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The Readiness concept: From the individual mindset to HQ procedures

Is the individual soldier the key to guaranteeing the Alliance a reliable reaction force?

The word "readiness" is associated with the verb "to ride". In ancient English it referred to a horse that was prepared and ready to be ridden.

In Latin, the word that refers to readiness is the verb "parare" which means to prepare, the past participle is "promptus" (ready) and from this the Italian word "prontezza". Readiness is part of our lives as human beings. 

The concept of readiness relates to the acceptance of risk and the likelihood that it will materialize and have an impact, usually negative, on our lives. The ability to successfully manage the risk that materializes in a problem is a complex activity that involves many factors (organization, procedures, materials, equipment, personnel), all of which are crucial to minimizing the risk or solving the problem, but the key role is, as always, the personnel, as the trigger for everything.  

If the individual is not trained, mentally and physically ready, it will not be enough to have perfect plans and procedures, the best tools and materials, the most accurate information about the situation on the ground and what is likely to happen in the future. The individual mindset is crucial to the success of overcoming and resolving a situation, but in civilian life experience teaches us that not all people think about the future and risks, which is why insurance or pensions exist.  

Civilians cover the services used to afford such risks, but this is not the case for the armed forces. The armed forces are under the control of the State and respond to politicians as an instrument designed, prepared and trained to conduct operations across the military spectrum. In fact, the armed forces can address different emergencies, some of which do not require the use of force, such as humanitarian aid or disaster relief, others, such as warfighting or counter-terrorism operations, require the use of weapons systems. 

In any armed forces organization, the forces are organized to provide the most appropriate response to the various activations in a timely manner, so they are differentiated into different levels, which can be distinguished by the time required to produce effects in a given timeframe. 

The agility of forces is another criterion, which could hamper the quick deployment of a force – moving tanks, requires more time than moving light troops – however, sometimes rapidity is more important than weight of forces to allow and facilitate deterrence and the decision-making authorities. 

The best solution to be able to react in different situations is to have different types of forces (light/medium/heavy) with differentiated readiness. In any case, as the time available to act or react diminishes, so it becomes increasingly necessary to have personnel with the ability to adapt, with the ability to deploy, with the willingness to accept challenges, and with the readiness and motivation to carry out the mission successfully. 

A UK report commissioned by the House of Commons and published in February 2024, "Ready for War?" defines readiness as the ability to deploy personnel and equipment within a specified timeframe, to train personnel to use that equipment effectively, and for the armed forces to be able to sustain the deployment until the mission is accomplished. 

The report identifies the following kinds of readiness:

  • Operational readiness: the ability to deploy a force for a standing commitment or respond to a crisis
  • Warfighting readiness: the ability to deploy and sustain a force that can fight at high intensity in multiple domains for a prolonged period of time
  • Strategic readiness: the ability of the state to identify and utilize all the tools available to it to support a warfighting effort

Readiness – in terms of personnel, equipment, training and sustainment – is part of the physical component of fighting power (see figure below), but also involves some aspects of the moral and conceptual components.

Fighting power - UK Defence Doctrine, JDP0–01 Sixth Edition, (November 2022)

NATO Strategic Concept 2022 and the outcomes of the Vilnius Summit (July 2023) led NATO to three main core tasks: deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security. 

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, NATO responded by deploying high-readiness elements of the NATO Response Force (NRF) for the first time in a deterrence and defense role. Prior to 2022, the NRF had only been activated for humanitarian aid or disaster relief on a few occasions (2004 to secure the Summer Olympics in Athens, 2005 to deliver supplies to the US following Hurricane Katrina and in Pakistan following a major earthquake). 

Thousands of NATO troops and a wide range of assets have been placed on high alert within the NRF to ensure the capability to defend NATO's land, air and maritime domains. The implication of Russian aggression is that the Euro-Atlantic area is no longer in peacetime and that a new NATO force model is needed to replace the NRF, which is no longer able to respond to the new challenges and threats. A response force of increased size and readiness is needed. The force is being increased from 40,000 to 300,000, with varying levels of high readiness across the land, sea, air and cyber domains. Meanwhile, technologies are having an increasing impact on security and require a change in NATO's mindset. 

The Allied Reaction Force (ARF) is a critical component of NATO's new force model in support of the Deterrence and Defense Concept.

NRDC-ITA, as the ARF HQ, must be ready to conduct multi-domain, multi-speed, multi-scale operations and produce effects in and out of Europe at very short notice. For the NRDC-ITA staff, this new appointment means a change in mindset as regards preparedness. Although the general concept of readiness of forces is built on different tiers, the key message is to be aware that new threats lead to a shorter time to react, and with less time to react, it is paramount to prepare as much as possible before the ARF is activated. 

Each troop-contributing nation, which is responsible for providing trained, equipped and certified forces and individual soldiers at the appropriate level of readiness to meet minimum military requirements, must invest more in the preparation of its forces, with particular emphasis on the readiness mindset of personnel.

Since the nature of an operation may impose specific or additional requirements (particularly in terms of logistics and equipment preparation), the key to success is to think in advance about what kind of weapons, materiel, procedures and equipment might be needed for a particular theatre of operations. Other required improvements could be in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, etc. In addition, it is becoming increasingly necessary to capture and record lessons learnt during exercises or Enhanced Vigilance Activities. The more real-time the exercise, the more effective it becomes. Waiting until the end of an operation to review the lessons identified may reduce their impact and lose an advantage. 

It is important to stress that individual readiness is a key element in ensuring the availability of NATO’s HQ and forces for the full range of Alliance missions. To be ready as soldiers, our families should be trained to continue normal life without our physical presence and so in this regard NRDC-ITA tries to help our families and puts a huge amount of resources into enhancing family support. 

Whatever the role of NRDC-ITA HQ, it is considered necessary to ensure that all NRDC-ITA staff are trained and ready for deployment in a timely manner and meet selected prerequisites. The personnel must be ready in terms of individual administrative requirements, individual and collective training, medical and physical standards, but also mentally ready to leave one's ordinary life and family, and to carry out any mission received, where ordered. 

That is why we must be "IN OMNIA PARATUS", ready for everything.

Story by Lieutenant Colonel Paolo Federico FASCELLA (ITA Army - NRDC-ITA)


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