One of the most important ways to measure the success of headquarters staffs is to evaluate their operations processes. Did they get the job done? Did they get their commanders the products they needed in a timely manner so that they could effectively execute mission command?

Commanders organize their staffs into functional and integrating cells to enable collaboration and synchronization and to generate an effective battle rhythm. When the battle rhythm functions properly, the principles of mission command become evident in the staff. The staff members come together as a cohesive team, share a mutual understanding, and use the commander's intent to exercise disciplined initiative as they work their way through the operations process.


The headquarters staff of any organization is an integral component of the commander's ability to conduct mission command. According to Army Doctrine Reference Publication 5-0, The Operations Process, the staff's role is to assist commanders with understanding situations, making and implementing decisions, controlling operations, and assessing progress.

Functional cells assemble the staff by warfighting function, and integrating cells group them by time horizon (Field Manual 6-0, Commander and Staff Organization and Operations, paragraph 1-29). Incorporating these cells into the traditional "S" staff sections ensures a logical delegation of duties and responsibilities. It maps out the operations process, enabling synchronization of information and collaboration.


Most sustainers are familiar with staffs that are structured by modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE). These staff sections have an S-1 for personnel, S-2 for intelligence, S-3 for operations, S-4 for logistics, and so forth. Figure 1 is an example of this kind of structure.

However, newly assigned officers and noncommissioned officers in sustainment brigades often believe that in order to create functional and integrating cells during exercises, they must tear apart the MTOE structure. Figure 2 unintentionally reinforces this notion. It does not show the "S" staff sections, nor does it show how staffs should incorporate functional and integrating cells within the staff sections depicted in figure 1. When sustainers see depictions like figure 2, it incorrectly confirms their assumptions that the cells supersede staff sections in field environments.

Figure 3 corrects these assumptions by showing how both structures are compatible. It overlays the functional and integrating cells onto the sustainment brigade MTOE organization chart. It depicts the linkage between MTOE sections and two types of cells. Moreover, it portrays which staff section officers-in-charge will oversee the functional and integrating cells.


The construct of functional and integrating cells incorporated within the headquarters sections gives the commander a highly organized staff with designated points of contact for every aspect of the operations process. The current operations section, with its movement and maneuver, fires, and protection cells, is the realm of the S-3. The support operations (SPO) section oversees external sustainment and prepares long-term plans within the future operations section.

The S-4's sustainment functional cell (which includes the S-1, S-8, brigade surgeon, and chaplain) oversees all sustainment internal to the brigade. Finally, the S-2, S-6, and S-9 are enablers for all three planning horizons and, thus, incorporate themselves into the workings of the other staff sections.

The deputy commanding officer (DCO) incorporates them all (including the public affairs officer and the staff judge advocate) into a functioning staff. The DCO is the approving authority for the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that each section and cell develops. As the headquarters integrator, the DCO confirms that the mechanisms put in place by the SOPs ensure a high degree of synchronization and collaboration.


Running a command post is extremely challenging. The necessities of developing structure and delegating and codifying duties and responsibilities are paramount to mission success. Working groups and boards are two types of Army meetings that give the staff the structure they need within their battle rhythm.

Working groups are meetings in which the participants come up with courses of action (COAs) for future missions. Boards are meetings in which the commander (or commander-appointed representative) chooses a particular COA to continue the mission. When executed efficiently, these meetings become the backbone of a coherent battle rhythm that collectively points the staff toward synchronization with higher sustainment headquarters as well as supported maneuver commanders.


One reason fully staffed sustainment brigades have difficulties with working groups and boards is that they fail to adhere to the Army's SOP for meetings (Field Manual 6-0, paragraph 1-68). When asked about meetings, most sustainers will tell you that they are too long and often lack coherence.

The DCO should mitigate this phenomenon with a well-organized battle rhythm. Before the DCO adds a meeting to the battle rhythm, the requester of the meeting must convince the DCO that it is a necessary addition. The requester should provide the answers to the following questions:

• How often does this meeting need to occur?
• Who needs to attend the meeting?
• What inputs does the requester need to proceed with the meeting?
• Do the outputs of the meeting serve a purpose?


This article leaves you with these important points:

• Functional and integrating cells do not destroy the MTOE staff concept.
• Functional and integrating cells add organization, synchronization, and collaboration to the staff sections.
• A well-organized battle rhythm allows the staff to conduct the operations process effectively.
• Staffs often poorly implement functional and integrating cells because they do not know the purpose of working groups and boards.
• The Army's SOP for meetings prevents attendees from wasting their time.

Working groups and boards executed by functional and integrating cells are the key components of the unit's battle rhythm. Cells do not exacerbate the staff's operating tempo problems. Instead, they are a means by which the staff can streamline their duties and responsibilities.

The cells allow the DCO to avoid micromanagement because the cells distribute all major duties and responsibilities across the entire staff. Cells facilitate staff section collaboration, and this collaboration enables the commander to make informed decisions, which is a critical component of mission accomplishment.

Maj. Richard Reeves is a sustainment observer-coach/trainer in the Mission Command Training Program's Operations Group Sierra. He has a bachelor's degree in history from California State University at Humboldt and a master's degree in history from Brigham Young University. He is a graduate of the Theater Sustainment Planners Course and the Command and General Staff Officers' Course.
This article is an Army Sustainment magazine product.