If you had asked us two months ago where we wanted us to be as an organization today, we can say that we’re far more developed and operationalized than we thought we’d be this early. It’s not that we ever underestimated us – it was always easy to see that this is a winning team. But coming as far as we have, in as short a time as we did, seemed like an impossible task. But together, as a team, we’re getting there. That’s a testament to the talent, skill and professionalism of every person – every teammate – here on CLDJ, and throughout the Horn of Africa.
As we build on these initial successes, it’s important that EACH OF US MAKES THIS DEPLOYMENT COUNT. By giving it our all – doing our very best for ourselves and our team -- we EARN the right to be here, in this group, as part of this family. When we do our very best, we make this deployment better for everyone here – and for everyone who comes after us.
As we reflect back on these past two months, and as we look ahead where we’re going, there are five main observations we’d like to share – five keys to our success – that we can continue to use to make this deployment count.
First, THIS COMMAND IS A LEADERSHIP FACTORY. Here in HOA, we manufacture, maintain, and deploy the world’s strongest weapons system – our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and civilian teammates. We build leaders FIRST. We need to make sure that that weapons system is well maintained and fully functional. If we build leaders at EVERY level, the mission will take care of itself. That’s a “two for one” kind of deal. We build leaders in a lot of ways here, and we do it deliberately. We do it through things like the Joint NCO course, and writing our own Joint NCO Creed. We do it through recognition of hard-earned achievements with a fair and appropriate awards program. And we do it through NCO mentorship, weekly PME training, and weekly leadership PT. We also grow leaders through movie nights, social events, and the informal mentorship that can be just as important as professional PME. If we have a team of leaders who are developing their own replacements, then not only will the mission will take care of itself, but we will prepare our services and the nation for success in the future, as well. Also, as we conduct our mission in enabling our multi-national teammates, we are not just executing the task at hand. We are developing their leaders as well, and showing them what it is to have a professional military that treats all with dignity and respect, and is based on trust and relationships. This is big stuff – much bigger than just the tasks we’re conducting.
Second, KNOW YOUR MISSION. After a lot of thought, energy and input from around the command, we have an established mission statement that everyone here can and should understand. It’s showing up on posters around the base, and our SEL’s will be providing cards in the coming days that clearly define our mission and vision. It’s not something we need to memorize exactly, but it IS important to know and understand it well. Leaders at every level should continue to talk about it with their troops regularly. But we also have to take the next step and know how to operationalize it.
We operationalize it every day in a variety of ways. We turn the mission statement into actions on the ground around our region. We plan, control, and assess them in the JOC. It’s the heartbeat of CJTF-HOA. And now, it’s more joint than ever, with representatives of every service, and many countries working in and around it to make our mission a reality in the world around us. We’ve established a battle rhythm that enables us to efficiently get at the mission, and we believe we’re properly organized to solve our challenges and attack problems that may arise. We conduct after-action reviews and hot washes. And we implement our lessons learned. We also operationalize the mission by being a consistent and sustained partner in all that we do. Taken together, these things ensure we know our mission.
Third, we have to UNDERSTAND THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT. We do this through deep dives on topics of interest, conducting key leader engagements throughout Africa, and by enabling secure communication capability with our key liaisons and partners downrange and off-shore. We stay engaged with our Multinational Liaison officers from the UK, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Uganda, Comoros, Ethiopia, France and elsewhere. We also stay actively engaged with our country teams and Department of State partners. We’re now portal- based, which allows us to share information quickly, but that doesn’t take the place of the monthly trips and face-to-face meetings. Understanding our operational environment encompasses conducting joint cooperative security with our Djiboutian hosts and the Gendarmerie, as well. The sum of these things we do gives us a better understanding of our operational environment, makes us better partners, and enable us to “get at it,” get the mission done, and make ourselves better than we were yesterday.
Fourth, we need to ENSURE THE RIGHT STORY IS TOLD. Every time we set foot off this camp, we’re on mission. You’ve heard us say that we’re all Ambassadors, and that’s very true. We also each play a role in telling the American story to our host nation by how we behave, what we say, and what we do. But we’re not just talking about key leader engagements and how we’re perceived off camp. We also need to ensure the right story is being told operationally. What we do here is bigger than just executing our tasks. It’s also about how we conduct de-briefs. Where does that info go? How does it come back to us? What do we do with our feedback? Communication and sharing information is leadership business, and the key to our success is to communicate and share until it hurts – then, communicate and share some more.
Lastly, BE ADAPTABLE. We’re doing more here than just synchronizing, integrating, and operating. We’re also building and strengthening a team with our JIIM teammates, building trust, and developing new relationships. We execute disciplined initiative not only to get the mission done, but to make it more efficient, effective, and safe. We improvise, adapt, and maintain initiative to keep a position of relative advantage against our adversaries as we conduct our mission. And we take care of each other. In fact, we just initiated a HOA-wide CARE team. (You can read more about it in next Friday’s Thoughts From The Running Trail column). We continue to build shared understanding and trust, in large and small ways, through things like incorporating our Multinational Partners into the JOC, and ensuring we share as much information as we can with our partners relative to all Foreign Disclosure procedures. In short, we must remain adaptable in this austere and ever changing environment. Good ideas can come from anywhere. Keep an eye out for them, encourage your subordinates and peers to share them, and institute the ones that make good sense. We’ll all be better for it.
By doing these five things, we’re making this deployment count, for all of us. We -- the whole command team here -- are very pleased with where we are as an organization, and we’re very impressed with the performance, professionalism, and positive attitudes of everyone we meet and see in our travels on and off base, and around HOA. We’re all proud to be on your team, and it’s amazing how much we’ve accomplished in a short time together.
In closing, I’d like to say that you’ve heard us talk about the African proverb, UBUNTU, which loosely means, “I am, because we are, and we are, because I am.” We are all in this fight together, and none of us is doing this alone. Conversely, “We are, because I am,” means that we ALL need to be in the fight, because the team depends on every single one of us doing our part.