By Jonathan Koester, TRADOCNovember 15, 2011
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Nov. 15, 2011 ) -- Army Soldiers are asked to fill out many surveys each year. But the Center for Army Leadership at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., wants Soldiers to know that one survey coming out this month is too important to ignore.
The Center for Army Leadership, or CAL, Annual Survey of Army Leadership, known as CASAL, is read at the highest levels and has brought actual changes to the Army.
Although Soldiers might not have heard of the CASAL, they've certainly seen the results, said Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Johndrow, the former command sergeant major for the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
For instance, all the recent discussions about "toxic leadership" in the Army started with last year's CASAL results, he said.
"That was a result of the survey, so you know your voice is being heard when you see it in the Army Times and all these other places," Johndrow said. "It's the talk of the town now."
The CASAL is Web-based, and invitations to participate will go out by email this month. Participants are randomly selected, and it is important that Soldiers who receive the invitation take part.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III pointed out that Soldiers will see the results from the CASAL.
"The CASAL is one of the most important surveys a Soldier can take in any given year because it is one of the few surveys where the unfiltered results are released publicly," Chandler said. "It is the survey that leads to real change in our leadership doctrine, and this doctrine is the basis for how the Army develops leaders."
The Army needs honest feedback from Soldiers, and the survey is one of the few ways to make sure Army leaders find out what is going right or wrong, Johndrow said.
"As a noncommissioned officer you have an obligation to give your honest assessment of how things are out there," Johndrow said. "And nobody out there really has their finger on the pulse like a noncommissioned officer, because you're down there where the rubber meets the road.
"If you see something out there that is working well or not working well, or if we're not going in the right direction, you have to let people know there is an issue," he said. "If you don't fill the darn thing out, how is anybody going to know what is going on?"
Johndrow said he was in a meeting about six months ago with Gen. Martin Dempsey, then the chief of staff of the Army, when the CASAL and toxic leadership was the talk of the meeting.
"So you're filling out a survey and wondering if it gets to the top. Well, that's as top as it gets," Johndrow said. "Soldiers need to know: Your word is being heard at the very top, and they are concerned about what you are saying."
Soldiers also need to know that changes come about because of the survey results and because top leaders pay attention to the survey. For instance, the feedback on toxic leadership led to changes in how Soldiers are evaluated, said Col. Tom Guthrie, director of the Center for Army Leadership.
"Some of these changes are somewhat discreet, so you may not see it on the cover of the Army Times, but you'll eventually notice the NCOER (noncommissioned officer efficiency report) is changing," Guthrie said.
"People should ask the question, 'What drove the change?'" he said. "Well, things like the CASAL survey are driving that change. It's not always right in your face, in 72-point type."
The annual survey began in 2005, and although some questions stay the same each year to track changes, others change based on Army needs. After focusing on toxic leadership the past couple of years, Guthrie wants the survey this year to focus on other areas, he said.
"I want to find out what positive climates are out there and why are they deemed positive, so we can start learning from what is going good in the Army instead of taking just negative lessons and trying to berate ourselves about the 18 percent who aren't doing the right thing," Guthrie said.
The CASAL takes only about 15 minutes to fill out, said Sgt. Maj. Alan M. Gibson, senior noncommissioned officer for initiatives and management at CAL. He said he hoped Soldiers take the time to fill out the survey. The future of Army leadership depends on it.
"From the 10 years we've now had in conflict, of war, somehow leader development has diminished," Gibson said. "We need to make sure that we pick up the ball and run to the goal line with leader development."
Gibson added, "82 percent of our leaders are doing a fine job out there. It's the 18 percent that we're targeting, and we need to make sure they are getting it right."
Soldiers who want a say in how Army leadership is taught and passed down need to make sure they pay attention to their in boxes and fill out the CASAL. Leadership changes in the Army are spawned from those responses.
"It's like the lottery: You have to play to win," Johndrow said. "If you don't fill it out, you know nothing's going to happen. But if you fill it out, your voice is going to be heard."