FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Being a physician is a profession. So is law enforcement and theology. But what about being a Soldier'

That's what Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former TRADOC commanding general, asked Soldiers to discuss last year as part of an Armywide initiative on what is being called the Profession of Arms.

Professionals produce expert work that requires years of study and practice. Society is dependent on professionals for their health, justice and security.

In an effort to reflect and improve the profession of being a Soldier, TRADOC has charged Army leaders with the task of conducting a comprehensive review this year on the state of the profession after nearly a decade of war. The study is intended to solicit recommendations for changes to Army policies and programs that will strengthen the Army as an institution.

"The last time something like this was done was in the 1970s, coming out of the Vietnam War," said Mike Ryan, Fort Jackson's strategic planner. "We have now been in persistent conflict with two wars, and it is time for (Soldiers) to step back and take a reflective look at (themselves) no matter what ... level (they) are."

Fort Jackson has embraced the POA study by conducting quarterly luncheons for battalion commanders, during which they discuss such topics as the meaning of duty and civil-military relations. The POA campaign will last through calendar year 2011.

"We have tried to have a pretty aggressive program in accordance with the TRADOC program," Ryan said. "Maj. Gen. Milano has engaged the brigade commanders, but more importantly, battalion commanders, to work with them on the Profession of Arms campaign."

The POA campaign and its three lines of operation - assess, dialogue, review/revise - will involve officers, warrant officers, NCOs, Soldiers and civilians.

"The Army is a way of life and must be approached with discipline, passion and cohesion," said Col. Drew Meyerowich, commander of the 193rd Infantry Brigade. "It is understandable that Soldiers can enter service and not see this as a profession, but they will quickly learn that regardless of their beliefs, they are expected to have the discipline to perform in a professional manner.

"It is during this apprenticeship that the true professional is born and the passion to serve begins," he said. "Discipline and passion drives Soldiers to strive for excellence in everything they do."
Lt. Col. Joel Bryant, Task Force Marshall commander, said entering the profession is something a person is "called" to do.

"The Profession of Arms is truly a calling, which means we must collectively embark upon this journey with an inherent understanding of what the American people trust us to do and provide," Bryant said. "We must diligently assess where we are on the continuum of development, and pursue ways and opportunities to develop ourselves and others in preparation for what the future may hold. The lethal and dangerous nature that will likely transpire in the future should compel us to prepare accordingly."

In addition to POA luncheons, a focus group of 11 different demographic groups has been set up to gain input from battalion commanders to junior enlisted and civilians.

"At the end of the day, the greatest thing this will do is start a healthy dialogue among leaders," Ryan said. "It is a time for introspection and to step back and look at yourself."

The timing of the study is critical for the Army. After nine years of combat, the Army is exploring strengths that have sustained Soldiers and challenges they face as a profession.

"When I hear the phrase Profession of Arms, I think of the long line of Soldiers who joined an idea that was larger than themselves and gave a full measure of devotion to their brothers and sisters who served so that others may enjoy the fruits of freedom," said Lt. Col. Richard MacDermott, 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment commander. "We will only exist as a profession as long as we take the time to reflect, reinforce and evolve. We will only remain the home of the free as long as we are protected in the home of the brave."

A past POA luncheon focused on whether there is an anti-intellectual culture at Fort Jackson.
"To a degree I think anti-intellectualism does exist in the Army today," Bryant said. "The tendency to categorize a Soldier, and create a narrow career path can be detrimental to not only the Soldier, but the Army in general. We should develop, retain and provide suitable opportunities to our best and brightest."

MacDermott said he believes there is a limited anti-intellectualism culture in today's Army.
"Yes, I believe we have a bias toward action and feign anti-intellectualism. However, I believe we have what I would call a limited anti-intellectual bias," he said. "We as an institution love schools and education. We are consistently sending Soldiers to school to increase their knowledge and capabilities.
"Given that we are clearly not anti-learning, we stop short at taking the time to analyze and we don't make the time necessary for philosophic or deep thought," he said.

Editor's note: The quarterly luncheons to discuss the Profession of Arms concept falls within objective 2.3 of the Campaign Plan, which is to implement professional and ethical development programs.