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A Poor Sailor Blames the Wind

One of the best jobs I ever had was commanding a battalion responsible for transforming raw recruits into Soldiers. There are many great professionals involved in this very difficult mission, but the key to successfully training young men and women lies with the Drill Sergeant. This is a tough job which tends to wear out our NCOs, so the Army normally limits a Drill Sergeant’s time “on the trail” to two years. This means that every training unit experiences 50% turnover in its most critical personnel every year.

Training units responsible for Army Basic Combat Training are typically required to brief their performance and training achievements semi-annually. This consists of a series of briefings from subordinate companies which are then rolled into battalion briefings and presented to a General Officer somewhere up the chain. In typical Army fashion these briefings are most often PowerPoint marathons where staffs compile and present often-meaningless statistics that “prove” the unit is doing a great job training young recruits and managing their training cadre.

Likely the most mockable portion of these briefings is the inevitable “Red, Amber, Green” assessment (or T,P,U assessment where units report if they are “Trained, need Practice, or are Untrained”) which require some form of assessment by commanders about their own units. There is usually some magical formula behind the ratings that give the appearance of objectivity to the proceedings.

A few years ago, as a new battalion commander, I got to watch a series of these briefings where I saw nearly every company commander report themselves as Amber or “needs Practice” on the Mission Essential Task of “Train Soldiers.” The reasoning behind the Amber rating was that each unit had “lots of new Drill Sergeants who lacked the experience to get us to Green.” This was usually acknowledged with a sympathetic knod.

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Recommended Reading

Bob’s Published Articles

These are a couple of articles I published in the past few years. When you write for publication it really forces you to solidify your thoughts, hopefully in a coherent way that can be understood by others. To me, writing is the best way to master a topic. For more on this I recommend Thinking on Paper  by V.A. Howard and J.H. Barton

War Room – Trading Queens – 2017-05-04

Small Wars Journal – Clausewitz, Center of Gravity, and the Confusion of a Generation of Planners – 2015-10-20

War on the Rocks Bringing Big Data to War in Megacities – RG Dixon

Engineers and Urban Terrain – Engineer Magazine

Small Wars Journal – Psychology and Basic Combat Training – 2014-10-14