The Fires Leader of Tomorrow

By LTC Dan Elliott

In order to move forward with the Army’s and Chief of Staff of the Army’s priorities, the Fires Center of Excellence is publishing the Fires Leader Development Strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to align Fires leader development with the Army Operating Concept for 2025, the Army Leader Development Strategy and to guide Fires leaders of 2025 throughout their career span in education, training and experience.

What do Fires leaders need to understand for 2025?

The Army Operating Concept for 2025 drives 20 Army warfighting challenges (AWFC) for the field force. Nine of those Army warfighting challenges specifically influence Fires leaders and challenges 17 and 18 directly address the Fires force. Key themes revolving around those challenges are:

The Fires Leader Development Strategy links Army warfighting challenges to desired Fires warfighting function leader competencies. FCoE is the Army’s lead institution for maintaining, developing and integrating the Fires warfighting function in combined-arms maneuver. FCoE coordinates its leader development strategy vision and mission synchronizing AWFCs 17 and 18 within its strategic plan.

Vision: Agile and adaptable Fires leaders, competent in targeting, delivering, synchronizing and integrating Army, joint and multinational Fires into the scheme of maneuver, creating effects, and making decisions in a complex and dangerous world.

Mission: Train and educate competent Fires leaders, inspiring them to a career-long commitment to the Army profession. Progressively broaden and develop leaders that demonstrate the desired competencies to lead Fires, Army, joint or multinational enterprises.

There are five themes for the Fires leader of 2025:

  1. Master branch core competencies
  2. Converge Fires leader competencies
  3. Broaden experience and exposure
  4. Optimize human performance
  5. Foster commitment to the profession

Over a decade of war, the priority and demand of Army units performing counterinsurgency and stability tasks in the operational environment contributed to an atrophy of Fires core competencies. Fires leaders master automation and digital technology enablers in branch core competencies, facilitating responsive precision Fires and effects while minimizing collateral damage. As Fires leaders regionally align formations to be globally responsive, they ensure Soldiers remain qualified, trained and ready in branch and Fires core competencies.

The advancement of technological capabilities and the emerging operational environment are driving Fires leaders of 2025 to converge in competencies centered on the Fires warfighting function. As Fires leaders develop, they qualify as an apprentice in branch core competencies through the battalion level, laying the foundation for progression to higher levels of leadership. This progression drives the requirement to be fully trained and qualified in Fires warfighting function core competencies as journeymen. At this level, they broaden their experience of Fires mission command in organizations ranging from battalion through battlefield coordination detachment and Army Air and Missile Defense commands. This broadening includes cross branch organizational assignments between Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery organizations at the brigade level and above. Journeymen achieve Fires warfighting function qualification meeting proponent requirements for integrating Fires with other combined arms warfighting functions in air-ground operations.

As Fires leaders broaden and demonstrate desired Fires leader outcomes, they progress to become masters of their profession, highly skilled in the Fires warfighting function and branch core competencies. They are able to teach and train apprentices in the integration of Fires with joint, interorganizational, and multinational partners across the range of military operations. Their broadening at echelons from tactical through strategic-level commands prepares them to lead Fires, Army, joint and multinational organizations. Master Fires leaders set conditions, establish standards, and mentor the Fires force through scenario driven complex training environments aimed to optimize human performance and inspire commitment to the profession.

The Fires leader competency framework below depicts the convergence of Air Defense Artillery and Field Artillery core leader competencies necessary to achieve Fires leader competencies. It informs the Fires leader of expected career progression competencies acquired through institutional, operational and self-development education, training and experience opportunities. The Fires leader core competencies center on combined arms air-ground operations and joint, inter-organizational and multinational air ground integration for operations.

Fires Leaders Competency Framework Figure

Conflicts in the future, like those in the past, will ultimately be resolved on land. These armed conflicts have the potential to be complex because threats, enemies and adversaries are increasingly capable and elusive. Operating in this complex environment requires agile, adaptive, and ethical Fires leaders trained and educated to thrive in uncertainty. Future Fires leaders need to possess certain knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors to meet the Army warfighting challenges for 2025. Fires leader development is a shared responsibility across the institutional Army, the operational force and the individual domain. FCoE empowers Fires leaders with a broad cultural understanding, professional judgment, critical thinking, creativity and technical skills.

As Fires leaders develop, they master core leader competencies in Air Defense Artillery and Field Artillery operations. Mastering these competencies enables progression from direct-level leadership to organizational-level leadership and calls for the convergence of complementary and integrated education, training and experience. Ultimately, this enables the achievement of complex Fires warfighting function leader competencies. The Fires leader development strategy links Army warfighting challenges to the Fires warfighting function leader competencies for current and future Fires leaders for 2025.

Supreme training, education and experience prepare Fires leaders for a career-long commitment to the Army profession. Such training broadens and develops leaders who possess the desired competencies to lead Fires, Army, joint, or multinational organizations. With these competencies Fires leaders will integrate complex and realistic scenario driven training, setting conditions to optimize Fires force performance across the range of military operations.

Lieutenant Colonel Dan Elliott is the Deputy Director for the Fires Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine at Fort Sill, Okla., and FCoE lead for developing the Fires Leader Development Strategy.