From the Screen Line: Transformation of the Duties and Responsibilities of a Headquarters Troop Commander (Counterinsurgency/Security-Force Assistance to Decisive-Action Training Environment)

Slide 1
Figure 3. SPC Keith Mackey at the HHT BDOC, Afghanistan, January 2013. (Photo by CPT Gary M. Klein)
Slide 2
Figure 4. The 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry’s main CP, Fort Campbell, KY, October 2013. (Photo by CPT Gary M. Klein)

The headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT) commander has few defined duties and responsibilities. The line troops’ missions are directly nested with the squadron’s primary missions – reconnaissance and security operations – while the forward-support company (FSC) is focused on sustainment operations.1 Meanwhile, the HHT is predominantly composed of the squadron staff, which is responsible for enabling mission command and is led by the squadron executive officer (XO).2 So what are the duties and responsibilities of the HHT commander?

Over the last decade, in an environment focused on counterinsurgency and security-force assistance, a trend has been for HHT commanders to manage the troop’s administrative systems in garrison and lead the Base Defense Operations Center (BDOC) and/or Mayor Cell while deployed. These missions were largely the product of our environment – fixed-site mission command in a forward operating base (FOB). However, with the Army shifting its focus toward the decisive-action training environment and expeditionary environments, what should the HHT commander’s role be now?

At the most basic level, the HHT commander is responsible for the troop’s readiness and the regulatory responsibilities inherent to command.3 He must provide administrative support to the Soldiers under his command – including leave, military schooling and readiness – as well as enforce military discipline, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and programs such as Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention and Equal Opportunity. Also, along with his troop XO and supply sergeant, the commander must create and enforce a command supply-discipline program that emphasizes systems such as property accountability, equipment maintenance and services. Finally, the commander must ensure his Soldiers achieve and maintain basic Army standards, including Army Physical-Fitness Test standards, height and weight and weapons qualification.

These three broad areas demand a significant amount of time; however, they are largely managerial in scope and should leave a commander desirous for opportunities to provide a more active leadership role.

Field Manual (FM) 6-22, Army Leadership, defines a leader as anyone who by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.4 Army leaders – both formal and informal – motivate people both inside and outside the chain of command to pursue actions, focus thinking and shape decisions for the greater good of the organization. The managerial responsibilities presented thus far focus on building and maintaining systems, but they offer minimal opportunities to influence Soldiers toward organizational goals.5 To advance into the realm of a leader, the HHT commander must expand his duties and responsibilities to becoming a trainer, coordinator and mentor.


The vast majority of HHT Soldiers are on the squadron staff, and the squadron XO is responsible for training the staff.6 However, the squadron XO’s efforts are typically focused on staff-officer development and collective mission-command systems that enable the squadron commander’s understanding and visualization of the operating environment. This leaves a number of significant training areas the HHT commander must provide to these same Soldiers. The HHT commander’s mission-essential task list (METL) captures these training areas and responsibilities.

Chapter 3 of Army Doctrinal Reference Publication (ADRP) 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders, details unit training management – a process that begins with the development of a unit METL to help the commander focus and guide his unit’s training plan. This process is relatively straightforward for the line troops, whose mission-essential tasks (METs) are properly nested with their squadron METs (Figure 1).7 Similarly, an HHT could translate the squadron’s METs into its own METL in an effort to capture its responsibility for providing squadron-level mission-command functions, or it could select the staff-specific METs for its METL. Both of these options have reasonable justifications, but they fail to highlight the many implied tasks an HHT is responsible for in an expeditionary environment. The HHT must address both the staff METs and basic Soldier METs.

In an expeditionary environment, the HHT commander needs to prepare his Soldiers for tactical convoy operations, establishing the main command post (CP), combat-trains command post (CTCP) and/or field-trains command post (FTCP),8 and simultaneous employment of the main aid station and forward aid station – all in a threat environment. Specific tasks that HHT Soldiers must be capable of executing as part of these missions include crew-served weapons qualifications, establishing a tactical radio network – and not just S-6 Soldiers! – convoy procedures, assembly-area activities (including local security procedures and night drivers’ qualifications using PVS-7/14s) and quartering-party activities. Add these HHT missions and tasks to those expected of the staff, and it becomes easier to see two distinct components of training within an HHT.

These two components were discussed in the now-obsolete FM 7-1, Battle-Focused Training, but this discussion is absent from Doctrine 2015 (for example, ADRP 7-0).9 The distinction between a staff METL and HHT METL (Figure 2)10 lays out the requirements for each Soldier to be a competent member of the staff as well as having the basic Soldier skills to operate effectively in an expeditionary environment. Most importantly for the HHT commander, the delineation between a staff METL and HHT METL helps clarify his duties and responsibilities, empowers him to exercise initiative within the training and leader-development domains, and creates a tool to more accurately track training progress.

A METL is only a tool, though. The HHT commander needs to continually engage the squadron XO throughout the planning process to synchronize and mutually support each other’s training plans. This is particularly important because the squadron XO and HHT commander are competing for the training time of the same Soldiers. The synchronization of these efforts represents the third role required of the HHT commander – that of a coordinator.


The squadron staff is charged with maintaining a high degree of coordination and cooperation among higher, adjacent and subordinate units,11 and a number of leaders are involved with coordinating the staff itself. The squadron XO and operations sergeant major have authority over the staff, but there are other leaders who have informal responsibilities and the ability to exercise disciplined initiative to influence beyond the chain of command.12 These informal relationships should complement the chain of command, and they have the potential to enable coordination and teamwork.

Common venues that enable HHT and staff coordination include daily HHT synchronization meetings, weekly HHT training meetings and weekly staff-synchronization meetings. One technique is for staff-section officers in charge (OICs) to attend the weekly staff-synchronization meeting run by the squadron XO and for staff-section NCOs in charge (NCOICs) to attend the daily HHT synchronization and weekly HHT training meetings. There are two benefits to this arrangement. First, much of the training the HHT commander is responsible for takes place at the individual, crew and small-team level, which lies primarily within the domain of the HHT NCOs.13 Second, a division of labor between the OIC and NCOIC prevents overwhelming the staff-section leadership with excessive meetings. The HHT meetings should address the HHT METL, collective-training events and individual Soldier skills while coordinating troops to task between staff sections and low-density military-occupation specialty (MOS) Soldiers across the squadron.

One of the most important collective-training events the HHT commander should coordinate is the execution of a CP field-training exercise (FTX), which describes the exercise formerly referred to as a tactical-operations center exercise (TOCEX).14 A CP FTX is an exercise in establishing and displacing the main CP and tactical (TAC) CP, and it is Step 1 in a typical mission-command crawl-walk-run training model. The CP FTX begins by establishing a TAC, followed by establishment of the main CP. Once the main CP is established, the TAC deploys forward again and re-establishes itself, followed by the main CP’s movement forward, repeating the “jump” CP cycle. A CP FTX builds mission-command system proficiency and develops a shared understanding resulting in a CP standard operating procedure (SOP).

When the CP FTX is combined with a staff exercise (Step 2), this culminates in a command-post exercise (CPX) (Step 3), where the staff battle-tracks activities and maintains a common operating picture to help the commander understand, visualize, describe and direct operations. Although the squadron XO and operations sergeant major usually lead these training events, the HHT commander is in the best position to plan many aspects of the CP FTX because of his knowledge and tracking of the CP equipment during reset.

As equipment is returned to the unit, the HHT commander should incorporate technical training into command maintenance. Once most of the equipment is available, he should recommend and assist in planning the CP FTX. This initial CP FTX should familiarize each staff section with its contribution to the physical establishment of the main CP and TAC and train the staff in assembling and breaking down all the equipment and mission-command systems. Upon the completion of the CP FTX, the squadron XO and operations sergeant should expand this foundation in future CPXs and squadron and brigade FTXs.


In addition to troop-wide training events, the HHT commander and first sergeant should mentor other subordinate leaders and their low-density MOS training as well. The HHT commander should mentor the medical-platoon leader and fire-support officer during their training-plan development – similar to how the HHC commander in a combined-arms battalion or an infantry battalion mentors the specialty-platoon leaders.

During the reset phase of the Army Force Generation cycle, the medics and forward observers are usually consolidated in HHT to allow them to focus on MOS-specific training. However, to avoid skills atrophy, MOS-specific training should not end once the unit enters the train/ready phase. A balance should be maintained between MOS-specific training and the integration of these Soldiers within their assigned units. The HHT commander and first sergeant are in an ideal position to coordinate this consolidated training. Their understanding of the squadron and troop training plans, as well as their relationship with the line troops, is useful in synchronizing priorities and facilitating bottom-up refinement.

Other low-density MOS training includes supply (S-4), communications (S-6) and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training. The HHT commander’s holistic understanding of the squadron’s needs, as well as established relationships, can assist these section OIC/NCOICs in developing their plans. The OIC will ultimately present his plans to the squadron XO, who has the final decision in the training and distribution of these low-density MOS Soldiers, but the HHT commander’s experience and mentorship is a great asset for these staff officers and NCOs.

Throughout their coordination with troop commanders and staff sections, the HHT commander and first sergeant gain valuable insight to identify problems and make assessments and recommendations. They are likely to witness cooperation and friction points between staff sections and/or the troops, which provides them an opportunity to suggest improvements and engender a culture of service. Simultaneously, these interactions provide the HHT commander an outstanding opportunity to motivate Soldiers with a shared understanding of the HHT’s and the squadron’s broader purpose.

The most important aspect to all the coordination and mentorship mentioned here is the need for the HHT commander to build relationships and influence beyond the traditional chain of command. This capacity requires a level of comfort and maturity most frequently obtained through experience in command, which is why a headquarters command is often viewed as a second command, and the HHT commander is often called a “mini” or “third” field grade. All the time the HHT commander spends coordinating and providing mentorship – to subordinates and peers alike – will bring about many collaborative benefits for the squadron’s greater good.


The duties and responsibilities of the HHT commander are ill-defined in doctrine. However, after discussing the implied tasks, the HHT commander has a considerable amount of responsibilities that have been underused during the last decade. During Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn, the mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available and civil considerations variables that an HHT commander typically faced were fixed to responsibility for managing mission-command nodes in an FOB. This situation is largely changing with the Army’s shift toward decisive action. This adjustment will be challenging because the responsibilities are shared across many leaders without a doctrinal answer. Each HHT must develop its own SOP for who is responsible for what training and missions.

This article recommends a number of potential duties and responsibilities that may be assigned or assumed by the HHT commander using the perspectives of a trainer, coordinator and mentor. The HHT commander should not be constrained by these roles. The HHT commander should lead through whatever means enable him to influence his organization through purpose, direction and motivation toward mission accomplishment.


1 FM 3-20.96, Reconnaissance and Cavalry Squadron, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 2010.

2 FM 6-0, Commander and Staff Organization and Operations, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, May 2014, Chapter 2.

3 Army Regulation (AR) 600-20, Army Command Policy, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 2012; and AR 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 2014.

4 ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 2012.

5 For more discussion on the differences between a manager and a leader, read “CompanyCommand – Building Combat-Ready Teams: Do We Need Leaders or Managers?,” ARMY Magazine, Arlington, VA: Association of the United States Army, January 2011.

6 FM 6-0.

7 This was the squadron METL and an example line-troop METL of 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry, in Fall 2013 when the author was the HHT commander.

8 HHT’s role in the FTCP is a topic for another discussion, but the concept of the HHT commander running the FTCP – as specified in the outdated FM 17-95-10, The Armored Cavalry Regiment and Squadron (September 1993) – is likely obsolete now that brigades have reorganized into brigade combat teams (BCTs), which introduced an FSC to the Cavalry squadron.

9 FM 7-1, Battle-Focused Training, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 2003. Additional note: ADRP 7-0 does not discuss the concept of a staff METL; however, staff tasks are found within the Combined Arms Training Strategy on the Army Training Network,, retrieved May 30, 2014.

10 This staff METL was proposed by William Moeller, “Looking for an HHT/Headquarters and Headquarters Company METL Crosswalk,”, (Oct. 31, 2012), retrieved May 30, 2014. The HHT METL is a modified version of the author’s METL when he was an HHT commander based on lessons-learned from his experience as an O/C/T at JRTC.

11 FM 6-0.

12ADRP 6-22.

13 ADRP 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 2012.

14 Doctrine 2015 rescinded the term tactical-operations center and replaced it with the term command post. Reference: U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, “U.S. Army Doctrine Comprehensive Guide,”, retrieved Sept. 30, 2014. The term TOCEX was commonly understood to be an exercise in which the command group and staff practiced setting up and establishing the CPs.