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Thread: Leadership in History Pertaining to the Present

  1. #21
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    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

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    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."
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That -- is the American way...

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    ...It seems we have discarded most of his "good" while clinging to the "bad."
    We're masters at it...

  4. #24
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #25
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    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.

  6. #26
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    Default The thing that impressed me about the German model...

    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.

  7. #27
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    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.

  8. #28
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    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

  9. #29
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Most definitely...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    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...

  10. #30
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    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.
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  11. #31
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    Default Why are military radios the size of a dog house?

    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."

  12. #32
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Crackberries

    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

    We could learn some things from the Rwandans...

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 07-29-2008 at 06:16 PM.

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    Default Rwanda exposed

    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

  14. #34
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    "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!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Default Laws of automation

    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.
    Last edited by Eden; 07-30-2008 at 12:33 PM.

  16. #36
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    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.
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  17. #37
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    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.

  18. #38
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We can agree

    on all that.......

  19. #39
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    Default Technology & Leadership

    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.

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