SGM Darko Pejic, Army Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina
To be an effective leader in irregular warfare, one must first know the differences between traditional and irregular warfare. According to Joint Chiefs of Staff (n.d.), irregular warfare is a conflict between state and non-state entities to sway public opinion and undermine legitimacy. Traditional warfare is a bloody conflict between nation-states, coalitions of nation-states, or alliances of coalitions for dominance (Joint Chief of Staff, n.d.). Knowing these differences provides leaders with a clear picture, and along with incorporating military doctrine, informs leaders how to react in various situations.
Problems associated with irregular warfare include that the populace interacts with irregular dangers like terrorists, rebels, and criminal networks, and they gain more power by clever use of communications, the internet, and technology to expand their reach locally and internationally (Department of Defense, 2010). This article analyzes how leaders can implement performance triads and why certain mission command principles are especially crucial for leaders during irregular warfare. Also, this article examines how leaders should adjust their leadership attribute of presence during irregular warfare.
Implementation of the Performance Triad in Irregular Warfare
“The three cornerstones of the performance triad are sleep, activity, and nutrition” (Department of the Army [DA], 2016, p. 1-1). Oftentimes high operational tempo means that Soldiers do not have enough time for sleep. Even in that situation, leaders must do their best to actively ensure that Soldiers have enough rest for an operation. Operational tempo in irregular warfare is typically highly focused because of the unknown enemy and unknown enemy locations. An essential leadership skill is the ability to make sleeping arrangements in tactical and training settings. Whether they are working shifts, are in operational areas, or are doing their duties outside of regular duty hours, leaders must be aware of the sleep-work cycles of their Soldiers. For example, working in Tactical Operations Center (TOC) during operations in Afghanistan, the battle captains worked in shifts, during which the night shifts were complicated due to irregular sleep schedules (Amador, 2014).
In preparing for irregular warfare, leaders also need to take care of the physical activity of the Soldiers and nutrition to have a good impact on Soldier fitness and endurance. Physical fitness is important for Soldiers because of their health, the benefits of exercising like decreasing the negative effects of stress on the body and mind, and very good job performance. Also, the leaders in preparation for irregular warfare must take care of or reduce Soldiers’ injuries with organizing precision, progressive, and integrative training (DA, 2017b). In preparation for irregular warfare, leaders must take care of Soldiers’ nutrition to minimize the risk of their injuries.
Nutrition will help Soldiers with their job performance, and leaders must teach them how to use nutrition to improve their overall well-being. For example, Soldiers learn nutrition care operations in just seven short weeks, including fundamental nutrition principles, clinical nutrition principles and functions, performance nutrition for warriors, therapeutic and regular patient diet preparation, assembly, and service, and Army medical field feeding principles and functions in a mobile setting (Rodriguez, 2022). Training Soldiers in nutrition is not only enough to perform their excellent job performance during irregular warfare, but they also need to know how to apply mission command principles in irregular warfare.
Mission Command Principles in Irregular Warfare
“Mission command is the Army’s approach to command and control that empowers subordinate decision making and decentralized execution appropriate to the situation” (DA, 2019b, p. 1-3). Leaders offer enormous freedom to subordinates to complete assignments and use principles of mission command like disciplined initiative, and risk acceptance is very important in irregular warfare. Disciplined initiative is the responsibility of each subordinate to use initiative while keeping in mind the commander’s intention to carry out the intended outcome (DA, 2019b). Leaders need to exercise disciplined initiative to prepare units on how to react in irregular warfare because of the complexity of irregular warfare. For example, leaders do not know exactly how and where terrorist organizations ran like in Syria today, and they do not know what is going on and how to react in that situation. Exercising discipline initiative is very important that leaders know how to react properly and quickly to carry out the mission.
Taking the initiative in some situations requested to have risk acceptance, and sometimes leaders need to balance the tension between protecting the force and accepting and controlling risks that leaders take to carry out the mission (DA, 2019b). One of the most important methods to develop one’s abilities and get experience is taking risks, and leaders in irregular warfare always need to exercise risk acceptance. Sometimes taking a risk is very worthwhile for the mission to be successful. For example, United States (US) Army General Mark Milley visited Syria in March this year, and he said that taking the risk with Syria’s US troops will prevent future attacks from drones flown by Iran-backed militia (Stewart, 2023). It is tough to decide which level of risk leaders can accept during irregular warfare, and exercising some situations will help them make the correct decision of accepting risk. Mission command principles are a very valuable tool for leaders in irregular warfare and important for adjusting their leadership attribute of presence during irregular warfare.
Attribute of Presence During Irregular Warfare
How people perceive a leader affects leadership success, which consists of a leader’s outer appearance, manner, actions, and words. “Essential components of a leader’s presence are military and professional bearing, fitness, confidence, and resilience” (DA, 2017a, p. 8). All Army members must be so professional during irregular warfare, and they need to act as professionals. Irregular warfare is very complicated, and reacting professionally using established Army standards sets up conditions for the mission to succeed. Military and professional bearing does not end on duty day. It is always and does not mean whether Soldiers removed their uniform or not. That is the most important during irregular warfare. For example, US special forces during an operation in Afghanistan used Civilian clothing to carry out tasks, and they were very professional during that operation (Glasser, 2002). Fitness is also very important in irregular warfare operations and all operations because good fitness-prepared Soldiers will reduce the risk of unnecessary injury during the operation.
Leaders need confidence in their abilities to make decisions so that they can take proper action in all situations, no matter how stressful that situation is (DA, 2019a). Irregular warfare involves various stressful situations, and leaders need to know how to react in those stressful situations. For example, in January this year in Syria, three drones targeted the US base, and the first drone killed some Soldiers, but rest two drones the US forces shot down before hitting the compound and it was successful because of the quick reaction of the leader who watched the situation (Stewart, 2023). Confidence and resilience enable leaders to react quickly and adequately in some stressful situations during irregular warfare. Only an excellent and resilient leader can recover quickly from shock or injury and make effective decisions during irregular warfare. Leaders must adjust their leadership attributes of presence to react quickly and adequately.
Team Leader Sgt. 1st Class Erik Vargas of New Mexico National Guard, and teammates from Arkansas National Guard, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cotten, Staff Sgt. Allen Smith of ISC Team #7. April 12, 2023. Source.
In summary, this article analyzed ways leaders can implement performance triads and why certain mission command principles are crucial for leaders during irregular warfare. per examined how leaders would adjust their leadership attribute of presence during irregular warfare. Operational tempo in irregular warfare sometimes is very fast, but leaders must be sure that Solders have enough time for sleep and physical activity, as well as receive adequate nutrition. To know how to react properly in some critical situations in irregular warfare, leaders must exercise principles of mission command like discipline initiative, and risk acceptance to be successful in mission accomplishment. Military and professional bearing does not end when a leader takes off their uniform. Ensuring the fitness of their Soldiers reduces the risk of unnecessary injured. Leaders need to have the confidence to make effective decisions, and resilience enables leaders to make decisions quickly and correctly.
Amador, J. (2014). Spartan operations centers control the fight. U.S. Army.
Department of Defense. (2010). Irregular warfare: Countering irregular threats (Version 2.0).
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Department of the Army. (2017b). Army training and leader development (Army Regulation 350-1).
Department of the Army. (2019a). Army leadership and the profession (ADP 6-22).
Department of the Army. (2019b). Mission command: Command and control of Army forces (ADP 6-0).
Glasser, S. B. (2002). Soldiers in civilian clothing. The Washington Post.
Joint Chiefs of Staff. (n.d.). Joint warfighting (JP 1 V1).Retrieved April 27, 2023, from Rodriguez, J. (2022). Nutrition care specialists learn skills, find opportunities.
Stewart, P. (2023). Syria mission worth the risk, top U.S. general says after rare visit. Reuters.
Sergeant Major Darko Pejic is an Infantry Senior Noncommissioned Officer in the Army Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has served in various leadership positions from Squad leader to head of the NCO courses section in the Peace Support Operation Training Center. He currently attends the Sergeants Major Course (Resident) Class 73 at the US Army Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Center of Excellence. His civilian education includes a bachelor’s degree.
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