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In Praise of Failure

Kirkhill

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With the author's appropriate not to Swinton's "Duffer's Drift"


In Praise of Failure
by Harold R. Schyberg III

Journal Article | August 4, 2017 - 2:35pm


In Praise of Failure

Harold R. Schyberg III

“The secret to my success…, I fail better than anyone.”

                                                                        -- Brian Burress, SFC, US Army

Failure in training is vital in unconventional and conventional warfare environments. Battalion and higher staff must fail in training and then correct their mistakes. The battalion staff must complete the failure cycle-- failing and then adapting to prevent the failure in the future. Create mitigating mechanisms to reduce negative results -- in any exercise, without repercussion. Leaders must foster an environment that encourages honest mistakes.

Battalion and Group/ Brigade leaders must also be given greater flexibility to fail. Those who build the scenarios in a complicated training environment like National training Center (NTC), the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) or the Joint Maneuver Training Center (JMTC) must also build in the option for their plans to fail or at least not completely succeed. This will require that training events be longer, more complex and more expensive. Yet in an ever increasingly complex and more interconnected world this kind of training is precisely what will satisfy that requirement.

Failure stings like nothing else and, as warfighters, we do most anything to wash ourselves of its stink. Still we learn far more from failures than we do from our successes. In The Defense of Duffers Drift by E.D. Swinton, in a series of dreams Lieutenant Backsight Forethought fails his way to eventual success, learning a lesson with each failure. This is how we must train our Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) and Officers. Like Lieutenant Forethought leaders must be patient with our NCOs and officers as they work through their cycle of failure in order to emerge successful.

Future brigade and division staff Officers and NCOs will have a greater role in making decisions - the role of the commander will evolve away from that of puppet master to that of gardener. This change requires the staff to have greater confidence in its ability to direct the battle in the confines of the commander’s guidance. Commanders will play less of a role in maneuvering and play a greater role in fostering the staff. This will not free the commander of risk, yet the commander must have the trust and confidence that his team will make the appropriate decisions. The commander’s intent will now be the driving force behind the staff decisions making process.

Commanders must shift their thinking regarding battle.  Failure must be tolerated when it is done competently. The failure cycle implies that if a soldier fails he can try again, adapt his approach, and will not be punished by his leaders. This mind set must take root in the battalion and division staff. There must be a cultural shift in the way commanders view those who fail.

The world is becoming more interconnected, mega cities are becoming norm for violence and conflict and rural conflict is being relegated to acceptable risk section. The need to protect non-combatants and integrate non-standard forces is becoming increasingly more common. Into this environment we will be sending Soldiers who have little experience and only a vague understanding of the nuance that permeates these situations. Soldiers in this situation will have no resistance to failure yet they will experience it often.

When we train without failure we do a disservice to our leaders and Soldiers; we teach them that they cannot fail and therefore they have no resistance to its infection. Leaders can become overwhelmed and unable to adapt. The cure for this fear and weakness is to grow as many anti-bodies against it a possible; embrace the idea that it may not consume the host.

When these unimmunized leaders advance to battalion and brigade commanders, they create a climate where no failure can be allowed. This makes that staff afraid to make decisions that could fail. This fear paralyses the staff’s ability to get away from traditional approaches to problems.  Even those who are brave enough to present innovation often do so with hesitance. This lack of thinking makes a staff predictable and rigid, ensuring disaster in a complex environment.

A benefit of training with failure is that the staff will know what failure looks like. Without this understanding the staff is more likely to diagnose some tactical situations as failures rather than letting them mature into successes. Over the course of the American Civil War, General Sherman developed his tactical philosophy that “in a battle the side that thinks they have lost, has.” Gen Sherman’s failures had given him insight into how to recognize it in the Confederate and his staff. The training environment is the best place to train the staff so it will not take five years and tens of thousands of lives to learn failure’s lessons.

While Soldiers will still be required to know what right looks like, leaders must understand what wrong looks like, too. When a staff can identify failure then they can devise contingencies that when failure comes knocking at our door we greet her with a cup of tea. It becomes essential that the battalion staff knows what failure looks like at the platoon, company, and battalion level. The only way the staff recognizes failure at these levels is if they have worked through the failure cycle at each of these levels.

Leaders in the state department and leaders of three letter agencies value the failure cycle. They are seldom praised when things go well, yet they are all keenly aware of the price of failure. When failure rears its ugly head as it so often does these leaders are harshly rebuked for the failure. For this reason they, like U.S. Army communicators, have come up with a plan called the PACE plan (primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency).  These agencies expect failure and have options in place to mitigate and often reverse failure. Army planners at all levels must also have a PACE plan.

When the battalion staff plans for failure, they are not displaying a lack of trust in their subordinates, they recognize war is uncertain and the enemy adapts.  Failure is ever-present; as leaders we must accept it, prepare for it, and create a climate to mitigate it.

NTC and JRTC training scenarios can incorporate the failure cycle. Failures in these arenas may initially lead to frustration. Yet, Companies will quickly learn to adapt. When a unit fails to take its objective or has a catastrophic loss of rapport methods for coping will be devised out of necessity and then later incorporated into mechanisms that the staff will put in place so that they can mitigate the fallout from these failures or even reverse them.

This way ahead: The Army must build into the training objectives the possibility of failure. This means that battalion and brigade staff sections must be allowed to make honest and calculated mistakes in training. This will challenge the staff to identify the failure and then correct and reverse the mistake. This level of freedom to fail will make the staff and the Soldiers fighting more effective when they are faced with these challenges in a complex, evolving combat setting.

The SOF Unconventional Warfare (UW) exercise developers intentionally prioritized the Group and Battalion staffs; however, the staff is not stressed during the exercise. When, only one operational detachment alpha (ODA) experiences any failure and this is often anticipated. This is detrimental to the staffs training. The staff knows that they will not experience any “real’ failure. When the staff is aware of which ODA will fail and is prepared for it, not growth will occur. This narrow scripting must be done away with. The scripters must have multiple criteria that would cause each ODA to fail. This would stress the staff as they would have no way of knowing which or how many ODA(s) will fail. Once an ODA has failed, the staff must then determine the level of failure. Can the ODA recover or should they move their evasion plan of action (EPA). If recovery is possible, how will the staff employ available assets to support the ODA? This scenario allows for increased adaptability, innovation, and failure inoculation to occur.

Leaders at all levels except that a Platoon Leader will fail in training, indeed Ranger School is predicated on this very notion. We as a military must understand that failure at all levels is the tool we use to create better more resilient leaders. We must have Ranger School-type of training for commanders from the Company to the Division. This type of training would be predicated on the notion that every leader at every level fails and this gives them the opportunity to learn from it and adjust accordingly.

We fight in an environment that grows increasingly more complex. This complexity will require more agile and adaptable leaders, those who have failed their way to success. Those leaders who have failed more times than others have will prove more resilient.  Soldiers will grow and adapt when failure is allowed and added to the mission.  Therefore, leaders must create a climate that sees failure as a learning opportunity, appreciates innovation, and takes a mistake and converts it into success.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/in-praise-of-failure



 

Shrek1985

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When I trained troops, the type-A high achievers always stood out, mainly when I told them they weren't good enough; often they melted down on me. A life of easy wins and excelling in the school system had ill-prepared them for tasks and skills that sometimes you needed to do wrong, before you could get right. Their self-esteem and "Confidence" couldn't get them a successful section attack inside an hour. It took time and it strained them much more than it should have.

I've often noticed how we always win in our exercises, even when our performance is dismal. killed soldiers "respawn", we tell the enemy force to tone it down and die politely and entire platoons re-set to try it again in order not to upset the OC or CO's plan. So, being socially inept and unable to read those kinds of cues; I asked. Officers and peers and senior NCOs. I got the same answer;

"People don't learn from failure."

"If you tried something the first time and you failed and failed badly, you'd never want to try again."

This felt like one of those times, when either my autism was colouring my perceptions or I, as a soldier just needed to note my disagreement, click my heels, shut up and get in line. Because; you know? Maybe normal people are like that.

My counter-argument was to the point; "But, the enemy always gets a vote."

Now, I speak as a life-long loser. I could not be more different from the type-A over-achieving athletes I've trained. Clumsy, slow, physically and socially awkward, my life is a litany of failure; I've been a terrible student my whole life, I wasn't even good at video games, I'm a poor shot and easily confused by the more socially adept. If I didn't learn from failure; I'd never learn anything. The things in life I had to learn from bloody-minded tenacity; eliminated every wrong way to get something right are legion. I'd have argued the opposite; how can you learn from success?

If I gave up or rather; was allowed to give up on anything I tried and failed at the first time, no matter how disastrous, embarrassing or painful, I'd never have got anywhere in my life. We're talking about war here, why all the optional language? As if we have a choice in the matter.

When I take people shooting, I don't start them on something that will hurt them. But I also don't add any holes to their target to boost their ego, either. This is a very concrete discipline we're part of here. Very absolute, very win-lose and things do not always go our way.

One of the smartest things I ever read was by a guy named Tom Kratman, he said that training has three purposes;

1. To enhance old skills and acquire new ones.
2. To test doctrine and equipment.
3. and, to select amongst ourselves.

Here #2 is key; I think we tend to worship our doctrines and part of how we do that is by our we-always-win mentality. What we should be doing is testing our doctrines to destruction. Then Sitting back and asking why and trying something else. So you say, but Shrek; we have that! We have Standards and our Centres of Excellence. In 7 years of teaching, I submitted over a dozen PO/EO reviews. none of them went anywhere. Your system is broken. And I think, from my experience in the CF and elsewhere that these edifices we have for advancement and change actually work as bulwarks against those forces.

One of the things I learned in school was that once you have an organization for accommodations, you never really need to accommodate anyone ever again; you can reject everything on the basis of your expertise and defend it by it's own existence. Not a shock; Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action; protecting the institution, even at the cost of the very goals that institution expressly exists to forward.
 

medicineman

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There is also a societal issue at play here as well, where failure at anything early in life is looked at as a detriment to self-esteem and such - unfortunately, people then are now unprepared to deal with things when they go boobs up as they do in the real world.  One of the best things that happened to me as a teenager was being told I had the option of redoing Grade 10 or going somewhere else for Grade 11 - I went to a private school that placed a high degree of importance on academics.  I'd been used to getting good grades for essentially showing up prior to going there and had to fight tooth and nail for every grade I got at this place...and also found out how little I really knew because I'd coasted for so long.  I sat back for awhile and decided to go back and start with a different class...guess what, I wasn't the only one.  One of the guys I played basketball with was in the same boat as me...and then a fellow from my original class joined us in Grade 12 because he'd had to take time off to recover from a nearly catastrophic car accident.  I had a nasty injury early in Grade 12 which potentially could have cost me a career in the military (if I believed the doctor I saw in the ER) that had me in the dumps for a bit - I got back up and carried on, because I'd looked at that in the face already.

Humans as a rule don't learn by doing things right all the time - they learn from making mistakes.  Failure is one of the best tools for learning, as it makes you evaluate what happened and what to do to fix things.  I always injected people dying into combat and civilian first aid scenarios when I used to teach.  Why?  Because people die, no matter what we do.  If you don't experience that, even at a simulation level, there develops a level of expectation that if you go all out and do everything by the book, you'll always come out the other side with a win.  Reality contradicts that for me on a daily basis and it should in military exercises too, because let's face it, the bad guys learn from what we do to them and probably know our doctrine better than we do from being on the receiving end.  At one point or another, you should expect to get your backside handed to you...how you deal with that is up to you and it's better it happen on an exercise than in real life.

:2c:

MM

 

Lumber

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I'll concede that the mantra of "you learn from your mistakes" is absolutely true.

I'll also concede that if you never take risks and never make mistakes to learn from, that you put yourself at greater risk of encountering great, traumatic failure when put in a situation that demands more from you than you have ever had to deal with.

However, I object to the idea that you must "fail" to win, or "fail" in order to get better.

Some people are just that good, but they still aren't perfect. There are some people who seem to "succeed" on their first try at everything. Sure, they might stumble, they may make some blind guesses, and the final product might look ugly, but they still succeed in completing the objective. This doesn't mean there is nothing to learn; in fact, there is a lot to learn from these scenarios. Mistakes were made; do better next time.

You don't need to actually "fail" in order to be able to conduct a well educated and objective analyses of situations and determine areas for improvement.

At least that's my 2 cents.
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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There's an old black and white comedy movie from the 1940's called Lex Diamond's (nothing to do with the Hip-Hop singer).

Basically, a guy really down on his luck decides to rob a diamond store. First attempt is in broad daylight, no mask, gun or gloves on and with a cop car across the street ... He obviously gets caught and sentenced. So he learns: don't do it when the cops are across the street.

He gets out of jail and repeats but making sure no cops are around, but still in broad daylight, no mask, gun, etc. etc. Gets caught again and jailed.

Comes out of jail, do it again but at night. gets caught because of his finger prints, etc. etc.

Anyway, by the end of the movie and god knows how many trips to jail, he finally figures out everything from his past mistakes and pulls out the perfect heist ... and lives happily ever after in the Caribbean.  ;D

Yes - humans need mistakes and failures, or to quote Lt Worf: "If the point of the game is to enjoy yourself, then why keep scores?".
 

Infanteer

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Sounds like Defence of Duffer's Drift.
 

BeyondTheNow

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Adding a bit to an earlier sentiment that was touched on, failure makes people work harder. Well, at least for me/some....they will either use failure as a motivator or let it drag them down and quit. I've never gone out of my way to purposely fall short/fail at something I've put my mind to, but when I haven't been successful (while it brought me down a fair bit at times, depending on how much I was emotionally invested in the successful outcome) it's given me an opportunity to take stock of what needs to change in order to avoid the same result. As well, more often than not lessons learned in one circumstance can be applied to things in the future also.

Am I envious of those who seemingly don't seem to struggle often and have never encountered any major failures in their lives (so far)? Absolutely. But I feel failure is necessary, at least at some point in our lives.
 

a_majoor

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
There's an old black and white comedy movie from the 1940's called Lex Diamond's (nothing to do with the Hip-Hop singer).

Basically, a guy really down on his luck decides to rob a diamond store. First attempt is in broad daylight, no mask, gun or gloves on and with a cop car across the street ... He obviously gets caught and sentenced. So he learns: don't do it when the cops are across the street.

He gets out of jail and repeats but making sure no cops are around, but still in broad daylight, no mask, gun, etc. etc. Gets caught again and jailed.

Comes out of jail, do it again but at night. gets caught because of his finger prints, etc. etc.

Anyway, by the end of the movie and god knows how many trips to jail, he finally figures out everything from his past mistakes and pulls out the perfect heist ... and lives happily ever after in the Caribbean.  ;D

Yes - humans need mistakes and failures, or to quote Lt Worf: "If the point of the game is to enjoy yourself, then why keep scores?".

Sounds hilarious. Of course the successful robbery happens when he is 80 years old at that rate.....
 

youngger@12

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Failure and winning exist in the mind more than any other place. The major cause of failure is ill defined goals. Fighting enemies is the easiest part of a war. Knowing who is the enemy and what to do with them is much harder. Once you've identified the enemy, the next step is assess your assets and the enemies assets. Some wars punish the enemy, some wars bend the enemy to your will and some wars change their way of life. The enemy does the same. Military rules are effective only in as much as they help advance one of the three goals. It is not enough to know the rules of war, one must also know the enemies rules of war also. Otherwise you are playing chess against an opponent playing xiangqi. The best way to punish an opponent is to do it in such a way that he does not even realize it. The only danger in that is that the aggressor creates an unpredictable result. This eventually leads to a circular logic where punishment is for punishments own sake. There is no goal as to what the desired result or outcome is.

The strategy behind total war is simple, punish the enemy to the max every time they make a mistake, while making as few mistakes as possible. If you do make a mistake, do it in secret with maximum effect. As in Greek doctrine, every time the enemy punishes you, always do them a harm in return no matter how small. Amateurs can easily be identified by the speed and clumsiness of their response.  When the enemy attempts to bend you to their will using force, the counter response is to focus your resolve on a few vulnerable targets with the maximum aggression. 

Assets. In the modern arena the arsenal of weapons boggles the mind. It is therefore important for the less well equipped side to constantly re-assess their assets, always testing and probing for viability. Trust no one, constantly test your assets and only use them to the extent you can trust them. The upside to having no people is that you cannot be betrayed. Enemy laziness and unfathomable technology is your friend. Everyone knows of high technology, few know about it, anyone can  use it, few know how to test and repair it. Dynasties, Nepotism, Dystopia no matter how well socially engineered people become, this is still one of the few weakness that can be exploited against a more advanced society. No matter how well engineered a society is, eventually the engineering will change a democracy into a dynasty, with all the failings thereof. computers and serfice men are no substitute for a meritocracy. Perfect pedigrees handed down from generation to generation create a society of upside down pyramids, where everyone is racing to the top on promises of positions of authority. This results in courtiers as counsel, artists as administrators, facilitators as factory managers, all trying to betray a small group of victims for social advancement. This ignorance of social gravity must be exploited to inflict as much punishment as possible.


When out numbered and in enemy territory, in a modern environment, the enemy has no qualms about using special treatment to enforce their will. Provisions must be made to face such common results. There must always be a back door at hand and provisions for escape. Air, Ground, See and Space are formidable on the battlefield, but they can still be fought with counter measures. Despite this inequality of assets the enemy still uses the age old tactic of staking down prisoners and using them as bait for rescuers, with no avenues of escape. Fighting in this environment is difficult to say the least. The enemy when faced with these situations still uses hostages, Titanic efforts, and Hannibal's tactics. Operating in enemy territory one must be more frugal.

First Gunners Mate C. Lynch Fighting in thin air. 1982

Your posts are very jovial. I'll try harder to fit in. Thanks.


 

JesseWZ

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youngger@12 said:
Failure and winning exist in the mind more than any other place. The major cause of failure is ill defined goals. Fighting enemies is the easiest part of a war. Knowing who is the enemy and what to do with them is much harder. Once you've identified the enemy, the next step is assess your assets and the enemies assets. Some wars punish the enemy, some wars bend the enemy to your will and some wars change their way of life. The enemy does the same. Military rules are effective only in as much as they help advance one of the three goals. It is not enough to know the rules of war, one must also know the enemies rules of war also. Otherwise you are playing chess against an opponent playing xiangqi. The best way to punish an opponent is to do it in such a way that he does not even realize it. The only danger in that is that the aggressor creates an unpredictable result. This eventually leads to a circular logic where punishment is for punishments own sake. There is no goal as to what the desired result or outcome is.

The strategy behind total war is simple, punish the enemy to the max every time they make a mistake, while making as few mistakes as possible. If you do make a mistake, do it in secret with maximum effect. As in Greek doctrine, every time the enemy punishes you, always do them a harm in return no matter how small. Amateurs can easily be identified by the speed and clumsiness of their response.  When the enemy attempts to bend you to their will using force, the counter response is to focus your resolve on a few vulnerable targets with the maximum aggression. 

Assets. In the modern arena the arsenal of weapons boggles the mind. It is therefore important for the less well equipped side to constantly re-assess their assets, always testing and probing for viability. Trust no one, constantly test your assets and only use them to the extent you can trust them. The upside to having no people is that you cannot be betrayed. Enemy laziness and technology is your friend. Dynasties, Nepotism, Dystopia no matter how well socially engineers, are still one of the few weakness one can exploit against a more advanced society. No matter how well engineered a society is, eventually the engineering will change a democracy into a dynasty, with all the failings thereof. computers and serfice men are no substitute for a meritocracy. Perfect pedigrees handed down from generation to generation create a society of upside down pyramids, where everyone is racing to the top on promises of positions of authority. This results in courtiers as counsel, artists as administrators, facilitators as factory managers, all trying to betray a small group of victims for social advancement. This of ignorance social gravity must be exploited to inflict as much punishment as possible.


When out numbered and in enemy territory, in a modern environment, the enemy has no qualms about using special treatment to enforce their will. Provisions must be made to face such common results. There must always be a back door at hand and provisions for escape. Air, Ground, See and Space are formidable on the battlefield, but they can still be fought with counter measures. Despite this inequality of assets the enemy still uses the age old tactic of staking down prisoners and using them as bait for rescuers, with no avenues of escape. fighting in this environment is difficult to say the least. The enemy when faced with these situations still uses hostages, Titanic efforts, and Hannibal's tactics. Operating in enemy territory one must be more frugal.

First Gunners Mate C. Lynch Fighting in thin air. 1982

Good Day youngger@12 and welcome to army.ca! I notice this is your first post. You chose an odd sub-forum to post in. In reviewing the previous thread responses, I'm curious what your intention was in posting your excerpt. You haven't attached any opinions, nor anything of your own to this random excerpt from a book? article? journal entry? 35 years old. My guess to your intent was to facilitate discussion regarding this particular passage, but you've given us no context for why you posted it. In the future, it would be wise to explain the reason behind such posts, and how they relate to the topic at hand. I don't see the correlation in this post to the topic save the first sentence of your article.

In sum, it would be wise to start by reading, and getting a feel for both the tone and content of army.ca prior to posting.

JesseWZ
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pbi

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This is a very interesting subject for me, as I've worked in the collective training field (Command and staff training) for the last six years. Before that, when I was still in uniform I was extensively involved in Formation HQ training, as well as teaching at staff college.

To start with, I should be fair and accurate by saying that the current commander of CADTC is trying to bring some discipline and realism to the collective training system, and get away from the almost pathological fear of real challenges and the inevitable resulting failures which has, in my opinion, been a symptom of Army collective training over at least the last decade. I salute him for this and wish him every success.

Far too often, we have seen exercises in which the training audiences perform abysmally in the most basic areas, but this is too often glossed over or minimized. This is, in my opinion, not only unprofessional but lethally dangerous. Let me offer a parallel: if you were training a sports team to play against a capable opposing team, would you conduct intentionally watered-down practices that don't really duplicate what you will be up against? And would you tell the team that they're "outstanding" when clearly they have serious problems?

Probably not, or if you were the coach you would get sacked when the team got its *** handed to it in the next game.

So why would we demand anything less in higher level collective training? Aren't the consequences of error that much greater than in a football game? Why conduct exercises in which we ignore real logistic problems, or wish away the air/UAV threat, or "dumb down" the casualty results to "acceptable" (ie: minimal) levels. How does any of that prepare the commanders and staffs of our formations to fight? And, keep in mind, we have very few opportunities for these people to learn their craft: it seems to me thsat the average Bde Comd is lucky if he gets two really challenging CAXs/CPXs/FTXs during his time in command, and most HQ staffs are not together long enough to become expert before APS tears them apart.

Don't blame the constructive simulation systems: they will make the battle as bloody, confusing and demanding as you want it to be, if you use them to their full capacity. If you start turning off or dumbing down sim functions because "it's too hard" or "it will be demoralizing", then the sim systems can't do their job anymore.

My recommendations:

-Build dangerous and difficult challenges into all higher collective training. There should be a "holy ****" moment at least once or twice during every ex;

-allow/encourage failure, but then rigidly enforce taking the time to a proper AAR of the failure and then have another run at it. Don't just skip over and carry on; and

-make training audiences uncomfortable, so they start to think about how to make the force ready for what they will face if the Baltics or Korea or the Ukraine go sideways, and not just dwell in a complacent smug glow of "victory".

If it sounds harsh, its frustration talking.
 

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Heretic!  Next you'll say that post-OPRED declaration we shouldn't post out half or more of the senior leadership!
 

pbi

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dapaterson said:
Heretic!  Next you'll say that post-OPRED declaration we shouldn't post out half or more of the senior leadership!

Ahhh, yes...the endless treadmill of training up an organization just in time to see it fragmented. Far be it from me, a nasty old retired  relic (and a filthy money-grubbing defense contractor) to suggest that maybe people should stay a bit longer in their jobs. Perish the thought.
 

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Is longer in the job necessary, or is it proper planning that understands the personnel cycle required?  Or is understanding that APS hits every summer too hard?
 

Humphrey Bogart

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pbi said:
Ahhh, yes...the endless treadmill of training up an organization just in time to see it fragmented. Far be it from me, a nasty old retired  relic (and a filthy money-grubbing defense contractor) to suggest that maybe people should stay a bit longer in their jobs. Perish the thought.

The real problem I see with our manic posting cycles is that people never actually master the basics i.e. Battle Procedure, the Combat Estimate or OPP.  Many people see these as "checks in the box" they need to hit IOT move on to their next promotion/big thing.  They do whatever course they need to do, Phase Training, AOC, etc and then they dump 80% of it afterwards.  As a result, our entire organization is run in a haphazard fashion with powerpoint and email replacing actual planning.

The one exception to the above is in the Special Operations Forces where planning, procedures and drills are carried out over and over again until mastery is achieved, everything you do is hot washed, and screw ups are actually acknowledged and talked about.     

 

Lumber

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pbi said:
So why would we demand anything less in higher level collective training? Aren't the consequences of error that much greater than in a football game? Why conduct exercises in which we ignore real logistic problems, or wish away the air/UAV threat, or "dumb down" the casualty results to "acceptable" (ie: minimal) levels.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, but maybe it's because the government doesn't really want an effective fighting force, but merely wants the appearance of an effective fighting force to provide the proles with a (cheap) sense of security.

The more confident our military leadership feels in their skills and capabilities, the stronger that sense of security feels.

Start throwing realistic scenarios at us, and we're going to taste failure and start feeling pretty unnerved, and the mob will start demanding more money.
 

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Humphrey Bogart said:
As a result, our entire organization is run in a haphazard fashion with powerpoint and email replacing actual planning.     

Another sad thing. Process over content. Seen far too often.
 

pbi

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Lumber said:
Start throwing realistic scenarios at us, and we're going to taste failure and start feeling pretty unnerved, and the mob will start demanding more money.

I appreciate your cynical take, but I  have to disagree. IMHO the level of professionalism in a military, and the seriousness with which officers take the issue of training for war, are not driven or directed by any Govt regardless of political stripe.  These things are the business of military leaders, and trying to fob off the blame on the Govt of the day is disingenuous. All Govts generally do is to make it harder or easier.  History is, I think, full of examples of militaries in which officers kept professionalism and a war focus alive despite the Govt of the day, by using ingenuity, economy and common sense.
 

pbi

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dapaterson said:
Is longer in the job necessary, or is it proper planning that understands the personnel cycle required?  Or is understanding that APS hits every summer too hard?

I'm not against moving people where there are good reasons to do so. What I'm saying is that the needs of the operational readiness of the force should probably be given more weight. When I see a formation HQ gutted to 50% of its strength at APS, thereby utterly scuppering the collective training it just did, I get upset.

A HQ is a unit just like any other: it will function, or not, as well as it is trained and led. The difference between an HQ and a unit is the consequences of failure. A failure at unit level can have very bad results: a failure at formation level can be catastrophic. Sometimes we seem to have difficulty grasping that.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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pbi said:
This is a very interesting subject for me, as I've worked in the collective training field (Command and staff training) for the last six years. Before that, when I was still in uniform I was extensively involved in Formation HQ training, as well as teaching at staff college.

To start with, I should be fair and accurate by saying that the current commander of CADTC is trying to bring some discipline and realism to the collective training system, and get away from the almost pathological fear of real challenges and the inevitable resulting failures which has, in my opinion, been a symptom of Army collective training over at least the last decade. I salute him for this and wish him every success.

Far too often, we have seen exercises in which the training audiences perform abysmally in the most basic areas, but this is too often glossed over or minimized. This is, in my opinion, not only unprofessional but lethally dangerous. Let me offer a parallel: if you were training a sports team to play against a capable opposing team, would you conduct intentionally watered-down practices that don't really duplicate what you will be up against? And would you tell the team that they're "outstanding" when clearly they have serious problems?

Probably not, or if you were the coach you would get sacked when the team got its *** handed to it in the next game.

So why would we demand anything less in higher level collective training? Aren't the consequences of error that much greater than in a football game? Why conduct exercises in which we ignore real logistic problems, or wish away the air/UAV threat, or "dumb down" the casualty results to "acceptable" (ie: minimal) levels. How does any of that prepare the commanders and staffs of our formations to fight? And, keep in mind, we have very few opportunities for these people to learn their craft: it seems to me thsat the average Bde Comd is lucky if he gets two really challenging CAXs/CPXs/FTXs during his time in command, and most HQ staffs are not together long enough to become expert before APS tears them apart.

Don't blame the constructive simulation systems: they will make the battle as bloody, confusing and demanding as you want it to be, if you use them to their full capacity. If you start turning off or dumbing down sim functions because "it's too hard" or "it will be demoralizing", then the sim systems can't do their job anymore.

My recommendations:

-Build dangerous and difficult challenges into all higher collective training. There should be a "holy ****" moment at least once or twice during every ex;

-allow/encourage failure, but then rigidly enforce taking the time to a proper AAR of the failure and then have another run at it. Don't just skip over and carry on; and

-make training audiences uncomfortable, so they start to think about how to make the force ready for what they will face if the Baltics or Korea or the Ukraine go sideways, and not just dwell in a complacent smug glow of "victory".

If it sounds harsh, its frustration talking.

I've participated in a number of major exercises (two BTEs, two MAPLE RESOLVES, UNIFIED RESOLVE, many staff college exercises) over the past two decades as a member of the primary training audience, as an OCT, Directing Staff, as a member of the OPFOR and as a member of the Validation team (the guys who asked if the exercise achieved its aims). I've done attacks again under the eye of the Bde Comd because the first attack was not up to the standard. I've recommended that attacks be done again and indeed seen them done again. I've been in some really honest and open AARs at senior levels. I've also seen some tremendous performances. I guess I'm seeing something different than you are.

In my own squadron we spent two weeks getting pummelled on the US Army Close Combat Tactical Trainer.  This is a virtual simulation system where soldiers operate realistic controls as opposed to a constructive sim with contractors. We executed the mobile defence four times with AARs and adjustments between runs before we were able to be successful (meaning some of us lived and we stopped the OPFOR). We did the meeting engagement three times and the attack three times. I led a couple of quite shambolic meeting engagement battles before we came out on top. Nobody wants to be beaten in a training engagement, but I don't think that there is a fear of failure.

A brigade-level CAX with a constructive simulation, though, is a much more awkward beast than the squadron-level virtual sim I went through. Resetting a one hour discrete battle at squadron level is very different than a Bde CAX. The aims are also different. You can confirm the ability of a HQ to plan, issue orders, coordinate preparations and C2 the battle without letting the Sim take over. In a capability development experiment, though, you might let the Sim run free while remaining cognisant that constructive sims have real limitations at replicating tactical results.

Cheers,

 
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