An Episode of the British/US Army Pre-Staff Talks
Article by: Tom Rozman
Allied armies have learned the value over the centuries of maintaining ongoing liaison and interface with other allied armies regarding general developments, doctrine, methods, organization and equipment. A key objective of these liaisons has been to better understand each other’s operating systems and methods and to enhance interoperability where it makes sense consistent with each ally’s internal security posture.
In the above vein, the British and U. S. Armies had developed and maintained a long standing staff talks interface since World War II that occurred annually. These talks were supplemented by the work of liaison officers assigned to key staffs of each Army. The annual staff talks typically addressed such topics as ongoing or developing combat, materiel and training developments programs and initiatives.
During one cycle of the two armies’ annual staff interface the pre-staff talks U.S. Army team formed under its team leader at U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) then stationed at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. The several lieutenant colonels and majors of the team met for a team coordination meeting to review materials that would accompany the team as well as protocols for the meeting, confirming the ability of deploying representatives from the deputy chief of staff offices to knowledgably address the agenda topics proposed. A week later the team members rendezvoused at the Norfolk Airport for the flight to Atlanta, then London.
On the team’s arrival in London, the team was met by a counterpart lieutenant colonel from the Ministry of Defense (MOD) at Heathrow and expedited through the customs checks. The colonel escorted the team to MOD transportation positioned outside the terminal then to the hotel providing accommodation for the several days of the pre-talks reviews and coordination of the staff talks agenda. All was proceeding as the TRADOC team leader had previously briefed in earlier coordination and team members were in synch with the sequence to this point.
On arrival at the hotel, a smaller boutique type hotel in Central London, attractive and cozy, the team waited as the reception desk and bell service registered the team members, assigned rooms and moved luggage to the rooms. There apparently was a need to process expeditiously. The colonel from MOD informed the TRADOC team that arrival being in early afternoon, a special tour had been arranged for the team of the British National Army Museum located adjacent to the Royal Hospital near old Chelsea Barracks. The colonel stated that if anyone was not up to the tour they were welcome to remain at the hotel.
Because of the timing of travel and the preceding 10 hours of continuous travel the team had experienced, fatigue was setting in. But all on the team considered it appropriate to accept the invitation and all were very interested in visiting the museum, it being unlikely there would be an opportunity later given the full schedule of the pre-talks.
After a short wait after registration and positioning personal luggage in their hotel rooms, the team assembled in the lobby with the MOD colonel. The colonel led the team to transportation that would take them to the museum. It was about a 20 minute drive through traffic and team members had to fight the “dozing off effect.”
The team arrived at The Royal Hospital adjacent to the museum and moved from their transport vehicle to the museum entrance. Though freshened by the move from the vehicles to the museum entrance, the team members were still somewhat tottering on their feet for lack of sleep and the time difference. They were told their guide would be the assistant museum curator, a “doctor something-or-other.” They expected a dry, old and wizened professor type.
The team was to meet the assistant curator in the Army Museum Canteen. As the small group entered the canteen, their MOD escort started to move toward a striking looking young woman dressed in a very well tailored business suit.
As it happened, this young woman was the assistant curator and guide for the team’s personal tour of the British National Army Museum. At this point the team’s travel fatigue evaporated.
In the event, the assistant curator proved a past master as a briefer, articulate and engaging, very pleasant in her style but thoroughly professional. More impressive, she knew her subject. Not one museum section did the team visit that she failed to interpret the material on display accurately and in depth. It was perhaps the very best military museum tour any of the team members had ever experienced and several members had been to a wide selection of such collections world wide.
In personal conversation after the tour the assistant curator shared that she was traveling to the United States in about a month to accompany her husband for a fellowship of one or two years, he being a PhD as well. The exceptional knowledge displayed, skilled presentation of information provided, and engagement by the assistant curator made a first day in London a very rewarding professional experience.
The team returned to the hotel on completion of the tour. Early the next morning and for the next three days, the team and its counterparts at MOD reviewed proposed agenda items and materials confirming or denying all program elements proposed and pre-coordinated. Some modification and adjustment was proposed and addressed based on recent developments but for the most part, the program already formed was confirmed. The topics were the most concerning and of interest to the inter army relationship.
The working sessions were long and at end of day always after dark, the convening teams withdrew from MOD’s offices. Following would be a scout of nearby London for inexpensive places to eat—typically an ethnic restaurant was selected for interesting cuisine at the right price.
The work at MOD came to a close with the satisfaction by participants that a good program agenda had been confirmed. There were one or two contentious points but these were resolved. The U. S. Army team was conveyed back to Heathrow by their British Army hosts and officers that had bonded in friendship through the work of the last few days and in some cases longer, bid farewell. Some of the U. S. team would return with the delegation attending the talks but some would not. What all came to appreciate, and the veterans already did, was the importance that each team member had in the form of “exemplar leadership” in the inter army engagement environment. As representative military leaders of their respective armies they were the spokesman for their army’s leader quality to the other army’s officer representatives, ambassadors in a way for their army’s leader development system.
There was no grandstanding or any form of hubris. The mode was collegial, quietly professional with the latter’s necessary form of competence signature. Team members were representing the larger “shareable” characterizations of their respective army’s positions, policies and programs important to inter-army cooperation. There were no frills, no brags and as much as possible candor. The particular teams that had been constituted by the two armies were well up to speed on the other army and knew their business—it was a form of lead by example, and it paid off.
About the author: Tom Rozman, is an American soldier of 27 years and 23 years in public civil sector, who led 15 organizations of 14-800 soldiers/employees.
Tom has been a regular e-Veritas contributor for close to two years and we certainly appreciate his support. More