Article by Tom Rozman – with Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Robert W. Rozman
An officer had just reported to his new assignment as the assistant intelligence officer on the U. S. Army Armor Center staff. The Armor Center was a major Army combat maneuver branch center for troop training and combat and training developments. The officer had experienced a very dynamic situation since reporting to the installation on return from Germany a little more than a year before. He had already had several adventures in leadership due to this situation. He was about to experience another.
Several major reorganizations had occurred recently as the Army reduced the force subsequent to the end of hostilities in Korea. The post, a year before, had hosted an armored division that had reorganized during the war as a training division to conduct basic and advanced individual training of replacement combat soldiers. The division’s organization had for the most part retained the structure of a combat armored division.
The division several months earlier during one of the reorganizations had re-formed into a training center and its major elements had redesignated as numbered training regiments. A following reorganization had deactivated several of these regiments. The Army and the installation were in tremendous flux.
The officer, a newly promoted major, had on arrival from Germany been assigned as a battery commander in the division artillery. This would be his fifth company level command he having commanded two infantry companies and two infantry battalion headquarters companies previously. He was a senior captain on arrival in the command.
After some six months of command the captain was promoted to major. At the time of his promotion, the division artillery was redesignated as a training regiment and the new major was assigned as its S-4 (supply and logistics officer). This assignment was consistent with two of the officer’s previous assignments as an infantry battalion S-4 in the United States and in Germany. A little more than a month after being assigned as the regiment’s S-4 the Army determined to deactivate the regiment within the next two months. Training operations in progress were completed or transitioned. The S-4 became the acting commander for final disposition of regimental property and facilities as the unit transitioned to inactivation.
The now ex-regimental S-4 had also served as a battalion S-2 (Intelligence Officer) in the United States and in Germany. He was a graduate of the Army’s Tactical Intelligence Officer’s Course at the Army Ground General School at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He had been an Assistant S-2 of an infantry regiment in Germany. With this background, the new major was reassigned by the installation’s personnel office as the Center’s assistant S-2. The Center was a major general’s command and the chief-of-staff was a full colonel.
The assignment in the event spared the major no time for transition. As soon as he signed over the final property of the regiment he was notified that he would be reporting to his new assignment the next day. He had learned at the same time that the S-2, his new superior officer, was on leave for several weeks. Adding to the major’s concerns, the Center’s chief-of-staff was a colonel known to be very demanding. The reporting situation did not strike the major as ideal.
The chief-of-staff was in fact a demanding officer. He had a reputation of being tough with high standards. But he also had a reputation for being highly competent. He was known to not suffer fools easily. His battle leadership in Europe in World War II as a tactical tank unit commander was the stuff of legend.
Into this environment the new major bravely had to go, and he did. His reservations about not having any transition with the S-2, however, proved warranted. A significant action that had been working in the S-2 shop was to be reported on to the chief that morning—the major’s first day of duty in the S-2. With no information being available from the S-2 on leave, even in a briefing package form, the new S-2 was ordered to report to the chief. He gathered what information he could from the S-2 Office staff but not the material necessary to brief the chief on the status of the action of concern. The briefing promised to be a significant experience. It was.
The brand new Center Assistant S-2 reported to the Center Chief of Staff as required. The briefing that was presented was essentially a statement of the task originally assigned. The chief was not pleased. Nor did he consider the newness of the briefing officer any basis for what he considered an inadequate briefing. He proceeded to make these views known in direct and colorful language to the briefer. When the chief had completed his constructively critical comments he allowed the briefing officer to withdraw to the S-2 Office.
The new Center Assistant S-2 now in possession of a unique first day experience and very direct guidance on how to proceed, dedicated himself to meeting and exceeding the guidance provided by the chief. The sequel briefing a day later met the chief’s expectations.
The Assistant S-2 experienced a not really that rare occurence. Though a first day situation of this nature is not typical, it may occur. The reader, depending on personal experience, may determine several leadership failures by several of the cast of characters. The reader may be thinking “I wouldn’t do it or handle it in that way.”
The above said, there are situations that develop that are a “perfect storm” of unforeseeable and less than controllable circumstances and despite the best of intentions such a situation may develop. With current communications capabilities a situation like the one described is much less likely today unless deliberately engineered. As well, the S-2 in this case in an emergency family situation could be excused for leaving someone in the lurch in the way that developed, especially if a decision for assigning the new officer had not been made prior to the S-2’s departure.
Another point, the officer receiving the briefing could have been more accommodating. But, if applying a standard of reporting, the presenter being fully prepared no matter what or how short the preparation time, say to a battle standard, was the handling of the situation by the chief wrong? Was it in fact a solid leadership technique to make a point? One may circle around this discussion in thought for awhile but one thing was sure in the event—the new Assistant S-2 had the standard expected indelibly imprinted in his mind and met it in all future engagements with the chief-of-staff.