CAMP BLANDING, Fla. (March 10) - While their men focused on learning how to use a new howitzer, the staff officers of the New York Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, have been learning how to lead them better.
The officers gathered around several tables, poring over maps and battle plans, as they learned "MDMP" -- the Military Decision-Making Process -- which is shorthand for an organization and planning system meant to help leaders develop their operations plans efficiently.
"MDMP is where the science of leading meets the art of leading," said Maj. Peter Mehling, the 1/258's executive officer. "It's the means by which you take a higher-headquarters mission and break it down into clear, understandable guidance for your subordinate units."
As is the case with many elements of field artillery, this is more complicated than it initially sounds. A brigade commander may want his artillery battalion to provide fire on a specific location, but in order to do that, a host of moving pieces must be carefully coordinated.
"Every unit has vehicles and (Soldiers) to move," said Capt. Brian Napier, a resident of Port Chester who serves as the battalion's operations and training (S3) officer. "The artillery has a much larger logistical planning operation prior to movement. There are the guns, the ammunition, how much time it takes to emplace those guns, and the huge logistical footprint required to keep those guns up and running."
The 1st of the 258's staff is working together in a staff capacity for the first time, and Napier said he feels like they've learned a lot already from holding rehearsal briefings and learning from a training team from Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Tuesday afternoon, they held a mission analysis briefing -- one of the first steps of MDMP -- for battalion commander Lt. Col. Michael Hoblin. During the briefing, he asked pointed questions of Napier and Capt. Kar Chu, the commander of Headquarters Battery. Hoblin congratulated the staff on their improvements over the previous day's briefing.
"You guys have come a long way in just a 24-hour period," he said.
"It feels like we've made progress (from 24 hours ago)," Napier said afterwards. "The delegation of work is one reason this was smoother... we knew who was basically good at what."
The New York City-based 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment traveled to Camp Blanding, Florida March 5 to conduct annual training exercises. During their two-week stay there, the 258's Soldiers will qualify on the M119A2 howitzer, several crew-served weapons systems, and learn from a team of artillery trainers from Fort Sill.
"Camp Blanding is the best training facility in Florida, and it allows us to accomplish everything we set out to do," Napier said. "And we're doing a lot of cool stuff."