By Marie Berberea, Fort SillNovember 23, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Soldiers were swimming in deep issues Nov. 15-18 at Fort Sill's Snow Hall as part of the the Army Profession Junior Leader Forum.
Seventy junior enlisted, officers and warrant officers from across different installations were brought together to discuss Army profession strengthening initiatives.
"This is your chance to influence the entire profession," said Col. Sean Hannah, Center for the Army Profession and Ethic director.
The Soldiers were told to speak freely to solve issues concerning trust and relationships; discipline, standards and professionalism; Army culture and ethos; leader development and professional military education; and professional certification. Together they came up with 28 recommendations on how to solve those problems.
"Perception is reality," said Gen. Robert Cone, Training and Doctrine Command commander. He said after 10 years of conflict the Army is in a time of transition and that's why the advice of the future leaders was needed. He visited with the Soldiers as they broke down into their different working groups Nov. 16 and used their individual personal experiences to create guidance.
After four days of discussion, the Soldiers presented their ideas to Cone as well as other senior leaders.
The first topic was the issue of trust. The Soldiers said they put trust in their leaders when they know their job. One Soldier recommended the Army begin the process of re-implementing skill qualification tests across all military occupational specialties.
"We need to limit the amount of time that people are spending outside of their MOS. Once someone is outside of their MOS for a certain amount of time our Army life tends to pass them by. They become out of touch. You do not want subordinates to know more than your superiors. If my superior knows my job, knows their job, I tend to trust them more," said Chief Warrant Officer Jack Mulvihill.
The topic changed to standards and discipline where Soldiers felt leaders could set the example by simply putting down their Blackberries, getting up from their desks and coming face-to-face with Soldiers.
"Get out there. I remember as a young Soldier growing up through the ranks it wasn't uncommon to see General Petraeus. It wasn't uncommon to see my brigade commander out there during training sessions. Where has that gone in the last five years? Standards get reinforced through active presence" said Capt. Patrick Merriss.
This sentiment was also echoed in ways to improve the Army's culture and ethos. Chief Warrant Officer Brendan Ramroth shared how his first leader was a great example and how that person is still influential in his military career today.
Cone was pleased to hear it and said the group was coming up with real solutions.
"How do you know you got it right? A number of people look at the problem from different angles and you get a triangulation in identifying what the root cause of the problem in fact is," said Cone.
Another recommendation was for those who are trying to move higher in the ranks. The group suggested they need better guidance on what is expected of them and how to improve. To do so they ask that the officer evaluation report/noncommissioned officer evaluation report system be more meaningful. They said candor is needed; counseling should include positive developmental guidance.
They threw around the idea of taking away the terminology 'counseling' altogether. This sparked debate in the room and also on the web as comments came from junior leaders through Defense Connect Online.
"Honestly, even outside of the Army when you think of marital counseling it's usually not because something good is going on in the marriage," said Staff Sgt. Mathew Olodun.
The group suggested using the term "guidance" instead, but the main idea was to change the process to include feedback that would tell Soldiers what they are doing wrong so they can improve.
After all the recommendations were stated, Cone said they will be considered as the Army decides how to conduct business in the future.
"The idea of bringing junior leaders together and asking for their feedback on the studies I think has gotten us the kind of results we could not have gotten any other way," said Cone. "It validated many of the findings we've had in the past. But more important the Soldiers' perspective has given us a way ahead in terms of action. Let me make sure you understand loud and clear this action plan will not be to whip up a bunch of computer slides and shoot them out electronically to our subordinates. I don't think that would measure up. It's all about taking action; concrete results will come from this."
The forum served to continue the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic, or CAPE. CAPE was established by the chief of staff of the Army in 2008 to reinforce the Army profession and its ethic.
For more information, search the Army Profession Campaign at AKO.