Monday, 31 March 2014

Battle Leadership - Captain Adolf Von Schell

Title: Battle Leadership
Author: Captain Adolf Von Schell
ISBN: 978-1-62654-965-4
Pages: 95
Publisher: Echo Point Books
Photos: 3 maps

Von Schell's work is a fascinating treatise on leadership under combat conditions. A veteran of the First World War, he fought throughout the conflict on all of the fronts from 1914 until the Armistice in 1918. Following the war he was retained in the German military and attended the Fort Benning Infantry School course, graduating in the Advanced Class of 1930-31. During his time there he was asked to provide his insights into the leader in a combat environment as the level of experience within the US Army was relatively small at the time. What resulted was an insightful series of short papers on varying facets of the impact of the combat environment on both the leader and the soldier.

He emphasizes throughout the fundamental differences between a peacetime training environment and the actual realities of combat. Thus, he stresses the absolute critical need for as much realism as possible when training. He also discusses the limitations that fighting places on one's ability to communicate and direct. Specifically, he talks about the need for the leader to both make and to seen to make decisions that meet the demands of the commanders intent - decentralized command.

He does not limit his scope to the leader, he also discusses the needs and challenges for the soldiers themselves. One of the areas that he places great deal of attention upon is the need to ensure that new soldiers are liberally intermixed with older veterans to both teach and steady them. Additionally, he discusses the critical need for soldiers to have faith in their chain of command thereby ensuring trust when things are at their most confusing.

While the book is short and obviously a product technologically of its period, the tenants presented by this combat leader are universal and timeless and more than worthy of study and reflection. Von Schell closes his lectures with an interesting discussion of the role of the German Army following the end of the war; its own challenges and rebirth, how it strove to meet the demands of the Versailles Treaty while concurrently being called upon by the German government to deal with the civil disturbances that convulsed the Nation and external invasions from Poland. The fact that it was able to successfully deal with these problems serves as both vindication and testament to the training and professionalism of its leadership. A fast and engaging read and very highly recommended for aspiring leaders at all levels of military and civilian command and management.

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