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Army Magazine

Rucksack of “Company Command”
monthly articles in ARMY magazine.

Since March 2005, the CompanyCommand team has been putting together a monthly article about company-level leadership that is published in AUSA’s Army magazine. These articles are BY company commanders, FOR company commanders, and they typically feature the “best of” content from the former CompanyCommand online professional forum.

This page provides a one-stop shop to access Army’s “Company Command” articles. We welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions here. Thank you for loving Soldiers enough to develop yourself and your subordinates. Leadership counts!


Ten Years of Company-level Conversation

This month marks the 105th and final regularly occurring column in the series. Our team would like to use this opportunity to provide context about this column— how it came to be, how its articles were developed and how its lessons can inform Army organizational learning. …Read the full article

Company Commanders’ Leader Professional Development (CCLPD)

To assist our fellow commanders, the Company-Command Team recently launched an initiative to produce leader-development materials for company-level leaders. Called CCLPDs (Company Commanders’ Leader Professional Development), each downloadable, mobile-friendly module is designed to spark professional conversation. …Read the full article


Managing a FOB

O.K., Ranger, you are a commander about to deploy, and you have been tasked with managing a forward operating base. This article’s intent is to give you a basic guideline for the preparation, assessment and execution of your mission. …Read the full article

Leading Teams of Army Cyber Warriors

Cyber is commanders’ business. Cyber operations, however, are cloaked in secrecy and remain a mystery to many of us. To help demystify the fastest growing component of our force, several company-grade cyber officers made time to reflect and share some of their experiences and insights. …Read the full article

Combined Task Force Dragoon, Kandahar, Afghanistan

The call comes in with the constant static ping that you instantly associate with radio traffic: “QRF, this is BDOC, you have a mission. Send RED-6 to the TOC and begin prep to roll, SP in one hour.” Eyes open. Boots on. Gulp water. Grab pistol and radio. Run. My “off day” just switched “on.” …Read the full article

Carrying the Weight of War

With the war in Iraq ended and the war in Afghanistan winding down, we are a profession with more than a decade’s worth of combat experiences. To learn all that we can from those wars—as individual leaders and as a profession—it’s crucial that we reflect upon them. We need to tell our own stories, listen to others’ stories and talk with each other about what they mean. The lessons of our past must inform our future . …Read the full article

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

We hear and read a lot of advice about leadership. Some of the words roll past us, some we put into our kit bag, and some strike true and change us as leaders. This month, we share the words that have resonated loudest within each of us—the best, most meaningful advice we’ve ever received. These pearls of wisdom have enabled us to lead more effectively. Seeing them all together in one place, we’re reminded of former Army Chief of Staff GEN Creighton W. Abrams Jr.’s dictum: “Soldiers are not in the Army. Soldiers are the Army.” Overwhelmingly, the advice that means the most to us as leaders is advice that guides our relationships with Soldiers. …Read the full article

How Trust Is Earned or Lost

“Trust stands out as the defining element that enabled our military to overcome adversity and endure the demands of extended combat. … Internal trust is integral to the chain of command. It is both inherent in and demanded amongst peers, between seniors and subordinates.” —GEN Martin E. Dempsey, ADRP 1: The Army Profession

Trust is the motor oil in the engine of leadership. With it, units operate smoothly and efficiently. If it breaks down, the resulting friction causes operations to become inefficient and eventually fail. To achieve our potential as commanders, we have to be trusted by our subordinates, peers and leaders.

To gain insight into how trust is earned or lost, the CompanyCommand team asked company-level officers to share their experiences of gaining or losing trust in their own commanders. …Read the full article


What NOT to Do as a Platoon Leader

In the spirit of the television series What Not to Wear, we asked members of the Army’s Platoon Leader Forum ( what they have learned not to do as platoon leaders, based on their own experiences and observations. “…Read the full article

Leading in Fiscally Lean Times

The fiscal constraints on the Army are real and are not going away anytime soon. This month, we share some ideas on how to reduce spending and prevent waste while still training, developing, maintaining and operating day-to-day. “…Read the full article

Facing the Insider Threat in Afghanistan

This month, we share our experiences of leading Soldiers in the aftermath of that insider attack. We’ve also invited senior leaders to share their perspectives. We hope you don’t have to face this situation, but if you do, may you be prepared for the challenge. “…Read the full article

Advising as We Withdraw From Afghanistan

Our role in Afghanistan continues to evolve. For years, we led the fight while the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) maintained a token presence in our operations. Around 2009, we took a step back and began to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the ANSF in order to develop their soldiers’ capability. Now, amid the drawdown of U.S. forces, we are charged with providing “over-the-shoulder” advice and support to the ANSF as they lead the fight in their country. “…Read the full article

Designing Your World-Class Physical Fitness Program

If you were starting from scratch and had total control with no constraints, what would your company physical training (PT) program look like? Members of the CompanyCommand forum have been energetically discussing this question. Listen in to the conversation with a vision for growing an exceptional, combat-ready unit.

Field Manual 7-22 Army Physical Readiness Training — Full spectrum operations place a premium on the Soldier’s strength, stamina, agility, resiliency, and coordination. Victory—and even the Soldier’s life—so often depend upon these factors. To march long distances in fighting load through rugged country and to fight effectively upon arriving at the area of combat; to drive fastmoving tanks and motor vehicles over rough terrain; to assault; to run and crawl for long distances; to jump in and out of craters and trenches; to jump over obstacles; to lift and carry heavy objects; to keep going for many hours without sleep or rest—all these activities of warfare and many others require superb physical conditioning. “…Read the full article

The Leader Challenge Approach

When we immerse ourselves in the tough, real-life challenge of another leader, we hone our judgment and we grow more prepared for our own future challenges.

Imagine that you are in Afghanistan. You are 1LT Abdullah Clark, an infantry company executive officer in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. On one mission, you are leading a company (minus) dismounted patrol. Your company commander, who is back at the outpost, is intentionally having you lead this company mission for your development. The mission has gone well, but as you egress past a village along the route back to the outpost, you come under heavy fire. Bullets are flying; rocket-propelled grenades are exploding; your heart is racing. The company first sergeant begins to take charge. He’s charismatic, highly experienced and super aggressive. He is directing Soldiers to break contact and continue bounding back in the direction of the outpost. Your company commander, on the other hand, is on the radio talking to you, and he directs you to “close with and destroy the enemy!” You see, your commander has a UAV up—a drone—and through the video feed, he’s watching the building from which the enemy is firing at you. What are you going to do—listen to the company commander and close with the enemy, or go along with what the first sergeant is already putting in motion? And not only what are you going to do, but how are you going to do it? …. Read the full article

World Class Training

“Training is our lifeblood. Only when we’ve sweat and bled and pushed our teams beyond their limits in training will they be exceptional in combat.”

Have you ever experienced a world-class training event that you and your team planned and executed? Now is a crucial time for us to take stock of what we know about great training and reflect on the lessons of combat. In the process, we can envision what is required to plan and execute the kind of training our units need to be exceptional in future combat. You are invited to join this conversation of company commanders describing their best training experiences and think about what it takes to conduct your own world-class training. …. Read the full article

Building a Cohesive Team

“In combat, cohesive teams are the most effective.”

Have you ever been part of a cohesive team? How did you know it was cohesive? What did its leaders do to create that sense of cohesion? How did cohesion affect the unit’s performance and morale? As Soldiers, we all want to be part of cohesive teams and as leaders we want to intentionally build them, but how is cohesion developed?

Based on their own experiences, company commanders in the Company Command forum ( have been talking about the best, most cohesive teams they have served in, as well as about how they foster cohesion in their units. This article shares some of that conversation and invites all of us to think about how we can be more intentional about creating cohesive, combat-ready teams. …. Read the full article

Professional Development That Platoon Leaders Value

The outcome goal of Army leader development is “competent and confident leaders capable of leading trained and ready units.”—ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership.

No one expects lieutenants to learn everything at their basic officer leadership course (BOLC). We expect them to arrive at their units needing (and wanting) to be radical learners. In addition to on-the-job experience and constant feedback from their commander and NCOs, some lieutenants are getting more: They are benefiting from quality officer professional development (OPD).

To get a sense of lieutenants’ experiences with and aspirations for professional-development programs in their units, we reached out through the Platoon Leader forum ( to hear the perspectives of today’s lieutenants. In this article, we report on two of the questions that we asked:

  1. If you’ve experienced an especially good OPD session, tell us about it.
  2. Fast-forward three years. You’re a company commander, and there is white space on the calendar. What type of OPD program are you running?

Read the full article

SFAAT: Creating New Challenges & Opportunities for Army Units

Many company commanders are deploying to Afghanistan on Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams (SFAAT) whose mission is to assist Afghan National Security Forces. The SFAAT mission requires many key leaders, but not many soldiers. As a result, commanders are going to war and leaving most of their soldiers behind. This begs a number of questions, such as: What responsibility do deployed company commanders have to their soldiers at home station? How can they organize the main body to keep operating effectively in the absence of so many key leaders?

A number of us are engaged in a conversation about this in the CompanyCommand forum ( One challenge with this topic is that the advisor mission is ever-evolving and each unit approaches it differently. With that in mind, this article captures some important insights and can serve as a conversation starter for units that are undertaking the SFAAT mission. …. Read the full article

Mission Command at the Company Level

In his Mission Command white paper published in April 2012, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN Martin E. Dempsey envisions future combat and states, “Decentralization will occur beyond current comfort levels and habits of practice.” He is telling us that we will operate decentralized in future combat and that if we don’t prepare now to operate that way, we are not going to be ready. He places the responsibility squarely on our shoulders and states, “Resident in the central figure of the commander, the ethos of Mission Command is a critical enabler of success.”

We asked company commanders in the CC forum if they agree with GEN Dempsey and, if so, what they are doing about it in their respective units. Members of the CC forum have engaged in an energetic conversation on this topic. Listen in as these leaders discuss what Mission Command means and how they train its principles at the company level. …. Read the full article


Afghan Partnership 2012

The 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (TF Devil) deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (February 2012–September 2012), where they conducted counterinsurgency operations in Ghazni Province. A number of company commanders have taken the time to capture some of our experiences and lessons learned. Because a significant part of our mission included partnering with our Afghan counterparts, we chose to focus this article on that topic. …. Read the full article

What do you want most in a Leader?

In the CompanyCommand forum (, we have been talking about the attributes that we value in leaders. We framed two questions to spark the conversation:
Question 1: What do you want in a subordinate?
Question 2: What do you want in a boss?
In this article, we report on some of the responses. First, however—and we know this requires some discipline— take a few minutes to brainstorm your own ideas. (You will be glad you did!) After you have a list, hone it down and rank order the top five for each question. In other words, list the top five attributes/competencies that you personally want in a subordinate, then do the same for a boss. Take a look at your list. Does anything jump out at you? Any surprises? Do you want different things in a subordinate from what you want in a boss? …. Read the full article

Partnering with Kuwaiti Land Forces

Company Commanders of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (Iron Horse) — Deployments to Iraq may have ended, but deployments to the Arabian Peninsula have not. Last December, we— the troopers of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division—were among the last American forces to depart Iraq. Reunions with our families were postponed for six months, however, when we received the mission to become the first brigade to partner with Kuwaiti forces in support of Operation Spartan Shield. We immediately established our footprint on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, and began to partner with all four maneuver brigades of the Kuwaiti land forces [KLF] as well as its field artillery regiment. On our own initiative we put together a book as a way to share what we’ve learned with the commanders who will follow in our footsteps. What follows are excerpts from our Iraq and Kuwait Commander AAR Book …. Read the full article

The Crush of Requirements from Higher Headquarters

Company commanders’ #1 challenge turns out to be managing the overwhelming onslaught of requirements imposed by higher headquarters. In this article, commanders first report on the nature of the challenge and then share some practical tips for leading effectively in a high-task environment. …. Read the full article

Advice for New Lieutenants

In the Platoon Leader (PL) Professional Forum, experienced officers share their experiences and lessons learned to enable the next generation of lieutenants to build upon that hard-earned knowledge. This month, we feature excerpts from advice applicable to 2LTs as they transition from being cadets to leading Soldiers. …. Read the full article

Third-Generation Leadership — Redux

In first-generation leadership the primary focus is the immediate future—commanders are training their lieutenants to be good platoon leaders. Second-generation leadership broadens the focus to include leader development for subsequent service—commanders train their lieutenants to be good platoon leaders and good future commanders. In third-generation leadership, commanders not only develop lieutenants to be good commanders, they also provide them with a model of how to develop their lieutenants. Leaders with a third-generation perspective develop their leaders with future generations in mind. While they influence primarily by role modeling how to lead, they also impart the why behind their actions in such a way that their Soldiers are not only inspired but are also equipped to do the same with their subordinate leaders. …. Read the full article

PL-PSG relationships

To gain greater understanding of the platoon leader-platoon sergeant relationship, more than 200 first lieutenants commissioned in 2009—all of them current or past platoon leaders—shared their experiences of working with their platoon sergeants in a January 2012 survey in the Platoon Leader Forum. These lieutenants’ responses, excerpted here, highlight both the diversity and significance of their PL-PSG relationships. …. Read the full article

Tips for Working Effectively with our JIIM Partners

Have you ever lived on a forward operating base run by Marines? Had a Navy explosive ordnance detachment (EOD) team embedded in your unit? Relied on an Air Force joint tactical air controller (JTAC) for your fires? Pulled security for State Department personnel? Coordinated with a World Food Program worker? Your younger brother just took command of a company deploying to Afghanistan. What advice do you have for him about effectively working with the many JIIM (joint, interagency, intergovernmental, multinational) people and organizations with whom he’ll be partnering? …. Read the full article

Lessons from Task Force Duke in Afghanistan

Despite their high operational tempo, 43 commanders made time during their deployment to share what they were learning with the company commanders who would follow in their footsteps. …. Read the full article

Read2Lead: The Professional Reading List By and for Company-level Officers

The most recommended books rise to the top of the list, making a dynamic professional reading list that is by and for company-level officers…Because Read2Lead is accessible only to members of the CompanyCommand and Platoon Leader forums, we thought it would be valuable to the broader Army profession to publish a listing of the current top 50 Read2Lead books. …. Read the full article

The Five Most Relevant Leader Attributes

Whether the company-grade officers were giving advice to the next generation of platoon leaders or telling a story about a typical counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan, they most frequently credited the same five leader attributes—judgment, interpersonal tact, confidence, respect and duty. …. Read the full article


Are Customs and Courtesies Important in Today’s Army?

Customs and courtesies are important, but we need to keep their intent and purpose-not necessarily their form. It is easy to get caught up on the tactics of customs and courtesies and lose sight of the strategy. — David Boyd, 465th EN CO … Read the full article

Company-level Innovation in Afghanistan

At the company level, the war in Afghanistan can be immensely frustrating. The enemy is smart and elusive; the weather and terrain, harsh and unforgiving. Government officials are corrupt. Security forces are unreliable. People are fence sitters. Higher headquarters’ appetite for metrics and slides seems insatiable. Given these conditions, it is more important than ever that we lead our Soldiers. As their commanders in war, it is up to us to think creatively and act decisively to seize the initiative from the enemy, to find common ground with our Afghan political and military partners, and to build teams that are resilient in the face of war’s inevitable tragedies and frustrations. This month, we hear some examples of our brothers and sisters in arms doing just that—innovating to lead effectively. … Read the full article

Who Influenced You to Stay in the Army?

I’ve led Airborne, Ranger and mechanized infantry units in Afghanistan and Iraq, but if you ask me who influenced me to stay in the Army, my heart goes back to plebe year and the first leader to role model what it means to be an Army leader. It makes me realize that you may never fully appreciate the long-term impact you are having on someone, and it inspires me to want to lead every day in a way that has that kind of effect. –Ari Martyn, B/1-68 AR … Read the full article

Impact of the Federal Government’s Near-Shutdown

The government’s “almost” shutdown did have an impact on our operations, as my unit had an FTX during the week and weekend of concern. We had support resources scheduled that were canceled after we were in the field, leaving us in a bad position to find alternate support, only to have the resources restored at the last minute. –Roy Ramey, HHT/1-150 ARS, WVARNG … Read the full article

Have You Witnessed Leadership?

What does leadership look like in action? Company commanders recently gathered to answer this question- to share concrete examples of real-life leadership. If you are like us, reading this article will call to mind your own stories, and it will evoke in you a desire to lead in a way that is worthy of a story yet to be told. … Read the full article

A Wounded Lieutenant’s Journey

I thought I’d say a few words here about what it’s like to be wounded in country and evacuated to the States. I think that it’s something a good leader needs to know about and understand because this is a time in your medevaced soldiers’ lives when they truly need you. … Read the full article

How We Develop Professional Expertise

Those we serve expect us to be experts in the ethical application of land combat power, so we can accomplish our missions at the least human cost. But how do we become experts in the profession of arms? How do we learn how to command our Soldiers effectively? Listen in to some excerpts from company commanders responding to the question, “How’d you get good?” … Read the full article

Leading in the Age of Facebook

I’ve seen what appears to be a pretty even split here-with many of the Active Duty leaders reluctant to friend their Soldiers, while Guard and Reserve (myself included) see value in it. The fact is, in the Guard/Reserve world, we don’t have the luxury of people walking into our office, or hearing the discussions in the hallway about what PVT Smith is up to outside of work. In this regard, Facebook has been an invaluable tool for my unit. –Mark Franzen, 346th MP CO … Read the full article

Reflecting Upon Six Years of Professional Conversation

This month, we take a short halt to consolidate and reorganize the knowledge that has been generated thus far. Read, learn and leverage samples of these articles—2005– 2010—to develop your leaders and to advance our profession … Read the full article

When This War Ends

The combat experience of our leaders will build a flexible and sustainable force, as long as we augment that experience with structured training. We have to ensure that our Soldiers and leaders get the institutional training they have missed during deployments, while also making sure that Family is prioritized. The use of distance learning, college partnerships, and internships are key to rounding out the experience of our Soldiers.—Nathan Brookshire, HHD/716th MP… Read the full article

Do We Need Leaders or Managers

Even in the middle of a firefight, a commander both leads and manages. I’ve seen a commander literally say, “Men, follow me” as we took a hill under fire to go support a machine-gun position that had taken 100 percent casualties. I saw the same commander do math in the sand to figure out how long he could go at the current rate of fire before he would need a resupply of mortar rounds. He asked the JTAC [joint tactical air controller] for a rundown of when we would be lacking CAS [close air support] coverage so he could know when to surge mortars and/or ask for AWT [air weapons team] or some other backfill. I later saw him run through all of his M4 [rifle] and M9 [pistol] ammo and pick up an AK [rifle] off a dead dude and continue on. Was he leading? Was he managing? You can call it whatever you want, I prefer command. –Ari Martyn, B/1-68 AR … Read the full article


Journal of a Platoon Leader in Afghanistan

At 100 meters from the enemy stronghold, my lead squad leader and I looked at each other warily as we crouched in the knee-deep water of an irrigation ditch that afforded us cover. That ditch was the last defensible area up to the enemy compound, and we knew that once we left it we’d be out in the open for 100 meters. I radioed my other two squad leaders, ensuring that both were in position. I radioed my platoon sergeant, who was 300 meters to my rear, to ensure that he was ready to receive casualties and had a helicopter landing zone ready to go. All sent me confirmation; everybody was set. We moved forward, leaving the ditch behind. About 50 meters into the open area, all hell broke loose… .Read the full article

Standards on Remote Outposts

If I thought I could adequately explain to a reasonable commander a deviation to a standard, then I was comfortable making the change. For example, I had a reason for allowing my guys not to shave first thing in the morning: It was subfreezing outside, and I deemed it reasonable to allow ourselves to wait until the afternoon, when (usually) the water would not freeze against our faces. I also believed a reasonable commander or CSM would understand that life in a 24/7/365 harsh combat environment isn’t bearable unless you can wear a baseball cap when you get back from a mission and are in your living space in “chill” mode. On the other hand, I vigorously checked and inspected any standard that related to the safety of my men or the accomplishment of my mission. –Ari Martyn, B/1-68 AR… Read the full article

Advice on Taking Command

Prioritize what you want/need to accomplish in your unit in the time you are there. You cannot get it all done at once, so prioritize it. Don’t just say no if higher tells you something you do not think you can do; instead, show them at what cost, and as much as possible, offer a different solution. Also, I’ll echo Kevin’s response on supply. It is YOUR property book. Your XO can help supervise the supply guys’ actions, but it’s your property. YOU do the cyclic; you manage it. It’ll be better for you if you do.—Brittany Meeks, 178th MP DET… .Read the full article

Combined Action in Afghanistan

The big breakthrough for me personally was shifting from “I’m here to solve problems and to make it happen” to helping the Afghans solve their problems. It was a shift in mind-set, a reframing of my role and purpose. I went from hearing a report of a bomb and immediately taking action to going to the Afghan battalion commander and district governor and asking them how they wanted to handle it. You come at it almost like you are an OC [observer/controller] with combined action. You aren’t the one solving the problems; rather, you are developing your counterparts and getting them to think things through. –Justin Pritchard, A/425 BSTB (EN)… Read the full article

Why Bother with the Media?

I looked at it this way. I had a company of “strategic corporals” who were capable of being heroes on the national stage if I just took a couple of hours every month and went over talking points and things not to say (left and right limits). I ensured that even my most disgruntled Soldier understood what I expected of him. Then, every time the press came around, I was as friendly as possible and extended them professional courtesy that I expected in return. I had good results from this approach. My only issue is that reporters do not have the time or print space to tell the whole story, so the public forms opinions without all the information.—Joe Grigg, 183rd Maint. Co… .Read the full article

Is Training Management Still Relevant?

The keys are deciding where to take risks and then talking to your boss about it and getting his buy-in to your methodology. An honest discussion about realistic expectations of where your unit can—and, more importantly, cannot—go from here is imperative. The last part of the puzzle is forcing your subordinate leaders to get you there by using the Eight-Step Training Model and effective training meetings. –Brandon Soltwisch, D & HHC/1-77 AR… Read the full article

Facilitating Development and Governance in Kunar Province

The people here are influenced heavily by pashtunwali, the customary code of honor that goes back thousands of years. Pashtunwali can be frustrating, as when a friendly village provides medical care and protection to a wounded Taliban, but we can also work within pashtunwali to make it work for us. For example, a lot of times when we can’t come to an agreement with elders on something, we can utilize some of their principles, such as agreeing and disagreeing at the same time, or finding refuge in group approval rather than individual agreements. Another example of leveraging pashtunwali is that every time we want to enter a village, we first ask the elders to invite us in, and, once there, we sit down with them for a cup of tea. This basically binds the elders to guarantee our security.—Tim Eastman, D/2-12 IN… Read the full article

Iraqi Security Forces Galvanized into Action

We worry too much about insulting Arabs. Just act the way that you were raised—be polite and professional. They have been around us for so long that they understand our culture as much as we understand theirs, and they are willing to write off honest mistakes. Push the ISF, GoI and everyone else to lean on each other rather than on the United States. Spend time talking to them about going to the GoI vice the United States. We are mostly in observation mode in meetings anyway. The typical post-June 30 quote is, “You’re invited to attend the meeting, but we really don’t need you anymore.” That’s a good feeling. –Robert Reese, A/1-82 FA… Read the full article

Do You Follow a Stupid Order?

In the end, we are the ones who will have to live with (or die with) our decisions. Every commander, every officer, every leader in the military should do what he or she judges is right, regardless of personal consequences. The day your career means more to you than your Soldiers is the day you should be relieved of command. If you are absolutely positive you are right, then you should be willing to stand trial for your decision. This is part of what makes being an officer so challenging. – Joseph Pedersen, A/2-58 IN… Read the full article

A Moral Justification for Killing in War

It’s helpful to think of killing in war as akin to a doctor amputating the infected limb of a wounded warrior—it’s sad and painful, and it takes training and courage to do right, but is the morally right choice among lousy alternatives and therefore ought to be done. –Pete Kilner, D/2-325 AIR… Read the full article

Partnering with Afghan National Security Forces

The “dirty Afghan” mind-set has to go. The Afghans will fight, and they are not stupid, but they also do not have the experience and training that we take for granted. So, for example, when an ANA soldier puts an 1151 into reverse in order to stop it, or when they don’t know what a chem light is, it’s not because they are stupid—it’s because they’ve never been taught. It’s no different from someone putting me in a space shuttle and telling me to fly it, and then laughing at me because I didn’t know how. It’s not that I’m stupid; it’s just that I was never taught how. When we step back and take the time to train the ANA how to use equipment, they perform well and love it.—Shilo Crane, B/1-121 IN… Read the full article


Lessons from Task Force Currahee

We were trying to get a local government center built. Everyone seemed to want it, and it was consistent with the commander’s intent along the governance line of operation. It took us a while to figure out what the problem was, but we determined it to be one elder who worked behind the scenes to undermine our efforts. We needed to engage him directly, figure out what he valued and convince him—through our Afghan partners—why it was in his interest to support the government center. –David Connor, B/2-506 IN… Read the full article

Zero KIAs as an Organizational Goal?

It just seems to me that the “zero-KIA philosophy” leads to apparent tactical successes that collectively can add up to a strategic failure. We all hope not to suffer casualties, yes, but a command emphasis on averting casualties seems misguided and, frankly, unattainable. –Erik Archer, 127th MP CO… Read the full article

Considerations for Releasing a Detainee

Detainee release is often an emotional time for local-national leaders and the family of the detainee. Some community leaders are eager to receive detainees back into the community; others are not. Regardless of the temperament of the community leadership, I always release the detainee to the local authorities and allow them to execute the release to family members.” –Lucas Yoho, A/1-27 IN… Read the full article

Leaders Describe How the Company Command Forum Makes a Difference

The CC forum has given me a laboratory to test theories, a sounding board for ideas and a support group of peers larger than I ever could have had without it. Not only have I used things that I have seen and talked about in the forum in training for combat, I have used them in combat, with success. The stories and scenarios available in the forum have allowed me to think through situations before I faced them. Even better, I placed my platoon leaders into situations that they were able to think about prior to and during deployment. The forum saves lives on a daily basis. —Scott Shaw, A/2-14 IN and HHC, 2/10 ID (MTN)… Read the full article

Supporting a Combat Veteran’s Family

I figured I was in good shape—I had read all the literature on PTSD and had done my obligatory sit-down with a combat-stress counselor. And everything was going great—until a week later, when I nearly rammed a cop car in a speed trap on the side of the road because I thought he was setting an ambush. I drove home with a bad case of the shakes, barely able to keep the car on the road. I spent the next hour curled up in a ball on my couch, resolutely refusing to believe what had happened to me. I refused to be “one of those guys.” I was not going to be the bad stereotype of the returning vet who jumps at every truck backfire.” Ray Kimball, F/3-7 CAV…Read the full article

Sharing What We Learn

Whenever I am feeling down, I think of one Soldier in particular. At a Purple Heart ceremony I attended, a young specialist, kind of thin, came up to the stage by himself in a wheelchair. Both of his legs were gone. He received his Purple Heart and his Combat Infantryman’s Badge. When they were done pinning his awards on, he was given the opportunity to address the auditorium. Speaking quietly, he said, “I just want to thank everyone in my unit and everyone here at Walter Reed who has helped me. I know I have no legs, but I’m not sorry. I would do it all over again because I love my country and I love the Infantry.” I felt like I had been struck by lightning! –Laura Levillier, A Co, WRAMC BDE…Read the full article

Developing a Great Commander/First Sergeant Relationship

In both of my companies, I made my relationship with my 1SG my number-one priority, ensuring that he and I had the same vision for the company. Once we saw where we were going, we talked about how we were going to get there and the lanes we would work in. We also talked about the company XO and how we would utilize him. Our basic output from this was that the 1SG ran the company so that I could command it. –Chris Brautigam, D/2-16 IN & HHC, 4/1 ID…Read the full article

Consequence Management at the Company Level in Iraq and Afghanistan

Recently, after a raid, we had a sheik meeting and one of the men stood up and alleged that he had been dragged out of his house in his underwear and that we had torn up his house, beat down his door and his furniture, etc. We had been there, and none of that had happened. Our local Sons of Iraq leader had been on the objective and could vouch for us. To save face, they made up a story, but the bottom line was that it wasn’t even an issue because a local Iraqi leader had been on the objective. –Travis Shain, C/2-14 CAV…Read the full article

Leadership and Laptops on Combat Deployments

My other recommendation is to look at your company’s and platoons’ internal systems. Is there another individual (for instance, FSO, XO, competent company clerk) who can put the storyboard together after the PL compiles the information? Are the PL and CO training the PSGs and SLs in these tasks? The bottom line is that PLs should be spending more time with their Soldiers than with their computers. We are stunting their development if we continue to allow this to happen. –Richard Ince, A & HHC/2-5 CAV…Read the full article

Platoon Leaders’ Stories

BOOM! The noise and concussion shook Johnston’s bones. I’m hit. Then he realized he hadn’t been hit. The explosion had occurred behind him—right where the commander’s truck should have been. Looking back, all he saw was a Humvee door sailing through the air about 30 feet high. The battalion commander is blown to smithereens. COULD STOP HERE Johnston jumped out of his truck and started running back along the road. Debris was still falling. The first thing he noticed as he approached the vehicle was the massive crater—15 feet wide and 5 feet deep—that obliterated the raised roadway. Then he noticed blue Diet Pepsi cans strewn everywhere. The blast had blown off the back hatch of the commander’s Humvee, and the contents of the trunk had been jettisoned. Diesel fuel from the vehicle’s cracked fuel tank was dripping over everything and everyone inside the upside-down truck.—Mike Johnston, HHC/4-31 IN…Read the full article

CSI: Baghdad?

The first thing we did was to standardize a detainee/evidence kit for each squad. This was one of the things I inspected as a commander during PCIs. Each squad carried one in their Stryker. The bag they used did not matter, but what they put in it was standardized. It varies depending on where/when you are in Iraq, but some of the things we included were: flex cuffs, blindfolds, large and small ziplock bags, markers, notebook (for house/room layout sketches), ink pad (for finger prints), evidence tags, Iraqi and American sworn statement forms, and two digital cameras.—David Gohlich, I & HHC/3-2 SCR…Read the full article


When is Small Too Small?

Which leads me to the friendly situation—too small basically equates to unable to support themselves until help arrives. Much the same as an obstacle plan (if it’s not covered by fire, it’s a weakness in the defense), COPs have to be fully integrated into the operational plan of the company. A platoon with enablers—e.g. mortars, TOWs/Javelins, heavy weapons, artillery support—will generally be able to defend themselves for a long time, especially if they have continued to improve their defenses. The most dangerous time is while you are building the COP.—Chris Nunn, A & HHC/2-87 IN… Read the full article

Advice on Wartime Command

From my experience, it is not the fire-and-maneuver aspects of warfare that are challenging. You must be sound tactically, but you do not need a Ranger Company or a Delta Force Troop to effectively neutralize or destroy our current adversaries. It is leadership—motivating, coaching and directing. It is about shared burdens and risks, making timely decisions with inadequate information, sometimes saying “no” and firing people if they have lost the trust of their men.—Robert Born, C/3-21 IN & P/ 2ACR…. Read the full article

Innovate or Die?

We developed a refined method that allowed us to lower duffle/kit bags of supplies down to the ground from a hovering aircraft. We rigged an anchor point in the aircraft that allowed us to use a belay device to control the descent of the supplies, which were tied off to a kern-mantel rope. We backstacked the rope into a bag to keep it from getting tangled with the aircraft. –Mike Schmidt, C/3-71 CAV…. Read the full article

Scorpion Reflections

In Iraq, I always weighed the balance of taking care of the things that needed to happen on the FOB with getting out into sector and making sure that I understood what was going on in my area. If I didn’t go out, then my lieutenants wouldn’t want to—if my lieutenants didn’t want to get out, then no one would. Again, to me, it all comes back to establishing your standards, living up to the standards you’ve imposed and developing others through those standards.—Rodney Morgan, C/1-12 IN…. Read the full article

Reflections of a Counterinsurgency Company Commander, Part 2

We had intel from various sources and phone tips that allowed us to map out 40 or so IED hot spots. Over the course of three nights, the entire company dismounted (except for mounted QRF/EOD escort) and cleared, by hand, every IED. Studs volunteered to dig for these IEDs with screwdrivers and tire irons…and it really set the stage to teach that neighborhood that we were there to stay and wouldn’t abandon them.” –Jim Keirsey, B/2-12 IN…. Read the full article

Reflections of a Counterinsurgency Company Commander, Part 1

Everyone knows that insurgencies can exist only within a given population and that the preferred way to get rid of the insurgency is for that population to deny it safe haven. If you cannot convince the population to get rid of or stop growing an insurgency, you will never win. We looked at our little area, made some assumptions about the insurgency we were fighting and sought to change those assumptions in our favor.—Jim Keirsey, B/2-12 IN…. Read the full article

Battling Complacency

Continue to train while deployed! One of our most successful methods to fight complacency while in theater is to keep training, such as monthly weapons ranges, counter-IED training, medical and communications skills. Keep Soldiers focused on improving and “keeping skills sharp.”—Robert Rowe, G/307 FSB…. Read the full article

Leading Your Unit Through ‘Reset’

The most fundamental part of Reset is making sure you establish the conditions to prepare your company for the next deployment. As an Army, we are great at lessons observed and piss-poor at lessons learned. Upon redeployment we are so obsessed with administrative tasks, property tasks and PCSing that we forget what we should have learned from the previous year.” –Chris Judge, C/1-187 IN…. Read the full article

Second-Guessing Our Decisions

“My worst fear had come true—that I was tested, and when I found myself under great stress and fire, I made a poor decision that got a Soldier killed—and at least one Soldier felt that way, too. I covered up my feelings to everyone around me, and I continued to receive commendation for my actions that night from many sources. Every time they did it, though, I felt worse. However, I realized that I was a commander and didn’t have time for second-guessing, so I pushed it all away and kept going.” –Niel Smith, B/2-37 AR…. Read the full article

Leading Our Wounded Warriors

“Because I know that when you are lying there with IVs sticking out of you, about to fly away to “Uncertainland”—Landstuhl or Walter Reed or San Antonio—you need hope. To look into your commander’s eyes and to hear him say, ‘You’re still in this unit, buddy!’ I tell you, that will make someone heal. That will give them the motivation to rehabilitate. And that is our duty and privilege as commanders.” –Dave Rozelle K/3/3 ACR and HHT/3 ACR…. Read the full article

Leading our Soldiers After They Lose One of Their Own

I remember crying with my Soldiers on at least three separate occasions when my guys were killed or seriously injured. Some people think that sharing your emotions will somehow jeopardize your position as a leader by showing your Soldiers that you’re ‘soft’ or maybe that you’re falling apart and won’t be able to lead well anymore because your focus and determination have been compromised. I found that the opposite is true, and that shared emotion builds trust. –Jeff, A/1-24 IN… Read the full article


Honoring Leaders Who Made a Difference

My second battalion commander as an officer changed the organizational attitude of the battalion in roughly the same time it took my platoon sergeant to change our platoon’s. I soon realized that the size of an organization is irrelevant and the strength of the leader’s will to accomplish his vision is absolute. I could go on for pages detailing the lessons I learned from Panther 6, but the big five were: calm leadership under all circumstances; adherence to fundamentals; constantly learning and studying your trade; knowledge of military history (and especially your organization); and war is a test of wills.—Will Richardson, C/2-6 IN… Read the full article

Commander-FRG Leader Teams

My husband [the commander] hand wrote each Soldier’s spouse a letter thanking her for her support of her husband, the company, and the Army’s mission. He personalized each one with details about their Soldier. Although it was a time-consuming process for him to complete, the wives received his letters with tremendous gratitude. This gesture helped solidify bonds within the FRG, drew connections between the spouses and their husband’s career, and filled hearts with hope and pride. –Heather Muder, E/4-227 ARB… Read the full article

Leadership Challenges in Iraq

Since deploying, my task organization has changed five times and my battle space four times. These kinds of changes are necessary in a nonlinear battlefield. The environment is very fluid and commanders have to be prepared to change with it in order to keep ahead of the enemy. –Josh Taylor, B/1-73 CAV… Read the full article

Afghan COIN: In the Words of Commanders

The very first thing we did was ensure that we lived with the people and that we lived in the enemy’s backyard. I didn’t fully realize its importance until I had done it for a while. You read about it in counterinsurgency theory, but it doesn’t really click in your mind until you actually do it. We established three firebases in my battle space that are literally on the side of the road. They were established with Humvees; we strung out some wire and that was it— that’s where we lived… In a lot of ways, it endeared the populace to us. You probably can’t fully endear them to us because we are Americans and they are Afghans, but to be with them every day is priceless.—Rob Stanton, C/1-32 IN… Read the full article

What does it mean to you to command Soldiers?

There is no greater privilege, no greater responsibility, than to command America’s finest. I thank God every day for the opportunity and ask for the wisdom and courage to provide these men with the leadership they deserve. It’s impossible to articulate the pride I feel when they succeed. We train together, fight together and bleed together.—Seth Hall, HHS, 5/3 FA… Read the full article

Third-Generation Leadership

Leaders with a third-generation perspective develop their leaders with future generations in mind. While they influence primarily by role modeling how to lead, they also impart the why behind their actions in such a way that their Soldiers are not only inspired but are also equipped to do the same with their subordinate leaders… Success is not simply developing great leaders. Rather, success is developing great leaders who themselves have a personal vision to develop great leaders.— Tony Burgess (A/2-35 IN and LRS, 25th ID) & Nate Allen (A/2-5 IN) … Read the full article

Resilient Leadership

I pulled the guys in and told them, “We took one on the chin today, but we are going to get right back out there and get them. We fell off the horse, and we are going to get back on the horse.” I told them, “We need to grieve, but we have a mission to do. Everyone is going to handle this differently. Don’t let your anger turn towards your buddies. Some will cry, some will laugh, some won’t say anything. We are a family, and if there’s one time we need each other, it’s now. Do what you need to, and then when you get back out there, be professional Soldiers.” –Ryan Howell, Grim Troop, Sabre Squadron, 3 ACR… Read the full article

Relief in Place: The Challenge of Continuity

The emphasis of RIP should be on all the personalities that influence your AO. The one thing the outgoing commander knows infinitely better than the incoming commander is the people in the area. It’s crucial to know what someone’s motives are, who’s backing him and why. Knowing whether someone is Sunni or Shia or Kurd is a start, but it’s only scratching the surface of what you need to know to be effective.—Jeff Palazzini, E/1-68 AR… Read the full article

CDR’s Log: Thoughts of a MiTT Leader in Iraq

Now that I’ve been watching the Iraqi Army battalion commander and his officers for a while, I can tell you that they are better at people problems than we are. We seem to be very linear, and that suits us, given our culture. Some of these guys can balance people problems scores at a time. They don’t have the luxury of just getting rid of guys—too many tribal relations, Ministry of Defense constraints, and a need to fill holes, so instead they deal with people. They do this with local leaders, each other, etc., on a very personal scale. –Rob Thornton, A/1-24 IN… Read the full article

Insights from OEF: Commanding in Afghanistan

Out in the countryside, you find police leaders who actually want to make a difference. Some of them are angry at the Taliban, but they are often hamstrung and treated abysmally by the bureaucracy. Some of them are not supplied with ammunition or fuel and are not paid—they feel like they have to illegally tax the locals in order to feed their families. One time, after a search of an area, we found a small ammunition cache in a pile of manure; we dropped the ammunition off at the local police station and let them know it was from us. I got a phone call from the police chief, who asked me to stop by so we could sit down and talk over a map about some new stuff he’d heard. This kind of thing really helped build credibility for us and led directly to actionable intel.—Jason Toole, A/3 BSTB, 10th MTN DIV… Read the full article

Force Protection for the ‘Hidden Wounds’ of War

As leaders, we must do all we can to remove the stigma attached to combat-related stress disorder/reaction. We must reinforce the understanding that Soldiers are not “broken” when they manifest various symptoms of acute PTSD or even chronic PTSD. Like physical injuries, mental injuries vary in severity and can heal with time and treatment. Mental trauma can even be seen as a sign of moral health. I pray we will never see a time when our Soldiers are able to kill and see their buddies killed without experiencing some mental trauma. Our efforts as leaders now must be directed to ensuring that future generations of warriors are better prepared psychologically, emotionally and physiologically for the horrors of war. –Jerry Moon, B/311 MI… Read the full article


The Art of Rewarding Soldiers

I took the approach that the best way to recognize a warrior is to praise him to his family. During my first tour in Iraq, I wrote to specific Marines’ families. During my second tour in Iraq, I wrote thank-you letters to each Marine’s family in my unit. In the letter, I explained that their Marine was doing a great job, how he was making a difference and how much I appreciated the support of his family. In addition, I made sure to keep their families informed of significant events and other happenings through my family readiness group. I found that recognizing a Marine to his family was rewarding to both the Marine and his family. –Chris Douglas, K/3-25 IN (USMC)… Read the full article

Leading our Soldiers to Fight with Honor

The most difficult aspect of training is that it can never evoke the emotions that occur during combat—especially when friendly casualties are involved. You can never underestimate the importance of leading by example in these situations. If you completely lose control, verbally or emotionally, the Soldiers will view that behavior as acceptable. It is important to set the example—because every Soldier will remember the leader’s reactions. Josh Bookout, C/2-5 IN & C/3-4 CAV… Read the full article

Switching Gears in the Counterinsurgency Fight

I think a lot of it comes down to basic leadership, in that you must set the example and know your subordinates. You should be able to know which soldiers are more apt to be weaker at emotional control, based on off-hand comments, prior engagements and actions, etc. First and foremost, we need to provide tough, realistic training with scenarios that replicate going from “hot” (high intensity) scenarios to “cold” ones.—Jon Dunn, Killer Troop, 3/2 ACR… Read the full article

“Leading Up”

It is up to us to manage the relationship with our boss, and the time to think about leading upward isn’t during a crisis. The ability to do so in chaotic and tense situations is built beforehand and is based on trust—our commander’s trust in both our competence and our character. The best way to increase our ability to influence upward is to lead and grow a competent and motivated team.– Nate Allen (A/2-5 IN) and Tony Burgess (A/2-35 IN and LRS, 25th ID)… Read the full article

Leadership and the Death of a Soldier

Soon after notification, my battalion commander and I both called the Soldier’s family. I followed up a few days later, as they prepared for the funeral back home. Of course the parents are experiencing a lot of emotion and are going to blame you at some level, but they really appreciated the calls. We talked about what a great person their son was. I wrote them a pretty long letter, aware that they’ll likely keep it their whole lives… Read the full article

Company-Level IPB

Remember that you know your area of operations better than anyone else—data that may be seemingly unimportant in the scope of a battalion operation may be very critical to your area of operations.—Paul Stanton, B/1-502 IN… Read the full article

Prepare for Combat

I spent my first three months in Iraq on staff. During that time I always paid close attention to what was happening in sector, TTPs that worked and those that did not, and how commanders dealt with the ever-changing environment. I kept notes on all of these, so that when the time came for me to take command, I had a reference point from which to work.—Trent Upton, A/2-5 CAV… Read the full article

Air-Ground Integration

For the ground guys who are in units that do not have frequent access to OH-58D aircraft or pilots, do some research. Make some calls and put together some kind of OPD to get your junior leaders to understand the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft. We were able to get in the aircraft for familiarization flights, and the pilots were able to ride around in our Bradleys and tanks. It was a blast and we had a much better understanding of the constraints that the aviators were under and they could get the same from us.—Chris Danbeck, F/2-2 ACR… Read the full article

Training Iraqi Forces

Always be a teacher and leader by example in everything. Keep it simple in all approaches. Let the Iraqis lead their own training. Do train-the-trainer on everything. Empowering the Iraqi leaders in front of their men is essential. Prepare them beforehand as much as possible and then step back during their limelight training time.—JC Stroh, C/1-75 CAV… Read the full article

Combat: What Will You Remember?

I will never forget patrolling the streets of Baghdad on Election Day, watching the Iraqi people wait in line to vote as incoming mortar rounds impacted nearby.—Kevin Kugel, 68th CM… Read the full article

Expeditionary Fitness

We also conducted combatives training before deploying. Here in Iraq, when we are in physical contact with the Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) it’s usually not one-on-one. It’s often three-on-one—a fire team getting one guy into zip-ties or pulling people out of vehicles. So we worked on that during our combatives sessions.—Matt Adamczyk and 1SG Jack Love, A/2-325 AIR.. Read the full article


The Leadership Legacy of John Whyte

I think we all have to constantly work to give subordinates the opportunity to try something in training, possibly fail and learn from it. I’ve always recognized and fought my tendency to be too directive or prescriptive. It often seems that training opportunities are too precious to waste an iteration of an event by letting a subordinate leader do something you’re pretty sure won’t work. If you are that sure that it won’t work, then you’re better off letting them try it—you’ll never truly convince them any other way, and they’ll learn from it. Who knows, you could be wrong and it might work! When you give them some latitude in training, it will pay off as initiative in combat. —John Whyte (RIP), A/1-30 IN… Read the full article

Making Sense of Killing

After an engagement in a training exercise, do not bring the OPFOR “back to life” right away for the AAR. Walk the fire team, squad, or platoon through the engagement area. As you come upon a group of “dead” OPFOR, ask your Soldiers, “Who killed them?” When Soldiers step forward to say they did, then ask, “Why?” Make Soldiers tell you why they killed the OPFOR. By incorporating this into training, you will have the Soldiers think through why it is okay to kill.—Jon Silk, C/1-72 AR & A/1-353 IN (SFS-CA)… Read the full article

Developing the “Killer Instinct” in Your Soldiers

As for instilling the “aggressive spirit,” it can be done through tiring, realistic training. We shouldn’t hurt our troops in training, but we can create combat-like training experiences where they are cold/hot, tired, hungry, have to carry their comrades, and are under pressure to make aggressive decisions.—Anthony Flood, SPT Co, 2-20th SFG (A)… Read the full article

Relinquishing Command

Plan on getting the incoming commander to the qualification ranges at some point during inventories to allow him to evaluate the battery in a tactical environment, as well as ensure that he is qualified upon taking command.—Rich Scott, B/6-32 FA (MLRS)… Read the full article

Prepare for Command

To prepare mentally, I talked to many successful commanders and absorbed their thoughts, I immersed myself in my trade—reading and knowing details in key field manuals and mission training plans—and I visited with as many NCOs as I could. After that, I was confident that I was prepared for the challenge ahead. –Rob Griggs, C/2/504 PIR… Read the full article

The Company-Level Leadership Newsletter

Pull your leaders together to talk about the unit’s purpose and how that purpose fits into the bigger picture. Be open. Solicit input. Listen and be a catalyst for conversation rather than the “answer man.” Conversations transform, and it is critical that you create an ongoing conversation about purpose in your unit.—Tony Burgess (A/2-35 IN and LRS, 25th ID) and Nate Allen (A/2-5 IN)… Read the full article

Reflexive-Fire Training—Taking Marksmanship to a New Level

Once I was comfortable with our Soldiers’ reflexive-fire techniques, we integrated individual and team movement into the drill. We rehearsed breaking contact while firing live rounds, mounting a truck, and letting the gunner finish off the target set with bursts from his M249.—Jerry Diamond, A/312th MI… Read the full article

Training for War—What We’re Learning

Here’s an addition to Murphy’s Laws of Combat: “Contact with the enemy or an IED will be made by your most junior, newest Soldier.” So train him and his immediate leaders to handle the situation.—Eric Lopez, C/1-87 IN… Read the full article

Redeployed—Now What?

Given the world situation, we need to keep improving how fast we transition from retrograde, to refit, to training again. This begins while still deployed: Conduct “in-stride” AARs that capture your lessons learned and focus your future training.—Pat Work, B/1-23 IN (SBCT) & C/2-75 IN (RGR)… Read the full article