In our efforts to continue to incorporate the philosophy of Mission Command throughout the force, "It is not enough simply to allow subordinate commanders wide latitude and then demand they fill it with their initiative; to do so they must first be properly trained,"[iv] observed Martin Van Crevald in his 1985 book on Command in War. Unit training and leader development are inextricably linked. Good training supports leader development and good leaders develop good training programs for their units. Unit training provides a forgiving, learning environment that allows leaders to grow from lessons learned on the job without fear of making irretrievable mistakes in combat that cost lives.[v]
Proper training develops confidence, creating leaders and units ready to face the challenges of today's operating environment. To build confidence, training must replicate the conditions of combat as closely as possible. Training must capture the uncertainty of combat by injecting change, rushed timelines, casualties, and bad information into all exercises.[vi] While these concepts may seem obvious to our roles as leaders, there are plenty of examples throughout history when they were ignored, resulting in mission failure or unnecessary casualties.
"There is much evidence to show that officers who have received the best peacetime training available find themselves surprised and confused by the difference between conditions as pictured in map problems and those they encounter in campaign…In our schools, we generally assume that the organizations are well-trained and at full strength, that subordinates are competent, that supply arrangements function, that communications work, that orders are carried out. In war, many or all of these conditions may be absent."[i]
-George C. Marshall, 1934
As the Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning in 1934, then COL George C. Marshall recognized the need for realistic training to prepare leaders for the challenges of combat. His experience from the First World War taught him that leaders had to make decisions in combat without having all the necessary information, perfect maps, ample time, or ideal conditions[ii]. The changes he made to the training concepts based on this experience, were key factors in preparing our Army to quickly adapt in World War II.
Marshall's point of view that "an Army's most perishable skills [are] the ones learned in the hard school of combat itself, where a Soldier's imagination, inventiveness, practicality, and common sense [are] of more value than any amount of school technique learned by rote"[iii] remains relevant today. It is imperative that we preserve the hard-won lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and ensure they are incorporated into our training at all levels.
In ADP 7-0, principles of unit training are provided as a guideline when planning training events. Principles such as, Train as You Will Fight, Train Fundamentals First, and Train to Develop Adaptability are all necessary for developing leaders that are able to operate within the ambiguous environments we will encounter in the 21st Century.
First, read the current operational doctrine to develop an understanding of how the Army intends to fight. Second, read the current training management doctrine in order to understand the interrelationship between "how we intend to fight" and "how we train to fight." To gain a deeper appreciation of the relationship between the two, review past performance of the United States Army and other militaries in combat, and the training that took place prior to the conflict. Consider how well each Army's training prior to war prepared them units and leaders for the enemies they faced and environments in which they fought, as well as how effectively their training prepared them to adapt to unforeseen challenges and changes in the situation. Using the discussion questions, reflect on how the Army's training doctrine and historical examples relate to one another, and what this means for your responsibilities as a leader now and in the future. Speak with those leaders you know who have planned and executed great training events, and learn from them. Finally, use the tools available through the Army Training Network to develop training that properly prepares your organization for combat.
[i] Infantry in Battle: From Somalia to the Global War on Terror. Joanie Horton. United States Infantry School, 2005 p.3
[ii] Combined Arms in Battle Since 1939. Roger J. Spiller. U.S. Command and General Staff College Press, 1992 p. 9
[iv] Command in War. Martin Van Crevald. Harvard University Press, 1985 p.271
[v] Introduction to ADP 7-0
[vi] Lessons For a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields. Donnelly and Kagan. American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research, 2010 p.73