In June, I wrote a blog about the NCO’s role in Multi-Domain Battle, the emerging concept describing what the Army must do to overcome warfighting challenges it may face on the future battlefield.
Since posting it, I’ve gotten some feedback that many are still trying to understand how the concept will be implemented and what it will mean for NCOs. The concept is complex; however, NCOs are experts in the human aspect of warfare. No matter what concepts eventually become doctrine, NCOs will ALWAYS be in the forefront, applying leadership and expertise to solve problems at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of command. That’s why we are restructuring with the NCO 2020 Strategy. These efforts place an emphasis on providing NCOs with the outstanding training, education and experiences they will need to lead Soldiers in complex missions of the future.
Take a few minutes to re-read the blog. Use the information provided in these materials, and return to your formations ready to move your Soldiers into the future.
As I visit different locations or speak at various panels, I am often surprised to find Soldiers really don’t have a basic understanding of how and why the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is driving changes for the future force.
Many only want to understand how TRADOC initiatives affect them now, like changes in training requirements. But it’s just as important Soldiers understand that TRADOC creates concepts that will impact their future through applications in doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership and education development, personnel, facilities or policy. These concepts are like episodes in a series you might watch on a streaming app – they are leading the story of how the Army will fight in the future. Each concept builds upon the previous in order to understand, visualize and describe the future complex environment.
Army Operating Concept (AOC)
Over a year ago, TRADOC published the U.S. Army Operating Concept, or AOC, “Win in a Complex World.” The AOC presents a vision of future conflict that drives how the Army must change to ensure future forces are prepared to prevent conflict, shape the security environment, and win wars. The concept highlights that the future operational environment is not only unknown, but unknowable and constantly changing.
To win in this complex world, Army forces must provide the joint force with multiple options, integrate the efforts of multiple partners, operate across multiple domains, and present our enemies with multiple dilemmas. The AOC is the starting point for developing the future force, and provides the intellectual foundation for a comprehensive strategy to change the Army and guide capability development.
The emerging concept of Multi-Domain Battle, or MDB, describes what the Army must be able to do to overcome the challenges defined in the AOC.
When published, MDB will be a concept that describes how U.S. ground forces, as part of joint and multinational teams, deter adversaries and defeat highly capable peer enemies in the 2025-2050 timeframe.
Multi-Domain Battle matches the physical domains of land, sea, and air, with greater emphasis on space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. Within this focus, the information environment and the cognitive dimension of warfare are of critical importance.
Ideally, in future application, MDB will provide commanders with numerous options for executing simultaneous and sequential operations using surprise and speed of action to present multiple dilemmas to an adversary in order to gain physical and psychological advantages, along with influence and control, over the operational environment.
The Army adapts and innovates to keep its combat edge by thinking about future conflict, learning collaboratively, analyzing capability gaps, and implementing solutions.
While thinking clearly about future armed conflict, four trends emerged: all domains will be contested; operations will be degraded; the U.S. Army will operate in complex terrain, e.g. dense urban areas; and increased lethality of the battlefield.
At its core, MDB will likely require flexible and resilient ground formations that project combat power from land into other domains to enable joint forces freedom of action, as well as seize positions of relative advantage and control key terrain to consolidate gains.
Because of this new environment, more will be asked of our noncommissioned officer corps. TRADOC is already working on how to develop the next generation of competent and committed NCOs of character — trusted Army professionals who thrive in chaos, adapt and win in a complex world.
NCOs develop as leaders over time, through deliberate progressive and sequential processes, incorporating training, education and experience across the three learning domains throughout the Soldier’s career. Those domains, which include self-development (individual), operational (unit), and institutional (TRADOC) learning, all work together to produce that next generation of NCOs.
As we look on the future role of the NCO in MDB, basic responsibilities will remain the same.
Commanders will continue to expect:
- NCOs to be the bearer of high-quality standards and discipline and serve as role models of each
- NCOs to conduct inspections
- NCOs to ensure that equipment and Soldiers are at a high state of readiness to accomplish the mission given
- NCOs to be the primary trainers of individual and small team tasks and mentors to the officer corps
- Most importantly, commanders expect NCOs to ensure the care and well-being of Soldiers and their families, within their scope of responsibility.
As members of the NCO corps, individuals have an inherent responsibility to continually self-improve — whether through civilian education, technical certifications, participation in competitive events and boards, or reading professional journals. NCOs should not wait until they attend professional military education courses to expand their knowledge.
Organizations also play a critical role in NCO development, by placing them in positions of responsibility during daily missions, training exercises and deployments. The best way to create a solid organization is for leaders to empower subordinates within the tenants of mission command. Empowering subordinates does not mean omitting checks and only making necessary corrections. Leaders help subordinates in identifying successes and mistakes by ensuring they sort out what happened and why.
Because subordinates learn best by doing, leaders should be willing to take prudent risks and accept the possibility that less-experienced subordinates will make mistakes. Risk assessment and management help determine existing challenges and mitigation strategies. If subordinate leaders are to grow and develop trust, it is best to let them learn through experience. Effective leaders allow space for subordinates to experiment within the bounds of intent-based orders and plans.
There are leader development opportunities every day for our Soldiers, and leaders must seize these opportunities using mission command tenants.
The Army develops NCOs through a progressive and sequential professional educational system that has rigor and relevance. TRADOC is driving change for the future in leader development through these imperatives:
- Commitment to the Army profession, lifelong learning and development
- Balance the Army’s commitment to the training, education and experience components of leader development
- Manage talent to benefit both the institutional and the individual
- Select and develop leaders with positive attributes and proficiency in core leadership competencies for responsibility at higher levels
- Develop adaptive and creative NCOs capable of operating within a complex operational environment and the entire range of military operations
- Embed mission command principles in leader development
- Value a broad range of leader experiences and developmental opportunities
To best prepare our NCO corps for the challenges of an uncertain future, we must fundamentally change and evolve the NCO professional education system into a comprehensive leader development system that links training, education and experiences across all three learning domains.
The Army’s strength is the Soldier, so it must equip and prepare them to fight and win across all domains. Multi-Domain Battle and the associated capabilities will ensure that future Soldiers and joint teams can fight, win and survive on tomorrow’s battlefields.
NCOs will be expected to be more than the backbone of the Army … they must be known as high-caliber professionals, who are comfortable in ambiguity and operating within the commander’s intent to accomplish the mission.
Watch below as Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, TRADOC command sergeant major, leads a senior enlisted panel on how the Army develops noncommissioned officers for Multi-Domain Battle during the Association of the United States Army’s Land Forces in the Pacific Symposium May 23, 2017, in Honolulu, Hawaii.