The words “Operation Steel Dragon” may not mean a lot to most, but for second lieutenants attending Fort Leonard Wood’s Chemical Basic Officer Leader Course, this redesigned capstone exercise means they will be better prepared to support maneuver commanders on the battlefield.
Students from CBOLC class 03-18 gave their capstone brief June 1 to a panel consisting of both combat arms and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear commanders, allowing them to receive feedback and guidance.
“We started doing this in late January; this is our third iteration, and it keeps getting better each time we do this,” said Lt. Col. Bryon Galbraith, 84th Chemical Battalion commander. “The key to this is having a maneuver commander, a combat arms guy here to help the lieutenants understand what the commanders are looking for.”
In the past, the capstone included only internal rehearsal of concept drills.
“We weren’t briefing ROC drills to commanders. They were just internal and it wasn’t to this extent with this much detail,” Galbraith said. “It was more of a classroom briefing about what they were going to do during the (field training exercise), more administrative than it was tactical.”
Changes in the course were made after Maj. Matthew Mason, CBRN Officer Training Department chief, arrived in August and noticed how the course lacked training objectives that matched the types of jobs new CBRN officers would perform at their first duty assignment.
“We took feedback from senior leaders here at Fort Leonard Wood, infantry and armor instructors from Fort Benning and doctrine from the new FM 3-0, to redesign the FTX,” Mason said. “Now, our (lieutenants) receive a Combined Arms Battalion OPORD at the beginning of their course. They have to read, understand and develop a company level deployment order and then conduct (Troop Leading Procedures) throughout the course in order to conduct ‘pre-deployment’ training, conduct a deployment ROC drill, and then ‘deploy’ in support of 1-3 CAB to fulfill their capstone training objectives.”
Students are now learning their role on the battlefield and the importance of that role, according to Galbraith.
“What we strive for here is for them to understand the maneuver,” he said. “It’s so they understand how to insert their capabilities with the maneuver battle plan. If they don’t understand the maneuver side, then how are they going to understand how to import their capabilities to ensure freedom of action for that commander? They should know not only what their capabilities are, but how their capabilities fit within the battlefield to protect the force.”
Lt. Col. William Earl, field artillery officer and 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment commander, said the change mirrors what they have been doing in the maneuver force.
“I really like the way (they) have done it at the 84th, because their foundation within FM 3-0 and making sure that the doctrine is correct is huge,” he said. “It’s one of the first things any maneuver commander is going to look for: Are you doctrinally correct? Then it’s, can you speak in front of me? After that they’re going to be a value to the team.”
Earl said this process is something the students will see again.
“The fact that they’re doing it now means they can learn by their mistakes,” Earl said. “We all learn from mistakes, and that’s the heart of it. We all have to learn, and they’re going to get better at it. A few more reps, and they’re going to become great commanders.”
Instructors said getting feedback from commanders with experience helps make students understand the importance of their tasks.
“The best part of the course is the capstone, because we have all of these colonels, maneuver commanders, and the feedback they provide them is the most valuable,” said Capt. Gloria Patel, CBOLC instructor. “We, as instructors, can only repeat ourselves so much throughout the course, but when you have a commander tell you the same thing — that this is real, it can happen — it hits home and they realize how important it is.”