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Menning
07-26-2008, 01:24 AM
As a bit of an amateur military historian, I have always held the Germans in high regard when it came to the subject of leadership. Erwin Rommel might be the best example of leadership in wartime. In contrast to other fronts during WW II, the North African campaign is often characterized as "the gentleman's war." Rommel's leadership style was forceful--in The Infantry Attacks he threatened to shoot a soldier on the spot when the individual refused to partake in a trench raid. In the desert campaign, Rommel drove his men mercilessly, but he always led from the tip of the spear, enduring the same privations as his men. In Knight's Cross, Rommel recounts three weeks of continuous battle when at the end, even he could not motivate his men to continue the offensive.

When Rommel was recalled to mainland Europe to prepare defensive positions, he was a whirlwind of energy and activity. Upon realizing the war was lost, Rommel helped launch the plot to kill Hitler. For that, he paid with his life. I consider Rommel a role model and example of exemplary leadership. In combat, there was none better. When it came to honor and pragmatism, he was peerless.

So, here's my question: Is there any difference between the office corps of the United States Army as opposed to the Wehrmacht? Was the Prussian tradition of producing military leaders substantially different than the United States? And finally, what was it that made the German officer corps so effective?

I would like to know what we can learn from the WW II German officer leadership that could help the U.S. Army become even better today.

One final thing. Being rather young, I have never known "Mad" Max Thurman other than from stories. I'm sure many who are a part of this forum have served/interacted with the General. Does his style of leadership have merits? I've heard he "jacked people up" as a way of doing business because he understood that enacting change within a large organization is extremely difficult. He assumed (I'm recalling peoples' comments who served under him) that any Army organization had issues and the best way to deal with them was to assume that nothing worked. When, his underlings demonstrated competence, he threw money at them so they could continue to do what they did best. Does any of this sound familiar to SWJ followers? Was he a largely peacetime Rommel?

Tom Odom
07-26-2008, 01:53 AM
One final thing. Being rather young, I have never known "Mad" Max Thurman other than from stories. I'm sure many who are a part of this forum have served/interacted with the General. Does his style of leadership have merits? I've heard he "jacked people up" as a way of doing business because he understood that enacting change within a large organization is extremely difficult. He assumed (I'm recalling peoples' comments who served under him) that any Army organization had issues and the best way to deal with them was to assume that nothing worked. When, his underlings demonstrated competence, he threw money at them so they could continue to do what they did best.

Mad Max was not a term of endearment. He was not what I would call a soldiers soldier, rather he was a ruthless bureaucrat. Didn't serve under or near him. Had good friends who did and regretted every minute.

Tom

Menning
07-26-2008, 02:11 AM
"Maxatolla" is another name I've heard mentioned. Not very endearing either. He cajoled (probably not the right term) two staffs from the Army while TRADOC commander so they could keep up with his manic lifestyle. He definitely was not a soldiers soldier. However, can we learn anything from his way of leadership or was it worthless? I heard he virtually singlehandedly established a new military base in the western U.S.

Fuchs
07-26-2008, 02:36 AM
And finally, what was it that made the German officer corps so effective?

German officers began (and the ones for leading troops instead of technical stuff still do) their career as simple soldier, progressed to NCO and then became officer. The personnel for the officer corps was chosen since late 1890's with what we call today "assessment center" method, based on discovered potential.
Officer courses had a high rate (IIRC at times 40%) of drop outs; the teachers not only educated, but also tried to detect which NCOs were too bad for being an officer.
There was almost never such a thing as the stubborn and laughable Prussian officer caricature that we see in movies.

The WW2 officer corps was very much based on the personnel of the 1932 Reichswehr, very well trained (because everything else but training was gutted by the Allied Control Commission).

WW2 generals had WW1 battle experience almost without exception (usually full WW1, 1914-1918, usually with Eastern and Western front experience, sometimes also Italy experience of the final Isonzo battle like Rommel).

The whole leadership & command system (Auftragstaktik) emphasized subsidiarity and initiative.

The general officers of both World Wars were in great part schooled in the General Staff courses, a great preparation for corps & higher leadership & understanding of large unit actions.

Junior officers were especially successful because they lead from up front, really "lead" their men. That was extremely important morale-wise in the offense. Another success factor was that German NCO training was also very good (with some doubts about it since the early 90's).

Officers up to Army Group commanders usually ate the same meals and shared some hardships with their men.
Today (and afaik it was like this in all unified German states), we have different free time clubs for enlisted, NCO and officers in the Bundeswehr, but the in-service time meals are identical and there's just one canteen.
This lack of distance helps a lot to foster trust and morale.

The social prestige of the German officer corps was extremely high till at the very least 1915, probably till the early 1920's. Not only aristocrats joined the ranks of the officer corps, but also very capable citizens. A high social prestige is important because it attracts the best & brightest candidates into the officer corps.
The social standing of an officer is nothing special today, probably comparable to the golden star policemen (top 5% of police and kind of officers in the police).

The officer corps of the pre-1914 time (and also till 1939) was extremely professional and it's been said that the majority of military writing pre-1914 was in German (likely including Austrian-Hungarian's writings). There were many military books published in the inter-war years, but the Bundeswehr officers rarely publish any book before retirement - and then usually not about military theory.

Menning
07-26-2008, 02:49 AM
I appreciate your post. Please keep the information coming. Allies can always learn from one another. God speed.

jmm99
07-26-2008, 03:06 AM
Walter Goerlitz, History of the German General Staff 1657-1945 (orig. Der Deutsche Generalstab; trans. Praeger 1966, my copy), seems a decent survey (re-read it a couple of months ago); and provides answers to many of your questions. There are probably other equally good or better sources by the dozens. See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_General_Staff

I'd look into Rommel a bit more before sanctifying him (I've read the two books you cited; a long time ago when I was young and also into German military history). E.g.,

Rommel was removed after a short time however, to take command of Adolf Hitler's personal protection battalion (FührerBegleitbataillon), assigned to protect him in the special railway train (Führersonderzug) used during his visits to occupied Czechoslovakia and Memel. It was at this period that he met and befriended Joseph Goebbels, the Reich's minister of propaganda. Goebbels became a fervent admirer of Rommel and later ensured that Rommel's exploits were celebrated in the media.
....
Rommel continued as Führerbegleitbataillon commander during the Polish campaign, often moving up close to the front in the Führersonderzug, and seeing much of Hitler. After the Polish defeat, Rommel returned to Berlin to organize the Führer's victory parade, taking part himself as a member of Hitler's entourage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Rommel

Maybe too cynical a view, but I have sanctified too many models (including myself) - only to find feet (or other parts) of clay.

I think you will find that the US constructs of officer development are ecclectic - not easy to cram into a single mold. The current emphasis is certainly on education. Most of the guys here (includes gals in my jargon) can match sheepskins with me - and win the tossup.

Unless you can reincarnate (here in US) the Prussian land system of a semi-starving, military-oriented lower nobility, direct application of their development process (here in US) would be impossible. I suspect that most all of the good features of the Prussian system have been reviewed, modified and incorporated; but that question would be better answered by others here who are or have been serving officers.

Some of the Prussian features were not that great - snobby and arrogant are not virtues to me (though sometimes my vices). Maybe, I watched "The Blue Max" (George Peppard) too many times:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Max

Of course, Rommel was not a Prussian; but a Württemberger from Heidenheim.

PS: Fuchs is accurate; my comment above solely deals with the narrow Prussian tradition, which was much modified as the Generalstab developed a more national German service.

John T. Fishel
07-26-2008, 03:27 AM
in SOUTHCOM. I did not like him but I came to have a lot of respect for him. He was intellectually honest and able to admit that he made mistakes. An 06 friend and boss (perhaps the reverse) gave me some good advice on dealing with Thurman - never tap dance. if you don't know something say so, he would not hold it against you. But God help you if you tap danced:rolleyes:!

I saw Thurman take critical comments from subordinates in his stride when the subordinates knew what they were talking about. I saw him gently tell two of us that what we gave him was not what he wanted but he gave us time to get him what he wanted and the guidance to know what it was. I also saw his prejudices, inconsistencies, and total lack of concern for the personal lives of his staff.

On balance, GEN Thurman was a good leader at the unified command level. His record on leading the Army into an effective all volunteer foce is enough to cement his legacy.

Frankly, we could have done a lot worse and have .

Cheers

JohnT

zenpundit
07-26-2008, 05:24 AM
So, here's my question: Is there any difference between the office corps of the United States Army as opposed to the Wehrmacht? Was the Prussian tradition of producing military leaders substantially different than the United States? And finally, what was it that made the German officer corps so effective?

I mostly agree with the summary of Fuchs. A few additional comments.

The tiny, 100,000 man Reichswehr under von Seeckt consisted almost entirely of officer material, most of whom initially had combat experience ( 7 year enlistments, if I recall correctly). The cap imposed by Versailles allowed von Seeckt to select the very cream of the crop. Many outstanding WWI officers tried to finagle Army slots, even on half pay or in the reserves and failed.

The Wehrmacht, based upon conscription, was not like the Reichswehr and the former was far more egalitarian than the old Imperial Army of the Kaiser ( the Waffen-SS even moreso). The middle class and lower middle-class made deep inroads into an officer corps whose higher reaches had previously been dominated by the junkers class. Politicization creeped in as well.

Hitler had far more operational control over the Wehrmacht in WWII than the Kaiser had over the Imperial Army in WWI. The Fuhrer had assumed the powers of the War Minister with the dismissals of von Blomberg and Fritsch, the chief of Staff and the creation of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht under Keitl. Additionally, Hitler's sometime number #2 in the Nazi hierarchy, Goering was both Air minister and head of the Luftwaffe.

The U.S. military culture is -and has always been - unlike that which prevailed in the German military during the Kingdom of Prussia or during the Second and Third Reichs. The personal oath of loyalty taken to Hitler, for example, is inconceivable here as is the Imperial Army's position as a State within a State that existed under Wilhelm II. The American military is ultimately both more subordinate and less servile to the civil power in America than it's counterpart was in Germany during that period of time.

Fuchs
07-26-2008, 05:44 AM
Hitler had far more operational control over the Wehrmacht in WWII than the Kaiser had over the Imperial Army in WWI. The Fuhrer had assumed the powers of the War Minister with the dismissals of von Blomberg and Fritsch, the chief of Staff and the creation of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht under Keitl. Additionally, Hitler's sometime number #2 in the Nazi hierarchy, Goering was both Air minister and head of the Luftwaffe.

The U.S. military culture is -and has always been - unlike that which prevailed in the German military during the Kingdom of Prussia or during the Second and Third Reichs. The personal oath of loyalty taken to Hitler, for example, is inconceivable here as is the Imperial Army's position as a State within a State that existed under Wilhelm II. The American military is ultimately both more subordinate and less servile to the civil power in America than it's counterpart was in Germany during that period of time.

But this didn't increase the fighting power of the Wehrmacht - it rather reduced the fighting power.
The manpower drain called "Luftwaffe" that took too many young men away from the army and later (when it was obvious that you don't need 300,000 young men to monitor the space of France for just 200 fighters stationed there) formed field units that were badly trained and performed poorly.
The Waffen-SS was initially too unexperienced and had too high losses as well.
Both existed for political reasons only and together were so seriously that not doing these mistakes might have meant Soviet defeat in WW2.

zenpundit
07-26-2008, 08:55 PM
But this didn't increase the fighting power of the Wehrmacht - it rather reduced the fighting power

Hitler's greater personal command was a mixed bag for the Wehrmacht. Despite postwar recollections to the contrary by German generals, many times Hitler had a better grasp of military opportunities or pitfalls than they did. This however did not outweight Hitler's numerous grand strategic errors or tactical rigidity later in the war.

IMHO had there not been a Hitler but still a European war in 1939, Germany might have lost a smaller war over relatively insignificant stakes - like Danzig - faster to less cost to the world.

The manpower drain called "Luftwaffe" that took too many young men away from the army and later (when it was obvious that you don't need 300,000 young men to monitor the space of France for just 200 fighters stationed there) formed field units that were badly trained and performed poorly.

Agreed. The Luftwaffe never lived up to either Goering's promises or Hitler's hopes ( for that matter neither did American strategic bombing for the Allies) and was a bloated fiefdom for the Reichsmashall.

The Waffen-SS was initially too unexperienced and had too high losses as well.Both existed for political reasons only and together were so seriously that not doing these mistakes might have meant Soviet defeat in WW2.

The Waffen-SS was a political construct that was ideologically motivated to accept high casualties. To an extent, that was wasteful but the Waffen-SS also became militarily very effective elite formations ( not all of them, obviously, but the Hitler Bodyguard and Deutschland divisions stand out). This is the character of old fashioned elite units - " The guard does not surrender, it dies"

Regarding whether the Germans could have won on the Eastern Front is one of the most interesting counterfactual questions of WWII. Time and space was always against them but greater political sense might have helped.

Norfolk
07-26-2008, 09:30 PM
This might be of some help to you, Menning:

Check out the Introduction to the 1933 edition of the German Army's capstone doctrinal manual, H.Dv. 100/1 Truppenführung I. Teil (Troop Leading, Part I) (http://cid-20167beb77da6d98.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/H.Dv.%20100%201%20Truppenf%c3%bchrung%20I.%20Teil% 20%7C5Troop%20Leading,%20Part%20I,%20U.S.%20Army%2 0Translation%7C6,%20German%20Army,%201933), and note particularly how the very first page and a half and starting with the very first sentence, are fundamentally about character as the basis for leadership:

1. The conduct of war is an art, depending upon free, creative activity, scientifically grounded. It makes the highest demands on the personality.

Compare how TF 33 and the 1941 edition of FM 100-5 Operations (http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/Data/tmp/linearize_objYAsFmXks3WgmXh9DXXTYBjpHeRrj0AVamF80T +uqs18QVRdcG595TzjhsjCiz2olybzLttHa6_1iAp0L1boKZS7 fT5QXr6daT9caac5ts_.pdf) (which was deliberately modelled after TF 33) begin; the Introduction of TF 33 is all about the role of character, leadership, and trust; 1941's FM 100-5 begins with "Organization" and then proceeds to "Arms and Services". It is not until Page 18 that "Leadership" is dealt with - though in a way similar to that of TF 33, even if less aggressively. Then compare both TF 33 and 1941's FM 100-5's treatment of leadership to the current FM 3-0 (or even FM 6-22). Very different, needless to say; the German approach is very much about human beings, while the US approach is very much about organizations, and increasingly so over time.

Ken White
07-26-2008, 09:50 PM
is probably the single most important point anyone has made on this board since I first came. Gobsmacked by the blindingly obvious, that's me...

Years of puzzlement as to why the potential wasn't being met, why the mediocrity -- swept away in a second.

Thank you.

Tom Odom
07-27-2008, 01:02 AM
Very different, needless to say; the German approach is very much about human beings, while the US approach is very much about organizations, and increasingly so over time.

JRTC versus NTC :wry:

Ken White
07-27-2008, 02:08 AM
Berthier as improved by Scharnhorst and adapted to the US at the direction of Secretary of War Elihu Root had it right. The number One staff agent was the Personnel guy, followed by number Two, the Intel person. Seems logical, own troops and the enemy and their capabilities and intentions were needed by the number Three guy, the Operations Officer to do much of anything -- and the poor number four, the hapless Loggie, had to try to support said doing. That worked. We have now elevated the Three to two steps above primus inter pares and, as a long time Ops guy, I'm not sure we've done ourselves any favors...

The dropping of the human element to a lower priority than organization and functions didn't have time to adversely impact performance to a great extent during WW II but it has slowly done some damage since.

I wonder if the transformation with the 1941 edition of FM 100-5 owed its subordination of people to process to the then creeping bureaucratization in D.C or to the malevolent influence of Frederick Taylor and / or the Deming crowd? Or both? Probably both. McNamara accelerated the destruction for sure.

I don't think that subordination has served the US Army at all well and it probably needs to be undone.

We need to return to our Roots (bad pun intentional).

Fuchs
07-27-2008, 05:11 AM
Van Creveld wrote a lot about the management and individual-ignoring approach of the U.S.Army in "Combat Power". It was basically about Taylorism - wells-suited to primitive factories, but ill-suited for the stress and irregularity of war.

I mostly disagree with his conclusions in the book for some reasons, but it's nevertheless a source for some useful info.

William F. Owen
07-27-2008, 06:58 AM
...there is nothing special about them ,except that at the operational and tactical level they teach/do what works and dispense with the other stuff that doesn't. Historically as an Army, that makes then very special.

Despite the obvious historic, moral and even ethical problems, the IDF adopted the German model of leadership in one gulp - rejecting the British. There is a very strong feeling in the IDF right now that the leadership style, above the tactical, has become "American" - that is technology based. "Plasma Screen Commander" is now a term of abuse.

IMO, leadership is purely human, and about the most important human aspect of the military instrument.

wm
07-27-2008, 01:52 PM
Here is a quotation from the penultimate paragraph of Field Marshall Kesselring's memoirs (The Memoirs of Field Marshall Kesselring Greenhill 2007 reprint of the 1953 translation, p 314)

I had the honor to have under my command a large number of the best German divisions, and I know that the victories of German soldiers in the field would have been impossible had there not been a sworn comradeship between the men and their officers.

What is perhaps more instructive is his discussion about perceived failings of German leadership in the paragraph immediately preceding, which concludes,
The more astonishing, therefore, must it be to any reasoning person to hear that our military training and education was wrong all along the line and that we must revise our ideas in accordance with democratic principles--for example, those of the U. S. army. That is more than I can take.

Worth reading the whole paragraph, not just the conclusion I've lifted from it.

Fuchs
07-27-2008, 02:41 PM
Maybe he meant it politically?

---

Some German officers expressed their opinion post-war that the U.S.Army approach was 'right' in that it replaced blood with ammunition.
Wartime officers and troops apparently despised the rather cowardly and unskilled style of simply using superior quantities of heavy weapons and ammunition instead of trying hard with tactics and other non-material strengths.
I thought/think that these opinions had little merit; The different material intensity was an expression of capabilities and lack thereof, not really a free choice.
The armies had no genies in a bottle to change their circumstances. They had to do the best with what they had. And Germany didn't have enough artillery, ammunition supply and tanks left for land warfare (partially due to the anti-air defenses of the Reich).

zenpundit
07-27-2008, 03:17 PM
Despite the obvious historic, moral and even ethical problems, the IDF adopted the German model of leadership in one gulp - rejecting the British.

Perhaps due to the political dominance of the Ashkenazim with their central European orientation in pre-1948 Palestine. That and the firsthand experience some Jewish refugees had in fighting against German arms either in national armies or in underground resistance.

Some German officers expressed their opinion post-war that the U.S.Army approach was 'right' in that it replaced blood with ammunition.

The U.S. with it's tradition of vastly expanded wartime armies of citizen-soldiers and numerically few professional officers had to be pragmatic in pressing hard what strengths the U.S. Army possessed.

William F. Owen
07-27-2008, 04:11 PM
Perhaps due to the political dominance of the Ashkenazim with their central European orientation in pre-1948 Palestine. That and the firsthand experience some Jewish refugees had in fighting against German arms either in national armies or in underground resistance.

All good points, but I'd be rather more inclined to believe that the very strong socialist tradition in the early pioneers, was largely responsible.

...plus being outnumbered and out gunned made for an extremely pragmatic approach to combat operations. - to whit while I might say the IDF adopted the "German model", the IDF would probably say they adopted the "socialist model."

There is a very good account of IDF officer training in Reuven Gal's book, "Portrait of an Israeli Soldier." (http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&id=y_s6_k8ngccC&dq=Reuven+Gal&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=4_VqS-MAno&sig=uVHvlUXTlDPBLVR5OZes2c6c6cc&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result)

Uboat509
07-27-2008, 06:29 PM
Somebody correct me if I am wrong but didn't the Wehrmacht parallel tracks for officers, one for commanders and one for staff officers? I have always heard that a big part of the reason for the debacle at Stalingrad was that Paulus had been rewarded with a command for his skill as a staff officer (which I have read was considerable) but was not up to the task of command. I know that Rommel had his famous quote about the difference in the qualities that make up a good staff officer vs. a good commander. Perhaps there is some merit to that. Being good at one (staff or command) does not necessarily make you good at the other. That's not to say that you don't need to understand how both work, just that you don't necessarily be good at both.

SFC W

Steve Blair
07-28-2008, 02:09 PM
The Germans did tend to strip officers out of the field command side if they passed the examinations allowing them to enter the staff officer track, BUT they also had a rather different view of staff work than we did at the time (and possibly still do). For the Germans (at least in the idealized view of operations), the chief of staff was supposed to be the field commander's alter ego. It was in theory a complementary position. This is in direct contrast to American staff positions in the 1800s through the early 1900s, which were a way to get out of any field work. The rivalry between line and staff officers in the 1800s is legendary, and caused a great deal of heartache.

Root did some good things, but he also saddled the Army with a dysfunctional personnel system. It seems we have discarded most of his "good" while clinging to the "bad."

Ken White
07-28-2008, 04:36 PM
...It seems we have discarded most of his "good" while clinging to the "bad."We're masters at it... :D

Fuchs
07-28-2008, 05:30 PM
The staff work at higher than army group level (OKH, OKW) was badly distorted by politics (Hitler), but at army group, army and corps levels it was approximately like this:

- A relatively small staff (mobile, often using hotels or French chateaus as HQ, sometimes HQ trains)

- chief of staff runs the everyday business (which was in calm times very bureaucratic, in hot times/crisis very much communication with superior and subordinate units) and keeps as much minor work and decisions away from the commander

- the commander of the army group/army/corps made the big decisions when in the staff, but was also free to visit superiors/subordinate units and frontline

- the chief of staff usually had the commander's trust and had the commander's powers in the staff during his absence. An army group chief of staff could give an army a new mission if the original commander was absent, for example.

- staff personnel was if possible carefully chosen for good cooperation. Extreme commander characters got complementing partners as chief of staff, for example. Proved officers were often kept in a commander's staff even if he was promoted from corps to army and such.

- Commanders and staffs didn't give much detailed orders and some commanders like Manstein refrained entirely from giving advice as well.

- The commanders led by assigning (replacing) commanders of subordinate units and giving missions. Junior and medium-ranked officers (maximum colonel) were used as couriers and to check something in exceptional circumstances (not as routine couriers).

- If possible, Fieseler Storch STOL liaison aircraft were used for quick travel and even for occasional terrain reconnaissance on the Eastern Front. Cars (usually former civilian upper class cars) were used even more often.

- Keep in mind that corps were often very much reduced in strength and very often (especially on the Eastern Front) just at division strength in 1943-1945. The command became more direct in such cases, like missions directly for individual tank battalions (as a tank corps often didn't have more than a single tank battalion left...).

- There were ARKOs at corps level, dedicated artillery coordinators (Bruchmüller style) for the static phases. These had a very small staff, but they were afaik independent of corps staffs and assigned on an as-needed basis.



I had a look at the different "battlefield management" systems and alike. I was surprised by the lack of functions (at least publicly showed functions) of such software.
Nevertheless, I thought for a while (and came to no real conclusion yet) whether the C4I functions and the leadership function could/should be separated. This old staff model might be a basis for that. A commander who's deeply involved in a video game screen might be useless for the human (morale) factors that are so important for leadership.
I'm thinking of a more strict separation than just between commander and S3.

Old Eagle
07-28-2008, 07:15 PM
The predominance of the German General Staff probably stems from the 19th Century, before rapid and effective communication was developed.

One of the outcomes of the Prussian/Austrian GS education process was to create an indirect command and control system. Commanders were selected for their charisma and elan and often relegated to a position of executing GS orders promulgated by the staff. Since general staff officers had been through the same course of instruction and worked the same MAPEXs and TEWTs, they developed similar approaches to situations and bonded closely with classmates. This meant that in the face of an unanticipated "branch" in an operation, the GS operations officer could recommend (and often even direct) a course of action to a commander, knowing with a high degree of certainty how other units around him would be reacting. All this without radios, telegraphs or computers. Couriers, the primary means of communication were dispatched, but were often too slow to affect an unfolding situation.

Granite_State
07-28-2008, 08:12 PM
is how hands off it could be. Von Moltke the Elder had entire armies go without orders for a couple days at a time during the 1866 war. You have to have a lot of trust in your subordinates to do that.

Eden
07-29-2008, 01:43 PM
Before this turns into too much of a lovefest, the German General Staff system had its flaws.

It came close to being a dual command system. When the commander and his chief were soul mates, it worked marvelously; when they were not, it could lead to confusion, conflict, and dysfunction.

It tended to elevate technocrats into the realm of strategy where they often performed poorly.

Small staffs and a streamlined orders process afforded the Germans marvelous operational flexibility but often atrocious logistical support.

All in all it was a good system and rightly a model for all modern militaries, but it (and all other modern staffs) was constructed based on 19th century conditions that are fading in relevence.

Uboat509
07-29-2008, 04:43 PM
This all reminds me of a time at when I was at JRTC as a augmentee O/C. I was inside the TOC for one of the maneuver battalions. It was a monstrosity, a comandeered building, plus a frame tent, plus a generator, staff drones as far as the eye could see and all for one battalion. The BC and another officer were discussing some kind of new HMMWV mounted modular system to "streamline" the whole thing. The BC turned and asked the CSM what he thought about streamlining the TOC down to a half a dozen or so vehicles or whatever it was to which the CSM replied, "Sir, I can remember when the BN TOC was twelve rucksacks in a circle."

SFC W

Ken White
07-29-2008, 04:56 PM
Before this turns into too much of a lovefest, the German General Staff system had its flaws.
. . .
... but it (and all other modern staffs) was constructed based on 19th century conditions that are fading in relevence.

UBoat's contribution also has a great deal of merit -- and is today relevant:"Sir, I can remember when the BN TOC was twelve rucksacks in a circle."Particularly if three or four of those rucks have a laptop in them...

selil
07-29-2008, 05:40 PM
Technology bloat is insane. I don't know what a battalion does. If I did I might make some strong suggestions, but I might mention a few things without getting yelled at I hope.

in the form factor of a combat rugged laptop you can get the same computing power today in a secure operating system that was a super computer a mere decade ago. That same laptop using off the shelf software can be a server, a communications conduit, hooked to satellites, projection systems (the size of a six volt battery) and have drop and drag capability on a big screen that can be projected anywhere. It can be hooked to GPS that is INTERNAL to the laptop.

Why are military radios the size of a dog house? Why does NVS look like it was created by a drunk Star Trek Borg crossed with a LSD crazed tinker toy set? I should hang out with a Marine or Army infantry battalion I could design a crop of better, faster, cheaper toys.. Oops I forgot the military industrial complex doesn't like that.

How much technology do you need? An iPhone can carry 3000K songs, run for 16 hours on audio 5 to 6 on video with one charge. It can provide television quality video in a form factor to die for. Yet last I saw infantry units were lugging around big old LCDs to watch the data from drones. GPS functionality with Google maps in an iPHone with real time updates. How big is that GPS system in a Stryker vehicle? Cost versus an iPhone?

Leadership is also about providing the right tools for the job. I don't know all your jobs but dang it appears you make it hard on yourselves.

jmm99
07-29-2008, 06:46 PM
For the same reason that I am physically unable (under joint service medical regulations - under 3 counts) to turn a key as a missile launch officer, for example. Military men and machines have to be capable of all possible actions and of resisting damage from all possible reactions. At least that seems the concept (IMO). Sometimes, the result (e.g., radios that could be used as boat anchors) may seem ridiculous. Beyond that, the topic "ain't in my department, sir."

Tom Odom
07-29-2008, 06:49 PM
Technology bloat is insane.

True and it is addictive beyond belief. The ever present drum beat to have more ways to gather and display information buggers any hope of analyzing that information in a meaningful way. A five word bullet is not analysis but a lot of folks think just that.

One thing comes to mind. A few years back I got a call because the US was looking to provide training on the military decision making process to the Rwandan military to help them get ready for deployment to Darfur. A well established US contractor was looking to bid and they wanted me. I started laughing when I heard about this. I asked simply did they really think the senior military leaders of a small country who had begun their military careers as first insurgents in a foreign country, helped overthrow the government in that country, then kept its government in power as counterinsurgents, then invaded their own country, won a political victory, stopped genocide, and defeated the government forces (backed heavily by France by the way), and then to finish those forces invaded and conquered another country (Zaire) 86 times larger than Rwanda needed US Army MDMP to put a small brigade on airplanes to fly to Darfur? Apparently they thought so because they did not hire me :D

We could learn some things from the Rwandans...

Tom

davidbfpo
07-29-2008, 06:59 PM
Tom in particular,

The latest RUSI Journal has a fascinating article on Rwanda's miltary, by Greg Mills (a South African author) and the link goes to a summary, alas not free access. I'm sure RUSIJ will cross the Atlantic to a few good libraries.

davidbfpo

William F. Owen
07-30-2008, 05:45 AM
"Sir, I can remember when the BN TOC was twelve rucksacks in a circle."


All my research and experience leads be to believe that any competent army can run (C3I) a battle group out of 4 command vehicles (4 x M113). Beyond that you need 8 good officers, and 8 good NCOs.

Formation seems a little trickers because of all the attached arms, but I think merely doubling what a battle group has may be useful rule of thumb.

Technology bloat is insane.

The Mechanisation avant garde weenies (like Fuller and Liddel-Hart) said that mechanisation would reduce cost and manpower, but they were 100% wrong. The Digitisation weenies are exactly the same. - except digital command systems should can can reduce manpower and cost!

Eden
07-30-2008, 01:30 PM
The first law of automation is this:

"There is no such thing as a labor saving device"

Now, technology has made some things easier. It is much, much easier to train a tank gunner than it was 25 years ago, for instance, because technology has reduced the complexity of and dexterity required for putting steel on target. Yet we still spend as much time or more training gunners. Why is that? Because we have raised the bar of acceptable performance. Gunners must be able to hit targets farther away in a shorter period of time. Why? Because improved technology allows us to.

Same thing for the staff, only worse. Imagine a system that allows the S4 in an armor battalion to track the number of rounds by type and the amount of fuel in each tank in real time. Because he has this, he can be held personally responsible whenever a tank runs out of fuel or bullets, and therefore must spend some time and energy tracking this. Now multiply this bit of info by the hundreds of other bits of info improved technology allows him to track, and suddenly your S-4 section needs to expand to handle all the extra work.

The 2nd Law of automation is:

"The number of people who need to plug into your system will always exceed the available bandwidth."

As connectivity increases, functions get pushed lower. The traditional field artillery and engineer attachments are still there, side by side your CI, HUMINT, CA, PA, MI, contractor, etc., etc. Because bandwidth can never quite keep up, it is still most convenient to have these guys plugged directly into the TOC. And more plug ins require more folks whose sole function is to keep the machine itself operational. And we are not emptying out the higher headquarters, either, because you need the same number of folks (or more) up there to coordinate activities across unit boundaries.

Thus, headquarters grow like topsy. The old style, ramp-to-ramp TOC still exists, but we call it a TAC now - and guess what, those are also growing.

This will continue so long as we insist that the staff retain its 19th century function as a 'funnel' of information to the commander; we need to turn it into a 'filter' before we can arrest or reverse the trend.

wm
07-30-2008, 01:57 PM
All my research and experience leads be to believe that any competent army can run (C3I) a battle group out of 4 command vehicles (4 x M113). Beyond that you need 8 good officers, and 8 good NCOs.

Formation seems a little trickers because of all the attached arms, but I think merely doubling what a battle group has may be useful rule of thumb.I watched/worked in a constrained environment where we ran a mech division out of a streamlined Bde TAC CP with a little augmentation--site consisted of 2 M577s, an M113, and an MSE vehicle for comms--of course that was mostly combat ops--we left most of the admin/log stuff up to the very bloated D-Rear CP. It does take very competent, multi-talented folks who are cross-trained to do each other's jobs though--no prima donna, "that ain't my job" specialization allowed.

The Mechanisation avant garde weenies (like Fuller and Liddel-Hart) said that mechanisation would reduce cost and manpower, but they were 100% wrong. The Digitisation weenies are exactly the same. - except digital command systems should can can reduce manpower and cost! Digitization could reduce manpower if all users were technology competent--that is, able to do things beyond just typing inputs in a Powerpoint chart or Excel spreadsheet and reading what they see on the screen--just like leaders once needed to be "literate" (be able to read and write), nowadays, they need to be pretty darn tech savvy or else they will have to have a mini-army of technologists to keep them in the game.

Fuchs
07-30-2008, 02:48 PM
It's a general phenomenon.
Technology can save the time necessary to finish a specific task, but we always use by adding more tasks ... alway more more more.
The human mind is difficult to satisfy. We could live just as happy as we are if we were more easily satisfied, ten hours of work every week and we could still live better than our grandparents did. Instead, we expand our desires endlessly.

But the military adds some aspects to this: Ever increasing tasks can be detrimental to success. The ability to improvise, to change intent and missions quickly and to focus on all that's not being covered by reports can be crucial.

Perfect logistics (if that was possible by staff work) are fine, but sometimes it's simply better to be critically low on supplies but several days earlier at the objective. Improvisation helps a lot.

Maybe we should have parallel concepts; some units employing the big staff concept and others using very small staffs. The lessons would be interesting.
The alliance offers the unique possibility to test that; smaller member's armed forces could adopt the lean model and test it. That would allow them a greater share of combat troops and significant combat troop power.
Exercises and experiments could show the benefits of both approaches.

I tend to prefer small staffs and low-echelon improvisation for airborne and armour brigades/battalions. Airborne needs to improvise in many of its typical missions anyway and armour benefits a lot by quick decision-making and high mobility staffs.

Ken White
07-30-2008, 03:13 PM
on all that.......

JHR
07-30-2008, 05:43 PM
Base on the various comments and observations above, sounds like we need to assign Brook's' The Mythical Man-Month an FM or put it on the reading list.