Leader development is important to ensure the Army’s success in a complex world, emphasized officials during the 2015 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., led a discussion on how the Army is developing agile and adaptive leaders for the future.
One major initiative that has just been approved to help with future leader development is the Army University, where the stovepipes of the 86 schools inside the Army will be broken down to increase the rate of innovation and foster partnerships outside the Army, Brown said at a related press conference.
In addition, the Army published an updated Field Manual 6-22, dated June 30, exclusively devoted to leader development and is focused extensively on team building, Brown said.
The manual will be delivered to soldiers not only in written form, but also through videos, apps and podcasts to better connect with the way the current generation learns, he said.
Brown was joined on the panel by several guest speakers from across all echelons of the force, from cadet to senior officer, from senior NCO to former soldiers who are now civilian leaders.
"This panel wants to stress the point that developing leaders is an important investment for the future of our Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Adding, "It builds trust in our units, prepares leaders for future uncertainty, and is critical to readiness and our Army’s success.
"By exposing these great soldiers to these opportunities in teaching them how to think, rather than what to think in a checklist mentality, that’s how we will build on the leaders of today, so that future leaders will have the ability to thrive in ambiguity and chaos."
The Army intends to develop its soldiers in the operational, institutional and personal domains, Davenport noted, which means that individual soldiers will control their career development with the guidance of their chain of command and the Army, in a progressive and sequential manner.
Investment for the future
"Developing leaders for the future is critical because it’s our advantage as an Army, it’s our advantage as a military in this complex world we face, and it’s an investment," Brown said.
He added, "Leader development, it’s an investment in time, it’s an investment in our leaders developing other leaders, who will carry on the legacy and really develop those new ideas and keep us the best military in the world."
Brown believes that in the past, the Army had been too focused on internal training and military-only education, but the force has come to realize it doesn’t do things "on its own."
The Army now partners with many organizations: internal military organizations, private industry, universities, foreign military and leaders, he said.
It is important for the Army to parent better, Brown said, adding it can do that through broadening the perspective of its leaders.
Maj. Dan Belzer, who received a master’s degree in supply chain management from Virginia Commonwealth University this past August, believes that the program provided him with some needed insight into how major civilian organizations are run – insight he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Alternately, Belzer’s presence gave other students a unique exposure to the amount of responsibilities placed on junior officers and soldiers in "austere capacities with uncertain circumstances and potential catastrophic consequences."
Army teaming like sports?
Duke University basketball player and ROTC cadet Marshall Plume described the relationship between the sport and the Army as symbiotic.
"I think one of the biggest dynamics I’ve gotten from the basketball world plays directly into what I get to do with the Army, is team building," he said.
"It’s all about defining roles. What am I good at, what do I bring to the table, how do I bring it better than anyone else?" Plumle added.
During his time at the Cadet Leadership Course, Fort Knox, Ken., he had to build a team with a sense of urgency, set on winning, and had to be able to define the roles of his teammates based on their strengths and weaknesses, much in the same way a basketball team would come together.
"I’m in a position where I can take advantage of both: to be the best basketball player I can be, and the best future officer I can be," he said.
U.S. sergeant like Chinese general?
Sgt. Julie Bytnar, who is the first enlisted soldier to attend the Uniformed Service University’s Master of Public Health program, is excited to continue the doctoral program, learn from her civilian counterparts at the school and bring those skills back to the Army.
Brown believes experiences, like Bytnar’s, are to the Army’s advantage.
He said that an E-5 in the U.S. Army, like Bytnar, has the same responsibilities as a colonel in the Chinese army, and that the junior Americans are better.
"That’s our advantage, and we’ve got to maintain it, that’s leader development," he said.
"I think leader development goes a little further than what’s happening today, what’s happening in your career," Belzer said.
Adding, "For me, it’s what’s happening in your squad, your company, your battalion, your brigade, in the next three to five years. And I look at competitive broadening assignments like the one I went to as the first gate in a responsibility that I have to the Army in being a steward of the profession, not just a leader and manager of individual soldiers."
Jacqueline M. Hames