The committee is impressed with the progress that the Marine Corps has made in preparing its small unit leaders for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, small unit leaders still confront a set of institutional hurdles with respect to the selection, training, and support that they receive. Their role is also changing significantly in response to the complex and evolving nature of their operational environment. This chapter presents the recommendations that the committee proposes to address these challenges. Some of the recommendations are founded on well-reviewed research that could provide near-term solutions; others are based on research, still in the formative stages, that may only have potential in the longer term. This difference is indicated in the recommendations themselves.
The committee realizes that some of its recommendations are beyond the purview of the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (CG, MCCDC).1 However, the committee anticipates that all of these recommendations will be helpful to the CG, MCCDC, in terms of implementing or advocating changes in these four major areas: selection, training, support, and sustainment. Finally, the committee understands the dynamic nature of the conflict and the operational environment, and realizes that the Marine Corps may be in the process of implementing some of the committee’s recommendations even as this report is being published.
1 The CG, MCCDC, is also the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration (DC, CD&I).
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4 Recommendations The committee is impressed with the progress that the Marine Corps has made in preparing its small unit leaders for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonethe- less, small unit leaders still confront a set of institutional hurdles with respect to the selection, training, and support that they receive. Their role is also changing significantly in response to the complex and evolving nature of their operational environment. This chapter presents the recommendations that the committee pro - poses to address these challenges. Some of the recommendations are founded on well-reviewed research that could provide near-term solutions; others are based on research, still in the formative stages, that may only have potential in the longer term. This difference is indicated in the recommendations themselves. The committee realizes that some of its recommendations are beyond the purview of the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (CG, MCCDC).1 However, the committee anticipates that all of these recommendations will be helpful to the CG, MCCDC, in terms of implementing or advocating changes in these four major areas: selection, training, support, and sustainment. Finally, the committee understands the dynamic nature of the conflict and the operational environment, and realizes that the Marine Corps may be in the process of implementing some of the committee’s recommendations even as this report is being published. 1 TheCG, MCCDC, is also the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration (DC, CD&I). 82
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83 RECOMMENDATIONS 4.1 SELECTION During the course of its data gathering, the committee was impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of the small unit leaders whom the committee members had the opportunity to meet and interview. Although it is obvious that the Marine Corps selects superb Marines for these positions, the committee did not find evidence that a consistent approach is used across the Marine Corps to select leaders at the company or squad level.2 The committee did not formally review the Marine Corps selection processes for small unit leaders, but it recognizes the importance of the selection of leaders to conduct enhanced company operations (ECO) in hybrid engagements. Further, hybrid environments often demand from these leaders “nonkinetic” response options such as the sophisticated judgments that are needed to “win the hearts and minds” of the population and deny the adversary sanctuary. Leaders in the Marine Corps tend to be identified empirically (by what they do) in their units, rather than scientifically, through tests. However, small unit leaders are more junior in rank and have had less time in the Corps for demonstrat- ing their leadership skills. For this reason, a science-based evaluation of leadership traits may offer some value. Validated psychometric instruments may be a suitable means to adopt immediately, while longer-term research might explore potential contributions of neuroscience-based measures. RECOMMENDATION 1: Assess the pros and cons of establishing a Corps- wide process for the selection of squad leaders and company commanders. Such a process does not need to be centralized, but any form of implementation should be undertaken consistently across the Marine Corps. Continue to monitor progress in the development and validation of psychometric and physiologically based indicators that may have mid- and long-term potential to enhance selection. 4.2 TRAINING The Corps has successfully employed a range of technologies to help train small unit leaders. For example, immersive training technology helps small unit leaders develop their decision making skills. But such systems are limited in number and may not be sufficiently available for a long enough period of time to support the development of expertise that is needed to improve decision making. Also, the current rate of lesson plan development and implementation for training is far too slow to be effective against an adaptive enemy: the committee heard 2 Platoon leaders are not included in Recommendation 1 because a Corps-wide selection process for platoon leaders already exists, as mentioned in Chapter 2.
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84 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS that it takes 2 years to develop new training courses.3 Here the committee offers three bases for the training recommendations that follow. First, training systems should help lessons learned to come alive for both individual Marines and small units. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some predeployment training, no matter how good it is, to be obsolete by the time the Marine reaches theater. Moreover, most current training systems are difficult to deploy in-theater (to support rapid skill acquisition, for example) and are not flexible enough to allow rapid updates using new scenarios or lessons learned from the field. Second, Marines must continually observe, learn, and adapt if they are to suc - ceed, but technological support for in-theater knowledge capture and exchange is limited. The current lessons learned program is a memorandum-style submission process that can take up to a year to become available to others, and its products typically require in-depth reading. Rapid changes in hybrid warfare call for a much more responsive, time-sensitive way to contribute and convey small unit insights, and these insights also need to be available in a medium that matches how Marines share such information. This is particularly important when geographic dispersion (e.g., in Iraq and Afghanistan) makes it difficult for small units to share fluidly evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) developed in direct response to an adapting adversary.4 For example, during the committee’s interviews with recently deployed Marines, small unit leaders described in-field training that they had developed for their units to change TTPs to address a specific threat. Small units and their leaders would benefit from some means to capture rapidly and share those insights. The committee was also impressed by the Tactical Ground Report- ing (TIGR) system, which the Army has used on the battlefield and the Marine Corps has used in experimental efforts. Technologies such as TIGR may help small units to capture, manage, share, and display data to aid decision making for the small unit level. In addition, adaptive databases might be used in predeployment training systems to create relevant and up-to-date training scenarios that simulate the cognitive and tactical complexity of theater experiences. Third, the committee notes that even as squad leaders are being asked to engage in a wider range of missions, training and preparation at the squad leader level still emphasize traditional combat skills. Predeployment training may not provide squad leaders with adequate exposure to the types of challenges that they are likely to encounter, particularly for nonkinetic operations. 3 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. 4 As noted in Chapter 2, small unit leaders routinely evolve new TTPs and engage in in-field training in order to deal with specific threats more effectively.
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85 RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDATION 2: Continue to develop and implement in-garrison and predeployment team training techniques and opportunities to increase the sensitiv- ity and timeliness of small unit training with respect to rapidly evolving hybrid warfare issues. Specifically: • Identify a responsible organization to ensure that training and education programs are properly developed, staffed, operated, and evaluated; • Continue to expand and develop training for squad leaders; • Support an increase in the availability and realism of individual and team immersive training, with learning objectives similar to programs such as Mojave- Viper and FITE; • Adopt proven team training techniques to foster unit cohesion and continu- ous improvement; • Develop training systems that respond to field experience in order to incorporate and convey lessons learned more quickly; and • Explore the use of social media to capture and share insights of small unit leaders as a next-generation lessons learned program. RECOMMENDATION 3: Support small units with in-theater training by adapt- ing training and delivery methods and employing appropriate technologies: • Develop a rapid-response training capability that allows faster reaction to the evolution of enemy tactics and techniques. For example, computer-based scenarios might be developed, then modified by small unit leaders in reaction to changing missions and tactical circumstances. • Expand current efforts in cultural and language training to include com- puter-based courses and on-demand reachback for small unit leaders. 4.3 SUPPORT Marine small unit leaders will need staffing, field assistance, and technology support to meet the increasing responsibilities of ECO in hybrid engagements and complex environments. As described in Chapter 2, the Marines have informally organized their small units to take on tasks that are similar to those now performed by the battalion-level staff. This is accomplished by appropriating Marines who are either temporarily available or not in immediate demand. Other initiatives at the small unit level during a deployment have provided immediate solutions to genuine challenges. Such ad hoc arrangements show that the need is genuine, but it is clear that these arrangements cannot be sustained over time. Informal arrangements will also tend to result in lowered performance compared with what could be accomplished by Marines who have received training and support for these tasks.
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86 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS RECOMMENDATION 4: Provide primary or collateral billets at the company level to perform the functions of logistics, civil affairs, and operations and com - munications. Develop and provide courses of instruction that are scaled to the company level and tailored to these staff functions. Small unit leaders who conduct distributed operations need support beyond additional billets, particularly in information and communications connectivity, information integration, and decision aiding. All of these areas call for well- tailored, human-centered technology solutions to supplement the small unit’s limited manpower. The Marine Corps is already experimenting with improved communications suites, notably the Distributed Tactical Communications System, the TrellisWare radio, and the TIGR system. All three appear promising. However, as discussed in Chapter 3, simply opening up communications can lead to a data deluge, espe - cially with the exponential growth in the data that are available through sensors. Small unit leaders need mission-focused information integration. In such systems, data would be fused across modalities (e.g., full motion video and unmanned ground sensors), localized and/or filtered for the unit’s current area of operations, and, finally, packaged into mission-relevant information products that provide actionable intelligence to the decision maker. Electronic platforms that support the generation of these products, as well as allowing a free, unmoderated exchange of knowledge about current experience, could help Marines make better decisions for their diverse missions by providing for a free and candid exchange of experiences and new ideas.5 In summary, a vari- ety of high-level staff planning functions normally found at the battalion level and above may very well be supplied—in limited form—to the company and below, by means of appropriate investment in technology and human-centered engineering. RECOMMENDATION 5: Provide technical and engineering solutions to support the small unit leader through well-tailored human-centric products for supplementing limited manpower in order to improve connectivity, information integration, and aids to decision making. Specifically: • Provide increased communications bandwidth for voice, text, graphics, and data to small units, with priority to those in remote locations; • Develop tactical decision aids (TDAs) designed for small unit leaders in order to support cognitive work such as sensemaking, situational assessment, problem detection, planning, and coordination and collaboration; 5 As noted in Chapter 3, moderating these exchanges tends to limit the freedom of interactions and inhibits a free exchange of candid ideas. Instead of a moderator, the unit commanders in-theater would be best qualified to add perspective and monitor such exchanges in order to ensure the integrity of what is shared, guarding against the propagation of inaccurate claims or unfounded rumors.
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87 RECOMMENDATIONS • Enable Marines to use electronic platforms that allow a free, supervised (but not moderated) exchange of current experiences in-theater; and • Provide small unit leaders with reachback capability to obtain online expertise, data, and software to support their diverse roles. 4.4 SUSTAINMENT The term “sustainment” traditionally refers to support for the individual Marine. The term can also be applied to the sustainment of science and technology efforts that the Marine Corps and Navy can invest in the future to support the role of the small unit leader in hybrid warfare. The term is used both ways in this section. Enlisted small unit leaders who have honed their skills to optimum levels during deployment face the prospect of significant change when they return to garrison where their duties involve far less responsibility. The refined skills that they developed to conduct ECO in the hybrid environment stand the real prospect of erosion and, in the worst case, risk being lost to the rest of the Marine Corps. This is particularly true in the case of the corporals and junior sergeants. Develop- ing the means to keep them engaged as leaders would benefit these experienced small unit leaders as well as the Marine Corps. Such practices not only would recognize and capture junior enlisted expertise but also would make these Marines a continuing leadership resource beyond their deployment. As noted in Chapter 3, it is now possible to measure various biomarkers of brain function (e.g., cardiac interval, pulse/respiratory rates, and electroencepha - logram and functional magnetic resonance imaging activity) and bodily function (e.g., blood chemistry, stress hormones, blood pressure) reliably and noninva - sively to provide a better understanding of the state of the individual. A number of these measures can be done with simple apparatus that can be used in a field environment. Therefore, it may be possible to acquire considerable data about the state of the leader on the battlefield and to make adjustments accordingly to maintain a high level of decision making performance. RECOMMENDATION 6: Consider ways to engage experienced junior enlisted leaders so that they can continue in a leadership role and the Marine Corps can benefit from their leadership expertise. For example, include junior enlisted lead - ers with hybrid ECO deployed experience to support the following: • “Schoolhouse” programs in the Marine Corps dealing with hybrid warfare, ECO, and leadership; • The design and development of future technologies and systems (e.g., social media) to enhance the small unit’s ability to successfully engage in distrib - uted operations; and • The design and development of immersive training and educational pro- grams to prepare Marines for future hybrid engagements.
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88 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS RECOMMENDATION 7: Continue to invest in and leverage promising areas of science and technology research in the near term, midterm, and far term to enhance the decision making performance of small unit leaders. • In the near term: —Invest in means to capture and disseminate or share knowledge across the Marine Corps, accompanied by good but easy-to-manage measures for track - ing the effect of the capture of new knowledge and of training initiatives; —Incorporate human systems integration into the Navy/Marine Corps acquisition process in order to ensure that decision-support systems such as com - munications technologies, information integration systems, tactical decision aids (TDAs), and physiological monitoring systems are based on Marine missions and operator needs; and —Develop single-purpose applications (“apps”) for smartphones and tablets to support sensor collection management, sensor signal processing, situ - ational assessment and forecasting, and TDAs in planning and course-of-action evaluation. • In the midterm, develop and implement the following: —Team training and leadership training, applying the principles of resil- ience engineering as described in Chapter 3 of this report, in order to build small units and small unit leaders that are more resilient; —Deployable training simulators that can be used in-theater and that can be modified by Marines, not programmers, to adapt to their current situation; and —Training and mission-rehearsal systems, visualization aids, and TDAs for nonkinetic operations that build on current applied research in the DOD’s program in Human Social Cultural Behavior. • In the far term, explore the future potential for the following: —Physiological identification of stress and fatigue levels, the use of biomarkers, and real-time physiological monitoring for “state” assessment to determine the possible effect of factors that might contribute to poor judgment; —Research on state assessment and trait identification to explore the potential to identify and select good candidates for the small unit leader in hybrid warfare situations; and —Innovative training techniques such as intelligent tutoring and adaptive learning.