Applied Command Principles in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest AD 9

Research the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9.
Key point: Address at least four of the six Mission Command Principles that Arminius used to lead the Germanic tribes to defeat Publuis Quinctilius Varus and his Roman legions in AD 9.
Briefly discuss the opposing commanders and their armies, as well as how Arminius used the terrain and his knowledge of roman war-fighting tactics to his advantage.

It was during the summer period of 9 AD that Varus organized three Legion groups to execute a rebellion against numerous rebellions along the territorial boundaries. To back up, the three Legions were the squadrons of Calvary and six cohorts of auxiliaries. The army also received support from German fighters led by Arminius, in total making up an army of over twenty thousand troops. Ironically, the German forces led by Arminius had a plot against the Romans led by Varus. The Roman standard war formations were broken by the narrow paths, making them vulnerable to attackers from the German tribesmen.[1] On the other hand, the betrayal by Arminius and his men made the situation worse for the Romans, considering that they understood all the Roman tactics, hence countering them with ease. By managing to disperse the Romans from their normal war formation, it became easier for the Germans to attack them the entire day. The final decision that Varus made which eventually cost them was deciding to continue fighting the following night instead of setting up a night camp. As his men became more tired of continuous fighting, they threw their armor to ease their march, only to find themselves in the hands of the enemy.[2] The Kalkriese Hill limited their marching width, and in addition, the Germans had set a trap using trenches, blocking roads and wooden walls on the side. Unknowingly, the Romans entered the trap zone where they were mercilessly attacked by the Germans, killing most of their men and others such as Varus committed suicide to avoid being captured.[3] The battle ended the expansion of the Roman Empire further into the German territory. The paper analyzes the various mission command principles employed by the army leaders during the fight.

The Leader’s Command Principles

Build Cohesive Teams through a Mutual Trust

From the analysis of the battle, it is evident that Varus understood the power of unity and teamwork towards defeating an enemy. Based on his leadership skills and mutual trust, Varus was able to bring together three Legion groups, six cohorts of auxiliaries, three squadrons of cavalry, and the German troops to form a formidable army of about twenty thousand troops, all united to fight the local tribesmen along the territorial borders.[4] The troops were well bonded considering that they all were conversant with the Roman battle formation and tactics, thereby easily fitting into one command led by Varus. As a sign of teamwork, all the fighters maintained the marching formation from the start to the end, without a single group going against the strategy. Varus trusted all his team members to the extent that he rubbished the claims made by Segestes, a tribesman whose daughter had been married by Arminius that the German commander was plotting a plan against him. On the other hand, Arminius capitalizing on his leadership skills and trustworthiness managed to secretly contact and organize other German tribes like the Marsi, Cherusci, Chanci, and Bructeri, among others, into making a stronger rebel movement against the Romans, resulting in the fiercest battles in history.[5] The German tribes trusted Arminius despite having been part of the Roman team, thereby making an active rebel team.

Provide a Clear Commander’s Intent

Arminius, being the commanding officer of the German troops manages to precisely deliver his intention to his troops as they get to understand that they are supporting the Romans in their fights with the rebellious natives, but the core objective is to drive them into a trap that would get them killed by the German natives.[6] The aspect of clarity is confirmed by the fact that all his troops played their roles excellently without any cases of betrayals or backbites. On the other hand, Vagus provides a clear intention of using the traditional marching formation that had previously been successful, in invading the native Germans and driving them from their villages, hence expanding their territories. The intent was clear as it is notable that all the troops were focused on one mission throughout the battle. Both commanders thereby managed to give a clear plan to their allied forces.

Exercise Disciplined Initiative

Arminius manages to exercise a disciplined initiative during their perceived teaming up with the Romans towards fighting the locals. He knew that the Romans had little knowledge of the forest terrain, thus making them vulnerable to being attacked and overwhelmed by the rebel groups. He thereby capitalized on the understanding to trick the Romans into maintaining their war formation in a terrain they did not know well, which was going to fail. Besides, the choice of the trap location was a disciplined initiative, considering that was the point under which the Roman formation would ultimately fail since the area was narrow, thus not allowing full area marching.[7] While the Romans used heavy fighting tools, they were prone to exhaustion, and to capitalize on that, Arminius ensured that his men used light swords and spears, which were less tiring to avoid cases of fatigue. As a result, they gained an advantage over the Romans. On the other hand, Vagus slightly exercised a discipline initiative by gathering enough workforce, which was estimated to be over twenty thousand before waging war on the German tribesmen. However, his estimation was shortchanged by the fact that Arminius men were against them yet in their planning they were considered part of the team. The other disciplined initiative by Vagus was allowing his soldiers to drop the heavy armor after the torrential rains downpours that made them heavier, and in so doing, they were able to march faster towards their enemies.

Accept Prudent Risk

Arminius takes a prudent risk by playing a traitor within a powerful enemy territory. By planning against his masters and the Romans who were commanded by Vagus, he greatly risked his life and that of his men.  If their plan had backfired early or if Vagus took the warnings he was given seriously, then they would have been killed mercilessly as they were less in numbers compared to the Roman troops.[8] However, the risk paid off as they were able to quickly drive the Romans into their trap and also counter their skills easily because they understood them well. On the other hand, Vagus had initially accepted prudent risk as he was planning to attack the German tribesmen who were resisting the Roman rule. In taking the risk to fight them, he would have protected the Romans stature and rule, as well as expand the Roman Empire. Also, the decision by Vagus and some of his men to commit suicide after being defeated was a means of accepting prudent risk, since it was better to be dead than be subjected to torture and humiliation by the Germans. Furthermore, it would have been a great success for the Germans to have captured a Roman commander.

Comparison between Vagus and Arminius

Vagus is a rigid military commander who observed the conventional battle rules and formations strictly. Despite noticing that the marching formation was ineffective due to the nature of the terrain, he insists on maintaining the tactic which had always worked, hence the believe that it will also work. Also, he lacks the characteristics of a good commander, who should always treat every available information as useful and also treat any outsider as a suspect. When he is tipped of a plan against him by Arminius, he ignores the information, which later cost the Roman empire. Another weakness portrayed by Vagus is the failure to sense foul play by Arminius, as all the paths taken led to compromising environments which any military commander would have been suspicious about. On the other hand, Arminius is a brilliant leader, who capitalizes on the weaknesses of his enemy to defeat them.[9] First, he capitalizes on the lack of knowledge about the forest terrain by the Romans to set a trap for them. Since the forest was a German native land, Arminius understood all the paths, hence knowing the best point of setting a trap on the Romans without raising suspicion. Also, the trust Vagus had in him acted as the greatest stepping stone to deliver on his intentions, thus playing the role of a cunning commander.[10] Arminius is an opportunistic captain; having been a Roman military scholar, he understood all the skills and tactics of the Romans as far as battles are concerned, and it is this understanding that he used to counter all their attacks efficiently, and in turn, defeating them. When the Vagus was encouraging his men to wear enough body armor, Arminius counters the tact by having his people wear and use light weaponry, a characteristic of a smart leader.

Conclusion

From the analysis, it is evident that the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD was a struggle of the brave and the smart. Two organized groups, the Romans, who wanted to defend their regime and the Germans who wanted to protect their freedom and land fought each other in one of the world’s fiercest battles of the time, which resulted in the defeat of the Romans, through a planned rebellion. The troop commanders from both sides employ tact and skills in their approaches towards winning the war. However, Arminius outsmarts Vagus by using his weaknesses to defeat him. While Vagus was rigid to the Roman military formation in a situation and environment where it failed, Arminius capitalizes on the proper understanding of Roman’s tact to counter their invasion within and to defeat them. The two leaders manage to build cohesive teams at varying levels based on a common aim that was to defend their interests. To achieve their objectives, the commanders had to undertake worthy risks and accept liabilities all in the aim of achieving success. However, the smartness of Arminius enabled him to defeat Vagus and his team, thus ending the Roman regime within the region.

Bibliography

Department of the Army. 2012. ADRP 6-0 Mission Command. May 17. Accessed May 9, 2017. https://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/adrp6_0.pdf.

Fagan, Garrett G. 2005. Great Battles of the Ancient World. June 4. Accessed May 9, 2017. https://archive.org/details/GreatBattlesOfTheAncientWorld.

McNally, Michael, and Peter Dennis. 2011. Eutoburg Forest, AD 9 : the destruction of Varus and his legions. NY: Osprey Publishing.

Murdoch, Adrian. 2013. Rome’s greatest defeat : massacre in the Teutoburg Forest. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.

Siggurdsson. 2011. Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Germans Massacre Three Roman Legions. September 12. Accessed May 9, 2017. http://burnpit.us/2011/09/battle-teutoburg-forest-germans-massacre-three-roman-legions.


[1] McNally, Michael, and Peter Dennis. 2011. Eutoburg Forest, AD 9 : the destruction of

Varus and his legions. NY: Osprey Publishing.

[2] Murdoch, Adrian. 2013. Rome’s greatest defeat : massacre in the Teutoburg Forest.

Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.

[3] Ibid.

[4] McNally, Michael, and Peter Dennis. 2011. Eutoburg Forest, AD 9 : the destruction of

Varus and his legions. NY: Osprey Publishing.

[5] Siggurdsson. 2011. Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Germans Massacre Three Roman Legions.

September 12. Accessed May 9, 2017. http://burnpit.us/2011/09/battle-teutoburg-forest-

germans-massacre-three-roman-

[6] Murdoch, Adrian. 2013. Rome’s greatest defeat : massacre in the Teutoburg Forest.

Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.

[7] Siggurdsson. 2011. Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Germans Massacre Three Roman Legions.

September 12. Accessed May 9, 2017. http://burnpit.us/2011/09/battle-teutoburg-forest-

germans-massacre-three-roman-

[8] Murdoch, Adrian. 2013. Rome’s greatest defeat : massacre in the Teutoburg Forest.

Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.

[9] Fagan, Garrett G. 2005. Great Battles of the Ancient World. June 4. Accessed May 9, 2017. https://archive.org/details/GreatBattlesOfTheAncientWorld.

[10] McNally, Michael, and Peter Dennis. 2011. Eutoburg Forest, AD 9 : the destruction of

Varus and his legions. NY: Osprey Publishing.

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