This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses Unit Training Management focused on company-level planning and training week management.
FM 7-0 states that companies must maintain training calendars and plan five months in advance. I personally preferred to plan six to seven months out to secure training area land before other units on the installation. So how do you determine what to plan five to seven months in advance? Every unit has their means of training planning, I acknowledge that. I leveraged company-level quarterly planning conferences (QPC).
How I conducted QPCs. Set the conditions beforehand; put the event on your training calendar and publish guidance (task, conditions, standards, and preparatory task to subordinate units) as well as the QPC audience (recommend Squad Leader and above). Have necessary planning products to include a plotter-printed long-range training calendar from current date to the end date you are planning through (seven months out) with higher HQ directed training laid on, and all available white space. Also have post-it notes to place proposed training on the calendar, training guidance from BN and BDE, and doctrinal references (e.g., Soldier universal tasks, etc.). Start the QPC by publishing guidance; brief your commander’s intent and what training you, as the commander, determine the company needs to conduct and why. Give them left and right limits for the remaining white space. Then, leave the group to plan. I would often leave the venue to allow them to “make the sausage.” Sometimes I sat in the back corner for a bit to observe the group dynamic. When planning is complete, require someone (they choose the briefer) to brief the proposed company training plan for your approval.
What QPCs accomplished. First, this planning method kept all of the leaders in the company informed; everyone knew what training was coming up since they were the ones that planned it. Most importantly though, QPCs were a catalyst for buy-in into the company training plan and vision from my junior leaders. Empowering them to make our training calendar led them to be passionate about and take ownership of the training we conducted. Finally, it easily allowed my XO to secure resources, especially training area land, for the planned events far in advance.
Other QPC idea considerations.
- Make your planning conferences off-site to eliminate work distractions. Release the Soldiers early and take your leaders away from the office.
- Provide food for the group; it shows your support and care for their efforts (if financially feasible).
- Make the planning conference part of a more robust team building plan; make it a full day event with a special leader development session preceding the planning or a fun team building event (e.g., obstacle course, paintball, etc.).
Using P-Weeks. Every week cannot contain some significant training event; overtraining is unsustainable and will quickly degrade your readiness and unit morale. Your company requires adequate preparation and recovery time. Utilizing a “P-Week” system to define weekly focuses ensures you allocate appropriate time to plan, prepare, execute, and recover from training.
- P-1: Major training weeks. These are the weeks you conduct field training. I recommend a company to only schedule three to five P-1 weeks a quarter.
- P-2: Training preparation week. A P-2 week always precedes a P-1 week. This is time to allow for company and below Troop Leading Procedures, PCCs/PCIs, and loadout. I also used this time for preparatory classroom training to educate Soldiers on specific tasks before the major training.
- P-3: Recovery week. A P-3 week should always follow a P-1 week to dedicate time to after operation maintenance and recovery tasks. Over time, I learned that a full week for recovery is needed; cutting P-3 weeks short a day or two adversely affects properly recovering your equipment. If your battalion or company doesn’t already have one, codify your recovery tasks in an SOP. Establish by-day tasks and due outs for your recovery weeks (e.g., when 5988s are due, when OCIE inventories are complete, weapons cleaned, when field loss memos are due, awards, AARs, etc.).
- P-4: Administrative weeks or leave. With the overwhelming administrative requirements placed on Soldiers (e.g., medical, online training, counseling, etc.), I eventually learned that a company needs time set aside to conduct these tasks in order to prevent them from distracting training. I recommend at least one P-4 administrative week per quarter; two may even be necessary in some training seasons. Outline focuses, tasks, and desired end states for these weeks; they should not be a free-for-all. Also use P-4 to define unit leave periods.
What other methods led to successful company-level training management? How did you achieve buy-in from your subordinate leaders on your training plan and priorities? How did you keep your unit informed of upcoming planned events?
The next post in the Company Commander Series addresses a way to track your company Mission Essential Task List (METL) proficiency and training that supports it.