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A170 Tom Rozman: Perspectives Regarding the Assistant Division Commander Leadership Role in a Maneuver Division

Above (l-r): The Colors of the 1st Cavalry, 2nd Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions

Article by A170 Tom Rozman

A recent professional conversation with a colleague keyed a thought.   There might be value from a leadership perspective regarding the sharing of close proximity personal observations of the assistant division commander function in a maneuver division of the United States Army.   Possibly similar observations may be drawn from allied armies with divisional standing organizations.

The colleague is a long service professional who early matriculated at the Royal Military College of Canada.  He served a full extended career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) retiring from that service.   As well he is a retired Canadian Army Reserve officer. He pursued a civilian career in security post RCMP.  He was a long serving president of the Royal Military College of Canada’s Club or alumni association.  He communicates with alumni of senior military station fairly frequently.  He made the following observation concerning an exchange we had on the recent assignment of then soon to be promoted to brigadier, Colonel Robert Ritchie, Canadian Army, to the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division as an assistant division commander.

“Those exchanges are critical for Canadian military leadership development.  It’s normal to see a Canadian BGen on 2-3yr exchange with a US Army Division… the Canadian appointee usually assigned as Deputy Commander Operations… US Divisions have the manpower assets, equipment with Command and Control over Battalion Strength Battle Groups… Canadians would otherwise not have that opportunity in Canada.”

The comment caused some reflection on my part on the position of assistant division commander in a U.S. maneuver division.  However configured, the position has existed over the last several decades, and has had a long life (the position in its current general configuration and application was well in place during the 1939-45 World War).   During my entire service that extended for approaching three decades there were two assistant division commanders in a U.S. maneuver division, the Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver and the Assistant Division Commander for Support.

These officers were typically brigadier generals, though the officer could be a colonel on the brigadier general’s promotion list who was directed to the position early due to a precipitate reassignment of an incumbent. In such case the promotable colonel was “frocked” in the US parlance by the Department of the Army with the brigadier rank prior to assuming the new position.  This practice for divisions forward deployed or subject to forward deployment was for protocol and national interest purposes driven by certain necessities of the officer in this role being a brigadier.  One of the officers I worked directly for in this role initially entered the position employing this mechanism.

The Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver (ADC(M)), at the discretion of the division commander, almost always a major general, oversaw all aspects of the division’s maneuver force training and readiness for operational employment.  These typically were the infantry, mechanized infantry, armor, cavalry and any combined infantry/armor battalions and task forces assigned to the division or organized into the division’s typically assigned three maneuver brigades.  The combat armored cavalry squadron typically was part of this maneuver force as were the  engineer,  military intelligence and signal battalions.

The Assistant Division Commander for Support (ADC(S)) played a similar role over all of the division’s combat and service/logistics support units.  Typically, this responsibility included the division’s fires units in the Division Artillery (DIVARTY) normally consisting of three direct support battalions, one aligned to each maneuver brigade and a general support battalion.  This was effectively a divisional artillery brigade of four fires battalions.

The ADC(S) also oversaw the Division Support Command (DISCOM).  Early in my experience, this in effect service support brigade consisted of four battalions, a maintenance/ordnance, medical, quartermaster, and transportation battalion.  Over my service reorganizations occurred to the support units in that the trend was to integrate the different services into a direct support battalion aligned to each maneuver brigade, i.e., a direct support battalion having a medical, maintenance, quartermaster and transportation companies.

The ADC(S) also oversaw the division’s aviation battalion which early in career was a composite of command and control and scouting aircraft, lift/utility and attack helicopters generally organized into companies of each type.  As well some aviation assets were at times integrated into the divisional cavalry squadron.

The training and readiness oversight responsibilities for the ADCs alone were daunting.  There were hardly enough hours in the day to keep up with a properly functioning training and evaluation program that approximated success.

When deployed, the ADCs entered a world of an unlimited demand on their engagement. This demand required an intuitive sense of the division’s OPTEMPO and ever altering displacements as a sort of intuitive “coup d’oeil” sense of the division’s arrangements and ground. The ADCs also needed an unerring effectiveness in reading of subordinate commander’s strengths and weaknesses to form effective command relationships, relationships that could sense something “off track before it got off track.” The ADCs needed to perfect the artful skill to work “the terrain of the ADCs role” between the division commanding general (CG) and subordinate commanders.

The ADC environment would use every aspect of the ADCs talent base and then some.  And the ADC needed to perfect the skill of personal  “growth” in the position as well.  It was impossible to “know it all” upfront.

And one had to be skilled in getting enough sleep, some how, around whatever the OPTEMPO was.  Failure to get a good daily slug of sleep could result in an incoherent babbling individual within 72 hours of no sleep…a person who, even if he looked with it could not sit for a second without falling instantly into a dead sleep and losing effectiveness.

The following observations are made from personal experience with division ADCs and the positions of ADC(M) and ADC(S).   Over my active Army career, 24 months was spent assigned at division level with the forward deployed 2nd Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division Headquarters respectively in Korea and Germany.

I would engage with six brigadiers in the ADC(M) and ADC(S) roles as an aide-de-camp and Assistant Division G-3 for training resources.  Two would be promoted to major general, one to lieutenant general and one would become the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff. Regarding the last officer, my wife being on Brigadier General John Shalikashvili’s Nuernburg community staff, I would add a perspective on what an ADC(S) could get involved with as a community commander along with his tactical and operational roles.


My first personal interface with a division ADC(M) occurred at Ft. Hood, Texas.  I had been assigned during a Friday officers call before a three day weekend to relinquish my duties as the executive officer of a mechanized infantry battalion headquarters company and at 0530 the following Tuesday morning report to Company A and assume command of 1st platoon, my first platoon command.

In a whirlwind late Friday afternoon meeting with the battalion’s S-3 after the officer’s call, I received a briefing, the essence of which was that I would assume command of a platoon that was assigned to the highest visibility mission on the installation, one of the initial efforts by the Army to transform itself from a Vietnam orientation to a Plains of Europe peer on peer army armored force contest…Air Cavalry Combat Brigade Test 1.

I was informed that the platoon was full strength to table of organization by rank, i.e., a sergeant first class platoon sergeant, staff sergeant squad leaders and sergeant team leaders.  I was told that the platoon had already begun its pre-training before acceptance as a test unit and that it would be placed under the operational control of Company A of the 1st Battalion, 13th Armor for six months.

When I asked if the platoon sergeant was available after the briefing for coordination, I was told the platoon had already been released for the long weekend.  I began to sense there was work to do.

Dutifully at 0500 I was at Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry where I introduced myself to the platoon sergeant who was forming the 11 men of the platoon.  A 5-ton truck pulled up and we loaded the platoon.

Off we went to the platoon’s lager site in the maneuver box.  Enroute the platoon sergeant filled me in on the training schedule we were executing.  Within an hour we were to assault an objective.  The platoon’s strength would only permit eight men which included myself to dismount if we didn’t man the .50 caliber M2 machine guns on the four M113s’ top decks.  For safety the drivers needed to remain at their stations in the M113s.

And so the platoon with precision, maneuvered mounted to the designated objective and launched its overwhelming infantry assault of 8 dismounts. As the platoon was consolidating on the objective the sound of an OH58’s blades could be heard and almost at the same time the bird landed with the usual Texas dust adding dramatic effect.

Out hopped what looked like a football center, a bull in fatigues, and from what could be heard over the helicopter noise and his facial expression he was not happy.  In the fast moving situation I noted the star of a brigadier and could just make out colorful language in a bull voice asking, “where the H _ _ _ is the platoon.”

Like magic, before I could answer, two jeeps raced around the other side of the objective to our location and in a twinkling the battalion commander was addressing the 1st Cavalry Division’s ADC(M).

An hour later back in the platoon’s lager on top of a wooded copse several kilometers south of the objective, two 2 ½ ton trucks labored and bounced up the rough rutted track to the lager position.  Thirty-seven less than amused non-commissioned officers and soldiers dismounted from the trucks.  The platoon sergeant and I began to immediately organize them into a platoon.

In the event all worked out very well and the platoon formed on that day became a superb unit and did good service on the test earning a strong reputation.  It was 1971.

I learned that day in my first encounter with an ADC(M) what the power of this officer was, especially when he was not happy.

Another less dramatic interface occurred months later with the new ADC(M) when I was ordered to report to him to be interviewed as his possible aide.  A fellow New Englander, he was a pleasant man to meet but we both agreed that it was better that I continue in the battalion.  Years later he would, as a lieutenant general and IG of the Army, address my class at the Staff College very effectively on what we were heading for in our units concerning the then occurring massive Army modernization.

Those were my first personal interfaces with the ADC(M) position.   I became very aware that this officer played an important leadership role in a division, especially to keep the maneuver “sandbox” in the shape it needed to be…and he could “make it happen” when necessary.

About a year and half later and halfway around the world I was acting commander of Company B, 1st Battalion 38th Infantry at a retreat parade at division headquarters.  After the parade as the company was mounting into trucks to return to the company’s barracks, out of the blue the battalion adjutant came up and said I was to report to the ADC(M)’s office across the parade to interview as his replacement aide.

The next day as the selected replacement, I reported to the ADC(M)’s office for a short overlap with my predecessor.

This began my first direct interface on an extended basis with an ADC(M) and an infantry officer by trade.  I was fortunate.  The officer, Brigadier Thomas U. Greer, whose father had served as the ADC of the 79th Infantry Division during World War II, the division my father’s brother Hank served in, proved a solid mentor and officer who never became ruffled, no matter what the situation.  He always kept his head and he never dressed a leader down in front of his subordinates no matter how screwed up a situation might be.  He always moved in a direction to take a situation to good result for all concerned.   The dignity of the individual was respected.

But it was a fool’s errand to misread him.  If a subordinate leader indicated toxic or terminally incompetent leadership, and fortunately these situations were few with such as then Lieutenant Colonel Colin Powel on the subordinate maneuver leader team, among many notable leaders, the ADC took the necessary action and the leader was removed.

Through an ever-ongoing array of developments I learned that the ADC hardly owned his life at all.  He was tireless and the demands of his engagement in the maneuver readiness issues of the division never allowed rest.   We were often in the air to the Demilitarized Zone DMZ that separated the two Korea’s regarding readiness or situation developments concerning the two mechanized battalions deployed to that location, in the command and control aircraft overflying tactical training and major deployments and to I Corps for coordination with the deputy commander, then Brigadier General Joseph L. Fant, or the corps commander himself on high priority readiness initiatives of the division commander.

Some of the key takeaways follow.

  • In the blur of four months the highlights of the ASDC(M)’s activity gave a sense of his engagement and leadership contribution.
  • Constant attention was paid to the readiness and mission effectiveness of the DMZ force to perform the mission in the DMZ to include the contingency to evacuate the US unit at Panmunjom.
  • Engaged coordination and monitoring of maneuver commander execution of the division commander’s initiatives was applied to bring the division to a higher level of combat effectiveness and tactical and operational agility.
  • The ADC(M) was constantly monitoring no notice alert deployments of critical combat elements like the mortar platoons, range firing and field training exercises, especially those focused on optimizing air assault initiatives with the division’s then four, foot infantry battalions. This effort included a particular emphasis on night operations.
  • The ADC(M) monitored inspector general inspections of maneuver elements receiving the reported findings from the inspections following up with the subordinate commanders regarding any corrective action that was indicated.
  • The ADC(M) also maintained an open and effective partnership with the ADC(S). Their offices in garrison being immediately next to each other the two GOs were in constant coordination regarding areas of mutual interest in the division’s aggressive readiness program.
  • The ADC(M) did during the timeframe have to confront relief of a battalion commander and assuring a competent lieutenant colonel to temporarily assume command to correct the issues of concern. The ADC(M)’s leadership ability worked this difficult task with skill retaining discipline in the battalion and mission effectiveness bringing a very difficult situation to a successful result.

The ADC(M) appeared on the major general’s promotion list.  The U.S. Senior member to the Armistice Commission, Major General Smith, USMC was completing his six-month tour.  The position had been slated to end with his departure. However, the UN/8th Army Commander had requested an additional six-month extension.  It was the Army’s turn.  General Officer’s Branch in Alexandria, Virginia  had not identified a major general to fill the position.  The protocol for the position demanded a two star flag officer.

Two months before end of tour, the ADC(M) was informed by General Officer Branch that he being on the major general’s list had been identified as the GO who would fill he Senior Member position for the additional unprogrammed cycle.  He would be “frocked” major general and relocate from the division headquarters to his new office in Seoul.

I would remain to welcome the new ADC(S) who as a promotable colonel was to be frocked as a brigadier general before assuming the ADC(S) role.  This officer, then Colonel Robert A. Holloman, had been impacted as well by the need to scramble as all of his planning had been two months further out.

General Holloman’s early career had been as an infantry officer including combat in Korea against the Chinese forces than deployed on the peninsula.  As the Army began to expand its “post-World War II/formation of the U.S. Air Force” aviation arm (after the Army Air Force transitioned to a separate service) and as a senior captain the new ADC had entered the aviation program rising to command the 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam.

Wounded in the foot by a .50 caliber machinegun bullet while piloting an aircraft in Vietnam, the new ADC was a combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and brought the unique combination of a veteran foot infantry officer turned combat aviation officer to the division, background that dovetailed well with the imperatives of the division commander.

During the several interim weeks as I readied the office for the new ADC, I reported to then Brigadier General Harry W. Brooks Jr., the ADC(S), a field artillery officer by experience who was transitioning to the ADC(M) role.  A good and easy senior officer to work with he gave me full reign to ready the office for the new ADC(S). He offered any assistance I might need to prepare for the new ADC(S), to include coordinating the new ADC(S)’ orientation on arrival.  He fostered a thoroughgoing team approach.

General Brooks mentored without looking over my shoulder.  I thoroughly appreciated his mentoring and leadership during the period before General Holloman arrived.  General Brooks would be promoted to major general and would command the 25th Infantry Division.

During the two months supporting the new ADC(S) the schedule became even more intense with extensive work to ensure the fire support mission was well in hand in the “western corridor” and that DIVARTY assets greatly enhanced their tactical and operational mobility through aviation support.

As a result, the ADC(S) was constantly flying to fires locations and engaging with South Korean counterparts in coordinating the various contingencies of the division.   Part of the drive in the readiness direction involved a tough division physical training regimen that began with a morning five mile run for all units and Tae Kwon Do martial arts training.

The ADC(S) with still healing foot wound uncomplainingly met his aide each morning and the two officers ran a route and or with a unit for five miles every morning.  The ADC(S) led by example.

Along with the fires emphasis the ADC(S) was engaged in a thorough going program with the DISCOM units and aviation battalion to maximize service and logistical support to the division’s maneuver units in terms of the expanded emphasis on tactical and operational flexibility and mobility.  The new ADC(S) proved a masterful leader in forming a creative and innovative leader team to address the wide range of challenges this approach required with great success.

Another facet of the ADC(S) role and how the incumbent provided leadership concerned the community, a role I would note in an even more comprehensive way with the ADC positions in Germany.   The ADC(S) at this time was the senior military officer over the “military mayor” of the military community the division headquarters, 1st Brigade, DISCOM, the Engineer, Military Intelligence and Signal battalions formed adjacent to the City of Dongducheon.  The military mayor was the DISCOM Commander Colonel Bruce Marine who maintained a tight liaison with his civilian counterpart the mayor of the city.

This latter role became critical when intelligence indicated that US soldiers outside military control in the area and country intended an attack on the division commander.  This information was part of a larger issue operating across the Army at the time and one accelerating a problem trend in Korea.  One lesser but important aspect of the problem was that “club and dance” establishments frequented by off duty soldiers in the garrison towns were being divided into African American and “others “establishments.

Once the intelligence and veracity of the threat was verified an immediate restriction of all military personnel to the bases was initiated.  In a joint Criminal Investigation Division (CID)/Command and Local Korean Police effort all U.S. personnel absent without leave were gradually apprehended and placed under military authority.  The ADC(S) led this task force in the division area.

Within two weeks the initiative had succeeded thanks to a hands on military/civil leadership team approach.  The ADC(S) demonstrated a unique skill in his leadership that contributed greatly to success.  He never came across at a meeting or initial exchange as the overbearing GO.  A good size man in good physical condition he had physical presence but his approach was disarmingly friendly informal in a southeastern U.S. manner.

People would feel comfortable and share much information.  Some even underestimated the ADC(S)’ ability to comprehend.  To their peril… after a meeting he would recount every detail as he provided guidance on what we’d be doing.  Sometimes the share led to a corrective.  But the approach was unerringly focused, especially for those requiring fairly strong medicine to get their attention.

On departing the 2nd Infantry Division I would not be part of a maneuver division headquarters team for some 10 years.  That second experience would be with the 1st Armored Division in Germany.

After 18 months at battalion level on my second sojourn with the 1st Armored Division, this time in Germany, I was ordered to the headquarters by the division commander Major General Crosbie Saint.  I was to form a new G-3 staff section to integrate and manage all division training resources to achieve maximum use and effect in the division’s readiness and general Defense Position training, our go to war NATO mission.

It was a major task and the 14 officer, NCO and civilian staff of the section with some additional augmentation. also formed the night shift for the division’s tactical operations center (DTOC), which made two, two plus week REFORGER aligned deployments during the 17 month tour.

The division ADCs were located a distance from the headquarters in Ansbach, one being located about a half hour drive north and west in Fuerth and the other a further 40 or so minute drive from Fuerth to the north in Bamberg.

Generally, aside from other missions, the generals operated in a command sense, the ADC in Bamberg over the maneuver brigade there, 3rd Brigade and the 1st Brigade to the south at Illesheim and the 2nd to the south at Erlangen.  The ADC situated at Fuerth oversaw the DIVARTY and DISCOM and division troops in the area.

My interfaces with the three brigadiers that occupied the position during my tour had primarily to do with the training resources their “training management areas” (TMAs) oversaw generally conforming to their community command footprints.  Much of this establishment consisted of local training areas, weapons ranges, and training aids devices and simulators.

On the active operations side I interfaced with them fairly frequently when the DTOC deployed for situation briefings and the change of shift briefings.

The Tennenlohe Wald local training area bordering Erlangen was one of the largest in Germany at 36 square kilometers with firing ranges cleared for up to M2 heavy machineguns and 81mm mortars though mortar fire had ceased due to concerns about the flight patterns into the Nuernberg Airport.   Tennenlohe Wald came under the ADC in Fuerth and the TMA he oversaw.

At the time there were a range of major multi-million dollar per fiscal year capital projects programs in each of the three TMAs (one under the division commander headquartered in Ansbach who also served as the Ansbach community commander as a second hat) that comprised the training development area (TDA) that was a division garrison responsibility.

Interfacing with the ADCs in this capacity introduced an entirely different aspect to the positions.  When the division was in garrison they were remote from the headquarters and exercised some significant autonomy, particularly in their community and TMA roles.

Given the significant budget levels for training capital projects and project criticality for readiness training of units in garrison, the ADCs needed to ensure that coordination with sub-post commanders and local German planning authorities and the district engineer providing site project management was maintained.  This was a task vital to timely progress on all work. The support and engagement of the ADCs at in-process reviews and occasional necessary direct involvement with some commanders was critical to progress.

Two situations that developed are illustrative.  One involved the highly sensitive at the time installation of the division’s 11 unit conduct of fire trainers (UCOFTs) for the division’s 10 armor and mechanized battalions and the armored cavalry squadron.  Any glitch in following the project timeline could result in a deferral of a UCOFT delivery and installation.

Once installed the annual training ammunition account for the battalion was halved.  That halving would occur even if the UCOFT installation was deferred.

It was identified that a sub post community commander had, without authority or coordination, diverted the site selection for the UCOFT to accommodate a Burger King.  Consequently the schedule to install the UCOFT concrete foundation and utilities, namely the power line, even with the timely discovery of the diversion, was at risk of not being completed in time for the scheduled UCOFT delivery.  The ADC’s continued involvement with the planning and project review had placed him in a position to be able to take corrective action immediately and to good effect.

Another situation involved Tennenlohe Wald which due to the trail network had become popular for regional motor cross events in the area.  Despite all warnings and educational programs, two boys during an event had found a World War II 15cm round and against warnings decided to hammer the round.  Tennenlohe had been a firing range since the 1870s when it supported Royal Bavarian Army artillery range firing.  This meant that every spring for perpetuity after the spring thaw the Wald became an open-air ordnance museum as old dud rounds and even small aircraft bombs worked their way to the surface.

The highly unstable explosive of the old round the boys had found detonated and severely injured the boys.  Even though the command would de-dud the Wald each thaw cycle and no new dud producing rounds were being fired into the Wald, it was not considered safe after the incident to continue the motor cross events.  However, the events were highly popular and German/American relations were at stake.  The ADC, who also spoke German and Polish fluently and was popular with the German community, negotiated an agreement that met the needs of both communities and their safety.

My experience with the division’s ADCs showed all to be highly capable leaders in their tactical and operational roles. But interestingly they were highly effective in their community and TMA roles.  They proved consistently to be superb leadership assets that one could rely upon for the right level of reflection, decision, and follow through.  All were approachable and none were condescending.

Though I am aware of anecdotal situations with ADCs that were not as satisfactory, the officers I had the privilege to interface with in these roles over 24 months and longer period, if considering my first interface, showed themselves highly effective leaders in the ADC role.

I observed eight officers in the role from a range of vantage points.  They all demonstrated effective leadership and a quick grasp of how to leverage the ADC position from a leadership standpoint.  I also determined the position to be a necessary one in the divisional command and control structure not least being continuity if the division commander became incapacitated or otherwise absent.

Perhaps the most outstanding example of this continuity need was General Anthony McAuliffe’s temporary command of the 101st Airborne Division at the siege of Bastogne, Belgium in late 1944.  He was one of the two brigadiers than authorized to a U.S. combat division.  At the time he was the DIVARTY Commander, a position that  evolved into the ADC(S) position in later post World War II division tables of organization.  The other brigadier was the ADC.   In this case both the division commander and ADC were absent.

The experiences also illustrated how varied the leadership expectations and demands on the ADC position incumbents could be.  The officers did need to have a range of leadership styles and abilities they could apply to this array of situations they would face.  The officers I interfaced with demonstrated these abilities and greatly added to the effectiveness of the division operationally and at community levels.

Note: From World War I to the mobilization for World War II the U.S. combat division was organized around two maneuver brigades of two regiments each providing the brigade with six maneuver battalions or in case of cavalry, six squadrons.  This configuration was referred to as the “square division.”  Each brigade was commanded by a brigadier general.  Early in the war the Army reorganized the division for greater flexibility and controllability into a “triangular configuration” of three regiments, deactivating the two brigade headquarters.  In this reorganization an assistant division commander position was established.  That position and the DIVARTY commander position were assigned brigadier generals thus providing, in addition to the major general commanding the division, two additional flag officers within the division for continuity of command.