Little Bighorn Mission Command Analysis

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Scribbles on Scrap: A Mission Command Analysis of the Battle of the Little Bighorn The massacre at the Little Bighorn in 1876 was one of the most recognizable battles in American history. The defeat of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the slaughter of 268 Soldiers by the Sioux serves as an enduring subject of study for contemporary military professionals. The basic modus operandi for command principles in the times of the Indian Wars loosely mirrors the mission command philosophy of today; however, if we still lay credence to the efficacy of the mission command philosophy, how was it that a conventional force under the direction of a battle proven leader was defeated by an irregular enemy? In the end, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer’s complacent…show more content…
This village was likely between 6,000-7,000 Native Americans, with up to 2,000 warriors amongst them (Stewart, 2009). When Terry received reports of signs of this large village (albeit with no indication to the size of the force), he gave the order for Custer to pursue the village from the south while Gibbons maneuvered north, in order to interdict the fleeing Native Americans (Neumann, 2001). As a brief synopsis, the execution of the mission command philosophy is guided by the implementation of the six mission command principles: building cohesive teams through mutual trust, creating shared understanding, providing a clear commander’s intent, exercising disciplined initiative, using mission orders, and accepting prudent risk (Department of the Army, 2012). In the example of Custer’s infamous last stand, we will analyze his implementation of the principles of building cohesive teams through mutual trust, creating shared understanding, providing a clear commander’s intent, and accepting prudent…show more content…
The Department of the Army (2012) defines prudent risk as “a deliberate exposure to potential injury or loss when the commander judges the outcome in terms of mission accomplishment as worth the cost” (p. 5). Custer’s deliberate exposure to injury was the decision to bring his force around to what he believed to be the left flank of the Sioux village when he was now fully aware that his force was outnumbered and fighting an enemy which was conducting a spirited defense where before they were expected to flee. Further, it must have come into his mind that his force was only operating at 70% strength from the outset with the removal of Benteen’s battalion (Neuman, 2001). Whatever his mitigations may have been, it is clear that the risk he took turned out to be imprudent, and the risk he accepted led to his battalion being isolated from the rest of his command where it was summarily encircled and annihilated (Collins,
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