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Command Tasks

The outdoor command tasks take place on the morning of the third day of AOSB Main Board. This assessment can make or break your ambition to become an Army Officer and is renowned as a key tool for evaluating your leadership ability. This page will provide you with a proven format and tools that you can utilise to lead a successful command task.

Purpose

The purpose of a command task is to assess your ability to exercise leadership, through the command and control of a team to achieve a mission. Through the process of attempting to achieve this task the observers will evaluate your ability to think logically, exert your will on others and make decisions under pressure. It also provides a means of exploring your team working skills, flexibility of thought and your ability to function under pressure.

Format

You will be split into groups of 8 and each take turns in leading a different task. A typical command task will require the group to solve a problem or move, perhaps with some additional items and (burdens), to the far side of an obstacle. This must be done within the constraints of certain rules. The Group Leader will brief you and give you a few minutes to develop a plan. You then explain the task and your plan to the rest of the group before executing it.

Initial Briefing

When it is your turn to lead a command task you will receive a brief from your Group Leader who will explain exactly what you are required to do. It is essential that you pay attention and ensure that you understand the details of the problem. If you have the opportunity it might be useful to take notes in a small notebook. You will be told how much time you have to complete the task, together with the specific rules that must be obeyed. You will be given the chance to ask questions about anything you are unsure about. Ensure that you use this opportunity to ask questions before making any assumptions, if you don’t understand the problem you have no chance of successfully leading your group.

Forming Your Plan

You will be given a couple of minutes to think about your plan before beginning the task. This is the usually the moment that candidates tend to panic. In most situations the approach you should take to complete the task will seem obvious. You must try to anticipate potential problems and consider the alternative options available if things go wrong. Do not over-think the problem, it is not necessary for you to have all the answers - you should focus on the bigger picture. Don’t worry if there are gaps in your plan when you run out of thinking time. In a few moments you will have seven other Potential Officers whose brains you can pick for those finer details.

Briefing Your Group

You will be told when to call your group and brief them on the problem. Your time will begin as soon as the group arrive so you must time your brief to achieve a compromise between detail and getting on with the job. When speaking to the group, it is essential that you present yourself in a confident and positive manner. This will enhance your credibility and enable you to establish a position of authority that will set the tempo for the task ahead. I have seen tasks achieved or failed by the quality, impact and delivery of the initial brief. Try to recall as much of the scenario as possible, and include all the details of what you are required to do – refer to your notes if necessary. Ensure that you communicate all timings, rules and constraints to ensure that all members understand the problem before introducing your plan.

The delivery of your plan must be assured, energetic and robust. You must reinforce your role as the leader by exerting your passion and personality to motivate the group and inspire success. You need to decide if it is worthwhile asking the group for feedback on your plan of if they can see an alternative solution. This may be a useful approach if you are struggling to identify the best solution, but can also be a double edged sword. There is a risk that initiating a discussion could cost you time and potentially undermine your position as the leader. Once you have considered the options available you must make a decision. If someone has suggested a good idea that you want to use, have the humility to take it on board, develop it further and make it your own.

Finally, Do not spend too much time in discussion, you should devote no more than 10% of the total time to briefing the group. Now get on with the job!

Keeping Time

It is essential that you manage your time throughout the task. The best way of doing this is to appoint a timekeeper before you begin your initial brief. The most effective way to keep track of time is to instruct your timekeeper to shout out the time remaining every minute. This will enable you to focus on leading the group and deal with problems. If you need to buy a watch and are looking for advice on the best type of  watch for Army use visit my Kit and Equipment recommendations to find the best tactical watch for AOSB and training at Sandhurst.

Evaluate, Adapt and Overcome

Things will not always go to plan. Once you start the task you may well discover that the awesome plan you decided to run with is not going to work. At this point you must take positive action to get things back on track. There is no benefit to burying your head in the sand in the hope that things will sort themselves out; you are the leader – deal with it. Have the confidence to stop all activity and change your plan if things are not working, there is nothing wrong with this. It is in fact a strategy that the military employ on worryingly regular basis!  

Lead the Task

As the leader of a task your mind is going to be on overdrive, constantly analysing the problem, monitoring progress and directing your team. When observing a command task, one of the fundamental qualities that the staff will be looking for is your ability to promote and maintain a sense of urgency. You must not allow momentum to grind to a halt. If you notice this happening this is an ideal opportunity to seize the initiative an inject motivation in the group.

Potential Army Officers are a cunning breed and like you, will be strong headed and ambitious. You will quickly identify those members of your group who have a natural tendency (intentional or not) to dominate the task. You must ensure that your position as the leader of the group does not become compromised by allowing another candidate to take over. In rare circumstances it may be necessary to remind certain individuals that you are the leader and ‘this is how things will be done’. This should be done in a fair, confident and robust manner; the essence of leadership.

Being a team player

As a team of 8 you can expect to go through the same number of command tasks in quick succession. Be under no illusion, that you will be continually assessed throughout all tasks, even when you are not leading them. How you operate when you think you are not in the spotlight can provide and an extremely telling indication of your team working skills. As a team member there are several things you can do to assist the leader, and at the same time gain recognition for your proactive contributions.

The team leader may require your assistance in developing their plan. When requested do not be afraid to offer your advice and suggestions and contribute to the plan. Guard against giving the impression that you are trying to dominate the group. If the designated leader is providing no direction and making no effort to motivate the group you will need to make a judgement as to how you proceed. If you can blatantly see that something is going to go wrong or have identified a fundamental flaw in the plan, it is your duty to intervene and bring this to the attention of the leader. Do not stand by and allow your leader to fail, you will gain significantly more credit by supporting them make the task a success.

Breaking the Rules

Now you have read this far I expect that you will already have done a lot of research into how to become and Army Officer. If this is the case you will be well aware that your integrity is considered to be one of the fundamental qualities you must demonstrate. Every command task will be governed by a set of rules and restrictions, perhaps you may not touch the ground or enter a certain ‘danger zone’. The observers will be on the lookout for breaches of these rules and penalties will be issued where necessary (e.g. you may have to go back to a previous stage). There is nothing particularly devastating about accidentally breaking the rules, it will happen, get on with it.

However, a sure way to failure is to attempt to conceal, ignore or deny a blatant infringement of a rule. This will bring your integrity into disrepute, in which case your holiday at Westbury will come to an abrupt conclusion. If you make a mistake, raise your hand, inform the staff and accept the penalty. Do not waste time contesting or disputing a decision, this will not create the right impression. Accept the judgement of the observer, even if they have got it wrong.