Archive for September, 2009

Train the Force and METL Development

OK, good news here. Youwon’t have to mess with developing a METL; there is no such thing as a Platoon METL.  Platoons have Battle Tasks that are made up of Collective Tasks which build on Individual Tasks.  All of those different levels of tasks feed a process called the METL crosswalk.  The process “starts” with Individual Tasks.  These are the tasks that each Soldier needs to know how to accomplish.  Once these are mastered, the team and squad start conducting Collective Tasks, tasks that require more than one person to conduct.  Once those are done the platoon conducts Battle Tasks.  Some could argue that the process starts from the other end.  Company develops a METL (derived from Battalion METL) and Battle Tasks are developed that support it.  From there it goes down to Individual Tasks, all connected and supporting the previous level.  Where do these tasks come from?  They come from Army ARTEPs or MTPs.  These are documents that formally associate Battle tasks, Collective Tasks and Individual tasks with METL tasks.  Confused?  Let me try this another way…think of an individual range card (individual tasks).  To make a squad range card (collective tasks) you combine those individual ones, right?  To make a platoon range card (Battle tasks) you take all of the squad range cards.  So if I look at a Company METL task…lets say Maintain Bathroom Operations.  A Battle Task may be Maintain Shower operations, with collective task of maintain floor integrity, with individual tasks of mopping floor, identifying mission or broken tile and replace broken tile.  Each level builds on itself.  In order to be successful as a Company at a METL task, you have to start at the bottom and “train your way up” the tasks.  You can’t Maintain Bathroom Operations without maintaining the showers, sinks, and toilets right?  Without any of those three being clean and functioning then the Bathroom doesn’t operate.  Now, what a CO will do is develop an overall plan on how to improve in training areas…he will use his assessment of the level of training in METL tasks to identify weak spots and determine what tasks need to be trained on.  Using the bathroom example, the company Soldiers may all be well trained at Toilet operations but are horrible at Shower Operations.  So he may task a PL to come up with a training plan that will train Soldiers on individual tasks and culminate in STX lanes that “test” individual tasks and put them together to achieve collective tasks.  Make sense?—-MAJ Heverly

Army Decision Making Process & Risk Management


   OK where to start on the MDMP process.  Wow…  Needless to say it is a very in depth methodical process that even the best staff officers want to cut short.  Just like anything new it is most important for you all to learn the “right” way to do it first.  Then, you will be much more capable of using shortcuts in a given situation.  Think of it like learning long division before you were handed a calculator.  The bottom line is that when you finally get to your units they will have guidance for you on just what they want and how they want it done.  Now, I am assuming that this isn’t your first time to the MDMP dance having survived Advance Camp (or whatever they are calling it now) so I won’t even think about boring you with the steps and all the sub steps.  Here is what you do need to know though, this is the way the Army has figured out how to take a mission from a higher headquarters, a single mission statement, a WARNO, or a full blown OPORD, and put into a format that your young NCOs can understand and execute, the OPORD.  Getting there requires a good deal of thorough analysis and work.  However, if you follow the steps, you will have a decent plan.  As I am sure you have heard before, the mission and intent are the most important parts.  Good NCOs will figure out how what they need to get it done (Paragraph IV) and they know who is in charge and how to talk to them (Paragraph V).  They will figure out real quick why they are going to do something, who is going to help them, what the impacts of the weather will be and who the enemy is (Paragraph I).  So make sure that your second and the first part of your third paragraphs are succinct. 

Also, your NCOs can read the higher order, so make your OPORD apply to them.  For example, don’t just tell them that it may rain, tell them how that will affect their NVGs, how it will affect sounds in the area you are working, how it will make everything more slippery, how it will limit what they carry on their backs or in the vehicles because they will have to waterproof their MOLLE packs or put their gear inside the vehicle instead of hanging it on the outside.  Go behind your squad leaders and “quiz” your Soldiers on your mission and intent.  Make sure they know what they are doing.  This isn’t micromanaging, this is verifying that your NCOs are getting the word out.  Trust but verify.  Just like conducting Pre-Combat Inspections and Checks…you don’t want to check everyone, but you do want to check on a couple of Soldiers to make sure that your NCOs are doing the right things…your PSG should be doing the same thing.

Your first OPORD experience will probably be a range OPORD once you get to your units.  That is usually an easy “ice breaker” to make sure you know what you are doing or at least know when to ask for help.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  Start with your fellow platoon leaders or platoon sergeant for past examples that you can work from.  Now, your boss may want you to start from scratch…unfortunately that is their perogative.  I personally don’t agree with it but everyone has their own techniques.  If you can’t find one at the Company level (remember to check with the 1SG, they are a wealth of info) then look at the BN S3.  They should have plenty of examples.

Now, as far as Risk Management.  The same thing holds true.  Know how the right way to do it is, so that as you get proficient you begin to do it without even thinking about it.  Lets take a simple trip from school to home.  You know that if you wreck or get into an accident the results could be catastrophic.  You also know that depending on when you travel the risk of accident will go up…ie Saturday at around 2-3 AM vs 1-2 PM.  So, you make decisions to avoid these situations as best you can…either leaving in the afternoon on Friday or early afternoon on Saturday.  You may do a quick walk around of your car to make sure the tires are full…you make plan pit stops if it is a long trip.  You have just done the Risk Management process.  The only thing the Army wants you to do is write it down when it is part of an exercise or operation to show that you have thought through everything and are using all of the controls you can think of to get the risk down.  You will get to the point that Risk Management can be seen in everything you do…it is weird the first time you catch yourself thinking in terms of controls and residual risk but hey it is a sign that the system works.

MDMP and RM are very deliberate processes to make sure you think everything through.  Putting activities into steps and operations into timelines force you to think in steps.  This “mode” is the surest way to catch something if you initially miss it.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen staffs work tirelessly through wargaming, producing a synch and decision matrix that has proven invaluable during an exercise when the enemy throws a curveball at you.

I have focused on the MDMP as it looks from the platoon and company level.  You don’t have a staff to go through the entire process step by step, I mean what are you going to do when you are actually the approver of the COAs that you developed…ummm.  If you have any specific questions, I will be more than happy to answer them for you.  Years on a Division staff have left their scars.

MAJ Brian Heverly

What a 2LT needs to know about briefings

Hello future leaders of our United States Army.  My name is Michael Fraley and I am attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth and I have been given the opportunity to share some experiences with you. 

A little about me.  I was a regular Army Ordnance officer for 10 years with an additional two years in the Kentucky National Guard.  I attended Eastern Kentucky University on a 4-year ROTC scholarship.   I have served in multiple leadership, staff, and command positions in Germany, Oklahoma, Iowa, and taught ROTC in West Virginia.  I am currently serving as an Army civilian with US Army TACOM with the New Equipment Training group.  I have briefed at many different levels including 4-star generals, the Sergeant Major of the Army, Senior Executive Service leaders and many levels inbetween.  I have multiple years as an instructor for soldiers, cadets, and civilians and have experienced most things that can happen in a classroom short of a death (close call) and a birth.

SUCCESSFUL  Briefings begin with being prepared.  You have to know more about your topic than your audience and the only way to know your audience is research.  One of the first questions that you should ask is “who am I speaking to and what is the primary message I want to pass on to them.”  You are in a position of power and authority simply because you are the speaker. 

Your audience expects to learn something from you and they will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are the “expert” on what you are going to present.  This is absolutely true until you have been introduced and you are standing in front of them and say “Hello”.  Now your audience will be interested in you and only you.  They will look at your appearance, your haircut, your clothing, your mannerisms, if you bring coffee or water to the podium, if you are fidgeting, if you are sweating, if you mumble, if you are a statue behind the podium, if you talk to the slides, if you read the slides, if you say annoying phrases over and over and over (uh, ok, right).  They are consciously or unconsciously trying to find fault.  Not nice, but reality.  The secret to winning this initial skirmish is to get their attention  up front and focus on your presentation, not on you.  Some folks can tell jokes (make sure you have a sense of humor and it is an appropriate joke) some folks play a movie clip, some folks just start talking about their topic.  BLUF: Use the technique that is right for you and try not to be someone you are not. 

I know this is a lot of pressure knowing that your entire audience is looking at you trying to find fault, but knowing this up front will actually give you the edge.  You will be prepared, you will be rehearsed, your appearance will be flawless, and you will have done the research ahead of time to prepare you for the sharpshooting that will begin, hopefully, at the end of your presentation. 

The number one fear of most people is public speaking.  It is OK to be scared, it is OK to be nervous, it is not OK to be unprepared.