The Army recently introduced a new version of its premier training manual to help leaders from sergeants to generals improve their unit’s readiness.
“Train to Win in a Complex World” is the title of the new Field Manual 7-0. The digital field manual explains Army training strategies and new initiatives for assessing Army training readiness. What’s more, the manual offers links to online training resources.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said the new field manual will help the force achieve his No. 1 priority — readiness.
“Training is the key task to improve our readiness,” he said. “Realistic, hard, rigorous, repetitive training increases combat performance and reduces friendly casualties. Read, understand and use [the manual].”
Col. Steve York is the director of Training Management Directorate, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the organization that wrote the new Field Manual 7-0.
“The field manual is the primary source for leaders — noncommissioned officers to division commanders — to find the information they need on how to conduct successful training,” York said. “It gives Soldiers the ability to pick up a single-source document that tells them how to plan, prepare, execute and assess training events.”
The field manual details how to plan training events, conduct training meetings, write after-action reports and carry out many other training tasks. Field Manual 7-0 will not be published in book form. Soldiers can read the field manual online or download it from the Army Training Network, where it can be found under the What’s Hot section, or the Army Publishing Directorate, where it can be found in the Field Manual section.
Field Manual 7-0 links to Army Training Network’s many resources, including instructional videos, mission-essential task lists, training and evaluation outlines, and best training practices.
“The field manual and online resources will help leaders at every stage of the training process,” York said.
The new Field Manual 7-0 reflects the Army’s transition from preparing units at training centers for a specific mission in Iraq or Afghanistan to training to set standards. The manual will help leaders who have never conducted standards-based training and leaders whose training planning skills have atrophied, York said.
“[Field Manual 7-0] states that the unit commander is at the center of the plan-prepare-execute-assess cycle and much of the training will occur at home station,” he said.
The new field manual also makes training proficiency ratings more specific and more objective. The old proficiency ratings of T (trained), P (needs practice), and U (untrained) have been replaced with T (fully trained), T- (trained), P (practiced), P- (marginally practiced), and U (untrained). The change is designed to give leaders a more accurate picture of their unit’s readiness.
Though it’s new, the field manual returns to time-tested training concepts such as battle-focused training and hip-pocket training.
Battle-focused training meets the commander’s guidance while taking into account limited time and resources. The concept helps leaders understand the responsibility for, and links between, collective mission essential tasks and the individual tasks. The field manual points to online resources to help leaders conduct battle-focused training.
Hip-pocket training usually consists of individual tasks on which the unit can train during inactive periods. Ideally, leaders train these selected tasks in 15 to 30 minutes. The field manual provides examples of hip-pocket training.
By combining the old and new, Field Manual 7-0 shows Army leaders how to conduct training that will help their Soldiers successfully complete their missions.
“The field manual blends long-established training practices with online training resources to meet the Army’s training readiness goals,” York said.
Effective today, Soldiers can wear black socks instead of white socks when they take part in PT.
“Soldiers may either wear black or white socks with both the Improved Physical Fitness Uniform, the IPFU, and the Army Physical Fitness Uniform, the APFU,” said Sgt. Maj. Eva Commons, the Army uniform policy sergeant major. “Socks must be plain with no logos and calf or ankle length. Ankle length socks must cover the entire ankle bone, and sock color is at the discretion of the Soldier.”
The decision to allow black socks as an option for PT came after a summer survey directed by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey sought feedback on five proposals for changes to the uniform. More than 18,500 Soldiers responded.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said black socks should be allowed with the new all-black Army Physical Fitness Uniform, which debuted late last year. The idea for the black socks was expressed by many NCOs who met with Dailey at various town-hall meetings he conducted during his first six months as Sergeant Major of the Army.
In May at the Noncommissioned Officer Solarium 2015 Outbrief session at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Dailey told the NCOs assembled that they would be part of the decisions that steer the Army — in ways both big and small — into the future.
“We [in senior leadership] sometimes lose touch; this is our way of getting back in touch with reality,” he said. “You NCOs are the representation of just that. This is a reality of what is going on across our Army … because you are at the heart of where organizational leadership begins.”
Six months later, one of those decisions has come to fruition.
The history of every Army division is filled with stories of sacrifice and heroism. These stories are filled with top-notch noncommissioned officers who led their Soldiers through missions with seemingly impossible odds, but great leadership made them possible. The history of the 35th Infantry Division, a National Guard division headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is no different.
But the story of one of the 35th ID’s most decorated NCOs is a little divergent. Staff Sgt. Junior James Spurrier was the only 35th ID Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II. He also received a Distinguished Service Cross earlier in the war.
But Spurrier wasn’t always known to “lead from the front” or to be “on point.” To be blunt, said Ed Gerhardt, president of the 35th Infantry Museum’s board of directors, Spurrier was a screw-up. But that same quality, plus a heart full of bravery, led Spurrier to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov. 13, 1944.
“Spurrier was always in trouble, and they were about ready to bust him,” Gerhardt said. “One morning, he stole a can of peaches from the mess hall, and while he was eating those, he missed formation. His unit moved out without him, and they were going to go around and take this town (Achain, France) from the other side. Spurrier suddenly realized they had moved out without him, so he grabbed his gun and he headed into town from the opposite direction.”
Whether Spurrier meant to attack from the opposite side, or just didn’t know where the rest of his unit was or understand the direction of the attack, is not known. But his move led to the famous order from Lt. Col. Frederick Roecker: “Attack Achain! Company G from the east, and Spurrier from the west!”
“Spurrier shot the first three Nazis with his M-1,” reads a description of the battle in Attack: The Story of the 35th Infantry Division, published in 1945. “Then, picking up BARs, (Browning Automatic Rifles) Yank and German bazookas and grenades wherever he found them, he systematically began to clean out the town. He crumbled one stronghold with bazooka shells, killed three more Nazis with a BAR, and captured a garrison commander, a lieutenant and 14 men. Another defense point was silenced when he killed its two occupants. Out of ammunition and under fire from four Nazis, Spurrier hurled a Nazi grenade into the house, killing the four Germans.
“That night, the one-man army had charge of an outpost. While checking security, he heard four Germans talking in a barn. He set fire to a supply of oil and hay, captured the four as they ran out. Later, he spotted a [German] crawling toward a sentry, killed him when there was no reply to his challenge.
“According to 25-year-old Lt. Col. Frederick Roecker, his battalion commanding officer, Spurrier killed 25 Germans, captured 20 others. In March 1945, Sgt. Spurrier was awarded the division’s first Medal of Honor.”
Earlier in the war, Spurrier received the Distinguished Service Cross for capturing a hill near Nancy, France. Riding on the top of a tank, firing from the rear with a Browning Automatic Rifle, he moved through German lines, killing an estimated 25 Germans, with another 22 Germans surrendering. Later in the war, Spurrier was awarded his second Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge after he was knocked unconscious in the snow by a mortar shell. A display in the 35th Infantry Division Museum states, “His actions repeatedly reflected the motto of his unit, the 134th Infantry, ‘All Hell Can’t Stop Us.’”
35th Infantry Division beginnings
The history of the 35th Infantry Division begins in World War I with Soldiers from Kansas and Missouri National Guard units. Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Newton, the command sergeant major of the 35th ID, said the storied history of the division is something its leaders try to teach newcomers right away.
“One of the things we do at division headquarters is when someone new comes to the division, we go over the division history,” Newton said. “We explain, the 35th ID was founded (at Camp Doniphan, Okla.) in August of 1917, and we went over to World War I (in May 1918). The division only served about a month and a half in combat during World War I, but the combat losses that they had in that short amount of time were just astronomical, over 5,000.” [During World War I, the 35th had 1,298 Soldiers killed in action and 5,988 wounded.]
Captain Harry S. Truman, who went on to become the 33rd president of the United States, served as a battery commander for Battery D, 129th Field Artillery Regiment, 35th Infantry Division during World War I.
Forces of the 35th ID took Vauquois Hill, France, on their first day of action in World War I, followed by Varennes, Cheppy and Very. The next day they seized Valmy, then soon after Montrebeau Woods. In a short period of time, the 35th ID had made major contributions to the final defeat of Germany’s army.
Taken out of active service at Camp Funston, Kan., in May 1919, the 35th again became a National Guard division, consisting of regiments from Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
World War II
On Dec. 23, 1940, the 35th ID was mobilized for World War II and began training at Camp Robinson, Ark. In 1941, the division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers and, after the Pearl Harbor attack, performed coastal defense duties near San Luis Obispo, Calif. In April 1943, the division moved to Camp Rucker, Ala., for advanced training. In May 1944, the division sailed to England where it prepared for invasion.
By July 7, the 35th Infantry Division had landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, and began combat operations soon thereafter amid the hedgerows north of St. Lo. After fierce battles with the Germans, the 35th entered St. Lo on July 18.
“Three weeks before, the 35th had been made up of green troops still in an English training camp,” reads the history book, The 35th Infantry Division in World War II, 1941-1945. “Now, scarred but battlewise, they were the veterans of their first bitter campaign of World War II. Unheralded, they had entered a situation that ranked with the beachhead landings and had emerged the victors.”
Continuing the advance, the 35th took town after town, including Mortain, Orleans and Sens, finally reaching Nancy, France, by mid-September. During that three-month push, the 35th covered more miles than any other front-line division. The division continued to push its way across France, until, at last, on Dec. 11, 1944, Soldiers reached the Blies River, the last barrier to German soil.
“This ended a period in which the division had fought continuously for 162 days,” reads the 35th history book. “The artillery battalions had maintained fire direction centers 24 hours a day. Staff sections had not ceased operations except to move – 3,888 consecutive hours of operation. This was a record that few, if any, division surpassed in World War II.”
After those difficult 162 days, the 35th withdrew to Metz, France, for a rest. But the Battle of the Bulge quickly interrupted that rest, and the division was rushed 80 miles to the Ardennes forest. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 21, the division successfully held off the German armored columns. One of the 35th’s battalions was among the first units to pierce the ring around Bastogne, Belgium, where the 101st Airborne Division was besieged.
By March 11, the 35th was at the Rhine River. The division began crossing the Rhine on March 26, during a powerful Allied air attack. After crossing the river, the division conquered city after city, rounding up 3,770 prisoners in 18 days. The divisions sped all the way to the Elbe River, making them the American troops nearest Berlin. On Victory in Europe day, May 8, 1945, the division command post was at Dohren, Germany.
In 10 months, the 35th had fought almost continuously over 1,600 combat miles and had suffered more than 15,000 casualties. The war over, the division’s Soldiers moved to Hanover, Germany, for occupation duty.
An article in the July 3, 1945, edition of the Kansas City Star regaled readers with the tales of a well-fought war. Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade, the commanding general of the 35th, told the newspaper that the division’s Soldiers had much to be proud of.
“You can tell the mothers and fathers, sweethearts and wives, of the 35th Division boys that no outfit did a better job in bringing Germany to her knees,” Baade said. “There were many divisions just as good as ours, but none any better.
“The fighting spirit of the Midwestern lad never faltered from the day we first went into action in the St. Lo offensive,” he continued. “It was a great privilege for me to lead a division like the 35th. Some of our assignments were the toughest of the war and we suffered many casualties in order that others might be saved. I would like to convey to the relatives of those who will not return the comforting thought that everyone who does not return died a hero’s death, and by so doing has done his bit to prevent another world war.”
Reorganizations and peacekeeping missions
The years after World War II led to several inactivations and reactivations for the 35th Infantry Division. On Dec. 7, 1945, the division was inactivated. In late 1946 and early 1947, the division was reorganized as a Kansas and Missouri division. The division continued to recruit and train until 1963, when it was inactivated, along with three other National Guard divisions.
In early 1983, the Army began the process organize the 35th as a mechanized infantry division from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Kentucky National Guard units. The division headquarters was established Sept. 30, 1983, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. On Aug. 25, 1984, the 35th Division reactivation ceremony occurred at Fort Leavenworth.
After being notified in 2001 that the 35th Infantry Division would be tasked with the command of the stabilization force in Bosnia in 2003, the division’s Soldiers began training for the mission. On Jan. 19, 2003, more than 1,000 Soldiers began the mission in Bosnia. On June 13, 2003, they began “Operation Tornado,” an air and ground assault to secure an area near the town of Han Pijesak. During the mission, they found a series of bunkers hiding a large cache of weapons, missiles and mines. The division returned to Kansas in October after completing a six-month deployment.
In the fall of 2007, the 35th division served as the headquarters unit for Task Force Falcon, a multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo, where about 200 division Soldiers served for a year. The division also served as a headquarters unit for disaster relief during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 in Louisiana.
“Our division is a pretty busy organization,” Newton said. “Our division headquarters is authorized 722 positions. Our organization is different in that we’re split between two states. The flag is here at Fort Leavenworth, and about a third of the personnel here in Kansas, and the other two-thirds are in Missouri. We share a relationship with two states. Our units are in different states, so we are truly just a headquarters command.”
Santa Fe division’s patch
The history of the 35th Infantry Division is deeply tied to the Santa Fe Trail, which 19th century pioneers used to travel to and develop the West. With the division originally getting many of its Soldiers from states along the trail (Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska), and with their World War I training taking place at Camp Doniphan, Okla., near the eastern end of the trail, the division quickly became known as the Santa Fe Division.
That historical connection with the Santa Fe Trail is nowhere more clear than at its headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Newton said.
“There’s a spot on Fort Leavenworth where you can still see the wagon wheel ruts in the ground, where the wagons came off the boats going from Missouri to Kansas,” he said. “You can see where the trail starts.”
The division’s patch, consisting of a white Santa Fe cross on a wagon wheel, also harkens back to that history.
“The patch symbolizes the wagon wheel, and the cross symbolizes the path that they had along the trail,” Newton said. “The crosses guided early settlers across the state and to the west.”
Sgt. 1st Class James Knight, an operations NCO for the 35th Infantry Division at its headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, said it’s been special opportunity to serve in the unit he grew up around as a kid in Leavenworth, Kan.
“I’m proud that this division, from World War I to World War II, basically came from the same heart-of-America-type people from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska,” Knight said. “I grew up right here in Leavenworth, so I remember when this headquarters building was built. I’ve always seen this patch. There’s a ton of history with the 35th. We don’t have the Rock of the Marne or anything like that, but we did do a lot in World War I and World War II.
“It was the first patch I put on when I joined the National Guard,” he said. “I’ve worn a couple of different patches, but mainly I’ve worn this one. Now, my kids, too, have seen it their whole lives, and it means something to them, too.”
Newton said he hopes new Soldiers to the division can appreciate its history and the sacrifices of those who came before.
“What’s important to me is sharing the history and keeping the history of the division alive,” Newton said. “There are some incredible stories. For instance, in the Hall of Fame (at the 35th Infantry Museum in Topeka, Kan.), you’ll see Major General (retired) Charles Browne. He enlisted in the Kansas National Guard in 1926. He went up through all the NCO ranks, then he was commissioned in 1939, just before the war. He held every single NCO rank and every single officer rank in the division. That’s unheard of. Modern day, you would never have anyone like that. He went from private to commanding general of the division.
“Our history really makes me appreciate what we have today,” he said. “When you see what the Soldiers before us went through, the casualty rates during World War I and World War II were astronomical. They faced death every day. But these Soldiers did it because it was their duty. You don’t complain about it, you go out and complete your mission.
“Be proud of the patch you wear on your shoulder, your unit crest. Understand the story behind it. I want to keep the story alive and not forget those who have sacrificed for us. Appreciate what you have today.”
When Sgt. 1st Class Fredrick Behnke received word, while he was in Afghanistan, that his next assignment would be at the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he was perplexed and concerned.
Behnke said his first thought was, “Hey, I’m a combat arms guy. What the heck am I going to Fort Leavenworth for?” The idea of getting involved with mission command certainly didn’t ease his mind, and when he asked other NCOs about the MCTP, no one seemed to know what it was.
He might not have know what he was getting into, but now, Behnke says, his assignment to the MCTP has made him a better, more complete noncommissioned officer. He is ready to serve in many more ways than before.
“MCTP can be a daunting endeavor when you first get on ground,” Behnke said. “Like for myself, I did not have any real staff time. I came straight from the operational Army, and I get here, and they are throwing stuff at me like ‘mission command.’ I’m like, ‘What’s mission command?’ Because we don’t talk about it as an NCO corps. Which we should, because mission command is an Army concept. They start throwing things at you like the military decision making process (MDMP), and I’m, like, ‘Troop-leading procedures, right?’
“So, it’s a daunting task for an NCO when you get here, but you grow exponentially in the value you can take when you leave here,” Behnke said. “The officers and NCOs do a great job of bringing you in, and you learn it pretty quickly.”
Warfighter exercise simulate realistic, complex scenarios for Army units to operate in. They combine forces from the active duty, reserve, National Guard and allied units, said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Edwards, the command sergeant major of the MCTP.
“Warfighters are collective training events for commanders and their staffs, at the corps, division and brigade levels,” Edwards said. “MCTP personnel, both NCOs and officers, observe, coach and train the commanders and their staffs on using the Army’s doctrine in a computer-simulated combat environment. We focus on mission command and unified land operations.”
Behnke, an observer-coach-trainer (OCT) NCO of operations group C of the MCTP, said when he goes out to help train a unit in mission command, his primary focus is to “integrate with the brigade sergeant major and operations sergeant major and try to find out what their goals and objectives are for their staff and their NCOs as far as integrating into mission command.”
“A big thing across most staffs is they want their NCOs to, No. 1, have a better understanding of what mission command is,” Behnke said. “We, as NCOs, really don’t understand what mission command is, and we don’t understand how we integrate into mission command. We don’t understand what MDMP is because we use troop-leading procedures at the platoon level. So, they really want their NCOs to know what it is, know how they contribute, how they integrate, and then they want to make sure they are feeling empowered to integrate into the process.”
When he visits units that are training with the MCTP, Behnke works on breaking down barriers to build strong teams.
“One of the biggest tenets of mission command is building a cohesive team through mutual trust,” Behnke said. “If your staff is not functioning as one team, then it’s not going to do anything for the commander. So we show that united front right off the bat to the training audience. It shows officers that there’s value in what NCOs bring to the table, and it shows NCOs that they can approach officers and work with them.
“For instance, for our mission here at MCTP, we go out and train brigade-, division- and corps-level staffs on mission command,” Behnke said. “I see our mission a little differently. I think when we go out and we integrate with a staff, we’re helping unify that staff. We’re showing them ways of how they can work together better, through cross-leveling information, developing a shared understanding, how they interact. I look at it as we’re helping to unify the staff. NCOs really bring that to the table. Building teams is what we do our whole careers.”
Edwards has a message for those NCOs looking for broadening assignments to help their careers: You can’t get much more broadening than an assignment that throws you into the depths of doctrine and mission command as you work with a diverse group of officers, noncommissioned officers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors at the MCTP.
NCOs can find the MCTP difficult at first, Edwards said, but leaders make sure new arrivals get up to speed quickly, and they leave with skills that are hard to find elsewhere.
“We ask the noncommissioned officers to think about how talented they will be when they leave here,” Edwards said. “When you leave here, you can go operate in any environment. You can operate in the operational realm. You can operate in the institutional realm. You can do multiple things once you leave this organization.
“As you move up through the ranks, instead of going to your organization and saying, ‘Hey, I can do this one thing,’ you can now do several things as a noncommissioned officer,” Edwards said. “You can bring four different skill sets to the organization instead of just one skill set.”
Being at Fort Leavenworth and learning more about doctrine really improves an NCO, said Sgt. Maj. Mark Clark sergeant major for operations group S of MCTP.
“When you’re out there in the field, one thing you notice is that most people just really don’t read doctrine,” Clark said. “But when you come here, you get a chance to take the operational experience you’ve had in the field and come back and look at how it’s actually designed by doctrine. You get a better understanding of how the TTPs, the techniques, tactics and prodecures, that you use in your organization were designed and why they were changed. The experience that you can get by being here at the MCTP will make you a better asset to your organization as you go back out into the field.”
The MCTP is a “hidden gem” at Fort Leavenworth, Behnke said, and the experience can’t be surpassed.
“I’ve been a drill sergeant, I’ve been a squad leader up through a platoon sergeant. From talking to counterparts, talking to battle buddies, this job is probably one of the best jobs across the Army to really, truly prepare an NCO, in the rank of E7, maybe even E8, to go out into the brigade and above-level Army and succeed and bring value to that organization,” Behnke said. “It’s not just what you learn here by going through the workshops and readings, but you get to go out and touch so many units in the Army, from National Guard to active duty. You see what works, what doesn’t work. You’re constantly filling that mental rucksack of yours.
“You leave here prepared to go out and truly help the Army so much more than if you never touch this job, if you walk into a brigade never knowing what mission command and MDMP is,” Behnke said. “This is definitely a growth assignment, and it’s definitely a hidden thing, too.”
The words “mission command” can make many NCOs turn away, thinking it isn’t their business. But in today’s Army, mission command is leader business, and that makes it NCO business, Behnke and Edwards emphasized.
“The word ‘command’ does usually allow us to pass that off to the commander,” Behnke said. “It says ‘command,’ so that’s the commander’s responsibility. But the commander has certain tasks, and, as a staff, we accomplish those tasks. That staff is not just officers, or just NCOs. On a staff, there is not ‘officer stuff’ and ‘NCO stuff.’ It’s ‘leaders’ business’ on a staff, because everything we do as a staff affects troops on the ground.”
“The key thing I tell our noncommissioned officers is that mission command is a leader function, and as noncommissioned officers, you are leaders,” Edwards said. “Mission command is designed to benefit Soldiers on the ground. Noncommissioned officers bring that real-world experience from being in the operational force, and we see things based on our experience. We can benefit Soldiers on the ground by bringing that insight to a command staff.”
Clark said showing NCOs their role in mission command is a big part of MCTP’s mission.
“The concept of NCO business and officer business, that concept alone can derail mission command because the NCOs’ work and the officers’ work is now stovepiped, and there’s no synchronization, which is one of the big things that we try to get out of mission command,” Clark said. “We teach them how to break down the walls and barriers to integrate their sections, so that their sections can integrate with the staff and create the shared understanding the commander needs to make informed decisions.”
Once NCOs understand their role in mission command, they can have a big influence on making sure the commander has all the information needed to be successful, Clark said.
“Regardless of the makeup of an organization, you have a role and you can bring value to the table,” Clark said. “NCOs’ experience level normally trumps that of the officers who they work with. As the officers are planning and writing orders to be executed at the tactical level, the noncommissioned officer can help them to make sure that it’s understood down to its lowest level, because they are used to being on the receiving end of those orders. They have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work, what would make sense and what would make it simple for the units to be able to execute.”
Behnke agreed that NCOs’ experience level and skill at building teams are the two biggest positives they can bring to mission command.
“NCOs, we’ve come up from that private just doing what we’re told, all the way through to becoming a platoon sergeant,” Behnke said. “We bring the expertise of doing it — the hands-on doing it — of seven to 14 years, depending on how your career is going. That’s a lot of knowledge that you bring up. NCOs aren’t just on a staff to be command post set-up guys or make sure their guys have chow. They are there to assist the staff with accomplishing the commander’s tasks.”
To prepare NCOs for the mission they are about to join, the MCTP’s training helps NCOs learn about mission command and forces NCOs to look closely at doctrine.
“When you come to MCTP, there is a Warrior Prep Course,” Behnke said. “It’s a lot of online training that takes you through with a broad brush stroke of the warfighting functions, the different parts of MDMP, of mission command. Then you have a weeklong workshop-based training where you sit down in workshops to learn, and this is NCOs and officers sitting side-by-side. So, immediately from day one at MCTP, we’re building a cohesive team because we’re all getting the same training, we’re all on the same page, we’re at the same level. We’re expected to work at that level together. It’s not, ‘Hey, NCOs go over here and do this training, and the officers are going to do this other training.’”
A role at the MCTP can be a big change for NCOs. To be successful, NCOs need to be willing to learn, Edwards said.“I would tell (NCOs) to be open to ideas from everyone, and educate yourself on doctrine, because we are doctrinally based,” Edwards said. “Being at the intellectual center of the Army at Fort Leavenworth. We have to be on our doctrine and our craft,” Edwards said.
An assignment to MCTP also means NCOs will have a different, closer working relationship with officers than perhaps they have ever had, Behnke said. That takes some adaptability.
“To succeed at MCTP, an NCO has to have — tact is a bad word for it — you have to learn how to interact with officers,” Behnke said. “That sounds like, ‘Well, yeah, NCOs do that. We see an officer, salute him, tell him good morning.’ But it’s different when you’re truly working as a team. You have a different relationship with officers than you’ve ever had before. It’s not for every NCO, but I think if NCOs truly want to develop to be future leaders — if they truly want to be that well-rounded NCO — they should want to come here. The problem is this assignment isn’t well known across the Army, and the benefits of this assignment aren’t well known across the Army.”
The MCTP helps an NCO stay relevant in an Army that is changing every day, Clark said. NCOs are taking a more important role in mission command, and it’s important to keep up.
“We (the Army) have more noncommissioned officers with education and broader experiences because of the rotation of different assignments,” Clark said. “With that alone, NCOs bring more talents to the staff and are being empowered a lot more than we were in the past. That is one of the ways that we’ve achieved success in the past few years of conflict, by empowering our noncommissioned officers to do roles that aren’t traditional. It’s no longer just based on the rank on the chest, but what we as an individual really bring to the table as a leader and employing us in that manner.”
When six Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division visited Washington, D.C., in late May, they offered Congress insight into one of the Army’s newest strategies from the Soldiers charged with employing it.
During their meeting in the nation’s capital, congressional staff members got to hear in more detail about the regionally aligned forces, or RAF, mission, a strategy initiated by the Army in 2010 to strengthen existing allied and partner relationships. The 2nd BCT, based at Fort Riley, Kan., is the Army’s first RAF unit and was aligned with U.S. Army Africa Command, in which it worked behind the scenes with partner nations while deployed.
In the same vein, the NCOs of the 162nd Infantry Brigade at Fort Polk, La., have worked tirelessly in the background to ensure Soldiers that are part of the RAF mission to Africa — and the other five geographic combatant commands — know all they need to know about a foreign country before they set foot in it.
The African continent has received special emphasis from the 162nd’s Regionally Aligned Forces-Training Teams, or RAF-TTs, as it is viewed as the area with the most potential for volatile situations.
“Right now, that’s the focus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Baxter, one of four lead instructors for the 162nd’s AFRICOM RAF-TT. “That’s where we want to get our fingers in the most and support. That’s where we see the need. In [U.S. Southern Command], a lot of those countries are a little more advanced and don’t need as much support. Africa, because of colonialism, they’re a little more behind. Certain areas are hotbeds.”
The RAF’s footprint in Africa
The regionally aligned forces project was borne out of the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy. A regional alignment flags Army units of various sizes to provide support to partner nations. The support is offered in the hope that any given nation’s defense forces can handle security issues without involving U.S. forces.
The opening stages of the RAF plan rolled out during the past two years, with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd BCT taking the lead as the first RAF unit to deploy, heading to Africa in spring 2013. The 2nd BCT conducted more than 160 missions during its deployment, highlighted by the establishment of the East Africa Response Force, which is based in Djibouti and works to secure the U.S. embassy in South Sudan.
“Through the conduct of over 160 missions in 30 countries over the past year, we were able to develop the capabilities of our African military partners, empowering them to strengthen and better secure their borders,” said Col. Jeffery D. Broadwater, commander of the 2nd BCT, during his meetings with congressional staff. “More importantly, we developed relationships as representatives of the United States who promoted our nation’s interests and ethics.”
The 2nd BCT concluded its deployment in June 2014 before transferring its RAF duties to the “Big Red One’s” 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Before the 4th BCT’s Soldiers shipped out, much like their 2nd BCT counterparts, they spent time with the NCOs of the 162nd Infantry Brigade to learn about the areas to which they are deploying.
“The idea is that they’re trained on Africa,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Petry, another of the 162nd’s AFRICOM RAF-TT instructors. “Whether it be culturally, geopolitically, the conflicts in the region that they are potentially deploying to, they’re given that taste of the African continent and their culture, because it’s vastly different from Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially in today’s Army and today’s world where we’ve spent so many years dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of these Soldiers need to learn to downshift and switch gears and focus on a completely different culture.”
The 162nd is already battle-tested in providing instruction to foreign forces. The unit spent more than a decade training combat advisors and working with their security forces counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan as those countries prepared to take over the job of protecting their own lands. As such, it was a natural fit for the 162nd to evolve into instructors of the Regionally Aligned Forces-Training Team.
When the Army began discussions about the RAF concept, Africa quickly became a focus.
“When we started putting our footprint in the Middle East, it’s kind of like plugging water as far as terrorism goes,” Baxter said. “You block it in one area, and it’s gonna overrun into somewhere else. So you start to see common threats that are starting to spill into Africa and work their way down. You’re starting to see extremist organizations start to filter their way from Egypt all the way down into the southern part of Africa.
“Potentially, you can have a situation where you have another country that doesn’t have a lot of money, a lot of funding. A lot of foreign aid comes in from countries that we’re not in collaboration with, and they start pushing their agenda in those countries. When the infrastructure is really low, and a lot of money starts coming in, a lot of people start leaning that way to survive.”
When the 2nd BCT was tasked, unit leaders realized they weren’t knowledgeable about the culture, customs and conflicts of African countries.
“They were one of the first ones to reach out and say, ‘We need this training. We know that we don’t have this experience or this knowledge yet. So, who can give it to us?’” Petry said. “And the 162nd said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got you.’”
The curriculums that the 162nd’s RAF-TT instructors develop to teach deploying units are largely based on their research of a given country. Instructors receive help from personnel at the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as well as the NATO School Oberammergau in Germany. But developing a class and its delivery is largely up to instructors. Petry said the challenge to do this seemed immense at first. But RAF-TT instructors have gradually eased into the role.
“Initially when the section first stood up, it was pretty challenging, because we were starting from square one with most of our curriculum,” Petry said. “But it helps that the NCOs in our section are assigned to specific regions. We don’t all focus on the entire continent of Africa. I’m northwest Africa. There are NCOs that focus on the countries in south, eastern and central Africa. It’s a lot of research reading about the countries. We’ve had the opportunity to look at the embassies’ mission strategic resource plan. It’s what their goals are for that country and what they want to accomplish in the next year and near future. So we know how the State Department is looking at it, too.
“It’s a lot of research. I’ve probably read about 50 to 60 books about the countries. As far as curriculum goes, it’s gotten pretty intensive at times. But we’re far enough along that, when a country does come up that we haven’t had a lot of dealing with, it takes some research, but at the same time, the curriculum and tailoring it to that country, is not that hard anymore.”
Behind the success
Broadwater, the 2nd BCT commander who briefed Congress, said one of the highlights of the unit’s deployment was the leader-development missions its junior leaders were able to partake in.
Those opportunities are afforded because the 2nd BCT — and all other RAF units — do not have to deviate from their primary mission attaining current knowledge about the areas they are working in, Petry said.
“This unit has NCOs and officers from across the Army with widely varying experiences,” Petry said. “At the same time, they have a great amount of knowledge on the most recent activities, missions, stuff that has shaped doctrine or has continued to shape doctrine in-country. The 162nd has the ability to train these units as our sole mission focus. If we were to give this mission to a brigade who already has or already is a fully deployable unit that’s told, ‘You’re going to X country on this date and time. Train up. Go,’ in my eyes, it would be very difficult to train for their primary mission and to conduct this mission.
“Our primary focus is training these Soldiers who are going to their combatant command or their area of responsibility to do partner-nation training events. So having that as our primary mission, our sole purpose in life is to make sure that the Soldiers deploying forward have the most current training, the most current knowledge. It’s a lot easier for us to be the ones to conduct that as opposed to a brigade who already has a primary mission. To give them a mission like this, as large as this, as their second/alternate primary, it would be extremely difficult.”
The 2nd BCT has also benefited from working with foreign soldiers who are as dedicated to their military as U.S. forces are.
“Most people serving in the military, especially on the African continent, are very well educated,” Petry said. “They are very proud of their nation, very proud of their cause, very proud of their service. They are there to learn just like us. We have an all-volunteer service. So when you raise your hand to join the military, you do it because you want to, because you’re proud of it, because you want to do something for your family for your country. And in a lot of ways, these countries that we’re going to train with are the exact same way. In a lot of cases, they’re well beyond square one. We’re simply going to exchange ideas. It’s, ‘Here’s our thoughts on it; what are your thoughts on it?’ And it becomes building that doctrine, those TTPs for both militaries at the same time.”
And while RAF missions and training continue moving forward, the work of the 2nd BCT has provided a primer for the Army, Petry said.
“The way it’s looking, the regionally aligned force is the way the Army is going to begin looking at things on the world stage,” he said. “There’s going to be units assigned to a specific geographic combatant command, and when it comes down to something actually happening, something needing to be dealt with, or being asked for assistance, that regionally aligned force for that area is going to be the first one that’s tasked. That’s not to say there won’t be other units that are needed. But that regionally aligned force is going to be the first one told, ‘Let’s go. You guys have already been living and breathing this for the past year, two years or whatever it may be.’
“We have an important mission,” Petry said. “I think we’re in a very good position to provide the training and to take the extra stress off these units who have to actually go and conduct these missions. They don’t have to worry about doing all the training for them at the same time, when they can contact the 162nd and say, ‘We have this mission going in this country, can you support?’ And we have that entire package ready to go and say, ‘Yes. When do you want it?’”
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