2

Challenges of the Operational Environment for the Small Unit Leader: Observations and Findings

2.1 INTRODUCTION

Chapter 1 discussed the evolution of post-Cold War conflict environments and described some of the initiatives that the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has undertaken to ensure that Marines can effectively address the complicated challenges of hybrid warfare. To obtain a better understanding of how these trends affect small units and their leaders, the committee decided early in the course of this study to seek input from small unit leaders who had had deployment experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both the USMC and National Research Council (NRC) staff were supportive of these efforts and created opportunities for committee members to interact formally and informally with Marine small unit leaders. In September 2010, three Marine captains who had recently returned from deployments as company commanders visited the National Academies in Washington, D.C., and briefed the committee on the changing roles, activities, and challenges facing small units in Iraq and Afghanistan. In October 2010, a subgroup of the committee visited the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) facility at Camp Pendleton, California, to observe activities at the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE). During this visit, the committee members had an opportunity to observe a training demonstration and to gather information about novel approaches to developing and implementing theater-realistic, scenario-based, predeployment training in the Marine Corps.

2.1.1 Interviews: Purpose and Approach

Although these interactions were helpful in augmenting the materials provided to the committee by the Marine Corps and other Department of Defense



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 29
2 Challenges of the Operational Environment for the Small Unit Leader: Observations and Findings 2.1 INTRODUCTION Chapter 1 discussed the evolution of post-Cold War conflict environments and described some of the initiatives that the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has under- taken to ensure that Marines can effectively address the complicated challenges of hybrid warfare. To obtain a better understanding of how these trends affect small units and their leaders, the committee decided early in the course of this study to seek input from small unit leaders who had had deployment experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both the USMC and National Research Council (NRC) staff were supportive of these efforts and created opportunities for committee members to interact formally and informally with Marine small unit leaders. In September 2010, three Marine captains who had recently returned from deployments as company commanders visited the National Academies in Washington, D.C., and briefed the committee on the changing roles, activities, and challenges facing small units in Iraq and Afghanistan. In October 2010, a subgroup of the com- mittee visited the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) facility at Camp Pendleton, California, to observe activities at the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE). During this visit, the committee members had an opportunity to observe a training demonstration and to gather information about novel approaches to developing and implementing theater-realistic, scenario-based, predeployment training in the Marine Corps. 2.1.1 Interviews: Purpose and Approach Although these interactions were helpful in augmenting the materials pro - vided to the committee by the Marine Corps and other Department of Defense 29

OCR for page 29
30 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS (DOD) offices, several members of the committee expressed concern about not understanding enough with regard to the nature or challenges of decision making from the perspective of the small unit leader. To address this gap, a subgroup of committee members developed an interview protocol to elicit field experiences from Marine small unit leaders with recent deployment experience in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.1 In December 2010, National Research Council staff made arrange- ments for 6 committee members to conduct interviews with small unit leaders at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) in Quantico, Virginia. During this visit, the 6 committee members paired into 3 teams of inter- viewers, and together these teams conducted a total of 18 hours of interviews and captured experiential narratives from 23 leaders. Each provided committee members with detailed accounts of his or her unit’s activities and his or her own leadership challenges. The day after the interviews, the committee members returned to the National Academies in Washington, D.C., and spent a day working as a group to code and categorize themes from the interview notes. In doing so, the subgroup identified a number of issues that recurred frequently in the accounts of the small unit lead - ers who were interviewed. The four most salient, overarching themes emphasized the following: 1. The challenges of operating at a significant geographical distance from the infantry battalion and from other small units; 2. The diversity of operational activities, from kinetics to long-term stabiliza- tion and reconstruction operations; 3. The challenge of dealing with an adaptive and observant adversary who intermingles with local populations; and 4. Making rapid, high-consequence decisions under rules of engagement aimed at supporting an effective counterinsurgency strategy by minimizing unin - tended consequences of kinetic actions. In each of these domains, small unit leaders also described how resource gaps in technology, training, and personnel complicated information collection, analysis, and decision making. They also provided examples of decisions taken in the absence of higher-level guidance and support, as well as examples of impro - vised solutions that enabled them to conduct their missions without easy access to battalion-level resources. 1 T he interview protocol is provided in Appendix E. These interviews with small unit l eaders included commissioned and noncommissioned officers. The quotations from and personal experiences of the small unit leaders as related in this chapter were taken from these interviews.

OCR for page 29
31 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT 2.1.2 Chapter Organization This chapter is organized around the four key challenges, listed above, that are faced by the small unit and discussed in the next major section, entitled “2.2 Observations.” These challenges are derived from themes identified in the inter- views with small unit leaders: geographic dispersion, mission diversity, adaptive adversaries, and rules of engagement. These interview themes are augmented with information that the committee gathered from briefing materials, site visits (see Appendix B for a summary of the committee’s meetings and site visits), and the literature reviewed in Chapter 1. The committee recognizes that the interviews conducted for this study may not be representative of the experiences of all small unit leaders and notes that a com- pressed information-gathering schedule necessitated quite a small subject sample. In addition, materials provided to the committee by the Marine Corps indicate that USMC leadership, and especially the MCCDC, is aware of and working to address many of the challenges that small unit leaders face. However, the committee consid- ered it important to include specific examples from the experiences of small unit lead- ers to help the reader better understand the depth and complexity of challenges facing Marines in hybrid, complex environments, such as those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the committee wanted to call attention to the resourceful- ness of small unit leaders in developing strategies to mitigate the effects of resource gaps so as to encourage the Marine Corps to draw on these small unit leaders’ experiences as it assesses strategies for supporting and sustaining distributed units. In discussing the challenges of distributed operations, mission diversity, adaptive adversaries, and rules of engagement, the committee examines how these challenges complicate decision making. Particular attention is devoted to possible gaps in training, technology, and personnel, again with the recognition that the Marine Corps is working hard to identify and address such gaps. To that end, this chapter identifies examples of interventions or “fixes” that the Corps has implemented, developed, or considered. The chapter concludes with summarizing findings based on the committee’s review of enhanced company operations (ECO)-related literature assembled by committee members; the materials that the Marine Corps, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and other presenters provided the committee; and its compila - tion of the interview materials. Together, these sources of information are the basis for a set of six findings related to the selection, training, resourcing, and sustainment of small units and their leaders, not just in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also for future hybrid engagements as well. 2.2 OBSERVATIONS The following observations of the committee are organized according to the four salient, overarching themes, listed above, dealing with challenges that small units face. Each challenge is discussed in a subsection below.

OCR for page 29
32 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS 2.2.1 Geographic Dispersion and Resources The geographic dispersion of small units creates significant challenges for small unit leaders in the Marine Corps. The difficulty of operating autonomously at a significant distance from battalion headquarters was a consistent theme in all 23 of the interviews that the committee conducted with small unit leaders. In Iraq and Afghanistan, a single infantry battalion of approximately 1,100 Marines can be responsible for more than 17,000 square miles of territory.2 As a result, rifle companies and their constituent platoons, squads, and teams find themselves responsible for territory that may encompass hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles. Operating at significant distances from the infantry battalion, Marine small unit leaders, including company commanders, platoon commanders, and squad leaders, often find themselves planning and executing missions under the same conditions and facing the same decisions that infantry battalions and their leaders might encounter. However, small units are unlikely to have the full complement of equipment and expertise typically available to a battalion. Geographical dispersion clearly affects unit performance. The small unit leaders interviewed by the committee consistently pointed to significant and frustrating gaps in technology and equipment, including communications and vehicles, as well as logistical support. A Marine lieutenant who led a rifle platoon in Iraq reported that the biggest problem for his unit was ensuring adequate and timely supplies to the rifle squads occupying 12 positions in a remote area. The platoon’s table of allowance did not account for his company’s being spread into so many positions, and so he had to justify necessary equipment and supplies, from guns to refrigerators.3 In addition, the remoteness and relative instability of the area made resupply difficult and even dangerous for a platoon, which lacks the full complement of transportation resources that a battalion has. Another Marine described “treacherous” problems for resupplying units in terrain where impro - vised explosive device (IED) threats are significant, saying that C-130 airdrops were often necessary to get supplies to squads.4 In addition, Marine small unit leaders described frustrating problems with communications equipment that was unreliable, broken, or otherwise unavail - able to the small unit. One captain reported that his company lacked working NIPRnet (Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network) and SIPRnet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) connections, which led the company to rely 2 Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) and Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations (EMO) Way Ahead,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 3 USMC Interviews, Committee on Improving the Decision Making Abilities of Small Unit Leaders, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. Hereafter cited as USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 4 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
33 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT exclusively on satellite radios in order to communicate with the battalion. 5 A platoon lieutenant who served in Iraq said that satellite communications were reliable but cumbersome: communicating with battalion command required that he stop his unit, set up the satellite communications unit, point it, and confirm that he had a working signal, which was time-consuming and potentially dangerous in areas where adversaries were active.6 Another captain described supervising his Marines as they used heavy equipment to move concrete and being frustrated that, despite these Marines being within eyesight of their unit, they were effectively out of communication range.7 Personnel gaps, particularly in areas such as intelligence and civil affairs, also complicate the job of the small unit leader. Pursuit of counterinsurgency strate - gies in hybrid environments means that small units conduct a range of missions, from kinetic engagements to rural development projects. At the battalion level, such efforts would be supported by a complement of personnel with training in intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, civil affairs, and other operational functions. However, these personnel may not be available at the small unit level, which creates problems when those units are operating at a significant distance from the infantry battalion headquarters. Several of the small unit leaders interviewed by the committee said that they had addressed some of these resource challenges by changing their organizational structure and their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)8 in order to make adjustments for conditions on the ground. For example, one small unit leader described revising his platoon’s table of organization to reflect the structure and functions of a battalion, with members of the platoon assuming responsibility for intelligence and operations roles.9 Another small unit leader identified specific administrative, logistics, intelligence, and communications functions that were needed, and then created a team of eight Marines to assume roles that would normally be present at the battalion level.10 However, as several of the Marines interviewed by the committee at Quantico pointed out, these ad hoc in-theater augmentations would not be necessary if smaller units were provided with trained 5 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 6 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 7 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 8 The terms “tactics,” “techniques,” and “procedures” are often used together, although each term has its own definition: see TRADOC Reg. 25-36 (Department of the Army, Training and Doctrine Command, the TRADOC Doctrinal Literature Program [DLP], Fort Monroe, Va., October 1, 2004; supercedes regulation dated April 5, 2000). Tactics are “the employment and ordered arrangement of forces in relation to each other.” Techniques are “non-prescriptive ways or methods used to perform missions, functions, or tasks.” Procedures are “standard, detailed steps that prescribe how to perform specific tasks.” (See JP 1-02 [Joint Publication 1-02. 2010. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (as amended through May 15, 2011), November 8; available at http:// www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp1_02.pdf. Accessed June 8, 2011.]) 9 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 10 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
34 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS personnel who could support basic functions such as intelligence, logistics, and command and control. For example, the ability to communicate reliably and clearly with fellow Marines and with more senior command echelons is extremely important, particularly when small units are operating for long periods of time at significant distances from the forward operating base. The Marine Corps is aware of the need to provide a fuller complement of both materiel and personnel resources to companies, platoons, and squads operating in a distributed mode. In particular, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) has conducted a number of Limited Objective Experiments (LOEs) examining how new technology and organizational augmentations can support small units in distributed environments. For example, the MCWL’s Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) emphasized the provision of communications and computing technologies to enhance company effectiveness in distributed opera - tions. The technologies tested included the Distributed Tactical Communications System (DTCS), a radio based on the Iridium satellite constellation; TrellisWare radio, a mesh-networked radio; and the Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) sys - tem, a software program for data management and display.11 Every Marine in the rifle company was given a radio (usually a company does not have more than one radio per squad).12 In the experiment, the communications suite provided high- quality on-the-move and out-of-sight communications; however, the MCWL has also indicated that new TTPs are needed to take advantage of this new capability.13 In addition, the extent to which these advanced communications capabilities are now made regularly available to Marine small units today is unclear. The MCWL has also developed and experimented with organizational changes at the company level, such as the company-level intelligence cell (CLIC) and the company-level operations cell (CLOC). The CLIC is intended to “stan - dardize the training, manning, and equipping needed for intelligence collection and dissemination” at the company level, and the CLOC will provide company commanders with the ability to coordinate fires and logistics over a large area of operations.14 To evaluate these innovations, the MCWL has sponsored LOEs and pursued limited in-theater deployment of CLIC and CLOC units. Data gathered on CLIC and CLOC impact validated the need and usefulness of changes to the 11 Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) and Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations (EMO) Way Ahead,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 12 Grace V. Jean. 2010. “Radios for Every Infantryman: Marine Company Tests Experimental Communications Gear,” National Defense, October. 13 Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) and Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations (EMO) Way Ahead,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 14 Kimberly Johnson, 2008, “Marine Companies Win Praise, But Also More Responsibility,” National Defense, December; Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, 2008, “Enhanced Company Operations: A Logical Progression to Capability Development,” Marine Corps Gazette 92(8).

OCR for page 29
35 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT company’s organization; in particular, the presence of the CLIC improved situ- ational awareness, reduced intelligence processing time, and mitigated uncertainty for the company commander.15,16 Lastly, the committee is aware that the Marine Corps is developing and implementing training that will prepare Marines to deal with the specific needs of their deployment location and mission. Such training may help small units cope with the resource challenges that they face with distributed operations. For example, one Marine captain deployed in a very remote and mountainous area told the committee that the vehicles provided in-theater were old and prone to breaking down. He felt fortunate to have taken a driving course that gave him skills in preventative vehicle maintenance and repair. This was not a course that most Marine officers are required to take, but it was critically important to the success of his unit’s deployment.17 2.2.2 Mission Diversity In Iraq and Afghanistan, combat operations have represented only one ele- ment of the USMC mission. In listening to Marine small unit leaders describe their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the committee gained appreciation for the complexity of the small unit leader’s job. Effective stabilization and reconstruc - tion efforts are critical in counterinsurgency warfare, which posits that function - ing civil institutions and economic opportunity serve as a powerful inoculation against social instability and violence. The small unit leaders interviewed by the committee described a diversity of missions, including securing a village deci - mated by Taliban fighters to enable people to rebuild their homes, interdicting border incursions, professionalizing national military forces, building an urban police force, collecting intelligence, coordinating medical care for local female populations, sweeping for IEDs, and locating and interdicting insurgents. This list is not exhaustive, but it does illustrate the range of responsibilities that small unit leaders face when deployed. To complicate matters, Marines who are engaged in stabilization-and-recon - struction-type missions are also likely to encounter situations in which the use of force becomes necessary. In a volatile operational environment, apparently calm situations can degrade into full combat with little warning. In such situations, an optimal course of action may not be immediately apparent, given that immedi - ate actions can have longer-term second- and third-order effects. One small unit 15 The development of doctrine for CLICs is a top priority for the Marine Corps. See http://www. marines.mil/news/messages/Pages/MARADMIN628-10.aspx. Accessed December 3, 2011. The status of the concept of CLOCs is uncertain. 16 Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) and Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations (EMO) Way Ahead,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 17 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
36 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS leader involved in a firefight when insurgents attacked a village had to decide whether to help a village elder who had been shot by insurgents or to pursue and destroy the insurgents. He chose to provide emergency medical care for the elder and, in doing so, won the trust of the village but failed to interdict the insurgents. Over the long run, he felt that this was the best outcome, since village residents began to provide the Marines with information on IED emplacements.18 Another small unit leader told committee interviewers that shifting gears from an aggres - sive stance to a more “humanitarian” mission and vice versa was difficult. He described having to effect dramatic changes in perspective and attitude for himself and his Marines several times a week, and often on a daily basis. 19 Similarly, a captain with deployment experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan described him - self as both “diplomat and warfighter,” commenting that successful small unit leaders can move fluidly from one role to another as situations demand.20 To complicate matters further, the small unit’s adversaries are often members of the very community with which the Marines are trying to build trust relation - ships. Interdicting adversaries—for example, insurgents who are building and deploying IEDs—is critical for the safety and survival of the Marines. However, identifying adversaries may require actions that are detrimental to trust relation - ships, such as conducting surprise house searches or arresting village residents. Operations such as these require finesse and nuanced judgment, because Marines may interact with local populations in ways that can easily be perceived as invasive or offensive. These can include entering homes to search for weapons, briefly assuming control of living spaces while conducting patrols to observe street activities without being seen, and even living in homes for short periods of time. Local populations can easily be alienated by overwhelming displays of force. One small unit leader attributed his success in confiscating a prohibited weapon to his positive relationship with a village elder: he was able to purchase the weapon with little fuss. He contrasted this experience with another small unit leader who decided to bring in tanks to threaten a village into surrendering its prohibited weapons. The village emptied, the weapons were never confiscated, and any trust between U.S. forces and the local population was damaged. 21, 22 Coupled with geographic dispersion, the diversity and volatility of the hybrid environment add even more complexity to small unit decision making and further underscore the importance of training and equipping small units for success. Marine small units and their leaders often interact with and coordinate 18 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 19 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 20 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 21 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 22 For one study relating nonviolent counterinsurgency efforts such as the provision of services to successful outcomes, see Eli Berman, Jacob Shapiro, and Joseph Felter, 2011, “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq,” Journal of Political Economy 119(4):766- 819; available at http://dss.ucsd.edu/~elib/ham.pdf. Accessed August 26, 2011.

OCR for page 29
37 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT missions and responsibilities with actors from many institutions and countries. Cross-cultural, cross-institutional relationship building in a war zone is no easy task, and success may depend on a mixture of personal disposition toward this kind of work as well as training and experiential learning. Ideally, such operations would be assigned to experienced and mature mili - tary personnel. However, the average age of the Marine Corps in 2010 was 22, and 67 percent of deployed Marines were in their first term of enlistment. 23 The youth and inexperience of the USMC’s “strategic corporal” puts a greater burden on company, platoon, and squad leaders to provide effective discipline, guidance, and support to Marines in their unit, while also demonstrating judicious decision making. As one captain told committee interviewers, companies and noncommis - sioned officers (NCOs) can have strategically significant results depending on their effectiveness in identifying enemies and establishing productive relation - ships with local populations.24 Given the youth of the force, the complexity of hybrid environments, and the diversity of missions, both the selection and the training of small unit leaders and their Marines deserve sustained attention and investment. The Marine Corps currently has no formal policy for directing Marine commands, from the battalion on down, on how to select small unit leaders at the company, platoon, or squad levels.25 However, the leadership aptitude, style, and qualities of individual small unit leaders become more important as small units shoulder increasingly signifi - cant responsibilities in field. For example, one captain who participated in the Quantico interviews enthusiastically described his experience leading an embed - ded training team in Afghanistan. In relating his experience, he emphasized that an individual’s openness to other societies and cultures is critical for the effective pursuit of counterinsurgency operations. To underscore this point, he described a conflict that broke out between the leader of an Afghan “kandak”—roughly the equivalent of an battalion—and a company commander who was assigned to support the professional development of in-country military and civilian security forces in a remote area of Afghanistan. This particular company commander had difficulty adjusting to the region’s culture. At one point, he became argumentative with the leader of the kandak, and the two exchanged religious and cultural slurs. This incident quickly scaled the chain of command in both the Afghan and Ameri- can forces. In recounting this story, the interviewee told committee members that he wished that his superior officers had paid more attention to how small unit 23 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010. 24 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 25 MajGen Raymond Fox, USMC, Commanding General, USMC Training and Education Command, personal communication to General Michael Williams, USMC (Ret.), committee co-chair, November 17, 2011.

OCR for page 29
38 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS leaders were selected for particular roles and missions. Some small unit leaders, he said, “have no business being part of an advisory group” in Afghanistan. 26 Predeployment training and education are also important for small units and their leaders. Considering the diversity of the activities in which Marines are engaged, “core competencies” seem to have evolved beyond the traditional areas of weaponeering, patrolling, conducting offensive and defensive opera - tions, providing fire support, and common combat tasks.27 In addition to these basics, Marines must be able to assess emerging events and make these decisions in highly unfamiliar cultural, religious, and linguistic contexts, with people who may or may not support U.S. military operations in their country. For example, skilled interpreters are critically important in any mission that requires effective communication and partnership with local communities. However, one small unit leader pointed out that effectively working with a native language interpreter is not a straightforward process. He thought that it required training and wished he had been provided more thorough preparation in the mechanics of communicating with local populations through an interpreter.28 The Marine Corps recognizes the importance of developing new approaches to training small units and their leaders to be successful in the volatile settings in which hybrid warfare occurs. Both the MCWL and the Training and Education Command (TECOM) are pursuing new approaches to equipping and training Marines for hybrid warfare. The Corps is using its Systems Approach to Training (SAT) to ensure that Marines receive battlefield-relevant preparation. The SAT paradigm calls for ongoing analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of training programs. In this model, training and readiness standards are updated on approximately a 2-year cycle to incorporate information from operational after-action reviews and lessons learned.29 In addition, the Corps encourages ongoing training, after-action reviews, and critiques at the unit level in order to promote unit cohesion and learning. To ensure that training curricula and structures are preparing Marine small units for the diverse demands of hybrid warfare, TECOM is working to identify and define the competencies needed by both enlisted Marines and officers at all grades. In addition to the traditional warfighting skills, emerging training approaches are focused on developing cognitive, psychomotor, and affective skills in small unit leaders, with an emphasis on cultivating intuitive decision making in 26 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 27 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010. 28 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 29 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010.

OCR for page 29
39 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT company commanders and their constituent small units.30 The USMC approach has been strongly influenced by the Recognition Primed Decision-making model, to which both the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy have subscribed for more than two decades. TECOM has recently identified intuitive decision making as an important set of skills for small unit leaders in particular. Implementing novel approaches to training is challenging for a number of reasons, however. First, and perhaps most importantly, Marine units must already undergo a great deal of training, and time for additional training is already limited. Secondly, the Marine Corps lacks a coordinating responsible organization to unify efforts around training oriented toward decision making.31 In addition, as of the summer of 2010, TECOM had defined neither requirements nor standards for the cognitive, social, or relational skills desired in company commanders and other small unit leaders.32 Nonetheless, the Marine Corps is investing in education and training to develop skills that support cross-cultural interaction for diverse missions. It is also providing Marines with predeployment education and training in both language and cultural interactions. As discussed in Chapter 1, the Center for Advanced Operational Culture and Learning (CAOCL) provides both language and cultural training to help Marines engage productively with local populations. Two Marine small unit leaders who received CAOCL training said that it helped them “get past the barriers, jump in, and gain trust quickly.”33 Even so, personnel gaps in small unit-level capabilities may not be fully resolved by predeployment language and cross-cultural interaction training. For example, despite having received some training in local languages, several small unit leaders told the committee that they would have preferred working with a skilled interpreter to support interactions with local populations.34 Unfortunately, skilled interpreters are scarce below the company level. The committee is aware that the Department of Defense is investing in research and development (R&D) to support better understanding of the sociocul - tural and behavioral factors that may influence human behavior for a diversity of missions. Such projects fall under the broader Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) 30 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010. 31 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010. 32 Dennis Judge, Ground Training Division, U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command, “USMC Systems Approach to Training,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2010. 33 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 34 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
40 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS rubric of Human Social Behavioral Cultural R&D, which emphasizes computa - tional modeling and simulation as an analytical methodology and a deployment vehicle. These R&D projects, many of which are managed by the ONR, seek to “provide analysis methods and computational models to support course of action decisions and operational planning.”35 Such technologies may eventually benefit Marines, but persistent challenges exist for developing, evaluating, and deploying computational models in the sociocultural and behavioral areas.36 In particular, there is a well-recognized need to develop “processes, procedures, and training to ensure appropriate use” of modeling and simulation technologies for in-theater decision making.37 Regardless of how computational methodologies evolve in this domain, the historical, political, economic, and cultural knowledge acquired as part of computational social modeling and simulation research may be useful in enhancing the content of Marine Corps training. 2.2.3 The Adaptive Adversary Stabilization, reconstruction, and other nonkinetic projects would require intense cognitive work, even if Marine small units were not operating at signifi - cant geographic distances from one another, and even if they were not taking place in the context of an insurgency. However, Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan are also fighting an intelligent, determined, and adaptive insurgency for which tradi - tional force-on-force TTPs are poorly suited.38 In Iraq and Afghanistan, traditional warfare is the exception, insurgency is the norm, and IEDs can inflict tremendous damage on U.S. forces. Because insurgents are members of local populations, it can be difficult for Marines to distinguish adversaries from neutral members of a population, and insurgent activities may not be easily discriminable from the normal patterns of life in a region. ONR’s George Solhan observed to the committee that “irregular threats are exceptionally difficult to template.”39 Indeed, the fact that adversaries in Iraq and Afghanistan are observant, adaptive, and easily embedded in local populations presents tremendous challenges for “sensemaking” among small units and their leaders. As discussed in Chapter 3, “sensemaking” is a term used by organiza - 35 Ivy Estabrooke, Office of Naval Research, “Social Cultural Knowledge for Decision Making,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 36 Computational models are discussed further in Chapter 3, in the section titled “3.3 Engineering Approaches to Support Decision Making.” 37 Ivy Estabrooke, Office of Naval Research, “Social Cultural Knowledge for Decision Making,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 38 For a review of terrorism research using economic analysis including game theory based on the adaptive enemy, see Todd Sandler, 2009, “The Past and Future of Terrorism Research,” Revista de Economia Aplicada XVII(50):5-25. Available at http://www.utdallas.edu/~tms063000/website/ Future_Terrorism_REA2009.pdf. Accessed August 26, 2011. 39 George Solhan, Office of Naval Research, “ONR Portfolio, Overview on Operational Adaptation,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010.

OCR for page 29
41 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT tional researchers and decision scientists to describe how humans develop, assess, negotiate, and evolve frames of reference that provide meaning and structure to otherwise-ambiguous events. Both the ability to establish a working sense of “what’s going on here” and the ability to communicate effectively about how events are unfolding in relation to that working narrative are critical if small units and their leaders are to assess and respond effectively to threatening situations. 40 As several small unit leaders pointed out, adversaries have the advantage of operating relatively fluently in linguistic, cultural, and geographical territories and can hide their activities in plain sight. One Marine captain described how an insurgent could almost invisibly plant an IED in a public square in an urban area of Iraq by walking through a crowded intersection during a busy time of day, dragging the device into place using a thin cord attached to his or her body; when the device was in place, the insurgent would surreptitiously cut the cord and walk away. Not only was it difficult to see the cord from the observation post, but the Marines could not easily distinguish the individual performing the placement from the scores of other people walking through the streets.41 Moreover, as members of local populations, insurgent adversaries can unob - trusively observe unit operations, analyze them for vulnerabilities, and then adjust their own strategies to undermine Marine TTPs.42 This means that even when Marines do manage to “decode” adversary strategies and implement countermea - sures, the efficacy of the countermeasures may be time-limited. The small unit leaders interviewed by the committee at Quantico mentioned numerous examples of this kind of adaptation. For example, one Marine squad leader told the com - mittee how Taliban fighters in a remote area of Afghanistan observed his Marine patrol using a metal detector to search for IEDs located along footpaths. Within a few days, the Taliban fighters had changed tactics, burying pressure plates under pieces of wood to defeat the metal detector. As a consequence, this sergeant lost one of his squad members during a routine patrol when the metal detector did not signal the presence of a pressure plate.43 Another Marine described a standard defensive strategy of stopping his unit about 300 meters from a suspected IED before attempting to investigate it so as to maintain a minimum safe distance from a possible explosion. Observing this defensive tactic, the local insurgents began setting out fake IEDs in public areas to “lure” the Marines to investigate. The real IED was actually located at the expected 300-meter stopping point so that when 40 See Gary A. Klein, Brian Moon, and Robert R. Hoffman, 2006, “Making Sense of Sensemaking 1: Alternative Perspectives,” IEEE Intelligent Systems 21(4):70-73; also Karl Weick, 1988, “Enacted Sensemaking in Crisis Situations,” Journal of Management Studies 25:305-317; and Karl Weick, 1993, “The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster,” Administrative Science Quarterly 3:628-652. 41 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 42 George Solhan, Office of Naval Research, “ONR Portfolio, Overview on Operational Adaptation,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010. 43 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
42 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS the patrol had dismounted, the insurgents would remotely detonate the explosive in close proximity to the patrol.44 Anticipating and countering the evolution of adversary tactics require a great deal of support for sensemaking among small units and their leaders. The quality, timeliness, and accuracy of information that can support the development and evaluation of frames of reference is critical if Marines are to identify and respond to novel threat patterns. Over the past decade, the Marine Corps has employed established protocols and procedures to collect, process, and disseminate information about emerging trends and events on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, one protocol outlines procedures for transferring authority to incoming units and conducting intelligence operations. Such information can help Marines develop the frames of reference required to effectively assess and respond to events in their area of responsibility (AOR). For example, Marine small unit leaders pointed out that the basic procedures governing the transfer of authority were a critical starting point for developing situational awareness during the early days of a deployment. When Marine units rotate into a new area, the unit that is leav - ing typically provides extensive information and lessons learned to the small unit leaders and personnel who will be taking over responsibility. Several of the small unit leaders who met with the committee indicated that this “right seat-left seat” transfer of authority provides critical and up-to-date information about the history, people, sites, and status of the new unit’s AOR.45 To the degree that such mechanisms facilitate the accurate transfer of information about patterns of life in an area, they can help new units establish a basic sense of what is normal and what requires attention. However, as several Marine small unit leaders explained, members of insur- gency groups are not unaware of this transfer and can leverage it to their tactical advantage. One Marine small unit leader dryly observed that Afghan insurgents “like to test” new units.46 He described how an insurgent group in his company’s AOR radically changed its TTPs for emplacing and detonating IEDs just as the Marines in his company were becoming familiar with patterns of life in the region. To counter adversary operations successfully, small unit leaders must remain a step ahead of the adversaries’ learning curve. This entails recognizing when adversary tactics have changed and developing appropriate countermeasures, and/ or devising ways to keep the adversary from being able to predict the actions that a unit will take.47 For example, one small unit leader emphasized the importance 44 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 45 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 46 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 47 For recommendations on basic research needs for countering IEDs that note the importance of “recognizing that insurgents/terrorists will change their behavior,” see National Research Council, 2007, Countering the Threat of Improvised Explosive Devices: Basic Research Opportunities (Abbreviated Version), The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

OCR for page 29
43 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT of “mixing things up”48 when conducting IED sweeps.49 Another squad leader described being deployed to a remote village where the insurgency was very active. IEDs were a near-daily threat, and he recognized that his unit was having difficulty getting accustomed to dealing with the prevalence of IEDs and the rapid changes in adversarial tactics for placing them. He worked with his team lead- ers to develop an in-field “training” exercise so that his Marines practiced IED encounters using pressure plates that detonated a small explosive charge at a safe distance from the simulated patrol. He believed that this exercise improved both the reaction time and the quality of his Marines’ response to IED threats, although he noted, “You never become accustomed to it.”50 Gaining access to timely and relevant intelligence improves the small unit’s ability to assess and address insurgency activities in its AORs. Timely and relevant information about local trends and events is critically important for the efficacy of small units.51 However, problems with communications equipment, coupled with the relative scarcity of trained intelligence personnel below the battalion level, present significant challenges to developing actionable and relevant intelligence. Even when small units can access battalion or coalition intelligence assets, the available information may not be relevant to a unit’s AOR. For example, when asked to assess the quality of intelligence provided by coalition forces in Iraq, one small unit leader told the committee: “Ninety percent of the time, nothing came from coalition forces. Anything worth a damn came from the locals.”52 Another sergeant described insufficient intelligence from his battalion command and the lack of embedded intelligence functions as particularly frustrating problems. This was particularly the case in regard to knowledge of adversaries’ IED-related TTPs, which evolved on a weekly basis. Realizing that intelligence from his command was unlikely to help him keep track of trends in IED emplacements, he learned to rely on the explosive ordnance device clearing teams for information about evolving adversary tactics. One squad leader related his unit’s philosophy of intel- ligence: waiting for good intelligence to arrive, he said, was a bit like waiting for cold beer to deliver itself. “Beer won’t come out of the refrigerator to you, and we realized that intelligence wasn’t going to deliver itself either. We decided that we should just go and get the intelligence we needed ourselves.”53 A number of the interventions described above, including immersive, scenario-based training and CAOCL culture and language resources, may be important in helping small units prepare for the dynamic threat environments 48 For a classic example of “mixed strategy,” see R.S. Beresford and M.H. Peston, 1955, “A Mixed Strategy in Action,” Journal of the Operational Research Society 6(4):173-176. 49 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 50 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 51 Gen Charles C. Krulak, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 1997. Intelligence, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 2, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., June 7, p. 5. 52 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 53 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
44 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS and adaptive adversaries in hybrid warfare. For example, as discussed above, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory has developed a number of concepts to support Marine small units in gathering and making sense of information about trends and events in their areas of operation. Both company-level operational cells and company-level intelligence cells acknowledge the importance of approximat - ing at least some battalion-level functions among smaller units. Although MCWL LOE activities indicated significant benefits from incorporating CLOC and CLIC functions into companies, the committee was unable to determine whether these resources are now a “normal” part of deployment. Nor did the committee attempt to evaluate the impact of CLOC and CLIC functions in real-world theater situa - tions, although it was provided with MCWL assessments of the impact of CLOC and CLIC on LOE outcomes.54 Novel predeployment training is also providing Marines with the skills neces- sary to operate in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, several small unit leaders described how Combat Hunter training taught them to identify physical evidence and particular patterns of behavior indicative of IED-related activities. In addi - tion, immersive scenario-based training, such as that offered during Mojave-Viper training and at the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) facility at Camp Pendleton, California, can afford Marines an opportunity to experience situations that closely resemble what they are likely to encounter in-theater. However, ensuring that theater-specific skills and scenario-based training are relevant to the environments that Marines are likely to encounter is challenging because the environment is changing so quickly. Maintaining realism and relevance depends on the regular and consistent debriefing of small unit leaders and their Marines to ensure that scenarios approximate what units are likely to encounter in-theater. At least some immersive training curricula incorporate the recent experiences of Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, when members of the committee visited the IIT facility at Camp Pendleton in October 2010 to observe the FITE Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), the IIT’s leadership told the committee members that they had conducted extensive interviews with recently deployed Marines to gather information on the kinds of decision making situa - tions that small units face in-theater. They said that they used this information to develop training scenarios that can be varied across units and from training session to training session so that Marine small units have some exposure to the kind of ambiguous and unpredictable environments that they are likely to encounter when deployed. In addition, the units that went through the FITE scenario were required to conduct an immediate and extensive after-action review in which the squad leader reviewed the events with his Marines and the unit discussed strategies to improve its overall performance in similar situations. Such training can expose 54 Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) Limited Objective Experiment 4 (LOE4) and Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations (EMO) Way Ahead,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2010.

OCR for page 29
45 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT small units to the kind of complex, rapid sensemaking that insurgency warfare demands by providing Marines with predeployment immersive, scenario-based training and encouraging constructive after-action reviews. Yet the extent to which all small units have access to such immersive prede- ployment training is not clear. Moreover, established Marine Corps knowledge management approaches, such as lessons learned, may not move quickly enough to support the development of effective scenario-based training. For example, the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned does develop and disseminate reports derived from theater experience. As noted above, the System Approach to Train - ing used by TECOM calls for the incorporation of lessons learned into predeploy - ment training, as well as reviews and updates of training curricula on a biennial basis. However, developing and validating lessons learned products can take well over a year: in one interview with the committee, a small unit leader referred to a 35-page document reporting what he believed were critically important lessons derived from his unit’s deployment in Afghanistan. Although the events had taken place in 2009, the lessons learned after-action report was not released to the Corps until nearly a year later.55 The committee heard from multiple presenters about R&D activities that are aimed at augmenting situational awareness among Marines so that they might more effectively anticipate the insurgency’s evolution, counter it, and minimize casualties along the way. Some of these technologies, such as the TIGR plat - form, may help to capture and communicate unit experiences across the Marine Corps, although the committee did not evaluate any specific research effort or technology.56 However, technologies that are pushed onto Marines without thor- ough evaluation and feedback from the operational users can be burdensome to deployed units if they do not work properly. For example, one small unit leader described a very high frequency communications package that would support long-range communication among squads and with company command. Unfor- tunately, the system was so cumbersome and uncomfortable that the sergeant’s squad members rarely used it, choosing to rely instead on personal radios despite the radios’ limited range.57 2.2.4 Rules of Engagement The topic of rules of engagement (ROE) is a complicated one; it has received a great deal of media, congressional, and public attention. The committee did not review current ROE, and evaluation of ROE was not included in its terms of reference. However, this topic came up several times in committee interactions 55 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 56 MariMaeda, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “TIGR: Tactical Ground Reporting System,” presentation to the committee, Washington, D.C., November 15, 2010. 57 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
46 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS with small unit leaders, who often described situations in which the ROE had entered into their decision making process and had affected their operational success in-theater. The committee recognizes that ROE are intended to ensure the responsible and judicious use of force. In some situations, the decisions supported by the ROE are quite clear. One small unit leader described how his company came under fire in an urban residential area, an event that rapidly escalated into a major firefight. The unit positively identified a hostile act and needed to defend itself, which made it relatively easy to justify the use of force. He did not believe that the ROE were an issue in this situation and felt comfortable escalating the fight. 58 However, several of the Marines interviewed described having to request permission to perform actions that they considered necessary for their mission. One small unit leader said, “We talk about decentralized command, but nobody trusted us with anything . . . we couldn’t go from one area of the area of opera - tion to another without submitting a convoy plan.”59 Another small unit leader described needing thorough justification to engage in offensive actions, includ - ing multiple intelligence sources about a target, mission briefs several days in advance of the operation, and approval from theater-level command. While he acknowledged that this was for the benefit of the larger military effort, he said that “this caused fire missions to be cancelled or denied during an engagement.” 60 Not only do such requirements make rapid response to intelligence difficult, but small units may have a difficult time pulling together all the elements required to justify an offensive mission. Situations in which the ROE require Marines to get approval for using force can complicate decision making. One small unit leader described coming under intense fire while patrolling a local market. The shots were being fired from buildings with thick walls that made it impossible to hit any of the insurgents firing on the patrol. As the small unit was creating a casualty collection point, a mobile weapons platoon came along with a 50-caliber automatic weapon capable of penetrating the wall. However, the ROE required approval from higher-level authorities to fire the 50-caliber automatic weapon. Four minutes after the unit leader had made his request, the unit continued to take heavy fire, so he told the unit: “Just use the weapon. I’ll take the hit.” Approval to use the 50-caliber auto - matic weapon came 10 minutes later, nearly 5 minutes after the firefight was over. Later, the unit leader said, he was asked why he had decided to escalate force and was told that the locals were now afraid to enter the marketplace.61 58 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 59 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 60 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010. 61 USMC interviews with committee subgroup members, Quantico, Va., December 7, 2010.

OCR for page 29
47 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT This story illustrates the trade-offs inherent in the ROE between near-term personal and unit safety and the long-term success of the deployment as a whole. Also, in this case, command response time proved to be a challenge. ROE restrict the use of force to specific circumstances as a way of mitigating disastrous sec - ond- and third-order effects that can quickly emerge in the wake of firefights, particularly when civilians are injured or killed. In terms of the above unit’s safety, the best course of action was to use the 50-caliber automatic weapon to gain a decisive tactical advantage over the people shooting at the unit. From a long-term perspective, however, the use of a heavy weapon in a public marketplace gave rise to a number of second- and third-order effects, including undoing progress that the unit had made in cultivating trust with the local population. In this regard, it is difficult to separate the issue of ROE from the presence of the media. The 24-hour news channels and the Internet ensure that a constant flow of information about U.S. military activities is reaching audiences around the world. As a result, tactical decisions that make sense in one context can have negative strategic effects that influence the success of military operations locally, regionally, and internationally. For example, a firefight that leaves numerous civilians injured or dead can have tremendous ramifications for Marine and other U.S. military operations. Presumably, the Marines were following the ROE and acting morally in such a situation, but the amplifying effect of the media means that Marine “decisions will be subject to the harsh scrutiny of both the media and the court of public opinion.”62 2.3 FINDINGS Based on the committee’s expertise and experience, along with its data-gath - ering efforts over the course of this study—including the limited interviews that it conducted with some Marine small unit leaders who had recently returned from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan—the following are the committee’s findings. FINDING 1: The U.S. Marine Corps lacks up-to-date descriptions and require- ments that define the job responsibilities of small unit leaders (company com - manders, platoon leaders, and squad leaders), making it difficult to provide job- appropriate training and preparation for them. It is also difficult to assess the small unit leader’s effectiveness in the operational environment. Furthermore, despite the fact that small unit leaders are assuming significant responsibilities, the Marine Corps has not established an institutional selection process for the positions of company commander and squad leader.63 62 Gen Charles C. Krulak, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 1999. “Cultivating Intuitive Decision Making,” Marine Corps Gazette, May, p. 18. 63 A Corps-wide selection process for platoon leaders already exists. All Marine officers attend the Basic School, a 6-month, officers’ school that equips them with the skills needed to serve as second

OCR for page 29
48 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS FINDING 2: The Marine Corps has invested in a number of novel approaches to training and education, such as Mojave-Viper, Combat Hunter, the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) of the Infantry Immersion Trainer facil - ity, and the Center for Advanced Operational Culture and Learning. However, it is not clear whether novel training and educational opportunities are available to all small units and their leaders, nor has the Corps developed a formal training and development sequence which ensures that Marines are provided access to new training and educational opportunities at appropriate points in their careers. In addition, at the time that the committee was conducting its review, the Corps had not identified a responsible organization to ensure that such training and education programs are properly developed, staffed, operated, and evaluated for their efficacy. FINDING 3: Training must evolve in tandem with the rapidly changing combat environment. However, the Systems Approach to Training relies on a 2-year cycle for evaluating and restructuring formal training practices. Given the rapid evolu - tion of the combat environment, the penetration of knowledge from the battlefield into predeployment training is much too slow. In addition, the traditional mecha - nisms of the Marine Corps for capturing and transferring experiential knowledge, such as lessons learned, cannot keep pace with the evolution of operations. Marine small units are addressing this problem in-theater by developing training scenarios that exercise skills deemed necessary for the battlefield. FINDING 4: Marine companies and their constituent small units are assuming responsibilities analogous to those of a battalion but are not provided adequate personnel or material support for critical functions, including logistics, intelli - gence, communications, and information technology. FINDING 5: Small unit leaders lack adequate information and analytic support for the cognitive work of sensemaking and situational assessment. In particular, problems with intelligence collection and dissemination, coupled with the paucity of working communications equipment, inadequate bandwidth, and delays in response times from higher levels of command, are detrimental to both decision making and morale at the small unit level. In addition, delays associated with the formal capture, recording, and transfer of theater-related experiential knowledge (such as through lessons learned) make it difficult for deployed units to benefit from the recent experiences of other Marines. lieutenants. After completing their training at the Basic School, infantry officers attend the Infantry Officers School, and other officers attend schools of varying length in their occupational specialties. Their standing in these schools serves as the criteria for their selection as platoon leaders, since they have no operational experience.

OCR for page 29
49 CHALLENGES OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FINDING 6: Marine small units and their leaders have spent the past decade conducting distributed operations in hybrid environments, facing a determined and observant insurgency while conducting a range of humanitarian, stabilization, and reconstruction activities. Not only have these units and their leaders become extremely adept at making do with limited resources, but they have also devel - oped unique skills, understanding, and insights related to the conduct of hybrid operations in counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they return to garrison, small units and their leaders bring with them a wealth of knowledge about these environments, as well as key insights into what tools, technolo- gies, training, and other support elements are most important for the successful conduct of operations. Without mechanisms to capture and build on the unique experiential knowledge of small unit leaders, the Marine Corps could easily lose this tremendous resource. Finally, as discussed above, Marine small unit leaders are dealing with con - siderable challenges related to the conduct of hybrid, counterinsurgency warfare that involves complicated stabilization and reconstruction operations and the building of political and cultural rapport with local populations while also facing an intelligent and adaptive adversary. Marine small unit leaders are addressing such challenges while dispersed in small units across broad geographical areas and are often minimally resourced for the situations that they are likely to encounter. The committee commends Marine Corps leadership for recognizing that small units are assuming new levels of responsibility for the success of counter- insurgency efforts in hybrid environments. These missions require a great deal of intense cognitive work, problem solving, and decision making under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity. Accordingly, in Chapter 3, the report focuses on the scientific and engineering research related to individual and team cognition, sensemaking, and decision making. In doing so, the committee has attempted to identify both established and emerging approaches to understanding human cogni- tive processing and decision making, with the goal of helping the Marine Corps leverage scientific and engineering R&D to support small unit leaders.