History of Mission Command: Book Part 2

The authors use examples from history for the implementation of Mission Command.
“Auftragstaktik: A Case Study in History, France 1940; Understanding Mission Command in the Training of Soldiers”

leadership history

In the first chapter, “Auftragstaktik: A Case Study, France 1940: Understanding Mission Command in the Training of Soldiers,” author British Army Major Gerry Long gives an example of Mission Command and argues the concept is much deeper than simply “mission-oriented tactics.”

Studying the campaign of France in 1940 equips officers and non-commissioned officers with essential skills for understanding mission orders in relation to tactics. there is a rebirth rebirth of maneuver warfare. A full understanding of the employment of “Auftragstaktik"  is the key to this rebirth. Old battlefield doctrines dependent on firepower are relegated subordinate to mission tactics based on maneuver, deception, speed and a full understanding of the higher commander’s intent.

The German military are seen as the exemplars of the “Auftragstaktik" Their concept means far more than mission orders. It means more even than "task-oriented or mission- oriented tactics," which though certainly a more sophisticated definition is still a rough and imperfect approximation. There are significant problems in attempting to identify the nature of Auftragstaktik as a doctrine or process because it is an output of culture, not an input. Chief among these problems the is that not until after World War II did the term come into general use, and in some cases, did not translate easily into other Western military vocabulary originating form different command cultures. We must improve our understanding of the language and culture that Auftragstaktik derives. The campaign in France in 1940 is a good place in history to start that better understanding.

“Mission Command and Mental Block: Why the Army Won’t Adapt a True Mission Command Philosophy”

Major Thomas Rebuck’s writes that despite paying a vast amount of lip service in recent history to the value of decentralizing decision-making and authority, the U.S. Army has yet to implement a true Mission Command philosophy. This is due to a multiplicity of factors primarily stemming from a bureaucratic, managerial mindset and the implicit belief in the value of centralized control. Nothing illustrates this fact better than the common notion that Mission Command can be codified in regulations or lumped together with technology and procedural methodologies and packaged as a “Warfighting Function”.  In fact, Mission Command has nothing to do with technology or processes, it was adopted to allow decentralized operations in the absence of capabilities for rapid communication.  Mission Command is a mindset that must be integrated into every aspect of an organization’s existence.

“The U.S. Army Culture is French”

In the final chapter of Section Two Donald Vandergriff provides substantial evidence from history that while the U.S. Army admires the German concept of Auftragstaktik, it has adopted French doctrinal culture. The significance of this is that the French military was a culture of top-down and centralized control that relied and focused on high technological weapons. The U.S. Army copied in every way up to and through World War II  (a quick examination of U.S. Army field regulations prior and up to World War II were exact copies of French Army Field Regulations). Traces of that culture remain strong in the 21st Century.  Even after the shock of the fall of France to German arms in six weeks,  the U.S. Army did not shake its methodical ways.

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Mission Command: The 5Ws Part 1

Mission Command: The 5Ws Part 3