A quickly changing landscape to work in. External forces that are continuously transforming and growing and improving their competitive position. The influx of technology, both used from within and by competitors. The material and shifting impact of politics.
Having to implement continuous training, and retraining, while dealing with a steady outflow of talent, and the need to recruit essential new talent. Developing a robust pipeline of leaders for a large and multilayered management structure. The need to quickly change the organization's activities because of a single phone call.
And, finally, handling all of this change after years of severe budget constraints and an organization stressed by years of war.
No, I am not describing the American business environment, I am talking about the Army.
Last week, Fort Carson allowed me to tag along in the middle of a large, weekslong wartime simulation.
More than ever, our fighting forces need to be ready to deploy into battle at a moment's notice, so training is continuous and rigorous. My observations were so clear and compelling I wanted to share them with a community (and state) that is so steadfast in its support for our local military.
First the good news. We still have the most sophisticated and powerful fighting force in the world. It is led at all levels by extremely smart, quick, highly trained and committed leaders who manage significant complexity as a regular course.
Within the constraints of budget, politics and related top-down rules, they employ the latest technologies in all areas, including intelligence gathering, artillery deployment, weaponry, personal gear, medical procedures, support mechanisms, battlefield strategies and related processes. And finally, they employ the latest proven successful techniques to recruit troops of a new generation, and constantly train and lead a multigenerational fighting force.
After listening to conversations about broader organizational issues and also witnessing the realities that the theater of war present, I concluded that the biggest challenge leaders had during the day was juggling multiple critical priorities at once.
And by critical priorities, I mean those of the level that could affect soldier safety and mission success in the short and long term.
Commanders regularly decide between spending to keep the flow of new recruits coming (which, if interrupted would have negative effects in months down the road), or adequate training for current soldiers.
In conversations off the battlefield they debate larger issues like spending precious resources on one thing that impacts soldier safety and well-being versus another equally important safety-related item.
Within an hour, they turned from these strategic discussions to the high-intensity, fast-paced battlefield decision-making aimed at immediate mission success and soldier safety. I saw extremely capable leaders at several levels of command that could run private sector companies with ease, but I was sure glad to know they were the ones ensuring our nation's well-being.
My personal takeaway from this day in the field (as an American and a businessperson but not a military expert) was clear: We have a very capable and professional fighting force with strong capable leadership. While the enemy has changed somewhat, and there are new battlefronts that need attention (see space, cyber), leaders are aggressively attacking costs and making hard decisions on priorities on a daily basis. It seemed that for those on the front line, some additional resources and support are needed to maintain let alone grow our capabilities in an increasingly dangerous world.
I'll finish with some more good news: While many of the discussions surrounding military readiness revolve around equipment, facilities and technology, my experience this week indicates our Army leaders at Fort Carson are clear that the absolute critical factor in any fight is the people in the fight, and their level of preparedness. During breaks in intense battlefield briefings or engagement with the enemy, leaders naturally focus on the soldiers, asking a new recruit how things are going and where they are from, putting a nervous soldier at ease with a smile and pat on the back.
The mission of Fort Carson and its leaders, (when not deployed) is to make this historic Division READY to fight and win. The importance of the individual soldier in the eyes of the leaders is readily seen in the acronym they use to communicate what being ready is all about: Respect, Experts, Athletes, Discipline, You.
- Dan Steever is publisher of The Gazette