Winning Matters!

08/25/2020  |  Commanding, 98th Training Division (IET)
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Why is mission command so important? Of the many things we learn from facing the Corona virus, the importance of Mission Command must be number one. This is a version of what we will face as military leaders in a future war and, in reality, is similar to what we have faced in every war. We were required to deal with uncertainty in a rapidly changing environment. America’s Army Reserve became a focal point as we stood up medical teams and support organizations to respond to the crisis. All levels of command within the 98th responded in anticipation of a future mobilization to reduce the backlog of basic combat training at both Fort Benning and Jackson.

We also had to rapidly determine what Virtual Battle Assemblies would consist of. This is where Mission Command became so important. I believe most leaders understand the complexities of the Army Reserve Operating Environment (OE). We must adapt to multiple and competing requirements that force us to not only prioritize, but to remain vigilant for changes that produce opportunities for excellence.

During our virtual YTB, Col. Chris Chang, 3rd Brigade Commander, reminded me of a comment I made to the commanders upon my Change of Command last July. I stated that “I am not afraid of failing, I am afraid of not succeeding.” Though the difference may not seem great at first glance, it is the perspective that becomes so important in truly understanding the statement. If we worry about failing, our focus becomes defensive and forces us to ask, what must we do to survive? This determines how we approach challenges and obstacles. If we focus on how we become successful, we will naturally focus on maximizing outcomes, as opposed to minimizing risks, and that is a huge difference in our outlook. My intent is that we thrive and not merely survive.

I believe that COVID-19 provides us many great lessons in leadership. General Eisenhower once said that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” That is because he understood that as soon as we start to execute a plan, the conditions change. The enemy reacts. What he also understood is that the planning process enables leaders to better understand the operating environment, the enemy, the terrain. When leaders understand the operating environment and clearly understand the commander’s intent, they are able to react quickly to change and exploit opportunities.

The other key part to Mission Command is developing critical thinking and a spirit of innovation and creativity in our Soldiers. We do this as leaders by accepting some risks and allowing subordinates to exercise initiative. As we look at the challenges we face, this is exactly what we need to be successful. During our virtual YTB I asked, if you were at bat would you want one swing or 50 swings? We have over 50 companies and while the Division can direct recruiting and production that provides one swing, if each company looks at the opportunities in their own area, now the Division has over 50 swings at success. Will we fail? Yes, in some areas, but we then learn. It allows us to see what was successful in one company, and if that success will transfer to other locations. It also develops your subordinates to become the thinkers the Army must have to be successful on the future battlefield we will certainly find ourselves on.

We had battalions who planned for VBA next FY. If you think about it, why not? We proved it can work. Do we need to pay LIK, SIK and IDT travel to bring Soldiers to the flag to conduct online training? We already use EBDL. Can we conduct collective events to simplify operations and conserve resources like combining the ACFT and new IWQ with an SRP at an installation, and then use VBA to get after requirements we can do from home? Both save resources and time. These are your ideas and the Division is working requests to continue some of our current practices into the future that will enable our success.

I believe we have incredible opportunities if, and only if, we seek them in everything we do. We have a responsibility to develop the Soldiers the Army needs now, and in the future. What great opportunities do you see? How do you get to success? I believe Gen. McConville says it perfectly. Winning matters!

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