The Importance to Educate and Train Leaders in the Army
How it works
This essay will explore the history of how to educate or train leaders in the army. Commanders must learn to interpret problems from a new perspective. A successful command is a balance of both art and science. The complexity of large-scale combat operations increases this challenge. Gain order requires commanders to develop clear visions to navigate the complicated field of combat. During large-scale combat operations, a commander needs to assess and accept risk quickly when making decisions. They must drive adaptability within their plans and their crews. Understanding the art of command, complexity, commander’s visualization, and decision-making are critical to a commander’s successful leading of an organization through large-scale combat operations, and these skills are critical when looking to train or educate army leaders.
In December 1950, during large-scale combat operations in North Korea, a Chinese force of 19 divisions attacked United Nations forces near the 38th Parallel with an aim to capture Seoul. Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgeway had recently taken Command of the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea. His forces were not physically or mentally prepared for this large-scale attack and struggled to hold their defensive line. The Chinese were able to penetrate the line and inflict heavy casualties on the United Nations forces. The UN forces were facing many challenges, including fatigue, low morale, and an ineffective intelligence engine. The Chinese surprised the UN Forces with their massive offensive, which increased the complexity and danger of the campaign.
How it works
Ridgeway had to assess his organization to make changes to build morale and increase the organization’s combat effectiveness. He had to analyze the terrain and the enemy to determine how to hold their defensive line and defeat the Chinese and North Korean forces. General Ridgeway used his intense, courageous, humble, and hardworking attitude to influence his subordinate leaders. He was an expert in Army doctrine and held his subordinates to doctrinal standards. He led by example and shared the hardships of the troops to challenge and motivate them through his transition to command.
Transition to command requires a mental transition. Part of this transition can be helped through a course, the Basic Leader Course, or BLC. Here hopeful leaders learn the keys to command. Commanders must change the way they think about problems and their environment. This is part of the art of command. According to Army Doctrinal Publication 6-0, or the ADP, “Command is the authority that a commander in the armed forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment.” It continues, “The art of command is the creative and skillful exercise of authority through timely decision-making and leadership.” The art of command requires leaders to understand and manage the greater expectations of them in exercising their authority and accepting responsibility for their organization.
The key elements of command are authority, responsibility, decision-making, and leadership. Education and training leaders in the military requires focus and attention. Commanders apply these elements to solve problems and improve an organization. The transition to command requires a change in thinking on each of those key elements. A commander must first understand the full extent of their new authority and responsibility. They need to understand the purpose and expectations of their organization and must rely heavily on their judgment to make decisions in the complex environment of warfare. Commander uses their reflections on experience, study, and observation during their assessment of the environment. The commander uses their judgment to find, accept and mitigate risk. They also use it to delegate authority, prioritize resources, and direct their staff, who supply analysis and input as a tool to aid the commander through the decision-making process.
As Ridgeway took command of the Eighth Army, he knew he needed to get a handle on the environment on the ground in Korea. He needed to understand the enemy, the terrain, and the forces under his charge. Upon notice of his orders to command, he left at once and arrived in country within a couple of days. He rapidly began battlefield circulations to meet with his subordinate commanders to understand their situation. He spoke with troops up and down the line to understand their challenges and met with UN partner nations to understand their needs. He also conducted ground and aerial reconnaissance to study the terrain. Ridgeway did all of this to develop his understanding of the operational environment and to develop a foundation for his art of command.
As commanders change the way they think during transition to command, they must accept their responsibility for everything their organization does or does not do. They must set the conditions for the success of their subordinates and become an enabler and driver rather than the executor. The staff supports the commander by executing the operations process as well as aiding in building and maintaining situational understanding through analyzing operational and mission variables. The staff also develop running estimates, collect intelligence, collaborate between warfighting functions, and serve as liaisons to higher and adjacent units.
A commander leads his staff and subordinate leaders through the Army’s mission command philosophy. The mission command philosophy combines the art of command and the science of control. According to ADP 6-0, “Mission Command is the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.” The mission command philosophy has six principles. The first is to build cohesive teams through mutual trust. The second is to create shared understanding. The third is to provide a clear commander’s intent. The Fourth is to exercise disciplined initiative. The Fifth is to use mission orders. The sixth and final is to accept prudent risk.
Part of Ridgeway’s first analysis of the Eighth Army included evaluating his staff and subordinate commanders. The mission command philosophy requires an immense amount of competency and trust. Without both, the organization will not function well under a loosely enforced commander’s intent. Ridgeway needed competent commanders with the right mindset to lead their forces to success. He quickly realized he needed to replace nearly all of his Corps and Division commanders due to their poor performance and defeatist attitudes. He chose not to turn the apple cart upside down the moment he arrived in the theater of war. He tried to execute the replacements tactfully by creating a rotation policy for his Division Commanders by time of their arrival in theater, and he discussed it with each of them in person to soften the blow. He had elevated expectations for his subordinate leaders and intended to enforce those expectations.
The education and training of leaders in the military adjust as the leader’s experience adjusts. Earlier in their career, they require an elevated level of technical knowledge and lower levels of interpersonal skills and conceptual ability. Midway through their career they require a moderate skill level of each. Once they reach the later part of their career, when taking command, there is a flip. Now they require an elevated level of conceptual and interpersonal skills. At this point in their careers, they can get away with a lower level of technical knowledge since they have subordinate leaders that support those technical skills. Ridgeway showed an elevated level of conceptual and interpersonal skills. However, through this complex situation in Korea, many of his subordinate commanders did not.
Warfare is inherently complex. Carl von Clausewitz highlighted this in his book On War, which is referenced heavily in Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1.0 “Warfighting.” (MCDP) 1.0 discusses war as a complex phenomenon. It may appear to be a simple clash between two opposing wills, but both sides are complex systems of parts. A system’s power comes from the sum of its parts. When analyzing a system, it requires a study of the system’s actors, functions, tensions, and the relationships between each. Therefore, when one force targets another’s center of gravity, or source of power, it is necessary to do an evaluation of the critical factors of the system to decide what to attack.
When analyzing those critical factors, first determine the enemy’s desired end state. Then determine the ways or actions they will utilize to achieve their desired end state – these are their critical capabilities. Second, analyze the enemy’s resources or means to execute their critical capabilities. This is where a staff finds the center of gravity, the primary doer who will achieve the desired end state. Finally, evaluate the risks that could prevent the enemy from executing their critical requirement and find their vulnerabilities. In so doing, the initial force is able to decide what and how to attack in order to defeat the enemy’s center of gravity.
Matthew Ridgeway had to conduct this system analysis for both the enemy and friendly forces. In his analysis of the enemy, he discovered the enemy’s lack of logistic support as a key vulnerability and their massive number of troops as a key strength. He named his friendly armor and aviation assets as key strengths. From here, he and his staff developed operations in which they could use their strengths to attack the enemy’s vulnerabilities.
This analysis was also valuable when Ridgeway analyzed the strengths of his NATO coalition partners. Here he found, for example, the Turks and the Greeks were excellent at close combat, including hand-to-hand combat with bayonet charges. Therefore, if there were missions that could result in this type of fight, he tasked the Turks and the Greeks to execute them. It was a similar case for the British and Dutch when it came to strength in resolute defensive missions. This analysis strengthened the NATO coalition and caused their joint performance to improve.
The importance of trained leaders in the army cannot be overstated. They are equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience to make informed decisions, provide guidance to subordinates, and maintain discipline and efficiency within the ranks. Their specialized training allows them to respond quickly and effectively in high-pressure situations, ensuring the safety and success of military operations.
The question is dependent on the nature of the army and the scope of leadership duties. The focus may be on training leaders in some armies to enable them to lead troops competently in combat, whereas other armies may prefer leaders to have a higher level of education to facilitate strategic thinking and decision-making. It ultimately hinges on the particular demands and aims of each military entity, which will dictate the most suitable approach to preparing their leaders.
Leadership skills play an indispensable role in the Army, as they are essential for developing and training future leaders. Effective leaders set an example for their subordinates, providing guidance and direction towards accomplishing the mission at hand. In order to succeed, leaders must be capable of making prompt and decisive decisions, as well as inspiring and keeping their troops focused and motivated. Ultimately, strong leadership skills are vital for ensuring success and mission accomplishment in the military.