Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Army as a profession

So for those of you who don't know, I'm at a military school right now where I'm learning to be a professional officer.  I now pause for your laughter.

There, all ok?  Good.  It's actually a really good curriculum, and I have learned a lot.  This is apparently a change, because the Captains' Career Course of the past was a "gentleman's course" where everyone passed and no one really learned anything.  Now there are people failing tests and being recycled out of each class, the curriculum is intensive, fast-moving, and (in the case of the Signal Corps) pretty technical.  I am having a blast.

We recently got an assignment to write a couple of pages on the Army as a Profession of Arms.  This concept is getting some serious emphasis from the Chief of Staff of the Army, and has been incorporated into the culture at every level, starting at basic training.  Now big tough captains get to hear about it, and give our two cents.  So what I thought I'd do is, I'm going to publish my essay here.  It's a short read- enjoy!  And tell me what you think.  (Disregard the fact that this is the first essay I have written since literally 2004.)

“I am an expert and I am a professional.” Every Soldier in the Army has said these words, excerpted from the Soldier’s Creed. But are all Soldiers experts and professionals? Is the Army, in fact, a profession? And what does this mean for today’s Army leaders and Soldiers?

The Army White Paper The Profession of Arms states that “The Army is an American Profession of Arms, a vocation comprised of experts certified in the ethical application of land combat power….” (The Profession of Arms [2010], 4). It also asserts, like the Soldier’s Creed, that all Soldiers are professionals. “An American Professional Soldier is an expert, a volunteer certified in the Profession of Arms….” (The Profession of Arms [2010], 4).

            If a profession is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification” ("Definition for profession"), the Army certainly qualifies. The Army White Paper also lists several characteristics of professions: produce uniquely expert work requiring years of study and practice, contain a self-policing ethic, and motivate using intrinsic versus extrinsic factors (Combined Arms Center 2010, 2). The Army meets all of these criteria as well. All Soldiers are paid, and require some training and certification before being allowed to perform their duties. The Army also has a very well-established continuing education system for Noncommissioned Officers (NCO), warrant officers, and officers. Soldiers are also indoctrinated with the Army Values from their first day of service, and are taught to maintain and enforce standards and ethics. The Army is absolutely a profession.

            Are all Soldiers professionals, though? Consider civilian professionals—doctors must complete seven years of undergraduate and post-graduate study, followed by four years of residency. Lawyers must complete a seven-year course before earning a juris doctorate. Upon examination of the training received across the spectrum of military personnel, only senior Soldiers receive equivalent amounts of training. All Soldiers must complete Basic Combat Training (BCT), Advanced Individual Training (AIT). NCOs must complete BCT, AIT, and further education as part of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES). Warrant officers must complete all NCO requirements, Warrant Officer Candidate School and their basic and advanced courses. Officers must complete a baccalaureate degree, the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) and specialized training in their branch. Then officers must attend advanced training and education courses at every rank through Colonel. Junior enlisted Soldiers simply do not meet the qualification of a profession—they don’t have time. Only senior NCOs, Warrant Officers, and Officers receive “prolonged training.”

            The Army, then, can be considered a Profession of Arms, but only senior Soldiers, having received advanced training and having gone through the formal education processes of the Army, can be considered professionals. Dr. Kevin M. Bond, in an article published in Joint Forces Quarterly, says that “It does a disservice to the very ideals of professionalism… to declare that by virtue of membership in an organization a person is a professional. More importantly, declaring that all Soldiers are professionals ignores the need to train, educate, and develop Soldiers both professionally and personally.” (Bond 2011, 66). He argues that leaders must focus on Soldier development at all levels and provide opportunities to grow and develop. (Bond 2011, 67) The Army must develop this paradigm further. A Soldier who has gone through 15 weeks of BCT and AIT has not met the requirements of his profession. Leaders must instead think of junior personnel as skilled tradesmen. Once leaders adopt this mindset, they can focus their efforts on developing professionalism through training and education, and truly consider our Soldiers “experts and professionals.”

Bond, Kevin M. “Are We Professionals?” Joint Forces Quarterly 58 (2011), (accessed June 25, 2012).

"Definition for profession - Oxford Dictionaries Online." Oxford Dictionaries Online. (accessed July 2, 2012).
"The Profession of Arms." Army White Paper (2010), (accessed June 25, 2012).


Mamie Coffey said...

I'm persuaded. JWD :)

Jim Quinn said...

There is great debate on what equals POA, responsibility, expertise, identity and ethos. Is it the amount of training, should only senior pers be considered? I have seen Col's that failed to uphold the POA and I have seen Privates that gave thier lives for the POA. So when we try to define POA as a check list, must reach a certain rank, have x amount of years of service and have this amount of training we will fail. In the Military if you do not follow the rules you will be punished, re-trained or released. The ability to follow orders when in harm’s way “unlimited responsibility” if playing poker would be the winning hand. We must understand that junior members may not have the mind set or even the want to up hold the POA, and yes this can be said of senior members. We need to instill the POA from the first day recruits enters until the last day the General retires, there is no time line, there is no rank min or max that equates to a member automatically being included in the POA. There is a profession and if you accept the uniform then you are part of the POA, and the CPO1s/CWOs are the guardians of military ethos.