Mission Command and Army Training Doctrine

By Dubik, James M. | Army, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Mission Command and Army Training Doctrine


Dubik, James M., Army


"Train as you fight" is one of the most essential principles of Army training doctrine, yet for more than 10 years this principle has been applied only partially. Why? Because fighting has been mostly decentralized and training mostly centralized. The Army's centralized "road to war" training philosophy erased "white space" from home-station training calendars; deemphasized training meetings, placing more focus on training support meetings; encouraged training to time rather than training to standard; and made training a "top-down" rather than a "bottom-up" activity.

Fortunately, the combat training centers (CTCs) retained the commitment to setting conditions for decentralized execution, and the reality of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere demanded decentralized execution, so a considerable amount of home-station training also focused on it. The reality of combat more than offset the centralized training management habit the Army acquired. If the road-to-war style is allowed to continue, however, it could become an impediment to developing mission command in a peacetime army.

Mission command demands trust among the leader teams that make up the chain of command, leaders who properly use initiative within the se* nior's intent and units that must be able to act, when the situation requires, not only in the absence of orders but also contrary to orders. A centralized approach to training and training management decreases the probability of developing the habits demanded by mission command. Among the many ways leaders can use Army training doctrine to create and reinforce mission command in leaders and units, the following three areas stand out.

Training Meetings

Properly run training meetings force training to be a bottom-up activity. They also force officers and NCOs at each level to know and understand their mission-essential training tasks - individual, leader and collective; their current status of proficiency relative to these tasks; and, therefore, the gap between where they are and where they must be, which defines a unit's training requirements.

When a battalion commander holds his or her training meeting with company commanders, each commander should have already used his or her squad's and platoon's training requirements as well as the company's to develop the training schedules being briefed to the battalion commander. Some of these tasks will be executed within the context of a larger training exercise - whether at home station or deployed. Others will be executed separately by the unit's leaders. Regardless, the key is that each echelon of command identifies its training requirements relative to the unit's essential tasks and plans to execute these tasks within the context of mandated training exercises.

For example, a battalion might be scheduled to deploy for a three-week training exercise with an ally. The tasks to be trained in preparation for and conduct of this exercise should be driven from the bottom up. The role of senior leaders and headquarters is to plan the home-station preparatory training program and the deployed training exercise with enough flexibility to allow a sufficient match among the senior leader's training goals, the allied training goals and the subordinate unit leaders' training requirements. Such an approach not only respects the role of the junior leader as the chief trainer of his or her unit but also encourages junior leaders to think and act within the intent of their seniors.

Preparation for and Assessment of Training

Training with ill-prepared leaders or under poor conditions means that training will not be done to standard or that it will not actually be performance-oriented. Well-prepared leaders training under well-constructed conditions, on the other hand, improve the quality of training and help establish trust up and down the chain of command; proficiency-based trust is one of the most necessary components of mission command. …

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