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The Baldwin Files – Talent Management – Part 2 of 3

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Read part 1 of Talent Management here.

At the end of the first article in this series, the newly formed Special Forces (SF) Branch had rejected my application. Initially, they provided no explanation. With my 13+ years of infantry experience, I certainly had expected to be competitive for a slot. My first thought was that a sufficient number of more talented individuals – with greater SF potential – must have submitted even better packets than mine. However, knowing that I would not have another chance, my second thought was to immediately reattack. Therefore, I drove to Alexandria, Virginia, to see the Colonel (O-6) SF Branch Chief personally. It turns out my first thought was dead wrong. The Colonel confirmed that I was indeed competitive. In fact, I would have been selected if not for my excessive time in service. The Selection Board – that he chaired – had done the math. With the time I had already accumulated, plus the Advanced Course, Degree Completion, and the Q-Course itself, I would have ~17 years of service by the time I got to my first SF Operational Detachment.

As a new Branch, they were looking for officers that could give SF at least 15 years – not 3. It was the first time I realized how rigid the Army’s 20-year service model was that backstopped all these decisions. My career was moving as fast – and I was performing at least as well – as all my commissioned peers. Nevertheless, my extensive enlisted experience actually made me an undesirable SF candidate. How crazy is that? I did not have time to contemplate the illogic of the situation in the moment. Rather, I assured the Colonel that I would definitely be staying past 20 if I got into SF. He was not entirely convinced, but admitted that a couple of people had changed their minds after the board and he had some empty slots. He gave me a shot. Although it would be 3 more years before I got that Green Beret, from that point on I was managed by SF rather than Infantry Branch.

Time passed, and all those mandatory schools went as planned and largely without any further personnel management incidents. I did have one brief scare as I approached graduation. Most of my compadres in the Q-Course were going to the newly reactivated 3rd Special Forces Group. I wanted 5th Group, but right up to the end it did not appear that there would be an opening for me. I was under some pressure from the School Cadre and SF Branch to choose 3rd but I held fast and fortuitously a slot opened up at 5th just in time. I spent the next 4+ years at 1st Battalion, 5th Group. That included two and a half years as a Detachment Commander, a few weeks as the Deputy S-3, and then 19 months commanding C/1/5 as a not-yet-promotable Captain. I thought I was doing pretty well.

SF Branch did not agree. According to the rules, my command of Charlie Company “did not count.” In effect, from a professional development and personnel management perspective, Branch considered that command a complete waste of time. I still had to get 24 months “Branch Qualifying” (BQ) time as a Major. That would be some combination of another Company Command, Battalion S-3, and / or Battalion XO positions. In hindsight, it sounds insane to disregard the experience I gained in command, but at the time, I was delighted! That meant I was going to get another command and I was all for that. I will confess that command is like crack to me. The more I got, the more I wanted. I PCSed back to Fort Bragg in the summer of 1995 and spent the next 14 months as an operations officer at SF Command. At the end of that purgatory, I took command of A/1/3. Early on, my Battalion Commander made it known that he intended to make me the S-3 after a year or so. Once again, I thought my career was right on track; and, yet again, I was wrong.

Select officers attend a significant professional development school as Majors; it is the Command and General Staff College (CGSC). At the time, only 50% of Majors were selected, and each officer year group got three chances. The majority were designated for attendance in the first or second look – only a handful got picked up on that last look. I had not been selected in either of my first two looks. I was in Senegal with half of my company when my Battalion changed command. The new Commander came to visit and to personally deliver the bad news. He told me that he, the Group Commander, and the SF Branch Chief had concluded that because I had over 22 years in service I was not going to be selected for CGSC. Therefore, it would be a waste of a BQ slot to make me the Battalion S-3. Essentially, he told me that 3rd Group and SF Branch were cutting me away and informed me that I would have to find some non-BQ position once I returned to Bragg. Presumably, I would wait in that dead-end job to be passed over for Lieutenant Colonel and ultimately forced into retirement. As usual, my professional skills and my potential – as objectively compared to my peers – were not the relevant factors; and, my experience was again seen as a clear liability not an asset.

I had gotten back from Africa and was about 6 weeks from changing command myself when that last CGSC board convened. I thought that my leadership’s assessment of my chances were probably about right – slim to none. I was home showering after PT when my Group Commander called. He said, “Congratulations, you have been selected for CGSC. You have an appointment to see the Training Group Commander at 1000 about his Support Battalion’s S-3 job.” So I hustled over to Training Group as directed. The first question I was asked, “why do you want this job?” I said, “Sir, I didn’t want this job, I had expected to be the S-3 of 1/3 instead. But don’t worry; I will do a good job for you!” I thought I was just being honest, forthright, and respectful, and left his office on a positive note. I was mistaken. By the time I got back to my office, my Battalion Commander was waiting for me – and he was mad. He was spitting mad, as was my Group Commander, and the SF Branch Chief. Apparently, the Training Group Commander thought I was desperate for a job and expected me to be more grateful. All he heard of our conversation was “I didn’t want this job” and decided it would be a cold day in hell before I would get any position in his Group.

It was the first time – but not the last time – that I would be declared persona non grata at Training Group; and a few weeks later after my change of command, I was also no longer welcome in 3rd Group either. The truth was that these leaders were the ones desperate to find me a job. They had trusted that I would not be selected for CGSC and had guessed wrong. None of them wanted to go back to the SF Flag Officers and explain why I had been shut out even as the Army was declaring that I was in the top 50% of Majors in my year group. My leaders and I gathered in the Group Commander’s office with the SF Branch Chief on speakerphone. I was the elephant in that room and they generally ignored me. After a few minutes, they realized that since there were no available BQ jobs on Bragg they had no choice but to send me to CGSC immediately. Instead of being one of the last of my year group to attend the school, I would be one of the first. Furthermore, post-Leavenworth, SF Branch would have to get me into another BQ job. It was settled and obviously resolved in my favor. I did not have to deal with the 3rd Group leadership much longer, but that SF Branch Chief would be in position for another 2+ years – and he knew how to hold a grudge.

I went to Leavenworth, leaving my wife at Fort Bragg because I had been tacitly promised that I would return there after school. Besides completing the CGSC curriculum, while there a Major is expected to take the opportunity to get a Master’s Degree. Consequently, that year was academically challenging for me and went fast. Towards the end, SF Branch started making noises about me taking another job for a year before going back to Bragg. I honestly tried to be accommodating to a point, and we eventually came to a compromise. I would stay at Leavenworth a second year as a doctrine writer for FM 3.0, Operations, and in return, SF Branch guaranteed me in writing that essential BQ job afterwards. That second year was rougher than the first, but my wife visited several times and it too passed. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel when the Combined Arms Center (CAC) G-1 called me to his office. He said, “Terry, you keep saying you are leaving this summer, but SF Branch says otherwise.” He then showed me a string of emails between him and the Branch Chief. The Chief had declared, “Sure, keep Baldwin for another year. I have no plans for him.”

I started working the phones. First, I called the SF Branch Chief and opened the conversation by calling him a lying mother_____, among other things. He seemed to be having fun with it. He told me – with what I took to be unbridled glee – that, “we have already filled the slate for all the Groups and there are no BQ jobs left for you.” Then he hung up. Afterwards I called USASOC G-1 to confirm what he had said. It was true, and that HQ had no choice but to work off the slate they received from SF Branch. In short, the front and the back doors of the system were apparently locked tight. There is an old Monte Python skit in which one man is trying to impress another by saying, “I will have you know, that among the people that know me, I am very well known.” That statement would accurately describe me. I started networking with friends. Shortly, one told me to link up with the 1st Battalion Commander at Training Group. I made a trip back to Bragg to meet him. We did not know each other, but had those mutual friends. It turns out that the SF Branch selected Major that was supposed to go out to Camp Mackall did not want to go way out there and had found something else to do. I WANTED that job, told him so, and promised to return ASAP to take that guidon.

That took care of one problem. Now, all I had to do was get orders assigning me back to Bragg. SF Branch certainly would not cut them, and USASOC, Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS), or Training Group, could not. Luckily, I had one ace left to play. I knew the 3-Star CAC Commander. We were never drinking buddies, but it turned out that I had been in 1/504 when he was the commander of 2/504. He had also been the 1st Brigade Commander in the 82nd when I was in 3rd Brigade. We had been on a couple of jumps together, including a particularly FUBAR one into Fort Stewart, Georgia. More importantly, I had been briefing the man every other week for a year as part of the FM 3.0 writing team. That is where we had reminisced about those good times. My O-6 Boss, the CAC G-1, and I went to see him. I explained the predicament SF Branch had put me in and told him I would not have a chance of being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel if I did not get back to Bragg right now. He wished me luck and turned to the G-1, “Cut this man some orders back to the Center of the Universe.” Technically, the orders were outside the system and probably not entirely legal – but they were good enough for me. Besides, there was a legitimate job waiting for me that otherwise would be unfilled and SF Branch was never going to have the nerve to call the CAC Commander out on it. That is how I not only got back to Bragg in time, but also managed to get the very best possible job for a SF Major in the process.  

Within the military, there has long been broad agreement that it is advisable to “train to standard not to time” to achieve the best individual and collective results. In terms of promotions, retention and talent management in particular, I would suggest that the exact same logic needs to be applied. Effective talent management initiatives must focus on standards of soldier performance, not time in service or grade. Generally, individuals must be given more real power within the system to achieve what he or she defines as career success. That would be a good place to start if one wants to make talent management a reality and not just a slogan. In these three articles, I am simply highlighting some of the issues I encountered with the current system and subsequently offering some practical options to consider for ameliorating or solving some of those problems.

Moreover, it is clear to me that effective talent management cannot be achieved within the one-size fits all personnel management system we have today. In other words, you just about have to tear down the entire current system to rebuild an almost completely new structure. Talent management is only a fantasy until someone shapes a real system to make it work. In turn, that will have vast implications and impacts over training, professional schooling, promotions and every other aspect of personnel management to include force structure and budget. Some of this has been “wargamed” and brainstormed for years. One of the challenges with changing a huge complicated enterprise like the Army is that – in terms of personnel management – it is a zero sum game. X number of slots and Y number of people in perpetual motion. One domino moves…and, traditionally, they all have to move. It is going to take some serious work to change decades of culture, habit, and entrenched “tradition.”

Oddly enough, some of the possible solutions for meeting the Army’s future talent management needs may not be new at all. I have spoken often of the post-Civil War and post-WWI periods. Those were both times of minimum resources and slow promotions but notably high professionalism. Granted, in both cases we are talking about a very small Army compared to today. Still, some of the lessons on how they did “talent management” might very well be applicable in the 21st Century. For instance, consider making a “standard career” once again 30 rather than 20 years. With more time comes more opportunity to allow people to stay in positions longer – if they are doing a good job – in order to gain real mastery of their craft at that level before advancing. And doing so without greatly disadvantaging those waiting in line for the same jobs. Likewise, consider slowing promotions by stretching out time in grade timelines and thereby reduce the pressure to move people between jobs so frequently. However, initiatives like that may tend to limit options for self-directed career mobility. We do not want to over-compensate and go from perpetual motion to stagnation.

For much of our history, the Army had a reasonably effective regimental system that – among other things – naturally pushed personnel assignment and professional development decisions down to unit level. That had the great advantage of putting the decision on leaders who had better visibility of their soldiers. However, the mass mobilization for WWII and then the large post war draftee standing Army made centralization of those decisions seem desirable. I think it is past time to reevaluate that arrangement. Otherwise, the Army would have to take on the burden of customizing and essentially micromanaging the career of each and every soldier at the DA level – and that does not seem practical at all. Now, regimentalism is not without risks because it can be subject to cronyism if misused. Still, I would think that pushing the majority of personnel management decisions back down to unit level is one change we definitely need to contemplate.

Another area that I am convinced needs reexamining is the pressure that has built over the years to manage Warrants and NCOs in patterns that are similar to Commissioned Officers. Officers have traditionally been generalist and Warrants and NCOs have always been purposely specialized and stabilized in their assignments – at least as compared to Officers. The intent for some time now has been to move those two cohorts from assignment to assignment in order to make them more “well rounded” and less specialized in focus. The unintended consequence of these well-meaning policies has been a weakening of the critical continuity and “institutional memories” those groups had habitually provided. In other words, those policies may have been more counter-productive than positive. I would recommend at least reviewing the situation to see if it might not be advisable to reverse or at least adjust those management trend lines.

We also need to objectively reevaluate the Service’s needs for generalists vs specialists across the board. Based on my experiences and observations throughout my career and especially during GWOT, I am convinced that we need fewer traditional commissioned officers (generalists) and more specialists (Warrants, NCOs, and select Officers). I also think lateral opportunities should be exponentially expanded. Shifting between MOSs / Branches – call it cross training – going Warrant, or seeking a commission in service – and even back again – should be routine. I also think we should relook the Specialist Rank system that was in place when I came in – E4-E7 – and / or perhaps the Tech Sergeant ranks of WWII. Those systems allowed people to advance within a specialty without necessarily assuming the leadership responsibilities of a “hard stripe” NCO. Similarly, a parallel non-command track for Officers associated with a new “Staff Branch” or other functional specialties. Those would be some of the personnel areas that I think could and should be adjusted to give the Army better options. At least we would have a better chance to manage talent more effectively than what we are doing today.

Finally, the system is at its best when administered impersonally – without undue animus or favor – in as much as that is humanly possible. However, the individual soldier should definitely take it personally. It is your career. It is your life. Recognize that when you challenge the system, it is never from a position of strength. The system inherently has more power in the equation. Still, do not ever be afraid to fight and compete for the assignments, schools, and opportunities, you want. So, wade right into the water and chart your own destiny. If the Services are serious about talent management, that is precisely the self-actualized behavior that needs to be encouraged. It is up to the institution to widen the career streams by allowing more professional options. Thereby reducing the pressure for soldiers to navigate only one single approved channel. Similarly, establish and enforce policies that slow down the institution’s self-generated rush of the (professional) currents. Consequently, the entire process should become less of a continuous struggle and more of a rewarding experience for the individual.  

The Army has a very poor track record with these sorts of well-intentioned personnel initiatives. Many of us remember the old regimental affiliation scheme. Of course, it was not a management system based on individual talents; however, it was supposed to at least provide stability and predictability in assignments. It did not do either. Then there were the “cohort” units of the late 80s. The Army declared both experiments successful, and then quietly did away with them. Nevertheless, I still believe better personnel management and, yes, even talent management can be done effectively – if we have the will. More importantly, it must be done. It is people not technology that ultimately matter. As I said the last time, we are still using essentially 19th Century mass army personnel management practices that are not going to serve us well in the 21st. We had better master the challenge of modern military talent management soon or I suspect we will pay an unacceptable price in more blood in the not too distant future.

De Opresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

Field Artillery Back to Emphasizing ‘Charts and Darts’

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

FORT SILL, Okla. — With the growing threat of cyberattacks, the U.S. Army Field Artillery School has placed a renewed emphasis on learning manual methods of fire direction and gunnery.

“Bringing back the charts is a big deal,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Payne, an instructor for the 13J fire control specialist course. “If you don’t understand the chart, you won’t actually understand what the automated system is doing for you.”

About a decade ago, the school began reducing its emphasis on teaching manual methods, said Col. Samuel Saine, assistant commandant. That’s because improvements to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System enabled AFATADS to be used effectively in all situations, he said, and it dramatically sped up the firing process.

Then electronic warfare in Crimea and Ukraine shut systems down there, and at the same time, cyberattacks began disabling automation systems at civilian firms. These attacks “woke some people up,” Saine said.

Over the past year, the Field Artillery School commandant has made it a priority to reinsert manual or degraded operations back into the program of instruction for all courses, Saine said.

BASIC TO BRIGADE COMMAND

The renewed emphasis is not only in advanced individual training for new Soldiers, he said, but also in all of the officer courses from basic up to the pre-command course for colonels.

Now students begin AIT using maps to plot and they learn the math behind firing solutions.

“They’ll do manual operations until we know they fully understand the basics,” Payne said, explaining only then do students move on to the automated system.

This method provides students with a better appreciation of the concepts, he said, enabling them to “hit the ground running” at their first units.

They are also better prepared when electronic warfare takes the AFATADS system offline, he said, and degraded operations are now part of the scenario during AIT field exercises.

When systems go down, Soldiers are now trained on how to transition between the automated and manual methods, confirmed Pvt. Cynthia Antaya, a 13J student at the school.

EW can affect communications, automated systems and access to GPS. So 13J Soldiers break out their charts, pencils, plotting pins and protractors for degraded operations.

“It’s going to be important to know your charts and darts and how to go manual and still be able to continue on with your job, even when everything’s down,” Antaya said.

CANNON CREWS

It’s essential that artillery sections “never sway from our No. 1 task,” Saine emphasized, “and that No. 1 task is to provide uninterrupted fires to the maneuver elements of our Army — the infantry and armor.”

Manual or degraded operations for firing howitzers are actually a 20-level task for the gunner and primarily only 10-level tasks are taught at AIT, said Staff Sgt. Rodrick Stone, an instructor for the 13B cannon crewmember course.

Some instructors, however, still demonstrate manual sighting for the students, Stone said.

“I believe it’s very important that they learn both ways, because in the event that the digital goes down, you have to have a failsafe — a backup plan,” he said.

The Field Artillery School has helped work degraded operations into the program of instruction for the Advanced Leadership Course, Saine said. Since howitzer gunners are by doctrine sergeants, learning how to manually sight howitzers is emphasized in ALC, he said.

With degraded operations, the gunner switches to a panoramic telescopic sight, Stone said. Aiming poles and firing stakes are used. “We already have an additional primary aiming reference that’s set up; he instantly sights in off of that,” Stone said.

Then the traverse hand wheel is spun manually to raise or lower elevation of the howitzer tube, he explained.

“When I was coming in, degraded operations was the only thing that was going on,” Stone said. “There was no digital systems at the time.”

Now the threat of cyber warfare once again makes degraded operations of paramount importance, he said.

“We have more capacity and capability than they do,” Saine said of the enemy, “so they’re going to try to find creative ways to degrade and deny some of our systems.”

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

The emphasis on degraded operations is not only happening in the schoolhouse, it’s in the field as well, Saine said. Doctrine has been updated and so have performance standards.

Training Circular 3-09.8 for fire support was recently updated with increased performance standards for manual gunnery and degraded operations.

The chief of field artillery emphasizes degraded operations at fires conferences and at quarterly meetings with division artillery commanders, Saine said.

“It’s not just a Fort Sill thing,” Saine said. “He believes very strongly it needs to be informed by the operational force.”

Preparing for EW is not only practical, he said, but it also creates a more well-rounded force.

“What we found along the way is that we actually were increasing the proficiency of our Soldiers and our leaders,” Saine said, “because it helped them understand to a higher degree how everything worked together.”

By Gary Sheftick, Army News Service

USAF Officer Training School Braces For “Godzilla” Class

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

I attended a reasonably sized OTS class in 1996. We were organized into only three trainee Squadrons and we lived in the dorms which I later stayed in for Squadron Officer School. Even though here were only two to a room, it was pretty tight.

In the early 2000s, OTS got its own compound out on the old flight line at Maxwell AFB. Even so, I don’t know how they’re going to house a class this size.What’s more, OTS is set up in a “inmates running the asylum” scheme. This requires the upper class, which is halfway through OTS, to assume many of the duties normally fulfilled by a training cadre. If the upper class is substantially smaller than the lower class, supervision will suffer. Granted, over half of the new OTs will be prior service, but even then, the number of those right off the street will be larger than an average class.

The undertaking is so big, as of last week, many did still not yet have orders to attend OTS.

It’s going to be a tough go; for everyone involved. I wish everyone good luck!

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. —

This past March, Air University’s Officer Training School celebrated the graduation of its largest class in school history: 340 officer trainees. Just a few months later, though, the radar is reading a class more than twice that size.

What is being dubbed the “Godzilla” class, OTS Class 19-07 will push the school to its maximum capacity by tipping the scales with the expected arrival of 800 officer trainees in mid-July.

OTS is considered the “shock absorber” for Air Force officer accessioning, said Lt. Col. Erick Saks, 24th Training Squadron commander. The school works with the Air Force manpower directorate and Air Force Recruiting Service to meet any projected shortfalls in the number of commissioned officers from the service’s other commissioning sources — Air Force ROTC and the Air Force Academy — based on the needs of the Air Force.

For the Godzilla class, OTS nearly tripled the typical number of seats allotted for active duty line officers, going from about 170 to 500, the majority of the increase. The 800 officer trainees coming in will be split between OTS’s two training squadrons, the 24th TRS and Det. 12. Previously, each squadron typically received a class of 250-300 OTs.

OTS leadership, however, does not expect the increase in trainees to cause a decrease in quality of training.

“It’s not just about getting numbers out, it’s about making sure our trainees leave here with the skills they need to be great officers,” said Capt. Kaitlin Daddona, 24th Training Squadron assistant director of operations for training. “That’s what we’re really focusing on with this many people in one class.”

In order to make sure operations continue to run smoothly, communication and coordination have been key in preparation of the class, Daddona said.

With the abnormally high number of trainees coming in, otherwise routine aspects of the OTS schedule, such as meal times and lectures, have required more forethought and planning due to the nature of the beast.

Communication and coordination are important, especially when there are only six military training instructors to take on Godzilla.

Master Sgt. Bobby Johnson, OTS MTI, said that tackling this monster of a class will help develop himself and his team into “masters of controlled chaos” and make them gain the ability to problem solve while in the presence of hundreds of future Airmen.

Molding almost a thousand civilians into Air Force leaders at once can sound like a daunting task, but the OTS team sees it as an opportunity to become laser focused on cohesion and developing into better leaders right alongside their very own Godzilla.

“The best part of this has been being able to open up those lines of communication so that we can connect and build relationships with the partners that we have, whether it’s here on base or within Montgomery,” said Daddona.

The team at OTS believe that they are up to the task, but they fear the class will take a major toll on the school’s facilities.

Capt. Curan Clonch, 24th TRS assistant director of operations for standardization and evaluations, said that the facilities are going to take the biggest hit from Class 19-07.

“We can anticipate all of the things that may happen, but there’s not much we can do as far as preventative maintenance,” he said.

While the hype of this class has created a paradigm shift in the OTS staff’s mindset, the school’s goal remains the same.

“Even though Godzilla seems like a terrifying beast, we recognize the importance of getting these officers through and giving them the training that they need,” said Daddona. “As long as our trainees are leaving pumped and ready to be officers, then we did our job.”

By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert, Air University Public Affairs

SOFWERX Presents – Disruptive Speaker Series The Iranian Threat Network: Implications for the U.S.-Iran Crisis

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

SOFWERX, in collaboration with USSOCOM J5 Donovan Strategy and Innovation Group and Joint Special Operations University, will host a Disruptive Speaker Series entitled “The Iranian Threat Network: Implications for the U.S.-Iran Crisis,” led by Dr. Diane M. Zorri from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on 25 July, 2019.

The presentation offers a novel perspective on the study of Iranian proxy organizations in Iraq and Yemen. This comparative analysis of Iranian proxy groups in the Middle East intends to provide a deeper understanding on how to counter Iranian decision-making.

For more information and to RSVP, visit sofwerx.org/donovan.

2019 Warrior East Keynote Address by ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret)

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret) was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Warrior EAST Expo.

The subject was 21st Century Leadership, with particular emphasis on challenges.

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He began by saying that challenges will be unexpected, move with gravity, emphasis and change. He demonstrated that by discussing the 9/11 attacks. On that day, he was a brand new One-Star in the Pentagon. He looked out his window and watched the aircraft fly into the building, striking it not far from his office. He was in one of the safest places on earth and yet, it was attacked. The world is still feeling the consequences of that day with the challenge of countering Islamic extremism.

ADM Stavridis went on to discuss current and future challenges in the Middle East which include Iranian expansionism and the Syrian humanitarian crisis. This latter conflict ties into Russian manipulation and its incursion into the Ukraine.

The next challenge he discussed is drug trafficking. While he feels that drug use is a personal decision, his concern is the proceeds of that trafficking and its effect on fragile democracies. He should know, as the Commander of US Southern Command he saw how drug trafficking undermined the government of Colombia.

ADM Stavridis went on to mention pandemics. Based on his story, we are due another. A century ago, Spanish influenza affected 40% of the world’s population.

He feels we can negotiate with China to deal with the issues of trade and intellectual property. Interestingly, he believes the US and China will work together to deal with North Korea.

Cyber security keeps him awake at night. Multiple countries have been victims of significant cyber attacks. Our power grid is particularly vulnerable, as is our personal information.

Here at home, he believes political gridlock is a major concern. Our political parties and even branches of governments rent working well together.

ADM Stavridis went over tools for the 21st century leader. He believes that the most significant tool for a 21st century leader is the ability to listen, to both subordinates and adversaries.

Second is education, with reading as a means of self-education. Books and reading matter deeply. He suggested everyone read, “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media” by Peter Singer.

Next is innovation. One form of innovation he used at SOUTHCOM was engagement. In particular, he used sports outreach across Central America and the Caribbean, with military team members. In Afghanistan, his technique was literacy programs for the ANA, with a goal of bringing basic trainees to a third grade reading level. His experience is that only one in four innovations works, but it’s imperative to reward innovators and to share the stories of success.

Good leaders are also good communicators. He sees communication as a bridge, with information going both directions. What he refers to as alignment is key; how the information will be received by the audience. Communication is most of all, personal.

He moved on to collaboration. It’s complicated and hard. It might be with current partners. It might involve non-traditional partners. It might be a form of outreach.

Finally, he mentioned values. Leaders must uphold values. He suggested we all list our heroes and next to their name, put the reason why. Then, conduct a self-assessment of how we are doing compared to those we look up to.

Good leaders believe in hope. Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” The Admiral said, “that sums up a leader.”

No matter the attribute he listed, across the board, all of his points were intertwined.

Admiral James Stavridis served as the 12th dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University since its founding in 1933. A retired 4-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, piracy, and cybersecurity. He also served as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, with responsibility for all military operations in Latin America from 2006-2009. He holds more than 50 medals, including 28 from foreign nations. In 2016, Admiral Stavridis was vetted as a Vice Presidential candidate by the Hilary Clinton campaign, and after the election was invited to meet with President-Elect Trump to discuss a cabinet-level position in the Trump Administration.

Earlier in his military career, he commanded the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet, winning the Battenberg Cup, as well as a squadron of destroyers and a carrier strike group – all in combat. Admiral Stavridis earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in International Relations and has published six books and over two hundred articles in leading journals around the world. His 2012 TED talk has over 700K hits, and he speaks Spanish and French. Admiral Stavridis is a monthly columnist for TIME magazine and Chief International Security Analyst for NBC News. He also joined The Carlyle Group as an Operating Executive and serves as the Chair of the Board of Counselors of McLarty Global Associates. His focus is on innovation, strategic communication and planning, and creating security through international, interagency, and public/private partnerships in this turbulent 21st Century.

The Baldwin Files – Talent Management – Part 1 of 3

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

Let us talk about talent management. The Army’s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis (OEMA) defines talent as “…the unique intersection of skills, knowledge and behaviors in every person. Talent represents far more than the training, education and experiences provided by the Army. The fullness of each person’s life experience…and a myriad number of other factors [that] better suit them to some development or employment opportunities than others.” OEMA goes on to say that talent management is the: “…systematic planning for the right number and type of people to meet the Army’s needs at all levels and at all times so that the majority of them are employed optimally. Talent management begins with entry-level employees and aligns their talents against the demand for them during their entire careers, to include positions at the very top of the Army.” More simply, I would say developing a system that enables and ensures people are being, “employed optimally” is the key to effective talent management – both from the individual’s and the Army’s perspective. That certainly articulates a worthy vision, but we are not quite there yet.

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

– Heraclitus

I am not claiming to be that one warrior, but I always aspired to be that guy. I did have a long, colorful, and very unusual, career in the U.S. Army. During the course of 36 years, I learned a few things about the workings of the existing Personnel Management system. For the last few years, as many of you know, that term “talent management” has come into vogue. Sadly, based on what I have seen and experienced – and despite optimistic talk – the institutional Army remains largely locked in manning mechanisms and procedures that have not changed much since WWII. Even the transition from a draft back to an all-volunteer force only changed how people come in the door. Once in, officers and NCOs are still locked in rigid career tracks that require specific “branch qualifying” duty position blocks to be checked within certain narrow time in service windows in order to be promoted. The system actively resists individuals even briefly daring to step off the prescribed path and timeline; and – in the worst case – the result of such a transgression is damaging if not career ending delay or denial of a promotion. That is not effective talent management and never will be.

I am going to be using my own career to illustrate how “the system” worked – or failed to work – for me. I thought about discussing this subject in more generic terms rather than making it about myself. Not that I am ashamed of any of the events that I am going to describe; rather, because my career was so anomalous, I worried that many of the specifics would not be applicable or of value to any readers in service today. Still, I concluded it was best to write about what I personally saw and know. Besides, I wanted to get this personal history recorded eventually; so, I convinced myself that others would find some utility in my experiences. We will see. I admit I am the hero in this story. That does not mean that there are also stereotypical villains in this tale. Many of the characters I will introduce actually helped get the system to work for me. Others may have tried to block my preferences, but most thought they were doing what the system demanded and acted in good faith – even if not in my favor. But, yes, a couple of these people were dicks and I took a certain satisfaction in besting them and the system when I could.

I have written twice before about my experiences in Germany, 1975-78. The “rehabilitative” transfer to the Divisional Pathfinder Detachment made a huge difference in my professional life. There I found a handpicked group of troopers who were all sharp and combat focused. We had the esprit that comes from having a specialized mission and I loved it. I left that team after 2+ years as a Sergeant (E-5) seriously thinking in terms of making the Army a career. Indeed, shortly after PCSing to Fort Lewis, Washington (with less than 5 months left on my original enlistment), I reenlisted for another 3 years. Up to that point, I was still blissfully ignorant about how the Army personnel management system worked.  I just got on with my professional and personal life. With 12 months on station at Fort Lewis I received orders to PCS to Hawaii. Just a couple of weeks earlier, my girlfriend of almost a year, who was a Supply Specialist in an Aviation unit, had gotten orders for Korea. Faced with almost immediate separation, we did the only thing we could think to do. We got married.

To this day, I have no idea if starting a marriage as a long distance relationship before skype, email, or cell phones were invented would have worked. Fortunately, we never had to find out. I went to my PAC before the ink had dried on the marriage license to codify our union with the Army. We were thinking that after a year in Korea, the Army would allow my new wife to join me in Hawaii. We did not think we had any other choices. After all, orders were orders – or so we neophytes thought. I told the SFC PAC NCOIC our plan as I was filling out the paperwork. He looked at me as if I had a you-know-what growing out of my forehead and said, “Wait here.” A couple of minutes later he came back and hustled me into the Battalion Commander’s office.  I told my story to the BC and he told me to sit down. His comment to me was, “we can do better than that.” It turns out before taking command he had just completed an assignment at Infantry Branch in the HQ we now call PERSCOM, in Alexandria, Virginia. He did not call some General or even another Lieutenant Colonel. He did not seek anyone’s approval or concurrence. Instead, he called one of the “little old ladies in tennis shoes” that actually run the Army’s personnel management system. He told her the problem and gave her mine and my wife’s names and social security numbers. In no time, she had arranged to rescind both our sets of orders, stabilize us at Lewis for an additional 6 months, and cut new orders so that we would both PCS together to Hawaii. The phone call took about 30 minutes.   

I strongly suspect that call saved my nascent marriage if not my career. That was 1979. All I know is that on November 30th of this year I will be celebrating my 40th Anniversary with that same woman. From that experience, I learned that the system is made up of people, orders can be changed or amended, and policies can be waived or even disregarded on a case-by-case basis. There are always options. Skip ahead 5 years and I am a promotable Staff Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division just accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS). Even that did not happen without a minor complication. When my OCS Class date came down I was not at Fort Bragg, but was TDY at Infantry ANCOC at Fort Benning. In fact, I had to voluntarily withdraw in writing from that course because it overlapped the start of my OCS Class. ANCOC became the only school I ever started that I did not complete. The cadre at ANCOC actually asked me to finish the course and take the next OCS Class. I could not. At the time, the Army would not commission anyone with more than 10 years of service. If I took even the next class, my graduation / commissioning date would be 2 months too late. Therefore, I had no choice but to rush back to Bragg, out-process, and PCS back to Fort Benning just 2 weeks later.

I do not regret any of that, but the fact that I waited to literally the last minute to seek a commission would have a significant ripple effect throughout the rest of my career. As most SSD readers already know, the Army gets almost all of its officers through West Point, ROTC, or OCS. The first two are generally 4-year programs and the cadets in those schools earn a degree while simultaneously meeting the prerequisites for a commission. OCS is the smallest program, and at the time, was 14 weeks long (today 12 weeks). What many people do not realize – I did not before I got there – is historically, 75% of OCS Candidates are what are called “College Options.” That is, people who already have college degrees that enlist specifically to go to OCS. They complete Basic and then go straight on to an OCS training company. Less than a dozen people in my class of ~150 had more than 4 years of service. Those of us without a degree were required to attend “Degree Completion” sometime after commissioning. That administrative requirement would also have an unanticipated impact on my career 4 years later.

I graduated OCS and was commissioned in Infantry on 22 February 1985. My wife was assigned to an Aviation unit at Bragg and had remained there while I was in school. My intent was to go directly back to the 82nd. In this case, I had a better than average chance to get what I wanted since I was already Jumpmaster qualified and Senior Rated. However, after OCS I still had some more schooling to complete. First up was the Basic Infantry Course and that was almost 6 months. Normally, after the Basic Course, most – but not all – Infantry Lieutenants would go to Airborne and Ranger School. I had already checked that first block so all I had to do was Ranger School. By the time I was half way through the Basic Course, I had tentative orders assigning me to the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, in hand. It was all coming together. However, there was another factor looming over the Schoolhouse that potentially was going to upset my plans.

The Army had just stood up the 7th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Ord, California. It was the Army Chief of Staff’s highest priority. Almost all of my peers that summer were already on orders to go there. Likewise, they had priority to Ranger School and that meant that I would be waiting at least a couple of months after the Basic Course before I could even get into the school. To make matters worse, the rumor was that filling the 7th was considered so important that orders for anywhere else were soon going to be rescinded. I was not going to take that chance. So, the day before graduation from the Basic Course, I called up the S1 for 3rd Brigade and asked him if I could come on up and return back to Ranger School later on a Division slot? He put me on hold and asked the Brigade XO if that would be ok. The XO agreed. I suspected – and later confirmed – that the 82nd was struggling with no longer being the highest priority fill for the Army. That summer, the 82nd and 101st had serious shortfalls in company grade infantry officers because they were all being diverted to Ord. I had the answer I wanted. I waved my orders around, signed out of the schoolhouse within 48 hours, and drove faster than the law allowed north and home to Fort Bragg.

That is why I ended up going to Ranger School about 18 months later. Including that 2-month sabbatical, I spent just over three years at 2nd Battalion, 505th PIR. During that time, I was a Rifle Platoon Leader, Mortar Platoon Leader, Tow Platoon Leader, Company XO, and finally the Battalion S3 Air. In other words, I had checked all the infantry lieutenant career blocks that I needed to. However, the Army personnel management system had negatively affected my wife’s career during this period. About a year after I got back she received orders to Germany for 3 years. That was not going to work, so she refused those orders and left the service after 8 years. I also had to start looking forward to the next phase of my career. I would have to go back to Benning for 6 months at the Infantry Advanced Course (now Captain’s Career Course). In addition, because I still had to do Degree Completion, I would be spending 18 more months going to a civilian college nearby in Columbus, Georgia. Infantry Branch also had a Heavy / Light policy, so since I had been on the light side initially, I could expect a mechanized infantry assignment next. I was not enthusiastic about the likelihood of that.

Something else happened in 1987 that helped me make a fateful decision about my future. Special Forces (SF) became a separate Branch. I had been serving with SF qualified officers and NCOs for my entire career. The majority of SF had come from the infantry ranks for decades. In fact, my last Battalion Commander and XO in 2/505 were both SF qualified. I had thought about SF before and had intentions to go over as a Captain after Rifle Company command. That had been the common practice for several years since SF Warrants had replaced Lieutenants on ODAs after 1983. SF had been a school, a skill identifier, and just a temporary assignment for Officers and NCOs of other Branches prior to that timeframe. Now, Lieutenants like me had only a single window to submit a packet to be considered for accession to SF. 1987 was my year group’s one and only window. With the full encouragement and support of my BC and XO, I submitted my packet with high hopes of being selected. Several months passed before I received a response from SF Branch. They had rejected me.

When I initially outlined this subject, I quickly realized that it naturally divided into three blocks of time. My infantry career up to 1988, my SF time from then to 2001, and finally the period from 2001-11, a.k.a. my GWOT years. As I began to write, it dawned on me that my relationship with the Army’s Personnel Management System changed significantly during each block of time. In Part 1, that you have just read, I worked with and within the system. Sure, occasionally I had to nudge the system with the help of others. Still, I was generally moving in the direction that the Army and Infantry Branch wanted me to take so there was very little friction. In Part 2, as you will see, I eventually found myself at odds with what SF Branch wanted to do with me. Therefore, at times, I had to aggressively work in opposition to the system and there was a great deal of friction. In Part 3, I was obliged to operate almost exclusively outside the system and, therefore, avoided friction almost entirely.

The “take aways” from this first article is that the Army has essentially an industrial age, conveyor belt, assembly line, MANNING system vice a flexible management system. And, from what I have seen, the other Services are not appreciably better. The system has a great deal of difficulty dealing with individuals as individuals as is required for genuine talent management. Indeed, the system is easily flummoxed by anyone who is different in any way. In 1979, dual-service couples were unusual, but the problems my wife and I encountered decades ago still apparently persist, unabated, for similar couples today. Almost inevitably, one of the two must eventually sacrifice their career to keep the marriage intact – or dissolve the marriage. It is not effective talent management if we habitually advantage one soldier’s career at the direct expense of another. Moreover, some aspects of the system are counterintuitive and counterproductive to any semblance of talent management. Time in service rules for example. One might assume that more enlisted experience would be considered a valuable asset for an officer and not a liability. That would be incorrect. As I pointed out earlier, it is rare that people are commissioned with more than 4 years of enlisted service. The system does not deal well with “rare.” Spoiler alert, I was initially rejected by SF Branch because of my abnormal amount of time in service.

Nevertheless, I am not writing this because I am disgruntled. Clearly, the system was good to me and I acknowledge that up front. But, that system is not going to be good enough as we move deeper into the ever-higher tech 21st Century. We need more and more talent in a postindustrial age, not just mass numbers of warm bodies. The Services have to find that talent and retain those people once we have them. It will have to be a radical departure from what we have previously experienced. However, I will sound one cautionary note. Military service cannot ever become entirely about self-actualization of the individual. Duty, honor, and selfless service – not to mention teamwork and unit cohesion – are always going to matter and must NOT ever be sacrificed in the name of individuality. The needs of the Service must be addressed and balanced as well as the needs of the individual. There will always be a number of less desirable and even thankless jobs that need to get done. That burden simply has to be perceived to be shared equitably under any system.

The attached picture shows soldiers climbing the ruins of the Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriya, Iraq. It is a good metaphor of our current system. It provides a solid, if crumbling, path to the top, i.e. professional success – as long as you do not deviate from that prescribed path. Moreover, the path is wide enough that – at least in some cases – a few can move faster under their own power toward the top without disadvantaging others. Most people can accept that as long as the opportunity is perceived to be fairly administered and truly talent based. However, no one appreciates looking to the left or right and seeing that an escalator has been put in place for a privileged few. We have probably all seen this individual. His boss thinks he walks on water and wants to fast track him; his peers know him as a Spotlight Ranger and do not trust him as far as they can throw him, and his subordinates consider him an unmitigated piece of crap. An effective talent management system would have to have some methodology to collect and reconcile those disparate evaluations of everyone’s performance to differentiate true talent from the posers. Finally, if anyone has more recent experiences, or has knowledge of new(er) changes to the system – that have made it better or worse – I would love to hear it.

De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

Patrolling Is Better When You’re…

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

According to 75th Ranger Regiment Recruiting, patrolling is better when you’re…

1. Wearing a Patagonia uniform

2. Carrying a Mystery Ranch pack

3. Wearing an Ops-Core helmet

4. Communicating via Peltor

5. Shooting thru a Daniel Defense upper

6. Seeing thru Oakley SI eye pro

7. Walking in Nonstandard boots

8. Wearing Outdoor Research gloves

9. Wearing a Crye Precision plate carrier

Wanna join? If you’re in the Army, send your SRB to 75recruit@socom.mil from your .mil email.

Not in the Army? Go tell your local Active Duty Army Recruiter that you want to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

US Army Combined Arms Center Releases First Doctrine Audiobook

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

(Fort Leavenworth, Kan.) The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC), in a collaborative effort led by the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate (CADD) and supported by the Army Training Support Center (ATSC) – Mobile Learning Division (MLD) and Enterprise Multimedia Center (EMC), released its first doctrine audiobook as part of a pilot program today. The first publication produced as an audiobook is Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, a manual that marked the shift in the Army’s focus towards large-scale combat operations when published in October 2017.

Audiobooks are not new to the publishing industry; however, this marks the first time the Army has ventured into this medium as a way of delivering Army doctrine.

“Doctrine audiobooks give Soldiers another way to receive information and learn by letting them increase their professional knowledge while doing other things, like working out or commuting,” said Col. Rich Creed, director, CADD. “We are pleased by the flexibility the audio format provides to the majority of people in the Army, who don’t usually carry doctrinal manuals around with them every day.”

Army doctrine audiobooks are produced from published and authenticated doctrine, but abridged for the audio format. Like print publications, online presentation of audiobooks follows a standardized format that includes the publication’s introduction, each of the chapters, and the appendices. Army doctrine audiobooks use industry standard .mp3 files that can be accessed by users across multiple platforms, including laptops, e-Readers, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices.

The Combined Arms Center is currently working on audiobook versions of FM 2-0, Intelligence, and ADPs 3-90, Offense and Defense, and 7-0, Training, that will be available later this summer. The viability and use of the audiobook format, as well as future production of additional doctrinal publications, will be evaluated as part of this pilot program.

Audiobooks join the CADD lineup of digital interactive publications available to Soldiers via the U.S. Army Central Army Registry. To access the FM 3-0 audiobook, visit rdl.train.army.mil/catalog-ws/view/FM3-0Audiobook/index

By Ted Crisco and Maj. Christopher Parker, Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate