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Thread: SFA capability is rooted in Individual Talent (part 1)

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default SFA capability is rooted in Individual Talent (part 1)

    The research JCISFA conducts with respect to identifying best practices and the planning and exercise activities that JCISFA supports indicates that the cornerstone for SFA capability resides in individual talent. In some ways this may seem self-evident - in training for any mission essential task we identify what are the individual requirements such as marksmanship, driver skills, etc. which must be covered as prerequisites in our training strategy. Where SFA differs is that because the object is to develop sustainable capability and capacity in somebody else’s security forces, the individual ability to employ his subject matter expertise, experiential skills, and overall knowledge is the critical capability, e.g. the one that directly impacts the objective, vs. the collective capability in which it is packaged, and which enables it. Make no mistake, the collective capability is often the capability which enables, sustains and supports the individual capability, but the individual capability of being able to use your own individual skills, attributes and experiences to support someone else’s developmental requirements is the capability that influences the FSF opposite. Why is influence the critical piece? Because ultimately the goal is a degree of self sustainment in the FSF which achieves our policy objective(s), and that requires they (the FSF being supported) see where your efforts are beneficial or critical to them.

    Within the debate on how best we should insitituionalize SFA as a capability there has been a great deal of discussion about organizational solutions. These include the capability of existing force structure to meet requirements, and the need for specialized force structure to meet these requirements. The discussion while generating friction does not really move the issue forward. It does not really address the fact that SFA capabilities are rooted in individual talent, and that any organizational solution in and of itself will not meet the range of operational requirements required by policy, but in fact will leave us with a limited capability that will often put the burden on the operational commander to either wedge it into an operational need, or to break it apart and reform it to meet that need as well as possible – both are current practice, and both are full of risk.

    While it is incumbent upon the services and JFCOM to consider the risks to the institution with any course of action with regard to institutionalizing and generating SFA capabilities, it should first consider the risks to the policy objective, e.g. putting the “right” capabilities into the hands of the operational commanders. One comment on a large commitment to specialized force structure is the issue of it being an “unsustainable” option. This does not tell the civilian chain of command anything except that given the other things we think we must do, we cannot support that as a course of action. To this I suspect a response could be the directed elimination of other capabilities in order to make specialized force structure available and sustainable (either within a service or in DoD writ large). It does not show the civilian leadership the services can adapt their processes to generate capabilities required to enable a preferred operational course of action, rather it postulates that conditions and policy should be adjusted to support the capabilities it prefers to generate. Further, such rationale creates a false bottom as ultimately it will still have to generate those SFA capabilities in the same ad hock fashion as it has, which may in fact protract conflict by not putting the right capabilities on the ground, risk the policy objective, and create more stress on the force then if it had adapted its programs, policies and processes to be able to generate the right capabilities initially. Organizational solutions may be easier to program, but they are not necessarily effective.

    There are in fact several good reasons why force structure (specialized in organization or by mission) is not an optimal solution to generating SFA capabilities.

    1) Specialized force structures ultimately become special – that is they lose part of their utility, and develop safeguards to protect what they perceive as their mission. These walls not only keep things out, they also keep them in. No matter how much structure is allocated, it is likely that at some point the need to interoperate on fundamental levels with non specialized force structure will occur. At that point any lessons available to the non-specialized “rest of the force” will be hard to incorporate to increase the capacity of any capability. This issue is not so different the one we see between Special Operating Forces and General Purpose Forces (consider all the debate on SOF/GPF integration) . If it is true that we must be prepared to wage both conventional and irregular warfare (a useful bifurcation of warfare in terms of thinking about capabilities) to achieve our policy objectives, then it makes sense to take those steps which develop our total force to meet those challenges. SFA individual skills are fungible across the spectrum of warfare (they are ultimately about people and people wage war), and as such should be developed across the force – creating specialized force structure does not support this.
    2) The subject matter expertise and skills required to conduct SFA come from being developed in various capacities and experiences throughout a career. – e.g. if someone is going to advise a foreign security force armor brigade commander on how to be an armor brigade commander, the range of developmental experiences accrued by the advisor need to be relevant. Having someone who at some point lived that developmental process rather than just studying it lends itself to credibility and legitimacy. The additional “advisor” skills can be trained in a relatively short time (relative to the time required for experiential development), provided there is both a well developed process for doing so (doctrine, training, leader development and education) and that the right people can be identified based n the mission (personnel policies).

    3) This type of capability, rooted in individual talent, lends itself to tailored solutions. Specialized force structure is not too much different then saying a brigade sized unit is the answer to every set of conditions and objectives. Individual capability that is trained, developed and educated, which can refer to descriptive doctrine, and that can be tracked and identified to meet specific conditions provides for capabilities which can be assembled effectively and efficiently to meet a requirement. It does require organizational flexibility on a number of levels, and it does require acknowledgment that problems can be unique and have unique tolerances, but this approach ultimately generates less risk to the policy objective and less stress on the force by extension. In this case, while the assemblage of capabilities from the “talent pool” seems ad hoc in appearance, the processes which support it support a capability that is well developed and tailored to the requirements, e.g., it is a form of deliberate task organization.

    4) The scope of SFA requirements are such that the breadth includes the range of possible security services that exist in a partner, or may be required of the partner, and the depth includes the individual patrolman, minister, soldier, etc all the way up to the institutions which sustain them. This requires us to be able to leverage the total force which includes the Active Component and the Reserve Component, SOF and GPF, the Generating Force and the Operating Force, the individual and the collective based on requirements that are defined by closely considering the objectives in light of the conditions (not I did not even account for those things which may be better done by another USG agency). This means that there is no standard answer and that any attempt to standardize an answer creates risk to the objective. We know by our current and historical experience that conditions change both in terms of geography, and evolve over time. When we try and deliver a standard package for SFA developmental capability without consideration of conditions and objectives it is akin to saying that saying that for all we are going to teach is 10th grade High School literature course regardless whether what you really need is an elementary level course, or a university level one and regardless of that you really may already be fine with literature and wanted math, science or history.


    5) Finally, this approach supports maintaining our overall adaptability. Allowing leaders to move between the “controlled” environs of our CTCs and other events when eventually we return to a more normal set of conditions, and the “uncontrolled” environments associated with security force assistance (and other activities which take us out into the real world) supports a perspective that helps to prevent our building DOTMLPF practices which support war as we’d prefer it vs. as it is. We currently adapt well inside the operational environment because we face enemies and other adversaries who are trying to gain and retain the initiative, as such we must adapt of die. In the controlled environments the adversaries are often our faithfulness to practices and as such there are penalties for adaptation. We’ve fought hard for our gains in these areas which manifest themselves in the type of subordinate/superior tension in dialogue where disagreement is often healthy.


    cont. below

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default SFA capability is rooted in indivudal Talent (Part 2)

    cont. from above

    The way forward is to recognize that these capabilities are rooted in individual talent, and that we should consider our DOTMLPF practices and policies to support better individual development in these areas. The areas should include a review of what we really require in terms of individual capabilities at every level (E1/W1/01 and up), and then with that knowledge change our leader development and education programs from the time we recruit and assess all the way through our senior education programs. Further we should look at the developmental assignment path with foster and promote these experiences so they are inculcated into leaders at every level. There is work to do in the other DOTMLPF categories to support this as well. I’ve attached a one slide overview of how we might better address developing SFA capabilities if done so as part of a broader human resources strategy vs. trying to generate these capabilities in mid flight.

    Best, Rob
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default "Guns don't kill people, People kill people"

    Seems to me, Rob, that a lot of what you are saying here goes back to a really simple observation - people do things while structures condition what people may or may not do (in the sense of rewards and punishments). Actually, I think I tend to agree with your general argument but, only, if your forces get rid of that insane Up or Out policy. The only way you can nurture talents is allow them to be used but, if your HR policies require different talents at different levels (which they do), then you have a serious problem.
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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    Marc - some good points. I'd say the place to start would be to look to the GCCs and the subordinate component commands and see if in fact their SFA capability requirements are being "fully met", or are they just being "filled" - and then looking to see what steps should be taken to make it the former vs. the latter.

    The desire to reconsider policies (HR or others) is one of willingness to take on some hard issues and reconsider self defining beliefs. I think if an institution can't get past that then its recalcitrance is exposed as policy risk and they may have postured themselves for irrelevance (at least the perception of it given current requirements). Fully supporting the current and anticipated requirements are as important as being able to support those which you might identify as critical, but that have not yet been made real. It goes back to something we talked about over beers (and which I believe you have on you web site).

    Best, Rob

    P.S. thanks for the comments via email on the other doc - I'll shoot you an email tomorrow.

    BTW - really liked this
    people do things while structures condition what people may or may not do (in the sense of rewards and punishments)

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default

    My observation would be that individual talent has more to do with individual ability to "think" then any actual talent. A great shooter does not make a great shooting instructer by default, they have to be able to present it in a clear and understandable way to others. For good SFA, you have to be able to think how the host forces can best deal w/ the situation rather then falling by default into how American forces would deal with it (i.e. airstrike). Hope this makes sense and helps, I'll work on rephrasing it to be more clear.
    Reed
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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    I think you are on to something really important here, Reed. "Talents" come in a variety of areas, and having a talent in one area may well be useless if you don't have a talent, or sufficient skill, to teach that area. It may actually hinder teaching that area since you never had to learn the skill the hard way.

    I'm not sure that "thinking" is quite the right work... maybe "communicating in baby steps" might be better .
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default

    The book I just reviewed on the blog is a good example of Rob's post. Among 1st Lt Gray's team, some are fit for advisor duty and others not so much. Gray's desire to learn and empathy skills earn him respect among his charges. He is clearly the type of mentally flexible officer we want for this kind of duty.

    Unfortunately, the Army has no systemic method of ensuring the right person gets to the right job, we continue mostly as interchangeable cogs in the HRC machine.
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    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
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    Default Problems AABs can fix...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Among 1st Lt Gray's team, some are fit for advisor duty and others not so much. Gray's desire to learn and empathy skills earn him respect among his charges. He is clearly the type of mentally flexible officer we want for this kind of duty.
    THE chronic issue with RFF MiTTs in my opinion. I have not read your review yet, but will. Not sure if Gray's MiTT was "out of hide" or RFF. The advantage that "out of hide" MiTTs have is that the Bn and BDE commanders select who is on the team. Unfortunately, I don't think enough thought or consideration of special and required skills goes into the selection process; which is a shame.

    Unfortunately, the Army has no systemic method of ensuring the right person gets to the right job, we continue mostly as interchangeable cogs in the HRC machine.
    My hope is that this can be remedied by the AAB/SFA concept, or the advisor branch/FA concept. The talent and required personal attributes that would make someone a good Advisor exists in BCTs...it's just a matter of finding it. I also hope that rank is not a consideration. One of the best members of my MiTT was our E-5 medic; who almost single handedly created and trained all of the personnel in the Medical platoon of the Iraqi Battalion we advised. He possessed many of the same attributes of 1LT Gray.

    The way forward is to recognize that these capabilities are rooted in individual talent, and that we should consider our DOTMLPF practices and policies to support better individual development in these areas. The areas should include a review of what we really require in terms of individual capabilities at every level (E1/W1/01 and up), and then with that knowledge change our leader development and education programs from the time we recruit and assess all the way through our senior education programs.
    Of course understanding that is long term. I think the 50m target is finding out what worked/was effective training at our MiTT training institutions based off AARs from the field (hopefully they've been done). I'm sure you guys are on top of that; I'd be interested to see tour AARs from MiTTs; and what trends have emerged as success/unsuccess.

    Further we should look at the developmental assignment path with foster and promote these experiences so they are inculcated into leaders at every level. There is work to do in the other DOTMLPF categories to support this as well. I’ve attached a one slide overview of how we might better address developing SFA capabilities if done so as part of a broader human resources strategy vs. trying to generate these capabilities in mid flight.
    Is this what a possible SFA branch or FA will be borne from? Or in lieu of that, allow individuals to be career members of AABs?

    Rob, thanks for the emails, as well.
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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Selection Criteria

    Rob, good post once again, and good comments by all.

    Niel- enjoyed the book review. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Through Rob's last three posts, he's started a foundation for GPF to organize, plan, and train for SFA.

    In regards to selection criteria, I'd propose the following to add (it kind of dovetails the discussion in the previous threads and Niel's book review).

    When selecting/organizing your team for SFA, a commander must consider the following:

    1. Individual Talent
    2. People skills
    3. Ability to solve or work in complex/ill-defined environments

    Initially, I suggested that one of the main components should be the ability to develop, build and foster relationships. Rob suggested this action as a means to leverage existing FSFs to accomplish the mission. I agree, but I believe that is the overall objective.

    To clarify, one can use the terms people skills, relationship building, team-building, etc...whatever best communicates the concept. As an advisor or GPF unit conducting SFA, one should strive to develop a bond/friendship with counter-parts.

    Several ways to accomplish this include:

    1. Eating meals together
    2. Fighting together
    3. Training together
    4. Living together and sharing hardships

    A commander must be selective when choosing individuals that have the ability to work with indigenious forces. Some soldiers are simply not people-persons and have a hard time adjusting outside of our normal military command structure. IMO, Those individuals do not need to be working directly with FSF. As a commander, I would allow those soldiers to work unilateral reconnaissance or direct action missions.

    Given the relatively small pool a company/battalion level commander has to select his advisor teams from, I would imagine that teams will be generated off merit and not rank. This shift in thinking will be extremely difficult for many GPF forces, but I think it is a necessary one.

    Standing by for feedback. Hope this is a bit helpful.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    Hey Jake,
    You bring up some things worth discussing more broadly. I don't think the answer lies in finding an organizational home for SFA in terms of separate specialized force structure, or even to go the route of a functional area. I think that would ultimately result in some of the problems we've seen when we have gone that route in the past.

    There are three key reasons why I think we should seek to inculcate these capabilities into our total force:

    1) First, I think when we have gone that route it is based on an assumption that we can wage war as we'd prefer it, and such those capabilities can be neglected, or relegated in preference of others. I don't see this as an either/or sort of capability, but one that should be seen as integral to the use of military force or military forces to achieve a policy objective. In that respect, I think the organizational home is throughout DoD (e.g. the COCOMs, the Services, the Institutions, the formations, etc.)

    2) Second, and a supporting observation to the first, is that when we go down the road of specialization we lose some utility. In some cases this may be desired as the requirements are such that you cannot avoid it, the resources required are prohibitive of general application, or because the demand is such that it is defined sufficiently to accept risk - interestingly we find ourselves challenging this last one on a number of levels. To keep from running out of Schlitz, and to ensure these ability to generate more SFA capabilities, the total force has to take this on. Because we are by nature political and bureacratic, we tend to build walls and insulate when we go down the road of organizational specialization.

    3) Third, and supporting the second, is the need to continually develop the "day job" skills which make us credible. Organizational and functional specialization can be a great way to develop and hone "special skills" to a keen edge, but they also have a kind of gravity that pulls you away from further development in base areas of core competencies. There is enough diversity in terms of a given FSF, and what their governing authorities may tolerate, that we have to be able to look across the total force and be able to adapt the capabilities to changes in requirements based on new conditions and objectives.

    Ultimately if understood and done correctly, I think we can establish the kinds of DOTMLPF programs and policies that allow us to generate the right sized SFA capabilities effectively (and as such ultimately more efficiently) provided we don't constrain ourselves to specific organziational solutions because they are easier to program, or because it suits our notion of what is right, and what we are trying to advance or protect. This may take task organizing to a whole new level, and may require seniors to decentralize to an uncomfortable level and empower subordinates - but this seems the way to seize and retain the initiative at all levels anyway. The question is will we educate, train, develop and organize for it?

    I readily agree with you that the talent is out there, the question is will we adjust to unleash it, and will we further facilitate and enable it by adjusting our DOTMLPF practices? E.g. will I allow Jake to organize and train his organization to do this mission, or will I constrain him? There is more to that then just obstinate commanders, there is a significant education piece that starts with supporting the understanding of higher echelon commanders what is required so they recognize the relevance and the need to empower subordinate commanders and leaders.

    I hope we will recognize this and demonstrate that we have a handle on it, otherwise there may be a perception that due to demonstrated inflexibility the only solution left to developing this capability is specialized force structure, in which case I think we all lose - the capability is capped and constrained, and the value of developing the capability and of conducting the activities is confined to a select few and we get a kind of institutional inbreeding.

    Best, Rob

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Dead on the money

    Mike, Great salient points ! Gives me the heeby-jeebies each time I wonder why our hierarchy has not completely figured this out. Even when our Director didn't get it, our Officers and NCOs in the field did. Tom (Odom) used to call it "identifying individual strengths and weaknesses while putting together a pick-up basketball team". His talents, skills and ability obviously permitted him to do so.

    My last Ambassador said "If you integrate with the locals, you can accomplish anything". Indeed we can !

    Regards, Stan


    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post

    When selecting/organizing your team for SFA, a commander must consider the following:

    1. Individual Talent
    2. People skills
    3. Ability to solve or work in complex/ill-defined environments

    Initially, I suggested that one of the main components should be the ability to develop, build and foster relationships. Rob suggested this action as a means to leverage existing FSFs to accomplish the mission. I agree, but I believe that is the overall objective.

    To clarify, one can use the terms people skills, relationship building, team-building, etc...whatever best communicates the concept. As an advisor or GPF unit conducting SFA, one should strive to develop a bond/friendship with counter-parts.

    Several ways to accomplish this include:

    1. Eating meals together
    2. Fighting together
    3. Training together
    4. Living together and sharing hardships

    A commander must be selective when choosing individuals that have the ability to work with indigenious forces. Some soldiers are simply not people-persons and have a hard time adjusting outside of our normal military command structure. IMO, Those individuals do not need to be working directly with FSF. As a commander, I would allow those soldiers to work unilateral reconnaissance or direct action missions.

    Given the relatively small pool a company/battalion level commander has to select his advisor teams from, I would imagine that teams will be generated off merit and not rank. This shift in thinking will be extremely difficult for many GPF forces, but I think it is a necessary one.

    Standing by for feedback. Hope this is a bit helpful.

    v/r

    Mike
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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    MIke - I think you are pretty much on the money. I tried to tackle this in the thread on planning, training and organizing for SFA, and in a supporting way on the thread on the fundamentals of SFA.

    In the Plan/Train/Org doc I tried to illustrate how the five block model can be used by commanders and leaders to evaluate the talent and aptitudes of their folks to organize. This gets to your point about figuring out who is more cut out for sustained and direct interaction with the FSF, and who you trust to be your agent of influence in supporting the FSF.

    Jake was spot on with his medic anecdote (I had a similar anecdote on our Nat'l Guard E-4 medic who performed at multiple levels to include what I'd seen in Medical Plat PSGs and PLs - for those interested see the SFA Case Study). This also gets back to something Neil, Dave Kilcullen and others have been saying about COIN- don't constrain yourself solely to rank, position or pedigree, but instead look to talent and ability. Use the tools available to see yourself in light of the requirements of the mission. To do so we have to get smart on the mission, and that was why I referenced the fundamentals. You have to understand some of this in order to effectively plan, train and organize.

    You are right about there being a unique set of dynamics to leading or working within a small team of advisors that require certain skills, attributes, willingness to not be "the man", willingness to facilitate competing opinions, and other unique dynamics . I'd say allot of this has been chronicled in a number of places, and leveraging the JFK SWC would be a huge benefit to understanding how we might better incorporate this into our total force.

    One of the things we have to get over is the fear of adjusting DOTMLPF to reflect what is actually happening in the operational environment. If we could better capture some of what is going on, we might find that it is in fact in line with our desired objectives of furthering institutional adaptability, and institutionalizing it in ways that make it sustainable.

    It is kind of a paradox where our narrative on this objective seems confined to keeping it constrained to something we can manage under familiar terms. It seems kind of like we are willing to acknowledge that we know where we need to be, but are very uncomfortable with the risk in getting there. However, I'd say the cat is out of the bag, and we've correctly identified and sold this as the way forward, so civilian leadership will accept nothing less. Time will tell.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 05-19-2009 at 03:53 PM.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Darnit- beat to the punch by Stan - again, solid and $$$ points by Mike. Best, Rob

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Time to step back and contextualize...

    (sheesh! I'm sounding like an academic!... O, yeah, I am one...)

    One of the things I've noticed is that the military tends to use the same words as academics (or vice versa, take your pick ), but with different meanings. This is clearly the case when we look at "education" and "training" (I commented on this and pulled it apart in Ch. 4 of the Mosul Case Study), and I think it also applies in the case of "skill" and "talent".

    For me, I define "talent" as an inborn, hardwired (aka genetic) propensity to find performing some action or operation more easily than other people. I use the term "skill" to refer, regardless of any talent, to the ability of an individual to perform the actions and operations associated with that skill. Now, these definitions have some implications that are both a) pretty obvious to anyone with two neurons to rub together, and b) anathema to the PC crowd, since they assume an innate, genetic difference between people.

    Sometimes (rare, but it exists), we find people whose talent is so pronounced that they really do not need to "study" or "learn" how to perform the skill - they already "know". Mozart is an example of this type of talent (in musical composition), but there are others. Most of the time, however, a talent is only shown by a person finding some type of training a) easy and b) enjoyable, at least in the sense that the performance of the actions and operations bring that individual pleasure (the training may, in their view, suck the galactic muffin!).

    When it comes time for someone to teach the actions and operations associated with a skill set, someone who has a truly great talent for that skill set is often the worst person to teach it - at least to teach the basics of it. This is because they have never actually had to learn it the hard way, so they don't actually "know", in step by step form, how they learned - they take way too much for granted and, as a result, tend to be poor teachers.

    Now, this isn't to say that someone with a talent in any area cannot teach that area - they can. It's just that they have to spend a lot of time learning how to pull their own actions and thought processes apart which, is a separate skill set that, I believe, Reed was referring to as "thinking" in an earlier post.

    Which brings me to another, related point: skill sets are culturally and sub-culturally defined in addition to any technical boundary conditions. If you achieve a desired result using a skill set in a non-culturally approved manner, you may well end up being punished for it.
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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Au contraire

    Hey Rob,
    Fantastic post and thread as is expected from you !!!
    Mike just seemed to sum up in short bullet points what may have worked out to be another Army Reg with dissertations and years before its time

    Then we'd need an anthropologist for sure

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Darnit- beat to the punch by Stan - again, solid and $$$ points by Mike. Best, Rob
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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Mike just seemed to sum up in short bullet points what may have worked out to be another Army Reg with dissertations and years before its time

    Then we'd need an anthropologist for sure
    .........
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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Actually we do...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post

    Unfortunately, the Army has no systemic method of ensuring the right person gets to the right job, we continue mostly as interchangeable cogs in the HRC machine.
    It’s called "Special Forces Assessment and Selection."

    This is not to say that there are not many great service members across the force with the mental ability, aptitude, and experience to conduct FID effectively; or the physical ability to be in SF; or both; that are not in SF. Clearly there are.

    But you raise a great point, and that is that the big army sees this as one more mission that it tasks down to a BCT (or AAB) to execute, and that the standard promotion and assignment process will produce the right people in the right jobs to go out and do this just like they do every other mission.

    My experience, however, is that the big army's approach to training of others tends to fall into the category of "there are two ways to do things the US army way per (name the reg); and the wrong way." Then, instead of seeking to understand why your training audience can't seem to perform "to standard" they tend to cop a "I'm better than you" attitude and then instead of changing your approach to fit the target audience, they simple keep trying to pound the square peg into the round hole.

    Short war story: I did a lot of FID in my short tenure as an ODA Commander in 5th SFG, both with foreign troops in a combat environment, and with US law enforcement in an interagency environment. I made mistakes sure, but learned a lot about going into someone else's backyard to help them do their jobs more effectively.

    Then I left the Regular force to go to law school, and joined the 41st "Enhanced Infantry Brigade" in the Oregon Guard. A great unit with a great heritage, but they had all of the problems inherent in being a closed gene pool of personnel that don't cross pollinate TTPs in general and have very little time to train to any standard beyond basics. As one of 15 "Enhanced" Brigades they received special funding above other Guard units, and therefore received special focus from the Active Force. Two teams of advisors were created, and I saw them all from start to finish.

    One team was your good buddies who lived in the community and had office space at your armories. Though they often equated to being the same size as the full-time guard staff, they could only offer advice but specifically could not lend a hand in actually doing anything. So they would sit in their office and read the paper, and wander into the training officer's office 2-3 times a day to offer advice, and then go back to doing their homework for the college classes they were taking, etc. Good Cop.

    The other team was based at Fort Lewis, and they were trainers and evaluators. Their job was to set up training lanes and evaluate units and staffs IAW the Mission Training Plans (MTPs). Once it was determined that Enhanced Brigades would get CTC rotations ("denying" an AC unit/commander of the same) it got ugly. The evaluators made it their duty to prove that the Guard units were not prepared. In fact, they applied "special" standards to the guard. MTPs have unit tasks, leader tasks and critical tasks. Army standard is that a number of unit/leader tasks can be failed and achieve a go. Missing one Critical task meant failure. The COL (Armor, I forget his name, but he probably remembers mine...) in command proclaimed that for the Guard, "since aren't all leader tasks critical?" that for our evaluations all leader tasks would carry the same effect as a critical task. Needless to say, compiling the higher standard with less experience and training resulted in an extremely high failure rate. Bad Cops

    Guard units had to literally expand their BN and BDE TOCs to be three times the normal size in order to accommodate the platoon of "advisors" and "evaluators" that roared into your training site, 1-2 per GSA SUV, for every training event. One guy would tell you three ways to do your job, and the other guy would tell you three reasons why you suck. Evaluators at company level would countermand orders from battalion if it interfered with what they wanted the company to do. Tactical Platoon night movements to contact would be stopped in mid movement for AARs, complete with Gas lanterns blazing and easels and flipcharts of the standards.

    I could go on and on. These guys were conducting FID/SFA, and they absolutely, for all of their expertise at the tasks they were attempting to impart, SUCKED at FID. And to a man, and I know a lot of great officers and NCOs who participated in this grand AC/RC operation, can tell you in great detail about all the ways the Guard soldiers and units failed to meet standards; but are clueless about how equally abysmal they were at FID/SFA.


    I share this only to make a point, and the point is this: This is a mission that is about far more that providing advice and training assistance. Conventional units can play a major and important role in this; but this is best applied in a supporting role, so that they can focus on what they are really good at, and let others focus on what they are equally and uniquely selected and trained to do.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 05-19-2009 at 04:59 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post

    I share this only to make a point, and the point is this: This is a mission that is about far more that providing advice and training assistance. Conventional units can play a major and important role in this; but this is best applied in a supporting role, so that they can focus on what they are really good at, and let others focus on what they are equally and uniquely selected and trained to do.
    Sir,

    Great post highlighting the challenges in training and mindset, and the failure of the AC/RC guys to build rapport and advise.

    I think we are saying the same thing, except from my view the last few years, I have not seen SF actively seeking to shape the GPF advisory mission. We were forced to assign GPF soldiers as advisers in OIF and OEF because there aren't enough specifically trained and selected guys in your branch to do so.

    So the Army's first attempt was "Well, let's deploy the USAR Training Divisions as advisers, since it's a training mission." That was a disaster, as these great individuals were prepared to run basic training for US kids, not mentor Iraqi battalions. Then we created Ft. Riley, taking an Armored BDE (!) to run advisory training. Where was SWC? Hell if I know. It would seem a no brainer that if SF couldn't fill the adviser demand, they should have at least run the training, since it's been the core competency of SF for the last three decades or so. But we didn't for whatever reasons. Same story for recent doctrine.

    In the two years I have worked at CAC as the ops officer for COIN, I have seen little interest from the US Army SF community in GPF efforts to get better at this. I can count on one hand the number of times anyone working for USASOC (excepting COL Maxwell/USASOC G3) has contacted the COIN center here about anything we are doing. Sure they attend the occasional conference, but mostly I have received the impression that most in SF just wished we would go away, usually muttering comments about "amateurs". People are doing the best they can with imperfect resources and less background to make this work. As a very personal observation, SF seems to have schadenfreude over the whole GPF circus with building TT's. My perception is that they haven't been a big part of the solution.

    SOCOM is a different story though, so is JSOU. They have been actively plugged into what has been developing. Just interesting to me.

    There's a big study coming up about SOF/GPF integration. I hope it produces something.

    So in a way, the SF have failed to advise/influence the GPF. Kind of reverse of what happened with your AC/RC experience.
    Last edited by Cavguy; 05-19-2009 at 06:31 PM.
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  19. #19
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default This is a very fair comment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Sir,

    Great post highlighting the challenges in training and mindset, and the failure of the AC/RC guys to build rapport and advise.

    I think we are saying the same thing, except from my view the last few years, I have not seen SF actively seeking to shape the GPF advisory mission. We were forced to assign GPF soldiers as advisers in OIF and OEF because there aren't enough specifically trained and selected guys in your branch to do so.

    So the Army's first attempt was "Well, let's deploy the USAR Training Divisions as advisers, since it's a training mission." That was a disaster, as these great individuals were prepared to run basic training for US kids, not mentor Iraqi battalions. Then we created Ft. Riley, taking an Armored BDE (!) to run advisory training. Where was SWC? Hell if I know. It would seem a no brainer that if SF couldn't fill the adviser demand, they should have at least run the training, since it's been the core competency of SF for the last three decades or so. But we didn't for whatever reasons. Same story for recent doctrine.

    In the two years I have worked at CAC as the ops officer for COIN, I have seen little interest from the US Army SF community in GPF efforts to get better at this. I can count on one hand the number of times anyone working for USASOC (excepting COL Maxwell/USASOC G3) has contacted the COIN center here about anything we are doing. Sure they attend the occasional conference, but mostly I have received the impression that most in SF just wished we would go away, usually muttering comments about "amateurs". People are doing the best they can with imperfect resources and less background to make this work. As a very personal observation, SF seems to have schadenfreude over the whole GPF circus with building TT's. My perception is that they haven't been a big part of the solution.

    SOCOM is a different story though, so is JSOU. They have been actively plugged into what has been developing. Just interesting to me.

    There's a big study coming up about SOF/GPF integration. I hope it produces something.

    So in a way, the SF have failed to advise/influence the GPF. Kind of reverse of what happened with your AC/RC experience.
    You are spot-on that USSOCOM has not shaped the development of the conventional force as it has ventured into what has traditionally been SF territory. SOCOM is not the Executive Agent for COIN, as an example, and as a rather small HQ with a rather large mission, has been reasonably reluctant to take on full proponency for several DOD-wide programs with strong SOF roots. We should have taken on a tailored level of proponency, and shaped the portion of the doctrine that defined the context and spirit of these operations, allowing the conventional force to pick up from there.

    Similarly, after being "burdened" with a couple of rotations of raising and training the Afghan National Army, SF escaped that mission and SOF forces in theater all headed out to focus on sexier roles. In retrospect, the mission essential tasks in Afghanistan were not on the border with Pakistan, they were in mentoring the development of the governance of the country. There should have been a more appropriate balancing between what was important, and what was sexy. No one wants to be back at a school house or Gov't office when his brothers are out running combat operations.

    Point being, that SOCOM absolutely does not have a corner on "smart" and has made as many mistakes in approaching this conflict as any other HQ.


    But we start this war from where we are right now. How we got here is interesting, but not worth agonizing over. We need to, in my opinion, have two main priorities in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

    1. Enhance HN governance legitimacy in the eyes of the populace, and work equally hard to stop any activity or policy that tends to create a perception of US legitimacy over the same.

    2. Focus on enabling "goodness" of governance over creating "effectiveness" of governance. (the first being rooted in the perception of the populace, the latter being something measured by us outsiders).

    This new focus would drive a very different perspective for the employment of all elements of US power in both AORs. A return of true and full authority to the HN (I.e., We only do what they ask us to do or approve, all detainees are HN detainees, and if asked to leave we leave); no US unilateral operations; etc.

    Bottom-line: In order to achieve true and positive change, we must first relinquish control. The problem is that Cold War strategy was rooted in controlling others, so it has become our paradigm. Time to move on.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 05-19-2009 at 06:59 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    I agree with Rob, that having a method to allow the BCT's to provide organic SFA support is beneficial, and that the means he is looking at is the right track to go. Yes Bob, the SF are better at it, but how big a push, from within the SOF community no less, have you seen for more DA missions for SF? In remote conditions and limited support missions, or in training for CT missions, then yes SF is the only way to go, but for our current endeavors and in likely future missions then SFA needs to be shared with the GP forces. This is due to both the size of the mission and the nature of training required. Are the SF really good at teaching how to do combined arms missions, or are they good at primarily light infantry and commando ops?
    So Niel, why does the Army insist in over specializing units (My guard unit has switched from infantry to a BfSB; can anybody tell what exactly the need or mission for a BfSB is, because I have no clue?) and insisting that soldiers can do everything well. The Army makes mortars a separate MOS instead of a basic infantry skill (mortars, at 10 level, is NOT complicated) but make operating and maintaining a complex armored vehicle (Bradley) an infantry skill instead of a separate MOS as it should be. Sometimes I think I should just beat myself with the stupid stick so that I will stop questioning why and accept all that the Army tries to sell me.
    Reed
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