Complex environment drives training
June 20, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo.--How do commanders train teams and individuals to support Mission Command in such a complex operating environment?
That is the question six panel members attempted to answer during a panel on "Mission Command Training" at the AUSA Mission Command Symposium, Kansas City, Mo., June 20. The panel, consisting of senior active duty officers, and one representative from the United States Institute of Peace, addressed this question and many more in front of a 200-man gathering at the two-day symposium event.
Lt. Gen. John M. Bednarek, Commander, First United States Army addressed the crowd via Skype from his location at Fort Hood, Tex., where he was participating in a III Corps Warfighter exercise. He set the tone for the panel discussion by saying this panel, "…is the most important panel, and it (Mission Command) is the most important warfighting function that we can train at echelon."
Lt. Gen. David G. Perkins, Commander, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., addressed the difficult dilemma of how a unit can train in "squishy" concepts such as trust, adaptability, and team building; essential elements of Mission Command. "How do you train that? There is not a simulator for that," he said.
Perkins provided some practical advice on how leaders can train Soldiers in these complicated areas. First, he suggested that leaders model the behavior they want in their subordinates. "Really, the best training is what we do each and every day and how we model those attributes we want," Perkins said.
When attempting to train subordinate leaders in adaptability he suggested that the idea is to train them on how to identify the indicators that change is about to take place. Leaders need to know what can change and what is changeable, according to Perkins.
He also advised the members of the audience that when building a team, don't focus on trying to make new members like you, but instead, figure out the new team members' strengths. Once those strengths are known, a leader can capitalize on those strengths to benefit every member of the team.
Lt. Col. Pat Harkins, Mission Command Training Center, Fort Leavenworth discussed how MCTP is changing to adjust to the new Mission Command paradigm. He said the observer controller/trainers were improving their doctrinal base, becoming more involved in Warfighter exercise constructs, focusing more of their efforts on helping units with their training management, and integrating more Joint, Inter-agency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) organizations into their training efforts.
The sole civilian on the panel, Dr. Querine Hanlon, National Defense University senior fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace highlighted how the current complex defense environment places a premium on education, training, and being able to work with a "whole-of-community" in order to be successful. She also said the complex environment requires leaders to be comfortable and proficient dealing in politics.
"One of the most important skills is going to be political acumen. In some ways we are asking our forces to be creative, even to be political entrepreneurs…to be political actors. Their power to influence and shape may come from more political actions than from the use of force," said Hanlon.
This panel discussion capped off the AUSA-sponsored event held in Kansas City, setting the stage for larger discussions on how to implement these training strategies across the Army in support of Mission Command.