Infantry Officer/NCO Training

Having been away from regimental life for far too long (7 long years) I find myself inbound to the battalion imminently. :lol: :lol:

Before I head round to sunny brecon to see PCBC and PSBC prior to taking over my company I am interested in hearing from platoon commanders and platoon sergeants about what they think of the current training regime, and how we could improve training within battalions.

My particular bee in the bonnet is that we do not make best use of our JNCOs, SNCOs and junior officers. We preach mission command (or do we at PCBC/PSBC?) without practising it and I want to give much greater lee way to my team to try things out, assume greater responsibility and not to worry about f@*king up too much. Training is about learning and not necessarily about getting it right first or even second time round.

Any thoughts out there?
Haven't a clue what the training regime is these days, but...

Simply take out the leaders without warning when the training is going according to plan, leaving your platoon commanders with nobody above the rank of Cpl to run the Coy. (Scenario: O Gp receives direct Arty hit).

Watch subalterns reorganise the hierarchy and continue with planned mission objectives.

1. Do commanders disseminate orders adequately, allowing for their own untimely end?
2. Can the junior commanders handle sudden vast responsibility? Can they delegate beyond their usual boundaries?
3. Is the concept of Mission Intent fully understood, allowing initiative to fill in unknowns?
4. Do people understand their limitations and those of their subordinates?

If it all goes to pot, the fault probably lies with the people who were removed but at least you will learn where the shortcomings are and can address them. Next time, take out all of the JNCOs instead.

Just an idea.
tattybadger said:
Enjoy it; commanding a coy is the best job in the Infantry.
Getting a company has been what has been keeping me in the army! :D :D

I liked the idea from 'putees', similar to something that I was put through as a subbie.

I was hoping some recent graduates of PCBC and PSBC would give their thoughts on the current training regimes at Brecon and on what they would like to be seen done within battalions / companies. I was speaking to a SNCO who had recently been at Brecon; while he said that they were taught mission command I got the impression that they never got the chance to practise it. No stepping up a level or sudden changes in situation. I want to develop and educate my officers and NCOs to think and to think outside the box. While I am happy with the theory of it all it is the ability to translate that 'thinking' theory into worthwhile 'doing' training that interests me. Especially when linked to the pressures on time and resources. While not averse to training harder, I want to train smarter not harder.
In my experience (and although I completed PCBC in 02, speaking to the new subbies things haven't changed significantly) is that Mission Command is taught comprehensively at Sandhurst and Warminster. The trouble is that its dealt with entirely theoretically, trotting out familiar buzzwords, explanations and examples (usually limited to brief praise of the Wehrmacht and IDF).

I think that, as with all theory, we should discuss not only good examples but bad also. Time and time again at RMAS/PCBC we were shown examples of great leaders, without examples of the poor to throw them into relief. In reality we fall into habits, pay lip service to many things we adore in theory and repeat our mistakes. Despite the level of sophistication we would like to think we've each reached we learn most from painful experience (code for "our fu ck ups")

Two things fall out of this I feel.

1 - Mentoring Subbies. My first OC was very aloof. Being the only subbie in the coy for a good while and subject to an indifferent Coy 2ic I needed his guidance but didn't get any. The Pl Sgt can pass on a hell of a lot of advice, but the OC must be there to balance and complement it. I can't emphasise this enough in the formative 1st year of a new officer. The most popular and effective OC at the time, among other virtues, consistently mentored the subalterns under his wing. When my OC did finally open up, extremely candidly about his failings when he was a Pl Comd, I learnt a great deal. JOLP goes some good way for YOs to share the lessons they've learnt but every YO goes through long nights of "Am I the most-sorry assed subaltern in the world?" (or was that just me? :oops: ).

2 - Mission Command. My OC had the brain of a mekon and passed out 3rd at Staff College. He could recite the official line on MC word for word and extol its virtues to the heavens. However behind closed doors he told us that he expected everyone to do exactly what they were told, down to the fine detail. I can't speculate on his motives. I accept the argument that you've got to get the drills right before you start making it complicated but we should do it more. Casting my mind back I remember very token casualties on a few exercises, and none on most. Of course, its not always within your power. If you take your company on TESEX or to Poland and Canada there's huge scope for flexibility and testing the things Puttees mentioned. If your Coy is largely limited to a couple of short exercises on the local area (and many Light role Bns are) etc then I'm sure that the urge to fine tune things for the CO's visit becomes a lot more prominent.

I'd like RMAS and PCBC to discuss the realities of mission command i.e. the worst consequences when it doesn't happen (e.g. study Lt Col Jones' approach for example) and the harsh realities of leadership (if you read Joanna Bourke's An Intimate History Of Killing you realise that, along with the qualities we are proud to remember serious battle often includes combat refusal, disloyalty and incompetence)

Anyway I've rambled too much from a position of relative ignorance. Go for it!

Let me take over the position of relative ignorance from Charlie_Cong. My own view is from the perspective of TA-infantry rather than as a reg.

Three months into my TA-commission I was annointed acting company commander for a weekend bn exercise at SENTA. The coy cmdr was unable to make the weekend, the coy 2i/c became the battalion intelligence officer for two days, and as I was the only subbie present the job was mine. A steep learning curve, but one I found extremely useful. The CO was a regular infantry Lt Col. He obviously recognized my vast inexperience and was very supportive. The CO worked around my limitations to help us all get an acceptable result -an extremely useful 2 days of mentoring that put me in a much better position to understand the pressures on my own coy cmdr and the decision-making processes involved thus making me (one hopes) a better plat cmdr. Mentoring being the key word. If people are put under too much pressure while still trying to apply the basics it often leads to deception in order to keep up appearances and no-one benefits.

As TA we could never be absolutely sure who was going to turn up for a weekend or annual camp. The platoon commander could never rely on having a full complement of JNCOs or a platoon sergeant and was forced to work around it. Come to think of it, I only remember a single platoon attack with my plt sgt present (still not sure if he was trying to tell me something!). On one occasion I recall briefing acting section commanders in the FUP - one a new L/Cpl, the other a senior soldier - how to organize their men for odds and evens F&M after it dawned on me neither of them had been required to do this before. It worked - just, although the 2 gpmgs I'd left 500m away on a hillside had no idea they were supposed to reorg on me (no sgt and no one else I could spare to command them). It wasn't their fault, it was mine and all of us learned from it - and that's the point.

A wild idea - ask your local TA unit if they would be prepared to provide some men for a weekend exercise. Integrate these into your platoons as notional BCRs. I think they would be flattered and very pleased to be asked. They will also learn much. The TA guys will not be aware of your SOPs and will not be as technically proficient or as fit as your guys so you will be able to see how your junior leaders cope with the friction. Also, you can have the platoons turn in their radios before an attack and see how they cope.

Should the problem you face be more fundamental i.e. a lack of understanding of mission command then:

1. Circulate a copy of the BAR article on Exercise Sea Wall combined with discussion/chalk and talk.

2. Circulate a copy of 'Not Mentioned in Despatches' by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon - at a pinch you might invite him to talk on the subject. I can provide his contact details if you pm me.

2. Wargame it on the floor of the gym. This is a lot of work, but a large scale wargame with section and platoon cmdrs shuffling around cards with large Airfix soldiers blu-tacked onto them provides a UAV-eye view that enables everyone to see what is going on and the sequence of events. In short it promotes understanding in a way chalk and talk and field exercises struggle to achieve. After the o group, the coy cmdr is only allowed to communicate with the platoon cmdr designated main effort. The supporting platoons/sections are required to use their initiative to support the main effort without guidance from above. Before each phase each sec/plt/coy cmdr briefly notes his view of the situation, what decision he makes and why he made a particular decision. These notes are not shared between participants until the simulation is over. This note taking is arguably the most important part of the exercise only eclipsed by detailed after-action review of each game. Use a camera to take snap shots of the situation throughout the game that you can use for the review. You will be able to get 4 to 6 coy sized games in over two days, but to be effective you will need to spend 6 to 8 days preparing for the two days. You will need a set of rules, decide upon the scenarios, find and brief umpire to reveal/ manoeuvre en. forces etc and need to introduce game play with smaller games at the section and platoon level before the main event so all participants are familiar with the mechanics before launching into the coy-sized simulation.
There is some excellent stuff here. Thank you one and all.

To put some more meat on the bones I will be taking over an armoured infantry company in Germany.

The general theme coming out seems to be that as thought we do a great deal of 'talk' without a corresponding amount of 'do'.

Charlie - interesting point on the mentoring. My first company commander mentored me closely (I needed it), but I have not noticed a great deal subsequently around the bazaars. Are there any perspectives out there from NCOs on the values of mentoring and whether it does/does not happen?

Mercia - Cracking idea on the wargaming and one which I will take up.

The best CO I ever had worked on the '3 strikes' principles:

Fu%k up once - okay, everybody does;
Fu%k up again and you had better learn;
Same mistake a third time and you were sacked!
My particular bee in the bonnet is that we do not make best use of our JNCOs, SNCOs and junior officers. We preach mission command (or do we at PCBC/PSBC?) without practising it and I want to give much greater lee way to my team to try things out, assume greater responsibility and not to worry about f@*king up too much. Training is about learning and not necessarily about getting it right first or even second time round.

Any thoughts out there?[/quote]

This is absolutely spot on, I wish more OC's took this view. I always found in training (ie when not on ops) people always wanted to play with their train set and held decision making at their own level rather than delegating (I know I'm guilty of it). I remember it was the key complaint amoungst the infantry guys in my peer group - too many OC's run their company as a big platoon, micro-managing down to section level which completely undermines moral and structure. Interestingly, in my experience, once a company deploys on ops, this position is reversed and sect/pl level command suddenly become very involved.

I think a lot of this stems from an unneccesarily aloof attitude some OC's have towards junior officers (though this doesn't only afflict OC's). Just because one person has a crown and another a couple of pips doesn't mean that the person with the crown knows everything and the guy with the pips knows nothing. Even if it feels like that it's still a pretty shabby way of treating your command team. Talk to pl comanders/sect commanders, find out what they think about things, about section, platoon and company doctrine, tell them what your thoughts are - after all, they have been on their course and spent quite a few months getting really into it, they wont have your experience but they are almost certainly more current on platoon doctrine and may just have something worthwhile to add - at least you will make people feel part of it.

I have been lucky enough to work for a number of OC's, none of them were 'bad' but some were definately better than others!


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