SMA: Army Renews Focus on Standards, Discipline

SMA: Army Renews Focus on Standards, Discipline

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael R. Weimer speaks at the Sergeant Major of the Army’s Initiatives Briefing at the  AUSA 2023 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (Pete Marovich for AUSA)
Photo by: Pete Marovich for AUSA

NCOs drive change across the Army, and they will have a critical role as the service renews its focus on standards and discipline, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer said.

“We’re going to get after standards and discipline,” Weimer said Oct. 11 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition. “I can’t go anywhere in the Army and not have a conversation about standards and discipline.”

Weimer acknowledged that while NCOs bear a large responsibility for soldier standards and discipline, it is not an easy burden to bear. “It’s tough being the standard every day,” he said. “You’re going to get injured. You’re going to have things happen in your life. It’s tough coming to work with a good attitude every day if you have stuff going on at home.”

But being the standard means something, Weimer said. “When you work on it and you stay steady with it and you add a little humility in there, you’ll build that cohesive team.”

To help NCOs with this effort, Weimer said the Army is building an Army Blue Book that will be “the base document for everybody to know what right looks like.”

The Blue Book traces its origins to 1779, when Friedrich Von Steuben published Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, and the printer, facing a paper shortage, bound the book with the blue paper he had on hand, according to the Army.

The Blue Book isn’t new, Weimer said, but this new version will be a foundational document that “will be the same for every single one of us.”

A team of soldiers from the Army’s Software Factory will build the Blue Book in app form, allowing the Army to update information quickly and efficiently, Weimer said. The goal is to have it ready by the 2024 AUSA Annual Meeting, Weimer said.

Soldiers will hear a lot about standards and discipline, Weimer said, so the Army must be clear about what it expects. “If we don’t level what the standards are, we’re going to be frustrated,” he said. “We’ve got to remove that ambiguity.”

The Blue Book will include Army history, the oath, the soldier, NCO and other creeds, links to commonly used publications and other relevant information, Weimer said. Army leaders also are seeking feedback from soldiers for what the book should include.

But standards and discipline don’t end with a book, Weimer said. “The book itself doesn’t create standards and discipline and lethality,” he said. “You still have to lead. You still have to have the personal courage to live the standard and enforce the standard.”

The Army also is looking to put rigor back into training, said Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Harris, senior enlisted leader for Army Training and Doctrine Command. “We have to be good at our tasks at all times,” Harris said. He used land navigation as an example. “Land nav is not just for the infantry, it’s not just for the scouts,” he said. “When you hold each other accountable, we’re going to get proficient in our tactical tasks and our warrior tasks and battle drills.”

As the Army enforces standards and discipline, unit cohesion will grow and harmful behaviors should decline, Weimer said. These efforts will be crucial if the Army is called to fight the nation’s wars, he said.

“The responsibility we carry, it’s a big deal,” he said. “The foundation of being a phenomenal warfighter is based on standards and discipline. If we’re truly going to be ready for large-scale combat operations, we’ve got to get tight on those standards and discipline.”

— Michelle Tan