Army Zeros In on Small-Unit Leadership Skills with New Training Manual

convoy National Training Center at Fort Irwin
Vehicles with the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Infantry Division, line up for a convoy, September 17th, at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, Sept. 17, 2020. (Jared Simmons/U.S. Army)

The Army will soon release a new training manual as it scales back its strategy of high-intensity training cycles to prepare for combat training center rotations -- and instead focuses on small-unit readiness.

Scheduled for release this spring, the updated version of FM 7-0 seeks to simplify leaders' approach to training. It comes on the heels of an action plan Army leaders introduced in October that puts fewer training demands on units preparing for rotations at combat training centers, such as the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Army leaders acknowledged that transitioning from a long string of combat rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan to intense training cycle rotations wore down the force and neglected small-unit training.

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The new FM 7-0, the first update since 2016, is designed to take a "back to basics" approach to training, Bill Bronson, a doctrine writer at the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and author of the new manual, told

"The idea was, 'Let's make this more simple,' because we have had a force that has been engaged in rotations for the past 15 or 20 years, so now we are trying to get back to some fundamentals," said Bronson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. "So, the idea was to create this manual that created a framework that is easy to read, simple to understand and pretty straightforward to implement."

Gen. Paul Funk II, head of Training and Doctrine Command, announced the updated manual's rollout Tuesday and said that it will help officers and sergeants use a training management cycle to set priorities.

Bronson described the training management cycle as a tool that leaders can use to decide the "most important things that I need to train my soldiers on."

But the manual doesn't dictate what units need to train on; that is left up to the commander, based on the unit's strengths and weaknesses, he said.

The problem is that many commanders have trouble prioritizing training, Bronson said.

"I have run into a lot of commanders who think they need to train everything," he explained. "A commander has got to sit down and think about his past training, he's got to think about his future training, he's got to think about the training mission, he's got to worry about resources and the time available, and that is a tough question for a commander to deal with."

Army leaders said in October that the service plans to eliminate the requirement to conduct brigade and battalion live-fire exercises and field training exercises prior to a combat training center rotation.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the intent is to give time back to small-unit leaders to strengthen unit cohesiveness.

"At the bottom of all units is the individual soldier, crews, small teams, platoons, squads and that is the framework that I think FM 7-0 really talks to," Bronson said. "It's not about just what the brigade needs to do because the brigade is only as successful as those individual soldiers, squads and platoons can be."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Related: Army Focus on Combat Training Center Rotations 'Unsustainable,' General Says

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