WASHINGTON — Leaders from across the Army discussed the Profession of Arms in an Institute of Land Warfare forum at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting. This forum followed Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey’s announcement of a year-long campaign to study the Profession of Arms.
“I have asked Gen. Martin Dempsey and TRADOC to conduct a comprehensive review over the next year to examine the state of our profession after a decade of war to make recommendations, for changes to Army policies and programs that will strengthen us as an institution,” Casey said. Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, AUSA president, opened the panel with remarks affirming the timeliness and value of the campaign.
“This is the beginning of a very important dialogue,” he said.
The Profession of Arms Campaign and its three Lines of Operation (Assess, Dialog, Review/Revise) will probe and involve all major cohorts comprising the Army: officers, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, Soldiers and civilians.
Various efforts will take place within each Line of Operation to include activities such as detailed assessments, forums and symposiums, policy reviews, social media conversations, development of training apps, professional curriculum reviews, and reviews of existing field manuals, to name a few. This approach will require collective reflection, dialog and codification of the Army’s professional foundations and ethic.
The timing of the study is critical for the Army. Reflecting upon nine years of combat, the Army is exploring the strengths that have sustained Soldiers and the challenges that they are facing as a profession. The Army will also use the time to discuss its commitment to education, efforts to sustain the bond of trust between the Army and the American public, and the impact of decentralized operations.
Don Snider, senior fellow at the Center for Army Profession and Ethic at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and adjunct research professor at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., spoke about what it means to be a profession and the unique challenges that the Army faces. “You’re not a profession because you say you are,” he said.
“(A) Profession is society’s way of organizing expert work, the kind of work it takes years to learn. Professionals act and practice their knowledge, which is expert knowledge.”
“The professionals’ work is absolutely critical to the survival of the society,” he said, referencing the gravity of a Soldier’s expert knowledge. “And true professionals are servants. They lead a life of servitude for the satisfaction of a job well done.”
Snider went on to discuss the tension in the Army between an occupation-based culture and a profession-based culture. The campaign is seeking to leverage the successes of the Army to maintain it as a profession and avoid becoming an occupation-based culture.
Retired Gen. Frederick Franks, former TRADOC commander, shared his thoughts on the dialogue on the Profession of Arms and the progress he has seen in decades of service.
“I have never seen the Army so tough, so focused and, so resilient as I see now,” he said. “What is it about the profession that has helped achieve results (in Iraq and increasingly in Afghanistan)?” For the dialogue, Franks charged the audience with three considerations. He recommended that Soldiers recommit themselves to the culture of service. He reminded the audience that how they approach the topic of Profession of Arms would influence how they would feel about the discussion. Finally, he reminded the audience to keep the past, present and future in mind and be certain to rediscover the Profession of Arms and how it interacts with other professions.
“In the Army profession, these are necessary to the accomplishment of the mission,” he said. Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, who took command of Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence Thursday, mentioned how the responsibilities of Soldiers had changed over the years and what that means for the Army profession and ethic.
“(Soldiers) are solving complex problems with creative and agile solutions,” he said. “A [specialist] is now doing the kind of work a sergeant first class may have done, and a lieutenant is doing what a captain used to do.”
Col. Walter Piatt, a former brigade commander and Army Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, talked about the importance of personal values in shaping an individual Soldier’s moral standards and conduct.
“We approach our targets with our moral compass everyday and we saw so many positive examples of junior enlisted Soldiers,” said Piatt. “We have to think about how we can capitalize from our moral and value base. Everytime I come back from a deployment, I feel like we’re starting over. We need to build from this base and I think that’s what we need to learn. We need to take all of these adaptations and evolve and be more decisive.”
Piatt shared about how a grenade was thrown in the direction of a Soldier and when the Soldier had found the source, decided not to fire because there were too many children around.
“(The grenade) was thrown by a young boy, about 11 years old,” said Piatt. “We found the child’s parents, their tribe and their village are forever grateful because this Soldier knew right from wrong, and it’s hard to train Soldiers to do that.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, command sergeant major for I Corps at Fort Lewis, Wash., discussed the role of the profession in the garrison setting and Soldier readiness.
Along with maintaining training standards, Grippe reminded the Army to close the gap between operations in the field and operations and life at home to include discipline concerns among Soldiers. “We are one of the most razor-sharp armies that has ever been produced, and the challenge is to keep it that way,” said Grippe. “We have to make sure that we do not dull and there are challenges that we need to address or we risk losing that sharpness; higher suicide rates, higher sexual assault [incidents], higher drug and alcohol abuse. All of these issues can be traced back to the high operational tempo of the last nine years and we have to overcome these issues with research, education and resources.”
Grippe cited that leadership and mentoring is key.
“We have to keep in mind that we have a combat-seasoned force, but as a profession, we have to coach and mentor and affect at the lowest levels,” he said. “That has to be translated down to sergeant and staff sergeant: the most junior leaders.”