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(Tactical Operations Center)
(H-24 Hours)

As LTC Bryant, the task force commander, wrapped up the warning order and backbriefs, CPT Tom Bolten did not relish the idea. TM SABRE would be the task force reserve for this battle. He was confident his team was well prepared for the fight. It just didn't seem fair the other teams would have a chance to prove themselves before TM SABRE got into the fight. Bolten began to wonder why Bryant seemed to always make them his reserve.

The Warning Order Bryant issued seemed pretty easy to understand. Bolten was fairly certain he knew and understood what his commander intended TM SABRE to do. As the meeting was breaking up, Bolten walked up to LTC Bryant and asked if he had a couple of minutes to spare so they could go over the commander's intent and concept one more time just to make sure he had heard and understood everything correctly.

CPT Jack Crafton, the commander of the TM BAYONET, had frequently chided Bolten about always running to the Task Force commander after every order and asking him to go over it again with him. Bolten thought to himself, "Crafton thinks I'm scared and insecure for always checking. He thinks everyone should be just like him. A legend in his own mind." Bolten shrugged the thought off; he had work to do. This one was for all the marbles and he didn't want to risk screwing it up because of false pride. He wanted to make sure he had not missed a critical part of what the commander wanted him and his team to do.

POINT: Clearly understand, beyond doubt, the commander's intent. Don't let false pride cost soldiers' lives! The best method of insuring complete understanding of the commander's intent is to briefback the order, concept, and intent to the individual issuing the order. Briefback should occur immediately following the order.

The order was simple enough: TM SABRE would be the task force reserve. On order, they would be prepared to counterattack against any force penetrating past any of the three teams defending task force BP DAUNTLESS.

TM SABRE task organized with two mechanized platoons equipped with M-2 Bradleys IFVs and two armor platoons equipped M-1 Abrams. They would not have a Stinger Team; it had been allocated to TM MUSKET. TM MUSKET faced a greater air defense threat in the eyes of the TF commander. If ordered to counterattack, TM SABRE would have priority of mortar and artillery fires to support them.

LTC Bryant was glad to answer Bolten's questions. Bolten wanted to know where his air defense coverage would come from if he had to move out of the ADA umbrella the Stinger team in HHC afforded him. "Good question," replied Bryant. He thought for a minute, and called his Stinger Platoon Leader to help him come up with a solution.

Bolten expressed his concern about the indirect fire coordination. He felt it had not been clearly discussed during the orders brief. Bryant summoned the task force Fire Support Officer, CPT McBride, and instructed him to work out the details and to make sure the Team FSO, FIST NCOs, guns, and the ground commanders knew exactly what, when, and how things would work. McBride saluted and charged back into the M-577 that served as the task force FSE to begin working on the problems.

Satisfied his questions were answered and he understood his mission and orders, Bolten gathered his map, overlay, and notebook and headed out of the Tactical Operations Center for his HMMWV and the ride back to his tactical assembly area.

Bryant leaned back in his folding chair and smiled to himself, knowing he had made the right choice for his reserve force. "Sure," he thought to himself, "all the team commanders were pretty good, each in their own way. Each with their strengths and weaknesses, but Bolten had something intangible." Bryant knew he could count on Tom Bolten in a pinch. He didn't look or act special. He was not one of those guys who looked like he had just stepped out of a recruiting poster. He was just solid as a rock. Bryant knew that Bolten and TM SABRE knew the fundamentals of armed combat cold and had established training standards to achieve them.

Bolten had several strengths some of his peers often considered weaknesses. He had enough confidence in himself to not be afraid to ask questions before he started something new. Others thought he was insecure. He always seemed to be more interested in function than form. Bolten was not flashy. He never had to tell anybody how good he was; everyone could see it for themselves.

Bryant thought back a few months during the final preparation for their last Annual General Inspection. Bolten had volunteered his company to be the last unit to have its vehicles repainted by the Logistics Center with the new kind of paint. While everyone else fought to be first, Bolten had told the battalion XO he wanted more time to have the crews and maintenance sections work on the vehicles before they were painted. They eventually got painted, and the extra maintenance time seemed to really help during the inspection.

LTC Bryant had never heard Bolten yell at any of his lieutenants or NCOs. He always treated them with respect. He was always able to communicate with them. The soldiers knew they could talk to him. He didn't always change his mind, but they knew he listened to them. Bolten had his finger on the pulse of TM SABRE.

POINT: Decentralization and initiative cannot exist without mutual confidence. Communication is a two-way proposition. Without trust and communication, a commander will not get the info he needs to make proper decisions.

One of the other team commanders had even asked the battalion Executive Officer if they were intentionally stacking Bolten's company with only the best people and sending the rest to the other teams. Bolten's NCOs always seemed to outshine the rest. Silently Bryant shook his head. He knew that everyone got their fair share. Several of Bolten's NCOs were guys that had not worked out in other companies. Nobody seemed to remember that after Bolten turned them into superstars. Bryant knew the soldiers would not let Bolten down because he would not let them down.

Bryant got up from his chair. He had work to do. The battle would be starting in less than 24 hours and he and the staff had a lot of work to do if they were to be successful.

On the way back to his CP at the assembly area, Bolten called LT Tim Kelly, the team Executive Officer, and let him know something important was up. Bolten told Kelly to assemble the orders group right away. As Bolten's HMMWV pulled up to the CP, Kelly could tell his commander appeared a little bit disappointed at whatever it was. As Bolten got out of the HMMWV, he told his driver to get the XO and FSO right away. He needed to talk to them before he met with the platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and other members of his "Orders Group."

During the ride back to the position, Bolten had reviewed the mission. Bolten felt uncomfortable and he was not sure why. He reflected back a few months earlier when they had been given a similar mission during a Combat Training Center rotation. LTC Bryant had given him the order to counterattack, only to have everything go to pieces. The OPFOR blew through the entire Task Force as if they were not even on the battlefield. Bolten realized he was afraid of repeating his mistakes. During his long ride to the assembly area, Bolten also had reviewed his notes about each of the other teams' missions and sectors.

Bolten remembered that LT Flynn, the S-2, had told him the enemy regiment would most likely concentrate its attack in the TM MUSKET sector. They also expected TM BAYONET and LANCE to each face motorized rifle battalions with artillery and air in supporting attacks.

Flynn had indicated they had identified two likely routes and another possible route on which the enemy force could be expected to try to penetrate BP DAUNTLESS. MAJ Daniels, the S-3, had interrupted to say LT Jacobson had his Scouts out trying to confirm the IPB. The enemy routes were Priority Intelligence Requirements for the task force.

On the way back, Bolten studied his map, concentrating on the areas Flynn had identified. Something else had caught his eye. Staring at the map, he thought he saw a fourth route he might have used if he were doing the attacking. He made a note to check with Flynn. He also made a mental note to have each of his platoon leaders look at the routes, including the one he thought he saw during their reconnaissance, "just to be sure."

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