After receiving call from Division Commander regarding the death of COL Volar, all the responsibility has been laid on my shoulders now, as I am the permanent Brigade Commander. Although LTC Johnson will be coming to assist me for three months but ultimately I am the one responsible for bringing back "56th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT)" to its original position and be best in the Army.
Bringing back HBCT to what it was three years ago is not an easy task, indeed it is a big challenge as majority of people that are I trained are not in the team now. Second important issue that there is not much time before the brigade will be going back for the rotation for deployment.
In order to make HBTC the same HBTC means a new start as the brigade has so many issues and is de-motivated due to several reasons. It is not excelled by all measurements with a low morale. The leaders and soldiers are confused themselves and don't know what exactly they have to do. There is no family environment among the battalions.
All members seem mystified with a feeling that the problems can never be solved. They do not have the ability to solve the problems at their level so the issues are raised to the brigade command level instead of being solved at the lower level.
There is no competition among the brigade; team members do not share information, resources or personal experiences which actually serve as the lesson for the other team members. I really don't think so that officers do any social events like the happy hour social events which they use to arrange and attend three years back. These events helped them to discuss the improvement their teams need and share the information with very little regard for competitiveness.
Furthermore, brigade commanders and battalions are no more active participants who discuss the work issues and as a result 56th HBCT is no more brigades excelled in all its measurements. It now lacks many qualities which I am held responsible for bringing back and shape it as it was three years back.
Problems and Causes of Problems
Before finding out the solution of the problems, it is important to identify the causes of the problems. I found a lot of important information regarding the performance and activities of team from the historical documents, CALL and CAL assessments. Moreover, attending routine battle rhythm events and speaking with the members of the brigade also helped me in finding out what happened in the past that has changed HBCT.
In my opinion following are the causes behind the current position of the team.
Due to the short fall in some other brigade, some of the battalions of 56th HBCT were detached from it and remained detached for thirteen months. This distance between the battalions created a gap and the battalions that joined other brigade were treated and trained differently from HBCT. This distance between the battalions is needed to be removed.
Records show that the ability of HBCT to support Afghanistan was at a medium level and they had limited success in training the Afghanistan Army and police forces. The brigade did prove to be very good supporters.
HBTC team was good at managing the daily operations but they were not good at looking towards the opportunities and anticipate the threats.
The incident of suicide vehicle in which brigade commander, brigade command sergeant major, and one of the Battalion Commanders were killed and many Soldiers and Afghan Security Forces were wounded, gave a feeling of insecurity to the Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Due to the demands of Afghanistan environment and increasing needs of squads, many soldiers performed typical infantry tasks, vehicle drivers and as alternate quick reaction forces instead of utilizing their military core competencies. This out of routine jobs distracted HBCT and made it out of practice from its real job.
Unfortunately 56th HBCT was given wrong training before its deployment to Afghanistan. It was trained on M1 Abrams, M2 Bradley combat platforms but on their arrival, it was surprising to know that it needed expertise in variant vehicles in lieu of tanks, Bradleys, and up-armored HMMWVs.
Despite the fact that HBCT was good in size and had a positive impact on shaping the operations within the battlespace, still staff's effectiveness was diluted due to the additional tasks associated with resourcing and supporting the MiTTs from members of the BCT staff.
The incompatible communication systems also played an important role in creating a mess in commanding and controlling throughout the brigade. Due to the environmental conditions, the leaders had to carry with them multiple radios in order to communicate effectively. Moreover, the nature of Combat Outposts (COPs) and Joint Security Stations (JSS) also created critical network challenges for the brigade's network technicians. The digital network was so weak that it often crashed the marketing communication loss between the subordinate's battalion's headquarters and the brigade. Due to limited number of systems and frequencies available to the brigade, personal and operational friction was also created which further bothered HBCT.
Battle captions were often taken out to perform the missions in result of which the untrained and unqualified staff performed the battalion tactical operations centre functions, mostly during the evening hours. This also resulted in increased friction between the brigade and battalion staffs.
The role of DCO was not properly defined due to which DCO created confusion within the brigade and as result HBCT was perceived as weak in command structure.
Leadership was also badly affected due to overload and burden. This was due to several reasons, for instance: the modular BCT structure started creating challenges especially within the combined arms battalions. The maneuver battalion commanders and other staff members that earlier focused on traditional infantry and armor skills were now required to learn proficiency at planning and execute collective skills in areas in which they didn't have expertise.
Commanders did not will to include the subordinates in the decision making while the subordinates trusted them and expected a lot more from them in coaching and counseling too.
Unit's containers and redeploying equipment has not turned up yet; the equipment is expected to come in next two weeks but the ancillary equipment will be with Special Repair Team for next four to six weeks in order to complete the inspection and repair.
Officers are worried as they are not allowed to make any routines decisions at their level and they are asked to jump from one track to another without any vision, missions, goals and objectives.
Officers returned from Afghanistan even didn't get enough time to stay with their families.
The case is very critical as everything is disturbed; there is so much to do that it is really a question to think "From where should I start?" In my opinion the most important thing to do here is to change the morale of the officers as they are very de-motivated and badly frustrated.
At this point, it is very important to pay attention to the leadership. Therefore, in order to gain credibility, I will create leadership among the Brigade so that the performance of the battalion improves. Everyone must know clearly what role and job is assigned to him and he must do his job accordingly. Staff must not do jobs that are not assigned to them; it only results in confusion and time waste.
Compatible Communication System
The present communication system is not compatible at all. It creates confusion due to which staff suffers from friction. In order to solve this problem, it is very important that the leaders must carry the multiple radios with them and use them in all conditions, no matter what their task is or what operation…