of a good leader, but are challenged to figure out how to make or build a good leader in the midst of shrinking resources and fewer Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations. Leader development is accomplished through the institutional, operational and experience domains, and not solely at the CTCs. Everyday activities provide endless opportunities to develop the competencies, skills, and trust that are vital to growing good leaders who are able to execute mission command.
Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon, Jr., Superintendent, United States Military Academy, highlighted some of the different opportunities that West Point employs to teach mission command and emphasize critical thinking. For example, Cadet Leadership Development Training (CLDT) offers cadets realistic battlefield scenarios to practice mission command. Huntoon said, "Mission command is a fundamental element in the teaching of our MX-400 "Officership" course." This capstone course focuses on intellectual and practical skills interweaving two broad themes - mission command and professionalism. In yet another training opportunity, "Leader Challenge" is vignettes taken from the operational force that provide opportunities to teach and reflect on the tenants of mission command.
Mr. Karl F. Schneider, Principal Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) discussed concerns he encounters when trying to develop a mission command culture. Mission Command is a general concept for all Army efforts, and it is just as important to educate Army civilians as it is to educate Soldiers. "Every Army civilian should ask themselves two questions: how can mission command help me do my job better, and how is the work that I do supporting the Total Army," he said. Army communications should be descriptive and not prescriptive. For example, operations orders need to describe the outcomes and not prescribe the "how."
When visiting other installations, Sergeant Major Dennis A. Eger, Mission Command Center of Excellence, said he discusses the importance of the noncommissioned officer (NCO) in executing mission command and in shaping the command culture in each organization. He laid out the current hours devoted to mission command in the various schools of the NCO Education System and framed some of the challenges ahead for injecting mission command into each Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). He said several units cited the value of courses, such as the Digital Master Gunner Course and the Mission Command System Integration Course, in helping them to operate, maintain, and, more importantly, integrate the systems that can enable the execution of mission command.
Dr. James G. Lacey, Director War Policy and Strategy/Professor Economics and National Power, Marine Corps War College captured everyone's attention with his assessment of the challenges the Army faces in delivering compelling, inspirational messages about not only mission command, but also what the Army does and why it is important to nation. He highlighted how various concept statements need to focus on one central idea or concept.
Dr. Lance Betrose, Provost, Army War College (AWC), said the AWC teaches mission command in all its academic programs, whether they're cognitive or experience. The AWC also executes mission command in designing and conducting the education experience across the courses.
A question from the audience focused on the value of the staff in a concept that is so commander-centric. Perkins emphasized the staff's capabilities, especially in bringing clarity to understanding the situation, and, through constant dialogue with other staffs, accurately communicating the commander's intent to generate a common understanding of the operational environment.
The panel's moderator, retired Lt. Gen. Don Holder, had said the panel would look at every aspect of education, from what changes need to be made to best practices and techniques, as well as obstacles and impediments. The panel did just that…and more.