requires decentralized yet coordinated decision making at the small unit level4 to project a “wider, more diverse application of power and influence” 5 in order to create an advantage over an enemy. Distributed operations rely on the “ability and judgment of Marines at every level” and are made possible by the decision making abilities of small unit leaders.6
Enhanced company operations (ECO) build on distributed operations as an “operational art that maximizes the tactical flexibility offered by true decentralized mission accomplishment . . . and facilitated by improved command and control, intelligence, logistics, and fires capabilities.”7 As with distributed operations, decision making at the level of the small unit leader is a critical component of ECO within hybrid warfare.
These evolving warfare concepts have dramatically changed the performance expectations of small unit leaders. Because of the considerable size of the areas of operations assigned to small units and the need to respond quickly to an agile and adaptive adversary, small unit leaders—company, platoon, and squad leaders—now frequently find themselves isolated in both space and time, with little ability to reach back to higher headquarters for timely guidance or expert assistance. Because of the need for small units to operate semiautonomously over long periods of time, their responsibilities typically go far beyond what has been traditionally expected of a small unit tightly integrated into a larger-sized organization and may include the coordination of supporting arms, logistics planning, intelligence interpretation, and even civil affairs.
The complex environments in which Marines have had to operate have also added the demand that small unit leaders possess skills heretofore not considered critical to the traditional expeditionary warfare mission of the Marine Corps. A significant component of today’s engagements is aimed at “winning the hearts and minds”8 of the local populace and thereby denying sanctuary for the adversary. This component calls on capabilities including the following: understanding and empathizing with different cultures, understanding the explicit and implicit political landscape and interests of different factions, negotiating with local leaders, and coordinating operations with other agencies, coalition forces, and nongovernmental
5 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. The Long War: Send in the Marines, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., January, p. 32.
6 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. The Long War: Send in the Marines, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., January, p. 32.
7 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. A Concept for Enhanced Company Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., August 28, p. 2.
8 The committee is aware that the idea of operations to win the hearts and minds of indigenous populations is not a new concept. The phrase was first used by the British Army during the Malayan Emergency in 1948, but the concept has been with us since the time of Alexander. It is mentioned here not because it is new, but because it demands skills and sophistication on the part of the small unit leader not normally called for in combat operations.