Three Rs and an M:

A Different Approach to Building an Effective USAR Unit

02/22/2020  |  By Lt. Col. Brad Docimo 1-398 BCT, 2 BDE, 104 DIV, Commanding
The Griffon

In 2018, 1-398 Basic Combat Training faced multiple challenging issues.  One of the last battalions in the 108th for readiness, recruiting was non-existent, retention was worse, and morale was dismal.  These facts were backed up by the 104th Monthly Unit Report Card (MURC).  1-398 was second from the bottom in the division for readiness.  The 2018 Command Climate Survey indicated dismal morale, as well as multiple SHARP and EO issues.  Many Soldiers hated their jobs, their unit, or both.  Non-participant and unsatisfactory participant numbers were high, and Soldiers were requesting transfers out of the unit in droves.

As a command, we set out to tackle our four biggest issues, “Three Rs and an M (3R+M).”  In line with the Army Chief of Staff’s guidance, Readiness was first.  Recruiting and Retention go hand in hand.  And finally, Morale.

The organization needed a way to improve each of these four areas, with morale being a primary focus.  Why morale, when “Readiness is our #1, and there is no other #1”?  By improving morale, we would improve readiness.  Morale is a combat multiplier.  Happy Soldiers care about, or at least are more willing to do their part, improving readiness.  Happy Soldiers enjoy coming to battle assembly and want to stay in the unit, improving retention.  And finally, happy Soldiers not only tell our organization’s story, expanding our reach, but also invite other Soldiers to join, increasing recruiting.

1-398 needed a systematic program of accountability, training, and events targeted at improving 3R+M.  Speaking with the staff, the S1 wanted to hold companies accountable monthly for metric items like DD93, SGLV, UNSAT separation packets, etc.  S3 needed mandatory Warrior Task evaluations, mandatory classes, and a way to personally put hands on Soldiers dispersed across six cities in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee for PME enrollment and AT date selection.  The Command Sgt. Majort and I, wanted to change the unit’s environment, culture, and morale.  And to put it frankly, we needed a way out of last place in virtually every scored readiness metric.

Operation Wolfpack was born, with FY19 serving as our pilot year.  OP Wolfpack consisted of monthly readiness checks, plus a series of three FTXs where the unit conducted consolidated MUBA weekends at Wendell Ford Regional Training Center, rather than drilling in six company home stations.  During these FTX weekends, a primary focus was on returning to “We are Soldiers first” basic skills, tactical tasks, and fieldcraft.  Specific time was also allotted for Readiness Workshops, where the staff provided action lists of Soldiers who needed specific readiness items (SRB, DD93, Family Care, LHI, etc.).  The CSM conducted Class A mock boards to give Soldiers experience with the written tests and appearing before a board.  And finally, to enhance Soldier and unit buy-in, field exercises and tactical training, such as road marches, land navigation, and AWT evaluations, became scored events.  Companies banded together to compete against one another, increasing unit cohesion and camaraderie through friendly competition.  Many of the events were conducted with a specific nod to our profession, leveraging Drill Sergeants for training, D&C, module delivery, and sometimes just old-fashioned Red Phase toughening sessions.  The tactical event scores, combined with mock boards and monthly readiness metrics enabled us to identify and recognize Soldier, NCO, Drill Sergeant, and Company of the Year, which also gave us a ready-made OML for identifying standout Soldiers for those same events at the Army Reserve level.  Finally, we developed a crucible event, dubbed Beast Mode, which was an intense physical challenge, where individuals (voluntarily) chose to participate and test their limits with the entire battalion cheering them on.

So did it work?  As of the November 2019, 1-398 had jumped from second to last on the 104th MURC to third place.  The latest command climate survey was above the Army average in every category.  Unsatisfactory participants are down.  AAR comments show a greater level of involvement and enthusiasm from Soldiers, not just for training events, but also for our Drill Sergeant mission in support of Cadet Summer Training.  Operation Wolfpack serves as a framework that drives battalion operations throughout the entire year to improve Readiness, Retention, Recruiting, and Morale, but it is a piece of the puzzle, not the only answer.  In all fairness, we also made numerous process improvements, a few key personnel changes, and brought on a few rock stars in company command groups and battalion staff, as well as increased overall accountability.  Rather than being a standalone success, Operation Wolfpack was one piece of a holistic program of improvements.  But seeing our Soldiers cheering on their coworkers, demonstrating physical endurance and iron will to ensure their company comes out on top, working together in teams, and coming out of field problems with dirt in their teeth and smiles on their faces have been some of the greatest benefits, with immediate, obvious results.  Let Soldiers be Soldiers again.  Introduce healthy competition to encourage self-improvement and team building, and improve morale.  And all the rest (3R+M) will rise to match.

Interested in conducting a similar program at your unit or learning more?  Reach out to [email protected] for copies of OPORDs, detailed training plans, storyboards, etc.

 Allison or Jeff put this in a table

Operation Wolfpack FTXs

MARCH (MUTA5)

Readiness Workshop

Weapons Immersion

7 mile Ruck March

EST2000

Battle Drill #6

CSM Exam, Essay, and Boards

STAFEX

Battalion Run

MAY (MUTA6)

M16, M9 IWQ

Suicide Awareness

7 mile Ruck March

Land Navigation

AWT Evaluations

Confidence Course

M249, M60 PMI

Beast Mode: Blind APFT, 6 mile Ruck, Grenade Range, Stress Shoot

SEP (MUTA4)

Readiness Workshop

Drill Sergeant Shakedown

Tactical Relay

PT Showdown

D&C Knockout

Freestyle D&C Competition

Color Guard Competition

Soldier/Company of the Year

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