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.