As historian Hew Strachan states in The Direction of War, “Operational thinking finds its intellectual focus in doctrine.” Doctrine drives how leaders think and fight. But when the Army publishes new doctrine, as an institution we owe it to ourselves to do a better job informing, then educating, the Total Army force.
Doctrine is our institutional center-point. It gives us a common point-of-departure when the scenario at hand demands a non-doctrinal solution. Deviating from doctrine, however, without first collectively understanding what it says, will result in increased confusion, unintended friction, and increased risk to friendly forces.
Heard About the New 3-0?
In November, the Army published its latest versions of Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) and Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, titled Operations. This is one of the two capstone doctrinal publications for our service, the other being ADP 1, The Army. These manuals serve as a common operational concept to drive how the Army, as part of a joint military effort, conducts military operations.
And how did I find out that the Army recently updated these foundational manuals? A friend posted them on Facebook a week after their publication. This is not the best way to notify the force. Therefore, here are a few methods that the institution and its leaders can use to inform and teach the force when the Army releases key doctrinal manuals.
Informing the Force
First, the Army needs to implement an aggressive communications strategy to alert the force of new doctrine. Call it a doctrinal launch party. Senior leaders can announce the change across a wide variety of media and methods, including: official All Army Activity Messages (ALARACTs), postings on official Army websites, mass email messages from the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff, and many other forms of social media.
Next, senior general officers can record video messages and interviews that announce doctrine publication, stating what the new manual generally consists of, how it deviates from previous versions, and the implementation strategy. Such video messaging is very influential in relaying the new doctrine’s “so what’s” on how the Army is to operate. A great example is when General Perkins, TRADOC Commanding General, gave televised and recorded interviews with the World Affairs Council and other influential organizations shortly after the release the Army’s Operating Concept, dated 31 October 2014.
Secondly, when I served in a sister service earlier in my career, the Marines published Marine Corps Doctrine Publication (MCDP)-1, Warfighting. This manual crystallized the spirit and application of how the Corps was to prepare and execute military operations to win. As the Marines’ capstone concept, all other MCDPs aligned against it and the Commandant conducted what I would call a “teach-down.” General Chuck Krulak introduced the manual to his general officers and from there, each successive level of command educated the next.
In our battalion, the commander conducted a two-hour officer’s call where he gave us each a copy of the new field manual and reviewed it in detail. He explained to the collective group not only why the manual’s major sub-components were important to us, but how we were to apply them. This teach-down was powerful in getting the message out. It allowed leaders at echelon to nest their understanding of this new doctrine and created a forum for leaders to discuss warfighting.
Teaching-Down Army Doctrine
Recently, my command followed this example and conducted our own teach-down of the newest ADP and ADRP 3-0 manuals. And I did not use PowerPoint. Instead, I made everyone pre-read the manuals and bring their own copies with notes. This forced preparations at the individual-level, which enabled greater dialogue during the session. The leaders walked away with a thorough understanding of the new manuals and a framework for how to use them in practice as staff officers and commanders.
Where the manuals failed to cover how the Army got to this point in its doctrinal lineage, I augmented from my own personal studies. I explained the creation of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) post-Vietnam and the eventual development of FM 100-5, Active Defense (published 1976), which later was overhauled by then-Colonels Don Holder and Huba Wass de Czege under General DePuy and Starry’s direction into FM 100-5, AirLand Battle (1986). Most of the officers had heard of AirLand Battle but did not understand where it came from, its purpose, or its impact on the Army and the so-labeled “Big 5.”
Post-Gulf War, this operations manual significantly underwent a series of evolutions to address a post-Cold War contemporary operating environment. A series of rewrites and evolutions occurred: Full Spectrum Operations came and went; Battle Operating Systems (BOS) were replaced by Warfighting Functions; and the old Field Manuals (FMs) of yester-year (though FMs still do exist) were replaced by ADPs, ADRPs, and ATTPs. This evolution saw a 166-page FM 3-0 from 2008, reduced to an abbreviated 14-page version of ADP 3-0 in 2011.
This walk through history educated these officers and senior non-commissioned officers on how our Army evolved from the much-lauded AirLand Battle to the present doctrine.
Embrace – Internalize – Teach
I know our Army can do a better job of informing and educating the force when it publishes new doctrine. I’ve used the teach-down technique throughout my career to ensure my subordinates and I were not only reading doctrine, but talking about it and applying it. In the absence of an enterprise-wide doctrine integration plan, junior leaders have the responsibility to implement their own form of the teach-down.
What methods do you use to guide your unit’s operational thinking? Share your thoughts in a comment below.