This section reviews platoon training. The Army eats, sleeps and breathes training. Throughout history, the U.S. Army’s success on the battlefield can be contributed to training. Sure, it takes equipment, Soldiers, and leaders to win battles. But, these leaders and Soldiers must be trained properly. Everything revolves around training.
In your platoon, platoon training will be your top priority. After all, your job as a Platoon Leader is to ensure your platoon is prepared to accomplish its wartime mission. The only way to prepare your troops is to provide tough, realistic platoon training. You must train as you fight!
Before we get too deep into what it takes to have effective platoon training, I’d like to take a moment to educate you. In case you haven’t heard this before, hopefully this will illuminate the importance of your job as a Platoon Leader. Here it goes.
Squads and platoons are the most basic fighting element in the U.S. Army. When you hear about large battles with Armies, Corps or Divisions, it is the squads and platoons within those units that are doing the actual fighting. As an Army Officer and leader, you must never forget that. As the legendary Colonel (ret) Dan Malone once said, “Platoons seal the fate of the Army.”
That being said, I have a question for you. Here it goes. If squads and platoons fight the battles, who has a more important job: a Platoon Leader or a Senior Commander? You could answer that either way. There is no correct answer. In my opinion, both leaders are important. Without a good plan, you are doomed for failure. And without good execution of the plan, your plan will fail. In other words, you have an important role Platoon Leader. And don’t ever forget that.
You have an important job. You are the tip of the spear. You must plan, resource and execute effective platoon training. You must ensure your troops are prepared for combat!
Now, I’d like to show you how to do that. Listed below are steps you should follow to improve your platoon training program.
STEP 1: Identify Platoon METL Tasks – This is the starting point. If you are a new Platoon Leader, you should ask your Platoon Sergeant or Company Commander for a copy of the current Platoon METL. If you can’t find one, get a copy of your company METL and use that as a starting point. Or, you could do an Internet search for one or simply ask a peer for a copy of their Platoon METL.
Your next step is to draft a Platoon METL on a memorandum for record. It should have 4-5 METL tasks. Remember, your METL tasks are tasks your ENTIRE platoon must do to accomplish its wartime mission. If your squads each have different missions, your METL will only have tasks that everyone must perform.
UPDATE: Per doctrine, platoons don’t have METL tasks. I understand that. But I still believe (my opinion) you should develop your own METL tasks so you know what your objectives are. Every unit I’ve ever served with had Platoon METL tasks. So should you!
STEP 2: Determine Collective and Individual Tasks that make up METL Tasks – Once you establish your Platoon METL, your next step is to determine the collective tasks you must perform to accomplish each METL task. For instance, one of your METL tasks might be “defend your AO.” If that is a METL task, you would now make a list of all the collective and individual tasks that must be done to accomplish the METL tasks. These are the tasks you want to train on, before you conduct platoon training on the specific Platoon METL tasks.
STEP 3: Assess Platoon’s Proficiency in METL Tasks – Your next step in the platoon training process is to assess your platoon’s proficiency. This can be done at training events or on field exercises. Your assessment is a working document. Your assessments include “T” for Trained, “P” for Proficient and “U” for untrained. The only way you can achieve a “T” is if your platoon is evaluated by a higher headquarters, two levels up. Once, you have your initial assessment, you can move to the next step.
STEP 4: Identify Shortfalls – As part of your assessment, you should identify shortfalls. For a starting point, you can begin with METL tasks that received a “U.” If you don’t have any “U’s” focus on “P’s.” Make sure you prioritize your shortcomings.
STEP 5: Schedule, Plan and Resource Platoon Training – Once you’ve identified what platoon training and Platoon METL tasks you need focus on, your next step is to plan and resource platoon training events that will help improve your platoon’s effectiveness. Take out your unit’s training calendar to see what is already scheduled. Verify that the scheduled training includes the areas your platoon needs to train on. If it doesn’t, get with your Company Commander to see if you can make adjustments.
STEP 6: Execute Training- When it’s time to actually conduct platoon training, make sure it is realistic. Ensure you have the required resources and training area. Use MILES gear. Have OPFOR serve as the enemy. Bottom Line: make it realistic. Challenge your Soldiers so they get the most out of it. There’s nothing worse than conducting “half-ass” training that wasn’t planned effectively or resourced properly.
STEP 7: Assess Platoon Training – Once the platoon training is complete, your next objective is to conduct an After Action Review with your Soldiers. This will help you objectively evaluate your platoon’s performance. The key to success is to prepare. You should have a designated location set. Next, review the mission, intent and concept of operations. Once you’ve done that, tell your Soldiers what was supposed to happen. Next, find out what went well, what could be done better, and what your Soldiers would do differently the next time.
STEP 8: Get to Know Your Soldiers – You need to know your Soldiers. This doesn’t mean you become buddy-buddy. Instead, it means that you learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Which Soldiers are most competent? Who are your weakest links? What type of training should you do to help improve their weaknesses? You must know what each Soldier is capable of, so you know who you can rely on.
STEP 9: Make Training Fun – Platoon Training should be tough and challenging, so Soldiers can improve their proficiency. When possible, you should also try to make platoon training fun. You can do this by having platoon competitions and providing a variety of different training events and locations.
STEP 10: Become Tactically Proficient – The Platoon Leader must be tactically proficient. Especially on the battlefield, Officers have a vital role leading troops. If you want to conduct effective platoon training, you should spend much of your free time improving your overall proficiency. You should understand battle drills, basic tactics, and know how to shoot, move and communicate.
STEP 11: Ensure your Soldiers are DMOSQ – Once again, METL tasks consists of collective and individual training. Therefore, your Soldiers must be proficient in their duty MOS. To accomplish this, you should scrub your manning roster monthly to ensure your Soldiers are DMOSQ. On Active Duty, this is seldom a problem. However, ARNG units frequently have DMOSQ shortfalls. Identify Soldiers that need to be DMOSQ and get them enrolled in ATTRS.
STEP 12: Whenever Possible, Incorporate Warrior Task Training into Platoon Training Events – During major platoon training events, there will be down-time. During this time, you should have your Platoon Sergeant and Squad Leaders prepared to give hip-pocket training on Warrior Task Training. These are the common core tasks that all Soldiers must be able to perform on the battlefield. This includes first-aid, the call for fire, communicating on a radio, clearing a weapon, etc. Make sure your platoon incorporates Warrior Task Training into its Platoon Training Program.
STEP 13: Maintain a High-Level of Physical Fitness in your Platoon – First of all, you need to be physically fit. That’s the only way to lead by example. Next, you must incorporate physical fitness into your platoon training. If you’ve ever been to combat, you understand the physical stamina required to work long hours and perform combat operations. Many ARNG Soldiers struggle with physical fitness. Do your best to schedule PT during drill weekend and incorporate it into all major platoon training events.
The steps listed above don’t need to be followed in the exact order. Each situation is different. Use your own judgment to decide which step to start with.
In summary, platoons do seal the fate of Armies. Your job as a Platoon Leader is vital to the overall success of our Army. Therefore, your job is to become a proficient leader and ensure your troops are prepared for combat. To accomplish this, you must plan, resource and execute effective platoon training.