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Capabilities and Spending Concepts and Doctrine Land

The Spirit of Strike – Morale and Vision

In part one I explored the importance of team cohesion and unit identity in Strike Brigades. In this post I will outline why the British Army must nurture its new brigades during the experimentation phase, why it must guard its Strike Units morale and finally,  the significance of a clear vision for Strike.

“Determination to succeed in the purpose for which the individual is trained, or for which the group exists.” – US Army Definition of ‘morale’ during World War One

Strike will generate a demanding environment to operate in and the development of cohesion within this environment is essential but, to be successful, Strike units must also maintain morale throughout tactical actions.  Shibutani[1] defines the characteristics of a unit with high morale as “when [an organised group] performs consistently at a high level of efficiency, when the tasked assigned to it are carried out promptly and effectively.”  In order to achieve this state, every individual member’s morale must be high enough to achieve the levels of enthusiasm and persistence towards the activities of the unit.  This is possible if the unit’s purpose is clear, understood and believed by the team; this is difficult during any period of experimentation and therefore an early threat to the morale of a Strike unit will be the transition from experimentation.

With the likelihood of delay in the trails for equipment and capabilities, the Strike concept will remain unproven and risk damaging morale.  We therefore must focus on the messaging of the purpose, to further develop identity and belief in the cause, and create the conditions for individuals morale to grow.  To do this, soldiers must be at the forefront of the experimentation and understand the important role they play in the Strike enterprise.  The reward will be a workforce that has faith in the Strike concept.  Once this confidence is achieved, it will unlock soldiers’ enthusiasm towards a goal, a role and self-development.  Malone[2] stresses the importance of self-development because he believes that progression, during training, has a central role in morale “The wise leader will ensure not only that training is realistic, but also that his soldiers grow accustomed to success because nothing succeeds like success in building confidence.”  As soldiers are given the opportunity to succeed and experiment, through failing and retraining, they will progress, be happy, and more likely to form a cohesive unit that is able to handle the demands of the Strike concept.  To maintain morale, in a difficult operating environment, the Strike brigade must start acting and feeling more like a regimental family, caring for wellbeing as much as training.  Then and only then should commanders expect loyalty to the Strike purpose; a purpose that must be communicated clearly to the team, individual, and the families.

“…not numbers or strength bring victory in war; but which ever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them” – Richardson RM – Fighting Spirit

Our people win wars and we need to make sure the leadership of our people is taken into consideration when developing the Strike concept.  Success on operations is dependent on the human element to a greater degree than equipment or tactics. Without leadership, the Strike conceptual, physical and moral components will unravel when tested at war.  A clear ‘Strike vision’ for the leaders to handrail may be the answer.  The holistic approach to experimentation will enhance the understanding across the ranks of the strike concept, but the Strike leaders have the responsibility to sell the Strike vision.  They themselves must totally buy into the Strike concept and preach the vision of a professional outfit that they are proud to belong to, fight for and die for.  This ethos will set the conditions for the vision to manifest into an ‘image’ once the Strike experimentation phase is completed.   A strong Strike image and ethos will work both ways, towards the enemy and at home.  The enemy will avoid a fight with a unit that is perceived to be motivated, unbeatable and professional.  At home, the families of Strike personnel will also support and endorse a unit that they believe has purpose and will look after its members.  Simon Sinek[3] believes that military leaders are the best in the world because compared with commerce; they simply care more about their people than themselves. He explains that,

Leaders should take the risks first, they should eat last, they should sacrifice so their people feel safe, and so that their people can gain. When they do this, the natural response of their people is that they trust, and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the leader’s vision.  And then they can say that they did what they did because their leader would have done the same for them”.

The challenge for leaders within Strike units is to capitalise on the common military trait of trust by providing belief of a vision before there is evidence or an image.  The answer is a simple one for me: we must find a way to care, protect and support our soldiers in the design of the Strike concept regardless of the tactics, situation or logistic dilemmas.  This will allow leaders to trust the concept and promote Strike to their soldiers and families.

During an austere, and often negative, period it should be seen as an exciting time to be involved in the conceptual modernisation of the Army, particularly the experimentation of Strike.  The opportunities are limitless through critical thinking, innovation and experimentation in an otherwise financially limited world.  As General George Patton Jr said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”  As we develop and work through the tactical and physical elements of the Strike concept we would be careless to not link the core purpose of Strike with a ‘Spirit of Strike’.  A Strike Brigade will only be as strong as its cohesion, people and leadership.

References:

[1] Shitbutani TI.  The Derelicts of Company K: A sociological study of Demoralization.  Berkeley, Calif: California Press; 1978.

[2] Malone DM.  Small Unit of Leadership, Novato, Calif : Presidio, 1983.

[3] Simon Sinek.  TED Talk: https://tedsummaries.com/2014/07/09/simon-sinek-why-good-leaders-make-you-feel-safe/



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Andy

British Army

Andy is currently serving.  He has served in a variety of Units in Germany and the UK, as well as on the staff at a Divisional HQ. He has completed two HERRICK tours and has attended an Overseas Staff College.

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3 comments

James January 1, 1970 at 01:00

The more I hear “A Strike brigade is strong enough to enable manoeuvre at divisional level, light enough to march independently over operational distances and fast enough to disperse and concentrate rapidly to dominate a more complex and larger battle space. ” the more I think Cavalry Brigade in disguise. Cavalry is obviously role, not a cap badge, set of social precedents or platform.

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James January 1, 1970 at 01:00

The more I hear “A Strike brigade is strong enough to enable manoeuvre at divisional level, light enough to march independently over operational distances and fast enough to disperse and concentrate rapidly to dominate a more complex and larger battle space. ” the more I think Cavalry Brigade in disguise. Cavalry is obviously role, not a cap badge, set of social precedents or platform.

Reply
The Ginge January 1, 1970 at 01:00

Sorry to say the key point of this whole piece is “strong ethos of the strike concept” everything else will flow from that. But the problem is that Army Soldiers these days are not dumb, for example has General Carter ever explained his concept apart from vague speeches at RSUI ? Not that I have seen ! The second relevant point is the comment that key equipment “may be delayed” this is key we know that we are lumbered with tracks in a wheeled formation, we have no artillery mounted on wheels, no armoured logistics tail that may have to resupply a formation over a 2,000 Sqm area that will be subject to attack, Eric etc.
The fact is that until
1. A clear concept and doctrine is explained in an open forums, not some vague we want to deploy 2,000 moles by road
2. We need to address tracks/mixed with wheels conundrum.
3. When and exactly how support functions will be resourced equipped and operated.
4. Show and cost out the plans.
5. Show how this force expects to be able to survive against very capable artillery, in an Air Denied Area with no air support and how it will counter high quality armour not just T72’s.

The key is soldiers nco’s and junior offices are not stupid and unless they believe they can get to the fight, win that fight and survive however great the work of Senior offices on moral if Soldiers believe they will, have a cold uncomfortable troubled journey followed by 5 mins of battle and then being wiped out by 20 Artillery Tubes from 50km away whilst they get out of APC’s armed with an SA80 and a few 61mm mortar tubes it makes no difference.
.
The pictures in this article sums it up, 3 Light Cavalry men to deliver fire from one 12.7mm GPMG and a few shoulder mounted manpads/ATGW missiles which are outgunned by most “technicals ” around the Globe. The fact that it has a open cab that offers little protection and very little from artillery or airburst artillery and that lack of protection means for 6mths of winter in eastern Europe it is combat ineffective sums up The complete lack of equipment essential for the Strike Concept.

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