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Thread: Agility, Adaptability and Innovation: the Art of the Counter-Punch

  1. #21
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default I second that...

    Hey Ken !

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The AWC shouldn't be a step too far but it probably is -- that doesn't mean NCOES couldn't stand a whole lot of tweaking and strengthening. We almost deliberately tend to create under performers.

    OCS should be tweaked to allow non-degreed attendance. Give those graduates two or three years service as a LT then send the promising ones to get a degree. Those who don't rate a degree can go back to their prior rank or depart. Tough? Maybe -- it's a tough job...
    Most of our PLC for potential promotees is just weak. No pressure other than getting that degree (most already had an AA and were well into a BA). I think it's great that all of us could read and write, but that's about where it ended (at least for me, with little challenges other than eating at the chow hall).

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Plenty of ways to make up the shortfall in Officers some see impending due to the societal changes in the world and the US. We also need to think of ways to employ all the SSGs that the reenlistment hump is going to produce against the drawdown in enlistments that is occurring and is likely to worsen.

    Or, we could reduce the number of officers. The way we do it now, designed to provide a mobilization pool by by overstaffing Officer jobs is really sort of inefficient and, in its own way, is as tough on Officers as throwing out underperformers.
    The E-6 issues were indeed a problem for most of us (SNCOs). I approve of the 12-year mark and they go. Some just were not making the grade and sailing to E-7 (and retirement) was wrong. We did however slight some good performers back in 81 and 82. Drawdowns were tough, but it was the right decision in our ranks. Today's E-6 is far better for it, some really good junior NCOs !

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Being a Platoon leader is good training (and an Armored Cavalry Platoon Leader is the best combined arms training one can get) but NCOs can lead platoons quite effectively. The French (who have their strengths) traditionally have two of their four platoons per company led by NCOs (or used to, not sure what they're doing since they stopped conscription). The rather successful German Army in WW II had NCO PL.

    Maybe what we've always done needs a look.

    Now that would be Agility...
    .
    The French still do run nearly half the Company with SNCOs. It's not only logical, it's more effecient and permits the Officers to concentrate on more demanding issues. The Germans make far better use of their NCO corps today; they fly and almost command helo squadrons as one example. Their initial training may have been just as expensive as a Warrant Officer's, but in the end their pay is far less.

    I don't think we've set the 'bar' too high, but we've neglected to look within our current ranks for talent when filling slots.

  2. #22
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    Ken,

    a top down approach within the Army, my guess is that will not happen. I could be wrong, certainly have been before and I really, really hope I am.
    The early signs certainly are not propitious. Casey seems to be articulating a view of a post-Iraq organizational ‘reboot’ (can’t remember who first used this term but essentially ‘back to the way we were’) for the Army (and for the purpose of equity, Conway’s recent public articulation of ‘we are too heavy’, need to get back to amphibious warfare, etc, also suggests the same). A hope is that the Army may take at least some heed of Gates articulation that ‘small wars’ were going to be a perennial mission over the next 20 or so years (but Gates is time limited, so he can be waited out, to see what are the views of the next Sec Def and President – a clear reason for trying to convince the Pres candidates).

    However, a combination of "Nothing wrong, the system worked for me," plain old inertia, the massive bureaucracy and Congress will make such an approach problematical at best. It will also, if it occurs, be spotty in its effect because various nooks and crannies will go into pet rock protective mode and the cascade of directives will miss some who will emerge stronger than ever and plunk for a return to 'normalcy.'
    All too true. Institutional inertia and friction are too often the death of institutionalizing innovation, resulting in only partial implementation, the complete derailment of innovation or the petering out of the implementation process over time with the organization eventually returning to its default position.

    I agree that the potential for a bottom up approach at this time is as good as its likely to get. That would have the advantage of a "back wash" effect on those nooks and crannies. If the LTs and CPTs push hard, it could happen. The junior field grades are likely to be passive for the most part but the Colonels will probably flock to the barricades. No insult to anyone intended; all will be going with their perception of what's right and best but the system is designed to be change resistant and the Colonels are the gate keepers.
    Your observation is spot on. Any bottom up ‘insurgency’ to have any chance of succeeding will require some degree of top down cover and support from some ‘visionary’ officers, both at the GO and Col level, and the Lts and Cpts you point to will need to have a long term view that sooner or later they may, when higher up the hierarchy, be able to exert greater influence. A mid range hope is if supportive Cols and Lt Cols are promoted up to GO: though I acknowledge that the career path needed to become a GO tends to mitigate against many of the supportive officers being promoted to GO, or their remaining supportive due to 'socialization.' And this points to the need for appropriate career paths/opportunities being created for those officers at all level who support change. All very long term, likely very episodic, and very, very uncertain.

    Nobody wants to go to untried models that may be detrimental rather than improvements and surprisingly large numbers fail to realize the impact of Congress on the personnel and training systems...
    Again, you are quite right with this point. One of the reasons why, as you say, ‘the potential for a bottom up approach at this time is as good as its likely to get’, is that it is possible to link the srotsf of changes desired/required to what they have experienced and they can perceive the potential benefits. As for Congress, well, it is the Congress…..

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Project 100,000 has a lot to answer for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    ...
    The E-6 issues were indeed a problem for most of us (SNCOs). I approve of the 12-year mark and they go. Some just were not making the grade and sailing to E-7 (and retirement) was wrong. We did however slight some good performers back in 81 and 82. Drawdowns were tough, but it was the right decision in our ranks. Today's E-6 is far better for it, some really good junior NCOs !
    Agreed. There are some really sharp kids out there and they're far better trained than in my day. Though I think they are still undertrained when one considers the rather awesome capability...

    Also agree on the time spenders but I would suggest that we took the 'easy to manage' approach on how to get rid of the marginally competent. We just applied the old 1865 infantry basis of issue to rank allocations and we need to look at that. I've seen a lot of Motor sergeants who were absolutely super mechanics and were awesomely competent technically -- but had no clue how to run a Platoon and really didn't want to. Same applies to most technical fields. Organization can have some odd and unexpected effects.

    "The French still do run nearly half the Company with SNCOs. It's not only logical, it's more effecient and permits the Officers to concentrate on more demanding issues. The Germans make far better use of their NCO corps today; they fly and almost command helo squadrons as one example. Their initial training may have been just as expensive as a Warrant Officer's, but in the end their pay is far less.
    True, the Germans also use their senior NCOs as the 'battle captain' at Co level and charge them with being the trainers (while the Co Cdr still has the leadership role and responsibilities in both domains). We're slowly converting PSGs and 1SGs from beans and bullets to trainers and tactical / technical advisers to their bosses, that needs to be accelerated and embedded. Wouldn't hurt to lower the TIS norms.

    I don't think we've set the 'bar' too high, but we've neglected to look within our current ranks for talent when filling slots.
    Agreed -- why ain't we in charge???

  4. #24
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Being a Platoon leader is good training (and an Armored Cavalry Platoon Leader is the best combined arms training one can get) but NCOs can lead platoons quite effectively. The French (who have their strengths) traditionally have two of their four platoons per company led by NCOs (or used to, not sure what they're doing since they stopped conscription). The rather successful German Army in WW II had NCO PL.
    A lot of people miss this point. Certainly good NCO's can run a platoon as well or better than the 2LT nominally in charge. But as an NCO pointed out to me, the PL job allows that officer to learn his trade in a "catastrophe-free" enviornment. Although it does happen, a normal PL has at least 8-10 NCO's of varying grades in his unit, and can keep the unit from major failure. So he winds up with a big saftey net.

    The alternative is PL's starting as company commanders and XO's, where they don't get the NCO mentorship received as a PL.

    Regarding direct comissions, prior service officers tend to be either some of the best or worst officers I meet, and rarely in-between. The difference often is those who wanted to become exceptional leaders and apply their NCO/enlisted experience and those who saw being an officer as an easier, higher paid life with no latrine detail. The other trend is that many seem to reach max potential as a CO CDR (where they excel), because they are unable to adapt to "big thinking" on staff. Subjective and shotgun blast opinions, and you don't have to look far for exceptions.

    Every comissioning source has its good and bad points. I will second that we need battlefield promotions, the USMC does it in Iraq but the Army hasn't. It used to be to replace leaders who were casualties, but it is a powerful reward tool as well.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  5. #25
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Thanks again, TT

    Quote Originally Posted by TT View Post
    ...
    ... A hope is that the Army may take at least some heed of Gates articulation that ‘small wars’ were going to be a perennial mission over the next 20 or so years (but Gates is time limited, so he can be waited out, to see what are the views of the next Sec Def and President – a clear reason for trying to convince the Pres candidates).
    I suspect some in high places will heed Gates but there will be those who simply wait him out. That's what they did with Shy Meyer and John Wickham. Interestingly, Meyer wanted to change the system and got only a few things done; Wickham wanted to change the culture and got most of his ideas through. Partly a function of the size of the bites of the elephant each elected to take.

    ...Any bottom up ‘insurgency’ to have any chance of succeeding will require some degree of top down cover and support from some ‘visionary’ officers, both at the GO and Col level, and the Lts and Cpts you point to will need to have a long term view that sooner or later they may, when higher up the hierarchy, be able to exert greater influence. A mid range hope is if supportive Cols and Lt Cols are promoted up to GO: though I acknowledge that the career path needed to become a GO tends to mitigate against many of the supportive officers being promoted to GO, or their remaining supportive due to 'socialization.' And this points to the need for appropriate career paths/opportunities being created for those officers at all level who support change. All very long term, likely very episodic, and very, very uncertain.
    True but I see some signs of that top cover and believe we have a window. I'm doing my best to support it but I am running out of Newts to boil. And straight pins...

    ...As for Congress, well, it is the Congress…..
    As the man said "Aye, therein lies the rub..."

  6. #26
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    While in OBC, a wise old Colonel and an equally wise old SGM each told me that I would be issued an E7 who would teach me how to become a good leader of soldiers, if I was willing to watch, listen, and ask questions. I was also lucky enough to have had enlisted experience prior to going to ROTC; usually I could tell when I was being trained and when I was being snookered by my PSG as well as the three other E7 section chiefs and 5 SSGs in my Platoon (no, it was not a rifle platoon). I suspect that my 18-odd years of non-rated time as a "brat" helped some, too. I watched two other 2LTs (one from USMA, one from ROTC) struggle with their platoons. If they had gotten the same guidance as I did, they certainly failed to heed it.

    LTs need to remember to use their mouths and ears in the same proportion that they were issued. I think that's actually pretty good advice for any leader or staffer, regardless of grade.

  7. #27
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    That's what they did with Shy Meyer and John Wickham. Interestingly, Meyer wanted to change the system and got only a few things done; Wickham wanted to change the culture and got most of his ideas through. Partly a function of the size of the bites of the elephant each elected to take.
    Ah hah, potential subjects of reseach! Thanks.

    True but I see some signs of that top cover and believe we have a window.
    I agree that there is currently a window of opportunity. Time will tell who steps through the window (or is pushed through - positive defenestration? ) and who they are able to carry with them.

    I'm doing my best to support it but I am running out of Newts to boil. And straight pins...
    I for one am rooting for ya to 'defenestrate' a few.

  8. #28
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True, a lot do but I don't

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    A lot of people miss this point. Certainly good NCO's can run a platoon as well or better than the 2LT nominally in charge. But as an NCO pointed out to me, the PL job allows that officer to learn his trade in a "catastrophe-free" enviornment. Although it does happen, a normal PL has at least 8-10 NCO's of varying grades in his unit, and can keep the unit from major failure. So he winds up with a big saftey net.
    All true for the way we do business today and I pointed out that the old mixed bag Armored Cavalry Platoon is the best such combat arms training vehicle around. The question is, IMO, is the way we do business today the most effective way? And that is a question...

    The alternative is PL's starting as company commanders and XO's, where they don't get the NCO mentorship received as a PL.
    Again, if you presume that we must organize and operate as we do today. I'd also note that I suggested the French model of half and half may have some merit.

    Of course, I've also for over forty years suggested that true combined arms battalions should be the norm and thus have never accepted the "can't mix vehicles" argument as valid.

    And that the bulk of US parachute forces should be Cavalry Squadrons or Brigades; we had the technical capability but elected not to use it because that wasn't the way we were organized...

    An aside question -- do the Marines still use Marine Gunners as Tank PL?

    Regarding direct comissions, prior service officers tend to be either some of the best or worst officers I meet, and rarely in-between. The difference often is those who wanted to become exceptional leaders and apply their NCO/enlisted experience and those who saw being an officer as an easier, higher paid life with no latrine detail. The other trend is that many seem to reach max potential as a CO CDR (where they excel), because they are unable to adapt to "big thinking" on staff. Subjective and shotgun blast opinions, and you don't have to look far for exceptions.
    I agree on every count and that mirrors my experience and observation over a long time and four wars. I have seen a few who deservedly made it past the Co Cdr mark. I've also known a couple who should have and did not as well as several who should never have been entrusted with a Company.

    Yet another question. Is there anything wrong with having a good extremely competent Co Cdr who is going to run one Company sized unit or another for ten to fifteen years? Progressing say from line to hindquarters to a garrison or some such as he aged (Yeah, I know, that'd drive HRC bananas -- and that's a good thing... ).

    Every commissioning source has its good and bad points.
    Again agree. There are trends from each source but the one thing that works is that the majority are good and the promotion selection process we now employ essentially works if it is a little prone to be overly generous for progression, retention and end strength purposes -- not combat effectiveness purposes. I realize the importance of all those things and know that balance is required. I also believe that we do not now have that balance and merely acceptable combat effectiveness is the result (with full acknowledgment that many units transcend that -- but suggest that is due to the people and hard work overcoming a significant systemic imbalance).

    The question here is do various sources lend themselves to better performance at certain levels and / or in certain positions and are there ways to improve staffs and commanders, thus the Army, related to that?

    I will second that we need battlefield promotions, the USMC does it in Iraq but the Army hasn't. It used to be to replace leaders who were casualties, but it is a powerful reward tool as well.
    I suggest not only battlefield but it merits consideration in the bulk of time that Armies spend not at war.

    What I'm doing, of course and among other things is challenging the validity and value of the current highly competitive system to the individuals, the Army and the Nation.

    Not to mention and far more importantly the viability of it for the future...
    Last edited by Ken White; 11-05-2007 at 06:38 PM. Reason: Typo

  9. #29
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Hey, that smarted (just a tad)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I've seen a lot of Motor sergeants who were absolutely super mechanics and were awesomely competent technically -- but had no clue how to run a Platoon and really didn't want to. Same applies to most technical fields. Organization can have some odd and unexpected effects.
    I was a motor sergeant as an E-5 in an E-7 slot with everything from a M151 to a M110.

    I get your point though.

    I think Tom's frist day in Africa with me was, to say the least, odd and unexpected

  10. #30
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Shouldn't have, I was talking about those

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    I was a motor sergeant as an E-5 in an E-7 slot with everything from a M151 to a M110.
    old, old dudes, not a young hard charging buck Sergeant performing well above his pay grade -- you're the kinda guy that saved those old dudes...

    I get your point though.
    Good. Uh, ummm. Er, uh. Yeah. Uh -- what was my point...

    I think Tom's frist day in Africa with me was, to say the least, odd and unexpected
    Hey, any guy that would take his wife and kids to a fun in the sun vacation in Abuja probably deserved a little odd stuff...

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