ED Note: The following two articles by Lt Jamie Brittain (25123) and Lt Laurell Burchell (25120) are the 4th and final armoured corps related articles which were all written during the Spring of 2014. They were originally scheduled to appear in the Summer edition of the Veritas magazine. Due to a large number of other submitted articles, space limitations became a problem. Consequently they have been reassigned to e-Veritas.
Similar to the previous three articles they are very well done; still relevant and are aimed at the cadet readership. Others will certainly find them interesting too.
We thank: Major Eric Angell (22140); Capt John Kim (23179); Capt James Anderson (23105); Lt Jamie Brittain (25123) & Lt Laurell Burchell (25120) for their valuable contributions.
We invite similar type articles from the Field (any element – Navy, Army or Air Force – or as the cadets say – the real world!
Troop Leadership in an Armoured Squadron
Lt Jamie Brittain (25123)
Learning the theories of leadership is mandatory training in RMCC or officer phase training, but nothing can replace the learning by actually doing, which is something that can only be done at one’s Regiment or unit than a school. The intricacies of the relationship between an Officer and his NCO, for example, are not made clear by any of the lectures or PMT periods we attend while we are cadets at RMCC. This statement is not suggesting that there is a lack of something in those beneficial lectures but is reflective of the nuanced nature of leadership in terms of command relationships. Knowing when to ask for advice, when to silently watch for it, and when to make a decision that will not be disagreeable with your second-in-command is something that I learned through the various experiences of being a Tp Ldr in LdSH(RC).
When I first arrived at my Regiment I had little idea what the role of armour was in a battle group or a combat team context. Aware of the fact that I did not know, I was smart (or worried) enough to take any advice or example from those who had experience. When I was assigned a tank troop after finishing my tank troop leading course, I looked to my superiors first to show me the way. Something which occurred to me early and has stayed with me throughout was the idea that if I worked hard, was honest about the extent and natural limitations of my knowledge and experience, and I found the fine balance between being a cavalry élan and being humble, things might just turn out okay. In the army world, we call this effort “being a dude.”
I began by telling my OC, Maj Eric Angell (22140), and my Troop Warrant, WO M. Parent, that I had no idea what a tank squadron does, and generally had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. Whether they appreciated the honesty, felt sorry for me, or just couldn’t be bothered to make me look like a fool, I did not let ego or perception stop me from telling the truth. While the task of being a Tp Ldr was daunting, I spent a good amount of time talking to anyone willing to provide advice to learn as much and quickly as I could. Tank troop leading can be a big job. It involves a lot of quick, autonomous decision-making that can lead to severe, lasting consequences. Several times on exercises, Infantry Company Commanders and my own OC relied on me and the other Tp Ldrs for quick and accurate information. We needed to provide this while navigating on the move through unfamiliar terrain, sending and receiving radio traffic, fighting in the vehicle, and trying not to die in live-fire moves. I also soon discovered that in a fighting squadron, down-time can be just as taxing as the busier moments, such as when manning a tight and uncomfortable tank while scanning ridgelines and waiting for orders for hours on end.
Not everything was fire and gravy with tanks. Rough use and long hours sent several tanks to the maintenance line and, consequently, I was able to spend a portion of my days working together with other more experienced Tp Ldrs drafting plans and learning more about being a leader in a broader sense than just inside a vehicle. No one was more beneficial in this sense than my Troop Warrant Officer, who took several small, tactful steps to encourage me to discover where the true boundaries of my responsibility laid.
The popular idea of the hands-on, from the front, compassionate leader serves a purpose as an image, and is certainly something each young troopie should strive for, but is not always a realistic portrait to emulate. It should be (and you can rest assured, it will be) tempered by more experienced NCOs. On occasion, there is nothing more dangerous than an energetic and under-tasked young officer. Years of blundering and miss-stepping can be avoided by solid counsel one can gain from a good NCO. Consulting your NCOs, you can understand the difference between knowing how your troops are doing and what they are doing; the difference between authority and responsibility; and the difference between attentiveness and heavy-handedness.
One can be a commander without being a leader. A commander must be able to give orders and execute missions without hesitation; a leader must know how to ask questions, how to consider and weigh disparate views, and how to gather the best available persons as counsel. To be successful in today’s Army, to succeed in the dynamic complexity of the armoured fight, an officer must be both Commander and Leader. It is for this very reason that the Armoured Corps distinctly title our junior officers as “Troop Leaders” vice Troop Commanders or any other equivalent title found in other trades. We can be led to think that when we are unsure, it can mean that we can lose the faith of those whom we are meant to lead. I have found this to be a half-truth: if we are unsure and unable to take advice, if we believe somehow that obstinacy or bravado will suffice alone, we will lose our authority. If, however, we are confident enough in our ability to understand that we may without fear ask what we do not know, then we can inspire the same confidence, and we will have the honour of being counted as being part of a more intelligent, more effective fighting force.
Troop Leading from Lt Burchell’s Perspective
Lt Laurell Burchell (25120)
I began my career with Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Regiment (LdSH(RC)) much like any other Subaltern (subbie)- in the field. After completing my armour Phase Training and tank courses in CFB Gagetown, I arrived in Edmonton just in time to begin a four month long field exercise. With just a few short weeks in garrison prior to the field, I faced the daunting task of getting to know my troops, my Troop Warrant Officer, my Officer Commanding (OC) as well as trying to figure out “how things are done.” Despite my first couple of months at the Regiment being a whirlwind, I would not have wanted it any other way. It was through those busy months in garrison and “field exercise after field exercise” that I grasped what it truly meant to be a Troop Leader (Tp Ldr) and what my job really entailed.
The experience of being a Tp Ldr is one of the most important I have ever had the privilege of doing. I am directly responsible to the OC for the command, control, fighting effectiveness, training, discipline, and welfare of my troop. However, I have learned that as a subbie, you are not only responsible for your troops, but also to your peers and your superiors. In all scenarios, a young officer must be able to rely on and work closely with fellow officers not just in the armoured trade, but with officers in the other arms. For example, tank troops operate with other combat arms including infantry, engineers and artillery along with numerous support trades.
After troop leading is over, I can expect to move into another position within the Regiment. Options for post-troop leading include Administration Officer in Headquarters Squadron, Assistant Adjutant, Transport Officer, Mounted (Riding) Troop Leader (unique to LdSH(RC)), and Accounts Officer. These jobs are important because they develop other skill sets important to being an officer while allowing the more senior subbies to help the new officers through their first months at the Regiment. After three years in Edmonton I can expect to be posted to another base and another unit to fulfill my Extra-Regimental Employment (ERE). There is a multitude of posting opportunities for armour officers: Yellowknife, Kingston, Calgary or Gagetown to name a few. When completing an ERE the tasks and responsibilities are numerous and will depend on the posting. Upon return to the Regiment, select officers will be placed in the position of Battle Captain (BC), and even fewer officers will later go on to become OC of a squadron.
Going through four years at RMCC prepared me in many ways for my role as an armour officer. Throughout my career I have worked with other officers from all different trades. RMCC taught me to have a greater appreciation for other trades, as they are all an important part of the overall mission. By working and studying with other Officer Cadets from different trades over my years at RMCC, I also gained a greater insight of other trades in the CAF. It is always a pleasure for me to run into old classmates and an even bigger pleasure to work with them. Overall, I have been extremely happy and proud, to not only be an armour officer, but to be a member of LdSH(RC). I have overcome challenges I never saw coming and made friendships and connections I will have for life.