Avoiding a New Standard
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 BRAD W. SMITH
B Company, 1-185th Assault Helicopter Battalion
Florida Army National Guard
In today’s fast-paced operational tempo and multiple mission sets with multi-national forces, it is important to know how our allies operate in similar circumstances. Likewise, it is important for our allies to know how we operate with regard to mission-essential details that may be required when working together. I state it this way because of a situation my unit encountered while deployed to Basra, Iraq.
The British military is a highly trained, fully functional force. But without guidance and being properly informed by us, they are not going to know how we conduct our missions, especially a non-aviation-related unit. They train for their missions in conjunction with aviation assets using British aircraft — just as we train with our own.
We were a UH-60 lift asset assigned to a task force operating in conjunction with British Special Air Service ground units. They were a great asset from an operations standpoint, but somewhere along the line there was a break in communication. It was clear we had not briefed them regarding what we expected to successfully execute a mission safely in terms of the way we train and operate — most importantly, the planning phase. The question you must ask yourself is this: Would this be a failure of the line unit or a higher command? In our situation, it was perceived to be neither, but mitigating factors were not in place to correct the situation.
Overall, our mission planning at a company level was more than adequate. The problems became apparent as missions changed. These changes did not occur within the allotted timeframe and proper intelligence was not available as quickly as it was required. With the understanding that we were in a dynamic period and with consideration of mission type, we continued doing the best we could to reduce risk. With pressure from above, we were pressed to proceed with little regard to the regulatory and statutory failures in the process. The people responsible were never held accountable and probably not even aware of the chaos they were creating at the lower levels.
Rules and procedures are set in place for a reason. When people are not held to a standard, they automatically fall below it at some point. Over time, if allowed, a new standard arises that doesn’t reach the quality of the original. With the assets at stake, including Soldiers and civilians of varying nationalities, we can’t afford to allow these slippages to occur. It is our responsibility to make it known that we will not accept it.
At the unit level, as small as it is, this should be openly accepted and not frowned upon by higher command. A system has been put in place and we are to enforce those standards. The only exceptions are the possible prevention of a catastrophic accident, saving the lives of our Soldiers and the financial loss that would be incurred with it. Is it worth it to take that shortcut?
This message must be echoed throughout the Army. Standards must be enforced and details must be disseminated no matter how small or seemingly insignificant at the time. We are not in the business of just getting by. Getting by or just letting it go kills our Soldiers.