By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)August 22, 2013
The commanding general for the Army Human Resources Command visited Fort Leonard Wood Aug. 13 and 14, and while on post, Maj. Gen. Rick Mustion discussed ways of retaining the quality of personnel during the drawdown and the upcoming changes to the way the Army evaluates its Soldiers .
"As we deal with uncertainty in the future, it is important that myself as the leader clearly communicate what we are doing and that I receive back thoughts and recommendations. We are trying to reduce angst and anxiety," Mustion said.
Mustion said the Army would love to be able to keep every Soldier, but since it can't, it is important that the leaders and Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood understand that the cuts will be made cautiously.
"We are going to take care of Soldiers and Families as they are transitioned out of the Army," Mustion said. "We are going to execute the drawdown as it currently exist in a very careful and a very deliberate manner. We are going to make sure that our Army retains its strength and its very best Soldiers. Our Army is composed of the best quality of Soldiers and officers our Army has ever had. It's unfortunate that some of those will be asked to leave the U.S. Army," he added.
In order to retain its best Soldiers, Mustion said the Army is preparing to adopt significant changes to its evaluation systems. Changes that will make cookie-cutter reports a thing of the past.
Mustion held a town hall meeting with field-grade and company-grade officers to explain the new Officer Evaluation Report, followed by a discussion of how selection occurs.
According to Mustion, one of the most important changes will be how officers are evaluated.
"Today, our officers are evaluated on a historical perspective not tied to anything specific. As we move to the future, we are going to evaluate our officers based on the attributes and competencies based on what a leader is and what a leader does," he said.
Some of the other OER changes will include; clear delineation of responsibilities -- the rater will focus on performance while the senior rater will focus on potential, future operational and broadening assignment recommendations, and supplemental review by an Army officer for non-Army rating chains.
The OER changes are expected to be implemented in Spring 2014.
Mustion said changes to the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report are also in the works.
"It's a little bit further down the road. It will probably happen about a year after we change the OER," Mustion said. "It's designed in a similar construct -- focused on leadership attributes and competences, accountability and the members of the rating chain. We need to implement the requirement for Soldiers to complete noncommissioned Officer Education System and structured self-development for promotion, reinforcing the importance of a professional military education," Mustion said.
One change already made was the addition of the NCO Contact Program for the grades E-7 and above.
"HRC contacts NCOs now before we put them on orders and we give them options. We talk about the impacts of assignments," Mustion said. "We are expanding that effort to try to make sure we are taking care of Soldiers and Families, and at the same time balancing professional development and the requirements of the Army."
Mustion has been visiting installations for the last 11 months, Fort Leonard Wood was his 36th stop.
As we looked at courses of action from a strategy level we could have made a decision to just get to the end strength very quickly. But in doing so we would have -- quite frankly -- gutted the Army. We would have created unready, hollow units. As you can imagine Fort Leonard Wood would have seen increased risk among drill sergeants. We certainly don't want to reduce the quality of training.
Part of the drawn down strategy is we should only bring into the Army the number of Soldiers that we need to sustain at 490,000.
This is the first time I have come back to Fort Leonard Wood, in an official capacity, since 1981. When I arrived on post I was amazed at the amount of construction and the facilities that have been built. They have really built the infrastructure up, these are quality training facilities.
I think their feedback is informative to us. It helps us gain insights into the concerns of Soldiers.