Soldiers in Afghanistan
In this file photo, U.S. and British soldiers take a tactical pause during a combat patrol in the Sangin District area of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., May 12, 2009 - The Army will require a different type of leader in the fight against terrorism and other kinds of irregular warfare, the Army's top troop trainer said here today.

Not too many years ago, senior Army leaders were taught to combine speed with massed conventional forces to beat a similarly equipped, conventional enemy, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told attendees at the 2009 Joint Warfighting Conference, being held here through May 14.

The object of battle strategy then was to quickly defeat the enemy through attrition of his forces, Dempsey explained.

Consequently, he said, leaders' training scenarios of that time "were designed to challenge leaders to understand an enemy who was predictably arrayed on the battlefield and to master the factors of time and distance," Dempsey said.

With the advent of terrorism and other types of irregular warfare, he said, the U.S. military now "must develop leaders who are effective in the context of ill-defined problems against an enemy likely to migrate among operational themes."

Terrorists' decentralized command structure and hit-and-run tactics are designed to exploit slower-acting, more-controlled conventional military forces, Dempsey said. Also, he continued, weaker states may seek to use hybrid warfare, combining conventional forces with irregular troops, to confront a stronger foe.

All of this, Dempsey said, creates complexity on the battlefield that, in turn, requires a different kind of leadership and a decentralized command structure that pushes down decision-making authority to more junior leaders.

"We must prepare leaders for the shifting balance of operational and tactical art due to complexity and decentralization [on the battlefield]," Dempsey said. "As the operational environment becomes more complex, commanders at much-lower echelons of command must gain an appreciation of the operational art."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16