Academic journal article Military Review

Mission Command in the Regionally Aligned Division Headquarters

Academic journal article Military Review

Mission Command in the Regionally Aligned Division Headquarters

Article excerpt

"LIFE AT THE corners of 4 map sheets" is how then-Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks, as the commanding general of Army Central Command (ARCENT), described the role of the regionally aligned force. The 1st Armored Division, as the first regionally aligned force division headquarters, has found that life at the intersection of those map sheets requires a change from old habits and mindsets. Success as an aligned force requires embracing mission command as a philosophy, establishing mission command systems to keep hands on the forward problem, and adopting a forward-focused mindset. Mission command enables the regionally aligned force to create shared trust and understanding within the headquarters, build the relationships and teams necessary to support the geographic combatant commander, and develop the flexibility necessary to provide mission-tailored command posts to the combatant command.

In May 2012, the Army expanded the concept of regionally aligning units from only brigade combat teams to division headquarters. Forces Command aligned the 1st Armored Division to support U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), making our team one of the first regionally aligned division headquarters. The chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Ray Odierno, outlined his intent for regionally aligned forces on 25 October 2012, indicating their purpose: "to provide the combatant commander with up to a Joint Task Force capable headquarters with scalable, tailorable capabilities to enable him to shape the environment." Our 1st Armored Division team viewed alignment as a tremendous opportunity. Our commanding general at the time, Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, described the division's role in this way, nested with the chief of staff of the Army's intent: "Our goal is to broadly collaborate our understanding and build trust (at all levels), which will best allow our supported combatant commander to prevent conflict, shape the environment (as needed), and posture us to win (if needed)."

Before You Ask the Question: The Answer is Yes.

First Armored Division committed early on in our regionally aligned force mission to provide complete support to our supported combatant commander. The question was, "How do we best, and in the most responsive way possible, add value to the combatant command?" The operating environment is already challenging--our view was that the regionally aligned force does not need to add additional challenges or complications. Combatant commands will sometimes encounter this type of response when requesting assets from Army units:

* Combatant commander: "I need 100 soldiers."

* Supporting Army unit: "Acknowledged, we'll send a brigade (or equivalent)."

Such inflexibility means that Army loses some credibility within the combatant command. If the combatant commander needs ten soldiers, that is what we will send. When a supported combatant commander submits a request, the regionally aligned force should respond within the intent and guideline of that intent. The bottom line: before a supported combatant commander asks the question, the answer from the regionally aligned force should be "yes."

Get in a Good Stance: Always Forward, Globally Connected, and Expeditionary

Pittard encouraged our team to retain an expansive view of our role as a regionally aligned headquarters, to "keep our hands on the problem," and to develop a mindset of being "always forward, globally connected, and expeditionary." The further an organization is from the problem, the harder it is for that organization to fully understand the problem. We all tend to view the world through a lens that is familiar to us, which, if we are not careful, further inhibits our ability to understand completely the motivations and intentions of our regional partners. Our ability to influence the operating environment directly relates to our proximity to our partners. Regional alignment has required us to "get closer"; engaging partners without understanding the environment means that we lose relevance and our partners will be less willing to engage us. …

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