Training for War-What We're Learning
NOTE: CC is company commanders. We are in an
ongoing professional conversation about
leading Soldiers and building combat-ready teams. Company Commanders
connect at: http://CompanyCommand.army.mil
To: Company Commanders
From: CompanyCommand-your professional forum
In January 2004, members of the CC team had
the privilege of spending an incredible evening with Tony Nadal
(a company commander featured in the book, We Were Soldiers Once...and
Young). After dinner, Tony took us to the Vietnam Memorial where
we gathered around him in the cold January night. He shined a flashlight
on panel #13, illuminating the names of his fallen warriors. When
he was done telling their stories, he turned to us and said: "When
I returned from Vietnam, no one asked me what I had learned."
If you commanded a company in combat, we are
asking you to share what you learned. One way to do that is by completing
the "Combat-Leader Interview" linked from the Warfighting
topic on CC. In this article, we share with you excerpts from responses
to one of the interview questions:
Will your experiences as a commander in war
change the way you train or lead Soldiers? If so, how?
Absolutely Everything Focused on Combat by
Dave Polizzotti (B/1-66 AR; HHC/1-66 AR, 4th ID, Ft. Hood)
Everything, absolutely everything done in garrison
must be done to focus the company's efforts on combat operations.
Soldiers no longer just shoot to qualify on a pop-up M16 range.
Now they are told that if they get 30 out of 40, then they still
got killed 10 times. During field exercises, if a Soldier is "wounded"
or killed, his chain of command writes letters of condolence. OPORDs
are used for everything we do, including our Sergeants' Time Training,
so that Soldiers get accustomed to hearing things in a specific
format. That way, when they are in combat or thrust into a leadership
position, they understand the language. Our experience in the desert
has given both leaders and Soldiers a window of opportunity to get
home-station training right.
An Addition to Murphy's Laws of Combat by Eric
Lopez (C/1-87 IN, Ft. Drum)
I've learned to train Soldiers to do more than
only react to contact-they have to be trained to make contact, to
react to anything. In STX lanes, we always have the enemy fire first.
Why? Why give away the initiative? Why allow potential bad guys
to walk away if you have more firepower? We need to train our Soldiers
to proactively develop situations, using words, warning shots, etc.
I have also learned to empower leaders at the lowest levels- team
leaders, squad leaders-to make life-and-death decisions. Here's
an addition to Murphy's Laws of Combat: contact with the enemy or
an IED will be made by your most junior, newest Soldier. So train
him and his immediate leaders to handle the situation.
Latitude in Training ... Initiative in Combat
by John Whyte (HHC/2-11 IN; A/1-30 IN; HHC/3rd Bde, 3ID, Ft. Benning)
I think we all have to constantly work to give
subordinates the opportunity to try something, possibly fail, and
learn from it, while in training. I've always recognized and fought
my tendency to be too directive or prescriptive. It often seems
that training opportunities are too precious to waste an iteration
of an event by letting a subordinate leader do something you're
pretty sure won't work. If you are that sure that it won't work,
then you're better off letting them try it-you'll never truly convince
them any other way, and they'll learn from it. Who knows, you could
be wrong and it might work! When you give them some latitude in
training, it will pay off as initiative in combat.
Train For the Friction of Counterinsurgency
Operations by Chase Metcalf (C/1-1 CAV, 1st AD, Germany)
The nature of warfare is changing. It is critical
that all Soldiers know how to use their personal weapons to fight
in all scenarios. I will insure that Soldiers train to a "T"
on reflexive-fire techniques and dismounted movement/ maneuver in
a MOUT environment. To defeat an insurgency, it's important to train
the ability to gather intelligence down to the Soldier level. Finally,
building training scenarios with civilians on the battlefield and
an unclear intelligence picture is definitely a higher priority
than I used to consider it, due to the friction of counterinsurgency
Lead from the Front! by Tony Lacy (C/46 EN
BN, 194th EN BDE, TNARNG)
You have to identify good leaders coming up.
Those NCOs that get things done are who you want. The one that always
looked great in the rear is not always the one that can handle the
pressure. The only way you can identify and develop your leaders'
abilities is to push your training to the limit. Test them, make
them better. Leadership-be involved, know your weaknesses, build
a team, lead from the front! Your XO can handle the rear.
Introduce as much Complexity as Safety Allows
by Mark Olsen (D/3-325 AIR, 82nd ABN DIV, Ft. Bragg)
There are two things that I will emphasize
in any future training event. I will push as much responsibility
and decision- making as possible down to the squad/team-leader level.
As an anti-armor company, we often operated at below- the-platoon
level. The company had extremely capable NCOs who performed exceedingly
well. Their ability to confront and solve complex problems without
always seeking guidance was crucial. Along the same line, I will
introduce as much complexity as safety and the unit's training level
allow. My experience in Iraq often involved having to be mentally
prepared to conduct combat operations, interact with NGOs, and participate
in a local governmental council meeting. Mental flexibility was
imperative. The problems facing Soldiers, while not the same as
those confronting a commander, did involve similar levels of complexity.
Soldiers often had to decide whether the people confronting them
should be left alone, needed to be detained, or were looking for
a firefight. While hard to master, an essential task facing all
Soldiers deployed is calibrating the level of force required to
deal with any situation. These are difficult situations to handle,
but Soldiers will react better if they have seen something similar
Stress Moving and Shooting in all Conditions
by Matt Harmon (SFODA 313 and HSC/1-3 SFG (A), Ft. Bragg)
Fighting an insurgency is unlike anything taught
in regular military manuals. From Green Berets to mechanics, everyone
has to train to these ambiguous situations. Thinking outside the
box is exactly how the enemy fights. We stress moving and shooting
in all conditions with all your gear on. We work on exercises that
cause the Soldiers to feel hot and tired, then are forced to make
shots. We work hard on understanding the capabilities and limitations
of our unit, our weapons, and ourselves.We focus on trying to think
of every scenario and training exercise that could cause us to think
and react. The days of sitting in a prepared foxhole on a range
and shooting targets at known distances is over. Everyone in every
MOS has to be able to move, shoot, and communicate.
Train the Same Tasks in Different Ways by Greg
Ford (C/311 MI, Fort Campbell)
I am much more focused on the tasks we performed
in combat. My analysts are focusing on real-world locations; no
longer do we train with fictional areas. We are training the same
tasks, because they are our METL tasks, but we are doing so in different
ways. Fort Campbell is not Iraq, so the REMBASS training has to
be adjusted for the different terrain. We are working on putting
the sensors out in the open and attempting to camouflage them there.
One lesson we found is that the desert is unforgiving of failure
to camouflage the sensors properly. Sensors are far more easily
compromised in the desert than they are in the forest. For my HUMINT
guys, we are working more through translators or interpreters. That
is how we operated over in Iraq, and properly using an interpreter
results in much better results in the interrogation or interview.
We are also tying in more with our supported battalions. These are
the Soldiers who will give us the support over there for security
and who will own the terrain we operate in. This allows us to get
our TTPs down and feel comfortable with each other prior to deploying
again. All my Soldiers understand that the skills they are training
on are the skills that they will use in combat.
Train to Think Critically and Act Independently
by Marshall Tway (D/1-1 CAV, 1st AD, Germany)
The ability to think critically and make sound
decisions in the absence of guidance is absolutely essential. ...
Training the ability to think critically and act independently is
hard. You have to set the environment for your troopers and allow
them the opportunity to practice without reprisal. ... It takes
time to change the organizational mind-set of a unit. ...Train junior
leaders and every Soldier to understand how to get task, purpose,
and end state out of an OPORD. ... Insure your subordinates have
an intimate knowledge of their unit's doctrinal missions, capabilities,
and limitations. ... Teach them how to read an OPORD to ensure they
get the critical information from it. I used a curtailed missionanalysis
process for my guys. Tailor one for your own unit. ... Actively
seek to conduct centralized planning and decentralized execution
of your missions (otherwise, there isn't much point to whole thing).
... Ensure you and your platoon leaders foster a command climate
where you empower your subordinates to make decisions (important
ones-or else you really are not changing much). ... Be prepared
to have to fix some mistakes. It will happen, your subordinates
are human-you messed some stuff up as a PL. ... Be prepared to tough
it out. There will likely be some questions and some initial complaining
when you don't provide the level of supervision the troops may be
used to. ... Most importantly, give good, tailored guidance, but
only give what you need to. Your Troopers will come back for more
if they need it. ... After three months of commanding in combat,
I was confident that I could trust my Troopers to make the right
decision time after time.
<subhead>The Combat-Leader Interview
<text>These six questions form the foundation
of the interview, which is web-based and can be accessed from the
Warfighting topic of CC. Responses can also be e-mailed directly
1. What was your toughest leadership challenge,
and how did you address it?
2. Will your experience in combat change the
way you lead and train Soldiers?
3. What do you think best prepared you for
the challenge of leadership in combat?
4. What advice do you have for leaders preparing
for combat in your specific theatre?
5. What image, event, or feeling do you think
you will best remember most in 50 years?
6. Do you have any additional thoughts you'd
like to share with the profession?
<subhead>Five Reasons to Complete the
<text>1.You are at the cutting edge of
experience right now.
2. What you have learned will directly impact
leaders who are currently in combat or getting ready to go now.
3. In the process of doing the interview, you
will reflect on your own experience and learn as well.
4. It is not enough for us to learn as individuals
or even as units-our effectiveness over time depends on how well
we as a profession collectively learn and adapt.
5. What is at stake is our long-term effectiveness
as an Army.
On behalf of the profession, I would like to
thank all the leaders who have stepped up to the plate to share
what they are learning in combat. Your contribution is appreciated-
you are making an impact! If you have commanded in combat, we urge
you to take time to complete a Combat-Leader Interview. Find the
link in the Warfighting topic or e-mail your responses directly
to me. In closing, I would like to share two things that seem to
make interview responses more effective:
1. Be real. Speak from the heart. You are writing
to your peer commanders and those who will follow in your footsteps.
2. Share specific stories to create context
and a much deeper understanding about your insights. Real stories
"stick" and make a difference that a bullet comment alone
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