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Old 09-29-2010   #21
SJPONeill
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Default How do we ensure proficiency in the Military-Technical field while simultaneously pri

1. Put the loggies, bean-counters and HR 'experts' The more we go down the HR path, the more we treat our humans as simply resources) back in their respective boxes. Yes, we all need to be 'fiscally prudent' and apply due diligence to our use of the tax-payers coin. OK, got that, we're a professional organisation and there are many other branches of government that need to tighten up their belts before the military gets squeezed anymore. Don't allow the 'efficiency' experts focussed on saving bucks to rationalise changes to to training that affect effectiveness e.g. yes, simulation has its place and is a useful tool but it should not one second be a replacement for time in the field/on the job. Similarly online learning has its place but is still not a substitute for face to face engagement between both peer groups and students/instructors.

2. Let soldiers (in this discussion soldiers = all members in uniform, NCO and commissioned) do what they want to do which is train. Give them every opportunity to apply and develop both their technical skills and experience, and their leadership ability at all levels from the newest soldier upwards. Along the same lines of professional development, encourage soldiers to read and talk about what they are reading - this may be somewhat deflating for some more senior staff as they get trounced in discussion with junior members.

3. Encourage them to follow the military as a career: 3-4 year hitches are not enough to development a smart professional soldiery that understands the contemporary environment - if this is to be an era of persistent conflict, then we don't want that experience walking out...

4. I think the experimentation with wikis, etc at CAC is a good thing (a damn good think even) as it both promotes soldier buy-in and engagement and also seeks to capture the knowledge and experience of the workface. This programme needs to be expanded as does the other side of the coin in making sure that soldiers have the best access to that current information that we can give them (I like the comments in the Sep 10 C4ISR Journal here).
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Old 09-29-2010   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Anecdote. Peace story, staff type: I once talked to a pretty good General Officer who was upset that he didn't know what was happening and that he thus had to operate in the reactive mode. I suggested the answer to his problem was MBWA -- Management By Walking Around, he sholud just wander about the Hindquarters and talk to the Action Officers to get a feel for things. He called four days later and said he'd tried that, didn't work. Mine was the only shop where the resident Colonel or his Deputy didn't appear and hover as soon as the General wandered in from the hallway...

Unless that syndrome disappears from the Army and subordinate are ENCOURAGED to speak their minds without fear, this and future Vice Chiefs will not get many takers in open forums on any topic likely to be even slightly controversial...
We've had some who did that; with differing degrees of tact, dismissed the hovering elements and just wondered on their own or with a single notetaker, or perhaps their Comd WO - always interesting to see the chasm between the workface what was being reported up the line...although those applying a MBWA philosophy do need to be big enough to hear things that may not be palatable without launching off into low Earth orbit...

I had a boss in the mid-90s of the infantry persuasion (he was OK otherwise!!) who started every morning by 'walking the trenches' around his part of the HQ to ensure that he had his finger on the pulse of not just the 'business' but his people....
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Old 09-30-2010   #23
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Default On a much smaller scale...

As a battery commander, I had a sign right in my line of sight (LBWA)... constant reminder that if i was in my office odds were that there was something more important I should be doing... BN CDR got it... S3 didn't... he wanted to know why he could always get in touch with my XO but it took up to 2-3 hours to get a return call from me... I'd ask what he wanted, I'd then answer didn't my XO answer your question... then he'd say hem and haw and say yes, but I wanted an answer from you... to which I would respond for the umteenth time... Bob is empowered to answer your questions, that is why I've chained him to his desk... specifically to run the admin of the battery and answer staff questions... he knows his left and right limits and will tell you if he has to talk to me first... I will live with whatever he commits the battery to doing... but I will not sit at my desk on the off chance that you or the commander might call...

Two different S3s, each took 6 mths to train... and I can assure you it wasn't always comfortable knowing exactly what actually was going on... but if necessary I could adjust the azimuth before the BN or BDE CDR did so for me... only two rules of communication in my unit... rule 1) Never say, "I can't believe" for there is nothing we can't believe... can't fathom, don't understand, inconeivable... maybe, but everything is believable. Rule 2) never start a sentence with a disclaimor... e.g. "I don't want to sound like a smart ass" stop stop stop because no matter what you will sound like a smart ass... figure out what you need to say as constructively as possible... "Sir this is f@cked up beyond all recognition, we need to do x, y, and z first" that is perfectly acceptable and desired communication...

This approach was met with some significant push-back internally as well... PSGs, PLT LDRs and others were won't to hover and Soldiers were hesitant at first, but within 2 mths the culture had been changed... never been or were ever happier
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Old 09-30-2010   #24
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Default The most important "new" thing the army needs is probably Perspective

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Originally Posted by ChipColbert View Post
OK, so here comes the question. Our Army is faced with the dual challenge of winning our current wars while simultaneously preparing for future armed conflict. #Due to the past nine years of war, we've obviously and necessarily placed a great deal of emphasis and priority on tactical and operational assignments and experience - or to use this lexicon, the military-technical field of knowledge. Accordingly, I think we've devalued our professional military education system, ACS opportunities, and other broadening experiences that take people out of the fight - the Human Development field.
Try looking at the past nine years as:
1. Not being war, and
2. Not being a problem that can be "won" through military action.

Then re-look both of your stated problems of dealing with the here and now while preparing for the potential armed conflicts of the future.

If not war, what is this and what should he military role be, and how should that role be framed?
- How can changing the context lead to shaping more effective engagement rather than simply simplifying the problem so that I can quit and go home?

What are the potential challenges that could both truly threaten us and be either deterred or defeated by military action?
- What threats can we deter, and how must we posture to do so?
- How does the military contribute to deterring those that are currently seen as "non-deterable" by most? Are there indirect ways that rob such organizations of the base of their support that can mitigate the problem? Conversely, are there ways that though well intended, will actually exacerbate the problem through engagement?
- What threats must we be prepared to defeat if not deterred, and are we postured to defeat those threats?
- What problems are cast as threats currently, but really don't pass the common sense test in today's environment? Are there policy solutions? If yes, come up with COAs and take them to the policy guys to consider. Use design to develop your position.
- What programs are crushing us with their cost, or diverting funding from programs that are arguably more important? Are there policy positions such as those described above driving these programs? Don't argue programs, assess policy.

The army is in the middle of a very tough problem-set. Being saddled with a large family of expectation driven by out-dated Cold War policies; along with a family of poorly conceived GWOT policies makes the problem-set tougher yet. Assess both, and then go back to higher and demand that they clarify what they really want, and what they really need you to do. We can't do it all, we can't buy it all. So lets buy and do what we really need.
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Old 09-30-2010   #25
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Default Trade and not a profession?

KEN White quote:
Quote:
Our training and education does not inculcate the basics of our trade -- and it is a trade, not a profession IMO
I'm interested in hearing more about why you see it as a trade and not a profession.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-01-2010 at 09:41 PM. Reason: Use quote marks
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Old 09-30-2010   #26
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Default Re: the most important "new" thing we need is perspective

While I agree with much of what you posted, I see that as being a much larger issue than the one I'm thinking of. Reframing how we view our challenges and how we see military force being employed to meet them is vitally important for the debate. However, while I can see how that process may alleviate optempo and may decrease our role and rate of employment, I don't think it changes the fact that - IMO - the Army still needs to reassess how much emphasis we place on tactical and operational assignments vice broadening and educational experiences.

In a recent interview with American Interest, Eliot Cohen said the Army is doing a good job of producing "capable brigade commanders" but that doesn't mean we're developing the next generation of strategic thinkers and general officers. I think this is due in large part because we are so focused on tactical assignments. Link to the interview is here:
http://www.the-american-interest.com....cfm?piece=857

Last edited by ChipColbert; 09-30-2010 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 09-30-2010   #27
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Default Pardon some of us for being cynical...

Chip the dynamic of which you speak has very little to do with the Army's current OPTEMPO and the subsequent focus on tactical/operational assignments. While that may accurately describe the current atmospherics (not sure it does - but I'll accept it because it doesn't matter).... it has little to do with why the Army isn't producing "strategic thinkers"

Simply put, long before the current engagements, the Army was obcessively focused on tactical assignments... whether green tab or CTC O/C... and routinely weened out anyone who thought beyond the final 300m...

Don't get me wrong, those types of assignment and that type of focus is important... but it was virtually the only path to greater levels of responsibility...

I'll defer to some of our more "seasoned" members, but it is not uncommon to refer to a LTC/COL who couldn't get promoted as too smart for their own good.

That said... how many strategic thinkers do you really need??? You certainly need them in the right spaces, but I'm not entirely certain you need a bunch of strategic thinkers...

Get past the organizational bias that you have to have been IN/AR/Arty to be able to think big thoughts and you might find you have a whole lot more strategic thinkers that may seem appearant...

Thoughts?
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Old 09-30-2010   #28
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Default It's an obsession

Hacksaw --

Target hit.

Chip --

TRADOC and HRC (along with their co-defendants on the Army Staff) need to try to find a way to address this. There is currently no way to identify and use the great tacticians (and reward them for their talents) and to identify and use great strategists AND to identify and use those rare few who can do it all at the gold medal level.

I did a study once for a very high ranking officer that basically identified the problem as this (Readers Digest version): Among the embedded study questions from the general were 1) where do CAT IV generals come from? 2) why do the other Services hand us our butts at the strategic level? and 3) should there be a mechanism to identify and promote "late bloomers", big idea guys, and others who could fill critical GO positions even if you wouldn't want them commanding divisions and corps.

All the key senior positions and promotions go to former battalion commanders (affectionately known as FBCs back in the day.) This is particularly true in the combat arms.

AARs from bn cmd selection boards reported that the overwhelmingly most important selection criterion for bn cmd was success in company command. That was followed by completion , of what I think you now call a KD position at the field grade level.

Therefore, the senior leadership of the Army were great company commanders. Their ability to succeed at GO levels didn't always pan out, sometimes with embarrassing or even tragic consequences.

The study was obviously much deeper and broader than I have portrayed here, but we keep seeing similar problems everyday. I found other ramifications, too, such as "distributing" KD positions "fairly" rather than based on past performance or impact on the units involved. There was a proliferation of bn cmd equivalencies, not to reward good officers, but to produce more FBCs for the personnel mill. And on it went.

For my efforts, I got handed my backside, and Big Green just keeps rollin' along.
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Old 09-30-2010   #29
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OE

This relates to the FAO question as you know quite well. The FBC obsession a mental blinder, one that is welded to Big Green's psyche.

Why in the devil do we need POLADs from State when we have FAOs who are better qualified, already green dipped, by the time they are qualified as 48s, defacto strategists?

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Old 09-30-2010   #30
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Default Good point

The answer probably lies at several levels:

1. The Army is enamored with outsiders
2. There is also a liaison function between Army & State (which we've both done as Army guys, but their guy somehow has more street cred with our uniformed bosses)
3. It keeps State pregnant with the small wars issue

POLADs & PRTs also appear to be redefining how FSOs see their functions. I served with a coupla Vietnam Era CORDS grads who were very activist in their outlook on their role in the host nation. The following generation appeared to me to be much more constrained. They wanted to conduct structured meetings with appropriate officials and write cute cables back to feed the info monster in DC. I'm getting anecdotal evidence now that some of the POLAD & PRT FSOs are now buying back into the activist role.

That said, there is still a lot of irony in the fact that State hires vets right out of the service on short term bases to fill some of their deployed commitments. Where is the civilian expertise in that deal?
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Old 09-30-2010   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
The answer probably lies at several levels:

1. The Army is enamored with outsiders
2. There is also a liaison function between Army & State (which we've both done as Army guys, but their guy somehow has more street cred with our uniformed bosses)
3. It keeps State pregnant with the small wars issue

POLADs & PRTs also appear to be redefining how FSOs see their functions. I served with a coupla Vietnam Era CORDS grads who were very activist in their outlook on their role in the host nation. The following generation appeared to me to be much more constrained. They wanted to conduct structured meetings with appropriate officials and write cute cables back to feed the info monster in DC. I'm getting anecdotal evidence now that some of the POLAD & PRT FSOs are now buying back into the activist role.

That said, there is still a lot of irony in the fact that State hires vets right out of the service on short term bases to fill some of their deployed commitments. Where is the civilian expertise in that deal?
And that was what was happening across the board in Iraq in 2009 or they just didn't fill it (as in MND-B) so yours truly went.

I can't say on the activist aspects--I saw way too much bureaucratic thinking from PolMil in the embassy and OPA as a regional coordinator for PRTs.

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Old 09-30-2010   #32
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Our training and education does not inculcate the basics of our trade -- and it is a trade, not a profession IMO -- so people have to learn on the job. Then we move them from job to job to rapidly so they never really master the jobs; they just do them "good enough." That can work in a major, existential war, however, it does the service, its people and the Nation no favors in peace time or in quasi peace as now. That needs to be fixed and we need to spend more time on Officer and Enlisted initial entry training -- get the basics right and it's like riding a bicycle; one does not forget. One also acquires a sound foundation on which to build...
Is there also an element of expectation management that needs to be looked at as well i.e. has there now been created as career progression expectation that a successful twenty year career should put into a LTC/COL or senior soldier position. Once a upon a time, you could retire at twenty as a Sgt or Maj and that was considered a good productive career - it also meant that the pools of experience at every level were far greater and almost every NCO and officer could 'step up' if required because of that depth of experience. Those who were being groomed (hopefully on ability and not family or other connections) were fast-tracked but even then there was a big enough pool to sustain the fast-tracked if some, for one reason of another, departed that track...

Developing senior officers is a bit out of my area but from a view looking upwards, command and leadership ability should always outscore big thinking i.e. a good leader/commander can always tap into big thinkers in their staff; it less easy for a big thinker to tap into leaders/commanders in their staff...
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Old 10-01-2010   #33
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Default Interesting thread...

Hacksaw and Old Eagle and I are about 90+ diverse years of cumulative military experience -- and essentially are saying the same thing. This from Hacksaw identifies a significant long standing problem:
Quote:
"Simply put, long before the current engagements, the Army was obcessively focused on tactical assignments... whether green tab or CTC O/C... and routinely weened out anyone who thought beyond the final 300m..."
I submit that is the case not because it makes sense but because it worked in WW I (a brief war...) and again in WW II (a relatively brief war...) and we have not really modified our personnel or training policies significantly since 1917. The really sad thing is that penchant for muddy boots is effectively undermined by the current training and education regimens and the flawed personnel system.

It's far easier on the Personnel system to play that one size fits all game than to do what's really needed. Have a Command track and a Staff track. That works. The main reason we don't do it is simply because we didn't invent the process. As SJP Oneill said:
Quote:
"a good leader/commander can always tap into big thinkers in their staff; it less easy for a big thinker to tap into leaders/commanders in their staff... "
Add this, also from Hacksaw:
Quote:
"That said... how many strategic thinkers do you really need??? You certainly need them in the right spaces, but I'm not entirely certain you need a bunch of strategic thinkers..."
True. Part of the problem is that due to DOPMA and OPD and Congressional; pressure, we insist every LTC who's an Infantryman, a Ranger and Airborne School graduate and 'qualified' can command a parachute infantry battalion. Partly true; the law says they can -- but even my six year old Granddaughter is smart enough to know that some of them will do very well, others very poorly and most will just be acceptable. I'm with Old Eagle:
Quote:
"Therefore, the senior leadership of the Army were great company commanders. Their ability to succeed at GO levels didn't always pan out, sometimes with embarrassing or even tragic consequences."
You can put a round peg in a square hole -- but you have to use a smaller peg...

Is that really good enough?

Chip Colbert:

I contend it's a trade based on the Webster's definition
"3.
a : the business or work in which one engages regularly : occupation
b : an occupation requiring manual or mechanical skill : craft
c : the persons engaged in an occupation, business, or industry."


I base that primarily on the parameters in sub paragraph b. above -- I think manual and mechanical skills are required (if often absent...), that Soldiering is work in which one should engage regularly and that it is an occupation that requires physical abilities and shrewdness but not necessarily superlative intellectual abilities for the majority of the practitioners.

I'm aware that it 'profession' is preferred for the social cachet and that Soldiering also meets the Webster definition for a profession:

"4.
a : a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.
b : a principal calling, vocation, or employment c : the whole body of persons engaged in a calling ."


IMO, the specialized knowledge aspect is a requirement and the "long and intensive academic preparation." that is now seen as de rigeur is actually a requirement only for a few -- those strategic thinkers (more about them in a bit) but is effectively wasted money for the tactical mission requirements of an Army at War (yes, I know we are not at war more often than we are -- perhaps...). I also acknowledge that for some in the Army, another definition of Professional applies "3. an avowed religious faith ." Kidding, there are a few who elevate it to that level of commitment; most do not. That, too points toward the trade aspect...

Back to the strategic thinkers; we need a few, they should be in the right places and we should realize that we will not be able to make everyone a good strategic thinker. Just as not every LTC can become a good Bn Cdr, not every LTC can become a good strategic planner -- yet we insist that we can do that...

This, I realize falls afoul of OPD directives but the issue becomes fairness and objectivity or subjectivity and competence. I contend the Army could win that argument in Congress but the Per community has convinced the senior leadership not to do that. I would really like to be proven wrong...

Back on track. We call ourselves a Professional Army and the definitions of Professional justify that apellation:

"2.
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs <a professional golfer>
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career <a professional soldier>
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return <professional football>."


Thus I contend we can be -- we are -- Professionals -- and really are but, like Professional Football Players, we do not 'belong' to a profession.

It is said of Professions that they must possess certain characteristics, here's a typical list: (LINK). Note the first item. Much of this thread revolves around that attribute. My personal quite strong belief is that in an effort to do what that characteristic imputes we have lost much ability in the physical plane...

That is true to the extent that we Professionals are being put through hoops by a bunch of amateurs in several places in the world today...

It is noteworthy that two characteristics of professions that we respectively eschew and embrace are "testing competency" which we try to avoid like the plague and "specialized vocabulary or jargon" which we not only embrace but literally have fallen in love with. Of those two, my belief is that in demonstrating that we are a profession, the former is of far more importance than the latter, yet on which is our emphasis...

It is equally noteworthy that the characteristics of a Profession that the US Army does possess have in all our major wars, immediately gone by the wayside and the aspects of teaching the trade is immediately adopted for all ranks.

Those ranks are part of the problem. Just as the Medical Technician who takes your blood pressure and temperature is a Health Care professional, he or she is not part of the Medical Profession, so the EM and NCOs who comprise the bulk of the Army are Professional Soldiers but they do not belong to a profession (I could get really snippy about the Sergeant Majors Academy but I won't...). We have an organization wherein the bulk of the workers are in effect, tradesmen, plying their trade -- that is true, in combat, of all ranks. That advanced and specialized education for many of the staff members and a few leaders of that organization is desirable and needed is unquestioned; the such education aimed at most or all of a subset of the organization and a specialized vocabulary make the members of the organization members of a profession is, at a minimum, suspect. It is also of questionable benefit on cost and effectiveness ground, though the recruiting and social engineering aspects are admittedly good.

I submit that desire to be recognized as a 'profession' is a root cause of some of our problems of competency and misplaced priorities.

Nope, we're professionals, practicing a trade that requires a great deal of physical effort, cognitive and experentially derived ability in an organization that has attempted to substitute more and more varied classroom effort for that experience in an effort to convince the vales of Academe that we are individuals in a profession. That really has not worked at all well on several levels...

Last edited by Ken White; 10-01-2010 at 04:25 AM.
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Old 10-01-2010   #34
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Default The Profession of Arms

Since the discussion of the profession has obviuosly (and rightly) started a great debate. I would ask that we move the discussion to the new thread: The Profession of Arms that Dave so kindly set up for us. I'm truly interested to hear professional Soldiers, both active and retired, opinions on what makes us "professionals".

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