21 April 2010

Forming and Storming as a TOC Staff

A couple of new guys showed up last drill weekend. Funny how a year ago, we were all talking about building the team, locking people in place so everybody could learn their individual jobs. Now, only a few months out, people are still getting moved around, assigned and re-assigned.

Everybody's friendly, and there have even been a couple of introductory gut-buster laugh-ins around the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) already. That's a good sign--a good potential dynamic for later on downrange, from what I can tell.

It's hard to come into a unit, to figure out what's going on, or even to identify "who's my daddy" and "who's who in the zoo." The new guys even spent a couple of hours trying to draw an organizational chart, to help them visualize their respective administrative food chains. The exercise turned into something akin to a Dilbert cartoon.

(I feel their pain. When I got here, I was assigned to one staff section, but attached to another. Years later, I found out that, on paper at least, my position actually reported to a third, somewhat dormant section. I didn't even know we had an "Information Operations" staff. If they have anything to do with fixing the radio, the photocopier, or the coffee machine, I'm their guy.)

There are four phases through which a team must evolve to achieve levels of high-performance: "Forming, storming, norming, and performing." Within the brigade TOC, we're still at the "forming" stage, although you can occasionally tell that people are becoming frustrated--with the fast operational pace, with the the dawning reality of deployment, with each other.

Cue Billy Joel: "There's a storm front coming ..."

We didn't tell the new guys about the "forming and storming" stuff. Instead, we also told them that joining the Brigade TOC parallels the Five Stages of Grief: "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance." We also showed them the Army field manual that describes how the brigade staff sections are organized.

Organizationally, the staff sections (sometimes also called the "'S' shops") all answer to a primary staff officer and/or non-commissioned officer (N.C.O.). When someone refers to the "S1-actual," for example, they're talking about the primary staff officer responsible for personnel and administration issues. When they refer to the "S1," they might be talking about the same individual, or the whole section that works for him or her.

For easy future reference, here's how the staff sections break out:
  • S1: Personnel
  • S2: Intelligence
  • S3: Operations
  • S4: Logistics
  • S5: Formerly civil-military officer (C.M.O.)
  • S6: Communications
  • S7: Information Operations (I.O.)
  • S8: Fiscal
  • S9: Civil-military officer (C.M.O.)
Side note: When using Hollywood callsigns over the radio, you can also pretty much determine who the first four primary staff designators are. As I've mentioned before, "Ryder" is the brigade callsign. So "Ryder-1" is the brigade S1 (Personnel) officer; "Ryder-2" is the brigade S2 (Intelligence) officer; and on up until "Ryder-6." By tradition that pre-dates the S6 (Communications) position, the "6" is the commander, so the scheme breaks apart a little after that. My wife wanted to know where the "Household-6" moniker came from, so there you go.

The staff officers and their sections all work for the executive officer (X.O.). There are also "personal" staff officers and NCOs, who work directly for the commander. These include, but are not limited to:
  • The Chaplain: The commander's right-hand man (or woman) on moral and religious issues.
  • The Brigade Judge Advocate (B.J.A.): An Army lawyer, commonly referred to as the "JAG," for "Judge Advocate General."
  • The Public Affairs Officer (P.A.O.): The commander's adviser on dealing with the media, and official unit spokesperson.
  • The Command Sergeant Major (C.S.M.): The highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the organization. Looks out for the troops.
Of course, in reality, things don't break out that easily. Breaking down the walls among each function, the brigade staffs also come together in various ad hoc, cross-disciplinary teams. An "Information Operations Working Group," for example, might include representatives from the S2, S3, S7, and Public Affairs sections.

You might even see a JAG there, just to keep things interesting.

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