MCC—Leaders advise cadets in the stretch run to graduation

Story and photos by Michelle Eberhart Assistant Editor

April 27th, 2017 | News, News and Features
Brig. Gen. James J. Mingus, U.S. Army director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, gives closing remarks on April 20, the final day of the MCC.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, gives his keynote address, April 19 in Eisenhower Hall Theatre. Following a question and answer session, firsties and guests participated in a social.

The U.S. Military Academy Class of 2017 sat in Eisenhower Hall Theatre the night of April 19, awaiting yet another milestone of their cadet careers. While the Mission Command Conference may be less celebratory than Affirmation or Ring Weekend, the 38 days and a butt benchmark provides a crash course on leadership for the soon-to-be second lieutenants.

Sponsored by West Point’s Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic, the MCC is Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr.’s Capstone Course of Officership and is intended to help inspire current and future members of the military profession for a lifetime of service to the nation.

The two-day conference hosted operational representatives from 3rd Cavalry Regiment, the 101st Airborne Division and the Israeli Defense Forces, who all took part as distinguished guest speakers, panelists and small-group discussion facilitators.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Black Hearts,” a book written by Jim Frederick and a MX400 case study focusing on ethics and organizational breakdowns within warfighting units.

“Mission Command is all about trust and that’s the key,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, said during his keynote address. “This is about confidence amongst players.”

Throughout his discussion, Anderson compared Black Hearts while touching on the six Principles of Mission Command; Build cohesive teams through mutual trust, create shared understanding, provide a clear commander’s intent, exercise disciplined initiative, use mission orders and accept prudent risk.

In discussing Mission Command, Anderson told the future officers that in order to build trust they must understand themselves, think ethically and consider their teams.

“This is not about agendas, please think in terms of doing the right things for the right reasons, if you think that way, you’ll be better off than if you’re trying to accomplish or gain something that may not be in the best interest of your unit,” he advised.

Anderson took time to answer cadet questions, followed by a social for firsties and guests.

The second day of MCC included awards, panels, operational unit presentations and small-group classroom discussions. Panel discussions included individuals featured in Black Hearts which gave cadets the opportunities to delve into the book deeper, and to ask questions.

“I thought it was really interesting how all the different leaders up here gave us different perspectives on what happened in Black Hearts,” Cadet Bradley Morton said. “And I think the panel is interesting, the insights and the experience that they’re able to give to us in such a short amount of time will help us to keep building on their experiences and we’ll be able to give this to our future units.”

Cadet Kelsey Pittman agreed, noting that using Black Hearts will help her when she becomes an officer.

“I think it’s a really good case study for us to remember and constantly remind ourselves that things can go bad if we’re not careful from the start,” she said. “The MCC gives us a lot of good perspective so that way we can think about this panel and the six principles of Mission Command that they are trying to get us to remember, and to incorporate those into our every day job and life.”

After panel presentations and discussing Black Hearts and Mission Command in small groups, the first class cadets and visitors trickled into Robinson Auditorium for closing remarks.

Brig. Gen. Bentzi Gruber of the Israeli Defense Forces presented “Ethics in the Field,” a presentation highlighting the ethical responsibilities of leaders.

In the field, Gruber said, you must ask yourself three questions to make sure you’re making the right decision when using force: Is the force used only to accomplish the mission? Is the force used to target the innocent, or neutralize the enemy? Is the collateral damage proportional to the immediate threat?

“For me, mission and ethics is the same,” he noted, referencing the questions. “Part of the mission is to do that whole mission in an ethical way.”

Gruber added then in addition to being officers and warfighters, “we have to remain human beings” and “be sensitive to the crying of a baby after the war.”

Finally, the U.S. Army Director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, Brig. Gen. James J. Mingus, discussed the two components of Mission Command to the firsties.

“You have Mission Command philosophy and then you have a warfighting function,” he said, noting that you cannot fight wars unless you are the master of Mission Command philosophy. “It’s really about the profession, it’s really about the ethics and values associated with it to drive that profession, it’s the leadership around that that makes it happen.”