Disruptive Thinking and how the iPad changed Close Air Support in Afghanistan

Editor's Note: This entry was also posted in slightly different form at the Disruptive Thinkers blog.  For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the bureacracy surrounding naval aviation, what may seem like a relatively simple effort to gain approval to use iPads in the cockpit of an attack aircraft is no small feat.  The lesson here lies not only in the innovation, but also in the persistence in pushing the system to serve the need, and not a small bit of luck in having a former test pilot who was not only willing, but eager to be disruptive in an unresponsive system - and had the knowledge to do so productively - on staff at 3rd MAW.

Most Marine Corps aviators who have served in Afghanistan in a close air support (CAS) role have used or heard of iPads being used to store and view the over 1000 maps that make up the Helmand Valley.  These maps are made using high resolution imagery on which every compound is identified by a unique number.  This allows aircrew to quickly correlate friendly and enemy locations and more effectively provide accurate and timely aviation fires in support of ground forces, ultimately saving the lives of young Americans and their allies.  The downside of this system, which originally required aircrew to carry all 1000 map sheets, is that they had to sort through 30 lbs of maps to find the appropriate map sheet.  In fact, there are so many maps sheets that they won’t all physically fit in the cockpit.  Finding the right map could take several minutes, precious time during a fire fight.

In order to solve this problem an enterprising AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter pilot, Captain Jim “Hottie” Carlson, developed a system to electronically stitch these maps sheets together so that a pilot could view them on an iPad.  With the iPad’s embedded GPS the Cobra now had a moving map, something that the early 1990’s era helicopter is lacking.  On his own initiative and without official Marine Corps support Captain Carlson was able to provide the aging aircraft with a navigational system as advanced any available in the civilian world, all for less than $1000 per aircraft.   So efficient was his solution that an entire HMLA can be outfitted with iPads for less than the cost of fuel for one day of combat operations in Afghanistan.

While the technical details of the “Combat iPad” are best left for another discussion the interesting story lies in discussing the key factors that allowed Captain Carlson, along with several other individuals, to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles they faced in bringing this program to bear.

First and foremost Captain Carlson was the right person in the right place at the right time.  As one of the senior pilots on the deployment Captain Carlson had the tactical expertise and credibility to 1) understand the problem and 2) to navigate the bureaucratic morass of the Marine Corps.  Additionally, he had a technical background (a computer science major) that allowed him to view the problem from a different angle and come up with a unique solution.    

Second, Captain Carlson had the support of key players both in the squadron and at 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW).  LtCol William “Hoss” Bufkin, a Cobra pilot who served on the Wing staff was in the perfect position to help work through the bureaucratic red tape needed to bring these tablets to the battlefield.  LtCol Bufkin had previously served as an evaluation pilot with the AH-1Z upgrade program and was no stranger to the aviation procurement process.  With his experience he was able to work through or around many of the top level bureaucratic challenges of procuring iPads and getting approval for their use in flight.  LtCol Bufkin knew that the bureaucracy would tell him “no” when it came to asking for this new technology, but had the will to effectively fight the system in order to get this critical piece of equipment to the fleet. 

Third, Captain Carlson had the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic needed to solve this problem.   It is interesting to note that many (but not all) of those Marines involved in the original iPad solution and those who have continued to improve on the program have had experience as civilians before joining the Marine Corps.  Did their experiences before entering military service help them in solving this unique problem?   Some may argue that because they began their professional careers in places where innovation and entrepreneurial spirit were valued that they were already comfortable working in environments where unique approaches to problem solving existed.  This is not to say that those who have worked in the civilian world are more likely to be Disruptive Thinkers than those without civilian experience (Colonel John Boyd, inventor of the OODA loop and one of the most influential military thinkers of the 20th Century began his military career by enlisting in Army at age 17).  However, it would be fair to say that we in the military too often write off potential solutions to problems because they do not fit into our preconceived notions of what fits into doctrine.  The real question is whether we want to promote this entrepreneurial problem solving spirit.  If so how do we do it in a large organization like the Marine Corps?

 I would argue the Marine Corps is going to need more of these types of Marines as we enter the next 10-15 years of fiscal austerity.  As is often quoted, “we’re out of money, its time to think”.  We as Marines, especially the Staff NCOs and company grade officers, need to do better at taking responsibility for our own organization.  The following are some ideas of how Disruptive Thinkers can be more effective.    

1-Be a Disruptive Doer, not just a Disruptive Thinker.  Good ideas are a starting point but actions speak louder than words.  Captain Carlson put in hundreds of hours of his own time, in addition to flying combat missions, in order to get the Combat iPad up and running.  If he and LtCol Bufkin had simply talked about their solution and hadn’t put in the work we would still be sifting through 30 lbs of paper maps. 

2-Be ready for a bureaucratic knife fight.  It often takes a strong personality who is willing to get his nose bloodied to affect the bureaucratic inertia of large organizations.  Choose your battles wisely and have your proverbial “stuff in one sock”.  You may only get one chance to convince someone that you have a better way.  Make it count.  Nixon summed it up best when spoke about Admiral Rickover, the father of the modern nuclear Navy:

 "I don't mean to suggest ... that he is a man who is without controversy. He speaks his mind. Sometimes he has rivals who disagree with him; sometimes they are right, and he is the first to admit that sometimes he might be wrong. But the greatness of the American military service… is symbolized in this ceremony today, because this man, who is controversial, this man, who comes up with unorthodox ideas, did not become submerged by the bureaucracy, because once genius is submerged by bureaucracy, a nation is doomed to mediocrity."

3-Don’t forget that the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution, not a think tank.  The Marine Corps isn’t an organization like Google that requires constant innovation out of its employees.  The Marine Corps more like McDonalds, in that it needs employees to uphold a standard to ensure that customers can get the same hamburger in New York as they can in Tokyo.  With the Marine Corps you can expect that any given battalion will perform just as well another.  To provide this service both McDonalds and the Marine Corps have had to develop and enforce a single standard throughout their organizations.  While this process may seem at times anathema to innovation or Disruptive Thinking, it is as at our core what makes us good.

4- Sometimes you can do more good outside of the military.  There is a great tradition of American citizens leaving military service and going on and changing the world.  FBI director Robert Mueller and FedEx founder Fred Smith (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership-fred-smith-fedex-ce...) both earned Purple Hearts as Marine infantry officers in Vietnam.  While the Marine Corps is a great organization, there are other great organizations out there.  America, not just the military, needs innovative leaders.

With that being said, some responsibility does lie on leadership.  We do a very poor job at leveraging our best minds and our most talented leaders.  The Marine Corps leadership can change this in several different ways:

1-Bring “centralized command, decentralized control” back to the Marine Corps.   Innovation is often a bottom up process, where those closest to the fight have the best solutions.  Giving subordinate commanders flexibility to make these decisions will allow the most creative junior leaders to develop innovative solutions to existing problems.   As General Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” 

Avoiding micro-management is risky for the commander and managing that risk is a difficult task, but giving someone “enough rope to hang himself” does two important things.  First, it provides a learning environment for that junior leader, and second it helps to separate the mediocre from the exceptional.    Anyone can follow orders, but the best will excel in the absence of direction. 

2-Strive to keep the best and brightest officers and SNCOs in the Marine Corps.  Every organization from Apple to FedEx to the CIA deals with loosing talent.  However, the military has a unique problem in that it is an “agricultural” organization, meaning that it can’t hire on mid level leaders like other organizations.  Majors and colonels must be “grown” from the ground up.  If you want effective Colonels and Generals you need to keep effective Lieutenants and Captains.  As Colonel Paul Yingling (USA) said,  “It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties. “ 

The post-OIF/OEF Marine Corps will present unique challenges and opportunities for the next generation of Marines.  Fewer resources and an undefined mission will pose challenges that most Marines have yet to experience.  However, this also offers an opportunity for innovative Disruptive Thinkers and Doers to reshape the Marine Corps into the organization that will fight our nation’s future enemies, whoever they may be.  Hopefully they stick around. 

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Tags : Afghanistan, CAS, close air support, disruptive thinkers

Comments

Mr. Few,
Thanks for taking the time to respond to the article. I agree with your statement that there are many great leaders in the military who are using innovative solutions to solve the difficult problems of the war. Whether they are categorized as “disruptive” leaders or as just doing their job is besides the point. The important question is how does the military effectively tap this resource?

Your examples raise some interesting questions though. In example #6 you mention that by 2006 that communication between the Army and the Air Force had improved so that ground commanders could more easily approve aviation fires. That leads me to ask, what happened to these ground commanders? Were they punished for breaking existing SOPs or rewarded for innovative thinking? We invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001, why did it take until 2006 to change a bureaucratic and organizational problem? What kind of “bureaucratic knife fight” did someone have to go through to change the rules?

In example #5 you mention that by 2005-06 high level leaders within the SF and GPF communities began better integrating their schemes of maneuver. I imagine that many of the combat arms Colonels and Generals who spent most of their careers in the 80s and 90s preparing to fight the Soviets or Chinese viewed the Special Operations community as a career dead end and of little use in a conventional battle. I’m sure that little love was lost on the other side either. Why did it take 4-5 years of war for these two communities to better work together? Again, who did this begin with and were they rewarded for ingenuity or ridiculed for crossing cultures?

I believe that we are in agreement that the military is full of innovative and energetic young leaders. The question is how do we better utilize their skills? Too often their good ideas are dismissed because they don’t align with doctrine or current SOPs. Unfortunately it often takes the unnecessary death of one of our own to force people to come out of their comfort zone to make changes.

Hi Michael,

I think that we agree more than we disagree. I will respond by looking at the problem from a different perspective- building good teams instead of elevating the individual.

First, the military will always have parochialism and bureaucratic infighting. In combat, the friction often comes from command relationships. Much of these fights are over funding- money drives the political fights and is seen as the lifeblood of maintaining the establishment. One individual will not change the entire system so it’s better to accept this as a fact and work with the tide in trying to implement changes within one’s sphere of control.

Second, it is a mistake to generalize. Specifically, you stated that “I imagine that many of the combat arms Colonels and Generals who spent most of their careers in the 80s and 90s preparing to fight the Soviets or Chinese viewed the Special Operations community as a career dead end and of little use in a conventional battle. I’m sure that little love was lost on the other side either.” I wouldn’t make that assumption about the way things are. Instead, I happened to fall into jobs in the Joint community far outside my primary MOS. While in those positions, I asked the senior leadership to explain to me what they do, how they do it, and why there is internal conflict within the different communities. In one case, I was a liason officer, so I tried to work between competing commands to share information and seek consensus when possible. In another case, I was an armor officer in an airborne community, so I had to learn their language, ways of doing business, and build trust BEFORE I could introduce alternative ways of doing business.

Third, in my mind, it all comes down to good people and good organizations where the innovation is actually a byproduct of mission success. The examples that I provided in my initial post were team efforts not maverick or disruptive individuals. In fact, in a good organization, the disruptive thinkers are the ones who stick rigidly to dated SOPs instead of applying METT-TC to problems. Over time, they become the outliers.

So, how did the individuals that actually created the ideas make them team events, test and prove them on the micro level, and then get them standardized on the macro level?

1.The Leaders (both staff and command) were technically and tactically competent- this is probably the most important trait.

2.The Leaders were picked by the Army to command at higher levels of authority. In all the examples that I provided, Officers and SNCOs were rated Top 10% and below the zone.

3.The Units had a high degree of success in combat. For my initial points #2 and #6, both units were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for combat actions.

4.The Leaders had exceptional collaboration skills inviting and insisting that outside organizations join the team and feel included (MiTT, SF, CA, Psyops, EOD, etc). These combat multipliers became “their boys” during attachments. People sought to join the organization- reenlistment and retainment was extremely high.

5.Decentralization and creativity was encouraged and rewarded.

When I look back at the innovations in combat that were later standardized, I think that the environment or command climate was the decisive factor. “I” became “We.”

Below are some observations on how they were able to sell their ideas and overcome exiting SOPs, rules, and regulations.

1.Get ahead of the curve. I was always taught to get ahead of higher’s planning process so that you can introduce your own plan into the bigger OPORD. The planners at the higher level typically appreciate it anyways because it saves them time and headaches.

2.Never go at it alone. In Captain Carlson’s case, I would have suggested for him to implement his ideas, sell them to every pilot in the unit, and then approach the boss collectively. At presentation, it is the team’s idea, not the individual. Strength in numbers.

3.Good units do the routine things routinely. These successfully units had a history of doing things right, so when they deviated from SOP, generally, higher commanders sought to know why. The good units WERE NOT disruptive even though they would eventually create new ideas and new SOPs across the board.

4.Expect to get an ass-chewing in the short term. Timing is everything, but sometimes the mission dictates a change where you can’t inform the boss, and your change might strike him on a day when he is not really happy, stress out, or frustrated with other units. The immediate reaction may be an ass-chewing, particularly if the boss feels that he has been left out of the loop and has lost control of his young, creative, innovative leaders. Don’t apologize, but don’t get discouraged. I once watched a bold commander get reamed for conducting an unauthorized river crossing using indigenous boats and having his men take off their IBA’s during the crossing. He was threatened to be fired, yelled at for thirty minutes at the position of attention, and somewhat humiliated. After he was dismissed, the higher commander doing the yelling admitted that he was impressed by the younger officer, but he just needed to “keep him in check.”

5.The Big Changes takes time. Most of the macro-level changes and standardizations happened long after the initial leaders left the unit. They found out via email while they were in other jobs.

In summary, I guess that I would recommend that the best course of action that I can recommend to a young officer is to find out where the good units and good leaders are and do everything in their power to get assigned there. How do you do that? Ask around and find out where guys are actually happy in their jobs.

Once in the unit, learn your job, learn other’s jobs, build your team, and establish networks for action.

Mr. Few,
I know that it makes for boring reading, but we are thinking along the same lines there. From your posts I take it that you recommend.

1) First, be good at your job. (Brilliance in the basics)
2) Be a team player.
3) Don't forget that change in this organization may come slowly...but it comes.

Hopefully I conveyed some of that in my original piece.

I feel that a main sticking point in the "disruptive" debate is what it exactly means to be disruptive. Some see it as kicking and screaming to radically change the system. I don't think that a disruptive leader always has to be this way, nor do I think that this was the intent in Lt Kohlmann's original piece. As one example, I would argue that Robert Gates was a disruptive, and effective, Secretary of Defense. While maintaining an understated leadership style, he was able to work from the inside to make changes to the system (among other things, fast tracking the MRAP against the wishes of many in the Pentagon, thus saving countless lives and limbs). While not revolutionary or radical, his ability to win that bureaucratic knife fight was, from my point of view, very effective in making changes to the system.

In fact, I would argue that the officers you mentioned who chose to talk directly to Air Force aircraft were the type of disruptive leaders that Lt Kohlmann was hoping for about in his original piece. They saw a better way and in the end chose to ask for forgiveness than for permission. I am glad to hear that they were rewarded for their efforts.

I'd be interested to hear what became of the junior officer who had his ass-chewed? Did he continue his bold innovative thinking? Did he stay in the Army or get out? What does he say now of that experience and how it shaped him?

Again, I think that we are agreeing more than disagreeing.

S/F

Michael,

I think that two important things have been missing in our discussion and the overall “disruptive” thinkers’ debate, so I will push back and see if we can flesh it out.

1. It’s not the individual; it’s the influence/effect that he/she has on their subordinates and the multiplied effect those leaders will have in the future given increased responsibilities and authority.

2.Technical and Tactical Changes (Ipad introduction for CAS) are different than strategic/operational changes (Moving from massive pop-centric COIN to FID and One Tribe at a Time VSO effort).

For the first point, let’s examine the company commander who dared the river crossing. You asked about the outcome and what he’s thinking/doing now. In this case, the officer was well decorated, had successful command, and he was selected below the zone for early promotion. His career prospects looked very good; however, he was diagnosed with TBI/PTSD after being blown up too many times and subsequently medically retired from the army. So, I think he’s a good example to look at. I asked him if he felt like he was successful. Here is his reply.

“Dude, all three of my platoon leaders stayed in the Army for company command. All three had successful combat commands and their companies were selected as the best in three different brigades. Now, they are off instructing Ranger School, preparing to teach at USMA, and one other one is headed off to Serbia for the Ulmstead Scholarship. My former NCO’s are all grown up and running as well- fast tracking from E5/E6 to E7/E8 and running platoons and companies. Dude, I’m so proud of my boys. As I look at the impact that they are having, I am just so proud at what we have accomplished, and I like to think that I played an influential role in their development. I feel like a proud older brother.”

Given his statement, I would say that it’s not simply being a team player. Rather, it’s building influential teams and transformational leaders. Sometimes, the most impact is looking down and not up or left/right.

For the second point, is there a difference between a Captain Carlson forcing the military to keep up with technology verse a Jim Gant trying to sell VSO’s and One Tribe at a Time?

I think so, and I believe that it takes different qualities, but I’m not sure exactly how to quantify it.

I’m not sure if it’s innovation, disruptive, social entrepreneur, creative, or venture capitalist?

And, if I can draw upon COL Gian Gentile for a minute, is Carlson or Gant any different from the tankers who figured out how to maneuver through the hedgerows in WWII or the Bing West and others conducting CAPS in Vietnam?

If we dig deeper back in history, then we can look at the effects that GEN Winfield Scott and Fox Conner had on leaders in both the Civil War and WWII.

Looking forward to your reactions/reply.

Mr. Few,
Those are two great points.
1. I agree, great leaders produce great teams and subordinates which creates results. However, at some point the rubber has to meet the road and someone is going to have to make a decision. A great leader is going to have to lead. He or she will have to make the decision to change how we fight the insurgency, create the “nuclear Navy”, develop the OODA loop, implement the surge etc. Somebody has to make hard choices. If we’re lucky the person who is “disruptive” enough to steer the ship in a different direction is a good enough leader that he/she can also positively influence their subordinates.

2. To address the Technical and Tactical changes vs. Strategic/Operational Changes I agree…to a point. Often time making any sort of change, both tactical and strategic, is about changing mindsets. With the iPad the most difficult problems were not necessarily technical, but bureaucratic. Getting people to believe that paper maps were outdated and difficult to work with was incredibly hard to do at times.

A similar problem often occurs at the strategic level, just on a larger scale. I’m sure that many here remember the months following the original invasion of Iraq when the insurgency was just beginning. For a long time the military was convinced that it could defeat the military by killing X number of insurgents. Remember the military declaring victory because we had killed all of the insurgents? How about when we declared victory for capturing Saddam? It took a long time to convince leadership that this was a full blown insurgency and that you couldn’t fight it using conventional methods.

While I am by no means a COIN expert, it seems that the tactical and strategic blend together when fighting an insurgency. Reminds me of Capt Patriquin’s famous power point presentation on the insurgency (http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/how_to_win_in_anbar_v4.pdf).

I completely agree that change takes time in a large organization like the military. But at some point during a war we have to take bold action to save lives. Why did it take 5 years of war to fix how Army commanders talked to Air Force CAS aircraft? America’s involvement in World War II was over in 4 years. Even after 5 years of ineffective CAS procedures it took “disruptive” commanders willing to break the rules to get changes done. These are the type of leaders that we are looking for, I wish we had more like them. How many lives could have been saved if we had done this earlier?

I’m happy to hear that there are men like your Company commander and his subordinates exist. In the grand scheme of things I’m optimistic about the future of the military. Despite all of the negatives that the last 11 years of war have brought we have produced some great leaders who will lead the next generation of military leaders.

Mr. Few,
Those are two great points.
1. I agree, great leaders produce great teams and subordinates which creates results. However, at some point the rubber has to meet the road and someone is going to have to make a decision. A great leader is going to have to lead. He or she will have to make the decision to change how we fight the insurgency, create the “nuclear Navy”, develop the OODA loop, implement the surge etc. Somebody has to make hard choices. If we’re lucky the person who is “disruptive” enough to steer the ship in a different direction is a good enough leader that he/she can also positively influence their subordinates.

2. To address the Technical and Tactical changes vs. Strategic/Operational Changes I agree…to a point. Often time making any sort of change, both tactical and strategic, is about changing mindsets. With the iPad the most difficult problems were not necessarily technical, but bureaucratic. Getting people to believe that paper maps were outdated and difficult to work with was incredibly hard to do at times.

A similar problem often occurs at the strategic level, just on a larger scale. I’m sure that many here remember the months following the original invasion of Iraq when the insurgency was just beginning. For a long time the military was convinced that it could defeat the military by killing X number of insurgents. Remember the military declaring victory because we had killed all of the insurgents? How about when we declared victory for capturing Saddam? It took a long time to convince leadership that this was a full blown insurgency and that you couldn’t fight it using conventional methods.

While I am by no means a COIN expert, it seems that the tactical and strategic blend together when fighting an insurgency. Reminds me of Capt Patriquin’s famous power point presentation on the insurgency (http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/how_to_win_in_anbar_v4.pdf).

I completely agree that change takes time in a large organization like the military. But at some point during a war we have to take bold action to save lives. Why did it take 5 years of war to fix how Army commanders talked to Air Force CAS aircraft? America’s involvement in World War II was over in 4 years. Even after 5 years of ineffective CAS procedures it took “disruptive” commanders willing to break the rules to get changes done. These are the type of leaders that we are looking for, I wish we had more like them. How many lives could have been saved if we had done this earlier?

I’m happy to hear that there are men like your Company commander and his subordinates exist. In the grand scheme of things I’m optimistic about the future of the military. Despite all of the negatives that the last 11 years of war have brought we have produced some great leaders who will lead the next generation of military leaders.

On my first military tour of Afghanistan in 2002 I was astonished at the lack of ability to retain corporate knowledge from one tour to the next.

On my second in 2004 I mashed together a copy of Falcon View liberated from our American colleagues and MS Access to form a rudimentary Geo Spatial Information system. The improvement in our ability to analyse data was astonishing.

I then left the army and spent 4 depressing years in defence procurement boring everyone with the need for 'dots on maps'. In the procurement chain there was no sense that this was a war effort and people kept talking about 6 year programme cycles. As I tried to stress, 'we're losing two strategic wars for all the wrong reasons'. The real frustration was we could have developed a working solution that would have delivered immediate operational benefit for much less than 100,000 pounds.

For anyone reading this article who has not been on the receiving end of the defence procurement system do not think this is an isolated case. Defence technology is falling dangerously behind commercial technology and the only way for our service men and women to compete against an enemy who can get their information systems from the high street is to break the rules and occasionally the law and put their own cutting edge technology into the fight.

I commend all those involved in this iPad mash-up.

Two points just to flesh out the backstory a bit:

(1) Capt Christman's article tactfully understates lack of cooperation up the direct acquisitions food chain. Kudos to the inventiveness and persistence of the principals and of the rapid prototyping folks out at China Lake.

(2) LtCol Bufkin and co-authors outlined the procedural/comm/cultural problems in early OEF CAS in a 2003 paper published in 'Field Artillery' which can be found at: http://www.romad.com/press/Fieldartillerymagazine2003.pdf

As Mike F notes and as I've heard from folks who've worked air on both ends in recent years, CAS procedures surely have improved.

Hi Michael,

The anecdote of Captain Carlson and the Ipad is a good one of innovation in combat over the last decade. Without using the “disruptive” label, I think we can look at it as ONE example among many that I will list below. Honestly, in my experience, the Carlson’s are the norm rather than the exception of good leaders in combat.

1. 2003. Blue Force Tracker and the first round of net-centric technology allowed, for the first time, friendly forces to see each other in real time. At the time, this was revolutionary to the point that Pentagon folks watched the Thunder Runs as they were happening. I cannot even estimate the number of blue on blue incidents that were avoided thanks to this technology.

2. 2003-04. Training to realistic standards. The first wave of “Thunder Run” vets pushed bases at Fort Stewart, Fort Knox, and Fort Carson to allow realistic training by firing M4’s off non-stable platforms in order to simulate combat conditions overcoming a two decades old restrictions by range control. Commanding Generals signed off and this type of training is now standardized.

3. 2003-04. Armor officers report back on the need for infantry cross-training for Iraq. Commanding Generals accept the need to overcome “death before dismount,” and basic infantry training, room clearing, become standardized training. Additionally, armor units begin receiving slots to sniper, RSLC, and Ranger school.

4. 2005. CIDNE. MNC-I instituted an intelligence collection database for crowd-sourcing across the fighting force that flattened the horizontal and vertical intel channels. While not perfect, this system allowed a ground commander or intel analysts to reach in and see the battlefield.

5. 2005-06. After years of non-communication at the higher levels, SF and GPF began collaborating.

6. 2006- Flattening the communication structure between Army and Air Force for CAS. Pre-2006, a ground commander and pilot had to talk through layers of other folks in order to coordinate and clear fires. Several innovative and impatient Army commanders on the ground decided to break the rules and start talking directly to the pilots. With their proven success, the standard operations procedures changed and now this type of communication is standardized.

7. 2006. Army units began testing handheld Blue Force Trackers.

8. 2006. During a visit by the Secretary of the Army to Iraq, Army company commanders explained that Blue Force trackers and FBCB2 were great, but too bulky and not keeping up with civilian technology. They explained that their Iphones were more effective and asked that the military begin to keep pace by exploiting civilian technology.

9. 2007. Marine Captains begin testing Iphone apps for census and intel collection and dissemination at the Naval Postgraduate School.

10. 2009. Iphones apps are fielded in A’stan.

These examples are ones that I personally observed. There are many, many more.

Are structural changes needed to our personnel and acquisition systems? Yes.

Is this disruptive thinking or just good leaders doing their jobs and fulfilling their duty to complete the mission? I would propose the latter.