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American Forces Press Service

'Tactically Savvy' Force Must Reframe, Commander Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2011 – After 10 years of war, the Army needs to “reframe” itself beyond tactical capabilities, and focus on areas that have had to take a backseat to counterinsurgency training, the commander of U.S. Army Europe said yesterday.

“We are a tactically savvy Army that has been fighting a specific kind of conflict, and it’s now time to expand ourselves a little bit,” Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told defense reporters here.

The Army needs to resume training for conflicts other than counterinsurgency operations, he said, and focus on systems that often get neglected during extended periods of combat: training management, supply accountability, soldier discipline and counseling and mentoring.

“I think, because we were in such a rush to field forces, that we ignored some intricacies” that otherwise would get done, Hertling said.

The speed of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan meant that in some cases, sufficient analysis of missions and equipment didn’t happen, he said. While Army missions have been overall successful, some traditional soldier and leader skills have been neglected, he added.

Leaders at all levels should be mentoring and counseling their subordinates “two levels down,” the general said, adding that he counsels brigade commanders, who should be counseling company commanders.

“The disciplining of soldiers, the counseling of soldiers -- if we’re going to reduce our Army, and all indicators are that we are, we’ve got to [retain] the very best, and those very best have to be counseled and developed and trained,” the general said. “But they also have to be disciplined.”

Army recruits in the 21st century are in a sense elite, he said.

“Only about 25 percent of the available pool can even meet the requirements for entering the service, from either a physical perspective or a skills perspective or a learning perspective,” Hertling noted.

The Army has to further develop those recruits with the organization’s values and discipline, he added.

“Being a soldier is tough,” he said. “It’s sometimes like laser brain surgery, the things that we ask these young kids to do – they are the Napoleonic strategic corporal, at times.”

“A soldier is very different than someone on the street, and this has been an approach that we’ve taken as part of the ‘profession of arms’ campaign: a re-look at what we say are our professional values, and how we live them,” he said. “Not just saying we do it, but having the video to match the audio.”

That campaign began in October 2010, when Army Secretary John McHugh and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey directed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, then commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command and now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review the professionalism of the Army “in an era of persistent conflict.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno is now “leading the charge” in the campaign, Hertling said.

In a February 2010 letter announcing the campaign, Dempsey wrote, “We need to review, reemphasize and recommit to our profession. We need to ensure that our leader development strategies, our training methodologies, and our personnel systems all contribute to defining us as a profession.”

Hertling acknowledged there are some “discipline problems that we have not paid as much attention to as we should” in today’s force, and estimated 5 percent of soldiers fall into that category.

Leaders must not overlook acts of indiscipline, he said, and must address incidents of multiple offenses.

When he assumed command in Europe, Hertling asked for a list of soldiers with more than one citation for driving under the influence. The number on the list surprised him, he said.

“When you’re really, truly looking at building a smaller, more professional army, those are the kinds of things you have to address,” he said.

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