Young Officer Training for operations

Discussion in 'Officers' started by barbs, Mar 2, 2005.

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  1. I considered posting this in Infantry forum, but felt it would get wider coverage in Officer forum.

    I would like to seek opinions about a fairly sensitive topic - YO training for operations.

    The Infantry demands that pl comds conduct PCBC prior to commanding its soldiers. I see no problem with that whatsoever. I remember a scottish DINF saying that he would not allow a YO to go on ops unless he had passed PCBC because he felt he owed it to the soldiers that they were led by correctly trained officers.

    Another thread has commented on BBC documentaries about RA in Iraq. I saw an episode where one of the tp ldrs arrived apparently straight from RMAS -i.e., without going on Tp Ldrs course.

    One assumes that the RA YO course does not offer any more training that would be relevant to leading a patrol in Iraq. If the pl comd was an infantryman he would have had completed PCBC and therefore his men would be better served.

    If a non-infantry YO is going to lead soldiers in an 'infantry role' does he need more than just RMAS training?
  2. This is second hand, so take it as you will. I think you'll find that the policy differs over time, according to who DInf is, even who the CO is. In 1993 on my (TA) PCBC I recall the DS telling us that regular courses generated good debate because there was always a mix of people straight from Sandhurst, from ops in NI, from commanding platoons in the UK.

    If policy at any given moment is to not have a policy - as it were - I think you'd find non PCD qualified YOs under a very tight leash and often 'under instruction' from their platoon sergeants. I know of one who went on Agricola as understudy to a CSgt platoon commander. You're right that the RA tp lr training would not necessarily equip him for an inf light role - when patrolling Basra old town, the knowledge of gun-line safety becomes a bit irrelevent.
  3. The lack of training of certain YOs who are going on op tour in the infantry role should be a must. We cannot expect non-inf types to be able to lead their troops when they are not fully trained to know what to do. That is not to say some will not do well, but we shoudl give them the correct training to ensure that those not so gifted individuals do not feck up and put lives at risk.

    However, this would entail a longer training period and more critically, more cost. I can't see this happening.

    However, a wider issue is the deploying of non-inf types in an infantry role.

    I, like many others, have seen other arms on ops in a role they are not prepared for. Again, some do well and deserve a big pat on the back. Other, through no real fault of their own are out of their depth.

    The infantry is as specialised as any branch of the army. A YO will do between 3- 6 months on his YOs cses learning to command his pl to enable them to destroy the enemy more effectively. The training is mentally and physically hard. After completing PCBC, he has earned the right to command inf soldiers on the battlefield.

    In places like Iraq, we often see RA and RAC unit deployed in the inf role. Their soldiers and YOs have not had sufficient trg and the old lie that they are taught it in phase 1 trg or at Sandhurst is rubbish. They learn the basics; the minimum. They have not been taught to do the job nor have they had ample opportunity to practice in the role on exercise.

    However, to the powers that be it is a financially attractive option. Unless we are on war fighting ops, the RA and RAC have little chance to be used as intended, (although we had some RAC in C2 on TELIC 4 firing 120). Financially, it is better to cut back the inf and use other arms in an inf role. Less inf = less cost. I am sorry to say but this is a situation that is here to stay.

    This is not an arogant infantry post as I know that those RA and RAC units do their best. But the issue is that they are doing a job they are not properly trained for. I would be a right c*nt if I thought I, without the correct training, could spend Daddy's money on champange or drop short on my own blokes.
  4. I just love that mix of level headed fairness and infantry arrogance!

    Quite right though; we wouldn't put a rifle section into a gun line (there you go fellers, you'll get the hang of it), nor should people be patrolling in the light role unless trained too. It seems inf is only a specialisation when it's convenient: the rest of the time 'inf skills' conveniently means phase 1 training and the ability to run fast after a toff shouting 'follow me men, huzzah for the King'.
  5. Thanks fellas.

    Further concerns that I have - Fus Gentle died in Iraq and his family are going through hoops about his alleged lack of preparation (although probably more days of training than the TA Kgn who won an MC). Imagine if his pl comd wasn't completely qualified to hold the post - naturally he was because he was an infantry officer - cross deck to RA or RAC in IdleAdjt's scenario - oh poo!

    I wonder about whether the desire to not let an officer be embarrassed about not having the medal that his troops have. It is earned at the expense of the risk to the soldiers.

    I am all for operational experience - I wish I had more and I am not risk averse - at one extreme its vanity about a 2Lt having a op medal at the other its the Army exposed because it is not serving its men by preparing their leaders properly.
  6. Barbs,

    Can’t help feeling that’s a bit strong.

    We insist our young blades lead their men because that’s their job. We also put them in an already established Pl or Tp so that they have years of experience available to them during the early years when they are gaining experience of their own. And part of the Inf Pl Sgt or Corps Tp SSgt’s job is to teach that young leader of men all the stuff that he just can’t get on a course, no matter how good.

    Ideally the young blade will gain that experience – and the friendly SNCO preceptorship* – in an operational environment because to lead effectively you need credibility and there lies the real downside to soldiers having more medals than their officers.

    Perhaps then the real pre-op training they need is to be taught how to access that experience rather than (what I worry happens too often) being taught that a confident manner and strong delivery is more important than a weak set of orders. This is the “how to pass the exam” school of training rather than the “how to get it right” that we should all aspire to.

    I say perhaps, because I fully support your first post on this subject: we do need to explore what we could do better rather than bemoan what’s not yet working. So more opinions please from others with experience (and more from yourself barbs) and all the pre-RMAS (Reg or TA) members of arrse reading this please start thinking about the trials and challenges you are going to face during your first year of Commission. How will you make up for the lack of experience you must have to begin with?

    *preceptorship – think mentoring but with a specific end-point to the process such as the point when our new 2Lt just needs to get on with it on his own.
  7. Nice to see this comment. Those of us who commented on the quality of the officer directly in charge of the 6 RMP who were murdered fully agree.
  8. abacus

    Sorry the suggestion of vanity was not in relation to the documentary. Although I do know of one inf bn that took its newly commissioned officers (and those of another battalion in their division) to BBK for their Xmas leave so that they'd have the medal before PCBC - they were there for 27 days and didn't get the medal - because they were going to conduct public duties next the CO wanted there to be a few swingers around the place!

    I agree with this entirely. There is no substitute for 'on the job training' in terms of operational leadership - but the difference between a patrol at RMAS and a patrol at PCBC is worlds apart. The standard of instruction and assessment is on a par but the execution of that patrol will differ significantly (maybe because the blokes leading or in the patrol don't think they'll need to do it for real).

    A major concern I have is that of individual reinforcements. NIIRT was/is a fantastic training for soldiers who didn't get the benefit of the full pre-op training package. Does such a training program exist for ops other than NI? I understand that it was run by rear parties as opposed to by OPTAG etc - this may have changed.

    The Commander's Cadre run at NITAT (as was) was excellent and you had the benefit of true SMEs giving you the benefit of your experience, you also had a few old salts giving you advice.

    My concerns stem from what I feel is a moral obligation that our soldiers are led by young officers who have been correctly trained. I am confident that the YOs leaving RMAS are able to lead their men and women, I am concerned that they are not being given the subsequent training to carry out their operational roles.
  9. I have a couple of points. First I would argue with the point above. I completed NIIRT many years ago and found it an almost useless experience. A. Because I was already half way through my tour before being loaded onto it and B. Because none of the training really suited the role I was filling, even in the most general terms. As a bonus though I did get to watch England hammer Scotland in Euro 96 in the Sergeants' Mess.

    Second point. I deployed on GRANBY as a very wet between the ears RCT Troop Commander. Admittedly I had been in post 18 months and I had completed the full Troop Commanders' Course. However when I look back I am amazed at the level of responsibility that I was given and the potential for serious (life threatening) c*ck ups that this presented compared with the remarkably few times that anything went wrong. Why? Because I had 2 outstanding SNCOs who kept me on the straight and narrow, offered me advice whether I wanted it or not and beavered in the background to make sure all was running smoothly.

    When I got my insert slip from the Op my (temporary) OC had stated that 'at times he appears to relinquish command of the Troop to his SSgt'. At the time I couldn't see a problem with this and I told him so. We were on an Op not an exercise - the potential for f*ck up was enormous. If at times my hugely experienced SNCOs could identify a way of ensuring that things went right that required them to act without reference to me then all well and good. They always ensured that I knew what they had doneand as long as things got done quickly, safely and correctly I really couldn't see the problem.

    The point is two fold. You can't (must not) allow a culture to develop where YOs are not allowed to learn their trade and grow in experience even in the most dangerous of circumstances simply because there is a risk that things might go pear shaped. So we come to part two; we manage risk by mitigating it where possible. You mitigate this particular risk by teaming the YO with a competent and capable SNCOs (or JNCOs) who can see the drama before it arises and guide the YO around it, or through it if needs be.

    Remember your YOs will be OCs before you know it. If they have not been allowed to have the experience as a Lt then the first time they will get it (in command) may be as a Major when the consequences may be greater and there won't be anyone to hold his hand in the same way.
  10. All well and good however the reality of life is that a whole bunch of variables impact on our ability to be totally prepared for ops. No amount of training will guarantee that an officer will lead well. As someone said on an earlier post the Officer is part of a pl/tp and the existing experience must help bring them on. I've placed new (even pcbc trained) officers under instruction of pl Sgts until I was satisfied they could cope. If they come pcbc trained so much the better, if not then you adapt.

    What is crazy is allowing legal proceedings based on the level of an officers ability. That might seem harsh but where does it end. You can't have PC in battle.

    As for non-Inf in Inf role well that is for the headshed to decide on a cost/benefit basis. But don't complain when it goes wrong. Actually I've seen some excellent tankies and gunners in the Inf role in NI. The difference there was to NITAT trg was excellent.
  11. I agree with all you say JL. It's about managing the risk; a careful trade-off between restricting - or rather controlling - the remit of a new YO on ops (whether explicitly by the OC/pl sgt, or tacit acceptance by a YO of his limitations), and excluding him, or her, from the experience that will be invaluable in their future command of troops.

    Here's one - what about the TA coys that have been deployed on Telic? Firstly, all have invariably been gate guardians of some sort, but this shouldn't be confused with stagging on the barrier at Catterick and requiring the minimum of skills. e.g. big demos at the palace, mortar attacks in all locs, mortar baseplate patrolling out to 6kms from the base (SLB, UQ etc), running PVCPs, IEDs, convoy escorts etc etc.

    Yet the rush to get deployed and the consequent gap in training is something a regular would be surprised at. This is my own experience, and from what I've heard from the later Telics is that lessons have been learned to some extent.

    I'm not talking about the issue this thread started with, as we were well furnished with SCBC/PSBC/PCBC/CATAC qualifications, but the theatre specific training packages.

    The end of Mobilisation day 1 is when you have your list of people who've made it through Chilwell and you can make a scratch ORBAT (bear in mind in 13 days you'll be in Iraq). Day 2 to 6 are going through the Grantham training package (here is a mess tin, we use it for cooking/this is called a rifle)in syndicates. It's necessary - I suppose - because there will be rusty reservists, dentists etc as well as qualified and up-to-date inf soldiers in any 'course' to go through; but for us it was a frustrating chore. At the end of this incredible waste of time we were lucky to get a week to come together and train as a coy. Self-help was the order of the day - our Bn got their available PSIs and put together a scratch training package, based on experience of NI and Agricola. They did excellently, but - should it be so scratch and rely entirely on self-help? What would Mrs Gentle say if her son had gone through this as his pre-cursor to deployment?

    I won't even go into the confusion of the reg units as to states of command over us, and the G4 implications, it's too painful even now. These have been simplified now, I hear, but for us it was a nightmare. I lost count of the number of SO3 xyz (no names, no pack drill) we had to deal with due to their short postings and inability to brief their replacements about our mere existence.

    Luckily, the character of the TA soldiers and a lot of hard work on the ground made up for it, but there was a learning curve that occured during those first few weeks on the various tasks - arguably by that stage it should not have been so there, or quite so steep.
  12. Agreed. 100%. And must also be a concern at LAND, hence all the MK1, MK2, JOTAC, Gap Training, ROCC, ROCC(V) and individual initiatives on the go. Now I sense your experience is suggesting that those might not be enough in themselves. As one of many who needs to choose and commit his soldiers to serve with others, normally unknown others (the lot of a TA OC is not always a happy one) I want experienced people like you to tell me what they think needs done because if it needs to be then I must have a moral obligation to do my bit in making it so.

    Note to all Serving Officers reading this, next time someone tells you "they" should do something, remember, you are the "they". Moral Courage - the one they don't give you a medal for!
  13. I think the crux of the issue is that all Offrs and sldrs need to be trained for role in war and to exercise thensleves at this often enough. YOs may not have had the chance for much practice on Ex but if their respective YOs cses are up to scratch then they will al least have the necessary knowledge. After that, its down to the quality of the individual and if the YOs cses are properly assessed, then if someone is that bad, they should not pass and have to re-take.

    The same applies to our sldrs. They must recieve the correct trade training and it must be rigourous enough. Once they have passed, then they should be good enough to operate in time of war.

    By this rationale, we should then not have people operating drastically out of role. If the powers that be wont employ enough infanteers, then before other arms deploy, they should have a very comprehensive trg package to make up the skills gap. UIn truth, this would only give them the knowledge and not necessarily the experience. This is a problem we are unlikely to resolve with ever greater calls for cost saving.

    As for YOs deploying before they have completed their YO cse, fine if they are going to a sleepy theatre like Bosnia. Not at all right if they are off to the desert.

    As for the issue of TA personel, it is a difficult issue. I have worked with some good TA multiples who did a fine job. However, we must use them within their limitations. A TA Pl might know the basics but they do not get enough MTDs or time away from their other employment to give them the experience. The pre-training should be longer as some people who deploy may not have had the opportunity to do a great deal of useful trainging prior to their call-out. Again, I see little chance of the TA being used less as the Regs get cut back further.
  14. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    I know we have debated the experience levels of junior officers in the past and even suggested that SNCO's can do it better. I have few thoughts on this beyond the best Lt I worked for bailed out of RMAS and re enlisted as a Rifleman in the RGJ. Did a year out of Aldergrove on ops and did RMAS again. As a 23 yr old 2nd Lt he was inspiring and I would have followed him. He finished as OC SCBC at Brecon. Top Man and experienced. However my first tour when I was 18 was fun, my 3rd tour was worrying.
  15. Yes - let's not go there again. The 'officers are crap and NCOs do it better blah blah' threads are a-plenty, and always give rise to generalised ignorance from both 'sides'.
    Stay on topic, if you will...