By Maj. Gregory A. Thiele
Originally published in the November 2010 Marine Corps Gazette
As an instructor at the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School, I have heard numerous senior officers express their concern to the students that Marine leaders at every level have either lost or never acquired training management skills. Such statements have been repeated frequently enough that the problem seems to be real. It needs to be discussed and solved.
Paradoxically, one of the primary reasons for this decline in training management skills is the predeployment training plan (PTP). The PTP attempts to set out in detail the training requirements for units deploying to Operations IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) and ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF). Commanders no longer can determine what training to conduct; they simply must determine how best to meet the requirements of the PTP. As a result, leaders at all levels are no longer required to be proficient trainers. Those who bemoan the fact that our training management skills have atrophied miss the point. This is not a training management problem; it is a policy problem.
Everyone has heard the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It may seem cynical, but it is often true. People occasionally make well-intended decisions, particularly short-term decisions, that lead them away from their true and proper course. The Marine Corps appears to be on the edge of just such a calamity with respect to the impact of the PTP upon our philosophy of leadership.
Given the challenges that they face in the current operating environment, there is no doubt that the PTP was intended to help commanders and their units prepare for deployments. The pace of deployments has been extremely fast for most units in the Operating Forces. Many units still do not receive the 2:1 ratio of dwell to deployed time that is the Commandant’s goal. This places a great deal of stress on units attempting to prepare for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. There is simply not a lot of time to prepare. Most units have 7 to 11 months between deployments. These challenges are compounded by a myriad of other issues, such as late personnel fills and insufficient gear sets for training. Such challenges led to the perceived need to create and institutionalize a standardized training plan for units deploying to OIF and OEF. This decision has not come without consequences. The PTP has had a negative overall impact upon the ability of our leaders to conduct training.