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Communicating Intent
and
Imparting Presence

Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence G Shattuck, U.S. Army


A Method for Conducting
Unit Intent Training

The context-based simulation used in the empirical research described above provides a low-cost, high-return method for conducting unit intent train-ing at the battalion or brigade level. The training can be conducted as an event by itself or in conjunction with any training exercise or actual deployment. The equipment required is minimal: a video camera, a video cassette recorder and a television. The executive officer (XO) can serve as the administrator. The only input required to initiate the training is an OPORD (with annexes and overlays) from higher headquarters. The training should be conducted in the following manner:

  • Based on the OPORD issued by the higher headquarters, the commander and his staff develop an OPORD and brief it to the subordinate commanders.
  • The subordinate commanders and their staffs develop OPORDs and brief them back to the commander.

  • The XO develops 3 to 5 SITREPs based on the unit and subordinate OPORDs. It is critical that the SITREPs portray scenarios in which the ability to complete the mission has been blocked (or unexpected success has been achieved) but the commander’s intent is still valid and able to guide the decision making of the subordinate commanders.
  • The XO presents the SITREPs to the senior commander, one at a time. Using his OPORD, maps and overlays, the commander reasons aloud about what action he would expect from each of his subordinate commanders based on each SITREP. This session is videotaped.

  • The XO presents the SITREPs to each subordinate commander. Using their OPORD, maps and overlays, they reason aloud about what actions they would take and why. This session is also videotaped.
  • The XO serves as a moderator as the commander and each subordinate commander come together to review the videotape of their responses to the SITREPs.

The XO helps identify differences in the reasoning of the commander and his subordinate commanders. He must go deeper than determining whether the actions recommended by the commander and a subordinate match. The XO must identify discrepancies in understanding and implementation of doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures; predispositions with respect to uncertainty; excessive reliance on written orders; and evidence of imbalance with respect to flexibility and synchronization.

Given a healthy command climate, this training method will dramatically improve the ability of a commander and his subordinates to formulate, communicate, interpret and implement intent. But our concept of intent is only part of what the Germans had in mind when they developed Auftragstaktik. As stated earlier, US doctrine on intent does not include concepts of social norms, expectations, trust or intimate personal knowledge of subordinates. To incorporate these elements a commander must impart his presence to his subordinate commanders.


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