By Ben Sherman, Fort SillNovember 23, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Gen. Robert Cone, Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, visited Fort Sill Nov. 16 to meet with junior officers and Soldiers as part of the Army Profession Junior Leader Forum.
This forum is part of TRADOC's Unified Quest program, the Army's "Think Tank" for future studies. It is a key element to the Army's efforts to identify the challenges and opportunities that will test America's future forces.
During the weeklong event junior leaders (officers, noncommissioned officers, warrant officers and enlisted Soldiers) attended sessions that focused on aspects of leadership, trust, discipline and other elements that make up the Army profession.
Cone stated, "I'm here to listen and to hear what these leaders of the future have to say. I think we're a pretty darn good Army, but I believe there are some disturbing trends in the area of discipline. As TRADOC commander, I want to figure out how to re-establish those guidelines."
Cone granted the staff of the Cannoneer an interview to summarize his perspectives. The following is the transcript of the Q & A session.
Cannoneer: There has been a lot of discussion about Unified Quest. What is its purpose?
Cone: "Unified Quest is about a campaign of learning where the Army identifies, throughout the course of the year, the toughest decisions that it will have to make. Then it goes about establishing events where we reach out to a very eclectic group of people. In this case, we have a lot of young Soldiers. We really need their opinions on critical issues. But, often we reach out to civilians, to industry, to people who can help us solve the Army's most difficult issues. Each of these events builds from one to another to help us come up with the best solutions for the Army's most difficult problems."
Cannoneer: What is the Army profession campaign, and why is it important?
Cone: "What's really important is that after 10 years of war we take a hard look at ourselves, where we are today and where we want to go tomorrow. The Army profession is something that we have identified, that is inclusive of Soldiers and noncommissioned officers, warrant officers and officers, and our great civilians. We all need to identify what are the attributes of the Army profession and then what are the processes, the issues that we're having with that and then, how do we establish an action plan to go forward to the future."
Cannoneer: What is the future direction for the Army profession campaign?
Cone: "Well we're really at is an inflection point in the campaign. What we've done really in the last 11 months or so is sort of study ourselves and examine where we are, identify what the major trends are and now we're in the process here of developing an action plan to address those major issues and opportunities that we see for the Army profession into the future."
Cannoneer: What is the significance of the Junior Leader Forum being held at Fort Sill?
Cone: "This event is groundbreaking in that what we really want to do is validate our findings to date and decide where we want to go in the future. We realized that much of what we had done, had been done by senior officers and academics. So, we wanted in this particular event to focus on young leaders, young Soldiers and take from their perspectives. What I've been doing is going around to each of the subgroups and listening to what the trends are so far and what they talked about. Friday, [Nov. 18] I'll take a formal out brief and we'll basically encapsulate all that they have told us and bounce that against our action plan for the future. I think what's important that comes out of this is that we have a major action plan that then can go from the academic environment and push that out to the Army as an action to address the problems and opportunities we found this campaign."
Cannoneer: Can you speak to the importance of trust as an overarching theme in this campaign?
Cone: "Trust is the lifeblood of our profession. Most of us have spent a good part of the last 10 years or so going into very dangerous places many of us would not have chosen to go to. But, our Soldiers go there, because they trust each other when they're in that environment. They trust each other to look out for each other's interest, in that if they need help someone will be there.
So when we hear issues that there maybe problems of trust in our Army, Army senior leadership takes that very, very seriously.
One of the issues I've been talking about here today is to better understand the issue of trust and what we can do to ensure that we maintain the highest level of confidence and faith between senior leaders and subordinates, and Soldiers and their peers. We believe this is absolutely essential. Today was very enlightening for me, and I believe I have a much better understanding of how these young Soldiers feel about trust in the Army today."
Cannoneer: You've touched on the draw down of forces, not knowing what that may bring and what budget cuts there may be. What is TRADOC and the Army profession campaign doing to train future Army leaders to deal with the changes of the next decade and beyond?
Cone: "I believe one of the most important aspects of this campaign is that it will give us guideposts to make some of the difficult decisions that we have to make as we move into the future. If you understand the importance of the profession and understand who does what in that profession, there is a unique body of knowledge we can draw from to ensure the standards of the profession remain. That can help us as we adjust to what is likely to be a fairly difficult time in the history of our Army and certainly in the history of these young people and their 10-year tenure, where frankly, they have focused on what they knew which was the deployment-to-combat-and-back cycle.
Now as we are coming out of that cycle with the draw down in Iraq and then eventually in Afghanistan, what this does is reaffirm the fundamental tenets of our profession, so they can focus on those. As I tell many of them, we are absolutely committed to leader development and their professional development. I believe this demonstrates the Army's commitment to our Soldiers, even as we look at what could potentially be a very turbulent time."