Lt. Col. Greg Sanders
Each month, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, hosts a leader development session with battalion commanders to foster team building and develop them as commanders.
The July event centered on battle-focused physical fitness training and leader professional development at the Urban Obstacle Course behind Magrath Gym. This training was designed to build esprit de corps, develop leaders and familiarize them with select training capabilities on post that they can incorporate into their battalion level training plans.
Obstacles the battalion commanders had to negotiate included the Shapes Wall, the Rat Maze, the Balance Walk, the Gutter Pull, the Cargo Net Wall, the Monkey Bars, the Inverted Wall, the Beam Walk and the Rooftop. The obstacle course would have been challenging enough by itself, but the commanders were given the additional tasks to evacuate a casualty with their squad-sized element and maintain security while they moved through the course.
On top of that, at each new obstacle, the general placed a new commander in charge as squad leader. The squad leader and his fellow commanders had to rapidly assess each obstacle, make a quick plan to clear the obstacle and then execute their plan – all while ensuring “Randy,” the 175-pound litter casualty, made it safely through the course without further injury.
At first, like many type-A personalities, the battalion commanders immediately took the bull by the horns by attacking the obstacles with aggressiveness and speed but with not much detailed thought or planning. After the first one or two obstacles, it was obvious this was not the wisest or most effective way to conduct these tasks.
After a quick in-stride review, the commanders went back to the basics. They quickly figured out that if they took a moment to briefly plan and organize themselves it would pay off in the long run – slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
They separated the squads into Alpha and Bravo teams and assigned tasks for near and far side security and aid and litter teams – just as they were trained on basic squad-level tactics as young lieutenants.
As the commanders negotiated the remaining obstacles, they began to improve their on-the-spot planning techniques and develop improved tactics and techniques. They began to leverage the size of some of the commanders to best position personnel as they attacked each obstacle. By the last few obstacles, the squad of commanders was operating like a well-oiled machine and moving at a “careful hurry.”
After the obstacle course, the general even found a way to work marksmanship training into the event by taking commanders to the indoor archery range at the Outdoor Recreation Complex, where they competed in engaging bull’s-eyes and life-size animal targets with bows and arrows.
It proved to be a great team-building event for the battalion commanders, who will take the training back to their individual formations to assist in guiding company-level commanders and first-line leaders to become flexible and decisive Mountain-ready leaders able to take on any task or obstacle and prepared to deploy, fight and win.
Sanders serves as 10th Special Troops Battalion commander.