A Definition of Mission Capable

This article will cover what it is to be mission capable, how to determine your mission, and then how to determine your mission essential task list. This will give you the tools to determine if you are mission capable.

Bottom Line Up Front: This article covers what it is to be mission capable, how to determine your mission, and then how to determine your mission essential task list. This will give you the tools to determine if you are mission capable.

Definition of Mission Capable

In the Army we talk about our equipment (and informally our personnel) as being mission capable. We have really two categories of mission capable:  Fully Mission Capable (FMC) or Non-Mission Capable (NMC). Our units report to their higher commands each day (called the NMC report) as to the status of all their equipment. Anything that isn’t FMC is NMC, no caveats. This isn’t to say that everything has to be 100% perfect for a piece of equipment to be FMC. For example, let’s use a unit that has 20 vehicles and 100 rifles. If one of those vehicles has a side view mirror missing, it is still FMC. If the vehicle has a steady leak of oil that pools (called a Class III leak), it is NMC. The missing mirror and leaks are called “faults”. There is a manual for every piece of equipment that tells you which faults make it NMC. For each of us personally, there is no official manual. Only you will decide what makes you NMC! It will be based on what your mission is and whether you have a challenge (like a “fault” with a piece of equipment) that prevents you from doing your mission. In order to know if you are mission capable, you have to know two things:

  1. What is your mission?
  2. What is your mission essential task list?

What is your mission?

Military units typically have two kinds of missions: enduring and specific. Enduring missions are general and cover the reason the unit exists. Specific missions would be precise in language and created for temporary operations, which can be as short as one day or as long as something spanning years, that are published in operations orders.

Examples of enduring mission statements:

  • 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of U.S. national interests.
  • On order, 48th Chemical Brigade deploys and conducts operations in support of combatant commanders or other governmental agencies to counter CBRNE threats.

Examples of specific mission statements:

  • 1st Brigade/82nd Airborne Division seizes Objective Johnson no later than 21 AUG 14 in order to facilitate follow-on operations.
  • 51st CBRN Company conducts decontamination operations no later than 1500 hrs 21 AUG 14 vic Decon Point B in order to maintain combat power.

You will notice the enduring statements are not very detailed as to where or when anything will happen. Specific mission statements are the opposite; they denote who will do what when, where, and why.

Apply This to Real Life

If you think of yourself as a military unit, you can follow the analogy here. Your enduring mission statement will be what you do, why you exist. You can then develop specific mission statements for temporary missions. Consider the following example: Joe is an accountant who is a serious amateur photographer. He has a blog where he posts photos and reviews of photography equipment. He has a wife and two children. He likes to read books about history, play chess online, and occasionally play golf on weekends in the summer.

Potential enduring mission statement: Joe is a father, husband, and accountant that supports his family. He does a variety of recreational tasks with a focus on photography. 

Maybe Joe decides he is unhappy with his physical fitness level. He may create a specific mission statement for himself such as: Joe follows a Paleo diet and regular exercise plan starting 1 January 2015 in order to improve his health and appearance.

With Joe’s specific mission, he may have a lot of implied tasks to accomplish his specific mission such as:

  • Read/inform himself of Paleo principles
  • Buy Paleo foods & remove non-Paleo foods from his house
  • Find exercise program
  • Join a gym and/or buy exercise equipment

Joe may also have specific objectives for this mission:

  • Reduce body fat by 5% within 180 days
  • Improve 3k run time by 25% within 90 days
  • Perform double bodyweight deadlift within 180 days

What is your Mission Essential Task List (METL)?

The unit METL is the list of things you must do in order to accomplish your enduring mission. Once you know what your mission is, you can then develop your METL tasks. For Army units, this list is generally 20-30 things with 3-5 key ones that are your Mission Essential Tasks (METs). For 1st Brigade/1st Armored Division,  it may look something like this:

  • MET 1: Perform Offensive Operations
    • Subtask 1.1: Conduct a raid
    • Subtask 1.2: Conduct an ambush
  • MET 2: Perform Defensive Operations
    • Subtask 2.1: Conduct a mobile defense
    • Subtask 2.2: Conduct an area defense
  • MET 3: Conduct Reconnaissance Operations
    • Subtask 3.1: Conduct screen operations
    • Subtask 3.2: Conduct guard operations

This list makes it very clear what types of operations this unit will be asked to do in war. The unit then assesses strengths and weaknesses, identifies a training plan, resources it, and executes it. It is always reassessing progress on all of these tasks since they are on the METL.

Apply This to Real Life

Let’s use Joe again as our example. Joe may have the following tasks identified:

  • MET 1: Provide for my family
    • Subtask 1.1: Earn sufficient income to cost of living and recreation
    • Subtask 1.2: Save $3k for an annual vacation
    • Subtask 1.3: Save $100k per child for college education
  • MET 2: Be a good father and husband
    • Subtask 2.1: Spend time daily with my family
    • Subtask 2.2: Spend time alone with my wife
    • Subtask 2.3: Be a role model for my children
  • MET 3: Be physically healthy
    • Subtask 3.1: Be physically active (walk 10,000 steps per day, reduce sitting at work, take hikes, etc.)
    • Subtask 3.2: Do not abuse tobacco or alcohol
    • Subtask 3.3: Exercise regularly (short, intense bursts of dedicated physical activity)
    • Subtask 3.4: Eat well (Paleo principles)
    • Subtask 3.5: Maintain healthy bio-markers of health and disease (cholesterol, blood pressure, vitamin D levels, etc.)
    • Subtask 6: Sleep at least 8 hours per night
  • MET 4: Be mentally healthy
    • Subtask 4.1: Manage stress
    • Subtask 4.2: Maintain healthy social relationships
    • Subtask 4.3: Perform hobbies and recreational activities for enjoyment

You can see that Joe can now look over his METL and conduct his assessment of whether or not he is mission capable in all areas of his life. He may be doing poorly on his personal finances. However, he may be doing very well with regard to spending quality time with his family. He may be doing OK on both of his health METs but knows he could do better. He exercises regularly but ends up sitting at his desk all day. He eats well most of the time but cheats more than he would like. His sleep is sporadic, sometimes quality but other times he stays up too late and knows it isn’t healthy.

Joe may generate some specific courses of action (COAs) to address his shortfalls. For example, for 1.1 (personal finances), Joe may decide he needs to develop a budget. He now has a method, an action he can take, to address an area where he isn’t doing well, which will contribute to his overall mission capability! If Joe is spending a disproportionate amount of time worrying about money, he will likely fight with his spouse over it, and the effects will trickle down into his whole life.

For 3.1, Joe could buy a pedometer, develop a plan to get up every 30 minutes and walk around his office for a few minutes, or buy a standing desk.

To accomplish his mission (to be “good” at life), he has to deal with his tasks that can make him non-mission capable (NMC).

Putting It All Together

We started first defining what we live for (our mission) and then determining the things we must do (our METL) to live the life we want to live. Some of your mission essential tasks will be things you must do whereas some may be ones you want to do. For most people though, something like Joe’s METL will apply. Consider it as a starting point for some self-exploration into what your mission is and whether or not you are mission capable.


QUESTION: What is your mission? METL? Post thoughts to comments.

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