The Minute Book
Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Command and Control in the Militia Unit
Topic: Canadian Militia

Command and Control in the Militia Unit

Canada's Militia; A Heritage at Risk, T.C. Willey, 1987 (Originally published under the title "A Heritage at Risk: The Canadian Militia as a Social Institution")

At the strictly functional level, the British format is followed; each regiment has a lieutenant colonel as CO with a major as deputy CO (DCO), one departure from the British use of second in command or 2ic, who might or might not be next in line for command when the CO's three-year tour ends) and majors in command of squadrons, batteries, or companies. According to tradition, COs are supposed to be autonomous—"gods in their own bailiwick"—but this is not a principle that fits into the kind of formal organization that exists in the CF that envisions incumbencies as bureaus in the truly Weberian sense that the main concern is the carrying out of the functions prescribed by the system with a minimum of individual eccentricity. And though the same ideal of autonomy is supposed to apply to majors commanding squadrons and so on, the small size of the regiments and the prevailing system ensures that independence is a ritual only. Another British tradition that is followed in Militia (and regular) regiments is the appointment of a captain as adjutant; this can be a highly influential position because the incumbent is, in effect, the CO's personal staff officer and can be closer in confidence to the CO than any other officer. The adjutant's formal responsibility is to supervise the administration of operational and personnel business, including everything to do with discipline. Hence, there is a lot in the view that the incumbent has "more power than anyone else in this oufit 'cos he knows all the dirt and where to sweep it" as one disgruntled major put it. The amount of work is considerable, and it is not surprising that most regiments have an assistant adjutant to do the routine work; today, the incumbent is often a woman. It is also a post that can overlap that of the regular captain of the RSS.

An officer whose influence can be considerable, if the CO and the adjutant choose to follow this originally British custom, is the senior lieutenant, usually called the senior subaltern. This officer is charged with socializing the other subalterns and officer-cadets according to the traditions of the officers' mess; hence, the incumbent is usually the right hand of the major who is president of the mess committee (PMC) and might often be its secretary also. (Regiments run their own officers' and sergeants' messes according to rules that involve complex accounting and audit procedures that have to be done by the members and consume a lot of time. In some regiments the funds can be considerable, and they have not been unknown to go astray to the equally considerable embarrassment of the members concerned.) The senior subaltern is often peculiarly well informed about the feelings of the officers and to many COs is a valuable conduit to supplement the role of adjutant, an arrangement that can leave the DCO—and the other majors—outside unless the CO makes an unusual effort to ensure it does not happen. (Hence, the DCO's role can be nebulous and difficult to fill in actuality, it is hardly one for a commanding personality, yet it is nominally the one preceding command.)

The RSM, or the CWO, is joined by the CO and the adjutant in what is sometimes blasphemously known as the holy trinity of the regiment. He (as far as I know there are no women as yet) is the boss of all the noncommissioned ranks, to whom his word is law and his appearance a signal for deference appropriate to a model of what a soldier should be. He is expected to be an encyclopedia of ceremonial protocol and disciplinary procedures, and in battle he runs the regimental HQ for the adjutant. Out of battle he has the difficult task of sharing a lot of the latter concerns with the sergeant or staff sergeant who is chief clerk and equally privy to "the dirt"!

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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