"Morale is the single greatest factor in successful war....In any long and bitter campaign morale will suffer unless all ranks thoroughly believe that their commanders are concerned first and always with the welfare of the troops who do the fighting."
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Crusade in Europe 1948
"The unfailing formula for production of morale is patriotism, self-respect, discipline and self-confidence within a military unit, joined with fair treatment and merited appreciation from without. It cannot be produced by pampering or coddling an Army, and it is not necessarily destroyed by hardship, danger or even calamity. Though it can survive and develop in the adversity that comes as an inescapable incident of service, it will quickly wither and die if Soldiers come to believe themselves the victims of indifference or injustice on the part of their government, or of ignorance, personal ambition, or ineptitude on the part of their military leaders"
General Douglas MacArthur
Annual Report of the Chief of Staff, US Army, for the fiscal year ending 30 June 1933
"In war, everything depends on morale; and morale and public opinion comprise the better part of reality"
There are a lot of thoughts running around in my head this morning because it has been an interesting week. I gave the Effective Training Design brief one day, did the fitting and data gathering for the plate carrier prototypes the next and became a member of the Battalion Resiliency Council on Friday.
Effective Training Design is a briefing I developed that turns the standard training design paradigm upside down and instead of concentrating of inputs and numerical metrics, focuses the training effort on achieving the commander's intent from the Soldier's perspective. Using the OODA cycle and using the Task, Purpose, Intent design that's currently in place, I show people that if you concentrate on a very clearly understood intent - what needs to be the end result of the training - and then look at where you are actually starting from, but decentralize as much of the execution as possible, then you can achieve a much better result at the Soldier level. The briefing is long and OODA takes a while to explain, and quite honestly not very many people really get it the first time. I've had one battalion commander hear it 3 different times and he related to me the other day, that each time he listens he comes away with different or new things to consider for training his unit. Since the brief is attached very closely to the marksmanship program however, most folks can only see it in that light. Light bulbs may come on during the brief, but for many folks they remain very dim until they see the program in action.
The plate carrier prototype review is a whole different beast. About 2 years ago it became apparent to me that the introduction of body armor had a very large impact on marksmanship in general, and for women and small statured Soldiers, in particular. This past summer I was able to conduct a fit, form and function study on Ft. Campbell with research scientists from Natick Labs and the office of Soldier Survivability. That relationship led to the program manger allowing me to look at some prototype designs for plate carriers and provide feedback to their office focusing on fit, form and function. This week we looked at 7 different models from 3 different manufacturers on approximately 25 different women. We will do the function portion in November when they will all get a chance to shoot with these vests on and see how much or how little their ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship is affected by the different varieties of carrier.
And finally, the Battalion Resiliency Council. Last week I commented on the different disciplinary, health and safety issues that we are struggling with right now. As part of the response to that the unit developed a Resiliency Council to look at what we are doing, whether or not it is working and how we can improve to better care for our Soldiers. The members of the council are all the Commanders, the 1SG's and the Command Sergeant Major, as well as member of the health community, law enforcement and legal, the Family Readiness representative and representative from other outside assistance agencies on post. I volunteered to be on the committee last week after the hearing the Division Command Sergeant Major at the 'Town Hall' meeting described in last weeks post. I am glad I did. The battalion leadership does seem deeply concerned and honestly interested in caring for their Soldiers. I left the room feeling that the leadership is open to suggestion, willing to try new approaches and understands that we will all have to come together collectively to set the conditions for positive change.
Last night I also had a great conversation with my neighbors around a fire bowl that kind of helped to bring a lot of these thoughts together. At one point I said that for me right now, a lot of these things that may appear on the surface to be very different are actually all related, but sometimes I just can't exactly see how. That ETD, body armor and the Resiliency Council share some common characteristics but I'm struggling a little to define exactly what those commonalities are.
I also have to make a correction. Two weeks ago in #24 I looked at how the definition of leadership has evolved over time. I quoted a 1948 manual that defined leadership as "Influencing human behavior" and then contrasted it with the definition that I had been raised with - "Leadership is providing purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the mission while improving the organization." Well, I went back and checked, and I was only half right. The latest definition states that "Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization" I think it's important to recognize that the human component of influencing people has been returned to the forefront. It's a key distinction between the 2 earlier definitions that places people in front of the unit, and recognizes that human factors and behavior are the key components of mission accomplishment and organizational health. Next time, I'll do my homework up front.
And then this morning I found the quotations above. I think there is a generalized frustration throughout the Army right now and that it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Units - and Soldiers - seem a little at a loss. After 8 years of prolonged conflict, multiple deployments and the attendant human issues that go with time away and reintegration, it's as if everything is so overwhelming that we have lost our ability to see the forest through the trees. For example, with the training element, there is so much that is directed at the units from outside that they have little time to consider it's value or effectiveness. And so they start trying to wade through it and simply accomplish the sheer numbers of events and tasks and then lose sight of what they really need to do to prepare for combat. Generically, the same applies to the body armor review. Women become so frustrated that they cannot accomplish as critical task (shooting) due to ill-fitting equipment that they lose faith in themselves and the ability of their unit, it's leadership, and the Army to properly care for them as they train. This feeling of frustration and being overwhelmed leads to breakdowns in unit cohesion and Soldier morale which lead to the discipline and behavior issues that the Resiliency Council is trying to address.
Consider the Eisenhower quote above. In a protracted campaign, all Soldiers must feel as if their leadership is first and foremost concerned with their welfare. That welfare could be the determination of the tasks that need to be trained to ensure survival and success (and which ones can be skipped), or it could be the recognition of what type of equipment they need to best accomplish their mission, or it could be an appreciation of the difficulties that multiple deployments and the readiness/preparation cycle is placing on them and their loved ones.
Interestingly, MacArthur said essentially the same thing 15 years earlier - well before America became involved in WW II. Morale is the single most important attribute to waging successful war. If Soldiers and units do not feel that their leadership - be it local or national - is working all the time towards ensuring their success and survival then the morale is ruined and the cause will be lost. The key to MacArthur's quote for me though, is that to develop morale, the other requirements - discipline, self confidence and respect, and patriotism are the key component parts. And those are not skill sets with quantifiable numbers. They are attributes that must be inculcated, displayed and modeled until they become the binding fabric of the human beings who make up the organization.
And finally, from Bonaparte, the idea that morale is very closely tied to public opinion and that the 2 parts work to form their own perception, and if believed by enough people, that perception becomes reality. This last one is the main reason I wanted to be part of the Resiliency Council. As the only member who does not have any positional stake in the outcome, it is freeing to be able to provide the Chain of Command another perspective to consider. For example, I told the battalion commander that no matter how well-intentioned he is, if the Soldiers believe that he is only taking these actions to cover his ass, then the actions will be of little worth. I told him him that it is less important what he does, as it is that his Soldiers feel a genuine and thoughtful and empathetic caring about their well-being. If we as the council can work from that place, and treat each Soldier and their concerns as genuine issues that are human being based and consciously work to not apply system responses, then we will achieve a measure of success. If we fail to do that and the perception is of system responses to individual problems then we are wasting our time.
I'm not sure if this post made sense today. It still seems a bit disconnected to me. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.