Gingrich named Master Tactician.

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Five months of competition will culminate in Maj. Dana Gingrich being presented the General George S. Patton Jr. Distinguished Master Tactician Award during the Command and General Staff Officer Course graduation ceremony June 14 on Main Parade.

“It is pretty awesome because it aligns with my goals for the year,” Gingrich said. “I really saw this as an opportunity to re-hone my tactical skills. I felt like I learned a different breadth and depth of my tactical knowledge and refined it in each of the different phases.

“I feel like I’ve grown as a tactician, and it is just pretty special to get to represent the infantry and the school as Master Tactician,” he said.

The Command and General Staff College established the award in 1983.

“(The award was established) to provide an academically and professionally challenging forum for students who demonstrate special aptitude for tactics,” said Timothy McKane, CGSC Department of Army Tactics assistant professor and Master Tactician Program committee chair. “The intricacies of modern warfare have reinforced the Army’s need for exceptionally competent tacticians at all levels of warfare, particularly practitioners of operational art that understand the application of fire and maneuver.

“General Patton achieved legendary status as one of America’s greatest tacticians. He was an avid student of military history and arguably one of our greatest battlefield generals that the American Army ever produced,” he said. “General Patton had an almost innate ability to synchronize combined arms maneuver. It seems only fitting to name the Distinguished Master Tactician award for one of our Army’s best leaders.”

The competition began in January when 135 CGSOC students competed in phase one: a written exam that covered basic tactical knowledge.

“Each phase challenged me in a different way,” Gingrich said. “The first phase was doctrinal knowledge — so how much of our doctrine do you know?”

Approximately 30 competitors moved on to the second phase where they had to design solutions to three different tactical problems with only one hour per problem. During this phase, the faculty graded each competitor based on the use of sound doctrine, completeness and innovation.

Gingrich said phase two was the most challenging for him.

“(Phase two) really challenged my decisiveness on what decisions did I need to make to create a complete plan, and then where could I assume risk,” Gingrich said. “It was a trade-off, all within a time-constrained environment, so that added an element of stress to it.

“I knew I was submitting a plan that could’ve been better,” he said.

Four competitors advanced to the third phase where each had a week to take a brigade operation order and turn it into a battalion plan.

“You produce a full written order, then brief the plan,” Gingrich said. “There is also a series of tactical decision games where they put you in the role of being the commander and then assess how you react and make decisions.

“The real rigor in that is, normally, as an operations officer, you will have an entire staff to support you, so you have to take the role of each one of the staff functions to produce, for example, a fires plan, an intelligence plan, a logistics plan that all support the overall operations order,” he said. “It was about 50 hours of time committed outside of class within that week to produce it.”

Though it was rigorous, Gingrich said phase three was a great learning experience.

“Now I understand the level of effort and detail that goes into each one of those functions, so now I can be a better coach and mentor to the members of the staff in my next role,” he said.

Lt. Col. Nick Bilotta, CGSC tactics instructor and Master Tactician Program committee chair, said Gingrich’s performance throughout the program was exceptional, standing out in two areas.

“One, was his ability to communicate effectively. He translated his plan very well,” Bilotta said. “Second, was we put them in a rapid decision-making exercise, so his ability to quickly assess the situation, exercise good judgement and then make a good decision over and over during that phase set him apart from his peers.”

Gingrich said participating in the competition was the culmination of everything he learned in CGSOC.

“They teach us a lot, but the level of depth that you can get into in the classroom is only so much,” Gingrich said. “You only get one repetition and then you’re moving on to the next phase and then you do another repetition and are given a different scenario.

“I think I will reflect back as the Master Tactician competition being one of the high points of my CGSOC experience,” he said.

Following graduation, Gingrich will serve with the Special Troops Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in Fort Benning, Ga.