Mission Command is designed for times exactly like these. As I write this, we are still early in the COVID-19 epidemic and response within the United States and within the Army. Conditions change rapidly and we often need to make decisions with the information we have at hand, and not the information we wish we had. In a very fluid environment, we simply do not have time to wait to make decisions.
We must make the best decisions we can, based on the information we have at the time. Mobilizing Reserve forces is a process, and if we wait for information, it ensures we will be late at the time of need.
Activities like the Soldier Virtual Battle Assembly (SVBA) are a perfect example of why we need Mission Command. Our opportunities to improve readiness are endless if we understand commander’s intent and apply it to the unique requirements and challenges of our own unit. The fast onset of the Coronavirus demonstrates why we must remain flexible and adjust rapidly to maintain readiness and our ability to project force at time of need. There also cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach in such a changing environment.
Simple orders are simple to execute when operations are not normal. I recently had the opportunity to listen to a Combatant Commander describe how, upon taking command of a large geographic command, he asked to review the campaign plan. It was over 800 pages in length. He immediately understood that was too large for the force to comprehend. Obviously, you can’t execute what you can’t understand. He directed a rewrite and the new plan is about 35 pages. He understood that the purpose of a plan is to execute when needed. How much sense does it make to have a plan that is so complex no one really fully understands it and how their piece of the plan supports the overall objective?
We have a great opportunity to look at our processes and plans. Are they clear, concise, and complete? What about our policies? Do we have so many that our Soldiers can’t be familiar with them? What about priorities? Are they clear and understood? The Division Staff used December and January to develop a priority list for their sections. Hopefully, those have filtered down to your level. If not, ask for them. What are we not doing now because of the virus, and what do we do with that information once this is over? Can we further prioritize or streamline our efforts to really focus where we need to be successful? The Division Staff is working with the G-3 now, early April, to develop a recovery plan that will become a future FRAGO to our COVID OPORD. This OPORD will allow us to recover quickly by accomplishing priority tasks that we simply can’t do virtually or under state restrictions: things like PHAs, dental exams, APFT, HT/WT, inventories, and several others.
We have many items we can, and should be focused on during SVBA. There is an extensive list of training and requirements we can accomplish virtually. Successful leaders will take every advantage of this time to better prepare their Soldiers so that we actually increase readiness during this time. They will exercise initiative, creativity, and innovation within commander’s intent.
We are all leaders. We lead in our military positions. We lead in our civilian workplaces. We lead in our families. We will all leave a legacy, which we are building now. There have been extreme trials throughout history and this one too, will pass. We cannot, and must not live in fear. Too many people are looking to us for hope. What is your legacy?