Academic journal article Military Review

The Art of Command and the Science of Control: Brigade Mission Command in Garrison and Operations

Academic journal article Military Review

The Art of Command and the Science of Control: Brigade Mission Command in Garrison and Operations

Article excerpt

This article is intended to provide a system and some tools to enhance the practical application of brigade-level mission command, both in garrison and in operations. As a former brigade commander and battalion commander and former task force senior observer/controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), I, Col. Val Keaveny, have spent the last ten years of my military service focused on exercising mission command at the battalion and brigade levels.

Our brigade (506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team) was given a diverse mission set during our recent nine-month deployment to eastern Afghanistan that included an advise-and-assist mission, traditional security operations, aggressive equipment retrograde, and forward operating base (FOB) and combat outpost closure requirements. The brigade assumed additional missions as the conditions and requirements changed, which included assuming responsibility for four additional provinces, relocating our brigade tactical operations center to a separate province, and establishing a command and control headquarters for future use as a general officer headquarters. This article outlines tools that, throughout all of this, were essential to our brigade's ability to accomplish missions.

Michael Flynn and Chuck Schrankel's 2013 Military Review article "Applying Mission Command Through the Operations Process" defines and summarizes why mission command as doctrine and practice is so important, but it lacks specificity on how to implement mission command within the setting of a battalion- or brigade-size element. (1) To fill the gap, this article describes the eight critical tools our brigade combat team developed as part of a functional mission command construct. These tools are interconnected and designed to complement each other. These mission command tools serve to augment commander-centric activities (such as battlefield reconnaissance and commander's estimate) in order to accomplish the mission. These tools are not new or novel, but the discipline in ensuring they are nested, updated, and enforceable is critical to overall success:

* Commander's intent

* Campaign plan framework

* Cyclic decision-making process (targeting)

* Battle rhythm

* Terms of reference

* Definition of "the fights"

* Long-range calendar

* Knowledge management system

There are many other mechanisms, systems, and organizations (such as tactical operations center, operational design, crisis-action planning sequence, and deliberate linear planning using the Army's military decisionmaking process [MDMP]) that are critical to overall mission success, but the tools listed above were critical to our implementation of mission command.

Commander's Intent: Sharing a Vision

In Joint Publication (JP) 3-0, Joint Operations, the term commander's intent is defined as

   a clear and concise expression of the purpose of the operation and
   the desired military end state that supports mission command,
   provides focus to the staff, and helps subordinate and supporting
   commanders act to achieve the commander's desired results without
   further orders, even when the operation does not unfold as planned.
   (2)

This first mission command tool allowed me to share my vision and direction with the staff and subordinate units. The last portion of the definition is critical, as I drafted my initial commander's intent into a formal document during the brigade's most recent deployment to Afghanistan six months prior to assuming responsibility in theater--and that document went largely unchanged until significant operational and tactical changes to the environment and mission dictated an update.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, this document (paired with our "campaign plan framework") allowed me to provide operational guidance to battalion commanders, senior security force advisors, and my brigade staff that was equally applicable to the rifle company commander or senior Afghan advisor. …

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