Staff Functions

Command and Control

By Chris Field May 20, 2019

Click here to download a copy of 'Command and Control 3 Bde (Reinforced)(ANZUS) and Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017'

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) conflates ‘command and control’ into one abbreviated concept: C2. This conflation loses fidelity and clarity in applying command and control as one of the ADF’s six warfighting functions.[1] This paper separates command from control, encouraging both ideas to exist and interact in varied states of cooperation, collaboration and support as well as states of tension, disagreement and, at times, conflict.

This paper is based on a reinforced combat brigade’s command and control experience before and during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017. The Australian Army designates its three reinforced combat brigades as the Army’s ‘units-of-action’.[2] These ‘units-of-action’ are habitually commanded by the 1st Australian Division and Deployable Joint Force Headquarters.[3]

In June and July 2017, 3rd Brigade, participated in the Australian, New Zealand and United States (ANZUS) joint and combined Exercise Talisman Sabre at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, in Central Queensland. As an augmented force, 3rd Brigade (Reinforced)(ANZUS) served as the Land Component Command, expanding from its doctrinal eight units and approximately 4,000 people to a formation of 11 battle groups / unit headquarters of approximately 6,300 people.[4]

Exercise Talisman Sabre challenged 3rd Brigade. As an ANZUS joint and combined force, 3rd Brigade operated against an independent, adaptive and thinking ‘enemy’ based on Australia’s 1st Brigade from Darwin and Adelaide. This ‘enemy’ enabled 3rd Brigade, within Exercise Talisman Sabre, to test its ability to command and control force elements in a competitive peer-adversary warfighting environment.

During Exercise Talisman Sabre, and in prior training events, Headquarters 3rd Brigade’s key responsibilities were commanding and controlling ‘where people meet’, or where two or more subordinate units interact, in the battlespace. Constant command and staff diligence is required to support subordinate units in their actions in a complex, lethal and often cluttered battlespace. If a headquarters does not, or cannot, control ‘where people meet’ then their value as a headquarters is questionable.

A combat brigade headquarters, honed through a half-millennium of warfighting, is at its heart a simple organisation.[5] The headquarters contains a commander and staff. The interactions between these two entities set the tone for brigade leadership, goodwill, capabilities and fighting power.[6] Both entities have responsibilities. Key among these: the commander ‘commands’ and the staff ‘control’.

This paper explores command and control from observing interactions, responsibilities and accountabilities between commanders and staff. Based on 3rd Brigade’s Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017 experience, these observations include:


The commander:
~       commands
~       provides preliminary guidance
~       collaborates
~       resets
~       processes information

The staff:
~       control
~       coordinate battle procedure
~       manage information priorities
~       maintain teams

This paper is designed to inform military professionals as we continue to learn and evolve our understanding and application of command and control.



[1] Six Warfighting functions are: Intelligence (or Know in Australian doctrine); Command and Control (or Adapt in Australian doctrine and Mission Command in US Army doctrine); Movement and Manoeuvre (or Strike in Australian doctrine); Lethal and Non-Lethal Fires (or Shape in Australian doctrine); Logistics (or Sustain in Australian doctrine); and, Force Protection (or Shield in Australian doctrine).
United States Marine Corps, Marine Air Ground Force Staff Training Program (MSTP), Pamphlet 5-0.4, The MAGTF Officer’s Guide, Quantico, Virginia, March 2010, p. 22 <> [accessed 18 August 2017]
Commonwealth of Australia (Australian Army), Land Warfare Doctrine, LWD 3-0-3, Formation Tactics, 2016, p. 10 <;> [accessed 18 August 2017]
Headquarters United States Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-0 - Mission Command, Washington, DC, 28 March 2014, p. 1-4
<> [accessed 18 August 2017]
[2] Department of Defence, Australian Army, Plan Beersheba - Under Plan Beersheba our Army continues to modernise in order to remain equipped and prepared for new and emerging threats, 15 June 2017 <> [accessed 06 September 2017]
[3] Department of Defence, Australian Army, 1st Division, 13 December 2016 <> [accessed 06 September 2017]
[4] 3rd Brigade’s 11 Battle Group / Unit Headquarters included: Battle Group Eagle; Battle Group Coral; Battle Group Samichon; Battle Group Cannan; Task Group Black (NZ); Battle Group Gimlet (US Army); Battle Group Pegasus; 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery; 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment; 3rd Combat Signals Regiment; 3rd Combat Service Support Battalion leading the Brigade Support Group.
[5] Brigade (n.) "subdivision of an army," 1630s, from French brigade "body of soldiers" (14c.), from Italian brigata "troop, crowd, gang," from brigare "brawl, fight," from briga "strife, quarrel," perhaps of Celtic (compare Gaelic brigh, Welsh bri "power"), from PIE root *gwere- (2) "heavy." Or perhaps from Germanic. Online Etymology Dictionary, <> [accessed 18 August 2017]
[6] Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945, Praeger; Reprint edition, 2007, pp. 3 & 170. Martin Van Creveld asserts that ‘within the limits set by its size, an army’s worth as a military instrument equals the quality and quantity of its equipment multiplied by its Fighting Power’. He defines Fighting Power as: …resting on mental, intellectual, and organisational foundations… manifesting, in one combination or another, as discipline and cohesion, morale and initiative, courage and toughness, the willingness to fight and the readiness, if necessary, to die …Fighting Power, in brief, is defined as the sum total of mental qualities that make armies fight.



Chris Field

Major General Chris Field is Deputy Commanding General, Operations, US Army Central.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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