The Mission Command philosophy is built on the premise that war is uncertain and chaotic, and no single plan can effectively address all situations in any war scenario. This is particularly more applicable in defensive operations, which have no particular planned activity. The philosophy emphasizes the empowerment of decentralized execution and decision making by subordinates. The described position of 1/55 ABCT makes the Mission Command philosophy even more essential. With unprecedented enemy action and the subsequent mission operations dependent on defeating or bypassing the enemy, the commander must apply the mission command philosophy as there is inevitable change every minute. The commander will have to empower the subordinates as they are on the ground in different positions of the mission and play a significant role in observation, reporting, and action, and adding decision making to the mix makes the mission even more potentially successful.
Applying the Mission Command Philosophy
The mission command philosophy’s objective is to foster decentralized decision-making and empower the subordinates during a mission, which is realized through consistent reference to the principles of mission command. Various variables have to be considered in the mission, including the terrain, time availability, enemy characteristics, weather, civil considerations, availability of troops, and the final mission. As such, the decisions of the ABCT commander will depend on these factors.
There will first be a deliberate effort to ensure mutual trust and shared understanding among all members, mainly staff, subordinates, and the commanders. With the situation at hand, a shared understanding and trust are imperative since all the members of the division are in different groups and positions along the route to the mission, communication across the teams is essential, and teams need to not only have a common understanding of what they are fighting against but also to trust information from the other teams in the division. For instance, the advance guard, being at the frontline, acts as the trigger to enemy action against the mission. They may not be aware of what the enemy does to cut off the other groups in the division from the mission and need to receive and trust information from the rear groups, such as the Cavalry Squadron and the rest of the division’s body. This environment of mutual trust and shared understanding can be developed by first trusting each of the subordinates leading the different teams to give accurate reports, and then encouraging the other team members to follow commands in line with obtained reports. A shared understanding will enable the development of a shared sense of purpose, ensuring an effective response to commands along the route and based on the enemy’s actions.
The next principle to be applied is that of competence. In a defensive operation, competence is a crucial element as response to enemy action should be fast, informed, efficient, and effective. Understanding the overriding mission, which is to capture and secure OBJ TANGO, is essential for the individuals who would be trusted and empowered with decentralized decision-making. Additionally, the selected individuals have to be highly competent to make decisions within a short time, and whose decisions would not jeopardize the primary mission. The objective of 1/55 ABCT in the defensive operation is to defeat or bypass the enemy; hence the commander must ensure that those to whom decision making is delegated have a strong sense of purpose and skills that will enable them to focus on the main mission rather than the defensive aspect en route to the actual mission.
The commander will also consider the commander’s intent and mission orders. The entire division should have a consistent understanding of the mission orders. The initial mission orders are aimed at capturing OBJ TANGO, and this perspective should be maintained. The defensive operations should thus focus on establishing a way to achieve the key goal of the mission. The commander’s intent goes hand in hand with adherence to the mission orders and should be communicated to confirm to the division that the commander’s instructions aim to facilitate the achievement of the primary goal. This cannot, however, be achieved amidst a defensive operation whereby the need has arisen during progress to another mission; hence the best approach to communicate this intent is to use the subordinates in charge of the different units in the division. With common communication across the units, the objective of the commander will be clear. Common communication will also be a strategy for empowering the subordinates by portraying their leadership’s legitimacy to their respective units.
Both risk acceptance and disciplined initiative are essential considerations for Mission Command philosophy implementation. The decision to decentralize decision-making and empower subordinates requires careful consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of the available troops vis a vis those of the enemy in a defensive operation. For the ABCT commander, the individuals to lead others as the decentralized decision-makers ought to possess significant risk acceptance. The military leader has to be able to put the lives of others above his life, and this is only possible for one who would accept risk, while at the same time ensuring that the risks taken are wisely selected to minimize costs in terms of infrastructural damage and loss of lives. Disciplined initiative means that the subordinate has to understand their mission and the scope of their actions. They would be empowered to make decisions without over-stepping the command boundaries set for them. The limits in the defensive operation are set based on the rationale and the variables affecting the decision making, including the enemy actions and the terrain of the operation. They must also act within the confines of the law.
A defensive operation such as the one in which division 1/55 ABCT has been involved in requires efficient decision making. The decision-making also has to be speedy given the dynamic nature of the defensive operations environment, which is characterized by consistently changing variables, including the enemy’s strength, the terrain, the positions of different troop members, and their accessibility to the point of contact with the enemy. The commander can apply the Mission Command philosophy focusing on empowerment and decentralized decision making by the subordinates. In applying the philosophy, various suggestions have been given on the need for and approach to applying different principles. For instance, the first step towards ensuring effective decentralized decision making is by developing an environment of mutual trust and shared understanding, which is most effectively done through communication. Other principles, such as the competence, commander’s intent, mission orders, risk acceptance, and disciplined initiative, all find significant applicability in the defensive operation.
Army Publishing Directorate. Mission command: Command and control of army forces. (Amy Doctrine Publication, No. 6-0).
 Army Publishing Directorate. Mission command: Command and control of army forces. (Amy Doctrine Publication, No. 6-0).
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