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Soldiers seek return to traditions, discipline

Apr. 3, 2012 - 11:01AM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 3, 2012 - 11:01AM  |  
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Soldiers can expect tighter standards and discipline, changes to professional military education and doctrine, more coaching and mentoring, and a return to Army traditions and events as a result of the service's yearlong Profession Campaign.

The">Army Profession Campaign report, released April 2, follows a year of surveys, focus groups, blogs and forums to give the Army a chance to examine itself and determine what it means to be a profession and for soldiers to be professionals, said Col. Sean Hannah, director of the Center for Army Profession and Ethic, which is part of the Combined Arms Center.

"We are an Army in transition," he said. "We've been through transitions continuously in the past 10 years as we organized for battle, but the Army is moving into a new resource context. We're beginning to withdraw from continuous conflict."

The "critical self-assessment" conducted by the Army was important, Hannah said.

"We went and looked hard at ourselves. Nothing was held back. We found some things we need to work on, and we found a lot of strengths, too," he said. "I feel very strongly that this is exactly what professions should do."

As Army officials sought feedback from more than 40,000 soldiers and Army civilians, they found that 98 percent considered themselves professionals, and "overwhelming numbers" said they trust their fellow soldiers and their direct leaders, according to the report. However, too many junior officers said they believe they will be punished if they offer senior leaders opinions judged as "too candid," according to the report. The junior leaders also said they believe a single mistake can end a career.

Soldiers surveyed also called for a return to standards and discipline.

"We've surveyed soldiers and Army civilians across the Army, and what they're telling us is loud and clear: ‘We want to be a profession,'" Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, said in a statement. "One of the most important findings is that soldiers are united in their belief that the Army Profession must have standards, and that those standards must be enforced."

Lt. Gen. David Perkins, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center, said he was reassured by what he learned from the soldiers surveyed.

"The Army has been fighting for 10 years. Are we tired? Are people tired of being in the Army?" he said. "The fact was, it was the opposite. They want more Army training; they want more coaching, teaching, mentoring; they want more certification; they want more validation; they want more time talking to their leadership and getting feedback."

With the release of this report, the Army will now move from a campaign of learning into a campaign of execution, to act on the recommendations in the report, Hannah said.

"What we find most useful is you take the definition and understanding of the profession, and it becomes the lens for the changes you want to make in the Army," Perkins said.

For example, the Army is looking to update the Officer Evaluation Report to reflect the attributes and competencies required of a professional, Perkins said.

"Let's use those to complement the OER and evaluate people on their ability to display those attributes and become efficient in those competencies," he said.

So far, Cone has already approved at least 27 of the recommendations in the report, Hannah said. They include:

Tighter standards and discipline. Led by the sergeant major of the Army, soldiers will soon be subject to a keener emphasis on meeting the Army's standards and maintaining discipline, Hannah said.

The Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, which is tasked with the advancement of professional military education for NCOs, and the NCO Education System are launching a set of NCO professional development initiatives to emphasize standards and discipline across the force, down to the squad and team levels, he said.

"Does it mean the way soldiers look? Is it their presence? Is it competence? I think it's a collection of all of that," Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca, the senior enlisted soldier for the Combined Arms Center, said of tightening standards and discipline. "For soldiers to look, act and behave like professionals is all-inclusive. We've been moving and churning so fast that we might have gotten away from some of these disciplined habits we've had in the past."

The key is to ensure soldiers are grounded and knowledgeable in doctrine and regulations, Greca said.

"We're going to see organizations do hard pushes to re-educate their force," he said. "You're going to see this emphasis on putting yourselves back in the manuals and understanding the fundamentals."

The Army will also look at its standards to determine "what's obsolete, what needs to be further reinforced, and what standards and discipline did we employ during combat operations that we should also utilize in the home-station environment so we don't have two standards, one for deployed and one for home station?" he said.

Rewriting doctrine. The Army is completing Army Doctrine Publication-1, titled "The Army," and ADP-6-22, titled "Army Leadership," to reflect the attributes and qualities required of Army professionals. In addition, Army Regulation 350-1, "Army Training and Leader Development," has been updated to require more unit-level training on Army values and the Army ethos, Hannah said.

Launching the Master Army Profession and Ethic Trainer Course. This course, run by CAPE, brings in leaders from across the Army to teach them the key values and characteristics of the Army profession, Hannah said. These soldiers then return to their units as master trainers and can in turn teach those values to others, he said. So far, more than 100 soldiers have been through the course.

Beefing up professional military education and leader development. Leader development involves training, education and experience, Greca said.

"It's really soldier development," he said. "I think you're going to see some more of this … and as we get expanded dwell, I think you're going to see leaders become more invested in training, education and experience. We've got to train our leaders to help teach, coach and train their young soldiers."

As a start, the Army has reworked five of the 11 main PME courses across the Army to include lessons on the Army profession, Hannah said.

The other six PME courses will also be reworked , he said.

To get the point across, the Army also has developed five simulators that take students through a series of scenarios that require "professional discretionary decisions," Hannah said. There also are lesson plans and DVDs so units can take advantage of this training, Perkins said.

"We're going to all the units and [saying], ‘Let's talk about how you make this relevant to the soldier,'" he said. "Soldiers aren't going to want to sit in a classroom and go through a hundred PowerPoint slides. They want to know, ‘What does this mean?'"

Adding to initial military training. The Army wants to reach soldiers as early as possible, Hannah said.

"IMT has been redesigned," he said. "A series of Army values training and education has been inculcated across all Army basic training sites."

Returning to cultural and traditional Army events. Greca said he anticipates more events such as promotion ceremonies, dining-in events and NCO induction ceremonies.

"I think you're going to see in the future more emphasis placed on these types of events because our culture is important," he said. "Our history and traditions, they're important, so I think you'll see those things come back as we slow down [the operations tempo] a little bit."

The Army's effort to maintain and grow a professional force will continue, Hannah said.

"We have learned so much over the last 10 years, particularly in operational experience," he said. "One of the key challenges for our leaders now is to translate everything we've learned and make sure we don't lose that as we transition. By 2020, we're going to have much less of a combat-seasoned force. We have to make sure we're taking everything that's the best of the best practices, and we codify them and use them for the future stewardship of the profession."

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