Academic journal article Military Review

A CINC's View of Operational Art

Academic journal article Military Review

A CINC's View of Operational Art

Article excerpt

In September 1990,just as the crisis with Iraq was beginning, General Crosbie E. Saint, US Army, Europe and Seventh Army commander in chief, gave Military Review this frank analysis of an army group commander's role. His observations and recommendations for the "fighters, integrators and shapers" in their practice of operational art is as valid today as it was on the eve of Desert Storm.

THE US ARMY Field Manual 100-5, Operations, defines operational art as "the employment of military forces to attain strategic goals in a theater of war or a theater of operations through the design, organization and conduct of campaigns and major operations." This leaves much interpretation as to how to "employ military forces." In NATO, the army group commander has to answer that challenge. Getting the right mix of forces to the decisive place and time invariably sets the conditions for success. We all agree there are a number of places to put forces; the questions are: "Which place is decisive, and when is it decisive?" Although simply stated, this positioning is a delicate process in execution, akin to no other talent higher-level commanders must have. When combined with multinational and theater political considerations as in NATO, practicing the operational art becomes uniquely challenging. In the succeeding paragraphs is my description of how to practice the operational art better than the "bad" guy-which is what it is all about. The salient feature of this description should apply to any theater in which we may have to fight, and any kind of war.

I begin with what should happen when ground combat finally occurs, whether it is the first, second or 20th battle of a campaign. (I note here that I believe modern warfare has moved past the days of a single, climatic battle and into a series of violent pockets of conflict.) Well-trained soldiers and leaders of the companies decide the close battle, the "clash of short swords." The army group commander, on the other hand, has the task of setting the conditions for these company victories long before swords flash and soldiers die. In fact, as you go up the chain of command, all commanders must do what is appropriate to prepare the battlefield for those companies. In my view, there are three roles soldiers and commanders play: fighters, integrators and shapers. The fighters are the swordsmen-killers who close with the enemy and destroy him at the place and time others have set. Fighters live in companies and battalions, reaching out to kill everything within reach. Fighters know war in its most intimate sense; they practice tactics and techniques rehearsed in training areas and exercises. Good warriors are ferocious fighters in close combat-they are the teeth of the fighting machine.

At the next level, one step removed from the fighters, are the integrators. This is not a clear separation though, as brigades are both fighters and integrators. The integration process, occurring mostly at brigade and division levels, focuses all available combat power at the right place and time-where the fighters are. Additionally, integrators must decide when to fight, when not to fight and whom to fight.

Shapers bring the normally disparate combat elements together in sequence, over time. The shaper's product is the essence of operational art. Shaping is tricky; corps and army group commanders have to balance the means at hand with the constraints and restrictions of the political, military and geographical environments. Constraints are the specified and implied tasks in the mission; restrictions are things that cannot be done. Implicit in the shaper's role is the end state. The shaper must start by clearly defining the answers to two key questions:

* What should the world look like after the campaign is successfully completed?

* Do I have the resources to "get there from here"? The corps commander is about half shaper and half integrator, and the army group commander is about three quarters shaper and one quarter integrator. …

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