Centralized Liaison Sections
More and more liaison sections are becoming centralized under the battalion or even the regiment staffs for supervision, training and tasking. Why?
- Are battery commanders incapable of training their liaison sections?
- Are liaison sections so overcome with high-tech gear that battery staffs are incapable of retaining mastery (and therefore legitimacy) for training?
- Are battalions so much more capable than batteries in this--and every other--endeavor?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, some units experienced this same trend. Then the deployment tempo (2003-2007) forced batteries to assume their liaison for artillery and non-traditional missions. Now that we are "refitting" and "restructuring", it appears that the artillery community has decided that centralization is the answer for the liaison shortfalls. Does MCDP 1 not specifically say that decentralization is best? I do not argue that many liaison sections across our beloved Corps are sub-par. But why then don't battalion commanders hold battery commanders responsible for training their liaison sections? Why must the battalion/regimental commanders usurp their subordinates' authority?
I am curious for feedback. What are the costs/benefits of centralizing the liaison sections?
This is a relevant subject and one that will and should be debated. There is merit to both sides of the argument. The quality of an artillery unit is easily measured by the quality and capability of it's liaison teams. In all candor the Weapons Company Commander is the FSC for infantry battalions because batteries often sent the expendable lieutenant to the supported unit or switched him out after a few months. Some arty battalions short changed the infantry regiment by sending the captain who was a battery commander in waiting or one who just came out of command as the liaison to the infantry regiment. I know of one arty battalion that sent out the liaison teams with no AFATDS terminals. No wonder the infantry wants it on their T/O. At the end of the day no good arty unit sends out ill equipped or poorly trained liaison teams. Generally I think they should be centralized. If we are conducting decentralized firing ops then they should be attached to a firing battery to provide liaison to the supported unit. If you want to know how good an arty unit is you don't have to see them shoot, move and communicate. I have never seen a good one that did not have top flight liaisons and I never saw a poor one with good liaison teams. See the attached from the upcoming July Gazette for one view.
Decentralization through centralization, that should be the title to this thread. Consolidating Liason at the Bn shop does smell of centralization, but what you are actually doing is faciliating Liason training as liason. By placing all Liason components at the Bn, you empower the Liason Platoon to conduct their training their way.
It is very much within the abilities of a battery to allow for adequate training of their Liason section. What often happens, though, is liason training becomes solely the facilitating of battery training. Having a Liason platoon will allow an interested party (Bn LNO) ensure each team gets trained to the appropriate standard before they get chopped.
More than just assigning senior Lts to Liason sections as FOs, or FSCs, the centralization of Liason facilitates adequate Liason training. This is perfectly illustrated in Maj Battaaglia's article, where he describes the effectiveness of centralizing Liason under Bn, giving Liason the power to determine their own training schedule, inside and outside the battery's training rythm.
Last edited by 5th_Req; 06-28-2010 at 04:08 PM.
I think it is a bad idea, and does not just 'smell of centralization' but is a decided move toward centralization.
A battery LNO is the liason between the Battery Commander and the supported Battalion. The Battery Commander is the primary fire support coordinator for the supported battalion. The Battalion CO for the Regiment, etc.
Maintaining control of Liason at the Battalion will not allow the Battery Commander to influence his Liason before they get chopped to the supported battalion that that Battery Commander is the FSC for.
Granted, right now, we don't have battery liasons going to the unit their Battery will be supporting. Perhaps this is where one of the first changes needs to be made. Liason sections to a supported unit need to come from the supporting unit.
Once that is done, then we should start talking about how training should progress for Liason team, and how a Battery Commander should place his Lts in the various billets he has for them.
If you think about it, once you start consolidating Liason at Battalions, what's to say Regiment won't want a piece of that pie? If assignment of liason teams does not follow a specific organization (i.e. a Battery's liason to the Battalion it is supporting), then there is no reason why the Regiment shouldn't take on Liason! The Regiment will know better and first as to where the staffing need is for a Liason team. But that isn't how it should work, because you'll just ruin for a long time those relationships that should already have been in place between a Battery and a specific manever Battalion, and we'll be even less likely to get that back, and the fluidity that comes with it.
But is centralization really working?
I disagree with 5th_Req and Maj Battaglia. The acceptance of "centralization theory" is growing increasingly common across our Corps...note the Attritionist Letters from the Gazette. Here, 5th_Req uses the same justification premises that are being used across our Corps.
Centralizing LIA sections at the BN was done because BN CO's determined that battery commanders were incapable of training their LIA sections proficiently (for exactly the reasons that 5th_Req mentions). Under the traditional Marine Corps system (demonstrate intent, issue orders, supervise, hold accountable), BN CO's would have held battery commanders accountable. However, under the new Marine Corps system (forgive failure, centralize and micromanage), BN CO's usurped the obligation to train proficient LIA sections.
Now regiments are doing the same. Even now, 11th Marines Fires is tracking each individual 0861 in the regiment to ensure that they are getting appropriate training. Regimental fires leadership have voiced desire to create an ANGLICO-like company at the 11th MAR level for all 0802, 0861 and 0621 LIA personnel. Obviously, their perspective is that BN CO's are incapable of training competent LIA sections. But again, rather than hold accountable...
No one argues that it is "easier" to centralize things. That is why it is so tempting and therefore why so many have unfortunately succumbed to this all-too-widespread "comfort-based" decision-making. But in the end centralization harms our Corps in so many ways. While micromanagement might lead to immediate improvement in LIA proficiency (due to automaton-ish, Taylor-esque education systems...i.e. TECOM), in the end the externalities and opportunity costs would prove costly: undeveloped leadership potential in key leaders, reliance upon a centralized structure, etc.
We must remember that the incompetent lieutenant who serves as a LNO with an infantry unit is a direct result of a battery commander's failure. The answer is NOT to forgive the battery commander of that obligation but for BN CO's to inspect and enforce a standard.
Those who think centralizing LIA is a good idea may wish to review pages 59-63 of MCDP 1.
Last edited by artillery_officer; 07-18-2010 at 01:20 PM.
A large part of the move to centralizing liaison has much more to do with personnel management than it has to do with training, although there are training aspects to it. The organic Liaison makes sense when you are deploying batteries with BLTs but these days attach liaison to a deploying battalion that does not take artillery with them does not provide the personnel connections that organics liaison was suppose to provide. What you see is even if the battery has a liaison section chances are it will deploy without a battery, sometimes several times over prior to the battery deploying.
The training aspects of it has to do with JTACs; a battery, much less a cannon battalion is not well suited to conduct pre-EWTG training and sustainment. When the batteries own the 0861s that are either in the training pipeline or qualified 8002s you often see quite a bit of push back when it comes to JTAC training, because naturally cannon fires and its training is a cannon unit commander's priority.
The organic liason makes sense when the Marine Corps is doing what it is supposed to be doing. Right now we are fighting COIN, and there is not so much a demand for Artillery. Tearing down a system that would work well in a conventional fight will end up destroying that system altogether. Basically we'll be cutting off our nose to spite our face.
Look at the word Liason. It is Liason between a supporting Battery and a mnvr unit, that LNO is acting in the stead of the Battery Commander who is the FSC for the mnvr Bn. A Liason element is not Liason between the Artillery community and the particular Mnvr Bn. It might be right now because of the irregularity of what we are doing, but it doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be.
In regard to pre-EWTG training, take out the Logistics portion at Fort Sill, and throw in JTAC training. While maintenance and logistics is an issue when you hit the fleet, you retain very little of it from those classes, and end up relearning through experience when you get to the Battery.
The battery commander has never been the FSC for the Battalion (I know it occasionally happens on BLTs when the weapons company commander takes the Weapon company as a 4th Maneuver element); even when an 0802 was on the on the TO/E of an infantry battalion he wasn't the battery commander. It only has been a recent thing that the Arty Regt commander was designated the Division's Fire Support Coordinator and the army exchange officer was made the assistant fire support coordinator.
East coast at one point had 10 deployed liaison sections with one 3 deployed firing batteries. There is really no point at having a battery liaison section when it is the only thing in the battery deploying.
The JTAC issue is caused by the gold wing mafia, the push back is coming from them on who can be awarded the 8002 MOS and where they can get the training. I have been saying for several years to include JTAC certification at Sill, but it is not going to happen. There are several non-EWTG schools that Marines can attend and be qualified JTACs yet cannot get awarded the MOS. We see this problem from those coming back from MARSOC, many have gone through JTAC school, deployed as JTACs and have drop bombs in combat but aren't given the 8002 MOS so cannot serve as a JTAC for a Marine unit.
Last edited by R0N; 08-01-2010 at 06:19 AM.
Fire Supporters or Artillerymen?
I think a critical consideration is as to what our primary purpose should be...
1. Should we focus on becoming fire supporters (including JTAC and JFO training as well as "effects" such as IO and CA) to increase our utility to the maneuver forces?
2. Should we cling to our redleg heritage as artillerymen and long for another "artillery war"?
I think the answer is clear...we must remain relevant for the current fight, whatever the fight may be. But we can never forget our core competencies, just in case.
With LIA sections deploying independently of the owning battery or BN, I am almost sold on the centralization piece. But I cannot give in for two reasons:
1. The battery commander IS capable of training a LIA section to be competent and proficient. In fact, I would submit that a battery commander is better capable than any BN AFSC or REG Fires Cell.
2. What happens to the 0802? If we pull LIA sections away from batteries and BNs, the exposure of an 0802 to the battery construct is diminished. What of the "experience" so vital to each 0802 lieutenant? If we split LIA, will all "boot" 0802s head to LIA cells at REG where they will enter into a 300-day TEEP with all the courses offered by various (retired Marine contractor-run) training cells? Then they will presumably head to a deployment. Upon returning, would the newly-minted Fires cells (at either BN or REG) desire to relinquish such a well-trained and experienced "fire supporter"? Who then is to issue a fire order? Or command a battery?
As we continue to react to the latest situation, we tend to not think about the long term situation. These concerns have yet to be properly discussed...or if they have been, little has been disseminated to those of us in the "operating forces".
Truth in advertising. I am not an artillery officer but I have a lot of experience in the infantry and in FSCCs from the company FIST to the MEF. Centralization is a thorny issue. From the infantry perspective we have not been well served by a battery commander's ability to swap out the liaison based on the "needs of the battery." The arty LNO is the least stable member of the FSCC. Only the phenomenon of turning weapons into a maneuver element has re elevated the arty LNO into the FSC in some units.
If we ever get back to traditional support relationships, I don't care where the liaison team, to include the observers, come from as long as they are competent and not temp hires.
Artillery Marines have to think of themselves as fire supporters vice redlegs if they are to have utility to maneuver units and command elements.