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Soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division clear their weapons after ending a live fire exercise on Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, June 19, 2019. [1]

June 12, 2020


This “Major Malfunction” piece is comprised of several parts. It’s main purpose is to take another look at the problem of training management and organizational effectiveness in the Army. I’ll examine the issue from multiple perspectives—from statistical analysis, anecdotal story-telling, personal observations, and existing academic publications. Let me qualify all of this by very clearly acknowledging the limitations of my perspective and experience. This is simply what I’ve observed through my humble lens and I have enough intellectual humility to know there’s a lot that’s beyond my understanding and areas where I’m just plain wrong. I’ve worked with and for leaders that fall on every part of the spectrum and this isn’t an attack on a particular echelon or rank. Dealing with a problem with such a large scope requires starting and maintaining the dialogue at every level for multi-echelon and interdisciplinary input, actionable change, and comprehensive feedback. It’s not something that is going to go away anytime soon. So please keep that in mind before you fire for effect! Thanks for visiting–I hope you’ll stick around for its entirety!


What is really going on with the six-week window? And does everyone have a clear understanding of what it actually means? My understanding is that it’s the deadline set for collective training plans at the company level to be finalized. This implies that not only a company commander has finalized his training plan, but that every other task or mission from every other external organization or echelon has already been received, analyzed, and integrated into that company collective training plan.

As I leave company command, this is something that has troubled me the entire time. I continued to wonder why predictability seemed so incredibly difficult to grasp in my organization. It slipped through my fingers time and time again. Some of the responsibility is mine–my mistakes, poor decisions, lapses in judgment, and miscalculations. But there is something to be said for the universal nature of my observations and experiences. It seems to me that everyone I talk to tells a similar story about training calendar volatility.

Dissecting the sacred “six-week window” a bit more, this term refers to the time threshold at which collective training should be “locked in” at the company level. As a company commander, your finalized training calendar at six weeks is your “contract” with your boss. If there are any changes that occur to the training calendar within this six-week window, it’s expected that a subordinate commander will initiate a conversation with her boss.

The bottom line is, despite everyone’s best efforts, this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. That’s a fact. According to a 2019 three-star level inquiry into training management and predictability, researchers “Heard in interviews with senior leaders a failure to apply the standard to their own orders processes. We asked about and found few instances of commander to commander dialogue specific to reclamas of taskings, major exercises and priorities with the lower echelon’s commander.” [2] The six-week window is not sacred, and this contract (as everyone loves to call it) is violated often. Unfortunately, the effects are severely detrimental to individuals and the organization. And this failure falls squarely on the shoulders of every leader at every level.


In an effort to create systems to hold ourselves accountable, we’ve invested a lot of time and money on programs like the DTMS (Digital Training Management System), where commanders input training calendars into a web-based system (A problematic, glitchy, moderately infuriating system) so their bosses can approve it. Changes to that approved training calendar technically aren’t allowed without your boss’s permission. Unfortunately, from what I’ve observed (and personally experienced and tolerated), the DTMS training calendar often devolves to a block to check that doesn’t accurately reflect reality. Furthermore, within a pool of 120 company level leaders, “the DTMS was the most cited technology tool hampering productivity.” [2] That should say something.

A FORSCOM draft EXORD (Execution Order, basically an OPORD) from 2017 stated that changes to ANY training calendar within the six-week window required approval from the first general officer in the chain of command. But again, for one reason or another, this simply doesn’t happen, and everyone knows it. Probably because it’s ridiculously unfeasible. That general officer’s inbox would quickly become inundated! Unfortunately, the draft EXORD was never actually published. My attempts to reach the civilian and Army points of contact for the EXORD failed. No one who answered the listed contact phone numbers had any information on the EXORD or had even heard of it. And just that quickly, the ideas contained in the EXORD faded away.

I’ve overheard conversations regarding an order published at a higher echelon right at the six-week window and the staff at that respective echelon exclaimed, “Oh we’re good, we’re outside six weeks!” Many people assume the six-week window applies at whatever level you happen to be working at. Well, not exactly. The soldiers at the company level potentially won’t receive the information until two or three weeks out. Or, sometimes 48 hours out.

Excerpt from AR 350-1. [3]

In the image above, AR 350-1 lays out the tasking timeline and waiver authority for every echelon. This has never been explained to me. The increased time period permitted at each higher echelon provides the subordinate level time to analyze, reclama, and/or formulate their subordinate guidance and publish their training calendars. Following along in the excerpt, AR 350-1 states that brigades should receive taskings 90 days out. Three months out. Let that one sink in.

I’ve overheard conversations regarding an order published at a higher echelon right at the six-week window and the staff at that respective echelon exclaimed, “Oh we’re good, we’re outside six weeks!” Many people assume the six-week window applies at whatever level you happen to be working at. Well, not exactly. The soldiers at the company level potentially won’t receive the information until two or three weeks out. Or, sometimes 48 hours out.

I think we can all agree that this happens sometimes, but there are a lot of times this doesn’t happen. Nor have I really seen much discussion or a concerted effort to address this (Besides SECDEF Esper’s prioritization memos). What I have seen is a disproportionate emphasis on the six-week window and not the 60, 90, or 120 day windows at higher echelons. The research team for the three-star level inquiry found that “some leaders knew but few followed the Command Training Guidance, AR 350-1, and the 120/90/60/45 day orders process.” They also learned that “In all units a majority of the orders (taskings, missions, and operations) were within six weeks. Few battalion Red/Amber/Green (R/A/G) cycles were observed or noted.” [2]

“Establishing policy is not enough, however. Company leaders doubted the Army’s commitment to enforcing them.” [4]

The sacred six-week window has been described to me often, generally from a position of holding me accountable for finalizing my company’s training calendar. But in order to facilitate “locking in” the training calendar at the company level at six weeks, it requires the synchronization of every single echelon above the company. Is that a realistic expectation? I don’t know… Probably not. Reality and Murphy always have a vote. But it seems there’s not a lot of reciprocity right now. There’s much expected from the lower levels in terms of calendar publication and training schedule detail outside of six weeks, but I’m not sure that the same level of scrutiny is applied at every echelon. And I’m also not sure that realistic deadlines for orders publication are openly discussed and enforced at every echelon.


The data says one thing, but it really resonates when my friends tell me stories. They are always the same, but they never get old. Each has a different flavor because we all work in different branches, at different duty stations, in different organizations, with different leaders. But despite so many variables, the universal theme persists: A general lack of organizational predictability, a seemingly disproportionate emphasis on six-week window/company level accountability, and perceived futility with respect to most long-range planning.

A good friend recently relayed some of his experiences to me, which rang very familiar: [5]

“My incoming battalion commander wants all of the company commanders to submit their LRTC (long-range training calendar) for the next two years. He seems very intelligent, and I think he’s going to be a good battalion commander. But I don’t think he realizes how unrealistic his request is. Let me tell you why.

My leaders and I spent a significant amount of time planning for a two month training cycle with emphasis on the individual and team level. The training included weapons ranges, communications equipment training, CROWS, advanced vehicle maintenance, mounted land navigation, drivers training, EST, and platoon leader and squad leader TEWTs. That didn’t happen.

Piece by piece, tasking by tasking, my training force was reduced to the point that I barely accomplished Sergeants’ Time Training. Every single one of these taskings occurred within the six-week window. Shit—some were probably within the six-HOUR window!

So my training was replaced with taskings. Taskings to provide soldiers for training demonstrations for two MACOM commanders; squad leaders for OC/T support; soldier of the quarter events including ranges, obstacle course, and APFTs; Special Forces training support; manpower for another company’s mission; and school attendees for a certification that my soldiers can’t even use.”


At the division level, missing the six-week window is nothing but an afterthought. Conversely, at the company level, such an oversight results in another missed anniversary, birthday, soccer game, father’s day, or parent teacher conference. Whether the volatility manifests itself in people’s personal lives, sub-optimal readiness, degraded training, or dishonesty in training proficiency that results in accidents or deaths, it’s undeniable. I’ve watched people do their best to insulate their organization from this kind of volatility, but everyone’s influence has limits.

What I’ve ascertained over my short time in the Army is that the aggregate of all of the demands from every level seem to accumulate as they travel down each level. This is subsequently compounded by misinterpretation and consequent misregurgitation of orders to each subordinate echelon. Finally, the cumulative weight of all the organizational inefficiency and human error comes to rest on the shoulders of the soldiers at the lowest level and we are often too disconnected or unintentionally delusional to realize it.

Why does this continue to be so difficult?

I don’t know… but I have some thoughts coming soon in “Part Three: Revenge of Personnel Turnover and DTMS”


[1] “Soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division clear their weapons after ending a live fire exercise on Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq.” June 19, 2019. Accessed May 27, 2020. 559234/original.jpg

[2] Undisclosed U.S. Army Inquiry. Report published June 5, 2019.

[3] HQDA. “AR 350-1: Army Training and Leader Development,” December 10, 2017. ARN18487_R350_1_Admin_FINAL.pdf

[4] Saum-Manning, Lisa, Tracy C. Krueger, Matthew W. Lewis, Erin N. Leidy, Tetsuhiro Yamada, Rick Eden, Andrew Lewis, Ada L. Cotto, Ryan Haberman, Robert Dion, Jr., STtacy L. Moore, Michael Shurkin, Michael Lerario. “Reducing the Time Burden of Army Company Leaders,” RAND Corporation. 2019. RR2979.html.

[5] Nunya. I ain’t no snitch! My good friend’s lamentations. June 9, 2020.