Brigade Support Battalion Leadership Lessons: Observations by CPT Ryan Cornell-d’Echert

This post is the fifth in a series in which the CC/PL team highlights the leadership ideas and experiences of company grade officers. Interested in contributing? Read more here. This post is from CPT Cornell-d’Echert , a U.S. Army Logistics Officer. He submitted this after recently serving as a temporary OC/T. He is an experienced leader with three combat deployments and he previously commanded an Infantry Forward Support Company. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.

I would like to share some leadership lessons, based on the challenges faced by some of the organizations that my OC/T team and I are currently observing and coaching. These have a logistics focus, but can ultimately be employed wherever you are in the Army.

  1. NCOs must be empowered. The convoy commander can’t be the only person ensuring that every Soldier is wearing eye protection. He’s way too busy for that, and he’ll probably miss something. Meanwhile, the battalion S3 OIC shouldn’t be the only person checking on fighting positions when a base is under attack. It’s great that the S3 is seeing the reality on the ground, but the S3 himself needs to be in the TOC and focusing on the longer fight.

2. PCCs, PCIs, and rehearsals. You simply cannot do them enough. When in doubt, do ‘em again.

3. We call it “command presence” for a reason. Leaders need to share hardships with their troops. If the CDR/1SG can’t accompany the convoy, they should at least be attending to the convoy brief — both to show that they care, and to provide a little QA/QC and an extra set of eyes. And let’s not forget that the last step of the Troop Leading Procedures is to “supervise”.

4. More and more across the Army, I’m seeing a perception that PCCs/PCIs and the technical aspects of a company’s missions and operations aren’t part of the First Sergeant’s “lane” if that First Sergeant comes from a different military background. Guess what? Your First Sergeant’s MOS and background do not matter. It doesn’t matter whether Top has spent most of his/her career working in supply, armor, or bugle-playing. If Top’s Soldiers are going outside the wire, it’s his lane. Period.

5. PMCS needs to be conducted before and after every mission. Understand that when a wrecker is embedded with your convoy, it isn’t just there for vehicle recovery — those mechanics are responsible for quick look/quick fix maintenance on that convoy.

6. The S2 and S3 should be heavily involved with setting the conditions for each convoy. Intelligence updates, route statuses, and deconfliction…these things need to be happening. Company commanders need to make the staff work for them. It might be uncomfortable, but we owe it to those Soldiers that are going in harm’s way.

7. Lots of doctrinal terms and concepts, which we obviously emphasize at the schoolhouse, are like Greek to some of these units executing missions in the field. CULT assets and gun trucks need to be managed carefully. If the forward support companies are going to provide LNOs to highlight each company’s required commodities, then those LNOs should be nested within the SPO shop, and not relaxing at the SSA back in garrison. Also, supply point distribution is rarely effective. The “F” in FSC stands for “forward”…they shouldn’t be moving backward to the BSB for every resupply.

8. Where you position yourself on the battlefield matters. In a rifle squad, the squad leader wouldn’t normally be the point man. Meanwhile, the convoy commander shouldn’t be in the lead vehicle…or the rear vehicle.

9. Just like a “panic azimuth” is established during land navigation, rally points should be established prior to a mission. Also, it might be a good idea for every vehicle to have a map inside.

10. Succession of command is rarely established, but it needs to be…far too often in my career, the question of “Who’s in charge?” has been harder to answer than it needed to be.

11. PACE plans are meant to build redundancy for your methods of communication. Going from FM comms straight to panicked phone calls and hand/arm signals is not an effective PACE plan.

12. SOPs, TACSOPs, and continuity books are critical. When the same platoon sergeant is in his fifth training center rotation, and he gets asked the same questions by O/Cs every time, and he still has not produced any semblance of an SOP…I can’t help but wonder how much dirty laundry that his organization is hiding.

13. Our legacy is those young sergeants and lieutenants — and most of them are absolutely starved for mentorship.

14. As a great battalion commander once said, three things in the Army that you must not mess with are chow, mail, and ammo — to include how the ammo is stored and transported. Losing a live claymore after a range is not advised.

15. One of the heaviest “rocks in my rucksack” while in command was to ensure that my company was a “common purpose” organization, and to get my Soldiers all marching under one guidon. At the end of the day, some of us are servant leaders, and some of us are not.

Leadership Counts!