Thoughts for a Deploying Commander
In relation to mission success, selecting a rear detachment commander (RDC) and rear detachment (Rear D) team is the most important and most difficult decision a deploying commander will make before deployment. It is important to choose wisely. It is a difficult balance between taking the maximum combat power forward and leaving the right team behind to take care of the home front.
Family readiness, and therefore Rear D, is tied directly to retention. Soldiers who see that their Families are in good hands and have help when needed are more likely to reenlist.
Selection. The first hurdle in the selection process is to determine a selection criteria. The individual selected must possess the ability to operate at your level, as well as one level below (a battalion RDC must function as both a battalion commander and a company commander). The RDC must be "everything to everyone," a trait not addressed in Army schools or doctrine.
The RDC represents you during the deployment. One technique for selecting an RDC is to take your duty description and identify measures of effectiveness to define the selection criteria, then apply the criteria to the current commanders. If it doesn't hurt to leave someone back, the wrong guy was left back. Commanders who deploy will be under supervision. The RDC will not be under supervision.
Listed below are some character traits necessary to succeed as an RDC:
Include your FRG advisor in the process. The RDC and the FRG advisor must be able to work as a cohesive team.
Integration. Early in the predeployment process, establish the Rear D team with high-caliber leaders as the cadre, augmented with nondeployable personnel. Soldiers unable to initially deploy because of medical reasons and wounded in action-returnees are a tremendous asset to the unit. Typically, these Soldiers are invested in the unit and demonstrate the necessary drive to succeed in the Rear D mission.
Cost-benefit analysis. Selecting the right RDC ensures you will not have to look over your shoulder once you deploy. Knowing that your Soldiers' Families are in good hands allows you and the unit to focus on the fight. This type of focus is a form of force protection and a force multiplier. Your only real influence over operations on the home front is in the selection of the RDC and the Rear D team. The ramifications of making the wrong decision are enormous. When the Rear D functions badly, units may feel the negative effects years after the deployment. Do not let this happen to your unit.
Establishing the Rear D
Teamwork, training, and trust are critical in establishing the Rear D.
Teamwork. Units struggle with Rear D operations when they do not use Army procedures and systems. Soldiers need a clear chain of command and a unit identity, which is lost when using the term "rear detachment." Think about uncasing the guidon early in the deployment preparation in order to identify the Rear D as a recognized unit with an established chain of command.
Training. Most units conduct an MRE prior to deploying to combat in order to train the unit for its combat mission. The MRE is the perfect time to train the Rear D, as well as the Families and the FRG. Replicate the anticipated future deployment conditions, and ensure the Rear D trains and exercises the systems necessary to succeed once the unit departs home station. A number of events will occur during the MRE that will stress the unit and the Families and, as a result, identify Families with problems and weak points in support structures. Utilize the time between the MRE and deployment to correct these deficiencies.
Sharing your command philosophy and decision processes will prove invaluable as the RDC prepares for the mission. You can positively influence the future decisions of your RDC in this manner, since you will likely have limited contact with the RDC once deployed.
Trust. Once you deploy, do not second-guess the RDC. The battlefield of the RDC is different from yours and different from the garrison battlefield you left behind. By following the process stated earlier and selecting your best commander as the RDC, the Soldiers will trust the leadership responsible for taking care of them and their Families in any situation. Initially, Families trust the Rear D based on performance during the MRE. Positive comments from their deployed Soldiers increases that trust. Continued positive performance during the deployment solidifies that trust.
Share your expectations with the RDC and the FRG leadership. The RDC and the FRG advisor are effective when their duties are complementary. Maintain two-way communications with the Rear D. Talk to your RDC and your FRG advisor; include both in your battle rhythm. Send a routine newsletter for publication on a Web site or the virtual FRG, which will satisfy the perceived need for information by the Families.
Choose smart, integrate the team early, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!