Army leaders tackle readiness at warfighter summit

By Ms Mikie PerkinsJuly 29, 2022

On the final day of the 2022 AUSA Warfighter Summit and Exposition in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Army's top enlisted Soldier, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, addressed the topic of readiness in the ranks as part of a Contemporary Military Forum or CMF. All forum participants agreed that although the various realms comprising readiness are of equal importance, one segment in particular is key.

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"We need to take a serious look at the basic fundamental of being human," said Grinston.

While Soldiers have a vast arsenal of weapon systems and some of the best technology in the world, Soldiers are human beings who can learn and relearn, adapt and overcome. Grinston believes how they respond as leaders to technological breakdowns is telling.

"Technology enhances us, but we're not fixing the problem if we're standing there admiring the problem," Grinston said. "I want to know as a leader, what action did you take to remedy the problem because as a leader, you should know how to overcome these kinds of obstacles," he said.

Joining Grinston on stage at the forum was Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland of the XVIII Airborne Corps. He supported the SMA's mindset of leaders having absolute responsibility for the development of other leaders on their team and using whatever is available to grow them.

"We need to create an environment of innovation where we work and collaborate with people in industry that can be the right fit for increasing a Soldier's quality of life in various ways," said Holland. "We have to look at everything available to help our Soldiers be the fittest they can possibly be."

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A common thread among the forum members with regard to readiness was the importance of mental physical fitness. Evan Van Nostrand, Assistant Director of Player Development, Character and Career Development at the University of Alabama, emphasized how culture within an organization can make or break an entire team.

"Culture is everything, and if a coach, a leader, is surrounded by people of character; people who hold themselves accountable for their own actions, that's a win," said Van Nostrand. "We ensure our players have psych staff on hand for therapy as well as religious counselors so we take a holistic approach to mental conditioning that leads to team success."

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Weimer is top NCO at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. He explained that enticing people to join the Army team and retaining those who are already a part of it, means evaluating what motivates them. He said if the culture in an organization is comprised of people who hold extrinsic values, that can be a problem because their motivation to grow won't continually be fed. They'll start to form para-cultures or sub-groups that work against intended goals and disrupt unit cohesion. That's why he said, it's important to have good people who are dedicated to cementing cohesive teams.

"If you have Soldiers and people around you who have intrinsic values and that's the overall nature of your organization's culture, that's a win because those people want to serve, " he said. "One way to track and measure the culture in your organization is to pay attention to command climate surveys and take a hard look at the data. It's a dashboard full of information and data," said Weimer.

He added if leaders don't pay attention to available information and they have Soldiers in their formation acting in ways that are counterintuitive to the culture, that's unhealthy. "It's like a cancer," Weimer said.

The comparison of Army teams to football teams does highlight the necessity for cohesion and like-mindedness but with one very stark difference. You may have an off season in football, but when it comes to fighting and winning our nation's wards, we have to be fit both mentally and lethally at all times. There is no such thing as an "off season" in the Army or in combat because "you can't even afford to have an "off day"' said Grinston.