LESSONS FROM A U.S. ARMY JTF
by MAJ Richard J. Runde Jr., Team D, BCTP
SOUTHERN EUROPEAN TASK FORCE (SETAF)
JOINT TASK FORCE MISSION: To Facilitate Humanitarian
Assistance in a Joint/Combined Operational Environment.
PURPOSE: The following observations were gained
from correspondence between a JTF commander, his staff and the
theater CINC for a recent humanitarian assistance contingency
operation within a Joint/Combined environment. The following
observations are unclassified. This article captures universal
JTF lessons to support and prepare other organizations for similar
operations. This is not an after-action report.
WHAT IS A JTF?: Forward deployed, rapid response
and mission-capable organizations with a two-star-level organization
and supporting staff need to be prepared to assume the role
of a JTF in a combined operational environment. Recent history
and current experiences have revalidated this fact time and
again. Clearly, this mission cannot be accomplished with the
organic divisional organized staff. All JTFs require augmentation.
The designated JTF Headquarters must identify required staff
augmentation by operational phase and purpose, through continual
mission analysis. For a conventional two-star-level
staff, this is normally an uncomfortable adjustment. Traditionally,
a division staff's focus has "looked down," and relied upon
another U.S. headquarters (corps) to "look up" to resource,
synchronize and provide guidance, direction and approval. Frequently,
a JTF staff will find itself reporting directly to the CINC,
while performing other corps and theater responsibilities in
the absence of a corps or Army-level command and control architecture.
MISSION ANALYSIS: This step of the Military
Decision-Making Process does not end with the initial CINC's
Warning Order (WARNORD) or Planning Order (PLANORD). Mission
Analysis and the Joint Force Commander's "Change of Mission"
recommendations must be revisited on a very frequent basis.
In this way, the JFC can shape the JTF capabilities within its
battlespace, and facilitate its operational effectiveness. The
JTF commander must determine and continually re-evaluate the
established preconditions for the success of each operational
phase to progress to another phase, a branch or a sequel.
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): These
agreements do not exist with most countries where a JTF may
be sent for humanitarian assistance operations. It is unrealistic
to expect that they can be negotiated on short notice for almost
any contingency operation. This organization was not successful
in trying to establish them. Moreover, despite continuous and
focused attempts on the issue, workarounds were not successful.
The JTF was forced to operate within the changing confines of
the established (and continually changing) political and judicial
environments of the countries where the JTF had to operate.
TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURES
COMMAND, CONTROL AND COMMUNICATION (C3):
What is the role of a U.S. JTF within a Multi-National
Force (MNF)?: Every contingency operation is different.
Coalitions and alliances are also very different. International
agreements take a long time to develop and many do not exist
with countries where a JTF may be sent for a comparatively short
period of time. A JTF headquarters may be required to directly
coordinate, facilitate and execute operations for another command
and control headquarters, for all or part of a contingency operation.
Frequent coordination with the U.S. Embassy and other international
government's political representatives will also be required.
Understanding Information Operations: Everyone
wants to help, but everyone comes to a theater with different
resources. Each member of the international community also comes
to a theater with different geo-political and military aims.
As the military and civilian players arrive in theater, they
begin competing for the same critical U.S. Military resources.
In the early stages of a crisis, the national and international
lines of command and control will be in an evolutionary stage.
This requires a JTF to temporarily step outside of the established
military lines of communication. The JTF must plan and execute
an aggressive information campaign in support of the CINC's
- The JTF Command and Control: Historically,
when the U.S. Military is committed to a contingency, they
either assumed or have been assigned the operational military
lead. In future contingency operations, this may not automatically
be the case. The roles, missions and functions of a JTF will
change as the situation in the Combined/Joint Area of Operations
evolves. A U.S. JTF may initially take the operational lead.
Subsequently, the JTF may find itself subordinate, or working
in parallel with other allied, multinational or coalition
organizations. An international organization, such as the
United Nations, may serve as the headquarters for some international
military forces, while the U.S. JTF executes operations in
another AO independently or in parallel.
As the situation develops, other nations may commit additional
forces, resources and capabilities to the Joint/Combined
Theater of Operations. Given the rapidly developing nature
of these contingency operations, synchronization between
international forces may initially be lacking. Absent a
designated or sanctioned higher headquarters, successful
operational synchronization will only be achieved through
multiple communication channels.
- The Joint Force Commander's Military Lines of
Communication: Frequent and direct communication
and coordination with the establishing and/or the operational
higher headquarters of the JTF are mission essential. This
must go beyond traditional operational and intelligence summaries.
The JTF Commander must tie these situation reports to his
personal operational assessment and a recommended "way ahead."
In this way, the JTF commander helps the CINC to achieve the
desired operational end state within established or directed
This is also critical for the JTF commander. He can then
influence his operational and tactical requirements in personnel,
military equipment, unique civilian assets, time and space
to accomplish the assigned JTF mission. Staff officers must
recognize that this communication may become filtered and
modified as the communication works through the multiple
echelons and channels of both military and political command
and control. Requests for information must be vigorously
- The Joint Force Commander's International Military
Lines of Communication: Planning guidance and directives
from the international and Department of State (DOS) levels
may not support the actual tempo of operations within the
Joint/Combined Operational Area. Mutual trust between nations
must be maintained between international military counterparts
and their components within the Joint/Combined Theater of
Operations. This is imperative to foster effective horizontal
lines of communication and facilitate information sharing.
An example of the importance of this concept is the common,
or uncommon understanding of the operational end state between
all international political and military organizations.
- The Joint Force Commander's Political Lines of
Communication: Multiple, vertical lines of communication
will necessarily come into existence between participating
international military organizations and their respective
political representatives and decisionmakers. Some lines of
communication may be merely informational. Others will be
used for decisionmaking and approval. Every international
and military organization has its own perspective on the current
operational situation and how it is tied to their country's
JTF Reconnaissance and Ground Truth: Once
established, or as soon as authorized, the JFC MUST
place a task-organized assessment organization/team into the
Joint/Combined Area of Operation. This is invaluable to both
the JTF Commander and the CINC.
- Liaison: The importance of complete,
competent, and trained liaison cannot be over emphasized.
Liaison must not only include internal JTF components. Equally,
and perhaps even more important, is liaison with multinational
political, military and police organizations both inside and
around the areas that are supporting the Joint/Combined Operational
- Eyes on the Objective: First-hand human
reconnaissance is the best way for the JTF Commander to provide
timely and accurate assessments for the CINC as the situation
develops. This is essential to support the CINC's decisionmaking
process and provide timely input for his staff to answer his
critical information requirements.
- The Joint Force Commander's Critical Information
Requirements: Satisfaction of these information requirements
provides the JTF Commander with a continuous assessment of
what is required to accomplish both the tactical and the operational
end state. This must be done by phase, if not by week or even
daily. In this way, the JTF Commander can have near real-time
input to the Time-Phased Force Deployment Flow of U.S. forces
into and out of the Joint/Combined Area of Operations. Additionally,
force protection requirements and necessary adjustments are
also assessed on a recurring basis.
- Economy of Force: Liaison and coordination
with multinational forces on the ground may also prevent redundancy
or identify holes in planned or current tactical or operational
capabilities. Participating international military capabilities
can change on almost a daily, even an hourly basis. A constant
JTF assessment system or process must be established and rehearsed.
- Reduced Footprint: Host and/or supporting
nation capabilities can be accurately assessed and possibly
coordinated/contracted for--first hand. This may assist, or
even be mission essential in reducing the JTF's footprint
throughout the Joint/Combined Operational Area. Contracting
officers are mission essential to the JTF assessment team.
- One Team: Coordination and liaison with
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Volunteer Organizations
(PVOs) and Other Governmental Agencies (OGAs) within the Joint/Combined
Operational Area can only be effectively accomplished in person--on
the ground. In most cases, these organizations have been in
the theater much longer than the Joint/Combined Military Force
that came together as the result of a relatively recent crisis.
Depending on the organization and often the personalities
involved, NGOs, PVOs and OGAs can be a tremendous source of
current human intelligence, assistance, coordination and even
- Communication: The importance of French
or Spanish as an alternative to English as the primary language
for coordination and liaison should not be underestimated.
For many countries, these may be their international language.
This has an even more significant impact for the JTF commander
if it is spoken by key leaders and liaison officers, instead
of through an interpreter.
EDUCATION AND PREPARATION OF THE JTF: Due
to the size of the typical divisional "core" JTF staff, the
normally temporary assignment of components and specialty staff
augmentation, some additional education for U.S. Army JTFs may
be required. Considerations for preparation and education include,
but are not limited to:
- JTF Reconnaissance/Assessment Checklists, i.e., Humanitarian
Assistance and NEO.
- U.S. Military Component Capabilities and Proposed Theater
Multinational Components Capabilities.
- U.N. Charters, Chapters, and existing Operations within
- UNHCR Capabilities and Limitations, Constraints and Restrictions.
- Applicable Country Studies, i.e., APODs, SPODs, LOCs, or
Classes of Supply, Host-Nation Support.
- Applicable Threat/Opponent Studies.
- Current International Operations, Alliances, Support and
Limitations or Restrictions within the proposed J/COA.
- Capabilities, Support and Coordination with SOF, DOS, USEMB
and U.S. Country Teams.
- International Coordination and Communication, i.e., Coalition
- Background, Mission and Capabilities of applicable NGOs,
PVOs, and OGAs.
- Country Study Information Briefs and Frequent Updates from
Other Nations, Military Forces (Peacekeepers), etc.
For further information, contact MAJ Richard J. Runde Jr.,
BCTP Operations Group Delta, DSN: 552-8711/COML: 913-684-8711.