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Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change
Old 04-22-2012, 08:22   #1
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Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change

An OpEd piece worth reading and considering.

Joan Johnson-Freese is a professor at the Naval War College, lecturer at Harvard and an expert on U.S. military space, Chinese space and the PLA.

And so it goes...

Richard


Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change
AOLDefense, 15 Jun 2011
Part 1 of 2

The National War College at Fort McNair. The Army War College at Carlisle. The Naval War College at Newport. The Air War College at Maxwell Field. These are the launching pads for America's senior military leaders. The Pentagon spends substantial monies on these august institutions but are their graduates getting the education they need and which the nation deserves?

In April 2010, the House Armed Services Committee issued a report titled "Another Crossroads" examining professional military education (PME) two decades after the landmark Goldwater Nichols Act, which mandated comprehensive reform of the PME system aimed at broadening the intellectual foundations of U.S. military officers. They concluded that, while improvements had been made, America could do better.

The report began with a quote from Thucydides: "The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Despite this ancient wisdom, however, the valuable mission served by PME is still hindered by a clash of cultures.

Military officers and professors have good reasons to be the way they are, but they are not the same. The two cultures are rewarded for doing exact opposite things: academics who do not raise questions are considered poor academics, just as military officers who can't provide answers to their bosses problems don't get promoted. In the war colleges this plays out as conflict that pits encouraging intellectual curiosity and challenging received wisdom -- the very essence of academic inquiry, against the need to prepare graduates for their next assignment. In trying to accomplish both, differing attitudes, work habits, and cultures get in the way, which leads to conflicting goals as well.

The most extreme solution to this cultural clash was suggested last April, when defense journalist Tom Ricks blogged: "Need Budget Cuts? We Can Probably Start By Shutting the Air War College." Ricks was reacting to a piece written by retired Air War College (AWC) Professor Dan Hughes, which painted an unflattering picture of that institution and questioned its value.

Professors were depicted as unqualified, students coddled, and the entire enterprise largely a waste of time. Ricks' blog sparked a brief exchange among Professional Military Education (PME) professionals, generally refuting Hughes' assertions and defending the PME system.

Ricks is wrong about closing institutions. Hughes' assertions, however, reflects this underlying clash of military and academic cultures that needs a real discussion. I also taught at the Air War College, and my five-year tenure in the 1990's overlapped with Dr. Hughes'. While personal experiences vary, mine was similar to his.

Three instructions in the required "teacher training," for example, explained the AWC pedagogy. First, never use red ink grading student papers: direct criticism of military professionals would be insulting. Second, never cold call a student: not knowing the answer would be demeaning. Third, faculty were classroom "moderators," not teachers. The classroom was for sharing student views, so faculty should speak minimally. This last instruction often resulted in 90-minute sessions where students mostly reinforced each other's views and exchanged dead-wrong information, but this was equated to "education." Though never encouraged to publish at the AWC, I was encouraged to play golf in the afternoon student-faculty team-building tournaments. And while there were dedicated and productive faculty and exceptional students, they excelled mostly through personal initiative rather than institutional support.

Perhaps things changed at the AWC after it was accredited to grant a Master's degree in 2004. And each PME institution, of course, has its own character. But having now taught at three PME institutions over the past two decades, including chairing two departments, it is clear to me that endemic issues persist.

In a recent article, Gen. David Petraeus recalled his time at Princeton, where he once received a D on an exam. He considered Princeton both a humbling and useful experience, which prepared him to be not just a top military thinker, but competitive with the best and brightest anywhere. Conversely, retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters responded to this argument by asserting that civilian education is a waste of time; he referred to academics as "theory poisoned and indecisive," and viewed the primary value of PME as student networking.

How was this situation created? In 1986, Goldwater-Nichols (and the "Skelton Panel" a few years after it) specifically mandated guidelines for military education toward to open the military culture and encourage intellectual integration with civilians and among the services themselves. Over a decade earlier, Admiral Stansfield Turner similarly reformed the Naval War College (NWC), warning that if military officers could not hold their own with the best civilian strategists, the military would end up "abdicating control over its profession."

But the culture clash in military education begins early. Academics attend graduate school to become experts in specific fields. They learn specific languages or methods, conduct field work, regularly publish in their area of expertise and are recognized as experts primarily by their peers. They invest years in establishing their professional reputations. By contrast, military officers, while also specialists in various fields, are also taught that almost anyone with the right leadership skills can do almost any job with enough training. In PME, that means pilots, ship drivers, and logisticians find themselves going from an operational deployment one week to a classroom the next. (Teaching preparation sessions for faculty are informally called "bootstraps," which says a lot in itself.)

The upshot is that expertise in PME institutions is sometimes attained simply by declaring oneself an expert. As a NWC department chair, I once provided the faculty a matrix of dozens of regional and issue-related areas of expertise and asked they indicate their primary and second fields. One retired military officer indicated a primary expertise in every category. Some military faculty attend doctoral programs, but many see attaining a doctorate as a capstone professional rank, rather than the start of a new career. This is not unreasonable; it is natural to invest more in a first career than a second. But for the academics, this is their first career and their primary identity as professionals, and because of differences in how each culture works, differences arise over how they view education.

Military operations generally focus on accomplishing near-term goals, involving check-lists and constant self-assessments. Missions are team efforts, so teamwork and unquestioned loyalty to the chain of command are essential. Academics, however, spend their careers investigating open-ended questions with no clear answers, in sometimes narrow fields. They work on odd schedules, taking advantage of insights or opportunities whenever and wherever they arise. They tend to build their reputations and complete their works through individual efforts. While too many academics are not effective teachers, almost all of them believe that the best teachers have broad intellectual curiosity and should have the breadth to teach beyond that day's PowerPoint slides.

Although the military is focused on accomplishing the mission, they believe that close adherence to process and routine is important to their goals. Lone-wolf academics, by contrast, consider expanding knowledge in their fields – a new lecture, a publication, a conference presentation -- as indicators of productivity, and how they were achieved is irrelevant. Within PME these differences often play out as differing work habits. For the military, being in the office to hold or attend meetings, review for and communally prepare for class, or be always available for student consultations equates with daily productivity, while academics consider the totality of their results a year or more at a time.

Military faculty play an important roles calibrating the delicate balance between theory and practical material by bringing operational relevance to the curriculum and maintaining links to operational commands. Few, however, have an interest in developing a substantive expertise --they see themselves as just too busy, and often see their academic colleagues as self-absorbed, egotistical, elitist and lazy – and some are. Academics read the resumes of other academics with an eye toward "what have you done lately," and all schools, including the War Colleges, have their dead-wood "has-beens," and "never-weres." As in civilian universities, longevity for weaker PME faculty is based on popularity with students, mimicking team-player congeniality, or administration, rather than production or teaching rigor.

(Cont'd)
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Old 04-22-2012, 08:23   #2
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Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change
AOLDefense, 15 Jun 2011
Part 2 of 2


There is also a natural political clash of cultures that is rarely spoken of, but exists nonetheless. Academics are almost invariably the product of liberal institutions and therefore tend to be liberal, while military officers tend to be conservatives -- the empirical evidence on that is indisputable. Both cultures tend to be insular and spend considerable time talking to people much like themselves.

At the Air War College, for example, a retired officer gave a too-liberal lecture, evident because at the end, the then-Deputy Commandant stood outside the auditorium yelling "get that f***ing liberal out of my building!" to the speaker's hapless escort, in full view of the students and faculty. Everybody got the message. Likewise, when curricular materials are questioned due to "inappropriate" language or deprecating remarks about the military that the students might find offensive, there is a chilling effect on education.

Many will likely deny any contention of civil-military strife within PME, including for reasons of self-protection. Academic PME faculty are often on two- to four-year contracts; their pay is not in addition to a military pension. They fear losing their jobs if they are not regarded as not team players" -- a deadly accusation in the military world -- or if the students don't "like" them. As a department chair I had many closed door discussions on these and similar issues (gender-related problems, for example), but few military academics are willing to speak openly. Dan Hughes did, but he is retired, and I have one of a very few effectively tenured positions at the Naval War College. But the careers of many others rest in the hands of administrators, themselves often retired military officers tasked to maintain harmony.

Without question, academia is burdened with cultural and procedural issues. Most issues, however, are addressed by tenured faculty and the administration, often in no-holds-barred verbal knife fights that can leave a lot of bruised feelings and animosity. Military commands, however, are traditionally valued for having a happy "command climate," and so the administrators have vested interests in perpetuating the image that all is well. Problems, from sexual harassment to questionable hiring and ethical conflicts get buried, lest they reflect poorly on the command. (Retired admiral and former congressman Joe Sestak reportedly lost his last job in the Navy over "command climate.") This attitude, however, both solves nothing and is a disservice to the students, and the Nation -- which, after all, pays their tuition and expects results.

So what can done about these kinds of problems Hughes and Ricks identify? First and foremost, the military needs to decide what it really wants from education.

PME institutions, for example, like other academic institutions, are plagued by caring too much what the students like and want. Though brave leaders and professionals in their operational jobs, when officers come to PME, they become like most graduate students – tetchy. Individuals who work 60+ hour weeks at the Pentagon, or even have come under fire in the field, suddenly find it unbearable to take two exams in a week or to write an eight-page paper. Time becomes precious, and expectations rise: I have had PME students request that their readings be put on a CD to listen to in their cars. Grades, as at the best civilian universities, inflate while the tolerance for work shrinks.

Military students are comfortable with material that has clear-cut answers and they think is tactically relevant to their next assignment. They abhor ambiguity, and largely see the world in black and white terms. But as educators, our job is to get them over that, not play to it. Identification with the students can lead the military faculty to be sympathetic, perhaps overly so, wanting to mentor these younger versions of themselves. (Academic faculty who try to maintain what they consider a more appropriate student-faculty professional distance are often scored for it by their students and military colleagues as a sign of aloofness.) Students should come The point should be reinforced at all to the War Colleges expecting that this is a year of hard and necessary study -- and not an exercise in building self-esteem.

Finally, education needs to be supported by higher command. Many PME students expect the War College to be a year off to relax and reconnect with family after long operational assignments – and that is what they are told so by detailers and senior officers who often did not attend, or want to attend, a War College themselves.

Princeton will never teach some of the required and highly specialized material available only in a War College, and in any case, there is not nearly enough room at the nation's elite universities -- which currently take only a handful of military students and cannot take many more-- for the thousands of officers who pass through the PME system each year. Military education is not only necessary, it is a Congressional requirement and indispensible -- but it could be more like Princeton and less like training.

Overall, only time can acclimate military professionals and academic experts to working with each other. But acknowledging the problem today would be helpful -- and more productive than simply torching academics as pointy-heads, or issuing cavalier calls for shuttering the War Colleges. An open and cooperative discussion about better bridging the two cultures, facilitated by a senior military leadership that truly values graduate education, could go a long way toward improving the professional development and effectiveness of America's senior military officers.

A 2010 blog post by Admiral James Stavridis, Commander US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, succinctly stated: "The enormous irony of the military profession is that we are huge risk takers in what we do operationally -- flying airplanes on and off a carrier, driving a ship through a sea state five typhoon, walking point with your platoon in southern Afghanistan -- but publishing an article, posting a blog, or speaking to the media can scare us badly. We are happy to take personal risk or operational risk, but too many of us won't take career risk."

No one outshines the US military in operations, as Osama Bin Laden just learned the hard way in Abbottabad. Our men and women in uniform have no fear of the enemy. It's time, then, to get them over the fear of the red pen, and to make sure military education squarely where it belongs: a tough milestone just as important as every other an officer of the US armed forces must meet in his or her career.

http://defense.aol.com/2011/06/15/te...h-think-tough/
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Old 04-23-2012, 07:11   #3
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Quote:
There is also a natural political clash of cultures that is rarely spoken of, but exists nonetheless. Academics are almost invariably the product of liberal institutions and therefore tend to be liberal, while military officers tend to be conservatives -- the empirical evidence on that is indisputable. Both cultures tend to be insular and spend considerable time talking to people much like themselves.
Hilariously true and hardly a day goes by without some one on this forum stating that all problems in the world are caused by education (ignorance is bliss). And the crux of the conflict comes from here.

Quote:
The two cultures are rewarded for doing exact opposite things: academics who do not raise questions are considered poor academics, just as military officers who can't provide answers to their bosses problems don't get promoted. In the war colleges this plays out as conflict that pits encouraging intellectual curiosity and challenging received wisdom -- the very essence of academic inquiry, against the need to prepare graduates for their next assignment. In trying to accomplish both, differing attitudes, work habits, and cultures get in the way, which leads to conflicting goals as well.

The military culture of don't question orders versus the academic culture of question everything exist on different ends of the spectrum.

I would say that somewhere something seems to be working because the military's positions on global warming, energy independence and computer technology is relatively apolitical and seems well centered on reality.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:31   #4
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Quote:
The report began with a quote from Thucydides: "The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Despite this ancient wisdom, however, the valuable mission served by PME is still hindered by a clash of cultures.
Just as true today as it wss back in 400 BC. Western minds and Eastern minds (Confucious, for instance) both understood this value.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:45   #5
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Military students are comfortable with material that has clear-cut answers and they think is tactically relevant to their next assignment. They abhor ambiguity, and largely see the world in black and white terms. But as educators, our job is to get them over that, not play to it.
This is an interesting perspective. I thought the purpose of education was to educate, to enlighten, not to prevent folks from seeing the world in black and white. I guess when you're truly educated, everything contains ambiguity. Memo to self, there are no right answers. Hey, I feel smarter already. I mean, I might feel smarter already.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:10   #6
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Originally Posted by dennisw View Post
This is an interesting perspective. I thought the purpose of education was to educate, to enlighten, not to prevent folks from seeing the world in black and white. I guess when you're truly educated, everything contains ambiguity. Memo to self, there are no right answers. Hey, I feel smarter already. I mean, I might feel smarter already.
I don't think she's saying that - I think the point she's trying to make is that, in reality, both exist; that to view the world entirely in one or the other can be dangerously misleading, particularly to those who practice the profession of arms, and an honest PME system should challenge its pupils to realize both.

Richard
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:45   #7
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I am curious.

Does the military select and train its officers to have a "bias for action"?
The black-and-white thinking versus open-ended ambiguity would seem to be the difference between bias for action and bias for waiting.

Which behavior is rewarded in officer promotion, and does this change at certain levels?
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Old 04-23-2012, 18:26   #8
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There are times when you can sit around and debate the various perspectives for hours, and there are times when life or death decisions will have to be made in a second with the information you already have.

There are military jobs (like staff) for officers where you can be a manager and there are jobs where you have to be a leader (as a commander). Leadership and management are not necessarily the same.

Some are great at one, but not the other.

Good officers can handle both.

Exceptional officers can excel at both.

Then there is the politics....

TR
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Old 04-23-2012, 20:11   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change
AOLDefense, 15 Jun 2011
Part 2 of 2

Many will likely deny any contention of civil-military strife within PME, including for reasons of self-protection. Academic PME faculty are often on two- to four-year contracts; their pay is not in addition to a military pension. They fear losing their jobs if they are not regarded as not team players" -- a deadly accusation in the military world -- or if the students don't "like" them. As a department chair I had many closed door discussions on these and similar issues (gender-related problems, for example), but few military academics are willing to speak openly. Dan Hughes did, but he is retired, and I have one of a very few effectively tenured positions at the Naval War College. But the careers of many others rest in the hands of administrators, themselves often retired military officers tasked to maintain harmony.
This observation rings a bell <<LINK>>.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GratefulCitizen View Post
I am curious.

Does the military select and train its officers to have a "bias for action"?
The black-and-white thinking versus open-ended ambiguity would seem to be the difference between bias for action and bias for waiting.

Which behavior is rewarded in officer promotion, and does this change at certain levels?
The thread located here addresses your questions in part.
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Old 04-23-2012, 22:25   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GratefulCitizen View Post
I am curious.

Does the military select and train its officers to have a "bias for action"?
The black-and-white thinking versus open-ended ambiguity would seem to be the difference between bias for action and bias for waiting.
If not a bias for action, there is a definite bias for "Decide". The Wizard spoke of academics as "thinkers of great thoughts" with a degree in Thinkology. Good enough. Research and constant pondering are an interesting exercise, noncommital, and don't seem to require decision except for the decision concerning what to ponder next.
And, I submit that the difference between the soldier and the “pure academic” isn't particularly a military trait, but a natural disconnect of the latter. There may be some value to the individual who ponders the history of fire, but no need for him on the fire truck. There may be some value in researching whether a deteriorated heart valve was caused by diet, environment, or heredity. But the surgeon doesn’t need the researcher in the OR. He needs other hands-on “action” people, and I suspect he has little need for the opinionizing or “education” offered.
When your profession is one of “closing with and destroying” an enemy, 18th century political philosophy isn’t really all that interesting. Give me an algorithm, procedure, process to locate an enemy in less time (and there are such focused disciplines), and you have my total attention.
MOO, of course.
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Old 04-23-2012, 23:32   #11
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Thought provoking article - thank you Richard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Reaper View Post
There are times when you can sit around and debate the various perspectives for hours, and there are times when life or death decisions will have to be made in a second with the information you already have.

There are military jobs (like staff) for officers where you can be a manager and there are jobs where you have to be a leader (as a commander). Leadership and management are not necessarily the same.

Some are great at one, but not the other.

Good officers can handle both.

Exceptional officers can excel at both.

Then there is the politics....

TR
All true.

I was taught as a general rule that you manage things, but people must be led.
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Last edited by MR2; 04-23-2012 at 23:33. Reason: Preamble.
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Old 04-24-2012, 15:11   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GratefulCitizen View Post
I am curious.

Does the military select and train its officers to have a "bias for action"?
The black-and-white thinking versus open-ended ambiguity would seem to be the difference between bias for action and bias for waiting.

Which behavior is rewarded in officer promotion, and does this change at certain levels?
Generally, yes- unless you make the wrong decision ....... and something bad happens.

IMO, the best commanders are those who can quickly realize that the decision was wrong, and rapidly realize that and react.

The German General Staff school articulated the issue very well - most commanders failed because they reached a point where a decision needed to be made and failed to realize that they needed to make a decision. Quality of decisions made was less of an issue than just making a decision.
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Old 04-24-2012, 16:13   #13
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I understand that this is a conversation that could quickly go from intelligent to pure complaining. I will try to state my opinion as professionally as possible.

I agree that we have a problem with how we educate. Specifically, how we train the mentality of the Soldier. I also strongly agree with TR that there is a time and place for a long drawn out thought process to a decision.

The issue that I see as a problem, especially with the Army, is hearing about how the Army has "no common sense". I have spent many days dwelling on this after hearing something ridiculous, or a mission plan that simply does not add up. The truth is the Army keeps rolling along regardless,...and it always will.

I think the real trouble why soldiers feel that there is a lack of common sense is due to the Army up bringing of black and white principles of thinking. The concept makes sense for battlefield decision making. I believe this is why the Army has done this for so long. (However, it is also supported by the decision making process.)

What I have observed is that, especially with senior leaders that have been around a long time, IE 25-30 year + CSM's and General officers (Please take no offense to this local seniors) The Seniors are very hell bent on the Black and White way of thinking, because it is all they know. The trouble with this, in a non battlefield situation, is that real issues have trouble with finding resolutions.

I will give a recent example(no hijack intended) I have a pay issue that has been going on for over a year. The Army owes my family about 6k in back pay. I have gone through my entire chain of command and recently sat down with the Corp level. I thought, at this level, it would finally be over, but it was not. The reason for this is because the Corp saw it either one way or the other.

They simply did not believe me, that what has happened to me, happened the way it did. (Thought process was how could a pay issue fail at so many levels) Now, I don't blame them at all. But this happened because the way of looking at it is one way or the other, there is not anything in between. (Plus I have a really pissed off wife to explain it to.)

I think that is the kind of thinking that makes soldiers have those days, where "no common sense in the Army" comes out. I do firmly believe it is time to change our old ways. In the appropriate places respectively. With the new generations of soldiers rising up, like them or not, they are thinkers. Out of the box thinking is what they know. A change is coming if we want it or not, I just cannot say how this will affect our military.

One last thought, I really strongly believe as well, we lose a lot of our best leaders, the best and brightest, because they cannot stand the way the Army thinks. I have lost many brilliant minds to, "I just cant stand it anymore". Yes, they should have been tougher and not gotten out, but it is still ashame the Army got them to the point of feeling that way.

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Old 04-24-2012, 17:47   #14
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Originally Posted by 35NCO View Post
I understand that this is a conversation that could quickly go from intelligent to pure complaining. I will try to state my opinion as professionally as possible.

I agree that we have a problem with how we educate. Specifically, how we train the mentality of the Soldier. I also strongly agree with TR that there is a time and place for a long drawn out thought process to a decision.

The issue that I see as a problem, especially with the Army, is hearing about how the Army has "no common sense". I have spent many days dwelling on this after hearing something ridiculous, or a mission plan that simply does not add up. The truth is the Army keeps rolling along regardless,...and it always will.

I think the real trouble why soldiers feel that there is a lack of common sense is due to the Army up bringing of black and white principles of thinking. The concept makes sense for battlefield decision making. I believe this is why the Army has done this for so long. (However, it is also supported by the decision making process.)

What I have observed is that, especially with senior leaders that have been around a long time, IE 25-30 year + CSM's and General officers (Please take no offense to this local seniors) The Seniors are very hell bent on the Black and White way of thinking, because it is all they know. The trouble with this, in a non battlefield situation, is that real issues have trouble with finding resolutions.

I will give a recent example(no hijack intended) I have a pay issue that has been going on for over a year. The Army owes my family about 6k in back pay. I have gone through my entire chain of command and recently sat down with the Corp level. I thought, at this level, it would finally be over, but it was not. The reason for this is because the Corp saw it either one way or the other.

They simply did not believe me, that what has happened to me, happened the way it did. (Thought process was how could a pay issue fail at so many levels) Now, I don't blame them at all. But this happened because the way of looking at it is one way or the other, there is not anything in between. (Plus I have a really pissed off wife to explain it to.)

I think that is the kind of thinking that makes soldiers have those days, where "no common sense in the Army" comes out. I do firmly believe it is time to change our old ways. In the appropriate places respectively. With the new generations of soldiers rising up, like them or not, they are thinkers. Out of the box thinking is what they know. A change is coming if we want it or not, I just cannot say how this will affect our military.

One last thought, I really strongly believe as well, we lose a lot of our best leaders, the best and brightest, because they cannot stand the way the Army thinks. I have lost many brilliant minds to, "I just cant stand it anymore". Yes, they should have been tougher and not gotten out, but it is still ashame the Army got them to the point of feeling that way.
You need to visit your IG.

They can fix pay problems faster than you would believe.

TR
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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

De Oppresso Liber 01/20/2017
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Old 04-24-2012, 21:11   #15
Tree Potato
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Tree Potato is offline
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: IVO DC
Posts: 90
Some thoughts from a current AWC student (and at the end of month 10 of an 11 month program, not that I'm counting)...

Most of the big issues brought up have been addressed by the accreditation process and by the ever growing list of standardized JS directed Joint Learning Objectives. There are still issues, but the sky isn't falling. Some sheltered academics need to take a deep breath.

The key aspect of the war colleges, IMO, is helping officers to grow from rigid thought processes and to learn to critically think through more complex and ambiguous issues, while still knowing when to apply tried and true black and white rules. In this task AWC has successfully raised the capability of everyone attending (from what I see everyone's thinking ability has improved, all from different arrival baselines; naturally some improved more than others).

As for making it "tougher", there's a point of diminishing return. There are two ways to make it tougher; either by raising the standards to get certain grades or by having a more regimented curriculum. As for grades I don't see AWC grades as being significantly different from civilian grad schools. For example where I earned a master of science degree a certain professor wouldn't give lower than an A-- (yes, two minuses), but no B's; even at AWC there are C's, D's, and F's, just not many. Further, not all students are created the same and the variety of roles and missions my fellow students will assume later don't lend themselves to a single rigid schoolhouse process which would naturally result from any effort to make it tougher. Actually keeping up with the existing curriculum is a challenge; 12-16 hour days of studying are not uncommon while researching a paper, writing, and taking the JS mandated courses. But as they say, it's only a lot of work if you do it. Which leads me to my last thought...

The school shouldn't have to make it tougher... colonels should (and most do) set higher personal standards than the school ever should. If we're not harder on ourselves than the organization is, something is wrong. By the ~20 year career point most know their strong and weak areas, and leaving enough flex in the academic schedule to work on filling those personal gaps is valuable. Those who don't work on those gaps quickly get sidelined in their next position and rapidly transition to civilian clothes. Meanwhile, those who take advantage of the resources here and aggressively work to overcome personal weak areas will likely continue to progress in future jobs, and result in better GOs than could be produced from a tougher (read: less flexible, more standardized) school program.

My only regret is I've yet to hit the Maxwell golf course this year. I'll have to rent some clubs after packout and at least get in a round.
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