Gen. Paul E. Funk II guided a four-decade Army career that included command positions at all levels and multiple combat tours, ones that bridged generational changes in warfare. He concluded his 42-year career by leading the heart of how the Army builds soldiers and fights wars – Training and Doctrine Command.
Funk relinquished command Thursday to Gen. Gary Brito, the former head of the Maneuver Center of Excellence. His next stop will be retirement.
But some of Funk’s biggest challenges as a leader may have come in only the past three years as he led the command.
Funk made a point in nearly all his public engagements by opening with the same introduction, “My name’s Funk and I’m an American soldier.”
The following exchange is from an email interview with Funk before his recent change-of-command ceremony.
*Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ARMY TIMES: What major initiatives were completed under your tenure?
GEN. PAUL FUNK: The nature of TRADOC means most of our work is never fully done. We revolutionized the way the Army looks at fitness under the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) program; operationalized the Army People Strategy; drove the change to put people first – including the creation of TRADOC’s first ever Women’s Initiatives Team; and modernized leader development at echelon to embrace career long self-assessment and development. We modernized our training systems – new scenarios, updated opposing force doctrine and equipment, and a focus on digital and distributed training options; updating our organizations through a focus on command and control at the division level and above and working to develop information formations. With the creation of multi-domain operations as the Army operating concept, our doctrine writers began to codify the concept into Army doctrine in a new Field Manual, FM 3-0: Operations, which will be published in October. Additionally, the rapidly changing international environment requires us to update our understanding of the character of war and our enemies. In pursuit of this, the TRADOC G2 has published numerous documents – including – ATP 7-100.3: Chinese Tactics and the Russian Way of War – that are already making big impacts across the force. We have also worked to improve Army culture by reforming the way TRADOC does business.
We hit our end strength goals in 2019, 2020, and 2021 during a global pandemic. I’m particularly proud of the Future Soldier Prep Course at Fort Jackson that helps motivated youth meet Army enlistment standards and access the benefits of service.
ARMY TIMES: What’s some work that the new commander will face?
FUNK: We need to address the threat to the all-volunteer force. About 23% of U.S. youth meet enlistment standards, and only 9% express any desire to serve. The bottom line is that we must improve eligibility and propensity to serve to maintain the all-volunteer force. We must help individual recruits who don’t meet the standard do so through improvement programs such as the Future Soldier Prep Course and March to Service, while also improving societal eligibility through partnerships with youth sports and advocacy organizations as well as expansion of civics programs such as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). We must also increase desire to serve in the Army by reconnecting to America through improved marketing and meeting America through interactive events across our nation including a dedicated surge of Army leaders and soldiers telling their stories. American youth simply don’t understand us, we owe it to them to ensure they understand all the benefits of service.
Full implementation of Holistic Health and Fitness across the Army and complete operationalization of the Army People’s Strategy will help us fulfill our promises to our people. Continuing to research and fund multi-domain training and hybrid (live-virtual constructed) training and education models will improve resource efficiency and improve our ability to fight and win on the modern battlefield. Driving multi-domain operations and FM 3-0 into our training and education while simultaneously developing complementary doctrine at echelon across specialty will set the foundation for change.
ARMY TIMES: How has the new multi-domain operations doctrine rollout gone?
FUNK: We delayed publication of FM 3-0 to ensure we properly incorporated comments from the field and, more importantly, to ensure that lessons learned from recent conflicts are fully reflected. MDO is already being integrated across our enterprise: We’ve been rebuilding training scenarios, focusing training at higher echelons, and building MDO capable range and other training facilities; We’ve adjusted our education systems, particularly Professional Military Education (PME), to have a spectrum wide focus – competition, crisis, and conflict – with a special emphasis on Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO); We’ve build new units like the Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) and worked MDO focused Force-Design Updates across the Army. We’ve updated our understanding of the operating environment and potential threats with publications like ATP 7-100.3: Chinese tactics and the Russian way of war; and we’ve supported thinking and research about what kind of people we need to fight on the future battlefield.
ARMY TIMES: On the training side specifically, what are some new items that emerged in recent years?
FUNK: The publication of the new FM 7- 0: Training in June 2021 is one of the highlights of a system-wide update focused on making training management more manageable at the end-user level. Company and Battalion level leaders were spending too much time on training management tasks, hindering their ability to train their formations. Updates to the Army Training Network streamlined those tasks and enabled more rapid execution.
Through improvements at Basic Combat Training, we are driving the diffusion of modern training modes and a reformed understanding of discipline into the ranks. We killed the shark attack and transitioned from that outdated mode of authoritarian discipline to a system of trust based leadership more appropriate to the current generation of soldiers. Starting with motivational pickups like the Thunder Run and First 100 Yards on day one and ending with soldier ceremonies and the Army heritage trail at the end, BCT is designed to indoctrinate Soldiers-For-Life into our profession as teammates.
ARMY TIMES: What’s been the most rewarding part of the job leading TRADOC?
FUNK: The people, period. Leading soldiers and Army civilian professionals is the best job in the world. Even on a day when the job brings challenges, watching our people step up to the plate and get the job done makes it all worthwhile. There has been a member of the Funk-Brown family serving since World War II and that more than 80-year tradition of service continues today with my nephew. Service comes in many forms and the Funks have answered the call. It has been the journey of a lifetime for myself and my family to serve in this fantastic Army. The Army is our family. It has been my life’s honor to wear the cloth of our nation for more than 42 years and I am especially grateful to have been the 17th Commanding General of Training and Doctrine Command. My name is Funk…and I am a soldier for life.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.