The last 2 posts, #26 and #27, have generated more feedback than any of the others I have posted to date. In light of that, and with a suggestion from one of the readers, I printed and read Chapter 3 of Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy. I'm going to attempt to tie some of the various thoughts from these earlier posts together and see if they generate a coherent picture of not only the issue (as I see it) but possible solutions.
A note on the blog itself. One of the things that I have recognized since beginning this, is that it is very easy to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback. Judgment of other people, and their solutions to a particular problem are too easy. And mostly not fair. Most leaders do not intend to fail, waste Soldier's time, or recklessly abandon the requirements of their position. They actually mean well and want to serve the Army to the best of their abilities. While there will always be those who use other people intentionally for self-aggrandizement, I believe that in most cases what happens is the leaders begin to believe a little too much in their personal sense of rightness because they have been repeatedly told or promoted into positions which lead them to believe that their answer is the best answer. It is also true that simply developing another good idea on paper or in a blog like this won't solve the problem either. The best and only possible solution is a combination of accurately recognizing the problem(s), expanding the possible solution set(s) as widely as possible and then being willing to get your hands dirty at the user level to attempt to solve the issue at hand.
I started this blog talking a lot about COL Boyd and the OODA Loop. As Boyd repeatedly pointed out, the hardest part of the OODA cycle is the Orientation phase. This critical second phase - understanding the issue or challenge in light of your understanding of yourself, your adversary and the environment is very difficult. It is an extremely multilayered task and the ability to be able to do it rapidly will not be developed quickly. A good example of the Orientation challenge was a slide show I saw yesterday from 1/5 Marines. In it was a picture of an old Afghan man pushing a wheelbarrow. The caption read "This man's wheelbarrow is the greatest possession he owns. Treat it that way." From a Soldiers perspective, it is simply a wheelbarrow. From the other side of the Orientation it is a livelihood, an ability to provide for his family, a place in a community and a measure of self respect. In another picture, there was a cart filled with poppy plants. The caption read "Without the resin, it's simply cooking fuel." A very powerful message. From one side it is the financing of terror through opium production, from the other a means to boil water and cook meat. All depends upon how you look at it. And the outcome of this war could actually hang in that precarious balance. Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies rely upon the support of the local population to be successful. Each day and with each interaction the efforts of both sides will either shorten or prolong this conflict.
I have also mentioned numerous times the need to work from the bottom up, not the top down. By looking at the frustrations, challenges, issues and opportunities from the perspective of those at the bottom, I have contended that we can engage them, challenge them and develop them - and along the way pass along the Army value system and Warrior Ethos in a language and form that they will respond to. This will contribute positively to their Army experience and enhance their well-being and continue their desire to serve.
Chapter 3 of AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, is dedicated to Army Well-being. It incorporates the spiritual / moral / physical needs of all members of the Army community and makes commanders responsible to initiate or sustain programs dedicated to the holistic needs of the entire Army family. In light of the difficulties I have referenced in earlier posts on my installation, and coupled with the tragedy at Ft. Hood this past Thursday, it seems that many of these thoughts are very timely.
In Section 3-3, the Well-being is separated into 2 sub-categories, institutional and individual.
"An Institutional Perspective - Well-being is actually a condition resulting from the effects of a system of individual programs, policies and initiatives."
"An Individual Perspective - Well-being is a personal state experienced by the individual. While there is no formula for describing the personal state, individuals must be self-reliant in order for this experience to be positive. Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own well-being but commanders are responsible for creating and sustaining a climate that contributes positively to the lives of the Army family."
The paragraph dedicated to the individual perspective goes on to outline 4 pillars that contribute to individual wellness: Physical, Material, Mental and Spiritual.
"Physical - The physical state centers on one's health and sense of wellness, satisfying physical needs through a healthy lifestyle."
"Material - The material state centers on essential needs such as shelter, food and financial resources."
"Mental - The mental state centers on basic needs to grow, learn, achieve recognition, and be accepted."
"Spiritual - The spiritual state centers on a person's religious/philosophical needs, providing powerful support for values, morals, strength of character, and endurance in difficult and dangerous circumstances."
It seems to me that the best way to respond to the challenges we face is from the Individual Perspective outlined above. The beauty for commanders and leaders is that the Army has already outlined the requirements for them, they simply have to find ways to implement them that will result in the Soldier believing that their needs are being met across all 4 pillars.
Currently, as the installation tries to come to grip with the various challenges it faces, it is using a rather predictable Institutional Response, which, given it's Orientation, it believes will produce the the desired Individual Response. However, since it does not seem to be working, maybe it's time to relook the Institutional Orientation and concentrate on the Individual one instead. Much like I can look at the poppy plant as a source of terrorist financing or the ability to boil water, I believe I can look at the incident rates of suicide, homicide, spouse abuse, sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse in the same manner. They are either crimes to be prosecuted, or a outcomes of the Institution failing to meet the Individual needs.
If we see the 'criminal' activities above as the failure of the institution to address one or more of the pillars of individual well-being then instead of focusing on how to stop domestic violence, we can concentrate on fixing that broken need. By recognizing that all of these behaviors are actually a systemic failure to meet the needs of the Soldier at some level, then we can implement policies and programs designed to meet that shortfall.
Now, the critical part of the Individual Response is the statement that "..Individuals must be self reliant.....individuals are ultimately responsible for their own well-being." Accepting that, what if they are not? What if they do not posses a self-reliant skillset? Way back in post #6 I included the following section from the TRADOC Human Dimension Study regarding people born after 1980:
"Their structured lives included parents shuffling them from one activity to another all under the watchful eyes of teachers, coaches, tutors and music instructors. Wide-ranging child protection laws and safety products that came out of the 1980's have made Millennials one of the most sheltered generations."
Ooops. The Soldiers of today may not possess the ability to be self-reliant because the society that raised them spent too much time protecting them. Now, faced with the strain of 8 years of combat, the emotional strain of loss, failed relationships and an inability to process these changes, is it all that hard to see why we are having such a hard time? The TRADOC study also made the following point:
"Findings of three different research organizations indicate that current Army leaders hold different values from those held by the Nation's youth, the next generation of Soldiers. More troubling, the studies show the two sets of values are continuing to diverge."
The top doesn't hold the same values as the bottom, the 2 groups are growing further apart and the Institutional Responses" generated don't seem to be working.
Uniquely, it appears that the Army does seem to recognize this in it's written guidance by differentiating in 600-20 between the "Institution" and the "Individual". While placing the ultimate responsibility for wellness on the Soldier, it requires the the "Institution" to create and mange programs that allow that Soldier to meet their physical, material, mental and spiritual needs. What we appear to be doing is almost the opposite. We are creating programs that the top deems the appropriate response, and forcing the bottom into it. We need to do it the other way around. Create well-being programs that the bottom finds acceptable and meets their needs. It is less critical that the top even understand how or why it works, just that it produces the intended outcome across 1 of the 4 pillars outlined.
As always, I look forward to your input. We have suffered a large scale tragedy this week that touches all who serve, and the nation. Let us all pray for those who were lost and their families. But let us also pray for the wisdom to look very very hard at our Orientation and take a moment to look at things from the opposite side.