Why Synchronization Dumbs Down Your OODA Loop
March 15, 2000
Discussion Thread: #s 91, 93, 106, 107, 109, 111, 112, 113, 132, 136, 140, 302, 344, 346, 347.
 "NTC-FORSCOM Briefing," presented to recent FORSCOM Commanders Conference, date unk., but very recent, attached in Adobe Acrobat PDF file (1.05 MB)
 Email from Robert C. Holcomb, The Institute for Defense Analyses, "Review of Slides on Future Direction of Information Technology in Army," January 24, 2000 [see below]
 Email from Lt YYY, "ONE MORE OFFICER IS MOVING ON, A TANKER'S PERSPECTIVE," February 19, 2000
 Email from the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to the Army Staff, Inspector General, and Personnel Command. Subject: Captains Recall, 15 Feb 2000.
 Email from CWO ZZZ, "AN ARMY AVIATOR'S FINAL WORDS," 15 Mar 2000 07:56:30 -0500
Please accept my apologies for the long download time, but the attached Adobe Acrobat file is extremely important to this discussion. No doubt, some readers will not be interested in the subject of Army doctrine; for this I also apologize, but this mailing list is now so long it has become impossible to tailor the recipients by subject matter. I certainly do not want to impose unwanted email on others, so please tell me if you are receiving too much information that is outside of your interests, and I will remove you from automatic distribution.
This message will be easier to digest if you print it and the attached Adobe file first.
Reference #1 is an annotated version of an unclassified Army briefing now circulating widely on Capital Hill. It is attached separately in Adobe Acrobat format for easy downloading. My understanding is that it was presented recently by the Commander of the Army's National Training Center (NTC) to a conference of commanders in Forces Command (FORSCOM). Presumably this forum was chaired by the 'four-star' commander of FORSCOM.
The NTC-FORSCOM briefing portrays an alarming pattern of POOR PERFORMANCE in field exercises at the Army's National Training Center (NTC). Some of the bullets are too cryptic for a layman to understand, so I asked two experienced officers to review it and make explanatory comments, which are displayed for your review along with the slides.
My aim in this message is show why the problem portrayed in this briefing is a direct consequence of the flawed doctrinal concept of SYNCHRONIZATION.
The issue of deteriorating performance at NTC is a direct reflection of the declining state of professionalism in the U.S. Army, which is one reason why so many of our younger officers are leaving the service. References 3, 4, and 5 below suggest that the declining professionalism is a problem perceived at both low and high levels. The first is an active duty Lieutenant's perspective, the second is the Army Vice Chief of Staff's perspective, and the third is a retiring Chief Warrant Officer's perspective.
Reference 1, the NTC - FORSCOM briefing, has been annotated by two highly experienced active duty field grade officers, one an army officer with over 50 rotations through the NTC and the other a Marine infantry officer with combat tours in the Persian Gulf War and Somalia. The bullets of particular interest have been marked by arrows and their critical comments are in "yellow" boxes, while their summary recommendations or conclusions are placed in "blue" boxes. When annotated, the original briefing slides are in the upper right hand corner of each page. Given the current culture of retribution now poisoning the halls of Versailles on the Potomac, these officers must, unfortunately, remain anonymous.
If you do not have an Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download it for free from the following hot link: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html
The National Training Center, or NTC, is located on the Mojave Desert at Ft Irwin California. It is a large instrumented maneuvering range where brigade-sized mechanized/armored forces can fight against a highly skilled adversary force, known as the OPFOR (opposition force). NTC was set up in 1982 to provide much needed, large-scale realistic training opportunities for heavy army units preparing to fight a competent adversary like the Warsaw Pact in a major conventional war in Europe. The OPFOR is well trained, familiar with the local terrain, and very proficient in the tactics of the now defunct Soviet army. Brigades rotate periodically through the NTC (about once every 2 1/2 years) to keep their large unit fighting skills honed and ready for war on short notice.
According to Army Regulation 350-50, the Army established the NTC [as well as two other training centers, i.e., the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) for light forces at Fort Polk, Louisiana; and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) at Hohenfels, Germany] to (1) increase preparedness for deployment and readiness for combat, (2) produce bold, innovative leaders through highly stressed tactical and operational exercises, (3) embed doctrine throughout the total Army [presumably by proliferating shared experiences], (4) provide feedback [and presumably self-confidence] to the participants on how well they were being trained, and (5) provide a data source for lessons learned to improve doctrine, training, leader development, organizations, and materiel focused on soldiers and winning in combat.
These five objectives should be kept in mind when evaluating the motivation as well as the content of the comments appended to the NTC-FORSCOM briefing.
Today, the Army spends about $1 billion a year to provide training at these three training centers.
A rotation to NTC is a brigade's chance to play in the Super Bowl of training for our heavy ground forces. The last two slides of the FORSCOM briefing indicate 10 brigades are scheduled to play in calendar year 2000.
I believe realistic training programs like NTC, or their AF and Navy near-equivalents, the Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB and the carrier air wing work-ups at Fallon NAS [see Comment #347], are absolutely essential to evolving an effective military force. Trained, cohesive units are the heart and soul of any military, and consequently funding for large scale realistic training should be the DoD's highest spending priority. This is far more important than any debate over which weapons to buy. Performance at these centers should receive the closest scrutiny by Congress, not to mention continuous critical oversight by the Secretary of Defense.
Obviously, these training programs MUST ADAPT to changing threat conditions, and a strong case can be made that the military bureaucracies have been far too slow in evolving these particular programs to match the changes brought about by the end of the cold war, particularly the spread of 4th Generation warfare which is aimed at exploiting the vulnerabilities of heavy, industrial-strength conventional forces [see Comment #244]. The important issue of relevance is not the subject of this comment, however.
Our subject is a second more general issue of equal if not greater importance - namely, the professional development of our military officers. The ability to think and act boldly, to take the initiative, to shape change, or to adapt quickly to the unexpected is the quintessence of the superior professional officer. Professional study is very important, but the only way to evolve these seamless arts in the real world is through continual practice, by placing officers, staffs, and troops in a wide variety of different competitive free-play exercises, where each is free to exercise his imagination and evolve bonds of mutual respect and cooperation in a common struggle, without fear that a single mistake will ruin one's career.
In recent years, however, an increasing number of observers have expressed a growing sense of alarm over their impression that these large scale exercises are all becoming less realistic, more stereotyped, rehearsed, and dominated by a zero defects mentality. [The reference thread contains some of these concerns.]
Moreover, there is growing evidence, in the form of emails from the field and news reports that the arriving units at NTC [as well as Nellis and Fallon, see comment #347] are less prepared in basic skills, with shortages in manpower and equipment being reduced by robbing non-deploying units of people and materiel. The expedient practice of cannibalizing non-deploying units to build deploying units destroys unit cohesion, increases workloads, and depresses morale. Also, once units arrive at NTC (and other exercises), they must climb steeper learning curves. This leaves less time for actual training which, in turn, implies that the units are not reaching the levels of proficiency reached in earlier years. Finally, there is a growing concern that officers are being rotated too quickly through command billets and are not gaining the requisite seasoning in their leadership skills. The Lieutenant's lament in Ref. 3 and the CWO's critical comments in Ref. 5 are particularly revealing in this regard.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently confirmed the general thrust of these email reports with a survey that concluded the Army is not receiving the full benefits of these training programs because (1) many units are arriving ill prepared for the exercises, (2) training is not as realistic as it could be, (3) the condition and age of pre-positioned equipment has adversely affected training at two centers, and (4) neither individual units nor the Army itself is able to effectively capitalize on lessons learned from the centers' exercises [GAO/NSIAD-99-210]
These trends, left unaddressed, will continue the downward spiral of decreasing professionalism that is evident in the Vice Chief of Staff's email [Ref. 4]. In addition to being less ready for combat, declining professionalism has at least two other dangerous effects:
First, it will produce officers who are less capable of thinking through the profoundly difficult changes needed to reorient and prepare our military forces to the very different threat conditions emerging in the post-cold war era. Second, declining professional competence increases the psychological dependence on 'miracle weapons' to overcome intractable problems. Such a dependence will make officers even more susceptible to the techno-hucksterism of futurists who are now predicting a revolution in military affairs, where the all-electric battlefield will replace thinking with a primitive vision of commanders seeing and knowing everything on the battlefield and synchronizing all operations with god-like perfection. [Comment #s 133, 244, 248, and 317, together with their discussion threads, discuss some of the implications of this fatally-flawed vision.]
INFORMATION & THE HARMONIZATION OF OODA LOOPS
To understand the implications of the information contained in the annotated NTC-FORSCOM briefing [Ref 1], it is necessary to appreciate the information-related assumptions underpinning the Army's doctrine. These assumptions are important because they shape the way officers observe events, make decisions, and execute actions on the battlefield. This section attempts to provide that background by reviewing the nature of information and decisions in a military organization. The ensuing discussion uses Colonel Boyd's theory of the OODA loop to elaborate on Robert Holcomb's excellent analysis of brigade-level information flows in Reference 2 below.
One of the most important and difficult tasks of a commander and his battle staff is to harmonize the differing tempos and rhythms of the Observation - Orientation - Decision - Action (OODA) Loops in his subordinate units. Harmonization is essential if one to achieve a unified effort out of many mutually-supporting widely distributed efforts. One must always remember that this harmonization task MUST be accomplished under the stress of combat, where fear and uncertainty amplify the paralyzing effects of information overload on each unit's unique struggle cope quickly with unpredictable, menacing changes in its local battle. New readers can find earlier discussions describing how Col Boyd's theory of the OODA Loop relates to the nature of combat in Comments #199, 216, 244, 252.
Harmonization of overall effort is complicated further by the fact that smaller units have more narrowly-focused but much quicker OODA Loops than larger units. This is because smaller units have more constrained fields of vision, smaller spans of control, and fewer, less-complex internal arrangements to sort out and re-arrange as they struggle to shape or adapt to external changes in their local environment. Moreover, each unit has a unique OODA loop because each commander is a unique individual faced with the task of overcoming his own peculiar variation of the ever-present frictions that impede vigorous activity (fear, uncertainty, doubt, rain, mud, broken equipment, exhaustion, etc) which are contingent on the local circumstances a subordinate unit faces.
The challenge posed by this harmonization problem becomes even more apparent when one considers the organizational complexity of a full-strength brigade, which is an intermediate-sized formation in conventional combat. A brigade contains a hierarchy of interacting OODA Loops linking the subordinate commanders and units. This hierarchy would normally include the brigade commander (colonel), 3 maneuver battalion commanders (lieutenant colonels), 9 company commanders (3 per battalion, captains), and 27 platoon leaders (3 per company, lieutenants). It would also normally include an artillery battalion (lieutenant colonel) with three artillery batteries (each commanded by a captain) and a mix of mortar units, scout units, and organic support units (intelligence, communications, logistics, aviation, etc.) In all, a brigade commander could have somewhere between 40and 50 subordinate units distributed throughout his command hierarchy, each unit with its own OODA loop operating at its own tempo or rhythm as each struggles to overcome its own peculiar variety of frictions in the menacing heat of battle.
Because he has fewer internal considerations to worry about, a platoon commander can reorient himself and the forces under his control to changed conditions, make decisions, and take actions far more quickly than a brigade commander. In Reference 2 below, Robert Holcomb provides the reader with a excellent introduction to the nature of how information flows throughout a brigade level system.
Given the complexity of these many interacting OODA Loops, a central question facing military organizations from time immemorial has been how to keep fissile forces in this whole kludge of loops from exploding into chaos - or more precisely how to SYNTHESIZE a unity of effort out of the many differing tempos and rhythms of the decision cycles of the commander and his subordinate units.
Over time, two alternative, mutually exclusive doctrinal architectures have been evolved for doing this: The first is direct, based on the idea that one must exert close control to contain the fissile energy: done correctly, this results in a top-down or enforced integration via an imposed structure, and it is known Synchronization Warfare. The second is indirect, based on the idea that trust, mutual respect, empowerment, and common purpose can be used to unleash the power of the fissile energy in a focused way: done correctly, this results in a bottom-up or natural harmony via an evolved structure, and it is known by the somewhat inaccurate label as Maneuver Warfare.
With the partial exception of the Marine Corps, the U.S. military services have opted for the top-down solution.
The top-down decision-making architecture, which has been embraced as doctrine by the Army, Air Force, and Navy, can be called Synchronization Warfare or "SW." At the heart of SW is an updated version of the tired old French theory methodical battle - now in the form of the idea that emerging sensor, communications, data processing, and precision-guidance technologies glued together with detailed standard operational procedures (SOPs) and the cybernetic concept of negative feedback control loops can be used to build a single mechanized OODA loop that fits all levels of organization. Being a mechanical conception, Synchronization Warfare emphasizes hardware over people as can be seen clearly in the hype surrounding the techno-centric Revolution in Military Affairs so popular with defense intellectuals, politicians, and contractors.
Viewed as an epistemology, however, SW is a methodical, analytic, top-down thinking process based on the assumption that the top-level commander can observe and orient himself to all the details on the entire battlefield. Given his god's eye view of the battlefield (made ever more effective by "revolutionary" sensing and computing technologies), the higher level commander will be in the best position to make decisions on WHAT should be done and HOW it should be done. The doctrine of SW aims to centralize decisions and achieve a unity of effort by giving the commander a detailed feedback control system so he can precisely regulate and control [or in military parlance, micro-manage] all the activities of his subordinate units, much like an centrally directed, computer-controlled system of thermostats would regulate the temperature of each room in a building from the penthouse.
Holcomb's email in Reference #2 below also provides us with an excellent description of how information technologists are trying (and failing) to cobble together an information system to cope with complex demands of a synchronization architecture for a ground force.
Holcomb's analysis illustrates the central conundrum impeding the effectiveness of SW. Its top-down architecture also assumes one can establish a common tempo and rhythm for ALL the OODA loops in the hierarchy of a military organization, but as we noted above, different levels in the hierarchy have different natural rhythms. Logically, a common tempo can only be achieved by a close control system that speeds up higher-level OODA loops and/or slows down lower-level OODA loops.
But speeding up higher level loops is limited, because the theory of a god's eye view proliferates the quantity and variety of information about both friendly and enemy forces that is flowing into higher headquarters. The explosion of "information" is fueled by the quest for a perfect picture and the natural result buries the headquarters in a avalanche of detailed data. This phenomenon, known as "information overload," makes it more time-consuming to sort out contradictions and ambiguities in the effort to synthesize the common picture needed to synchronize all the OODA loops.
So, even in scripted exercises, it takes more time and effort to sort out the wheat from the chaff, notwithstanding the great advances in data processing and sensing technologies. It should not be surprising that experience has shown the potential for speeding up decision cycles at the highest levels is limited at best under a SW architecture, and consequently the common practice has been to slow down the decision cycles of the lower-level units to achieve a common cycle. [This can be seen in the increase to a 72 to 96 hour time cycle of the 1990s for the Air Tasking Order compared to its 24 hour predecessor in Viet Nam.]
On the other hand, the requirement for quickness and agility on the battlefield does not go away for smaller units. Agility is the difference between life and death for the smaller units doing the real fighting at the pointy end of the spear. So a doctrinal architecture that forces these units to operate at a reduced tempo also increases their sluggishness, makes them more predictable, and decreases their ability to shape or adapt effectively to quick-changing threat conditions.
There is another equally dangerous consequence of SW. The natural tendency toward information overload forces commanders to rely on mechanistic filtering procedures to synthesize the flood of observations into a timely orientation to the unfolding situation. This has increased the reliance on a filtering theory known as "templating." This term of art refers collectively to the array of rigid internal procedures and priorities that are glued together by methodical modes of sifting sensor data through pre-defined correlation matrices.
The theory of templating in Synchronization Warfare creates a dangerous vulnerability in the Orientation function of centrally controlled OODA loop. At its heart is the assumption that the higher level commander knows in advance the entire universe of possible signatures, or types and patterns of information, the enemy will exhibit on the battlefield. If his adversary presents him with an ambiguous signature that does not "fit" any of these preconceived patterns, the template can not reliably filter the observations, and the Orientation function of the OODA loop will slow down and could collapse into confusion. Even worse, if a clever adversary 'games' the template by feeding it a deceptive signature [such as the Serbs reported use of microwave ovens to simulate radar emissions], or by faking a "fit" to one of the preconceived correlation patterns [like the phony signals emitted by Patton's fictitious 12th Army Group prior to D-Day], the orientation process will serve to walk an unsuspecting commander into a trap.
In either case, the crucial point is that a breakdown in Orientation de-couples Observations from Decisions and Actions and causes the actions to become disconnected from the threat. As actions become more irrelevant, observations of their results are likely to feedback into the commander's OODA loop to amply his confusion into chaos and possibly even panic, as entire command system become progressively disconnected from reality. For interested readers, William Shirer's "Collapse of Third Republic" contains an excellent description of the incestuous amplification of chaos in the French army during it collapse in May 1940. [Students of chaos theory will recognize these amplifications as social variants of the mathematical non-linear effects created by a positive feedback loop.]
So, a template-driven Orientation process is theoretically flawed because it makes one predictable and therefore vulnerable to a penetration of one's own decision cycle, or OODA loop, by the actions of one's adversary.
This problem is not one of abstract theory. Notwithstanding our quasi-religious belief that technology will overcome the central conundrum of Synchronization Warfare, the history of war is littered with examples of non-adaptation by its practitioners. Examples include, inter alia, the execution of the German Schlieffen Plan for the invasion of France in 1914; the British Somme Offensive of 1916; the French defensive doctrine of methodical battle, based on the Maginot line and rigid mechanical movement of maneuver forces, into Belgium in 1940; the over-control of U.S. ground operations in Viet Nam (e.g., the stack of command helicopters decried by General Bruce Palmer in "The Twenty-Five Year War"), the failure to envelop the Iraqi Republican Guard in the Persian Gulf War, and the inability to keep up with or retard Serbian ground actions in Kosovo during the Round 1 of the Serbo NATO War [see Comment #s 252 & 269].
In fact, if one reviews the public briefings given by NATO headquarters during the Serbo-NATO War, one is struck squarely in the face with the distinct impression that the synchronization architecture of the NATO command structure seduced commanders into seeing what they wanted to see as opposed to what was actually happening to Serbian forces on the ground in Kosovo.
This is evident if you examine a 19 May 99 NATO slide describing the ongoing effects that NATO leaders thought their bombing campaign was having on Serb forces in Kosovo. The slide is appended to the end of the FORSCOM Briefing [Ref. 1, pg. 10]:
On 19 May, NATO briefers were claimed they had destroyed 31% of Serbia's heavy forces in Kosovo (312 tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles among 556 pieces of equipment). We know now that Serbia lost only 14 tanks, 12 self-propelled artillery pieces, and 6 to 10 towed artillery pieces. Moreover, after the ceasefire in June, viewers of CNN watched incredulously as a virtually untouched, well-victualed, well-disciplined, defiant, Serb army drove out of Kosovo. According to news reports, more troops left Kosovo intact than were assumed to be in Kosovo before the bombing started.
With this background of Synchronization Warfare in mind, let us now turn our attention to the NTC-FORCECOM briefing and the officers' comments [Reference 1]. At this point, I urge you to read the briefing carefully, for in the next section, I will briefly discuss only the main points raised by it and the officer's commentary. Judge for yourself whether or not my emphasis is fair.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE NTC-FORSCOM BRIEFING
In the opinion of the officers reviewing the briefing, the overarching problem suggested by the bullets in the slides is the INWARD FOCUS of a decision making process. This suggests an OODA loop more governed more by the demands of its internal dynamics than by the actions of the enemy. In this regard, note the comment on page 3 linking the Military Decision Making Process to the legacy of the French theory of methodical battle and the five-paragraph order as well as the comment on page 5 about "fighting the graphics instead of the enemy."
Closely related to the notion of inward focus are the variety of critical comments linking it to micro-management, check list procedures, a zero-defects culture, and lack of cohesion. The officers reviewing the NTC-FORSCOM briefing suggest in several places that these qualities relate to a question of TRUST - or more precisely, the assumption that subordinates can not be trusted to make their own decisions. Note also how the general thrust of this critique is very similar to the critical observations made by the Lieutenant, the lament of the Vice Chief of Staff, and the farewell message from the Chief Warrant Officer about the problems of micro-management, morale, and retention [Ref 3, 4, and 5].
Put together, these similarities suggest [but do not prove] a very disturbing confluence of mutually reinforcing possibilities: Synchronization Warfare is not only ineffective as a means to synthesis OODA loops, its internal focus on unthinking procedures demoralizes younger officers and is a contributing factor in their decisions to leave the Army, creating a void of inexperience that makes SW even more ineffective.
If there is something to this linkage, the Army and the American military face a problem of profound importance.
This possibility raises a question of whether or not there is a better way of doing business.
There is an alternative to Synchronization Warfare, somewhat misleadingly labeled as "Maneuver Warfare or MW." [The confusion arises from the fact that forces maneuver in all forms of war, including SW.]
MW is an organic, intuitive, bottom-up decision-making architecture based on the theory that lower-echelon commanders on the scene can be TRUSTED to better appreciate local conditions and are COMPETENT enough to be EMPOWERED to make independent decisions that are consistent with the commander's intentions. In contrast to Synchronization Warfare, Maneuver Warfare does not focus on methodical procedures to build a uniform OODA loop. It is better thought of as a WAY OF THINKING that enables commanders at all levels to naturally harmonize their efforts, maintain their focus on the enemy, and yet operate at their own OODA loop's natural tempo. Maneuver Warfare achieves this by weaving the following central ideas into a pattern of decision making that stresses leadership, decentralization, internal simplicity, quickness, and harmony of effort:
Commander's Intent: This is commander's long-term vision of WHAT he wants to do to the Enemy. It is incumbent on each subordinate commander to understand his commanders' intent two levels up his hierarchy. It is incumbent each commander to state his intent clearly and simply.
Mission Orders: This can be thought of a contract based on MUTUAL TRUST. The subordinate agrees to make his near-term actions serve his superior's intent, and the superior agrees to give the subordinate wide freedom to determine HOW that intent is to be realized. Mission orders simplify internal arrangements by reducing details to essentials.
Main Effort (Schwerpunkt) & Other Efforts (Nebenpunkt): Schwerpunkt and Nebenpunkt are the yin and yang of a units effort's. The main effort, or Schwerpunkt, is unifying idea used to shape commitment and harmonize subordinates' initiative within superiors' intent. This permits simplification of information and decentralization of tactical command within centralized strategic guidance at all levels from theater to platoon. For example, a company commander might assign main effort to one platoon, the other platoons then use their judgment and the commander's intent to determine how to shape their actions to support that main effort. The commander of each unit can change his Schwerpunkt at any time (this maintains operational fluidity) if such a change will help him to better achieve his commander's intent; once this is changed, the other units align their supporting efforts accordingly. The ability to shift main and supporting efforts quickly within the constraint shaped by the commander's intent maintains fluidity of action and harmony of effort in changing circumstances.
Surfaces & Gaps (Strong & Weak Points) and Multiple Thrusts: This is a basis for focusing efforts -- a way of looking at the enemy as an organic directed entity rather than as an mechanical inventory of targets. The idea of surfaces and gaps goes well beyond physical attributes of the enemy - a surface to be avoided could be adverse world opinion resulting from some action, whereas an adversary's internal political dissent might be a gap, for example. Forward screening forces infiltrate the enemy to probe his intentions, find surfaces and gaps, or create gaps. Follow-on forces reinforce successful penetrations, and larger units flow in and roll out in an expanding fluidic flow, isolating surfaces while being sucked forward through gaps by the tactical decisions of lead elements and the reinforcing decisions of higher level commanders (these tactics and decision making patterns are sometimes known as Recon Pull). The basic tactical idea is that lower level commanders use their commander's intent to help them decide where and how to infiltrate and penetrate the enemy with multiple thrusts. The multiple thrusts make the attack ambiguous on the receiving end and successful penetrations uncover opportunities that higher level commanders can then choose to reinforce (depending on its appreciation of the unfolding situation) by sending in follow-on forces, with the idea of pouring through gaps and around surfaces. Done properly, this action creates a quickly coalescing menacing flow, much like an increasingly powerful torrent of water that gathers form, direction, and energy as it flows down a hill.
Large Reserve: This is a proactive concept to cope with uncertainty and exploit opportunities. Commanders at all levels always hold reserve in defensive or offensive combat, and when committed, it either supports or becomes the main effort.
Combined Arms: Commanders employ tactical repertoires that hit the enemy with two or more arms (armor, air, infantry, fire support) simultaneously in way that defense against one arm makes him vulnerable to the other.
While the ideas of MW are most often thought of in terms of Third Generation War, particularly the German blitzkrieg, its Israeli variant, and the Marine reforms of the 1980s, Colonel Boyd has shown that the general philosophy of empowerment and decentralization based on the organizing ideas of commander's intent, schwerpunkt/nebenpunkt, and mission orders apply in all forms of conflict and competition, including the emerging phenomenon of Fourth Generation War [see Attachment 2 to Comment #244], political competition, or even economic competition.
Maneuver warfare is a professionally a very demanding art that puts a premium on people (first), ideas and training (second). Hardware is important, but it is of tertiary importance. It seems safe to assume that a military service that adheres to these values and empowers it people with authority and respect, as well as responsibility, will be better positioned to truly solve the problems described by the Lieutenant, the Vice Chief, and the retiring Chief Warrant Officer.
Readers interested in leaning more about the basic ideas of maneuver warfare can find them on http://www.belisarius.com/, particularly, (1) "Thinking Like Marines," by Colonel Michael D. Wyly, (2) "Categories of Conflict" by John Boyd, and (3) "Aviation from the Sea" by this author. Also highly recommended is the Maneuver Warfare Handbook by William Lind (Westview, 1985) and its excellent appendix, "Fundamentals of Tactics" by Colonel Wyly.
The information-related assumptions of maneuver warfare are becoming even more important and relevant with the spread of 4th Generation Warfare, which can be though of as post-industrial war of the 21st Century. Recent events in Kosovo and Chechnya reinforced this impression by showing that small dispersed teams of fighters, employing the irregular tactics, are learning how to exploit the vulnerabilities and sluggishness of a heavy conventional fire-power centric force operating under a central control assumptions of Synchronization Warfare. Indeed, if we compare events in Kosovo to Chechnya, there are some particularly troubling parallels, but with everything in Chechnya seeming like a wildly exaggerated caricature of Kosovo.
In both cases, heavy conventional fire power (air in Kosovo and ground-based in Chechnya) was ineffective in deterring or defeating the operations of small mobile teams operating under a decentralized command and control doctrine of some sort. In both cases, the industrial powers ended up with their backs to the wall (NATO was fighting for its survival as an institution by late April and Putin, et. al., said their war is about survival of Russian Federation), and escalated to primitive standoff attacks aimed at destroying societal infrastructure. In both cases, the industrial powers an increased reliance on the very centralized firepower strategy that was proving so ineffective against the adversary's combat forces. Both powers underestimated the skill and tenacity of their adversary, yet each retained the brute force to defeat him by pulverizing his countryside. [Note, as of this writing, it is not even clear if NATO defeated Serbia, or Serbia merely staged a strategic retreat - see Comment #307.]
At the grand strategic level, Russia's brutish behavior caused it to lose the war for world opinion. Notwithstanding the brutal eviction of the Albanians by the Serbs, NATO was also beginning to face the same dilemma in late May, before Slobo agreed suddenly to the substantially reduced demands of the G-8 compromise [for reasons that are still not entirely clear - see Comment #s 293, 294, 295, 297, 305, 307, 317].
Lightly armed, small teams of Hezbollah are successfully driving the Israelis out of Lebanon, notwithstanding Israel's use of overwhelming superiority in heavy conventional forces and fire power to destroy infrastructure targets, including power plants in Lebanon.
My sense is that the relative effectiveness of these small, cohesive, combat teams operating under a "mission-orders" type organization will not be lost on those around the world who believe the only way to improve their lot is through organized violence.
Future combatants will learn from mistakes made by Serbs and Chechens, and given the continuing political, ethnic, and religious bases for these internecine conflicts, we will probably see a lot more of this kind of 4th Generation low intensity combat in the future
This brings us to the hard question no one in Versailles on the Potomac wants to ask: "Ready for what?"
Only professional soldiers dedicated to preserving our nation's welfare can answer this question, but at present, they are locked into the flawed doctrine of Synchronization Warfare and its futuristic henchman, the Revolution in Military Affairs.
[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]
NTC-FORSCOM BRIEF attached separately in Adobe Acrobat Format
Robert C. Holcomb
The Institute for Defense Analyses
January 24, 2000
Subject: Fwd: Review of Slides on Future Direction of Information Technology in Army
To All: I was asked to review some slides Lane Scheiber of SED put together on the future direction of information technology within the Army, which he intends to discuss with LTG Campbell. This is my response, which I thought you may be interested in. I find it curious, and somewhat sad, that these are the same issues we were facing 5 years ago when I began on this task. It is too bad that our progress is so slow. Cheers, Bob
I have reviewed the slides and I have some general comments you might want to consider.
Much of what these are based on is a conception of commanders as being some kind of central figure, seated in a chair, surrounded by a staff of people who are gathering information, then feeding it to him, so he can issue commands and directives to a host of unseen subordinates. One recalls the general scene on the bridge of the Enterprise in the Star Trek TV show. This may be true in the case of the Navy on ships in the fleet, but in the Army it is not the case at all.
In the Army, the TOC [Tactical Operations Center] is the hub of information gathering, and it is not fixed, but mobile. It is connected to the outside world via tenuous radio links, not by any hardwires. It is outside in the elements, so it is either very hot or very cold, and usually wet. It is very vulnerable, because it is under canvas, not armor, so it must be prepared to be torn down and moved in a matter of minutes. It is also trying hard to be hidden, because it is so vulnerable, and the enemy will rain shot and shell down on it if he can.
However, the commander of an Army tactical unit is not in the TOC (usually). Usually, the second in command is in charge of it, while the commander is out in his vehicle moving from unit to unit, trying to buck up his subordinates, see the terrain and weather, and get a feel for the situation first hand, not via "information". His linkage to the TOC is on one of those tenuous radio links, and all he can get from them is what they tell him on the radio.
Furthermore, in a brigade-sized unit, there are many commanders. There is one overall O-6 commander of the brigade, then there are 3 battalion commanders, 9 company commanders, and 27 platoon leaders. In addition to the maneuver forces, there will also be an artillery O-5 battalion commander with three battery commanders, and a host of other men who are commanders of one thing or another (like mortars or scouts). If the brigade commander put out an order for all of his subordinate commander's to meet him somewhere, he would get 40-50 people showing up. One cannot refer to the "commander's information needs" without specifying which one, or which level.
The brigade and battalion commanders have a TOC; the company and platoon commanders have no such animal. They live, command, sleep and fight in their own vehicle. All of these levels of command have their own needs. Further, these needs all change rapidly based on the changing situation in front of them. If they are in battle, they want one thing. If they are in patrolling and peacekeeping operations, they will want something else entirely.
All of this is necessary background when one starts to ask questions about what the commander needs. Overlay on top of all of this the fact that the current digitization structure is not yet present and does not yet work well enough to test.
I suggest that the first element of information that all commanders at every level want, in any situation, is to know where on the ground their own forces are, in as near real time as they can get the information. Next they want to know what those forces are doing or plan to do in the immediate future. A corollary to this requirement is the way in which we deal with joint and coalition forces, who are not equipped with the technology we have.
Another thing that all commanders will want to know is where the "enemy" is, to the degree that we know and in as near real time as we can get. It would be wonderful to know what this enemy hopes to be doing in the near term, as well. Note that there is no "enemy" in peacekeeping operations. In such conditions, the commanders at all levels will want to know where the potential enemy is--anyone with the capacity to harm his own forces.
The slides seem to have chosen intelligent agents as the solution to some problem, and is working up a demonstration to "prove" it. I am not so sure. Humans are very intelligent agents by themselves, and every single computer network has at least as many humans in it as computers, allocated at least one per computer. Yet there has been very little said so far about the role of these human "intelligent agents" in the design and operation of the computer networks. Their role seems to be one of operating the computer and correcting any mistakes it makes. Yet these humans are far more capable than the computers that sit in front of them, having judgment, experience and emotions. Perhaps we ought to consider a network of humans supported by computers, instead of the other way around.
Consider the role of a "intelligent search agent". The commander of a brigade is not a man deeply into research, what he wants to know is almost always right in front of him, or within 50 kilometers. He does not need a search engine to seek out diverse information from the web. He needs to know the current situation right in front of him (or close enough to influence it), and how it is likely to change if x happens or y happens. He needs to know the capabilities of his own force, and that supporting force available to him. He needs to know the enemies capabilities and his intentions if he can. Then he needs to be able to communicate to his force to make it do his will, even though they are cold, wet, tired, hungry and scared out of their minds. He needs to be physically present with his men and subordinate commanders, to cajole, encourage and lead them.
In the Captain Kirk example, all the men on the ship are going where the ship goes, whether they like it or not. Their lives all depend upon the ship being fought well, and defended well, and so they all have their jobs to do to make that happen. An Army unit in the field is not quite like that. Each man in a unit is making very personal decisions all the time about his role in the fight, and whether he is going to continue in it. The commander (at all levels) has to constantly be among the men to kick them in the butt, overcome their fear and get them to keep doing what he wants--it is never automatic. Sometimes he has to restrain them, or change their direction--not easy tasks once their blood is up, but necessary.
All of this commentary is just to set the stage for your briefing. How, given those conditions and that background, can we furnish the commander with an "edge"? It seems to me that within a tactical unit, that means all the commanders must have clear, reliable, quick, accurate information about the locations of their own men relative to the terrain and each other. They should have the most accurate and reliable information concerning the enemy's capabilities and intentions that they can get. They must have clear, reliable communications with their subordinate commanders, one and two levels down from themselves. They must have this capability in their own vehicle, while retaining the mobility and flexibility required of them to undertake their leadership role.
Areas that may be more valuable in solving the problem of IT and tactical units might be:
How do we make the current concept work? Are over-the-air links reliable enough to use? Can we integrate the software to make it simple enough to still be useful?
How do we create and assess "hybrid" networks of both humans and computers?
I apologize for the length of this response, and it probably doesn't do what you asked for anyway. I would like to stay in touch on the problems, and help in solving them. I am convinced that there is goodness in incorporating IT into tactical decision making, but I am not so sure about the details yet, as we haven't seen much achievement in five years of actively trying the current approach.
Robert C. Holcomb
The Institute for Defense Analyses
Email from Lt YYY
Saturday, February 19, 2000
ONE MORE OFFICER IS MOVING ON, A TANKER'S PERSPECTIVE
I have a hard time getting up every morning. Its not because I'm tired, its because I know that I have to look at myself in the mirror as I shave and get ready for PT. Recently I've been plagued by my own thoughts. I used to think I was a warrior, now, when I look at myself in the mirror of truth, I ask myself if I've become a perfumed prince without even realizing it.
I've spent 4 short years in the Army and I've loved it and hated it, but mostly loved it. However, I don't think I'm qualified to command soldiers anymore, and here's why: I spent three years in an Armor unit in Germany. Out of those three years, I had a little over one year of platoon leader time, six months as a tank company XO, and the rest of the time on staff. In my opinion, LT's should spend absolutely no time on staff. We are young enough as it is, take LT's away from Company level units and we lose experience, learning time and valuable NCO guidance in terms of growth. There goes the time we need at gunnery and CMTC to learn the truth about leading soldiers or knowing a platoon leader or XO job inside and out. Once again, the army has failed to properly train its junior officer corps. Junior officers are dangerous in the field, they do not know as much about the tank as they should, therefore they make lousy tank commanders. Junior LT's do not know enough about leading platoons in the field, and they are stripped from their platoons before they ever learn. Bottom line, junior armor officers are for the most part, a hazard to soldiers' health. The scary part is that this injustice to junior officers seems to be the trend in Germany. Most of the 2LT's that come to my unit and other tank battalions see 6-8 months as a staff guy in the S3 shop, then 6-8 months of platoon leader time before they are shipped off to be an XO or staff weenie.
During my three years in Germany, I've deployed with my unit twice on peacekeeping missions. Aside from being a complete waste of soldiers' time and efforts, not to mention fairly dangerous, another injustice has quietly seeped to the surface. I've known platoon leaders who spent their platoon time on a peacekeeping mission, but left the platoon without ever experiencing a gunnery or maneuver training. These leaders are now commanding companies, training their units and preparing them for war, even though they really don't understand how a tank platoon really operates in the field. They spent most of their platoon time on HMMWV's patrolling roads, setting up road blocks and searching cars.
I ask myself each day what I have done to make things better for soldiers, for my unit, for the army, to make improvements, to spark new thought and innovative thinking. Each day I answer the same way, "well, if you call squaring away beans and bullets for the next Gunnery rotation 'making things better', then I did alright." But I know that its not enough. I argue constantly with Majors and LTC's over ridiculous deadlines, stupid taskings that waste soldiers' time and the reports that they want every week that has the same information, just in different formats. I win some and I lose some, but I woke up this morning and realized that all the arguing, cajoling and fighting I've been doing simply isn't making a difference. I've been a staff guy for so long, I've started to forget what its like in the trenches. Its time for this tanker to move on.
[ 15 Feb 2000 Email from the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to the Army Staff, Inspector General, and Personnel Command. ]
R 151038Z FEB 00
FM VCSA WASHINGTON DC
TO AIG 7406, AIG 7446, ARSTAF
INFO RUEAHOF/CDRPERSCOM ALEXANDRIA VA <file://TAPC-OPZ-A//>file://TAPC-OPZ-A// RUEAHOF/DIR OPMD PERSCOM ALEXANDRIA VA//TAPC-OPZ-A// BT
1. THE ARMY'S JUNIOR LEADERS ARE OUR INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE. OUR YOUNG CAPTAINS ARE SMART, FIT, DEDICATED, TECHNOLOGICALLY SAVVY, HARD WORKING YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN. THEY ARE SUPERBLY QUALIFIED TO LEAD THE ARMY OF THE 21ST CENTURY. HOWEVER, IN THE LAST 10 YEARS, THE VOLUNTARY ATTRITION RATE FOR CAPTAINS HAS RISEN FROM 6.7% TO AN ALL-TIME HIGH OF 10.6%. IF WE, AS SENIOR LEADERS, DON'T TAKE ACTION NOW TO TURN THIS AROUND, WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO MEET OUR FUTURE REQUIREMENTS.
2. WHY ARE THEY GETTING OUT? THE ISSUE IS MORE COMPLEX THAN JUST THE LURE OF A STRONG ECONOMY AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THE FOUR-FOLD INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF DEPLOYMENTS, COUPLED WITH A 300,000 SOLDIER REDUCTION, IS CAUSING OFFICERS TO HAVE TO DO MORE WITH LESS. THESE YOUNG CAPTAINS ARE TELLING US THAT THEY ARE DISCOURAGED BY LONG HOURS SPENT IN GARRISON, PERFORMING NON-METL [non mission essential] TASKS WHILE FIGHTING A CONSTANT BATTLE TO GAIN THE TIME AND RESOURCES NECESSARY TO TRAIN THEIR SOLDIERS. AND THERE IS NO END IN SIGHT; THEY WITNESS FIELD GRADE OFFICERS WORKING EVEN LONGER HOURS. ADDITIONALLY, WE INCREASINGLY HEAR FROM THESE CAPTAINS THAT THEY ARE FRUSTRATED BY WHAT THEY PERCEIVE AS A "ZERO DEFECT" MENTALITY AND A RESULTING CULTURE OF MICRO-MANAGEMENT. THEY CAME INTO THE ARMY TO LEAD SOLDIERS AND TO WILLINGLY SHOULDER THE IMMENSE RESPONSIBILITY THAT GOES WITH COMMAND; HOWEVER, THEY TELL US THAT THIS RESPONSIBILITY HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM BY LEADERS MORE CONCERNED WITH MAKING SURE NOTHING GOES WRONG ON THEIR WATCH. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, THEY ARE FRUSTRATED BECAUSE THEY FEEL WE, AS SENIOR LEADERS ARE EITHER UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND AND ADDRESS THEIR CONCERNS.
3. I BELIEVE THAT MANY OF THESE DAMAGING PERCEPTIONS CAN BE CHANGED THROUGH PROPER MENTORING BY THEIR SENIOR LEADERS. I NEED YOUR HELP IN CONVINCING THESE YOUNG WARRIORS THAT THERE IS A BRIGHT LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. LISTEN TO THEIR CONCERNS, AND LET THEM KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING TO ADDRESS THEM. WE KNOW THAT MANY OF THEIR CONCERNS ARE SIMILAR TO THOSE WE HAD AS JUNIOR OFFICERS; SO SHARE WITH THEM WHAT IT WAS LIKE WHEN YOU WERE A CAPTAIN - WHEN YOU STOOD IN THEIR SHOES AND FACED SIMILAR HARD CAREER DECISIONS. BE CANDID, BUT LET THEM KNOW THE REWARDS THAT COME WITH STAYING THE COURSE - BOTH PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL. EMPHASIZE THAT THE ARMY IS WORKING HARD TO IDENTIFY THE CHALLENGES FACING OUR SOLDIERS AND TAKING ACTION TO FIX THEM.
4. THERE IS A GOOD NEWS STORY OUT THERE THAT OUR YOUNG OFFICERS DON'T HEAR ENOUGH; IT PROVES THAT THE ARMY DOES LISTEN TO ITS RANKS AND TAKES ACTIONS TO FIX WHAT'S BROKEN. THIS PAST YEAR HAS SEEN APPROVAL OF THE LARGEST PACKAGE OF PAY RAISES AND PAY INCENTIVES IN RECENT MEMORY. THE REDUX RETIREMENT PLAN WAS REPEALED, AND THE OLD 50% PLAN RESTORED. THE CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE ARMY HAS ANNOUNCED THAT TOE UNITS WILL BE MANNED TO 100% BY THE END OF THE YEAR, AND THAT THE ARMY WILL INCREASE MANNING AUTHORIZATIONS FOR UNITS IN THE FIELD. ADDITIONALLY, OPMS XXI PROVIDES OFFICERS ALTERNATE CAREER CHOICES AND INCREASES THEIR CHANCES FOR PROMOTION IN NON-OPERATIONS CAREER FIELDS, WHILE DRAMATICALLY INCREASING COMMAND OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE OFFICERS WHO REMAIN IN THEIR BASIC BRANCHES. WE NEED OUR BATTALION AND BRIGADE COMMANDERS AND GENERAL OFFICER LEADERS TO DISCUSS OFFICERSHIP AND THE VALUES OF THE PROFESSION OF ARMS. THERE IS SIMPLY NOTHING LIKE US, OUTSIDE THE ARMY.
5. THIS IS THE POSITIVE MESSAGE I NEED YOUR HELP IN GETTING TO THESE YOUNG OFFICERS. LET THESE GREAT OFFICERS KNOW THAT WE ARE LISTENING TO THEM AND THAT WE ARE WORKING HARD TO ADDRESS THE IMPORTANT ISSUES THEY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT. BE CANDID WITH THEM; LET THEM KNOW WHAT CAN BE FIXED NOW, AND WHAT WILL TAKE TIME, AND SOLICIT THEIR HELP IN SOLVING SOME OF THESE DIFFICULT ISSUES. WE MUST FIX OUR CAPTAIN'S RETENTION PROBLEM; A FAILURE TO DO SO NOW COULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT CONSEQUENCES FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR GREAT ARMY.
ALL THE BEST
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 07:56:30 -0500
To: Recipient List Suppressed:;
From: CWO ZZZ
Subject: AN ARMY AVIATOR'S FINAL WORDS
AN ARMY AVIATOR'S FINAL WORDS
I made my last flight as an Army Aviator on 16 February 2000. During that flight, which ended a flying career of 4,541.9 mishap-free hours I reflected back on my experiences and also thought about some of the problems being experienced by today's aviators. Below are some random thoughts on where we came from, the problems, and where I think we're headed. A lot of this probably sounds like whining, but humor me,...I'll be gone in August anyway.
1. Senior Warrant Officers:
When I was a junior Warrant Officer, the most powerful influences on my career were the senior Warrant Officers in my unit. Guys like Roger Duprey, Dana Johndro, Ernie Tussey, and Bob Holmes. They were the true leadership within the unit. If one of the WOJGs screwed up, it wasn't the Commander or Platoon Leader chewing butt -- it was the Senior Warrants, but out of sight of the RLOs. A junior aviator is MUCH more likely to accept aviation and professional guidance from a 5000-hour veteran than he is from a guy still on his first pack of razor blades.
What I see today is that many times, instead of being a mentor and example for the junior Warrants, the senior Warrant is a henchman and hitman for the chain of command.
Instead of helping develop aviators, we see senior WOs concerned with career-building and "appearances". I think a big cause of this has been the introduction of the rank of CW5. In the 'old days', our senior guys weren't worried about their next promotion because they had risen to the pinnacle of their profession and could concentrate on the task at hand-training aviators.
Yes, there were those that were Retired on Active Duty (ROAD). Today's CW4 is considered by many commissioned officers to be a guy that hasn't made CW5 yet, and therefore not necessarily credible. And many CW4s are so concerned about that promotion that they are afraid or unwilling to stick their necks out. (If you are wondering; NO, I have not been passed over for CW5).
We have become a group of bureaucrats and empire-builders.
2. Aviation Branch:
Anybody remember when there was no Aviation Branch? The commissioned officers were Infantry, Armor, or Artillery officers and were quite happy and thankful to be doing a tour in a flying assignment. Their goals were to learn more about the aircraft and do a lot of flying, not screwing with the troops. For the most part, they realized that the Warrant Officers were the subject matter experts regarding aviation. Then came Aviation Branch and we started getting 2LTs right out of college/flight school.
Also, at about the same time, it seemed as if Aviation started developing an inferiority
complex. Commanders started talking about how Aviation had to prove that it was "relevant". This somehow manifested itself in the form of ABDUs and 4-mile runs. Does anybody below the grade of O4 actually believe that the average Infantryman gives a hoot in Hell what flight suit you're wearing as long as you answer his call for extraction or fire support?
We need to stop apologizing for being Army Aviators. Maybe then we will attract some of the strong leaders we so desperately need. So far, all I've seen Aviation Branch produce is new street signs at Fort Rucker.
3. Platoon-Sized Companies:
This is closely related to Item 2: When Aviation became a branch, we had to produce our own "leaders" and for us the be "relevant" (as well as for our commissioned officers to be competitive with their non-aviator peers), we had to have Captains as Company Commanders. In actuality, all we did was take Companies, redesignate them as Battalions and re-name the Platoon Leaders as Commanders.
I remember going to the briefings where we were told that all additional duties would be at battalion level, letting the companies concentrate on aviation training. Didn't happen that way, did it?
We now have all the additional duties that were once in a 60-aviator company in a 16-aviator company. Warrant Officers are spending more time with additional duties than on their primary duty of learning how to operate their aircraft in combat. Hey guys—the best key control roster in the world will be of no use when you need to perform an autorotation after a real engine failure. Of course, that's advice from a guy who's received his last real OER......
4. Simulation:Forscom_Brief (1.05 MB Adobe Acrobat File)
We have developed a dangerous infatuation with simulations. I'm talking about flight simulation as well as battle simulation. Flight simulators are great for many things:
a. Practicing emergency tasks,
b. Practicing gunnery tasks (not as a substitute for live fire),
c. Instrument flight training, and
d. Mission rehearsal.
They should not be used as a substitute for flying the aircraft but as an augmentation to the training program. Flight simulators are great training tools, but their usefulness should be kept in perspective. My thoughts concerning battle simulations are pretty much
the same as those regarding flight simulation -- battle simulations should augment your field training, not replace it.
Computer sims are marvelous -- they can task the leaders, exercise the communications piece (sometimes), etc, but they do not take into account such things as the fact that your crew chiefs are dog-tired because they were on guard duty all night or that it is harder to talk across the battle area than it is across the gym floor.
Battle simulations and staff drills should be used to prepare for real field training to avoid wasting the troops' time while training the staff and to evaluate your SOPs, but should never be the end-all of tactical training. I was in a battalion in Germany that did not do a single battalion battle drill during the three years I was there. They did take part in several Warfighter exercises, but does anybody want to take a guess regarding how well the unit performed on our Bosnia rotations? I mean the real deal, not what you read in the papers.
5. Advanced Aircraft:
When all we had were simple single-engine aircraft, we were all better aviators. Sure, this statement may be the result of a "Wooden ships and iron men" attitude on my part, but I honestly feel that we took our craft more seriously back then. Today we count on the fire control computer and the navigation systems to do the tasks we used to perform using our knowledge of ballistics and navigation. I would be willing to put almost any mid-80's Cobra pilot up against almost any of today's Apache pilots.
There are whole areas of aviation knowledge that are gone forever and Army Aviation is worse off because of it. Another problem with advanced aircraft is that, due to their high cost of operation and maintenance requirements, out pilots just do not get into the air enough to be proficient. That is how you have 500-hour aviators as Company Commanders, 1000-hour aviators as Battalion and Brigade Commanders and fully functional Apaches slamming into the ground on CNN.
6. Management vs Leadership:
My first Company Commander in Aviation was a very senior major with 1,500 flight hours, a Distinguished Flying Cross and 35 Air Medals. He smoked cigars, drank whiskey, and had a good left hook. We all admired him and knew he was capable of doing whatever he asked us to do. When he had a problem with one of us, we got the ass chewing in person, loud and clear.
He was a leader. What I have seen over the last 10 years is that our leaders have a pitifully small amount of experience and are not prepared to command their battalions. Because of the policy of rotating commissioned officers through various staff jobs, we have officers who are incapable of and unwilling to lead soldiers. They hide behind the office door and run the unit via e-mail. I saw my Company Commander in Bosnia getting his ass chewed by the Battalion Commander for not answering his e-mail until it was pointed out that nobody in the line units had Internet access.
This same "Commander" briefed us that he was going to run his battalion like the CEO of a corporation and that he did not have time to get to know his soldiers. (Here's a hot tip for you, sir: Lee Iaccoca never had to order his underlings out on a blacked-out Deep Attack)
Folks, the Army is not a corporation: Our job is to train and be prepared to enforce the orders of the proper civilian authorities. In other words -- to be prepared to kill our fellow man at the risk of our own lives. And you can't inspire people to do that through e-mail and PowerPoint.
7. Aircraft Maintenance:
Does anybody really think the Army just recently discovered all the maintenance problems with the AH64? Or that they value the lives of aircrews above inflated reports of unit readiness? It appears that the leadership is satisfied so long as the numbers are right: to Hell with training and safety (until it makes the papers anyway).
8. Aerial Gunnery:
Another program receiving lip service from the brass. When is the last time your unit conducted a gunnery that actually involved some sort of training?
I'm not talking about the minimal training required to meet the Army's requirements for qualification (another PowerPoint slide), but training that improves aviators' abilities and confidence in employing the aircraft's armament systems. An AH64 crew is allotted 100 rockets per year -- 88 of those rockets are fired on scored gunnery tables (OER entry).
This means that they only have 12 rockets to train with, but these are used either for system validation ("we've been reporting the system as 'up', now let's see if it really is"), or "saved" for use during dog & pony shows.
In the AH1 days, we fired a hell of a lot more rockets and everybody was much more
confident in their ability to actually hit a target. Today, the standard is to place 1/3 of rockets in a 300 x 400 meter box. Research would show that the scoring box has grown with every decrease I rocket allocations. Yet another example of lowering standards to enable reporting meeting standards.
9. Crawl, Walk, Run:
When I hear a leader state the "We need to crawl before we can walk and run," I usually interpret this as "I've been sitting on my ass (in DC, on staff, at Fort Rucker, on embassy duty, etc) and am afraid to do any real training or allow you to train".
With the Army's policy of rotating commissioned officers through jobs every 12-18 months, very few units ever get out of the 'crawl' stage. This gets frustrating as hell for the Warrant Officers and NCOs ,because the unit starts over form scratch every year.
Solution: Training detachments (NOT at Fort Rucker) that train leaders in the flying skills necessary to lead units.
Enough babbling for now-if anybody wants to discuss any of the above, let's do it over a beer at the VFW some time, but remember —it's your Army Aviation now; I'm one of the guys who let it get the way it is now.
Well, the last flight is over -- my shutdown's complete -- meet ya outside.
"Gwell Angua na Chywilydd - Death rather than Dishonour"
Boyd and Military