By John Harlow/TRADOC News ServiceAugust 18, 2009
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (TRADOC News Service, Aug. 18, 2009) - Leader development is the top priority of Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Commanding General of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. On the first day of the TRADOC Senior Leader Conference in Gettysburg, the senior leaders of TRADOC took a staff ride of the Gettysburg battlefield to look back at how Generals Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States and U.S Federal Army Gen. George G. Meade worked through the Battle of Gettysburg.
Len Fullenkamp, of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle walked the TRADOC leaders of today through the footsteps of Lee and Meade and some of the other major players in the three-day Gettysburg battle.
Fullenkamp explained how some of the Corps commanders had just days in a leadership position before being thrust into the battle that played a major role in the outcome of the civil war.
"Lee assumed that his subordinates understood his intent," said Fullenkamp. "He empowered his lower level commanders the ability to carry out the mission."
As the discussion progressed Fullenkamp talked about how Lee basically looked at a decentralization of his Army.
The discussion turned to talking about Campaign Design. Fullenkamp described it as giving the commander a mental picture.
"Today decentralization of our Army is inevitable," said Dempsey as the Design discussion progressed. "We have to look at making sure we have the ability to understand design at lower levels. We need to make it an initiative into our training because understanding the impacts of our movements on the population and other factors on the battlefield is more and more important."
By empowering his leaders to make decisions, Lee provided the opportunity to lead up from the bottom. Design helps get a decentralized Army to lead up.
Before the Battle of Gettysburg, there were two different ways the different sides fought. The Confederacy fought a defensive war and the Union had the strategy to go get Lee's Army and destroy it. In Gettysburg, Lee was the aggressor and Meade took the cautious defensive approach.
As the day on the battlefield continued, the discussion turned to information and how Commanders reacted to it.
During the Civil War, Lee and Meade could only rely on the telegraph or couriers to bring information from the battle lines to the command post. Today with the command post of the future, there is so much more information available to commanders.
Fullenkamp talked about how commanders separate themselves from the fight to give them the ability to see the big picture.
With that, the TRADOC commander talked about the current information and how it is still important for the commander to get out and see things for themselves.
"With the technology we have, you can convince yourself what is going on from looking at the computer screen," said Dempsey. "You need to be able to see what is happening for yourself because you can't develop a feel for what is happening remotely."
Dempsey also spoke about information as something that has the power to paralyze.
"You might wait an extra couple minutes to get that last piece of information in before you make a decision," said Dempsey. "That can hurt, but it can also help. You hope to have the most information available before making a decision."
It was a day looking back at history and looking at how the lessons of Lee and Meade can help make better leaders, better Soldiers and a better Army.