Army career counselors hear about Institutional Adaptation
November 20, 2009
By Babs Chase
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2009) -- More than 750 Army retention professionals were gathered in Orlando, Fla., this week for the annual Worldwide Retention Training Seminar.
The purpose of the seminar was to gather all Army career counselors to learn about cutting-edge strategies to retain Soldiers for the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve. These career counselors are dedicated to properly navigating through the Army's ever-changing environment and assisting the leadership in retaining a combat-ready force.
Retention continues to exceed its projected goals. According to Master Sgt. Lou Beldotti, conference coordinator, "American Soldiers are dedicated to the mission-and that is why they continue to serve."
Despite high re-enlistment numbers, retention professionals continue to hear Soldiers and families speak of the strain they have borne during the past eight years of persistent conflict. The career counselors in attendance often listen to servicemembers talk about challenges that could prevent many from remaining on active duty.
Karl Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, knows well the challenges Soldiers are facing having served for many years before retiring from the U.S. Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 2001. He was invited to speak about ways Institutional Adaptation -the last phase in Army Transformation - is working to make a difference and lighten the load on Soldiers and their families.
Schneider then shared reasons for the Army being out of balance. The current demand for combat-ready forces exceeds the sustainable supply. This situation causes Soldiers to deploy more often with too little time at home between deployments. Many policies, processes and procedures were designed to support a Cold War-era, tiered-readiness Army, he said, not the current expeditionary, cyclical-readiness Army.
Without resource-informed decisions, the Army operates on a principle of "readiness at any cost," rather than "readiness at the best value," Schneider said.
The Army of the 21st century must simultaneously accomplish its mission to deliver trained and ready forces to combatant commanders, while sustaining the all-volunteer force in an era of persistent conflict and engagement, he said.
Institutional Adaptation is addressing these issues on three key lines of effort: improving Army force generation, adopting an enterprise approach and reforming the requirements and resource processes.
Schneider highlighted the importance of leadership working together to address the key challenges facing the Army and truly listening to those in the field who are fighting these challenges.
"You are part of the Army that does the hard work. You don't work for me-- I work for you," Schneider said.
In order to explain Institutional Adaptation, Schneider shared some anecdotes and challenged the group to choose where they stand on moving the Army forward.
He first talked about the antiquated business of buggy whip makers - they were successful companies, people and products that all became irrelevant once people started driving cars. Those companies failed because they could not adapt to the changing needs of their society. It did not matter how successful they were once their products were no longer relevant.
Schneider also recounted how the Polish Army and their well-respected Army Lancer Calvary dominated Europe for more than 300 years, garnering the respect of military leadership around Europe, until they realized that their lances were ill-prepared to fight the armies of World War II. Although they had the best horses, training and soldiers, they were no match for tanks and modern artillery.
Schneider closed with a story about the race to the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott, two scientists who took very different approaches to their journey. Amundsen applied the knowledge of indigenous people of similar regions.
Scott thought the wisdom of Western science could make him successful. Despite his bravery and good intentions, these solutions were not adaptable to the environment and his expedition ended tragically. The moral of the story is to approach challenges and plan missions strategically and to recognize that adaptability, diversity, good decision-making and an open mind are crucial for success.
Schneider told the audience to ask themselves, "Do I want to be a survivor and adapt to the challenges of today tomorrow, or do I want to live in the past' Learn...to be an adaptive, Army-changing ways of doing business to face the realities of today. If we do, we'll be successful."
Schneider received a standing ovation after charging the group to take an active role in adapting the Army. He closed with an inspirational salute to those gathered, "Thanks to all of you - you are Soldiers in the U.S. Army - you have made a decision to be selfless, to give of yourself for the greater good. There is nothing better you could be doing with your lives than what you are doing. I am proud of all of you - the units and Soldiers you represent."