Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. – The need to forge cohesive teams of Soldiers in a climate of dignity and respect, while also ensuring mastery of basic combat skills and a fight-to-win mindset are key to the Army's ability to deter or if need be defeat the nation's adversaries, the Army's top general said Sept. 9.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville made the comments during the first day of the 2020 Virtual Maneuver Warfighter Conference, which this year focuses on lethality and leadership.
To help limit the spread of COVID-19, this year's conference is being live-streamed. The conference, which concludes tomorrow, is hosted by the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, which trains Soldiers for the Infantry and Armor Branches – the maneuver force.
This year's theme is "Delivering Lethality and World-Class Leaders."
The first day focused on lethality.
"Winning matters ... we're not sending you to participate. We're not sending you to try hard. We're sending you to win. There's no second place or honorable mention in combat, and winning matters. That's what the American people expect, and you win through your people." – Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville
"We like to say, 'People First, and Winning Matters,'" McConville said, summarizing the philosophy of the Army's top leadership.
"If we have an Army that is cohesive teams, where everyone treats everyone with respect, everyone takes care of each other, we represent the diversity of the nation, and everyone feels included – everything else follows," said McConville.
That applies to all three of the Army's main components, the active duty force, the National Guard and Reserve, as well to Army Families and its civilian workforce, he said.
"This is something that I need all your help on," he said.
"What we need to do – and this needs to get down to the bottom level – is to build cohesive teams," he said. "And we have some things going on in the Army that we need to get after: sexual assault, sexual harassment; suicides; racism and extremism.
Those three, he said, "are the things that break trust with the American people" and "harm our Soldiers.
"I need your help, from each and every one of you, getting after this," McConville said. "I mean I really do. We've gotta get this right. We've gotta have cohesive teams. Cohesive teams are the organizations that lead on the battlefield."
He offered a verbal snapshot of what the proper situation would entail.
"Every Soldier," he said, "has a squad or section leader that cares about them. Every Soldier has a buddy and every Soldier has a family member.
"And what we need to do is get it down to the lowest level where within every organization, everyone's treating each other with dignity and respect, and everyone's taking care of each other.
"And I would argue that if everyone's treating everyone with dignity and respect, and they're taking care of you," the problems he'd outlined "would not happen, and they can't happen.
"We have to connect people," said McConville. "We have to connect squad leaders to Soldiers, we have to connect squad leaders to their Families, we have to connect buddies to Soldiers."
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some Soldiers to feel isolated, has fostered domestic stress and in some cases, suicide, making cohesion and support all the more urgent, he said.
"Especially with COVID and social distancing, we're seeing Soldiers become isolated," said McConville. "We're seeing Soldiers that don't have a support system.
"So I need your help on that," he said.
McConville explained the phrase "winning matters."
"'Winning matters,' to me, is an attitude," he said. "It's an attitude that when we send your squad, your platoon, your company, your division, your Army, or whatever organization you're in somewhere, we're not sending you to participate. We're not sending you to try hard. We're sending you to win.
"There's no second place or honorable mention in combat, and winning matters. That's what the American people expect, and you win through your people."
The need for that attitude applies to all Soldiers, whether in combat roles or not, he said.
"What we have to do for each organization is to find what winning looks like," he said.
For someone serving as a recruiter, for example, winning "is getting extraordinary young men and women to serve in the Army."
For Soldiers maintaining vehicles in the unit motor pool, winning could be "making sure that all your tanks and Bradleys and vehicles are ready to go."
Giving Soldiers enough time to truly master fundamental skills was a major theme addressed by McConville and other of the day's speakers.
"The Army has to be ready to fight and win on the battlefield," McConville said.
"A lot of readiness is making sure that our Soldiers, our noncommissioned officers, have time to do their jobs.
"We're talking bottom up," he said. "We've gotta slow down the op tempo, the higher level-type exercises, to give Soldiers, noncommissioned officers, junior leaders, the time to get their individuals, their squads, their platoons, at a high state of readiness.
"We really need to focus on that because that's where the fight's gonna be won," McConville said. "It can be won at that platoon, company level, and we need to make sure that they have the time to be highly trained, disciplined, and fit."
Another of the day's speakers, Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, also emphasized the importance of giving Soldiers the time to gain mastery of skill sets.
That can mean units having the time needed to "retrain that task, and retrain that task, until we get it right ... Doing them over and over again is a big part of this," Garrett said.
"The foundation of lethality in our Army rests with" the individual Soldiers who make up the teams, squads and platoons, he said.
Another of the day's speakers was Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He too, among many other topics he discussed, highlighted the importance of judiciously managing training so that Soldiers have the time they need to be proficient in their skills.
One of the division's main points of focus, he said, is "unbeatable squads, sections and groups. So in other words, we've mastered the basics ... If we do not master the basics, it does not matter, we cannot do anything else."
Proper training management would "give predictability, to actually have the time to master the basics," he said.
In remarks opening the day's events, MCoE's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahoe, provided the big-picture context for the conference.
Internationally, the world was in a "period of dynamic change," he said.
"We're also in a period of dynamic change for the Army," he said. "Many have compared this era to the 1973 beginning of the revolution in training and organization and equipment that the United States Army went through."
"So we're in the process of looking at everything," he said, "We're turning to the division as the unit of action."
The transition is "profound," said Donahoe, as the Army works through "the transition from the counterinsurgency fights of the past 15 or 20 years, to large-scale combat operations ...
"This is an incredibly rich time to be in" the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, he said, "and to be wrestling with where we're going as an Army."
The final day of the conference, Sept. 10, will focus on leadership.
Registration remains open to members of the U.S. military, Department of Defense civilians and contractors, as well as international military partners.
Those wanting to take part must register online. A full schedule of events is available on the website.