STC Commander's Manual
From Vast Empire Wiki
This document represents a firm commitment by the Stormtrooper Corps to a bold and fundamental shift in the way that we view and will deal with the dynamic challenges of command. Changes should not be entirely unexpected—the recent past has highlighted problems with our implementation of command. Dramatic improvements in features are also happening now. We must be able to make and implement effective decisions faster than whatever our adversary across the spectrum of the Vast Empire.
The aim of Command is to provide guidance to all commanders, platoons, squads and individual members of the Vast Empire Army in order to adopt a uniform approach to operations as we face the challenges of an evolving club. This is intended to be a complete reference containing both the description of what qualities are needed in a commander as well as the prescription of the various tools available to assist him in the process.
This document encompasses current doctrinal trends amongst many systems proven elsewhere but has maintained a unique Vast Imperial perspective. It reflects our club’s experience of the past decade; the lessons learned in conflicts among members and our distinct position in regards to outside clubs. Central to this manual is the importance that we place on our individual commanders. The human component of a command system has primacy. No feature of the Vast Empire will replace it—the importance of our leaders cannot be overstated, as they alone will bring about activity and success.
This document is organized along two main axes. First, much of the material is discursive in nature, intended to promote discussion. Second, it is grounded in sound doctrine. Some sections are prescriptive, and provide common procedures for the application of command theory. This procedural text balances discussion of the more theoretical aspects of command.
The main purpose of the commander's manual is to contribute to a common view of command throughout the Army, upon which a more dynamic style of conducting stories and training can be developed.
Unless otherwise noted, masculine pronouns apply to both men and women. This is done for simplicity and ease of reading.
The Nature of Command
In order to properly command troopers, we must first possess a clear understanding of the fundamental nature of command—its purpose and authority in the Vast Imperial Army, the unique environment of command, and how command relates to leadership and management. The purpose of this section is to develop that common understanding upon which the remainder of this manual can be presented.
What is Command?
To develop a command philosophy, the meaning of command must first be defined. The common definition of command is the authority vested in an individual for the direction, coordination and control of a group. This defines command strictly as a noun: but command is not just the authority and responsibility vested in an individual, more importantly, it is the exercise of that authority and responsibility. Used as a verb, it is clear that command is a human endeavor, and relies more on the dynamics that exist between a commander and his subordinates than simply authority.
The need for command arises from the requirement of the Vast Imperial Army to ensure that the activities of itself are in concert with club policies and objectives. There is also a need within any division of the Vast Empire to acknowledge the authority, legitimacy and direction of its commander, in order to form and maintain a cohesive fighting force. Hence, the commander derives his command from the Vast Empire as a whole, but exercises his command on the forces at his disposal. In this view, the commander is the club-sanctioned generator of his unit's capability, be it a mere squad to an entire Division.
To command troopers effectively, it is imperative that commanders understand what this trooper is. The Vast Empire trooper is a member willingly volunteering his time to the club in return for any combination of fun, entertainment, social interactions, hobby, or usage of free time. Applicable social values and standards of behavior, as represented by day-to-day real life standards, must be maintained within the army. This is of vital importance if the Vast Empire desires to retain its members.
Command encompasses the art of decision-making, motivating, and directing into action to generate activity. It requires a vision of the desired end-state, concepts, priorities and the allocation of resources. It requires an ability to assess people and risks, and involves a continual process of re-evaluating the situation. A commander must have a clear understanding of the dynamics that take place within and outside his command. Above all, he must possess the ability to decide on a course of action and inspire his command to carry out that action.
Command is the most important activity in the club. Command by itself will not ensure high post counts, nor drive home a successful story. It will not provide widespread competition activity, nor will it raise our bonds in the imperitrade market. However, none of these are possible without effective command. Command integrates all of the Vast Empire functions to produce effective, synchronized activity, giving purpose to all members who wish to find a niche within the corps.
Command is in the human domain. Many policies/features, such as regular AWOL checks and the Command Center, assist the execution of command, but command alone will ensure that story campaigns, reports, and the general day to day VE activities of the members do not degenerate into mob action.
Accountability, Authority, and Responsibility
The relationship between the terms accountability, authority and responsibility often generates confusion, particularly within a hierarchical organization like the Vast Imperial Army, where subordinates are expected to implement orders issued by their superior commanders.
Every trooper and every commander, as an individual, is responsible for their actions and the direct consequences of these actions. This is a basic legal precept. Commanders are responsible to make decisions, issue orders, and monitor the execution of assigned tasks; they are also responsible for actions they knew, or ought to have known of. They must provide their subordinates with the necessary guidance and resources to fulfill their activities. These are the basic duties of command.
Commanders derive their authority from several sources, such as the reports sent through the direct chain of command and moderation of the comnet if they have been granted such. Authority gives the commander the right to make decisions, transmit his intentions to his subordinate commanders, and impose his will on subordinates. Together with this authority, commanders accept the additional burden of accountability to their superiors for the actions of their subordinates. This accountability is the complement of authority, and can never be delegated.
The Human Component of Command
This section introduces the Components of Command by describing the most important: the Human Component. It is crucial to our success that all commanders in the Vast Imperial Army demonstrate, teach and promote the personal qualities required of a leader. Commanders must fulfill the expectations associated with the role entrusted to them.
Qualities of Commanders
There is no unique formula for describing the ‘right combination’ of qualities required of commanders. However a successful commander requires a measured balance of cerebral, moral and activity qualities.
Whatever the level of command, the foundation of successful command is good leadership, complemented by a number of essential attributes such as professional knowledge, under-pinned by integrity and example. In general, the higher the level of command, the wider the scope of qualities required and the more exacting the standard. Additionally, the emphasis on a particular quality, and between the required qualities, changes. For example, those at higher levels are likely to require greater moral than activity attributes (although the latter will certainly be necessary) and will have increasing demands placed on their intellect. Increasingly abstract and conceptual skills including vision and the ability to communicate will complement those of leadership, judgment, initiative and self-confidence. That said, the qualities do not lend themselves to being added together to produce the composite characteristics of an ‘ideal’ commander. A commander with poor leadership ability, for example, despite strengths in other qualities, is very unlikely to be a good commander.
Leadership is the projection of personality and character to get troopers to do what is requested of them. There is no ideal pattern of leadership or simple prescription for it; different commanders will motivate subordinates in different ways. Leadership is essentially creative. The commander determines the objective and, while his staff assists, it is the commander who conceives the plan and provides the drive, motivation and energy to attain that objective. Thus as far as conditions allow, the commander should see and be seen by his troops and not let his staff get between him and his troopers.
Basic human interest, together with insight and sincerity, will help a commander assess the characteristics, aptitudes, shortcomings and state of training of his members and units. Above all, the commander must give his command an identity, promote its self-esteem, inspire it with a sense of common purpose and unity of effort, and give it achievable aims, thus ensuring success. Good leadership, discipline, comradeship and self-respect are all necessary for the establishment and maintenance of morale. Commanders cultivate the human element to inspire and direct the activity of their commands.
Generalship is the highest form of Stormtrooper Corps leadership, and marks an officer suited for command at the uppermost levels. Generalship involves not only knowledge and proficiency, intellect, and judgment to a higher degree than required at lower levels of command, but also the ability to deal competently with a number of other dimensions. Most importantly, it requires the ability to think in the macro, not the micro - a genuinely strategic and operational mind. Generalship also includes an understanding of the interdivision dimension, the ability to deliver an appropriate message through announcements, and the additional responsibilities that go with joint and combined command. A general is not just one who has proven himself at the tactical level, but is truly suited to higher command.
Subordinates will not have confidence in a commander unless he is a master of his profession; and in the Vast Empire, that profession is writing. He must be adept (much of his time will be spent teaching and preparing subordinates for increasing responsibility) at whatever level he is commanding, and have insight into the wider nature of this profession.
With increasing rank, much of the burden of this “professional” study falls on the individual officer as self-development. The lesser the degree of relevant activity at the level he is commanding (or about to command), the greater is the imperative to study to make sure his skills do not dull when he does write again. He must have a genuine feel for the strengths and weaknesses of his writing in order to optimize its contribution.
Vision and Intellect
A commander will not understand a complex situation in a campaign, major story, or even a single post, nor be able to envisage courses of action and decide what to do, without intellect. Apart from intelligence, intellect embraces discernment (including the ability to seek and identify the essentials), originality (based on imagination), judgment and initiative.
A fundamental objective of most stories is to bring force to bear effectively in order to complete the story with high activity within a reasonable time. To accomplish this, commanders need to set the conditions they wish to establish at the end of the story; they must work out in advance the desired end-state. No coherent plan of story can be written without a clear vision of how it should be concluded. The same approach applies in activities other than writing. The ability to anticipate enables a commander to take steps to achieve his vision.
In order to do this, a commander shapes his organization and gives it purpose by setting attainable goals. Communicating the vision throughout the span of command before an activity is as vital as the vision itself. It establishes the framework by which command at lower levels is developed, practiced and sustained. How a commander communicates his vision to his force will depend upon his own style; he may address large audiences on IRC, personally private message each member, place a public announcement post, or combine these methods.
Originality, one of the hallmarks of intellect, is arguably a key element of command. The ability to innovate, rather than adopt others’ methods, singles out original commanders who are well-equipped for adopting a an approach to that will keep members interested. While few successful commanders have been entirely orthodox, the more successful ‘original’ commanders have placed emphasis in explaining their ideas to their subordinates for mutual understanding.
Judgment and Decisiveness
At the lower command levels, judgment is a matter of common sense, tempered by experience. As responsibility increases, greater judgment is required of commanders. Increasingly, it becomes a function of knowledge and intellect. To succeed, a commander must be able to read each major development in a situation and interpret it correctly in the light of the information available; to deduce its significance and to arrive at a timely decision. However, a commander seldom has a complete picture of the situation, because many factors affecting his course of action are not susceptible to precise calculation.
Thus, a successful commander requires honed powers of decision-making. He needs a clear and discerning mind to distinguish the essentials from a mass of detail and sound judgment to identify practical solutions.
Decisiveness is central to the exercise of command requiring a balance between analysis and intuition. A commander must have confidence in his own judgment. He should maintain his chosen course of action until persuaded that there is a sufficiently significant change in the situation to require a new decision—at times, it will be a conscious decision not to make a decision. A commander then requires the moral courage to adopt a new course of action and then the mental flexibility to act purposefully when the opportunity of unexpected success presents itself. Conversely, a commander must avoid the stubborn pursuit of an unsuccessful course to disaster.
In times of crisis, a commander must remain calm and continue to make decisions appropriate to his level of command. His calmness prevents panic and his resolution compels action. When under stress, the temptation to meddle in lower levels of command, at the expense of the proper level, should be resisted unless vital for the survival of that command. Improving features, enabling all commanders to share a common view of the site, will exacerbate this temptation.
The Role of Intuition
A commander will have to make a decision in the absence of desired information when, in his judgment, there is an imperative to initiate action quickly. The requirement to make intuitive decisions occurs when there is insufficient time to weigh up analytically all the advantages and disadvantages of various courses of action. Intuition is not wholly synonymous with instinct, as it is not solely a ‘gut feeling.’ Intuition is rather a precognitive quality, based on judgment, which in turn rests on an informed understanding of the situation based on knowledge and experience.
At the tactical level, intuitive decisions require a confident and sure feel for the situation. The danger lies with commanders who lack the required ‘feel’ and experience for the situation but proceed using an intuitive process to reach a decision—even if sufficient time is available for a more analytical approach. Intuition is also valuable at the operational level. When a commander is receiving too much information and advice (suffering ‘information overload’), there is a danger of ‘paralysis by analysis.’ In such circumstances, an intuitive decision may prove appropriate.
Initiative concerns recognizing and grasping opportunities, together with the ability to solve problems in an original manner. This requires flexibility of thought and action. For a climate of initiative to flourish, a commander must have the freedom to use his initiative and he must, in turn, encourage his own subordinates to use theirs. Although decisiveness cannot be taught, it can be developed and fostered through a combination of trust, mutual understanding and training. This process must begin before situations where it is truly required. Commanders should be encouraged to take the initiative without fearing the consequences of failure. This requires a training and operational culture which promotes an attitude of calculated risk-taking in order to win rather than to prevent defeat, which may often appear as the ‘safer option.’
Acting flexibly, based on an assessment of a changed or unexpected situation, should be expected and encouraged in training, even if it means varying from original orders. The important proviso is that any action should still fall within the general thrust and spirit of the superior’s intentions. A subordinate should report to his superior, and to other interested parties any significant changes to the original plan. This promotes unity of effort and balances the requirement for local initiative with the need to keep others informed, so they can make any necessary adjustments to their own plans.
Once the right conditions have been established, commanders should be capable of acting purposefully, within their delegated freedom of action, in the absence of further orders.
A commander must possess willpower. Willpower helps a commander to remain undaunted by setbacks, casualties and hardship; it gives him the personal drive and resolve to see the operation through to success. He must have the courage, boldness, robustness and determination to pursue that course of action that he knows to be right.
Courage is a quality required by all leaders, regardless of rank or responsibility. The successful commanders of the Vast Empire typically have a high moral courage to take an unpopular decision and to stick by it in the face of adversity. At the lower levels, this can be as simple as maintaining discipline in spite of severe and prolonged environmental conditions or stress. Similarly, command at higher levels requires a commander to take the longer-term view in the interests of the site's objectives and commensurate with the need to motivate and sustain his force.
The Vast Imperial Army approach requires commanders who seek the initiative and take risks. Risk-taking means making decisions where the outcome is uncertain and, in this respect, almost every decision has an element of risk.
Although the element of chance cannot be eliminated, foresight and careful planning will reduce the risks. The willingness to take calculated risks is an inherent aspect of willpower but must be moderated by judgment. A good commander acts boldly, assesses the risks, grasps fleeting opportunities and, by so doing, creates activity.
Self-confidence is linked to willpower and to knowledge reflected by a justifiable confidence in one’s own ability. A commander must maintain and project confidence in himself and his plan, even at those moments of self-doubt. There is a fine line between promoting a sense of self-confidence and appearing too opinionated or over-confident. Self-confidence should be based upon the firm rock of professional knowledge and expertise.
Commanders need to have sufficient self-confidence to accept advice from the staff and subordinate commanders without fear of losing their own authority. This form of dialogue acknowledges that a commander does not have all the answers and is receptive to good ideas. It also demonstrates confidence in subordinates and engenders a wider level of commitment. Above all, it promotes trust, mutual understanding and respect. A good commander does not rely, however, on others for the creative and imaginative qualities he himself should possess; rather he has the skill to use others’ ideas in pursuit of his own objectives to support his command.
The ability to communicate effectively is critical. However brilliant a commander’s powers of analysis and decision-making, they are of no use if he cannot express his intentions clearly in order that others can act. The temptation is to rely too much on post communication, which can be refined over time. The Comnet facilitates this approach, but posts, briefs and directives do not have the same initial impact as direct IRC orders, consultations and briefings. However, written direction continues to be indispensable in the exercise of command, including administration, to ensure clarity and consistency of approach. Thus, both IRC and written powers of communication are vital to any commander.
A commander must be able to think on his feet, without prepared scripts or notes, and be competent enough to brief well and give succinct orders to his subordinates. A commander inspires his subordinates through the combination of clarity of thought, articulate speech and comprehension of the situation. His announcements to the site as a whole should reflect the same competencies.
The setting of high standards of conduct, based on professional ethics and personal moral principles, is required of all commanders. Values such as moral courage, honesty and loyalty are indispensable in any organization, but especially in the Vast Empire. In a close community observance of such values, based on self-discipline, personal and professional integrity, and adherence to both the Code of Conduct and Vast Empire axiom plays a crucial role in the maintenance of discipline and morale. Commanders have a critical role in setting and maintaining the ethical climate of their commands, a climate that must be robust enough to withstand the pressures of both inactivity and activity.
It is the responsibility and duty of all commanders to sustain institutional values in their commands. Integrity of character is crucial for effective leadership. A commander cannot maintain the confidence of his troops unless he possesses the highest degree of moral credibility. Commanders at all levels must set the example with no exceptions permitted to this rule. Any ethical standard and code of discipline set by higher authority is invalid unless it is seen to apply to all ranks.
Self-control is an important component of setting the example. It not only adds dignity to command but will aid its preservation. As Robert E. Lee put it, “I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”
The Role of the Commander
Creating the Command Climate
A commander, by force of his personality, leadership, command style and general behavior, has a considerable influence on the morale, sense of direction and performance of his staff and subordinate commanders. Thus, it is a commander’s responsibility to create and sustain an effective ‘climate’ within his command. This climate of command should encourage subordinate commanders at all levels to think independently and to take the initiative. Subordinates will expect to know the ‘reason why.’ A wise commander will explain his intentions to his subordinates and so foster a common understanding, a sense of involvement in decision-making and a shared commitment.
Command Prior to Activities
A commander directs, trains and prepares his command, and ensures that sufficient resources are available. He should also concern himself with the professional development of individuals to fit them for positions of increased responsibility.
The Vast Imperial command philosophy requires an understanding of operations two levels of command above one's current position. It follows that the training of future commanders must reflect this requirement. In addition, a dedicated component of all leadership training should prepare individuals to assume command one level higher. The training and professional development of subordinates is a key responsibility of all commanders and a core function which, if neglected, under-resourced, or delegated without close supervision, will undermine the effectiveness and activity of the Stormtrooper Corps.
A commander has a duty to employ a common doctrine in the execution of command. This ensures that the commander, his staff and his subordinates work together in an efficient manner to a common purpose. Only in this way can unity of effort be achieved and maintained. However, the employment of a common doctrine for operations must not lead to stereotypical planning for, and standard responses to, every situation. The use of a common doctrine applies to principles, practices and procedures that must be adapted in a flexible manner to meet changing circumstances.
The ultimate object of all training is to ensure success and activity. Training provides the means to practice, develop and validate—within constraints—the practical application of a common doctrine. Equally important, it provides the basis for schooling commanders and staffs in the exercise of command. Training should be stimulating, rewarding and inspire subordinates to achieve greater heights. Good training fosters teamwork and the generation of confidence in commanders, organizations and in doctrine—a prerequisite for achieving high morale before troops are committed to operations.
Commanders should be educated and practiced in the making of appropriate and timely decisions, and with their staffs, in the development of resulting plans. The greater the proficiency in planning and decision-making, the greater the organizational agility of a force—so increasing the tempo of operations.
The Operational Level of Command
Commanders at this level are concerned with the planning and execution of campaigns and major joint and combined operations to meet Vast Empire objectives. A commander’s competence will depend largely on his understanding and application of his position. This, in turn, rests on the ability to understand the environment in which operations are to take place, and understanding of the members’ capabilities and critical vulnerabilities. It also demands skill in the management of resources and the application of communication. It further requires the ability to deal with political, discipline, and site-wide pressures. Thus the operational commander needs to understand the context and the risks involved in his decisions. Ultimately, achieving success will depend upon his experience and judgment, and his ability to take the appropriate decisions in the full knowledge that the cost of failure could be catastrophic for his command, and ultimately, for the Vast Empire as whole. The Army High Command is an operation level of command.
The Tactical Level of Command
The achievement of story and activity goals largely depends on tactical success. While luck may have some part to play, a commander’s tactical success is normally based on more certain requirements such as good leadership, the ability to motivate his command and competence at all levels. Tactical command demands a sound knowledge and understanding of tactical doctrine, the ability of a commander to translate his superior’s intent into effective action at his level and expertise in the techniques required to succeed in battle. In short, the tactical commander’s focus must lie on the skillful defeat of the enemy by timely decision-making, superior use of arms and competence in synchronizing combat power on the battlefield. Squad Leaders are considered Tactical Commanders.
Assessment of Subordinates
A higher commander must know the personalities and characteristics of his subordinate commanders. Some need a tighter rein: others work best under minimal control. Some will be content with a general directive; others, less comfortable with creativity, will prefer more detail. Some will tire easily and require encouragement and moral support; others, perhaps uninspiring in inactivity, will find themselves and flourish on high activity times. Matching talent to tasks is thus an important function of command. The higher commander must continue, therefore, to judge subordinates and staff in activity and inactivity, in order that the right appointments can be made in the right place at the right time.
An appointment to command should not be regarded as a reward for good work. The recognition of subordinates’ strengths and limits is vital to the effective exercise of command. Inevitably, some commanders (and members of the staff) will have to be removed from their appointment, in their own interest and those of their commands. The chain of command must assist in this necessary process, however unpleasant for those involved. It is advised that an company commander should remove a squad leader (in other words, removal should be done two levels down). Timely consideration must be given to the future of the removed officer. There is often scope for a second chance after a valuable lesson learned. Successful commanders who have unexpectedly failed may be simply worn out; after rest and recuperation they can be returned to operations and prove themselves again. It is a matter for the higher commander to decide if they should be returned to their previous command.
One of the most important duties of a commander is to report on his subordinates and to identify future candidates for senior appointments in command and on the staff. To allow the objective assessment of the command qualities of subordinates, individuals should be placed in circumstances where they must make decisions and live with the consequences. They must be challenged to provide some indication of their potential to perform at the next rank level. They must also know that their superiors have sufficient confidence in them to permit honest mistakes. Training should give an opportunity to make judgments on individual qualities. In particular, any assessment of subordinates should confirm whether they exhibit the necessary balance of professionalism, intelligence and practicality required to carry the added breadth and weight of responsibilities that go with promotion.
The Theory of Command Organization
This section encompasses the theoretical aspects of organizing for command, while the next will describe the application of this theory.
Fundamentals of Organization
The design of an efficient command organization able to achieve its objectives effectively requires an understanding of what an organization is and how it functions. At its simplest, an organization is two or more people working together in a coordinated manner so as to achieve group results. An organization should have a clear role. In addition, all organizations have a human aspect; they therefore require some degree of discipline within a defined structure.
Five Organizing Fundamentals
- Unity of Command. A commander should be accountable to only one superior. This ensures clarity and unity of effort, promotes timely and effective decision-making, and avoids conflict in orders and instructions. Unity of command is effected through a clear chain of command, whereby command at each level is focused on one commander. This fundamental applies at all levels and in joint operations. In combined operations and operations other than day-to-day activities, however, absolute unity of command may not be achievable.
- Cooperation. A key principle, cooperation complements unity of command. It entails the coordination of individual and group activities to achieve an optimum combined effect for the common good. The basis of cooperation is teamwork, trust and mutual understanding, based upon a common understanding of the commander’s intent and developed through training. Three further elements contribute to cooperation: a common aim (reflecting unity of effort), mutual goodwill, and a clear division of responsibilities. Mutually agreed doctrine and clearly defined command relationships formalize cooperation.
- Balanced Structure. There is a limit to the number of subordinates a superior can command effectively. The optimum number will depend primarily on the complexity and tasks of the particular organization. A balanced and capable overall structure is achieved by adjustment of the span of command—the ‘width’ of an organization or number of direct subordinates of a commander.
- Responsive Procedures. Procedures must be simple, efficient and flexible in order to be responsive, and so assist the development and maintenance of tempo within a command. Standard Operating Procedures save time and effort.
- Dynamic Organization. The organization for command must be dynamic. Changed situations and new features will demand adjustment of structures, doctrine and procedures. Therefore, a responsive and continuous monitoring and review mechanism is required in the organization for command. However, avoid "change for change’s sake."
The Chain of Command
The basis of the command framework is the chain of command—the structure by which command is exercised through a series of superior and subordinate commanders. For a chain of command to be effective, it must be flexible but accurately depict the path of decision-making and authority within the Stormtrooper Corps. Two contributing factors: one human and the second, technology driven, enhance a chain of command’s effectiveness. First, complementary resources and activities, such as posting, gaming, IRC, graphics, wiki, and other activities instill mutual understanding, ethics and a deeper sense of appreciation of team members. Secondly, each link in the chain must be connected via communication and regular reporting and by standard operating procedures. Where these systems and procedures are not guaranteed or standardized, liaison is essential. The most important prerequisite of the chain of command is that each commander knows where he fits into the chain, from whom he receives his orders and whom he commands. Normally, observance of a clear chain of command will be the most efficient case. The movement of information, however, must not be constrained exclusively along hierarchical lines. There will be times when the imperative of timely decision-making is best met by information reaching different levels of command simultaneously rather than sequentially. This will become more the norm as features improve.
If communications are lost between a superior and a subordinate command, the onus is on the superior to re-establish communications with the subordinate. However, common sense dictates that both levels do their best to communicate with one another again while the subordinate continues to act purposefully in accordance with his superior’s intent. In this way, High Command overcomes the potentially destabilizing consequences of a disruption to information flow.
An important factor for a stable chain of command is establishing the command relationships of subordinate formations and units. In particular, establishing clear command and administrative relationships is a fundamental requirement in all activities, and especially so in those of a joint and combined nature. In establishing command relationships, a commander delegates authority to subordinates commensurate with their responsibilities. A commander can determine whether and how he can employ subordinate formations or units by using the following queries:
- Can he employ the unit for any purpose (can he give write them a story)?
- If the story (the purpose of their employment) is not within his purview, can he give them tasks (plot twist) within the given mission?
- Can he break up the formation or unit or must it retain its integrity?
- Are there any restrictions on their use (for example, for absence of a certain person only or for a specified duration or place)?
Span of Command
The span of command is the number of subordinate organizations given to one commander to command directly. The overall size and spatial deployment of the forces that a commander has to direct determine the optimal span. It takes into account who must be directed but not how. Narrowing spans of command may well add levels of command with potentially undesirable effects. The use of features, particularly messaging, and management techniques, may make it possible to widen spans of command. However, as command is essentially a human function, purely technological considerations should not be the only criteria in determining the span.
Real life studies have shown that a ratio of four or five active points of command to one headquarters is the maximum that a commander can control effectively. This limit applies regardless of the technical ability to communicate with every formation or unit within a span of command. Further, the more active the points of command are, the less that can be handled simultaneously. The commander risks overload, with a debilitating effect on decision-making, if more than three are heavily active at any one time. In order to reduce his points of command, a commander may well have to delegate authority within the command framework.
The Implementation of a Command Organization
This section builds upon the Theory of Command Organization detailed in the previous section. Here we will describe the implementation of command support systems in the Stormtrooper Corps
A commander needs support if he is to exercise command effectively. At every level of command above the lowest tactical level, there are four basic support requirements:
- Personnel who assist the commander in the exercise of command and act on his behalf (the staff, arms and service advisers and liaison officers
- Robust communication
- Standard procedures, including those for decision-making, which focus command and staff effort within and between headquarters
In times of high activity, a commander is incapable of exercising command alone except in the simplest and smallest of organizations, such as those found at the lowest tactical level (squad level). Therefore, at most levels a staff exists to assist and support the commander. The staff has no authority by itself; it derives authority from the commander and exercises it in his name. Therefore, all of its activities are undertaken on behalf of the commander. Regardless of the level of command, the staff has two main roles:
- Assisting the Commander. The staff’s assistance to the commander rests primarily with the control function. This function comprises coordination, in the form of control measures issued to subordinate units and formations, and monitoring, which refers to the subsequent flow of information back into the headquarters. The staff help develop and promulgate the control measures (coordination), and manage the flow of information (monitoring) to help the commander refine and adjust the control measures, and possibly his plan, accordingly. The commander completes the feedback mechanism with information that he receives directly from subordinates and his personal observations.
- Helping Formations and Units. The staff also helps subordinate formations and units, whose activity depends, to a large extent, on the actions and decisions of the staff. The hallmark of a proficient headquarters is its staff’s capacity to work in a timely, efficient and co-operative manner. It is the responsibility of the staff to ensure the passage of all relevant information to superior, subordinate and flanking formations and units. The commander is not the sole decision-maker. In practice, he focuses the efforts of his staff by giving guidance and making the key decisions, from which a framework of action is developed. By setting priorities and devolving decision making authority, the commander can concentrate on his own business of making the essential decisions applicable to his level of command. By lowering the level of routine decision-making, the commander allows his staff to act within their own areas of responsibility and in accordance with his intentions.
The Staff Officer
The staff officer assists his commander by:
- Anticipating the commander’s requirements. Understanding the commander’s intent and offering informed advice when called for, or when an important factor has been overlooked.
- Providing the commander with information to assist him in reaching decisions, while making his own decisions within his area of authority, thus protecting the commander from irrelevant detail.
- Developing and implementing the commander’s plan by issuing and monitoring the execution of directives and orders.
Qualities of a Staff Officer
Many of the same qualities required by commanders also apply to staff officers. This is particularly so for senior staff officers in both division and multidivision (combined) appointments who may have considerable delegated powers of authority. Staff officers also work with subordinates and support personnel (such as advisors) and thus will be required to lead others. In addition to the fundamental quality of leadership, the following personal qualities typify a good staff officer:
- Character. A staff officer must be loyal, tactful, trustworthy and supportive of his commander yet at the same time retain an independence of thought and judgment. He must accept responsibility willingly and stand by his decisions; he must advise, consult and cooperate with others, and be prepared to represent his superior’s decisions and to sacrifice self or vested interests. A wise staff officer will also cultivate a pleasant disposition.
- Intellect. No staff officer will succeed unless he is competent. He must strive to master all aspects of his area of responsibility by continued study and personal research. He must be knowledgeable, imaginative and capable of anticipating, acting and reacting in a flexible manner. The skilled staff officer is adept at thinking and working under pressure, communicating accurately, both verbally and on paper, and with emphasis on clear, succinct, powers of expression. Proof of his intellect will be his ability to synthesize information from disparate, and often conflicting, sources. This ability is required in order to create a clear picture of the situation allowing the provision of sound advice to the commander. Above all, he must be capable of taking a broader view of his responsibilities and not allow himself to become too compartmentalized in his outlook.
- Selflessness. The measurement of a staff officer’s success is the ease with which subordinate formations and units conduct operations. Direct rewards or gratitude are seldom given, nor should they be expected. Working conscientiously without recognition or reward demands self-confidence and maturity.
- Industry. The object of the staff is to relieve the commander of routine and detailed work. Therefore, despite the requirements for originality and creativity, the reality of much staff work is solid hard work, where a methodical, systematic approach and eye for detail are necessary. A staff officer responsible for a team must be able to delegate authority, co-ordinate the team’s work, and present a solution based on team effort succinctly, accurately and on time.
Implications for Self-Development
All staff officers should take an interest in the activities of their superiors and of other branches of the staff to widen their activity horizons. This not only prepares individuals for more senior positions in command or staff but also allows them, if the need arises, to take over from other members of the staff, adding an element of flexibility to the command units. A commander should foster this ethos and develop it through training.
Organization of the Staff
Staff officers are employed above unit level in three categories:
- Assistance Staff. This group includes assistants for each member of the Army High Command. An assistant is a commander’s personal staff officer whose work will largely depend upon the individual commander. At formation level, this staff officer must work closely with officers from all branches of the staff and with those of superior and subordinate headquarters.
- Writing Staff. This staff assists the high command in meeting responsibilities for division wide storylines. The general staff is concerned with planning, co-ordinating and supervising the execution of these operations as well.
- Specialty Staff. The Specialty Staff provides the company commander and high command staff with advice and assistance in specialties. Officers are normally appointed to specialty staff posts based on service experience, and the specialty stories they may have completed..
The senior members who may not be in active service may have direct access to the commanders by virtue of appointment. He may thus provide advice to the commander and the commander’s staff on the capability and employment of an unit, activity, or member. Although technically these officers are not a part of any unit or staff, they provide important advice and assistance. They are therefore designated as advisers.
They are responsible for providing advice to all commanders on the employment of their respective functional personnel and sub-units, whether integral or attached, in support of operations. They offer or provide upon request any assistance necessary, within their area of functional expertise, to effect the efficient and smooth provision of support.
Relationships Involving the Staff
- Between the Commander and Staff. Although a commander sets the pace and is the principal decision-maker, the staff has a vital role in informing him, developing his decisions and making subsidiary ones. The relationship between a commander and his staff should be characterized by a climate of loyalty, respect and individual initiative rather than one that is fawning and unquestioning. Independence of thought and timely action are vital.
- Between the Staff and Other Levels of Command. The relationship between the staff and both subordinate and superior commanders and their staffs is important. It must be based upon mutual respect and developed through a conscientious, determined and helpful approach to the solving of problems; anything less will undermine confidence in the exercise of command. Friendly personal relationships between members of a headquarters and the staff of superior and subordinate headquarters are essential.
The creation of an effective and closely knit ‘staff team’ is essential. A staff cannot work efficiently without complete cooperation between all members. There must be no secrets between them regarding their duties, and no abrogation of responsibilities. The commanders preside over these staffs have a key role in fostering this atmosphere. However, the building of a staff team can be inhibited by frequent changes in personalities and infrequent opportunities to exercise under operational circumstances. The disruption caused by such ‘realworld’ problems can be reduced by dedicated team-building efforts and the use of command and staff “simulators” to sharpen skills before actual performing of their duties. While it is important at all levels that a commander strives to maintain two-way contact with all members of his staff, this becomes increasingly impractical at successive levels of command. Involving a large number of staff officers in information briefings can foster the personal relationships, which are essential to the maintenance of trust within the team. This acknowledges their contribution as well as allowing them to hear the commander’s deliberations. Decision briefings, however, may have to be restricted to a smaller group of those who contribute directly to the commander’s decision-making.
Reporting is that contact or intercommunication maintained between elements to ensure mutual understanding and unity of purpose and action. At higher levels of command, reporting may be a continuous but informal process, normally achieved through consultations between the respective commanders or their staffs by IRC communication. At lower levels, it is highly suggested that regular (typically weekly) private messaging of reports take place. Reporting is a standing requirement and must not become an after-thought.