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Chapter 4

The Role of the Commander

Commanders are the key to command and control (C2). They execute C2 by combining the art of command with the science of control. They create a positive command climate to inculcate and foster trust and mutual understanding. They train their subordinates in C2, and use the C2 system to direct operations. Commanders are the focal point for penetrating the fog of war, overcoming its unceasing friction, and instilling in soldiers the will to win against any opponent. The knowledge, experience, and personality of commanders determine how they interact with their commands. They decide what they need to do and the best method to achieve the end state. Then they lead their commands through operations to mission accomplishment. Under mission command, commanders drive the operations process. Commanders use influencing leadership actions, normally issuing broad guidance rather than detailed directions or orders. Commanders limit their use of close personal supervision and intervene in subordinates' actions only in exceptional cases. They establish a command climate for their commands, prepare them for operations, direct them during operations, and continually assess their subordinates. Commanders establish their command's C2 system and operate it based on their personalities. They establish a system to meet the demands they place on it, the abilities and personalities of the soldiers, and the capabilities of the command's equipment.

Combining the Art of Command and
    Science of Control
Creating a Positive command Climate
  Accept Subordinate's Risk-Taking
    and Errors
  Foster Trust and Mutual
  Communicate With Subordinates
  Build Teamwork
Taining Subordinates in Command
    and Control
  Command Prior to Operations
  Promote Leadership Qualities
  Assess Subordinates
Battle Command
  Stability Operations and Support
  Location of Commander



4-1. The most important role commanders play in command and control (C2) is combining the art of command with the science of control. Commanders use the activities of visualizing the battlespace, describing their commander's visualization to subordinates, directing actions to achieve results, and leading the command to mission accomplishment as their decisionmaking methodology throughout the operations process. (See figure 4-1.) This methodology combines the art of command and the science of control.

Figure 4-1. Visualize, Describe, Direct, Lead

Figure 4-1. Visualize, Describe, Direct, Lead



4-1When he looked at a map, Zhukov did not just reproduce the picture of the past engagement; he could foresee the nature of the future encounter and in a matter of minutes "play out", as it were, the various scenarios first for himself and then for the enemy. He could put himself in the enemy's place for a while so that when he became himself again he could evaluate the intentions of the enemy.

A. Chakovskly, "The Blockade,"
Fundamentals of Tactical Command And Control

4-2. Military operations never take place in a vacuum; they always occur within a context. Commander's visualization begins with an already established situational understanding. Visualization is the commander's essential means of assessing throughout the operations process.

Situational Understanding


4-3. Situational understanding supports commander's visualization. Information management, including priorities commanders set by establishing and continuously updating their commander's critical information requirements (CCIR) support commanders' achieving and maintaining situational understanding. Situational understanding and commander's visualization are based on RI (relevant information) provided by functional experts in the C2 system who process data into information. As commanders achieve situational understanding, they use commander's visualization to determine the end state and the ways of getting from the present state to the end state. They consider the dynamics among friendly forces, enemy forces, and the environment.

4-4. Situational understanding does not support conducting operations until a commander receives a mission. Receiving or deriving a mission from an ongoing operation starts the operations process. Assessing helps commanders focus their situational understanding on that mission. Based on their situational understanding, commanders determine the information they need (their information requirements [IRs]) to develop their commander's visualization and to give initial guidance.

4-5. In assessing, commanders integrate information received from human and technological collectors. They use their staffs to comprehend the situation rapidly, make effective decisions, and assess the preparation for and execution of operations. Staffs help commanders anticipate the outcome of current and future operations. They help them develop a detailed concept for future operations. Commanders and staffs may use many information systems (INFOSYS) to process information. INFOSYS can increase the accuracy and timeliness of RI. As staffs process data, they raise its level to knowledge, allowing commanders to apply judgment to form their situational understanding. (See appendix B.)

4-6. Before commanders visualize an operation, they form a clear understanding of the situation, organized in terms of METT-TC (the major subject categories into which RI is grouped for military operations: mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations). This framing of the battlespace takes place during mission analysis. Further, commanders draw on the principles of war, tenets of Army operations, and their own experiences.

4-7. Ideally, a commander's situational understanding increases as an operation proceeds. Commanders make the most use of the art of command to replace missing information during their initial commander's visualization, early in the operations process. (See figure 4-2.) In most cases this takes the form of assumptions. As time passes and commanders receive more information, they replace assumptions with facts, and the science of control becomes more prominent. However, the science of control never completely displaces the art of command. Commanders never have complete information; the art of command includes determining when to make decisions based on the available information.

Figure 4-2. Situational Understanding Over Time (Ideal)

Figure 4-2. Situational Understanding Over Time (Ideal)


4-8. At the start of the military decisionmaking process (MDMP), commanders expect to have gaps in information needed to accomplish the mission. Nevertheless, they make some initial decisions. One decision is which information, including intelligence, they need to fill those gaps and attain a comprehensive situational understanding. They use intuition to fill those gaps until the C2 system provides the information. Figure 4-2 represents an ideal: a commander's attainment of situational understanding is usually more uneven. That reality is discussed later.

4-9. Situational understanding helps commanders overcome and manage uncertainty, the "fog of war." There are four sources of "fog" commanders and staffs must overcome to achieve accurate situational understanding:

  • Inadequate or poor-quality information.
  • Misinterpretation of information.
  • Conflicting information or choices.
  • Too much information.

There are four ways to cope with the fog of war:

  • Collect and improve the quality of information for the common operational picture.
  • Use assumptions.
  • Reason analytically.
  • Forestall or preempt.

4-10. Two solutions resolve fog created by inadequate or poor-quality information: collect more information and use assumptions. Time and other available resources are factors commanders consider when deciding whether to collect more information or make a decision. Both are generally scarce during operations. However, using assumptions to replace missing or incomplete information allows planning or execution to continue. Using assumptions requires commanders and staffs to continually attempt to replace assumptions with facts. This effort leads to developing IRs to supply the missing facts. If an assumption is critical to conducting the operation, commanders will probably name the IR associated with it as one of the CCIR. CCIR are tied to decisions commanders expect to make. They change throughout an operation, as commanders make decisions and identify potential future decisions. Commanders continually review assumptions and the CCIR for need and currency.

4-11. Uncertainty caused by misinterpretation of information is difficult to resolve because users do not realize the interpretation is faulty. This situation results in a false sense of certainty. The only solution is to assume uncertainty: Continually question assumptions. Question the interpretation of information in the light of new evidence. Do not dismiss conflicting interpretations without good evidence. One of the great dangers in information interpretation is taking a best guess of what events mean and then uncritically fitting new information into this incorrect "situational understanding." Periodically, commanders and staffs should seriously question any interpretation of events and information to ensure that it has not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4-12. Two ways of resolving uncertainty caused by conflicting information or choices are analytic reasoning and obtaining more information. Conflicting information suggests or leads to differing explanations or conclusions about the outcome of the situation. For example, evaluating progress can be a normal source of conflicting information. Conflicting choices also occur when all courses of action (COAs) have similar advantages or disadvantages and one is not clearly better than the others. In this instance, sophisticated analytic reasoning or new information can resolve the conflict enough to reduce or manage uncertainty. Refining the problem or evaluation criteria to reduce conflicting information or choices can also help. (See FM 5-0.)

4-13. Forestalling can help reduce the fog of war from all four sources, but it is usually not the primary technique for dealing with any single source. Two techniques of forestalling exist. First, make incremental decisions or conclusions until other techniques, such as collecting more information, have resolved the fog satisfactorily. Second, making branches and sequels mitigates the effects of assumptions proving invalid, criteria or analysis proving faulty, or the initial decision proving wrong. Building flexibility into the plan this way also facilitates exploiting opportunities. A good plan provides options for addressing as much uncertainty as possible.

4-14. As the Army fields digital INFOSYS, techniques used to overcome uncertainty during execution will change. For example, the analytic power of INFOSYS may allow wider application of analytic decisionmaking techniques and of developing and testing assumptions. Likewise, the power of modern INFOSYS may reduce the uncertainty involved in interpreting information and resolving conflicting information.

4-15. Staffs translate CCIR into execution information by tasking assets to collect the information required to answer them. When data is collected and reported, it enters the C2 system. INFOSYS in the C2 system help process data into information, display it as the operational picture, and store it for future use. CPs with access to INFOSYS share this data supporting an operational picture as the common operational picture (COP) (information-pull), or INFOSYS may disseminate the information to them (information-push). Analyzing and evaluating information converts it into knowledge. Commanders apply judgment to knowledge based on the COP to raise it to situational understanding-identifying opportunities, threats, and gaps in information. (See appendix B.) INFOSYS can provide assistance in these steps, although they do not currently apply judgment. (See chapter 5.)

4-16. When commanders' situational understanding is better than their enemy's, they have a significant but temporary advantage. They can maintain the advantage by acting faster than their enemies. The observe-orient-decide-act (OODA) cycle describes how to maintain this advantage. (See appendix A.) Collecting data constitutes the observe activity of the cycle. Raising the meaning of information from data to understanding constitutes the orient activity. Using situational understanding and a mission to plan constitutes the decide activity. Creating and disseminating execution information constitute the act activity. Actions create new observations, and the cycle repeats. Figure 4-3 displays the cognitive hierarchy from appendix B to show how meaning is added to data.

Figure 4-3. Developing Situational Understanding

Figure 4-3. Developing Situational Understanding

Commander's Visualization


4-17. Commander's visualization is the core mental process that commanders use in decisionmaking. (See figure 4-4.) They use it to determine how to get forces from their current state or position to the end state that represents mission accomplishment. Military operations are dynamic; therefore commander's visualization is continuous. During execution, commander's visualization helps commanders determine when, where, and if to make a decision. It can also help commanders see where and how they can best lead and motivate soldiers, and see the battlefield, their own forces, the enemy, and the end state.

Figure 4-4. Visualization in Operations

Figure 4-4. Visualization in Operations


4-18. Commander's visualization begins with a commander's situational understanding and follows with a construct of how to get from where the command is to where the commander wants it to go-the commander's intent. It begins in planning and continues throughout the operations process until the force accomplishes its mission. Commander's visualization is difficult and complex. Staffs process and analyze information obtained by human and technological means to provide commanders only the information needed to make decisions. Commanders then blend this information with their knowledge, experience, and intuitive feel to visualize the operation and describe this visualization through its products: the commander's intent, CCIR, and planning guidance. Commanders can use war-gaming or analysis to obtain a feel for the relationships between enemy and friendly forces with respect to the terrain and mission. They may also use technology-based simulations to view their force as the enemy sees it.

4-19. After receiving a mission, commanders develop their initial commander's visualization. They continually confirm or modify it throughout the operation. They use RI (categorized by the factors of METT-TC), basic tactical concepts, staff running estimates, and their experience and judgment to form this visualization. They determine the desired end state. They then use their commander's visualization to compare the analyzed COAs and decide which COA to approve.

4-20. While various INFOSYS can provide support in rapidly assessing trends and suggesting previously unexplored COAs, commanders use these tools carefully. They do not unquestioningly accept their products. When using INFOSYS, commanders apply judgment and experience before making a decision and describing it to subordinates.

4-21. Time is equal for everyone (friendly, enemy, and neutral) in the area of operations (AO)-they can exploit or waste it. Commanders retain the initiative with respect to time through both the tempo and timing of activities. Tempo is the rate of military action (FM 3-0). Commanders establish a tempo that allows them to retain the initiative. Tempo may be fast or slow, depending on the effects the commander wants to achieve. Commanders time activities by arranging them simultaneously or sequentially.

4-22. Simultaneous operations are preferred when the necessary combat power is available. Simultaneity of activities in space and time overwhelms enemy commanders with a wide range of immediate decision requirements. Simultaneity in space presents enemy forces with devastating consequences throughout the depth of the AO. Simultaneity in purpose synchronizes the linkage between activities in the operational framework, ensuring that friendly forces direct all operations toward the desired end state.



4-23. During the MDMP, commanders begin to describe their commander's visualization through the commander's intent, planning guidance, and CCIR. (See figure 4-5.) These initial products all serve to guide and focus the C2 system as it supports their decisionmaking and communicates their decision for execution.

Figure 4-5. Visualization and Describing

Figure 4-5. Visualization and Describing


4-24. Commanders describe an operation in terms suited to their experience and the nature of the mission. Commanders visualize time and space within the operational framework: the battlespace, AO, and battlefield organization. (See FM 3-0.) Using the operational framework, commanders describe how they intend to conduct operations to achieve the end state. A major aspect of this description is the mission statement. Commanders construct mission statements using the vocabulary for task and purpose contained in FM 3-90.

4-25. Rehearsals help commanders and staffs prepare for an operation. They are an excellent opportunity for commanders to describe their commander's visualization better and in a more mature form. (See appendix F.) Commanders use rehearsals to accomplish the following:

  • Further describe the commander's intent and concept of operations.
  • Identify and discuss options at decision points.
  • Synchronize activities within the force and among subordinate forces.
  • Add to the commander's visualization.

Commander's Intent


4-26. The commander's intent focuses effort throughout the operations process. It is the statement describing the commander's visualization-not the product of any process. During planning, the commander's intent drives the MDMP. The staff uses it to develop COAs that conform to how the commander wants to achieve the end state. During execution, the commander's intent enables subordinates' initiative by setting limits beyond those established in the plan or order while retaining unity of effort. Subordinates use these expanded limits for solutions when deciding how to act when facing unforeseen opportunities and threats, and in situations where the concept of operations no longer applies.

4-27. The commander's intent links the mission and concept of operations. It describes the end state and key tasks that, along with the mission, are the basis for subordinates' initiative. Commanders may also use the commander's intent to explain a broader purpose beyond that of the mission statement. The mission and the commander's intent must be understood two echelons down.

4-28. Commanders begin constructing the commander's intent with the end state and the current state of friendly forces relative to the enemy and the environment from the commander's visualization. Based on their situational understanding, commanders visualize the dynamic interaction that will occur among those elements as friendly forces move from the current state to the end state. From the visualization of these dynamics, commanders determine the key tasks necessary to achieve the end state.

4-29. Key tasks are those tasks the force as a whole must perform, or conditions the force must meet, to achieve the end state and stated purpose of the operation. Key tasks are not tied to a specific COA; rather, they identify what the force must do to achieve the end state. Acceptable COAs accomplish all key tasks. In changed circumstances-when significant opportunities present themselves or the concept of operations no longer fits the situation-subordinates use key tasks to keep their efforts focused on achieving the commander's intent. Examples of key tasks include terrain that must be controlled, the operation's tempo and duration, and the operation's effect on the enemy. Key tasks are not specified tasks for any subordinate unit; however, they may be sources of implied tasks.

4-30. The commander's intent does not include a method for the force to get from its current state to the end state. The "method" is the concept of operations. Nor does the commander's intent contain "acceptable risk." Risk is stated in the commander's guidance and is addressed in all COAs. If purpose is addressed in the commander's intent, it is not the "why" (purpose) of the mission statement. Rather, it is a broader purpose that looks beyond the why of the immediate operation to the broader operational context of the mission.

4-31. Commanders personally prepare their commander's intent. They make their independent, and sometimes intuitive, assessment of how they intend to win. When possible they deliver it, along with the order, personally. Face-to-face delivery ensures mutual understanding of what the commander wants by allowing immediate clarification of specific points. The commander's intent becomes the basis on which staffs and subordinates develop plans and orders that transform thought to action.

Planning Guidance


4-32. Commanders develop planning guidance to the staff from the commander's visualization. Planning guidance may be as broad or detailed as circumstances require. However, it must convey to the staff the essence of the commander's visualization. Commanders use their experience and judgment to add depth and clarity to the planning guidance. They ensure the staff understands the broad outline of the commander's visualization, while still permitting the necessary latitude for the staff to explore different options. Commanders may, for example, identify decisive points and describe how they envision the concentration of combat power against each.

4-33. Planning guidance focuses on COA development, analysis, and comparison, with particular attention to the key tasks. It states in broad terms when, where, and how the commander intends to mass combat power in the decisive operation to accomplish the mission within the higher commander's intent. Planning guidance contains general combat, combat support, and combat service support priorities. It also includes how the commander visualizes shaping and sustaining operations contributing to the concept of operations. The amount of detail in the planning guidance depends on the time available, the staff's proficiency, and the latitude the higher commander allows. Broad and general guidance gives the staff maximum latitude; it lets proficient staffs develop flexible and effective options. More constrained conditions require planning guidance to be more specific and directive. The more detailed the guidance, the more quickly the staff can complete the plan. However, this approach risks overlooking or insufficiently examining things that might affect mission execution. (See FM 5-0 for information to consider including in planning guidance.)

4-34. When commanders identify one or more decisive points, or an operation they consider decisive, they tell the staff. Decisive points exist where an enemy weakness allows maximum combat power to be applied. A decisive point is not an end state; it is a time, event, or location where the force can achieve decisive results leading to mission accomplishment. Commanders can describe it verbally, with a sketch, or on a map. The description shows how the commander visualizes the array of forces at the decisive point, the expected effects on the enemy, and how these effects lead to mission accomplishment.

Commander's Critical Information Requirements


4-35. Commanders use CCIR to focus information collection on RI they need to support the commander's visualization and make critical decisions. CCIR change as the decisions commanders must make change. The initial CCIR address information commanders need to make decisions during planning. These IRs often concern information commanders need to select a COA. During preparation and execution, the CCIR address information commanders require to make decisions anticipated in the plan. These decisions may or may not be associated with decision points. CCIR may also concern information commanders require to decide whether to execute a branch or sequel. Commanders limit the number of CCIR in effect at one time. This practice sets priorities staffs use to allocate resources manage information. CCIR address only near-term decisions, not every anticipated decision. As commanders make decisions, their CCIR change to support other anticipated decisions. CCIR spare the commander from receiving irrelevant information. They also protect subordinate headquarters from receiving excessive requests for information (See appendix B).

4-36. The CCIR set IM and resource allocation priorities for staffs. They set IM priorities by establishing the information most important to the commander. This includes establishing which friendly force information the commander needs to know-the friendly force information requirements (FFIR). CCIR also establish priorities for allocating intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) resources.

DIRECT of the most difficult things we have to do in war is to recognize the moment for making a decision [emphasis in original]..The information comes in degrees. Shall we make a decision now or shall we wait a little longer? It is usually more difficult to determine the moment for making a decision than it is to formulate the decision itself.

Adolf von Schell, Battle Leadership

4-37. Commanders direct throughout the operations process. Their directions take different forms during planning, preparation, and execution. Commanders make decisions and direct actions based on their situational understanding. They keep their situational understanding current by continuously assessing the situation. Commanders state the information they need to make assessments by establishing the CCIR. They receive RI upon which to assess the situation (answers to the CCIR) through their C2 systems. (See figure 4-3.)



4-38. Commanders direct during planning by guiding staffs during the MDMP, preparing mission orders, and establishing control measures.

4-39. MDMP. During the MDMP, commanders direct when they select a COA and communicate that decision to subordinates in a plan or order. They or their staffs analyze each possible COA for suitability, feasibility, and acceptability to select COAs for further analysis. After COA analysis and COA comparison using criteria of success derived during the war game, commanders select or approve the COA. Commanders also direct when they issue and revise planning guidance.

4-40. Mission Orders. Under mission command, commanders direct with mission orders. Effective mission orders enable subordinates to understand the situation, their commander's mission and intent, and their own mission. Subordinate commanders decide how to accomplish their own mission. The commander's intent and concept of operations set guidelines that provide unity of effort while allowing subordinate commanders to exercise initiative in planning, preparing, and executing their operations.

4-41. Mission orders stress not only the tasks required of subordinates but also understanding their context and purpose. While clear direction is essential to accomplishing the mission, commanders strike a balance between necessary but minimum direction and overly detailed direction. Subordinates who act first (within the commander's intent) and report later often achieve far more than those who delay action to wait for the commander's confirmation.

4-42. Control Measures. Control measures direct by establishing specific responsibilities and limits. Their purpose is to facilitate coordination and prevent units from impeding one another. They may be permissive or restrictive. Permissive control measures are preferred in mission command. Commanders impose the minimum control measures needed for essential coordination and deconfliction among units. They remove restrictive control measures as soon as possible. Control measures may be graphic, written, or procedural. (See FM 3-90 for control measures associated with each type of operation. See FM 1-02 for a list of doctrinal control measures and rules for constructing them.)

4-43. Well-conceived control measures facilitate current and future operations. As operations evolve, commanders adjust them as necessary to maintain synchronization and freedom of action.



4-44. During preparation, commanders continue to use the visualize-describe-direct methodology for decisionmaking. They update and validate their commander's visualization as they receive intelligence based on the results of ISR operations and friendly information from reports. Commanders' situational understanding changes as they receive information: Assumptions may prove true or false. Intelligence may confirm or deny enemy actions and conditions in the environment. The status of friendly forces may change. As their situational understanding changes, commanders validate their commander's visualization, changing it as necessary. Significant new information requires commanders to make one of three assessments:

  • The new information validates the plan with no further changes.
  • The new information requires adjustment of the plan.
  • The new information invalidates the plan.

The earlier the commander identifies the need for modifications, the easier it is to incorporate them into the plan and resynchronize it. Commanders use their updated commander's visualization to balance the loss of synchronization and coordination caused by a change to the plan against the consequences of executing a plan that no longer fits the situation. They describe their view of the implications of the changes to the plan and direct actions to effect any necessary revisions.



4-45. Combining the art of command with the science of control through visualizing, describing, and directing is most evident during execution, as is leading. Commanders exercise judgment and initiative continuously. They assess the situation and make decisions, often with incomplete, conflicting, and vague information. Waiting for perfect information is rarely an option. During execution, commanders, supported by their C2 systems, continually evaluate the operation's progress. They act to ensure that subordinate units execute actions appropriate for the actual situation. They adjust the disposition of their forces, the tasks assigned to subordinates, and the priorities for support to achieve the greatest effect at minimum cost. They modify some tasks, even if the operation unfolds as expected. A major part of the art of command is knowing when to change the plan and determining the right changes to assure success. Critical to command is determining what criteria indicate needed changes and deciding which changes will obtain the maximum contribution to achieving the higher commander's intent.

4-46. Commanders fight the enemy, not the plan. No plan survives intact once contact is made. The enemy rarely acts exactly as predicted. This is the principal cause of fog, and commanders modify their plans to counter enemy reactions. Tactical flexibility requires mental agility and training: well-trained, flexible forces with sound battle drills; flexible leaders capable of adapting to rapidly changing circumstances; and staffs able to recognize significant changes in the situation, prepare the necessary fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), and resynchronize the operation by coordinating the changes to alter plan. A clear commander's intent does much to allow prompt and effective exercise of subordinates' initiative. This ability greatly enhances the capability of the overall force to react effectively and quickly to changes in the situation.

4-47. Execution is much more than putting a decision-communicated through orders or plans-into action. Throughout execution, commanders continuously assess the progress of the operation based on the COP and answers to the CCIR. This assessment keeps their situational understanding current and allows them to continuously validate or update their commander's visualization. When the situation varies from the commander's visualization, commanders direct adjustments to exploit opportunities and counter unforeseen enemy actions. CCIR-continuously updated as commanders make some decisions and anticipate others-shape commanders' situational understanding by establishing which RI they receive.

4-48. A commander's situational understanding does not improve in the straight-line fashion figure 4-2 portrays. Rather, the effects of fog and friction cause it to change unevenly. (See figure 4-6.) Commanders' situational understanding will never be perfect, even at the end of the operation. Normally, as an operation progresses, the C2 system contributes progressively more information to the commander's situational understanding. The commander's visualization draws more on the science of control and less on the art of command. The art, however, never disappears completely. A commander's situational understanding always contains some gaps. Practicing the art of command includes filling those gaps with assumptions and acting to obtain RI to replace the assumptions.

Figure 4-6. Visualization in Execution

Figure 4-6. Visualization in Execution


4-49. Commanders do not restrict their commander's visualization to the current operation. Even as their situational understanding of the current operation improves, they extend their commander's visualization to include the end state of the follow-on operation. Doing this allows commanders to direct actions that posture the force to facilitate future operations. As they visualize the implications of events and their solutions, commanders describe their conclusions to staff and subordinates through updated CCIR and guidance. They direct actions when necessary, primarily through FRAGOs.

4-50. As commanders assess an operation (see chapter 6), they use their commander's visualization to determine decision points. These can be identified in the plan or result from unanticipated enemy actions. Commanders use their C2 systems to provide realistic alternatives. Doing this allows their commander's visualization to evolve. A commander's visualization based on accurate, current situational understanding allows commanders to rapidly and effectively adjust the plan to adapt to changing situations-whether precipitated by the enemy or by changes in friendly force status. Commanders do not hesitate to modify the plan or scrap it altogether if they think it necessary to accomplish the mission, better achieve the higher commander's intent, or save the force. Adhering to a plan when the situation changes significantly wastes resources and opportunities. It may risk defeat. Being flexible enough to adapt to changing situations is the hallmark of a good tactician. Effective commanders are flexible in their thinking. Their commands are flexible enough to execute mission changes on short notice. Commanders at all levels create and nurture this capability in themselves and their subordinates.

4-51. The dynamics of operations create the need for adjustments during execution. (See figure 4-7.) As the force proceeds on its mission, the dynamics of operations initiate an action-reaction-counteraction series of responses between friendly and enemy commanders. As one gains an advantage, the other acts to counter it. The first commander then adjusts his operation to fit the new situation. Even a successful action or reaction may require an adjustment to exploit it. In all cases, the commander's visualization helps commanders recognize the need to make a decision. Commanders use FRAGOs to direct adjustments.

Figure 4-7. Adjustments During Execution

Figure 4-7. Adjustments During Execution


4-52. Adjustments take many forms. (See chapter 6.) One form is to shift resources from one part of the operation to another. Commanders can allocate additional combat support, such as artillery and engineers, or reinforce with additional combat units. However, they avoid reinforcing a failing effort. If an operation is failing, commanders strengthen it only if there is a clear indication that more resources will produce success, or if they have no better options for employing those resources. Commanders reinforce success when it creates opportunities for more success.

4-53. During execution, commanders use their commander's visualization to determine if variances in the situation reported by the C2 system differ significantly from how they expected the operation unfold. If they do, they determine whether the variances can affect achieving the end state. A variance can be either an opportunity or a threat. If it is an opportunity, commanders direct an adjustment to take advantage of it. If it is a threat, they direct an adjustment to counter it. Commanders use the decisionmaking method-analytic or intuitive-that fits the situation. They use the MDMP-whether unrestricted or time-constrained-whenever possible. They choose the method based on the time available and the complexity of the variance. Once commanders direct an action, they adjust their commander's visualization to account for the new situation and begin assessing the results of their action.



4-15Morale is a state of mind. It is that intangible force which will move a whole group of men to give their last ounce to achieve something, without counting the cost to themselves; that makes them feel they are part of something greater than themselves.

Field Marshal Sir William Slim, Defeat Into Victory

4-54. During training and operations, commanders-by force of their personality, leadership, command style, and general behavior-influence the morale, sense of direction, and performance of their commands, including staff and subordinate commanders. Commanders are responsible for creating and maintaining a positive command climate. They do this through influencing, operating, and improving leadership actions. These actions rest on the foundation of values, attributes, and skills each commander possesses and develops. (See FM 22-100.)

4-55. Part of the command climate is the commander's style and philosophy of command. Successful commands become accustomed to how their commander commands. Commanders may modify either their style or their C2 system so that the two fit together and fit the command. Practically, how the commander achieves this fit constitutes part of the art of command.

4-56. Commanders gives their command an identity, promote its pride, inspire it with a sense of common purpose and unity of effort, and give it achievable goals to ensure success. Along with discipline, comradeship, and self-respect, morale is fundamental to achieving this goal.

4-57. Successful mission command depends on a command climate that encourages subordinate commanders at all levels to think independently and take the initiative. Subordinates also expect to know the "reason why." Under mission command, commanders explain their intentions to subordinates and foster a sense of shared commitment and involvement in decisionmaking. Commanders create a positive command climate by-

  • Accepting subordinates' risk-taking and errors.
  • Fostering trust and mutual understanding.
  • Communicating with subordinates.
  • Building teamwork.



4-15Judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.

General of the Army Omar N. Bradley

4-58. Training and operations entail two kinds of risk: accidental and tactical. Commanders ensure their subordinates know the difference between the two and take appropriate actions to mitigate each. When possible, commanders use analytic decisionmaking to make risk decisions. However, most tactical risk decisions are intuitive. Commanders inculcate the willingness to accept risk into their commands in two ways: leading by example, and accepting subordinates' risk-taking.

4-59. First, commanders lead by example. They accept risk during training and operations. However, they also use risk management to reduce risk to an acceptable level. (See FM 100-14.) They inform subordinates, either at the time of the decision (if time permits) or in the after-action review (AAR), of the residual risk accepted and why. They ensure that risk management does not become risk aversion, particularly for tactical risk.

4-60. Second, commanders allow subordinates to accept risk, while ensuring they perform risk assessments and make analytic risk decisions when time and circumstances allow. In training, commanders might allow subordinates to execute a too-risky tactical decision as a teaching point; they instruct them afterward on a more appropriate level of tactical risk and how to determine it. This sort of coaching helps commanders gain trust in their subordinates' judgment and initiative, and builds subordinates' trust in their commander. During operations, commanders may have to intervene if the tactical risk is too great for the benefits expected.

4-61. Inculcating risk acceptance goes hand in hand with accepting errors. Commanders realize that subordinates may not accomplish all tasks initially and that errors may occur. However, with such acceptance in the command climate, subordinates learn, gaining the experience required to operate on their own. In addition, they learn to trust their commander to give them authority to act, knowing the commander will back their decisions. Because trust and mutual understanding constitute the foundation of subordinates' initiative, commanders train subordinates to act within the commander's intent in uncertain situations. (See paragraphs 4-64-4-67.) Commanders give subordinates latitude to make mistakes and learn.

4-62. There are two types of errors: errors of commission and errors of omission. Errors of commission occur when people attempt to act toward some end, such as accomplishing a mission, and make a mistake. Errors of omission occur because people fail to act, often because they do not want to accept the risk associated with that action. Subordinates willing to risk errors of commission stand a greater chance of seizing the initiative or an opportunity. Subordinates committing errors of omission-failing to act-are not as apt to seize the initiative or exploit opportunities. To foster mission command, commanders must accept errors of commission. Failure to do so discourages subordinates from boldly acting in uncertain situations. Failure to act leads to errors of omission, something commanders discourage if they intend to successfully exercise mission command.

4-63. Army training doctrine and its tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) emphasize the importance of learning from training. Making mistakes is integral to the theory of discovery learning, the basic methodology of the AAR process. Underwriting subordinates' honest mistakes is one key to building trust and mutual understanding. Commander cannot stop at underwriting mistakes, however. They must act to ensure subordinates learn from mistakes. Methods of doing this include-

  • Publicly discussing a mistake, including one made by the commander, to determine a better way to achieve the same purpose.
  • Correcting a subordinate in private.
  • Correcting the systemic problems that led to the mistake.

However, commanders do not continually underwrite subordinates' mistakes resulting from a critical lack of judgment. Nor do they tolerate repeated errors of omission where subordinates fail to exercise initiative. The art of command lies in discriminating between mistakes to underwrite as teaching points from those that are unacceptable in a military leader. A too-punitive approach to mistakes by subordinates leads to a "zero-defects" climate or mentality, making it difficult to exercise mission command. A too-lenient approach to mistakes results in lowered standards, a lack of confidence on all sides, and less effective forces.



4-64. When relayed in an environment of trust and mutual understanding, the commander's intent frees commanders to move about the battlefield: commanders know their subordinates understand the end state, and subordinates know their commander will support their decisions physically and morally. Additionally, this climate allows commanders to operate knowing subordinates will accurately and promptly report both positive and negative information. Trust and mutual understanding are critical to the tempo of decentralized operations. Commanders foster trust and mutual understanding by word and deed.

4-65. To establish mutual understanding, commanders educate and train themselves, their staffs, and their subordinates in Army doctrine and common TTP. Army doctrine, in particular, provides a unifying framework for understanding. A common approach to C2, based on a professional understanding of doctrine and a common terminology, assists mutual understanding and is a fundamental tool of mission command.

4-66. Commanders can use modern INFOSYS to foster trust and mutual understanding. (See chapter 5.) In particular, video teleconferencing capabilities help in exchanging personal assessments about tactical or leadership situations. Modern INFOSYS enable commanders and subordinates at distant locations to receive and participate in information exchanges. INFOSYS provide wider dissemination and more precise and accurate processing of information. They allow commanders to share the information and displays on which they base their situational understanding, giving context to their discussions and orders. Another capability that supports this goal is the white board, which allows commanders and subordinates to collaborate in rapidly and graphically testing options and sharing ideas.

4-67. During operations, there is seldom time for questions or debate over the meanings of tactical terms or command expressions. The most famous misunderstood order in American military history-issued within an organization notorious for its lack of trust and mutual understanding between commander and subordinates and among subordinates-illustrates this point:

4-18[Benteen.] Come on. Big Village. Be quick. Bring pacs. P.S. Bring pacs.

W.W. Cooke, Adjutant to LTC George A. Custer, 25 June 1876

This lack of trust and mutual understanding contributed to the defeat of the 7th US Cavalry at the Little Big Horn River in 1876 and massacre of a major portion of it.



4-18More than 50 percent of battle command in VII Corps was non-electric. That's because we were a team forged together quickly during deployment. We practiced using intent. Commanders talked to each other. We were inside each other's heads.

LTG Frederick Franks, CG, VII Corps, DESERT STORM

4-68. Written directives, including those transmitted electronically, continue to have an indispensable place in exercising C2. Although most prominent in administration, clearly written orders promote consistency of approach in all areas of C2. During operations, oral communications may be more important than written ones, not only for reasons of time but also of leading. Face-to-face communications are the most effective, because humans use more than words to express themselves. An Israeli commander from the Six-Day War of 1967 said it best:

4-18[T]here is no alternative to looking into a subordinate's eyes, listening to his tone of voice.

GEN Yashayahu Gavish, Israeli Defense Forces, 1967

An example of what can happen when unclear communications combine with a lack of trust and mutual understanding occurred during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. A liaison officer, speaking for his commander, issued a verbal order that resulted in the Light Brigade executing an attack at a time and place the higher commander did not intend.

4-18"Magnificent, But Not War"-
Misunderstood Orders and the Charge of the Light Brigade

An alliance of Britain, France, and Turkey fought the Crimean War against Russia to counter Russian attempts to gain access to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the fighting occurred in the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. The charge of the Light Brigade was an engagement in the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. The port of Balaclava lay at the end of the British line of communication supporting the siege of Sevastopol. The road from Balaclava to Sevastopol was the only paved, direct route available between the allied base of operations and the campaign's decisive operation.

Five weeks after the Russians were soundly defeated at the Alma River, they went over to the offensive. In late October 1854, a large Russian force was threatening Balaclava. Impatient at the slow passage of the British infantry, Lord Raglan, the senior allied commander, decided to use cavalry to disrupt the Russians. He sent an order to Lord Lucan, his cavalry commander, shortly after 1015 hours on 25 October 1854: "Cavalry to advance and take advantage of any opportunity to recover the Heights. They will be supported by the infantry which have been ordered to advance on two fronts." Receiving Raglan's order, Lucan immediately moved Lord Cardigan's Light Brigade into the North Valley, keeping the Heavy Brigade close to Redoubt Number 6 in the South Valley. Justifiably, he did not intend to launch any attack until the British infantry arrived, and certainly not against prepared enemy positions. At this stage, there could have been no doubt that Raglan's intention was to recapture the redoubts.

Much of the Causeway Heights and the ground in the North Valley was obscured from Lucan. Neither could he see, as Raglan and his staff could, that Russian artillerymen (the Odessa Regiment) were preparing to take away the British guns captured from Redoubts Number 1, 2, and 3. As the capture of guns was frequently used to claim victory, Raglan was anxious that the Russians not succeed in this. As Lucan could see no sign of infantry support, however, he felt that no "advantageous opportunity" had arrived for him to recover the Heights. Exasperated by Lucan's inactivity, Raglan dictated another order, one that would later be the subject of bitter and protracted debate: "Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front-follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy from carrying away the guns. Troops horse-artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate."

Captain Lewis Nolan, (Raglan's aide de camp, what today would be a liaison officer) who was critical of the cavalry's performance, especially of Lucan's leadership, delivered this order to Lucan. Lucan was somewhat puzzled and concerned by this message: from where he sat he could see neither enemy nor guns. He asked Nolan for clarification, to which Nolan replied, "Lord Raglan's orders are that the cavalry should attack immediately." Reputedly Lucan retorted: "Attack, sir! Attack what? What guns, sir?" Nolan's response, verging on insubordination, was to stretch his arm forward and say "There, my lord, is your enemy; there are your guns." Lucan was furious at the disrespect, but was too proud to question Nolan further. Nevertheless, had this order been read in conjunction with the previous order, there should not have been any confusion. Lucan chose, however, to attack the battery at the eastern end of the North Valley (the only guns he could see), rather than "to recover" the guns on the Causeway Heights (which he could not). He issued orders to this effect to Cardigan. Cardigan pointed out to him that the Russians had a battery to their front and batteries and riflemen on each flank, but Lucan replied: "We have no choice but to obey." Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan had been enemies for nearly 30 years, and they had clashed repeatedly in this campaign over command relations between them. Their animosity prevented discussing an apparently senseless order before its execution. At 1110 the die was cast for one of the bloodiest, most glorious, but ultimately senseless engagements in British military history. In the words of French General Bosquet, an eyewitness, the charge was "magnificent but not war... It is madness."

The result was disastrous for the Light Brigade and had operational-level consequences as well. After the British defeat, the Russians were able to cut the allied line of communications to Sevastopol. This action forced the British to use secondary roads and probably lengthened the war.


4-69. Effective commanders take positive steps that encourage, rather than impede, communications among and with their subordinates and staff. They make themselves available for communications and open to new information. Otherwise, they will find that their lack of communication has caused the situation mentioned below:

4-20General Meade was an officer of great merit, with drawbacks to his usefulness that were beyond his control.. [He] made it unpleasant at times, even in battle, for those around him to approach him even with information.

US Grant, Memoirs

GEN Meade's "drawbacks" contributed to the failure of the Army of the Potomac to exploit its victory over the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg in 1863. As a result, the Civil War lasted two more years.



4-70. The fundamentals of building teams, essential for mission command, are contained in FM 22-100. Under current conditions of operations, commanders often build teamwork among units and staffs task-organized on an ad-hoc basis. Using doctrinal terms and symbols is one method of building teamwork. Building on the cohesion available at lower echelons provides another method. Training and rehearsals also provide opportunities. Commanders build teamwork between officers and NCOs (noncommissioned officers). One method for doing this is including and requiring officer-NCO teams during training, especially on staffs. Commanders can also use senior NCOs to provide training to junior officers and all members of staff sections.



4-71. Training subordinates in C2 includes command prior to operations, promoting leadership qualities, and assessing subordinates.



4-72. Before operations, commanders direct, train, and prepare their commands. They ensure that enough resources for mission-essential training are available. They also concern themselves with the professional development of subordinates to prepare them for positions of increased responsibility. Mission command requires an understanding of operations two levels up; effective training of future commanders reflects this requirement. Training subordinates is a key responsibility of all commanders in peacetime; its neglect or delegation without adequate supervision can undermine the effectiveness and fighting power of Army forces on operations.

Foster an Understanding of War


4-73. Professional development focuses on learning relevant lessons for the future. It includes evoking an interest in the critical study of past campaigns and battles, and the study of human behavior. While there is a scientific side to war, it is an applied science rather than a theoretical one. Often the basis of professional development is historical research, but it is not the only one. As Sir Michael Howard advised in his lecture, "The Use and Abuse of Military History," commanders need to apply caution in drawing lessons from the past. They cause subordinates to undertake such study in breadth, depth, and context not as an end in itself, but to "improve the officer's competence in his profession."

4-74. Professional development should include studying human behavior. One way effective commanders lead is through comprehensive professional development programs. These include leading subordinates through a variety of professional development activities that challenge them to think, promote an understanding of the realities of war, and widen military perspectives. Such nonhistorical professional development activities include the following:

  • Participating in tactical exercises without troops (TEWTs).
  • Participating in simulations of tactical problems.
  • Developing new technical skills.
  • Professional reading.
  • Discussing current military doctrine and unsolved problems.

Develop Staff Procedures and Interactions


4-75. Commanders apply doctrinal staff procedures and interactions within their commands. They develop their own TTP for those areas where doctrine does not provide sufficient guidance and adapt doctrinal TTP to their command's situation. These procedures and interactions, which unit standing operating procedures (SOPs) capture, must incorporate the elements of mission command if the commander intends to employ mission command. (See paragraphs 1-67-1-80.) Commanders train their commands to use these SOPs to govern routine actions. Training subordinates in this way develops commands where the commander's simple concept statements lead to swift, coordinated, effective actions. MDMP training can serve to refine staff procedures and interactions as well as develop staffs collectively and individually. It can also serve as a vehicle to develop command principles.

Train Staffs and Subordinates


4-76. Commanders train their subordinates to operate in the absence of detailed orders. With information available to all levels of the command and increasing dispersion on the battlefield, junior leaders may find themselves operating almost autonomously. Commanders train their subordinates to counter unexpected enemy actions and take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.

4-77. Training provides the means to practice, develop, and validate-within constraints-the practical application of Army doctrine. Equally important, it provides the only peacetime basis for the firsthand experience essential to commanders and staffs in exercising C2. Also, commanders can use training events to create experience and trust within their commands, fostering teamwork and confidence. FM 7-0 and FM 25-101 provide doctrine and TTP that commanders can adapt to provide C2 training.

4-78. Commanders are responsible for training their staffs as integrated teams. They train themselves, their staffs, and subordinates in making decisions and developing plans. This training includes-

  • Performing the MDMP under both unrestricted and time-constrained conditions.
  • Emphasis on seizing fleeting opportunities, reacting to unforeseen enemy actions, and quickly modifying plans when conditions change.
  • Producing a product that beats the enemy's decision cycle and is good enough rather than perfect.
  • Information management, including how to collect, process, display, store, and disseminate information effectively to support the commander's requirements.

4-79. Efficient execution of plans requires flexible use of procedures. Drills are the practice of standardized actions taken in response to common occurrences. They are a form of procedure and should be used to the maximum extent possible in peacetime. Just as soldiers and crews follow drills for routine parts of their duties, C2 personnel follow drills to perform C2-related tasks. The quicker C2 elements execute these drills, the better forces develop and maintain tempo.

4-80. Finally, commanders aggressively train to overcome the institutional obstacles to mission command that the Army's operational pace and personnel turbulence present. Among these are frequent deployments of organizations comprised of units that have not trained together, personnel turbulence caused by operational commitments, and constrained financial resources. In particular, training must create common experiences that increase trust and allow commands to acquire competence in mutual understanding. Such teams are able to communicate explicitly and implicitly, conduct decentralized operations, and achieve unity of effort in uncertain situations by operating within the commander's intent.



4-81. Commanders promote leadership qualities by developing them in themselves and in their subordinates. But qualities alone do not make successful commanders. Successful commanders develop a balance among those qualities. The fact that an officer has been appointed a commander does not automatically endow him with these qualities. Rather, all officers develop them to prepare for command. In general, the higher the level of command, the wider the scope of qualities required. In addition, the emphasis on and among the qualities changes with the level of command. For example, soldiers at higher levels are more likely to encounter situations requiring moral courage than physical courage. FM 22-100 identifies these qualities as the values, attributes, skills, and actions of the leader.

4-82. All commanders emphasize the warrior ethos. The warrior ethos is perishable, so commanders continually affirm, develop, and sustain it. Developing it demands inculcating self-discipline in the commander, subordinates, and command. It requires tough, realistic training that hardens bodies and souls, and develops the mental toughness needed to endure extremes of weather, physical exertion, and lack of sleep and food. Commanders develop an iron will, determination, and the confidence that they, their subordinates, and soldiers will overcome all odds, meet operational demands, and accomplish all missions.

4-83. One of the commander's major responsibilities in training subordinates is providing an example of the values and attributes of a leader, and demonstrating the leadership skills and actions. (See FM 22-100.) Commanders use their responsibilities to learn and develop these qualities and attributes in themselves and their subordinates.

4-84. Training and education can develop much of the knowledge and many of the skills commanders require. In particular, training devices and simulations, such as computer-assisted war games and exercises, can enhance clarity of thought and judgment, including decisionmaking. Developing leadership qualities and practicing leadership skills is necessary for subordinates to make effective decisions and act decisively during operations. All commanders have some abilities that they can develop; even geniuses improve their ability by developing their skills. MG J.F.C. Fuller observed:

4-23Like the great artist the general should possess genius, and if he does not, then no effort should be spared to develop his natural abilities, in place of suppressing them.



4-23No man is more valiant than Yessoutai; no one has rarer gifts. But, as the longest marches do not tire him, as he feels neither hunger nor thirst, he believes that his officers and soldiers do not suffer such things. That is why he is not fitted for high command.

Genghis Khan, assessing a subordinate

4-85. Once appointed, commanders assume the role of coach and mentor to their subordinates. They begin with careful study of the personalities and characteristics of their subordinate commanders. Some need a tighter rein; others work best with little or no guidance. Some tire easily and require encouragement and moral support. Others, perhaps uninspired in peace, flourish in conflict and war. Matching talent to tasks is an important function of command. Commanders judge soldiers so they can appoint the right subordinates to the right position at the right time. Assessing individuals and handling them to the best effect applies to staffs as well as subordinate commanders. Commanders also assess subordinates by giving them experience and opportunity to grow through assignments that stretch them. Recognizing subordinates' strengths and limits is vital to effectively exercising command. As Jomini remarked:

4-23He [Napoleon] fell from the height of greatness because he forgot that the mind and strength of men have their limits, and the more enormous the masses that are set in motion, the more subordinate does individual genius become to the inflexible laws of nature, and the less is the control which it exercises over events.

4-86. One of a commander's most important duties is evaluating subordinates and identifying talent-potential future candidates for senior appointments to command and staff positions. To assess the command qualities of subordinates objectively, commanders place individuals in circumstances where they must make decisions and live with the consequences. In these situations, subordinates must know the commander has enough confidence in them to permit honest mistakes. Training gives commanders opportunities to assess subordinates on the qualities commanders should possess. In particular, assessing subordinates should confirm whether they exhibit the necessary balance of intelligence, professionalism, and common sense required to carry the added responsibilities that go with promotion. (FM 22-100 discusses counseling and evaluating subordinates.)



4-87. Battle command is the exercise of command in operations against a hostile, thinking opponent (FM 3-0). Decisionmaking and leadership are two aspects of battle command. As the senior leader of a command, the commander directly applies the leadership element of combat power. Subordinate commanders and small-unit leaders reinforce that element.

4-88. The existence of an operational mission against enemies who actively attempt to accomplish their mission (while commanders attempt to accomplish theirs) distinguishes battle command from other cases of command. In these situations, thinking, competitive, adaptive enemies consciously attempt to disrupt friendly operations. Commanders lead their forces through times of uncertainty and fear to defeat enemies quickly at minimum cost to their own forces. This aspect of operations underscores the importance of intelligence as an integral part of battle command. Integrated ISR operations are indispensable to effective C2. At the same time, commanders maintain the morale and material well-being of their soldiers, and posture their forces for future operations. The complexity of operations rarely allows even a carefully rehearsed plan to unfold smoothly. To succeed, commanders develop and maintain their commander's intent resolutely while a displaying flexible approach.

4-89. Effective battle command demands superior decisions-decisions both more timely and more often effective than those of the enemy. The outcome of engagements, battles, and major operations depends on not only superior information, but also on superior decisionmaking based on that information. This is an important aspect of information as an element of combat power. Decisionmaking often requires commanders to judge the quality of information received through staff analysis and technical sources. It also requires them to focus subordinates and staff on information they consider important. These are tactical, operational, and strategic judgments. Commanders anticipate and understand the activities that follow decisions, knowing that some commitments are irretrievable once put into motion. Guided by doctrine, commanders make decisions using judgment acquired from training, experience, study, imagination, and creative and critical thinking.

4-90. Achieving the strategic and operational end state largely depends on tactical success. Battle command during tactical-level operations demands sound knowledge and understanding of tactical doctrine, the commander's ability to translate the higher commander's intent into effective action, and expertise in applying tactics. (See FM 3-90.) Tactical-level commanders exercise C2 quickly to get inside the enemy's decision cycle. (See appendix A.) They also exercise C2 directly because there are fewer levels of command between them and the effects of their directions. Tactical-level commanders concern themselves more with success in the current engagement than with long-term planning and execution.

4-91. Commanders are key to battle command. They drive the process to produce and execute effective decisions. They combine the art of command with the science of control and train their subordinate commanders to do the same. However, they do not do this alone; they use their C2 systems, defining and focusing them in the direction they desire.



4-92. With respect to battle command, the distinction between operational- and tactical-level echelons during stability operations and support operations is not clear-cut. First, there may be multiple adversaries. They may be nonhuman (for example, manmade or natural disasters), and not all potential adversaries will directly oppose the commander on every issue. Second, commanders at lower levels may confront legal, political, and media pressures normally associated with senior command. For example, in multinational operations, military commanders are unlikely to have unity of command, and all elements in the AO may not be under local command, military or otherwise. In these operations, planning may focus less on concentrating the effects of combat power on an enemy than on concentrating less lethal resources against multiple objectives. Some of these are, or may become, enemies. Others may be civil centers of gravity. Finally, commanders accustomed to training and operating at the tactical level must be prepared for operational-level considerations.

4-93. Communications and liaison are at least as important and widely used in stability operations and support operations as in offensive and defensive operations. In addition to their normal functions, commanders use them to achieve unity of effort, trust, and mutual understanding with organizations not subordinate to military authority. Commanders ensure that forcewide communications link the command with other organizations in the AO, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Many of these organizations can affect military operations, but may have goals and operations significantly different from the commander's. Their INFOSYS may not be compatible with the military's. Using INFOSYS to provide accurate and timely information dissemination during these operations is vital to maintaining the commander's situational understanding. Commanders may have to expand the use of liaison officers and alter normal communications procedures.



4-25One of the most valuable qualities of a commander is a flair for putting himself in the right place at the right time.

Field Marshal Sir William Slim

4-94. Command occurs at the location of the commander. One of the fundamental dilemmas facing all commanders is where to position themselves on the battlefield. Commanders lead. There is no ideal pattern of leadership or simple prescription for it; different commanders lead in different ways. Leadership is essentially creative. As far as operational conditions allow, leadership must be up front. Command must be forward. Commanders need to see their soldiers and soldiers must see their commander. Commanding forward allows commanders to assess the state of operations face-to-face with their subordinate commanders and their soldiers. It allows them to gather as much information as possible about actual combat conditions when making decisions in uncertain circumstances. Commanders go where they can best influence operations; however, commanding forward does not mean taking over a subordinate's responsibilities. Leading up front improves morale and allows commanders to mass effects at the critical time and place.

4-95. Commanders consider their position in relation to the forces they command and the mission. Their location can have important consequences, not only for the command but also for executing operations. Modern INFOSYS can help commanders command forward without losing access to the information and analysis of their CPs. Should commanders require a larger facility to exercise C2 temporarily, they can use one of their subordinate CPs and establish communications linking them to their CP.

4-96. At the lowest levels, commanders lead by personal example, acquire much information themselves, decide personally, and communicate face-to-face with those they direct. Typically, they position themselves well forward to directly influence the decisive operation. However, even at these levels, commanders cannot always command their whole unit directly. Therefore, they consider the factors below in deciding where to exercise command presence.

4-97. In larger tactical- and operational-level commands, CPs are normally the focus of information flow and planning. Yet commanders cannot always visualize the battlefield and direct and synchronize operations from there. Commanders sometimes assess the situation up front-face-to-face with subordinate commanders and their soldiers. Commanders design their C2 systems so they can position themselves wherever they can best command without losing the situational understanding that lets them respond to opportunities and changing circumstances.

4-98. When the need to command personally overrides all other factors, commanders position themselves to do just that. Under other circumstances, they consider how their command presence might affect their ability to exercise C2 throughout the AO. Commanders who are too close mentally or emotionally to the action risk becoming so engaged that their ability to visualize the overall operation is obscured. This situation undermines the efforts of both commanders and subordinates. More important, commanders weigh the cost to the command and the operation of their being killed or wounded. They consider several factors: among them-

  • Potential loss of momentum or intent.
  • Benefits to decisionmaking.
  • Opportunities to inspire and increase morale.
  • Ability to recognize and seize opportunities.

Finally, commanders realize that they might not always be where the critical action is, but at a place that has become relatively unimportant at the time. This possibility reinforces the necessity of training subordinates to operate under mission command. Commanders can then rely on subordinates to restore or exploit the situation without their presence.

4-99. At all echelons, the best place for commanders is where they can best influence the operation's progress. They convey importance and focus the efforts of the command by their physical presence. When commanders choose to command forward, they not only gain a feel for the actual conditions of combat, but also show their soldiers that they share their danger. They may also inspire them by their physical presence. At higher echelons, command presence decisions are less straightforward than at lower echelons. The wider range of responsibilities and more complex operational framework influences the location of those commanders. However, they have more resources for moving about the battlefield and more and redundant INFOSYS for exercising C2. These resources allow higher-level commanders to position themselves to make the greatest impact on the overall operation.

4-100. Commanders add the leadership element of combat power to the decisive operation by their personal attention and presence. In addition to exercising leadership, they can observe events more directly. Commanders gain firsthand appreciation for the situation that can rarely be gained any other way. Equally important, they can avoid the delays and distortions that occur as information travels down and up the chain of command. Finally, by their presence, commanders direct emphasis to critical spots and focus efforts on them. The following factors influence the decision on the commander's location. They are common to all levels of command:

  • Need to see and experience firsthand.
  • Need to motivate and lead.
  • Access to information to make timely decisions.
  • Ability to judge the condition and morale of forces.
  • Communicate to subordinate, adjacent, and higher forces.
  • Decisionmaking capability.
  • Security, including physical protection.
  • Time and location of critical events.

4-101. As the echelon of command increases, commanders command more indirectly through their subordinates. They may want to have personal contact or intervene to lead or to make decisions at the location or with the command executing the decisive operation. Similarly, when commanders lose their feel for the situation, they need to reestablish a clear situational understanding and commander's visualization.

4-102. Commanders also position themselves to gather information. The location of the commander varies with the type of information needed. Commanders who want information about the immediate situation go where the critical action or situation is developing. This may be at or near the point of contact or with a subordinate commander or subordinate CP, at a critical point along a route of march, or in a C2 aircraft above the battlefield. Commanders who want an overview of the situation gathers various reports from separated sources at their CPs. However, senior commanders who want to exchange information should move forward to subordinates' CPs rather than requiring subordinate commanders to travel to the higher headquarters. Finally, when a commander needs to see the situation from the enemy's standpoint, especially if the enemy has made a bold and unexpected move that shattered the commander's situational understanding, the best location may be one apart from distractions and interruptions.

4-103. Much of battle command takes place forward. Command cannot be effectively exercised solely from the CP. Modern INFOSYS facilitate command forward by allowing commanders to access COP-related information from anywhere in the AO. Command forward allows commanders to see the context of reports and actions, as well as assess the command climate-nuances technology has a hard time conveying. Personal visits give commanders the chance to talk to soldiers in forward units to assess their morale. Command forward also allows commanders to focus efforts without intervening in subordinates' fights, and to provide the will and resolve to overcome obstacles. Finally, command forward allows commanders to demonstrate that they are sharing the risk with soldiers.

4-104. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, among others, considered command forward so important that he consciously paid the price of loss of communications with his CP, his forces (other than the ones he was visiting), and his higher headquarters. As a division commander in 1940,

4-28[Rommel] commanding from the front. The opportunities of battle present themselves fleetingly, and can only be seen by the eye and seized by the mind of one at the critical point. But to command a large and complex formation of all arms while simultaneously placing oneself at such a critical point or points requires a well-thought-out technique.

Sir David Fraser

Another example of command forward was set by an American general serving in the Southwest Pacific Theater during World War II. LTG Robert L. Eichelberger's accomplishments at Buna in northeastern New Guinea during December 1942 provide many lessons in the challenges of battle command. His extraordinary leadership qualities allowed him to transform a collection of ineffective units into a potent fighting force.

4-28Command Forward-LTG Eichelberger at Buna

In autumn 1942, US forces were attempting to establish forward positions and air bases from which to drive the Japanese from New Guinea and the adjacent islands. The 32d Infantry Division was to eliminate Japanese positions in Buna on New Guinea. (See map 4-1.) By the end of November, however, the division had made little progress, and GEN Douglas MacArthur sent LTG Robert L. Eichelberger, I Corps commander, there to correct the situation. Eichelberger's instructions were to "remove all officers who won't fight [and]... if necessary, put sergeants in charge of battalions and corporals in charge of companies."

Eichelberger and his staff arrived on 2 December and were disturbed by what they observed during their initial inspection: Soldiers were suffering from a number of tropical diseases. Rations were scant. There was little discipline or military courtesy. Morale was low. Organization was very poor. Only a few soldiers were at the front line; many were in the rear areas, sent there initially to recover from illness or injury, but now lost to effective control. Units had become mixed, which also complicated control. Fearing the jungle, soldiers were afraid to patrol and, consequently, did not know the location of Japanese positions. Leadership at all levels was ineffective.

Map 4-1. Buna

Map 4-1. Buna

Eichelberger moved quickly to address these problems. He had supplies flown in and distributed, so that soldiers became better fed, clothed, and medically treated. He stopped offensive operations for two days to reestablish effective C2. Patrols were sent out nightly, and Japanese positions identified. Several commanders, including the division commander, were replaced with officers who could instill a more disciplined and aggressive attitude. Eichelberger was frequently near the front, taking personal risk. Although it increased the danger to him personally, he wore his rank openly to show his soldiers their commander was present. In addition to demonstrating to his men that he was willing to share the same risks, Eichelberger was able to observe battlefield conditions personally, leading to better commander's visualization. By 3 January, after a series of resolute-albeit costly-attacks, Eichelberger had overcome organized Japanese resistance at Buna.

When Eichelberger arrived in Buna, he immediately began doing what is now called commander's visualization. He personally assessed troop conditions at the front to obtain an accurate situational understanding and visualize his desired end state. Eichelberger took immediate actions to fulfill a commander's two responsibilities: accomplishing the mission and taking care of soldiers. On the one hand, he engaged actively in caring for his troops, providing for their medical, nutritional, clothing, and equipment needs, and adopting measures to protect the security of his force. On the other hand, he communicated his operational concept to his subordinate commanders and mobilized his combat assets, concentrating decisive combat power at the required time and place. He rewarded effective officers with increased command responsibilities and removed ineffective commanders. By commanding forward he not only set a personal example by sharing his men's hardships and dangers, but also allowed him to obtain a first-hand impression of combat conditions. Eichelberger's decisive actions reversed the tide of battle in the Southwest Pacific Theater. From a collection of disintegrating units, he created a fighting force that stopped the Japanese advance, and quite possibly saved Australia from an invasion.



4-105. Above all, commanders combine the art of command and the science of control to exercise C2. They focus the science of control through applying the art of command-decisionmaking and leading-to support them and regulate forces and battlefield operating systems. They create a positive command climate that allows them to exercise C2 through mission command. They accustom staff and subordinates to their style and philosophy of command, accept legitimate risk and errors, foster trust and mutual understanding, inculcate positive communications, build teamwork, and establish and use values and examples. Training the staff and subordinates in C2 includes training and preparing the command prior to operations, promoting leadership qualities, developing the warrior ethos, and assessing subordinates. Finally, commanders use battle command to direct operations that successfully accomplish missions. Chapter 5 discusses how commanders structure their C2 systems and use them to exercise battle command.


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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias