The 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) has recently returned from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan and is due for another deployment in Europe. However, the 4th ABCT is experiencing challenges in their recovery phase related to organizational culture, command structure, and professional ethos among officers in the top leadership. Most of the challenges stem from the events that transpired in the previous deployment coupled with the death of prominent leaders in the brigade. The identified critical leadership issues include; weakened command structure, training challenges and personnel deficit, and poor command climate.
The weakened command structure is attributed to the scope of work regarding the Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO) not being clearly defined. The DCO was tasked with multiple tasks simultaneously that included; supervising the Security Forces Advisor Teams (SFAT) operating within the brigade’s jurisdiction, operating in the capacity of a public affairs officer for the brigade and addressing the media, synchronization of the Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) that was located at a different forward operating base, acting as a Liaison Officer to the coalition forces and as the chief of staff for the Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). The multi-tasking of the DCO gave the impression of a frail command structure within the 4th ABCT that infiltrated the rest of the brigade.
The organizational changes of implementing the BCTs led to challenges involving the combined arms battalion. The behest for short-notice deployment together with the SFAT mission change created this structural change that led to the disorganization of the team. The 4th ABCT structural change from offensive operations to security and stability operations rescinded the important tasks the brigade completed during their mission readiness exercise. The unit had trained predominantly on combined arms and maneuver tasks with miniature interest in populated area security concerns. This led to the deterioration of collective and individual specialized skills in respect of the brigade’s battalion support. Also, the separation of battalions led to the establishment of a separate identity for the units, a situation that affected the cohesiveness of the brigade.
The 4th ABCT training focused on infantry and armor skills, however, the new system required commanders to be skillful and tutor on aspects outside their domain. The report identified that there was a significant lack of subject matter expertise to train regarding the new tasks for the commanders. Additionally, the brigade trained on their assigned combat platforms but were assigned the Mine Resistant Armored Protected (MRAP) vehicles on deployment. This presented a training challenge, as the brigade lacked personnel licensed to man the vehicles. Additionally, there was a lack of critical Mission Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) authorizations for the special troop’s battalion and the brigade support battalion that presented more underlying challenges in the brigade.
The internal command showcased the presence of a camaraderie culture based on trust and confidence within the subordinate units and the noncommissioned officers (NCO). However, the command also limited the influence of the subordinate in decision making and development as future leaders. The brigade is also involved in the red cycle tasks, a move that further heightens stress and frustrations throughout the camp due to the reduction of time a soldier spends at home with family. This has resulted in an increase in driving under the influence (DUI) charges, domestic violence, and higher than normal divorces. There were also allegations of sexual harassment which were ignored based on the identification of the brigade commander as a hero and exhibition of authoritarian tendencies by some brigade commanders such as threats to their subordinates.
Vision for the Brigade
Following my assessment of the 4th ABCT Brigade’s Afghanistan deployment, strengths and weaknesses there is a need for significant changes within the organization. My vision of the brigade is to create a path to drive culture change and behavior. The vision statement entails the change on how to tutor the brigade to effectively sustain the SFAT mission and simultaneously be combat-ready. This vision statement considers the limited time for training the personnel for deployment rotation at NTC and the provision of adequate equipment. The vision accomplishes three objectives; the rapid deployment of the 4th ABCT in support missions that are focused on theatre security and vast populations with quick transitions to execute combat missions. The support missions accomplish the strategic objectives regarding furthering US interests in the regions. Finally, it lays out a plan to ensure success by integrating best practices within the brigade regarding its core issues.
Application of Vision Change Concepts
In my quest to address the challenges of the brigade, I will utilize the Kotter model which is a comprehensive approach that effectively leads to fundamental organizational change. The model is renowned for its sequential and logical approach to effecting change in organizations. The model comprises of eight steps; establishment of a sense of urgency, creation of a guiding coalition, developing a clear vision and strategy, communicating the vision, removing the barriers to success, generation of short-term wins, consolidation of gains, and implementation of new ideas and anchoring the change in organizational culture. The objective of the creation of a sense of urgency is to rally the support of the brigade members through discussion of the identified challenges and the possible change to the direction of the unit. I will openly discuss the issues present on the unit with the soldiers to have an input of their perceptive and to help them understand why the status quo is unacceptable. The key to creating a sense of urgency is through creating forums for the soldiers and also in social interactions thus furnishing them with relevant facts and opinions to get the unit talking and discussing the challenges.
The next step will involve creating a guiding coalition with the subordinate commanders and staff members. Each unit within the brigade has a separate rank structure thus, I will establish a constructive and progressive command structure that is best positioned to take swift and decisive action to change the culture. The intent is to create a sense of purpose and sharing and learning environment within the brigade through the use of competent leaders. Effective leaders lead to the development of a high performing project leadership team. The leadership ensures the staff members are committed to seeing the change occur in the organization.
My vision and strategy will be based on meeting the missions of the brigade and also the incorporation of growth of leaders and soldiers. The vision will broaden and sustain the brigade for future missions and allow soldiers to remove barriers and empower themselves through decisive actions in the field. The development of the vision and strategy is pioneered by an in-depth analysis of the brigade that provides a clear description of its short- and long-term targets. The catalyst in influencing the vision change within the brigade is through discussion with the key leaders and subordinates of the expectation of each member of the unit. Effective communication is key hence the criteria to be used include; incorporation of the visual elements in the daily decision-making actions, demonstration of the ideal behavior by management, and encouraging feedback from staff.
The fourth step involves the implementation of a broad-based action that removes the barriers that do not resonate with the vision. The broad-based action focus is to clearly understand the obstacles within the brigade that limit the implementation of change and aligning the organizational structure with the new vision. The first barrier is the red cycle tasking which has hampered morale in the brigade since it has cut short the time soldiers unwind with their families. The soldiers and their families provide the necessary support to the brigade hence increase in domestic violence and divorce relating to overworking are detrimental to the unit. The delay of the read cycle tasking will allow the staff to address the issues of personnel and the reestablishment of the equipment. There is also the rigid working relationship barrier between the officers and NCO corps. This will be addressed by having the brigade staff members establish rapport with battalion staff. Additionally, rules will be set to deal with resentment developed between the brigade and battalion members.
The identified feasible win involves the training of soldiers. The training entails both officers and NCO corps opinions on the developmental requirements of the unit. The NCO corps will expedite the tutoring indicated by the officers while the command teams are empowered to perform their best through a broad-based action plan. The maintenance of momentum for change will be accomplished through a reward system based on the practices that further the implementation of change; outstanding performance is recognized while there are consequences for actions that hinder the development of change. The brigade will capitalize on the short-term wins, through the establishment of a guide to review the accomplishments. The review will be disseminated throughout the command to cultivate a sense of purpose and direction. In conclusion, the goal of organizational leadership is to effectively use communication to ensure the change is permanent in the organization. This is achieved through consequential change to the organization’s infrastructure such as training and human resource processes to align with the new culture. The use of the Kotter model will ensure the seamless transition of the brigade into a premier unit in the United States Army capable of sustaining growth and development.
John, Bratton, ed. Organizational leadership. Sage, 2020.
Brian Joseph, Galli. “Change management models: A comparative analysis and concerns.” IEEE Engineering Management Review 46, no. 3 (2018): 124-132.
 Galli, Brian Joseph. “Change management models: A comparative analysis and concerns.” IEEE Engineering Management Review 46, no. 3 (2018): 124-132.
 Bratton, John, ed. Organizational leadership. Sage, 2020.