Cohesive teams will thrive in ambiguity

U.S. special operations Soldiers head toward their objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016. Jackal Stone 2016 is a bilateral Georgian, U.S. counter terrorism and crisis management exercise.

The 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark A. Milley has said “readiness is our number one priority … there is no other number one.”

As the world becomes increasingly complex, it is difficult to predict the next challenge to American interests and, therefore, difficult to prepare our Army for what may lie ahead so we must be prepared for anything, anytime, anywhere.

Whether we are fighting Ebola in Liberia or fighting the spread of ISIS, the Nation continues to ask our Army to perform a diverse number of combat and non-combat missions. However, the increasing complexity we face does not negate our responsibility to meet the needs of our nation.

Where the Army once prepared for what was termed “AirLand Battle”, it must now prepare leaders to be creative and adaptive in order to thrive in chaos and ambiguity.

In order to build readiness, our policies, procedures, and culture require the Army to prepare today’s leaders for future challenges. Efforts are underway at the Army Training and Doctrine Command, Army Material Command, Army Human Resource Command and Army Medical Command to enhance the Army’s overall readiness posture by doing just that. In a future marked by uncertainty, the individual, the team and the institution need to understand the responsibility each has in making our Army a force fit to fight and able to deter our potential adversaries, assure our allies and defeat our enemies when called to do so.

A fit force starts with individual readiness
I often say “we win wars between 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.” By this, I mean I expect a team that does challenging physical fitness every morning will also be a team that is better postured to accomplish their mission.

I have seen how physical training can bond individuals into teams like no other experience besides combat. I visit units all over the world and make it a point to do physical training with them on each trip. Over the last year, I have observed that when PT is tough and realistic and the leaders and Soldiers are enthusiastic about it, you can expect better overall performance and efficiency from the organization. It prepares the team–body, mind and spirit–for the challenges of the day and those of the future. I believe cohesive teams will thrive in the ambiguity we will face in the future. For that reason, physical fitness is an indicator of the overall readiness of a unit. Building cohesive teams through tough realistic training sets the tone for the day and the organization, will reduce conduct issues, and gives leaders more time to focus on improving war-fighting skills. The result is Soldiers who are mentally, emotionally, and physically fit to withstand the rigors required as members of the Profession of Arms.

Every soldier ready to answer our nation’s call
I often ask myself; what are Soldiers for? It is simple, Soldiers are warriors who must be physical and mentally prepared to fight and win our nations wars when called upon by our leaders. They must not only be able to deter and defeat our adversaries but they also must assure our allies we are prepared. Each and every Soldier has the responsibility to maintain their individual readiness and with the scale and pace of the Army’s downsizing increasing each Soldier’s significance also increases. We need every Soldier ready to accomplish their assigned mission, every Soldier on our team counts. We have a significant number of Soldiers who are non-deployable. The causes vary, but the primary reason they cannot deploy is due to a medical issue, typically a temporary illness or injury. No one will argue we need Soldiers and Leaders focused on building readiness on their individual and collective tasks but we also need to monitor closely, medical readiness.

Army Medical Command is in the midst of redesigning their personnel readiness reporting system, which I think will help us develop a clear picture of our true readiness state, allowing commanders to have more control over their Soldiers’ well-being, and help keep Soldiers accountable for their own health and fitness, as it relates to their deployable status. Improving how we track and report Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) allows for action on the part of the commander and the individual. To that end, we have instituted the Commanders’ Portal, a mandatory digital tool for commanders and healthcare personnel that consolidates data into a single place, which enables intervention by commanders on individual and unit readiness. The portal gives commanders the ability to manage deficient IMR issues, determine deployable statuses, and communicate with healthcare providers concerning issues with their Soldiers.

The Army cannot do our Nation’s business if our Soldiers do not stand ready to do it. We are our Nations credentials and although the size of our force has changed, our mission has remained the same for over 240 years; “This We’ll Defend”.

Soldiers are soldiers for life
Investing in our Soldiers training and education not only builds readiness, it is also an investment in our future as an Army. Our Soldiers have and continue to receive the best training and education in the world. Our Noncommissioned Officers Corps is the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world at what they do. For over 240 years our Army has demonstrated the need and value of a professionally trained and educated enlisted force. Since our inception in 1775 until today, the need to decentralize operations on the battlefield has increased incrementally. From the linear formations used during the revolutionary war to the widespread operations of WWII to the complex decentralized operations of the current fight, we have and will continue to ask more of our Soldiers and NCO’s. Our Soldiers have demonstrated their ability to take on increasing levels of responsibility and prevailed. This was not done by happenstance. Our Soldiers have been able to bear this additional weight and succeed due to the decades of investment made in them by our Army and our Nation. Today that need still exists and one might argue it is and will expand in the future. First and foremost we must continue to invest in our Soldiers by providing them with the best training and education possible through innovate programs like NCO 2020, Army University and the One Army School System. These programs and initiatives will increase the lethality and capability of our enlisted force well into the future. Secondly, we must capitalize our investment by continuing to find ways to expand equivalent civilian credentials and academic accreditation for the world class training and education we provide. Credentialing and collegiate accreditation of our enlisted programs is an investment in our future as an Army and demonstrates to the American people the value of service beyond service; “Soldiers for Life!”

In closing
The Army must anticipate changing conditions and focus readiness efforts on manning, equipping, training and developing Soldiers in advance of the day’s fight. No American Soldier will ever go to combat unready for the brutal and unforgiving environment that is ground warfare. Beginning with accessions through basic training, service and then transition, we must guarantee the American public that our Soldiers and our Army remain ready to answer our Nations call.

The 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark A. Milley has said “readiness is our number one priority … there is no other number one”.


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