Why your squadron needs an Operations Directive

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Continuing to build off of the foundation of strategic alignment, publishing an operational level of guidance for the squadron is necessary to ensure the entire team knows what are the priorities so they can be worked accordingly. This type of guidance isn’t designed to capture everything that a squadron must accomplish, but rather the list of focused activities that have been established by leadership. Building this guidance can be a collaborative effort involving as many people as you want, yet ultimately is the responsibility for you as the commander to approve and publish. Finding the right type of product to contain this guidance exists within joint doctrine: the Operations Directive.

JP 3-30, Joint Air Operations, provides fundamental principles and guidance for the conduct of joint air operations. Within this framework, the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) uses the Air Operations Directive (AOD) for the use of joint air capabilities for a specified period that is used throughout the planning stages of the joint air tasking cycle and the execution of the Air Tasking Order (ATO). The AOD may include the Joint Force Commander’s apportionment decision, the JFACC’s intent, objectives, weight of effort, and other detailed planning guidance that includes the priority of joint air support to JFC and other component operations. In summary, an Operations Directive is a joint term that can be used to contain your prioritized guidance for a specified timeframe. An AOD template is also provided in Appendix D of JP 3-30, which you can use to starting point to organize your thoughts and intent. I say “starting point” because you don’t have to follow the doctrinal example verbatim, which is the point of doctrine anyway: a guide for action, not necessarily a hard and fast rule. The addition of a descriptive adjective that is relative to your function is recommended, such as Cyber Operations Directive, thus creating a new acronym that can be easily referenced, i.e. CyOD. Pro tip: anything in the military that uses an acronym is considered at least 51% legit if you say it with enough authority.

For a squadron, a monthly Operations Directive is an optimal timeframe that allows your guidance to be published on a frequent basis and stay relevant. Consistently reviewing and updating the priorities contained within the Execution section will reveal that your squadron only has enough resources to tackle a finite level of tasks, which places even greater importance on selecting the right tasks to dedicate energy towards. To ensure the Operations Directive isn’t just another meaningless document, use the list of priorities contained in Section 3, Execution, as the agenda for your Operations Huddle or similar battle rhythm event that provides consistent updates for yourself and the team. By aligning the expected discussions and updates towards the priorities listed within the Operations Directive, a consistent feedback loop is created to ensure progress (or lack thereof) is communicated throughout the squadron until mission accomplishment. This idea drives the evolution of Command and Control towards Command and Feedback, an idea championed by General James Mattis when he served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander in 2009. Command and Feedback allow empowerment at the lowest levels to make decisions and take actions that are already aligned towards leadership intent versus having to ask permission. A properly built Operations Directive within an efficient battle rhythm promotes trust in execution, which optimizes time management throughout all levels of the squadron.

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