Battle of San Juan Hill and the Six Principles of Mission Command

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The Battle of San Juan Hill was a battle during the Spanish-American war. This battle was one of the bloodiest in (1898) that led to victory to the Americans. With the six principles of mission command, as stated in the “ADRP 6-0”, we will build cohesive teams through mutual trust, create shared understanding, provide a clear commander’s intent, exercise disciplined initiative, use mission orders, and accept prudent risk. With these six principles, we will get a more in-depth understanding of how this war was established and what changes were made in the mission that would be remembered through or history as the great Spanish-American war for the Americans.

Build Cohesive Teams Through Mutual Trust

A local reporter had written an article on the problem in Cuba which went public. U.S. President William McKinley then ordered the USS Maine to Cuba to assess the mistreatment of the Cubans by the Spaniards in Santiago de Cuba. The USS Maine had exploded and was destroyed by the Spanish army. The president then declared war. The troop sent to Cuba mainly consist of The Rough Riders and The Buffalo Soldiers. The Rough Riders came about from volunteers in the southern half of the states. With the weather similar to Cuba, they were brought together by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to fight in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. The volunteers that formed the Rough Riders are local police officers, miners, hunters, gamblers and military veterans. The Buffalo Soldiers were established in (1866) which came about from the United States Army from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas allowing African Americans to serve in the Army. During the Indian Wars in the early 1890’s the Buffalo Soldiers heavy involvement earned several enlisted and officers the Medal of Honor for their brave sacrifices fighting for the Army. Mutual trust brought soldiers together because of their loyalty to their country and leadership moral that brought together this great Army. The Buffalo Soldiers fought along with others during the Spanish-American war because the recognition of brave valor was recognized and given the highest honor to those who went above and beyond to fight a successful battle. Great trust is gain from a strong leader; Colonel Theodore Roosevelt was the leader to defeat the Spanish from overtaking Cuba during the Battle of San Juan Hill.

Create Shared Understanding

The Buffalo Soldiers and the Rough Riders fought at The Battle of San Juan Hill on Kettle Hill. They both fought equally with the same strength to defeat the Spanish army. The two forces fought together for the same intent, the Spanish army wanted to take over the highest point in Cuba to overtake the American army. Kettle hill was the highest point located east of Cuba. The two American regiments did not have too much in common. The Rough Riders were well respected and had plenty of supplies for fighting while the Buffalo Soldiers had limit supplies and not treated respectfully. The shared common understanding they had was fighting side by side for their country made the United States Army stronger than the Spanish army. Both shared the same fighting skills and both were recognized as great regiments during the past wars they had fought.

Provide a Clear Commander’s Intent

President William McKinley was committed to defeating the Spanish Army because the Spaniards retaliated by destroying a US military ship, USS Maine. He intended to send the warship to Cuba to help prevent the Spanish from taking the country. The Spanish were settle in Cuba but the Cubans were mistreated unfairly within their own countries. Gangs were formed from Spain and rioted against the Americans in Havana, Cuba. The president was not intending to have involvement with Cuba until he was told of the situation. The commander knew of the situation beforehand but waited for the media to address the situation. The fight would have been more effective if the president had an early preparation for the war with pre-mobilization training and climate training. The Navy could approach Cuba at a different route to prevent the attack of the USS Maine.

Exercise Disciplined Initiative

Theodore Roosevelt, a colonel in the U.S. Army had orders to move east of Cuba to support the actual attack on San Juan Hill. His mission was to secure the city of Santiago de Cuba. General Shafter, an Army Commander, had deployed over 13000 troops in the San Juan Heights while the Spanish had 10000 on stand-by ready to fight. The Spaniard’s had a better understanding of fighting in the tropics because they ruled many tropical islands of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. This gave them the advantage to keep their soldiers healthy ready to fight. The American soldier was at risk of losing many soldiers of the climate conditions and movement of their equipment. Wool material uniforms cause the soldiers to overheat. Horses and Ammo were lost due to the high waters of Cuba. Tropical Disease sickened many American soldiers as they tried to adapt to the living conditions. The American soldiers did have a chance to advance. The Spanish leader had seized most of San Juan heights but the hillcrest did not have many Spanish troops because they were all taking coverage at the hilltop. The Americans soldiers would have had a stronger front if the soldiers had uniforms that accommodated their climate. If they had trained previously in a tropical environment they would be adapted and prevented the spread of infectious diseases.

Use Mission Orders

Colonel Roosevelt had contact General summer to permit to attack the Kettle Hilltop. Sniper attacks held a great advantage to the Spanish. Roosevelt believes that attacking uphill will have a better advantage on the Americans because of the great experience Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers in pushing to the hilltop. The overall mission was to drive the Spanish off highest point to prevent the Spanish from overtaking the hill. The troops pushed through to advance to Kettle Hill. Orders by the president were to immediately take over the hilltop but the Spanish had snipers preventing from an initial attack. A more effective approach to the mission was to have the Gatlin guns perform a heavy attack to the rear to minimize the number of troops they have on the hilltop. This would have made a quicker reaction time for the soldiers to advance to the hilltop with fewer casualties on the US side.

Accept Prudent Risk

Colonel Roosevelt had urged the soldiers to advance before the initial attack but sniper fire was a greater advantage. Snipers have a broader picture of the enemy is at a higher elevation. The risk of a person downhill suffering a casualty will double the sniper fire downhill. Snipers are also hidden so it makes it near impossible to reach the enemy. Artillery fire came about during war to help the soldiers in the front move forward without being ambushed by the enemy. The risk would have been limited if Colonel Roosevelt pushes the Artillery team closer. Due to the lack of distance, the Artillery had it made it impossible to approach the hilltop.


War is always special and the choices are never the best. It is a choice that always leads to more casualties than expected. Great leadership commands it, but conflicts arise when leadership does not recognized what is actually going on the battlefield. Preparing for battle beforehand and surveying the area before making quick a response would better prepare the Military for a more successful mission. The military must be built with an end the result to peace with no future conflicts. It must be built into training in the form of a culture of peace.


  1. Coppock, Mike. ‘Rough Ride: On San Juan Hill that July morning, disaster, death, and glory were just a shot away.’ American History, vol. 52, no. 6, Feb. 2018, p. 34+.
  2. Gale OneFile: Military and Intelligence, https://0-link-gale com.mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/apps/doc/A515974805/ PPMI?u=cfsc&sid=PPMI&xid=51e55cea. Accessed 15 Mar. 2020.
  3. ‘Rough Rider.’ Britannica Academic, Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Oct. 2019. 0-academic-eb- com.mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/levels/collegiate/article/Rough-Rider/64216. Accessed 15 Mar. 2020.
  4. ‘Buffalo soldier.’ Britannica Academic, Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Mar. 2014. 0-academic-eb- com.mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/levels/collegiate/article/buffalo-soldier/613. Accessed 15 Mar. 2020.

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Battle of San Juan Hill and the Six Principles of Mission Command. (2022, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/battle-of-san-juan-hill-and-the-six-principles-of-mission-command/



What are the principles of mission command?
The principles of mission command are (1) build cohesive teams through mutual trust and (2) create shared understanding.
What is mission command in your own words?
Mission command is the process of leading and directing troops in a way that allows them to complete their mission while also protecting themselves.
What is the purpose of mission command?
In the U.S. Army, mission command is the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander's intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.
What was the significance of the Battle of San Juan Hill?
The anti smoking campaign in the UK started due to the harmful effects of smoking on people's health. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and to encourage people to quit.
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