Speakers highlight packed conference
May 21, 2009
- Fort Knox Armor Warfighting Conference drew large crowd
- Many notable Army leaders spoke to the topic of "Meeting the Full Spectrum Challenge of the Future"
Last week Fort Knox hosted the annual Armor Warfighting Conference. The three-day event featured many prominent speakers and Army leaders who addressed this year's theme of "Armor Strong: Meeting the Full Spectrum Challenge of the Future."
Speakers included Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army; Gen. Charles Campbell,the commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command; Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Training and Doctrine Command; Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Lt. Gen. Ricky Lynch, the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas; Maj. Gen. Mike Barbero, the commander of the Infantry Center and Fort Benning, Ga.; Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, the former commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan; and Maj. Gen. James Terry, the director of the Future Force Integration Directorate Army Capability Integration Center.
The information delivered, insights shared, and suggestions for the Army's development packed the three days. A few highlights are presented here.
Chiarelli talked about the difficult questions the Army leadership needs to answer in order to meet the future's challenges. He contrasted the Army he knew in the '70s, with today's Army --facing a very different enemy with very different capabilities. Today's battle environment is constantly evolving and far more sophisticated than the battlefield of the past, Chiarelli said.
"I think Soldiers must be flexible enough to operate across the spectrum," Chiarelli said. "Every Soldier must be a utility player."
The Army's response to the tough questions will shape the fighting force of the future. Some of the considerations on the leadership table include specializing versus generalization; creating specialized advisory assistance teams, and creating more Stryker brigades or fewer. While these topics -which are only a few of those mentioned - may depend on the technology of the future, Chiarelli assured the audience not to worry.
"The vice's job is to worry about things," he said, also cautioning his listeners to be ready to adapt.
"Don't cling to past technology at the expense of future capability," he warned.
Dempsey agreed with Chiarelli on many points, and he told the audience that if attendees hadn't yet grasped the repeating themes of an uncertain, unpredictable, yet complex future - he wouldn't even try to convince them. However, of all the information presented during the conference, Dempsey told the warfighters that they should be able to pull three imperatives out of the numerous speeches, briefings, definitions, and acronyms they'd heard.
Dempsey stressed, "We have to win this war!"
Stopping just short of calling the war an "existential threat," he said the nation has never been defeated in war and "God help us if we are defeated."
Secondly, he said the Army needs to preserve the all-volunteer force. The previous Army of conscripts, he said, was comprised of those who did not share the Army values and did not want to be part of the fighting force.
"Our Army can't do everything, but it can do anything," Dempsey said, referring to the positive attitude of the all-volunteer force.
Thirdly, Dempsey said the Army must continue to develop leaders.
"You never go to war with the organization you're given," he said, describing the need for Army leaders to be flexible and change mid-stride. Training to specific tasks, he pointed out, isn't sufficient to make a leader versatile enough to adapt quickly.
Dempsey also told audience members that there really is no "one thing" they must know, but they should learn to trust their instincts because "you know what right looks like." Perhaps the single most important thing leaders need to do, he added, is "Fall in love with your Soldiers."
Campbell sprinkled facts and timelines throughout his briefing; currently 46 brigades are deployed, including six aviation brigades; the active Army component will grow from 533,000 to 547,000 while the National Guard will grow from 350,000 to 358,000 and the Army Reserve will grow from 201,000 to 206,000. On any given day, Campbell said, 75,000 guard and reserve Soldiers are mobilized. By the end of fiscal 2009, the Army will be well on its way to rebalancing its troops.
"This is an Army that has been at war for seven-and-a-half years, but yet, it is an Army that has been able to recruit and retain," Campbell said.
Referring to future growth, Campbell said the Army has received approval to grow the active component by 21 brigades, and all the growth will be in FORSCOM units. Ten of the 21 brigades will be "built" by the end of 2009, and the Army is moving away from division-centric structures to brigade modular structures.
Out of 303 brigades, 268 should be modularized by the end of 2009.
"The challenge will be for the Army to reshape this workforce," Campbell said, "And I'm confident we will take on all this and get it done."
While the current operational tempo and warfighting needs are difficult to meet, Campbell said the much-maligned stop-loss program should be eliminated by January 2010.
"TRADOC continues to do a great job; senior leaders understand they are in a support role of the operational force," Campbell said, acknowledging the stressors for the fighting forces as well as those who support them.
"You have two choices; you can be frustrated or roll up your sleeves. I suggest the latter," he said.
Caldwell emphasized that training and education are needed to develop agile leaders. While experience is important, he said, it can't replace education and training; all three elements together should be used to develop leaders. Education must be flexible, adaptable, and responsive.
"We need to teach leader how to think, not what to think," he said.
Creative thinkers are the ones who will be best prepared to solve the uncertainties of the future, Caldwell said. The military must grasp the concept of life-long learning because it gives the military its strength.
But education alone isn't enough to give the nation and the Army the leaders it needs, Caldwell said.
"If you haven't looked to your seven Army values, you need to. It's who we are, what we represent, how we live our lives," Caldwell said.
Those values are not ones that civilians necessarily recognize, according to Caldwell. They don't understand "selfless service," and because the Army does understand, it gives civilians an identity.
While most speakers encouraged Soldiers and praised them for their service, Lynch was focused on Army families.
"The last thing I worry about is reenlistment," he said. "I worry about the families."
The stresses of seven years of war have been seen in the Army's rising suicide and divorce rates. Lynch stressed the importance of the Army family as well as a Soldier's personal family.
"If the Army's going to break, it's because the family breaks," Lynch said.
Like many of the speakers at the conference, Lynch thanked the Soldiers for their service and told them how honored he was to know that many men and women had enlisted, knowing they would be going into war.
"It's a privilege to serve alongside you," Dempsey said.