Gunner's Seat - Mission Command and Mentorship

by CSM Michael Clemens

“The education of a man is never completed until he dies.” –Robert E. Lee

This issue of ARMOR magazine focuses on our efforts toward mission command that, by definition, defies orderly, efficient and precise control but asks all junior leaders to take initiative, make informed decisions and act within the commander’s intent. I ask myself, what is the noncommissioned officer’s role in mission command? If the intent of mission command is to empower agile and adaptive leaders in their conduct of operations, how do we, as the enlisted adviser to a commander, enable that? We will focus our efforts on what NCOs in the U.S. Army have always done: training, educating and mentoring. With this in mind, we must preserve both the gains and knowledge of the last 13 years while reinforcing the enduring principles that made us successful prior to 2001.

The NCO has long been entrusted as the primary trainer in our profession. As ADRP 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders, states, “[NCOs] are the primary trainers of enlisted Soldiers, crews and small teams. NCOs take broad guidance from their leaders; identify the necessary tasks, standards and resources; and then plan, prepare, execute and assess training. They ensure their Soldiers demonstrate proficiency in their individual military-occupational specialty skills, warrior tasks and battle drills. NCOs instill in Soldiers discipline, resiliency, the Warrior Ethos and Army Values. In their assessment, NCOs provide feedback on task proficiency and the quality of the training.”

This sounds to me like the essence of mission command: commanders empowering their subordinates to perform their mission. However, we must get back into the weeds in making this happen. The ability to assess our formations, plan, prepare and execute training, and then evaluate and retrain our Soldiers, has become an atrophied skill requiring all our organizations to immediately address this shortfall. We must never forget that the primary duty of a sergeant is to train. Good NCOs know the level of training of every Soldier in their charge, and how prepared that Soldier is to react to stressful situations – like combat.

Educating the force means far more than getting Soldiers to NCO Education System courses or taking college courses. As ADRP 6-22 states, “Lifelong learning involves study and reflection to acquire new knowledge and to learn how to apply it when needed.” Leaders have neither the time nor the opportunity to learn every lesson in a classroom. We must take upon ourselves the responsibility to seek self-improvement and gain knowledge through self-study. Education and self-study have been important aspects of leadership development since our inception. Lifelong learning is not only the domain of the officer corps; NCOs take on active learning for both our own development and to impart that desire into our Soldiers, who will lead future Soldiers in the next conflict.

Scouts Out!

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