I am honoured to share with Army a collection of articles written by members of the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion (7 CSSB) who recently participated in the Integrated Sea and Land Series 2018 (ISLS18), including Ex Hamel 18. This collection provides differing, but important, perspectives from soldiers and officers of the Battalion and range from the rank of private to lieutenant. Whilst I do not wish to provide too much by way of introduction prior to you reading each one, I do wish to provide some context and my own observations after my experiences on Hamel 18.
Mission command. This is a term that is often preached, but not always practised. I believe that years of unnecessary up-ranking of positions and wider micro-management have precluded many from realising the full potential of our junior commanders. This has also reduced confidence in the decision-making process (not so much the capacity of our junior leaders to make decisions, but whether they think they are authorised to do so).
My experiences as a commanding officer (CO) have cemented my view that our junior commanders (soldiers and officers) are extremely talented, capable, and need to be given greater opportunities to lead within a commander’s intent. They have never failed me despite being challenged in very complex and demanding circumstances, and have always impressed with the ingenious and innovative ways they solve problems. This is not to say we have never made mistakes, but their intuitive way of problem solving has always got the job done. These articles demonstrate only a snapshot of the breadth of challenging missions they completed whilst on Ex Hamel 18, and the strength of our soldiers and officers more broadly across Army.
Junior leadership investment in modernisation. It is a great time to be in Army given the significant investment in the protection and sustainability of our people. We have seen introduction of the Soldier's Combat Ensemble, L121 Fleet of Vehicles, and the enhanced F88 weapon systems, to name but a few. Whilst the systems and structures we use are not perfect, it is my view that they do allow us to effectively provide the capability that Army requires in the close logistics fight with some effort and application of skill. My experience on Exercise Hamel 18 was that we significantly underestimated the capacity of the logistics system to support across multiple fronts, even with the significantly smaller footprint when deployed compared to some previous brigade support group (BSG) constructs.
More importantly, and as the articles demonstrate, our soldiers are at the very forefront of doctrine and capability development in a number of areas, and are personally invested in the development of capabilities. We need to amplify their enthusiasm, intellect, ideas, and efforts in this regard if we are to grow our capability.
Demanding and interesting training. While we all train, I believe that there remains a tendency to run common and easy training, as opposed to running relevant, demanding, and truly multi-disciplinary training that will see both revolutionary and evolutionary changes to our new capabilities. This means commanders at all levels going the extra yard to fight for resources and having the capacity to develop innovative training that may require additional effort, planning, and controls for execution. These articles provided by 7 CSSB soldiers demonstrate how dedicated soldiers and officers were able to conduct truly revolutionary training to lead Army in developing a more survivable, effective and integrated combat service support capability in the close fight (which remains relevant across the wider battlefield). Whilst still in its infancy, and with some development work to do, this training demonstrated the strength of our junior soldiers and what might be possible with greater investment. We just need to create more opportunities.
Logistics as a manoeuvre element in the close fight. I was fortunate to see the BSG (including catering, medical, CSSB and military police platoon) treated as a manoeuvre unit in its own right as part of ISLS18 (Hamel 18). This new and deliberate position of Commander 7th Combat Brigade came with a realisation that the soldier and officers of the BSG were capable of fighting to maintain support of their dependencies within a combat brigade, but could also be given other tasks traditionally conducted by combat corps. This should not be mistaken as logistics personnel seeking to close with and destroy the enemy as a primary function, but we should be able, within our core duties, to apply tactics and fires to conduct our mission or support that of the brigade. This mindset also gave the commander more options for employment of his scarce resources.
In practice, this posture saw the BSG:
- create logistics nodes that were more agile, survivable and responsive
- more able to defend itself (including during the conduct of distribution tasks and against armour) without a routine requirement for rear area security operation (RASO) call-signs attached
- deploy in an amphibious context
- conduct population control tasks
- clear and prove routes
- command and deliver combat effects via integral assets, or using United States Marine Corps, Battlegroup WARATAH, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) assets that were requested for specific outcomes
- contribute fully to the wider brigade intelligence picture
- manoeuvre smaller logistic call-signs in a manner which avoided detection and supported a brigade information operation objective
- transition between amphibious and land based environments
- most importantly, get the right supplies to the right place at the right time
Collectively, this placed significant responsibility on our junior soldiers and officers, and required equally significant levels of trust in those same personnel from senior leaders. To their credit, our soldiers and officers excelled at each turn, and in doing so, reinforced the reason we need to invest more in the training and opportunities provided at all levels. It should also serve to reinforce the need to truly employ mission command and let our junior commanders lead. No more up-ranking or micro-management!
The articles collectively provide insight into some of 7 CSSB’s experiences in this regard. I hope you enjoy them and welcome any feedback or professional discussion on our observations.