Whether you are a Team Leader or a Commanding General, you have an important role in maintaining the operational readiness of your Soldiers and equipment. Your goal as a leader is to maintain a HIGH LEVEL of operational readiness so you and your unit can deploy at moment’s notice, accomplish your wartime mission and return home safely.
For the purpose of this article I want to share some simple, yet effective things you can do to maintain a high level of operational readiness in your unit. These are things I did as a commander and staff officer to help my unit be successful. They are listed in no particular order.
# 1 Create a Tracking Mechanism
All Army leaders need a simple tracking mechanism so they can track the operational readiness in their section or unit. Most units do this with the Unit Status Report. This report is typically managed at the company level, by Company Commanders and First Sergeants.
That’s a good starting point and a good source document for commanders, but I do believe that subordinate leaders need their own tracking mechanism as well.
I believe you could use a simple Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet to do this. Create a spreadsheet to track the important information for your Soldiers. Create columns or tabs for Individual Weapons Qualification, Crew Served Weapons Qualification, physical profiles, APFT scores, height/weight, profiles, NCOES/OES, MOSQ, medical readiness, Warrior Task Training and any other areas you deem important.
Update the information minimum once a month. Look for trends and areas of improvement.
Do the same thing with your equipment and property. Having a listing of all equipment and property assigned to your authority and know the status of it at all times. Even if you just supervise three Soldiers and have one vehicle assigned to your section, it’s important to track your operational readiness at all times.
Keeping this tracking mechanism updated makes life easier when you have to brief your superiors about your unit’s operational readiness. Keep a copy of this document in your leader’s book at all times. Have your subordinate leaders do the same thing.
# 2 Set Priorities
All military leaders need to have established priorities. To start, find out what your supervisor’s or commander’s priorities are and let that be your starting point. Take your section or unit’s mission, METL assessment, look at the YTC and training schedule, and come up with your own priorities. These are priorities about what things you deem most important.
For example, you might decide that MOSQ is your most important priority, because nearly half of your unit is not MOSQ. You might decide that improving APFT scores is the next priority since 30% of the unit can’t pass the APFT. And you might pick equipment readiness as your third priority because your PMCS program is in rough shape.
Once again, your priorities will vary based upon what type of unit you are in and what your mission is. The bottom line is that you need priorities.
# 3 Set Goals
What I did when I assumed Company Command about five years ago was come up with a simple tracking mechanism in Microsoft Excel®. Once I had that spreadsheet created, I had my Readiness NCO input all of the current information as of that date.
From there, I set yearly goals for all areas of operational readiness to include:
- METL Task Training
- Warrior Task Training
- Individual Weapons Qualification
- Equipment Readiness
Because I had a good starting point, I could set REALISTIC goals to improve my unit and operational readiness.
I published my goals and shared them with everyone under my authority. This let everyone know what we were striving to achieve as a unit, and it showed them how they were part of that success formula.
# 4 Train, Train, Train
As a military leader, training should always be your top priority. You must make sure your Soldiers are MOSQ’d, that they have the military schools they need, that they are physically fit, and that they can shoot, move and communicate in combat.
Schedule training whenever you can. Get out of the armory and go to the field whenever you can. Train like you fight. Provide tough, realistic training. Make sure your unit/section can do their individual and collective tasks. Make sure everyone can shoot, move and communicate on the battlefield.
Never, ever let the day-to-day minutiae keep you (and your unit) from being technically and tactically proficient.
# 5 Manage Your Soldiers on an Individual Basis
As a leader you need to manage your Soldiers on an individual basis. As you move up through the ranks you will have to rely on your subordinate leaders to help you do this. For example, if would be hard for a Division Commander to manage every Soldier under his authority on an individual basis.
At a minimum, make sure you manage everyone you supervise and everyone they supervise on an individual basis. Know their strengths, weaknesses, areas of expertise, and areas of improvement.
Know which Soldiers are up for promotion, which ones need schools, which ones have profiles and which ones need an APFT.
Never manage more than two levels down. Let your subordinate leaders do that.
# 6 Keep Maintenance and Supply a Top Priority
Without a doubt, this is one area that typically gets neglected and has the biggest NEGATIVE impact on operational readiness. Most leaders are good at making sure their Soldiers are trained and physically fit, but most leaders mess up maintenance and supply. Either it’s because they don’t understand it, or they just don’t care.
Supply and maintenance have a huge impact on the operational readiness of your unit. Make sure you have a good relationship with the Supply Sergeant and Maintenance Sergeant regardless of your duty position.
Make sure your authorized equipment is on hand and is fully operational. Do your inventories on time and to standard. Make sure PMCS, motor stables and scheduled services are a top priority. Without on hand, working equipment, it will be hard to train and get your mission done.
Learn everything you can about supply and maintenance and manage it accordingly.
# 7 Identify Areas of Improvement
Every section/unit has areas for improvement. Even if you are in a good unit, take some time to identify two or three areas that need some improvement. Come up with a game plan to make it happen. Assess your progress every 90 days to make sure you are moving in the right direction.
All military leaders have the responsibility to maintain a high level of operational readiness in their units. This means that all leaders must keep a close eye on training, personnel readiness and equipment readiness. In order to that, leaders must assess the current readiness of their unit and they must come up with a game plan to monitor it each month and find ways to improve the operational readiness in their units.
What are your thoughts? What are your best tips for increasing the operational readiness in your unit? What has worked well for you? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.