Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
After 153 Command and General Staff Officer Course students took part in the Master Tactician competition in early 2021, Maj. Chris Garlick came out on top as the recipient of the General George S. Patton Jr. Distinguished Master Tactician Award for the CGSOC class of 2021.
“It’s really humbling. (Winning) is not something I expected,” Garlick said. “It was really just a reflection of the great instructors and the great students I spent this year with.
“I learned so much from (my staff group), and I think without that background and that experience this year, I wouldn’t have come out on top,” he said. “It’s more of a group award than an individual thing.”
The Master Tactician Award “recognizes the intricacies of how modern warfare have reinforced the Army’s need for exceptional tacticians at all levels,” according to the Command and General Staff College Foundation website. “This demanding extracurricular activity requires nominees to prepare a detailed tactical concept of operation predicated upon a corps-level scenario and submit to a rigorous oral defense of their plan before a panel of experts.”
The competition included three phases.
The first phase was an online multiple-choice exam that tested the 153 competitors on their knowledge of U.S. Army tactics and doctrines.
“All the studying that went into being prepared to take that test (was rewarding),” Garlick said. “I learned a lot.”
Nearly 30 competitors moved onto the second phase where they had to make decisions, recommendations and produce products for three different tactical decision problems with only one hour per problem.
From there, four competitors moved on to the final phase where each had a week to take a brigade operation order and turn it into a battalion plan.
“I had to dedicate a lot of time to (phase three) to compete with the other three,” Garlick said. “I know them and they’re bright guys.
“Plus, there’s the fact that you’re doing the job of … eight by yourself,” he said. “It was a really difficult experience.”
But, Garlick said it was a rewarding experience, too.
“I learned a lot. It helped me be more successful in my next job to help understand the right way of doing things,” Garlick said. “(CGSOC in general) was a really good experience, taking time to reflect and think about organizational leadership.
“We all came here at the point where we’ve been company commanders or the equivalent. … That’s all direct leadership,” he said. “Now, we’re looking at things from a broader perspective organizationally and asking not how do you solve specific problems but how do you set the conditions so that a problem never arises.”
Lt. Col. Matt Marfongelli, CGSC Department of Army Tactics instructor, said Garlick stood out in multiple ways from his final phase three competitors.
“All (the finalists) briefed their plans very confidently, but (Garlick) kept his presentation focused at the appropriate level, operating as though he was a battalion operations officer briefing company commanders,” Marfongelli said. “His presentation provided the recipients — the four judges — the detail needed for them to understand his plan without becoming overwhelming or confusing.
“Major Garlick also demonstrated the best application of U.S. Army doctrine into his plan,” he said. “He included exceptional flexibility into his plan and was able to explain the logic and reasoning behind his assumptions and planning considerations when the judges asked questions.”
After graduation, Garlick will serve as the executive officer of the 61st Cavalry Squadron, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armor Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas.