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The challenge of doctrine.

While attending the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course and reading a duffle bag full of publications, I found errors and wondered about the writers: "Can't they do a spell check? Who even checks these things?" Of course, now I know. I am walking the proverbial mile in the doctrine developer's shoes and beginning to understand the challenge of doctrine. I will not go into a dissertation about the woes of being a doctrine developer. Suffice it to say that while doctrine seems slow and unresponsive to the current operating environment from the outside viewpoint, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

When I was in my first dual-purpose platoon at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, neither generators nor electronics were taken to the field. If you needed something to pass the time, the platoon sergeant had a foot locker of doctrine publications for you to read. But now I know chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) Soldiers who do not read doctrine and others who are frustrated by changes in doctrine. The purpose of doctrine is to provide guiding principles that stand the test of time. But operations change so quickly that doctrine may seem out of date. Conversely, some CBRN Soldiers find the doctrine changes frustrating (including changes in terminology, such as the change from command and control to mission command and the change in the definition of military leadership).

What do 21st century Soldiers expect and need from doctrine? Do they expect it to be as responsive as their electronics? Do they expect it to be like Wikipedia? Do they expect it to be enduring?

Some principles of doctrine will not change. For example, there will continue to be no direct references to equipment, as references to specific pieces of equipment do not stand the test of time. Although equipment changes, the principles that govern the conduct of operations should not.

One hallmark of modern operations is change. Rather than explaining how to conduct a decontamination operation, the new CBRN passive defense manual will provide considerations and techniques. But more importantly, it will provide guidance on how to understand CBRN hazards, what to plan for, and how to protect troops. The absence of specific details allows leader flexibility. Because every situation is unique, leaders are required to understand the situation, have the skills to find the best solution given the body of knowledge available, understand the proven principles (doctrine), and know about the available resources. Of course, this means that Soldiers need to read and be familiar with these proven principles.

And those who apply doctrine to training and execution and want to have their input heard have the chance to become contributors. In addition to the time-honored doctrine development process, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has adopted milWiki--a doctrine wiki that allows users to collaborate and comment on draft doctrine documents online--and incorporate it into milSuite. The milSuite Army Doctrine Web portal is available at <>; a common access card is required. Insight from contributors in the field can be considered by doctrine developers and incorporated into future doctrine revisions.

Collaboration is critical for successful doctrine. We cannot know what users in the field expect out of doctrine if our doctrine team does not receive their feedback. The operating force is the best source for understanding the impact of doctrine changes. We challenge all Dragon Soldiers to become instrumental partners in the development and revision of CBRN doctrine. Every profession develops a unique body of knowledge to support the conduct of operations. The body of knowledge for the CBRN profession is doctrine, and contributions are key to mission accomplishment. Our challenge to you is this: The next time you read a doctrine publication, ask yourself if it supports the needs for the conduct of a task, mission, or operation. If not, please provide feedback on what is wrong and a recommendation about how to correct it. We value your operational experience, and your feedback is critical in ensuring that the body of knowledge is relevant.

You can recommend changes with a Department of the Army (DA) Form 2028, Recommended Changes to Publications and Blank Forms. The DA Form 2028 can be submitted via e-mail at <usarmy.leonardwood.mscoe.mbx>. You can also contribute to doctrine and create and participate in discussions on the CBRN community page found on milBook using the milSuite link provided above.


DA Form 2028, Recommended Changes to Publications and Blank Forms, September 2015.

Mrs. McCann is the Deputy Chief, CBRN Doctrine Branch, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She retired from the U.S. Army as a first sergeant. She holds a bachelor's degree in homeland security and emergency management from Ashford University, San Diego, California.
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Author:McCann, Sharon M.
Publication:CML Army Chemical Review
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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