WASHINGTON -- Improving leadership development and introducing new health and fitness efforts that aim to reduce injuries will help carry out the Army People Strategy and have a lasting impact on the force, Army leaders said Wednesday.
Last year, the service announced the strategy that calls on every Soldier, civilian and Soldier for Life to be taken care of in order to benefit the Army as a whole.
Army leaders outlined plans on how to effectively implement the strategy during a virtual panel at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
“I’m excited about what this is going to provide the Army as we change and stop treating Soldiers like carbon copies and really get after taking what their strengths and weaknesses are,” said Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, Army Center for Initial Military Training commander.
Placing an emphasis on the military profession and the Soldier’s role as a member of the Army will be one method to help operationalize the people strategy, said Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center commander.
Another method is developing better leaders. The Army recently announced changes to its noncommissioned officer advancement structure to boost the quality of its enlisted leaders. The service widened the scope of its order of merit list, or OML, focusing on a Soldier’s merit and abilities instead of time in service. Under the changes, Soldiers will be selected for training from the OML to qualify for promotions faster.
Finally, the Army has begun implementing career assessments that started with the officer corps last fiscal year and will continue with NCOs, warrant officers and civilians this fiscal year, Rainey said.
“Everybody knows leadership development is important,” Rainey said. “Everybody knows it's the responsibility of every leader in the Army to make those around them better, but we’ve got to get back to the nuts and bolts of how we do that.”
The Army’s new Holistic Health and Fitness program, or H2F, aims to focus on improving Soldier fitness and nutrition, and will dedicate resources such as physical therapists, fitness trainers and dietitians to monitor and assess a Soldier’s health. Taking care of the individual Soldier will impact readiness by reducing the number of non-deployable Soldiers and create more combat-ready Soldiers, Rainey said.
The H2F program, coupled with the Army Combat Fitness Test, may also help cut the number of injuries.
“If we can reduce these non-availability rates for Soldiers by just 1%, that will save more than $40 million, which is critical in this fiscal environment,” Hibbard said. “We have to stop breaking Soldiers. Instead, we must work to prevent these injuries and preserve the long-term health of our most valuable resource.”
Nurturing physical health will also impact attrition and could reduce the number of Soldiers who separate from the Army for medical reasons, potentially providing additional cost savings to the Army, Hibbard added.
Prioritizing the individual Soldier will support the Army’s modernization efforts as a whole, as a holistically fit, better-trained Soldier can better execute the tasks the Army’s transformational changes call for, said Gen. Paul Funk, Army Training and Doctrine Command commander.
“We are trying to lead our Army towards higher levels of expertise, professionalism, and [we’re] developing leaders of character,” Funk said.
The notion of shifting its attention toward the individual is inherently American and represents the country’s values, said E. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs. He said the focus and care of the individual stems from Western philosophy.
“The focus on our people is moved from things that were big aggregates: rank, branch, to things that are very granular and speaks to things that are uniquely American and perhaps Western,” Wardynski said. “And that speaks to the value of the individual, human dignity, what people bring to bear in solving problems. Those are very much embedded in American culture.”
The Army has moved its attention slightly from readiness to take a greater look at how it takes care of its people. Admittedly, the higher operations tempo of the past two decades had taken a toll on individual Soldiers, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said Tuesday.
By shifting toward a people focus, the Army has diverted from its previous mentality during the late 20th century, Wardynski said.
“The Army we had was a terrific Army. It met the needs of the nation during an era that was … characterized by industrial activities,” he said. “We're very much in the information and conceptual age today. Our leaders are conceiving of new formations, new operating paradigms.”
As part of the people strategy, Wardynski and Funk signed the implementation plan for military personnel this month after the Army released the Civilian Implementation Plan in June. That plan identifies each civilian’s skills, knowledge and preferences to better match workers to achieve organizational goals while building readiness.
“They're leveraging information to bring these to fruition, and to create a pace of operations and agility organizationally that our enemies simply won't be able to match,” Wardynski said. “But the key enabler to doing all that will be our people.”
Wardynski said the service had to accept some risk when implementing the people strategy, as it must move quickly to produce the resources and training needed for professional and leadership development, and improving Soldiers’ health.
The assistant secretary said that when the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, goes online in December 2021 it will give the service the capability to achieve some of those goals.
“Time is of the essence,” Wardynski said. “The younger folks in the Army, our sergeants and our junior leaders, are clamoring to see [the people strategy] in their world. [IPPS-A] will allow us to implement all these things we're working on across the force -- our active [duty], Guard and Reserve, up and down the ranks. And so I think getting that across the finish line is really a major, major step.”