Leadership: June 4, 2004

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One of the more useful armored vehicles of the Iraq war was the C2V (Command and Control Vehicle). This is a M-2 Bradley armored vehicle crammed with computers and radios. The C2V program had been a Cold War type program that was cancelled in 1999 to provide money for the new Stryker vehicle. But 26 C2Vs had been built, and they were put into storage. Then came the invasion of Iraq, and 15 of those C2Vs were promptly sent to Iraq, where they were outfitted with the latest computer and communication equipment. The American commander of the invasion force, General William Wallace, used one that had a highly capable, reliable, and expensive, Inmarsat satellite phone system. The generals phone bill from Inmarsat, for all the calls made during the march on Baghdad, came to $1.3 million. The army subsequently negotiated a cheaper flat rate for similar situations in the future. The army also has access to the Department of Defense sponsored Iridium satellite phone network. But Iridium, at the time, did not have the reliability and features that Inmarsat (which is pretty standard with merchant shipping) had. Outfitting general Wallaces C2V cost over a million dollars. That, it turned out, has become pretty much the standard price for equipping a C2V.

So successful was the C2V that the army is buying 154 more (97 in hummers, 47 in M-2 vehicles, and ten in Strykers) in the next seven years. The M-2 and hummers can hold three computer workstations (keyboard and flat screen) each, while the Stryker has enough room for four workstations. Commanders in C2Vs can rapidly move from unit to unit under their command, while never losing track of the overall situation. Showing your face has been an effective combat command tactic for thousands of years, and has not changed in the 21st century. It does troop morale, and effectiveness, a lot of good to see the old man personally checking out what they are up against, and sharing the danger of stray bullets and shell fragments. Since World War II, such visits to the troops have become difficult, because of all the heavy and bulky radio equipment needed to run a division or brigade. During World War II, the Germans sort of solved the problem by allowing the divisional (or corps or army) chief of staff to make decisions for his boss, while the commander was off visiting the troops and getting face time with his subordinates. 

With the C2V, the commander has enough information with him (battle maps are updated constantly), and the ability to talk, Instant Message or email his chief of staff at all times, that he is able to make decisions when he has to, without delay. The chief of staff and other staff personnel are still somewhere to the rear. Actually, these days some of them never leave the units home base in the United States. The Internet and satellite communications have made the world, and the battlefield, a much smaller place. 

The impact of the C2V was noticeable in Iraq. Units moved and operated much more smoothly with the unit commanders cruising around in them. You can cram all the data a division commander needs into a few PC hard drives, and any document or map the commander has to look at can be put on a flat screen display. While the C2V isnt moving all the time, in the midst of combat, some commanders were being driven towards the sound of the fighting while the boss was looking a map on a computer screen, and talking to subordinates over the satellite phone. This made the combat units involved far more effective. With the commander possessing more detailed and timely information on whats going on, his units move more quickly, surely and with deadlier effect. 

 


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