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To provide a balanced view, here is a typical example of a brigade conducting a defense in sector. The enemy attacks. Every capability in his regimental combined arms team is applied with precision and effectiveness.The full weight of this combined arms team is massed against one company of our brigade's southern task force. They penetrate our defense, destroy most of our combat power, overrun and destroy the forward support battalion, and consolidate on their objective in about two hours.

Again, most senior leaders would fault poorly trained leaders or subordinate units, failure of units to execute assigned tasks, the fog of battle, or friction. No doubt these had some influence, but they were not the cause. In the final analysis, the brigade commander and his staff bear full responsibility for the outcome. They failed to set conditions for success. Here is what I mean.

Our brigade commander recognized he had to reduce the combat power of the lead enemy regiment before it reached his forward line of troops. He told his staff this critical task was essential for success in the close fight. Unfortunately, he never stated what he wanted to attack, where he wanted to attack it, when he wanted to attack it, what direction he wanted to force the enemy, and the outcome he expected. So the brigade staff set up a couple of deep engagement areas. We planned to employ scouts, COLTs, close air support, artillery, artillery-delivered mines, and communications jamming to achieve what they thought the commander wanted. We put the requisite orders in the execution matrix. We walked through the plan at the combined arms rehearsal on a first-class terrain board. Everybody gave a big hoo-ah and we prepared to execute. When the sun came up, the operation unraveled in our hands.

Our close air support showed up late and never got in the fight. We did not establish a trigger point to call the aircraft forward based on the enemy's rate of movement. To compound the problem, we calculated flight times for F-16s, not A-10s. That induced a 20-minute delay. Additionally, we did not consider the time required to brief the pilots on site. No matter, we did not request sufficient sorties to achieve the effects desired. Our aircraft did not have the right type or quantity of munitions aboard. We needed twice the number of sorties, with MAVERICK missiles and CBUs, not 500-lb bombs, to obtain the effects we wanted.

Even assuming we had this straight, it would have made no difference. We sent the tactical control party in the OH-58 to the wrong aerial observation point (AOP) to observe the trigger point and initiate fires. To make matters worse, they couldn't communicate with the targeting team at the main command post. They were out of FM range and we did not deploy a retransmission team, air or ground.

We wanted to mass artillery against the enemy as it traversed the engagement area. Unfortunately, we employed only one battalion. We needed two battalions to achieve the effects the brigade commander desired. No matter, we could not shoot anyway because close air support aircraft were maneuvering across the gun-target line. We did not establish an effective airspace coordination area (ACA) to permit simultaneous engagement of the enemy by artillery and close air support. Moreover, when we needed to shoot dual-purpose-improved conventional munitions (DPICMs), we were shooting artillery-delivered mines (FASCAMs). We fired a 200-meter by 800-meter FASCAM minefield to delay the enemy about 10 minutes in the engagement area, but we fired it in broad daylight as the enemy approached. They saw it come in and maneuvered around it. Even if it was properly timed, the minefield would have had little effect. It was not emplaced precisely into the choke point to achieve the effects desired.

We found and jammed the enemy's battle command net and forced him to change frequencies. It made no difference. We jammed him about two or three kilometers forward of the engagement area, giving him time to shift quickly to an alternate frequency. If we had established a trigger point, assigned an observer, andjammed the enemy at the same time we massed indirectfires, we could have had a devastating effect and significantly disrupted the synchronization and momentum of the enemy's attack. What's going on?

Again, our subordinate leaders, soldiers, and airmen did virtually everything they were told to do. No doubt a few let us down. Unfortunately, they were doomed from the outset. Even if every team and unit had performed their tasks to standards, which most small units do, there was nothing they could have done to achieve any other outcome. Nothing was synchronized. We simply failed to employ all our capabilities at the right time and place. The brigade commander and his staff failed to set conditions for effective synchronization of the combined arms team before the fight, much less preserve it during execution.


These are typical battles at the NTC, not exaggerations. The same thing happens day after day, mission after mission, at every combat training center in our Army. Why does this happen? Why do we continue to squander the months and years of training we invest in our young leaders and soldiers? Why do hundreds of soldiers sit idle during every battle, never training, as opportunities to use their talents and capabilities appear and perish during the course of a battle? It is certainly not due to the quality of our officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers. We have intelligent, talented, devoted, and caring leaders across the board--probably the best our Army has ever seen. From my observation post, the answer is apparent. Our commissioned officers, at task force and brigade level, lack the competence to get every dog in the fight at the right time and place.

Individually, commanders and staff officers have not mastered the science of warfighting. Without a mastery of the science, we never achieve the art necessary to win battles under the conditions at our combat training centers. Collectively, as command and staff teams, we don't know how to set conditions for effective synchronization of the combined arms team and preserve it during the friction of execution. Our planning process does not produce it. Moreover, our plans, orders, and graphics do not impose the control necessary to make things happen at the right time and place.

We mistakenly believe mission-type orders at the brigade level are all that's required. Initiative will do the rest. We believe the fog and friction of battle obviate the need for detailed planning or branch plans. We feel consigned to issue fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), given the unpredictable nature of battle, and believe we can win if we can just respond quickly to orders. We do not issue specific orders or conduct effective combined arms rehearsals to ensure all leaders know what they have to do, where they have to do it, and when they have to do it in different situations. And we wonder why we cannot synchronize the combined arms team--why we cannot apply combat power at the right time and place. Bottom line--we don't win our battles before we fight them, which represents the acme of tactical skill, warfighting competence, and the art of battle command. A few reasons follow.


Brigade commanders set conditions for effective synchronization of the brigade combined arms team. Their ability to do it is a function of their mastery of the art of battle command, as we now call it. Indeed, the brigade can fight no better than the brigade commander's ability to see the terrain and appreciate the effects of weather, see the enemy, see himself, and see the battle unfold in his mind. Granted, the ability to inspire and motivate soldiers, the ability to impose his will, tenacity, compassion, patience, and so forth are also important. But these are elements of effective leadership, not tactical competence. Over the year, I observed several brigade commanders with exceptional leadership ability, but few with the skills and competencies required to effectively synchronize and employ every element of combat power to achieve their intent. From my vantage point, here are the principal reasons.

Most brigade commanders lacked the ability to see the terrain and its effects on combat operations. By that, I mean the map did not talk to them. I am not talking about Go and No Go terrain, key terrain, or decisive terrain. They could not see or envision the effects of terrain on the enemy's ability and their own ability to move, generate momentum, disperse, mass, observe, deploy, shoot, or protect the force. They could not envision, at a glance, where the enemy would be most vulnerable to the diverse capabilities of their force or where terrain provided them an opportunity to seize the initiative or control the tempo of the battle. Equally important, they could not see where terrain would restrict or constrain the employment of the combined arms team.

On a higher plane of thinking, brigade commanders could not see how to use the terrain to create conditions where the enemy would be vulnerable to the fires they could bring to bear. In other words, most could not see, within their battlespace, where the enemy would be most vulnerable to attack by close air support, delayed by FASCAM, vulnerable to laser-guided artillery munitions (COPPERHEAD), blocked, turned, disrupted, or fixed by obstacles, disrupted by jamming, or where terrain would provide them a relative firepower advantage in the close fight. Unfortunately, unarmed with these skills, they could not shape the battlefield to set conditions for success. On the other hand, some brigade commanders clearly had these skills and competencies; however, they seldom invested the time for undisturbed, detailed study of the terrain during the commander's estimate process. They leaned on their S2s, young officers yet untrained to view the battlefield in these terms.

Additionally, most commanders lacked the ability to see the enemy. They could not envision how the enemy commander would employ his combined arms team, other than in general terms. They could not envision the sequential and simultaneous actions the enemy commander would take to shape his battlefield for success. They could not perceive the critical tasks the enemy commander had to accomplish, how he would employ his combined arms team to accomplish the tasks, or what he had to do to seize and retain the initiative. As the battle unfolded in their mind, or as their S2s stood at the map and briefed, they could not immediately recognize the high value and high payoff targets and when they would be most vulnerable to destruction. Even more important, they could not see what had to be done to disrupt the synchronization of the enemy's combined arms team--the foundation for victory under NTC conditions.

Most commanders also could not see themselves. By that, I mean they were not expert in the capabilities and limitations of every system in their combined arms team. They had not mastered the science of warfighting. Moreover, they did not seem to know how these capabilities could be used most effectively against the enemy. For example, they did not appreciate the volume of artillery fire necessary to achieve the effects they wanted, nor the range of various artillery munitions, or rate of fire, or time to shift from one target to the next, or occupation times for an artillery battalion, or its rate of march relative to a maneuver force. Few really knew the capabilities and limitations of their collection and jamming teams, comprised of soldiers with an unparalleled ability to protect the force and change the character of battle. Most commanders were not expert in the employment of obstacles. They had no sense of what their engineers could realistically accomplish, for example, how long it takes for an engineer company to install an effective blocking or turning obstacle, the quantity of material required, the manhours required, the transportation involved, the number of fighting positions they could realistically create in the time available, etc. Oh yes, their engineer officers usually possessed the knowledge. But that is irrelevant. If the brigade commander does not possess this level of expertise, he cannot envision how to effectively employ this capability to shape his battlefield, protect the force, and establish conditions for success in the deep and close fights.

With no sense of these things, it is simply not possible to envision how to employ the combined arms team effectively and give sound planning guidance to the staff and subordinate commanders. It is not possible because the commander's art, the basis of battle command, is judging where and when to apply capabilities against the enemy to achieve the effects necessary to beat him and set the conditions to do it.

On the other side of this coin, a brigade commander must also be able to see himself from the enemy commander's perspective. This skill--only few commanders possessed it-- proved vital in setting conditions for success. A commander must have the skill to recognize where he is strong and where he is weak from the enemy commander's point of view. This ability can often lift the curtain of uncertainty off the battlefield and expose the enemy's most likely course of action with remarkable clarity.

Finally, it became evident over time that few commanders thought in terms of force protection, one of the four critical elements of combat power. By that, I mean they did not fight the battle in their minds and immediately discern the active and passive measures necessary to protect the force. I am not talking simply about safety, mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP), radio listening silence, raising the air defense warning status, repositioning of reserves, and so forth. I am talking about actions to protect their forces from observation by air, space, and ground reconnaissance systems, electronic location, thermal detection systems, the effects of indirect and direct fires, special munitions, fratricide, and the effects of weather, disease, and injury. Actions to protect the force are seldom given high priority in the commander's estimate process. This should come as no surprise. As an officer corps, we have not been trained to think of fighting and employing forces in these terms. Protecting the force, an essential component of battle command, is not imbedded in the collective mind set of most of our leadership. This worries me, too, because protecting the force is a vital responsibility, second only to accomplishing the mission.

Why do these things matter? Without these skills, a commander is crippled. Without them, a commander cannot visualize the battle, fight it in his mind, see how to employ his capabilities to achieve their full potential, and subsequently frame his intent and provide effective planning guidance to his staff. And if his staff doesn't get it, they will never be able to set conditions for synchronization of the combined arms team in the planning process, nor preserve it during execution. In short, a commander, not the staff, has to fight and win the battle in his mind before he can hope to win it on the ground. He is the architect of victory or defeat. Furthermore, he must effectively communicate this mental blueprint to his staff. Unfortunately, the reverse ismore common.

Main Table of Contents
The Burden Our Soldiers Bear, Part 1
The Burden Our Soldiers Bear, Part 3

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