What is a Military to Military Event?

AWC 2013 10 09 2After sitting in 26 USAFRICOM Resource to Strategy Working Group (RSWG) hourly sessions, over four days during this past week’s conference, one of the top three things that stood out to me is that few of the OSCs understood what an actual Military to Military (M2M) event is. This blog will lay out what an M2M is, what it isn’t; and how to fund, design, and execute it. M2M events require a lot of staff work for little effort.  However, stretched over time, and also synchronized with other programs, M2M events can be one of the premier relationship building events an OSC can manage.

What is an M2M event, or better yet what is it not?  M2Ms are not solely one military interacting with another.  That is considered an engagement. Key Leader Engagements, Senior Leader Engagements, Military Training Teams (MTT), or country coordination meetings (CCM) are not M2Ms.  M2Ms are not training; they are legally interpreted and designed to be short-term (3 to 10 days), small staffs (1 to 3 people) and oriented around “sharing of best practices.”  I hate that last phrase, but at the same time as an OSC, it is your legally delegated position to ensure M2M events do not transition into training.

M2M events equate to two types of events: Tactical Contact Teams (TCT) or Familiarization Visits (FAM). TCTs are in Africa and FAMs are in the United States.  TCTs are funded through one fund, and FAMs through another, but their intent is the same: Familiarization.  Familiarization is the key.  You show me and tell me how you do yours, and I show and tell you about mine.

M2M events are among personnel of similar training levels within their same warfighting function: intel sergeants to intel sergeants, medics to medics, etc.  When you have an Intel Captain talking to an Intel private, you more than likely have changed the scope towards training.  Most of the world’s militaries view the United States as the premier warfighting military that it is, and they are ripe to absorb our lessons learned.  M2M events are the time to show those lessons learned to foreign military members already trained in their MOS.

Our military members should have a basic knowledge of the partner nation’s military and be able to ask them about their lessons learned in a particular engagement within their country or a recent peacekeeping mission.  Of course, there will be specific areas in Africa where our forces should avoid from asking about lessons learned. A last coup d’etat attempt, maybe a protracted civil war, tensions with their neighboring countries, etc. are all examples of areas to stay away from.  The OSC should have already identified these areas and briefed the military members upon arrival in the country.  A cultural misstep can quickly degrade the intent of the overall M2M event.

When do you submit your requests?

Every year around March to April the combatant command J5 staff will begin the M2M request process. Unfortunately, this is five to six months past the time they should start.  The Army component has more than likely already started planning its M2M events in support of its campaign support plan. If your country has a State Partnership Program, then that state has also already planned and submitted its M2M events for annual funding.  When you receive the call out message from the USAFRICOM J5 you should have already done the following things:

–    Create a spreadsheet of typical TDY costs to your country (plane tickets from the US, hotel costs, translation costs, interpreter costs, daily MI&E rate, etc.)  What does it cost per day per person for a U.S. military member to be in your country TDY?

–    What are the restrictions/limitations on TDYers based upon your nations current status, i.e., How long does it take to get a visa? Do they require specialized training?

–    What are the times of the year that your partner nation will not be available?  What are their Muslim or Christian holidays, regular rest/vacation periods, or their yearly training, deployment, or budget cycles?

–    Understand the USAFRICOM M2M concept sheet and what information the J5 will ask you.

Ideally, OSCs and their J5 desk officers should identify M2M events (TCTs and FAMs) along with SFA proposals as part of the overall capability package they are introducing at the RWSG.  M2M TCT events can inform an SFA proposal (conduct an assessment), they can lead up to an SFA event (design a National Counterterrorism Strategy event), and they can follow on after an SFA event (AM&E, further refinement of training events, or After Action Review comments).  M2M FAM events can further expose our partners to how the U.S. military conducts itself, while also revealing our partners to American culture.  No matter what activity you plan, it should have a clear outcome or output you are looking for.

Now that you have all your tools available and you understand what an actual M2M event is – how do you design, submit, and fund it?  First of all, a couple of things not to do to ensure a successful event:

–    Don’t plan a three-day event – by the time the military member gets to your country and understands the partner nation they will be on their third day.  Make each event five working days at a minimum. The total number of travel days should be less than the number of work days.  A smart OSC would plan a two week M2M – using the same two to three-day event concept at numerous battalions, brigade, divisions, etc.  The M2M could also share the same best practices at different units and still be considered an M2M and not a training event.  The same people can do various events at different places staying within the 3 to 5-days limit.

–    Don’t bring more than three people – your cost ceiling matters during the approval process.  More people equate to more money.  Think about how many people need to come to do this.

–    Don’t waste the military members time with U.S. Embassy events or meetings.  They only are there for a short time, have the SDO/DATT meet them at the hotel or on-site during the event.  Every hour of their time they are not engaging with the partner nation is a waste of government funding.

An M2M event takes less than 90 days to plan and source unless you are going through a component.  Knowing the system is half of getting the event.  Link it to an LOE, SLE, or an SFA event.  Give it purpose, unless it is a “one-off.” If it is a one-off event explain why we are spending $25k for that.  Do not be afraid to fight for a one-off event, especially if you can link it to something the broader U.S. Embassy is doing.

Show me the money!

How do you fund an M2M event? TCTs are supported by the Combatant Command or the Service Component.  Your Combatant Command and each component have their own funds.  You should fight for the Combatant Command funds as they can task the component to execute the event and also provide the funding.  When the Combatant Command tasks a Component without funding it’s like telling someone to order drinks without paying for them – win/lose.  This results in these two units arguing amongst themselves as to who funds your event.  Therefore, a five-day event becomes a lot of drama and work. You should know whether or not a component wants to support your event; their desk officer can give you insight into their priorities versus the Combatant Commands. Money is money – if they don’t fund it, it will not be executed.  The Army Component and Combatant Command’s M2M budgets both are over $1M a year – plenty of funds.

Familiarization Visits (FAM)

Familiarization visits are controlled and funded by the Combatant Command.  You can execute a FAM without a component, but it will be more work for you.  Components are typically tasked to implement FAMs because of the flavor of the service and where you want to take your partner nation. For example, escorting your partner nation’s G3 Training officer to the Grafenwoehr Training Area for a 45-day embedded experience during a U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team (BCT) would be tasked to the Army Service Component Command for execution. Taking your academy instructor to visit the U.S. Naval Academy would require coordination through your naval component. Therefore, most FAMs require coordination with the service component; however, if the component pushes back I suggest you go directly to the unit or base you desire to visit.  The unit you are visiting will more than likely be happy to accompany your request.  Don’t take the components no; they are saying no because they don’t want to do the work.  If they so no, do the job yourself.

FAMs are expensive ($5k on average per person) and create some drama as more than likely the number of personnel the partner nation nominates will exceed the funding requested.  The Combatant Command receives a yearly allocation for FAMs and can fund them less than 60 days out.  However, as with anything, it is best to put the request in the system early, with an excellent estimated cost analysis, and a detailed concept sheet.  The most significant hurdle with a FAM is the Foreign Visitors Request (FVR) if you plan to enter a U.S. military installation.  This is at least a 45-day process, if not 90 days.  Escort the FAM participants yourself, or if you are overworked, work within your country team for other escorts.

M2Ms are a lot of work, but for countries that don’t get any SFA, they are essential.  You should convince your Combatant and Component desk officers of this.   Lastly, look at the picture I used here, I’m showing the partner nation how to use a PVS-7B: is that training or an M2M event?

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