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Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

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  • Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

    Introduction:
    Recently I have had some issues with the chain of command. It occurred to me that, as many people here are not familiar with the military, perhaps they did not understand the basics of the chain of command. As such, I have tried to lay out some basic points here. I do this not to blame any particular person for any particular incident, but just to lay out some points I think we all need to keep in mind. I firmly believe that everyone at Tactical Gamer, especially on the Bravo server, is trying their best to play well, and help the community have a good shared experience. Every time I see a new player breaking one of our rules, like not holding still for desync, I think to myself "He probably does not know any better." So yes, we will tell him to stand still, but he was not doing it out of malice, and does not deserve any ire for it.

    I think this is similar. As I see it, people mostly are just not aware of some of these points, and so make mistakes out of ignorance. Old vets who after reading this will likely think “yeah I already knew all that.” But even old timers should take heed, everyone gets sloppy now and again. I will be the first to admit I have violated these principles a few times myself, and no one is perfect. I certainly joke too much at times, and am sometimes too free in my suggestions to others. But I do work hard to follow them, and I hope we can all aspire to get better at them, so as to have a more fun and tactical experience together. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the chain of command.

    The Rules of the Chain of Command

    1.) If your commander gives an order, you are expected to do it.

    2.) You can suggest an alternative to your superior, but do so in a very concise, respectful, and limited way. You can and should bring information to your commander’s attention that he may not have been aware of. However there are three limitations to keep in mind. I. Be respectful in tone: Be careful not to phrase it as an order or command, but as a suggestion. Be aware that your right to do so is very narrow, and is largely controlled by the rule that a soldier is often told to “shut up and soldier.” This is not a debate, nor a discussion, this is a mission to be executed. II. Keep Comments Limited in Number: If you give too many suggestions or have too many bright ideas, it is likely command, or your squad lead, or your fire team lead, will get annoyed and stop taking them seriously. Do this several missions in a row and they may stop taking you seriously. III. Be concise: if you clog up the coms with your suggestions and ideas, it slows down the mission and potentially endangers the whole force. Keep it short and sweet. Although I admit I sometimes give suggestions to my FTL or squad lead, I try to always keep these three ideas in mind.

    3.) Never give orders to anyone not directly under your command. This is a very important principle sometimes called not “back seat commanding.” However, it applies not just to commanding, but also squad and fire team leads. There are two reasons for it: 1.) It is disrespectful to the commander who has control over that unit, because it is basically taking his job. 2.) It is disrespectful to the soldiers in that unit, because the ONLY reason anyone at Tactical Gamer takes orders from anyone else is the chain of command in place for that mission. We are all free individuals playing a game. When you give an order outside of that structure, you are giving an order to a stranger. The player you are talking to can, rightfully, ignore what you said and perhaps even chew you out a bit. In simple terms, you have no right to give orders to anyone not under your command, just as you have no right to give orders to a stranger on the public street. The most you could do is suggest something (see limitations above) but essentially it is not your business. Imagine if you passed a stranger on the street and told them how they should live their life or ordered them to take a different route to work that day. They would probably get very angry at you. When you give orders outside the chain of command, this is exactly what you are doing.

    4.) Coms should be kept clear. Any time you are not in command (that is overall command/Platoon command) you should keep your coms as tight as possible. To be blunt, there are more important people you should be listening to. This goes double for briefing times and other times when everyone is on one channel. For instance, just after a mission, or when choosing a new mission. Random jokes, or comments unrelated to the mission should virtually never be spoken on the radio. This also applies if you are part of the “actual” unit; the commander is likely on the radio listening to two or three channels at once. Chatter distracts the commander from important information. For example, my fire team has been clearing a village. We have been pretty informal, chatting on direct as we move, and discipline has been lax. We load into an APC with the rest of the force including my squad lead. Chatter on my fire team should cease. The squad leader’s presence requires that we are quiet for the moment. The time for jokes just ended, it will come again, but for now it is over.


    The Counter Arguments:
    1. One very frequently heard response to the points I have raised is, “But my commander has ordered me to do something stupid! It will get us all killed. I should speak up to prevent disaster.” There is merit in this, and as I said in point two (You can suggest an alternative to your superior). You should suggest alternatives, within limits. However, this does not mean that everything you think could be done better should be vocalized. It is like talking in a theatre during the movie, it distracts from the main event.
    2. Another is “but this is a game and it is meant to be fun!” This is quite true. It is a game, but on bravo it is meant to be a tactical game. Sure you can joke, mess around, and chat about the weather, but not too often, or it will interfere with the game. Sure you can chat with your buddy on direct when you are not doing anything and it is not interfering with anything. But take care that this does not interfere with the mission or the coms of your unit. It is admittedly a fine line, knowing the moment to make a joke and get a laugh, and then to drop back into serious play. People who have been on my fire team hopefully remember that I do joke a bit. But, the second your joking becomes the focus, and not the mission at hand, you have made a mistake.

    The Life of a Private:
    I have also been on the other end as a private, and heard orders given that I thought were outright stupid or at least tactically flawed. However, as I was playing as a private, and no one asked my opinion, I kept my mouth shut and executed as best I could. For instance, I was on a mission several weeks ago when the commander ordered everyone onto one short range channel. I thought this was foolish, given the number of players in game. He had some reasons behind it, need to keep in contact, simplicity, and others. I disagreed, but he did have his reasons. However, I said nothing, it was not my business, it was the commanders, so I did it. Yes, coms became clogged up and people spoke over each other, but I simply stayed quiet and let it play out. Commander’s choice, commander’s responsibility. I have kept my bright ideas to myself many other times, on everything from the overall plan by the commander, to the tactical orders given by my FTL. Part of playing in a tactical environment is that it is not a debate, nor a discussion, it is a mission to be executed. Other times when I was too chatty, or did not execute well enough, my superiors correctly brought my failings to my attention. Sometimes, that is how it goes. You listen, and learn, and improve.

    The Duty of a Commander/Squad Leader/FTL:
    You are commanding a bunch of strangers on their free time. Be respectful. You are not King, you are a man leading other men in a game. If you are rude or snap in the midst of battle, apologize. These are strangers to whom you owe a basic duty of good treatment, the same duty you owe to any other human that passes your way. However, we are here to play tactically, and that does involve enforcing basic discipline on those under you. That is your duty, to lead in a tactical way. Just be careful you do not become a tyrant.


    A note on rule breaking and blame:
    As I mentioned at the start, when I see someone violating one of these rules, by back seat commanding, or improperly using coms, or not following orders, I think to myself "he means well, he just does not know any better." Or "he does know better, but he just forgot." The objective of this post is to help people learn and improve, or at least remind them. Yes, if problems continue night after night, perhaps action must be taken. But by and large I believe people on TG really are trying to do right by the community and help create a fun time for everyone.


    I think Unkl and the irregulars said it best a good while back:
    ---------

    "1. Irregular ArmA Platoon Member Creed
    "When I join your squad I will follow whom ever you appoint as point. I will follow whatever formation you indicate. I will try to make sure that anything orders or contact info that needs to be passed down or up the line gets repeated by me. I will offer my opinion when asked or when it is critical to the mission....other than that I will zip it. In the down moments while the important chatterboxes are doing their important stuff I may act a little clownish. As soon as you, the SL or FTL starts talking I will zip it.

    If you lead me to victory, then good show! If you lead like us like blades of grass in front of the proverbial lawn mower....good learning on us all. I will put my virtual life on the line, I will sit with a crow's eye view if need be, I'm not the lead...you are. No problem.

    As a player in this game for a little while now, I've learned from leaders great moves & mistakes. Then, on the other hand, I've seen leaders be too shy about taking control. What a great balance this game forces us to make. You don't know what is what until the proof is in the pudding...or however that goes. However, my simple pledge is to follow when following. To lead when leading."

    -------------

    Conclusion:
    Thank you for taking the time to read this and think about it. I welcome any responses, but would ask that we keep this discussion civil and avoid name calling. To repeat, this is not meant as an attack on any one or any group, but merely a statement of some general points I think the whole group would do well to keep in mind. I have violated these myself, and am still striving to do better at them. This is TG, and I believe we can continue to improve our awesome community by keeping ideas like these in mind when we play.
    Last edited by Garthra; 09-23-2012, 05:09 AM. Reason: small corrections
    The question foremost in my mind is "what will bring the most tactical fun to the server?"

  • #2
    Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

    Excellent Post Garthra. As always, your knack for detail is an asset to this community.

    Current ARMA Development Project: No Current Project

    "An infantryman needs a leader to be the standard against which he can judge all soldiers."

    Friend of |TG| Chief

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    • #3
      Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

      Yeah spot on Garthra, well said. There's a time and place for a few jokes but when it comes down to it everyone on TG wants to play properly and seriously.


      "If you're going through hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill

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      • #4
        Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

        Garthra, well said. :)

        TGU Instructor TG Pathfinder

        Former TGU Dean Former ARMA Admin Former Irregulars Officer

        "Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment." - Dag Hammarskjold

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        • #5
          Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

          Good post.
          Just to add to your point about the soldier pushing back if they think death is certainty - nothing is certain. And you only have the awareness of the grunt, lots of other things are in motion you are completely in the dark about. Mention important observations or new intel to your superior, but follow orders.
          Q: How many members of Congress does it take to change a light bulb?
          A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effort. Why do you hate freedom?!?

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          • #6
            Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

            Something many people fail to realise is the wide berth that even the lowliest PVT is given in making personal decisions. Just because your SL orders your FT to move 300m west to a ridge -- a ridge where you feel you will skyline yourself, for example -- doesn't mean that you have to run blindly up there without taking every possible opportunity to reassess the situation and use cover and concealment. FTLs are the final say-so on command's orders, and with a good FTL, any blatantly dangerous tasks should be re-evaluated by the FTL and given a new spin. If SL/PL wants your patrol to continue along a road, that doesn't mean you have to be ON the road and exposed (unless specifically part of a formation, which are horribly underused and misunderstood here in TG (I'm working on trying to come up with a simple, easy-to-understand way to drill it into peoples' heads that formations aren't just to look pretty or to keep track of your units -- they actually have honest-to-goodness fire control benefits. Compare a line with a column when faced with contact front and you'll understand in the broadest sense.).

            Anyway, the point I am making is that, primarily, people need to know and get in their head that PL/SL are very hands-off approaches to leadership. The SL is consulted when the FTLs cannot come to a decision or want specific instructions. FTLs are the hands-on leadership that are frequently ignored here in TG, since we all too often demonise the SL. If you feel a decision needs to be reassessed, then do it -- don't argue with command, don't ask twenty questions, don't disobey; follow the order in your own, personal way but follow orders.

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            • #7
              Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

              "Know the mission two levels up"
              "Lead by example"
              "FTLs, micro. Squad leaders/Section leaders & up macro."
              "Cover your sectors"
              "Cover the gaps in your sectors (pick up the slack)"

              The more efficient the fire teams are, the more breathing space the Squad leaders/Section leaders have.

              All Infantry squads/sections success relies on the efficiency and effectivity of its Fireteams.
              All infantry platoons success relies on the efficiency and effectivity of its squads/sections.

              Just few points to remember. :)

              TGU Instructor TG Pathfinder

              Former TGU Dean Former ARMA Admin Former Irregulars Officer

              "Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment." - Dag Hammarskjold

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                Very nice Gartha!

                2. Another is “but this is a game and it is meant to be fun!” This is quite true. It is a game, but on bravo it is meant to be a tactical game. Sure you can joke, mess around, and chat about the weather, but not too often, or it will interfere with the game. Sure you can chat with your buddy on direct when you are not doing anything and it is not interfering with anything. But take care that this does not interfere with the mission or the coms of your unit. It is admittedly a fine line, knowing the moment to make a joke and get a laugh, and then to drop back into serious play. People who have been on my fire team hopefully remember that I do joke a bit. But, the second your joking becomes the focus, and not the mission at hand, you have made a mistake.
                I find this a very important point, together with back-seat-commanding.
                Jokes are good, but its still a game that should be taken "serious" to a certain point. As soon as people running around only making jokes or kidding around with assets, something is gone wrong.

                Thanks Gartha for the post!

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                • #9
                  Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                  Guy nailed it. A bit of a shame that this is in the ARMA forum as this applies to all games played here.
                  |TG-12th| Namebot

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                  • #10
                    Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                    great post Garthra this is a post in need of a sticky cause it applies to every day playing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                      This thread has 100% support.
                      |TG-189th| Unkl
                      ArmA 3 Game Officer
                      Dean of Tactical Gamer University
                      189th Infantry Brigade Member
                      SUBMIT A RIBBON NOMINATION OR CONTACT AN ARMA ADMIN
                      "We quickly advance in the opposite direction and take cover in a house on the SW side of town." - BadStache

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                      • #12
                        Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                        "Lead by example" - I think this is an excellent philosophy. Also, I have found, through the limited amount of commanding I have done, to trust your subordinates and to give them enough direction for them to get the job done, but at the same time to not micromanage them to death.

                        Obviously having experienced troops is a bug + there.

                        Also, some other squads have provided excellent docs on how to lead. I have learned a lot by reading them, although TG members are in no way obligated to.
                        Last edited by Unkl; 09-30-2012, 10:08 AM.
                        "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
                        -Einstein

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                        • #13
                          Re: Some Thoughts on the Chain of Command

                          Originally posted by LowSpeedHighDrag View Post
                          "Lead by example"
                          Couldnt have said it better myself!!
                          Last edited by Jack Bauer; 09-30-2012, 02:21 AM. Reason: cant type






                          "TG was created to cater to a VERY specific type of gamer rather than trying to appeal to the greater gaming population....Tactical Gamer is not mainstream. We are not trying to attract mainstream gamers" ~ Apophis

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