By Benjamin Ordiway
It’s the Friday before deployment. Over this past year, you've worked hard to earn the trust of your company commander, first sergeant, and your teammates. The individual and collective training cycles seem like a lifetime ago. You do remember, however, your external validation. The commander (two levels up) extolled your team’s and company’s performance. You even got a coin! To top it off, this morning the team excelled during the in-brief to your operational commander. What is more, your APACS request didn’t get kicked back, Sato Travel just confirmed your flights, and the team you are replacing actually provided you a schedule for your first month in country!
As you and the team regale in discussions of your last weekend stateside before deployment, your commander calls a huddle. She hands you a memo, subject line: “The Rules of the Road.” It looks like a pre-deployment counseling of sorts sent from on-high. Flipping through page after page of bureaucratic legalese, a sinking feeling, disappointment, replaces the sense of elevation you had moments before. As you sign your name, the words spoken by the higher commander at the external validation—"initiative…trust…leadership,"—coin in his hand, his hand in yours, are replaced by "inertia…compliance…management."
In recognition of today’s unconventional conflicts, where adversaries seamlessly float in and out of the civilian population, the Army published “The Army Capstone Concept: Operational Adaptability—Operating Under Conditions of Uncertainty and Complexity in an Era of Persistent Conflict.” Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) leadership and subordinate commands would do well to embrace the following from its pages: “To facilitate the necessary level of adaptation, Army forces empower increasingly lower echelons of command with the capabilities, capacities, authorities, and responsibilities needed to think independently and act decisively, morally, and ethically."
I offer the following pre-deployment counseling as an alternative. Numerous ARSOF Officers and NCOs contributed to its formation. As part of a moral-ethical reasoning & decision-making course, they were asked to write a pre-deployment memorandum that they would welcome signing as a subordinate and sending as a superior.
Download the Word Document here.
About the Author
Captain Benjamin Ordiway is a Civil Affairs Officer in the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion. He served as the Team Commander of the Civil-Military Support Element, U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, in Bosnia & Herzegovina and has also conducted Civil Affairs Operations in Poland and Serbia. He enlisted as a Cavalry Scout in the Army in 2004 and received his commission as an Armor Officer from the United States Military Academy in 2012. Captain Ordiway is slated to teach philosophy and officership at the United States Military Academy beginning in 2022.