Task Force XO: Roles and Responsibilities
by LTC Juan Hernandez (formerly O/C, T02, CMTC)
This article will help you, the Task Force XO, prepare for CMTC by providing tasks that focus your efforts during a rotation. The tasks describe the XO's job in his dual role as:
- The battalion or task force's Chief of Staff.
- The Chief Logistician.
This article defines the doctrinal responsibilities of the XO and reviews the XO's duties both as the Chief of Staff and the Chief Logistician. It is based on recent lessons learned for both High Intensity Conflict and Peace Support Rotations at CMTC. The article lists key functions that ultimately contribute to a Task Force (TF)'s success and directs you to readily available publications to better prepare you to execute as the TF XO. As a result, you will be better able to efficiently manage what little time you have during your missions in "the box."
The Commander's Battle Staff Handbook1describes the XO's combat responsibilities as:
- Establishing staff operating procedures.
- Ensuring the commander and the staff are informed on matters affecting the command.
- Assembling and supervising the staff during the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP), ensuring a coordinated, synchronized plan.
- Establishing timelines (1/3-2/3).
- Establishing the required liaison.
- Ensuring information flow between the staff and commander on staff recommendations and the commander's decisions.
- Representing the commander (when required) and supervising the main CP and its operations.
- Monitoring the overall battle and supervision planning of future operations.
- Directing the staff.
- Displacing the main CP.
- Enforcing SOPs.
- Providing for battalion logistical support.
First Things First. Find out from the battalion commander how he intends to use the XO. "The commander may use the XO to operate the unit's main CP.or supervise the overall logistical effort. He must decide how he can use the XO most effectively given individual staff strengths, mission requirements and METT-T, and then communicate his intentions clearly."2Therefore, some questions that you must ask well before ever coming to the CMTC are:
- What is my battalion commander's command philosophy?
- What is my commander's intent and guidance?
- How does the battalion commander plan to use me?
- What are my responsibilities in TOC operations?
- What is my relationship to the S3?
- What is my decisionmaking authority for the commander/command structure?
The answers to these questions provide the groundwork for you to decide how you want to allocate your time and effort to being the Chief of Staff and Chief Logistician.
as Chief of Staff
The XO is the principal agent responsible for synchronizing the entire battle staff. The XO:
- Orchestrates each step of the MDMP.
- Ensures staff integration throughout the planning, preparation and execution phases of the operation.
- Enforces the timeline.
Using the Plan/Prep/Execute methodology, key functions of the XO are:
- Chief of Staff during the MDMP. Two sources to help you do your job are CALL Newsletter No. 93-3,3and No. 95-12.4
XO as keeper of the timeline.
- Upon receipt of the Bde FRAGO, publish the timeline for the operation. Post for all in the TOC to see. Update as required!
- Include all rehearsals (fires, TF, CSS, Bde-level) in the timeline.
Most importantly, enforce the timeline.
- Once enforced, the battlestaff will live by it.
- You're the guy with the club to beat up those that stray out of line.
- Quality control for OPORD and graphics.
- It's the commander's rehearsal, but you run it.
- Don't let it turn into a wargame.
- Rehearse the rehearsal with the battle staff.
- Keep the rehearsal length to an hour or less.
- Maintain the standard defined in CALLsletter No. 91-1.5
- Review the OPORD for quality control. Again, as in the rehearsal, rehearse the OPORD.
- During the battle, ensure crosstalk laterally (Co/Tms) and higher/lower (Bde/Bn).
- Ensure that your battle staff is drilled to the point that it can analyze, develop, synchronize and recommend a course of action within minutes of receiving a FRAGO from the TF Commander or Brigade.
- Know the Rules of Engagement!
XO as Chief Logistician
"The TF XO is the most critical player on the CSS team.
- Synchronizes all staff actions to support the mission.
Must know the functions and responsibilities of the CSS team. Refer to the
- Effectively supervise them on the battlefield. See "Techniques for Sustaining Your Task Force," Armor, Mar-Apr 94, pp. 18-20.
- "Regenerating Combat Power at the NTC," Armor, Jan-Feb 96, pp. 6-12.
TF CSS Rehearsals are probably the most important. They ensure complete synchronization and understanding of the TF CSS Concept of Support. Units coming to the CMTC typically do this poorly. The result is an unsynchronized CSS plan that does not support the TF. See CALL Newsletter No. 91-1, Rehearsals, Apr 91.
The functions listed below are CSS areas that traditionally demand the XO's attention during a rotation. They frequently become the topic of an AAR/a Hot Wash point:
- Logistic integration into the MDMP.
- CSS integration of attached units into the Task Force.
- In paragraph 4 of the OPORD. Who checks the CSS plan for completeness and synchronization?
- Is the TF Concept of Support synchronized with the Bde Concept of Support?
- CSS Rehearsals.
- LOGPAC operations (plan/prep/execute).
- CTCP and FTCP SOPs and operations.
- Circle X and Deadline Criteria in the Task Force.
- Who in the TF has Circle X authority?
- Cross-leveling within the Task Force.
- Daily PMCS/5988-E turn-in. How many are being submitted versus the TF vehicle density?
- Daily Class IX requisitions.
- Disk turn-in due to the absence of e-mail or the Electronic Logistics System (ELS).
- PLL management.
- Recovery operations.
- Full-Up Power Pack (FUPP) availability.
- Battalion representation at the daily BSA tenant meetings and Bde-level CSS rehearsals.
- Personnel Accountability.
- Processing 1156 Casualty Feeder Reports for all casualties.
- MEDEVAC and CASEVAC procedures.
- Combat Lifesavers and Combat Lifesaver Bags in the Task Force.
- Field Sanitation.
- Reconstitution procedures.
CASEVAC planning and execution always challenge units coming to the CMTC. Failure to plan and synchronize CASEVAC and the improper positioning of treatment assets result in an inability to evacuate casualties from point of injury to treatment facility in a timely manner. The ultimate result is that soldiers die of wounds. Nonstandard evacuation platforms, certified combat lifesavers in all platoons and thorough rehearsals during the preparation phase at the Co/Tm and Task Force levels are the key to reducing died of wounds rates during a rotation.
Use this summary of tasks to prepare for your next rotation. The preparation will focus your efforts, enable you to more efficiently manage what little time you have during missions in "the box" and ultimately succeed in operations ranging from Peace Support to High Intensity Conflict.
Battle Staff Handbook,
Army Research Institute, Fort Benning Field Unit, 15 May 93, p. 2-3.
2. Ibid., p. 2.
3. CALL Newsletter No. 93-3, The Battalion and Brigade Battle Staff, TRADOC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Jul 93.
4. CALL Newsletter No. 95-12, Tactical Deicsion Making: Abbreviated Planning, TRADOC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Dec 95.
5. CALL Newsletter No. 91-1, Rehearsals, TRADOC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, Apr 91.
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