Is It Simply a Question of Restoring the Warrior Spirit or
Are There Deeper Problems? 

November 2, 1998

Comment: #206


[1] Lieutenant Colonel Faris R. Kirkland, US Army, Retired "Leadership Doctrine: 1778 to 1995," Military Review, Date (Unk). Attached.

[2] William C. Moore, "The Military Must Revive Its Warrior Spirit," The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1998.  Excerpts attached.

The email below, together with the two References, was sent to me an active duty Army officer. He asked that I send it out, which I am honored to do in its entirety.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, the following material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Message from Army Officer

Dear Chuck,

The following two articles make for an interesting comparison. The first is by a noted historian on leadership and a researcher on the Army' COHORT unit cohesion program in the 1980's. Dr. Faris Kirkland argues that the U.S. Army officer corps grew from a cultural foundation that upheld a centralized, top-down leadership style and a promotion system that did not promote the best. While the U.S. Army attempted to reform itself in the 1980s, the current post-cold war Army is having a hard time adjusting to its new environment. Dr. Kirkland further argues that today's Army possesses a solid foundation in which to adjust to the new environment, but is unable to due to its unprofessional past.

In the second article Major General W.C. Moore (ret.) argues that the Army is in bad shape because sensitivity training, political correctness, and personnel policies promote fairness and equality instead of competence and experience. He argues that these policies undercut readiness. I agree with Gen Moore when he says equality and fairness considerations degrade effectiveness, but not when he assumes that the old system, especially the "up or out" promotion system as a selection criteria and the Army's traditional culture, will fix today's problems. The problem with Moore's analysis is that he condemns those aspects of the system that are blatant errors, but not the faulty aspects of the traditional system that helped him get his stars. Perhaps, if he admits the system is flawed, some may think correctly that he is flawed, too.

With the possible exception of the decade of the 80's, which culminated with actions in Panama and the Gulf, the Army has never had a really effective personnel system to develop officers and combat UNITS. The officer development system has been based on flawed principles of management science that built an incentive system centered on individual development and personal advancement at the cost of the unit and combat effectiveness. The values of self interest implicit in this incentive system lie at the roots of today's readiness problems. The problem is not money, as the brass, think-tanks, and journalists claim; it is an officer corps that has forgotten the meaning of soldierly duty and the noble ideal self-sacrifice to the detriment of our nation, the taxpayers, and especially the soldiers who may be asked to go in harms way.

Maj. XXX

Reference #1

Leadership Doctrine: 1778 to 1995
by Lieutenant Colonel Faris R. Kirkland, US Army, Retired
Date (Unk)

Throughout the distinguished history of the US Army, the relationship between leaders and those they lead has always played a critical role in determining performance, both on and off the field of combat. With the recent and ongoing downsizing initiatives, few in the Army would question the necessity of fostering mutual respect and trust in all Army units. In discussing the relationships between military leadership doctrine and taking care of soldiers, it seems to me there are three distinct periods. I have labeled 1778 to 1940 the Paternalism Era. With respect to leadership doctrine, the period from 1940 to the late 1970s was a Confusion Era. The current era, from the late 1970s and continuing into the future, I see as a Renaissance in the human dimension.

The Paternalism Era: 1778 to 1940

Three themes dominated the Army's leadership doctrine during its first 162 years. Two of them were in Baron von Steuben's 1778 Blue Book: leaders were to build bonds of loyalty with their troops and leaders were to take care of their troops.1 Today we call this vertical cohesion. Additionally, leaders were to treat subordinates with respect. This directive first appeared in the 1821 edition of Army Regulations: "[A]ll [officers] shall conduct, direct and protect inferiors . . . with the cares due men from whose patriotism, valor and obedience they are to expect a part of their own reputation and glory . . ."2 Based on these themes, leadership's primary purpose was to keep soldiers physically able to participate in combat and psychologically prepared to follow their commanders.

During this time frame, cohesion and respect for subordinates evolved slowly but continuously. In 1841, Army Regulations recognized the importance of horizontal cohesion-bonding among fellow soldiers-by stating that soldiers should be kept in the same squad unless there were "cogent reasons" for a transfer.3 In 1907, James A. Moss's Officers Manual reminded officers that enlisted men "are members of your profession."4 In 1918, a military writer asserted that "consideration, courtesy and respect are . . . parts of our discipline."5 In 1930, The Officers Guide noted that "Good discipline results from mutual respect among good men."6 During World War I, senior leaders argued that the leadership objective should be to create a climate of trust and respect in which discipline was redefined as commitment on the part of every soldier to mission accomplishment. One wrote: "[Discipline . . . [in] a successful army . . . endures when every semblance of authority has vanished . . ."7

Leaders of the "Old Army" understood many of the thoughts and feelings in their soldiers' minds long before psychological terms for them were coined. This understanding is reflected in the earliest statements of leadership doctrine. The elements recognized in the 1990s as essential to buffer stress-horizontal and vertical cohesion, respect and trust across ranks, concern and care for soldiers and empowerment of subordinates-were all contained in the 1820s' regulations. Some officers understood these principles and used them to make their soldiers efficient, deadly and contented.

The Confusion Era: 1940 to 1979

The Army's expansion from 190,000 to 8.2 million soldiers during World War II wrought major changes in the Army's culture. Officers found themselves promoted to command and staff positions in which they confronted responsibilities and challenges far beyond their experience levels. Many were anxious about their own ability to cope, and their anxieties were exacerbated by having to rely on subordinates who were relative amateurs. Some officers adopted authoritarian behavior patterns. They were uncritically submissive to superiors, insistent on unquestioning obedience, solicitous of their own prerogatives rather than the welfare of their troops, punitive toward their subordinates and often sought to alleviate their own anxieties by instilling fear in their subordinates. Even seasoned officers sometimes issued orders with comments such as, "If you do not accomplish the mission, you better not come back alive."8 This type of behavior was not new, but it became more pervasive. It did not strengthen either military efficiency or resistance to combat stress.

The postwar Army retained five times as many officers as it had before the war.9 Between 1945 and 1950, the Army's unit-level culture was defined by officers whose first extended commissioned service took place during World War II. Many of them could never have aspired to commissioned rank before the war, and they were insecure in their positions now. Much evidence suggests that a substantial proportion of officers who had depended on authoritarianism during the war stayed in the Army.10

By the time the Korean War began, some authoritarian patterns had become institutionalized. Although the regulations had not changed, the advice to officers in semiofficial publications emphasized guidance such as: "Military orders must be obeyed"; and "The leader must obtain compliance."11 The Army established a career management system to ensure that officers had equal opportunities and acquired a common body of experience. To balance their career profiles, the Army assigned some officers with little or no knowledge of combat procedures to command units in battle.12 The results were often heavy casualties, high stress and the rupture of vertical cohesion.

Before, during and for a decade after the Korean War, the emphasis in many units was on looking good rather than being militarily competent.13 Many career officers avoided the technical aspects of their profession and left them to noncommissioned officers (NCOs) or lieutenants serving obligated tours. Many officers conducting annual general inspections were unfamiliar with new technological developments and evaluated units on adherence to picayune details of administrative regulations that had nothing to do with the unit's ability to perform its mission. Most commanders resorted to judging subordinates on statistical records, such as the number of delinquency reports, rate of reenlistment and percentage of attendance at the chaplain's lectures, because these were matters their superiors understood and emphasized. For a time, the Army's official motto was "zero defects." As the Army downsized by 30 percent in three years, officers became insecure. They were afraid to exercise initiative or take any chances that could lead to a career-ending error or failure.

Leadership doctrine slipped away from the principles that had guided military leaders for almost two centuries. The 1962 edition of Army Regulation (AR) 600-20, Personnel-Army Command Policy and Procedure, stated that the commander had "[T]wo . . . responsibilities in the following priority: accomplishment of his mission; and the care of his personnel and equipment." Nothing exceptionable so far, but then: "Normally, efficient accomplishment of the mission will help to satisfy the responsibility for personnel welfare."14 The theme "taking care of soldiers," which had endured since 1778, had been supplanted. Soldiers had become a subsidiary consideration.

Confusion over leadership doctrine and principles reached crisis proportions during the Vietnam War's later years. Career development continued to be a major consideration for assignment to combat commands. By 1968, the practice of officers avoiding technical matters during the prewar years left many battalions and some brigades with no one who had any practical knowledge about branch-relevant procedures. Most of the Regular Army NCOs had already served their tours and gone home. Most company grade officers were lieutenants fresh from school. The field grade officers-who should have been repositories of knowledge and wisdom gained from applying that knowledge-had busied themselves during peacetime with matters other than the prosaic technical details of infantry field fortifications or artillery gunnery.15

In 1970, Lieutenant General William F. Peers sent Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland a memo in which he reported that officers were shirking responsibility, lying, turning a blind eye to improper conduct, commanding from a safe distance, ignoring their men's concerns and failing to enforce measures to protect their troops.16 The effects of such behavior on soldiers' ability to manage the stresses of combat have been documented in extensive Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) literature and the collapse of discipline in the Army.17 Some soldiers in the field, exasperated by certain officers' self-seeking behavior and indifference to their subordinates' welfare, tried to kill them (fragging), sometimes successfully. To his credit, Westmoreland tasked the US Army War College (AWC) to look into the Army's leadership climate.

The Study on Military Professionalism, conducted by a small group of AWC students in 1970, laid bare the military culture that was the legacy of World War II. The study found that serving officers of all ranks perceived that if they were to achieve personal success, they had to please their superiors rather than meet the legitimate needs of their troops or develop mission-relevant competence in their units. They saw themselves as compelled to attain trivial short-term objectives through dishonest practices that were detrimental to their units' long-term capabilities. The pressure came from field grade and general officers who were: "[M]arginally skilled in the complexities of [their] duties, engulfed in producing statistical results, fearful of personal failure . . . and determined to submit acceptably optimistic reports."18

Westmoreland was shocked, as were most senior officers to which the report was briefed. Westmoreland ordered that the report be "close-held." While never classified, it was not released for 13 years.

The Study on Military Professionalism did not change the Army. It is unlikely that Westmoreland could have done much to change an institution dominated by officers who had been socialized in an authoritarian culture, and who were psychologically dependent on it. The Army had to endure a decade of failed leadership during which many officers were afraid to go into the barracks at night-drug commerce flourished and racially based gangs fought each other, on post and off. Some critics ascribed the Army's malaise to the antimilitary sentiment in the civilian sector or to initiatives imposed on the Army by political sponsors of the All-Volunteer Force. But Captains Larry Ingraham and Rick Manning of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in their book The Boys in the Barracks, accurately described the social conditions in the Army, explained how confusion among leaders had brought on the chaos and demonstrated that a return to the principles of leadership could restore discipline and morale.19

The Renaissance: 1979-?

During the 1970s, many middle-rank officers chafed under a military culture that rewarded "looking good" but discouraged the development of combat efficiency. As they reached high rank, they sought to change the ways in which the Army did its business. Just when change began is open to debate. I have selected 1979, the year Major General Maxwell Thurman took over the US Army Recruiting Command, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and reorganized the recruiting process to bring intelligent, well-educated men and women into the Army.20 Smart soldiers were the one inescapable prerequisite for the success of innovations such as self-paced training, performance-based training and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Also in 1979, discussion began that led to the cohesion, operational readiness and training (COHORT) experiments of the mid to late 1980s. The COHORT system, which kept soldiers together in the same company or battalion for three years, was designed to support the development of vertical and horizontal cohesion and to permit extended training in progressively more advanced skills.

Both of these processes strengthened resistance to the psychological pressures of combat. But, paradoxically, COHORT put exceptionally heavy stress on leaders. Soldiers in COHORT units were intelligent, learned fast and were continually demanding more information, more ideas and more challenges from their leaders. Many officers and NCOs were unable to keep ahead of their troops. Further, leaders lived in a goldfish bowl. Any mistake (or success) was instantly known throughout the unit. Privates considered themselves to be their leaders' junior colleagues; they expected access, they expected to be heard and they expected to participate in decisions and be given responsibility as their proficiency grew.

Empowering subordinates is essential to strengthening vertical cohesion and building a unit's proficiency, but it puts additional stress on leaders who are still responsible for everything their unit does or fails to do. The COHORT system succeeded in each platoon, company and battalion to the extent that the leader had the psychological resilience to carry the uncertainties of trusting and granting discretion to his troops. Those who risked trusting their troops had superb units. Those who did not were confused and depressed and often regressed to authoritarian behavior. They failed as commanders and had marginally effective units.21

Any additional burdens COHORT placed on leaders at squad, platoon, company and battalion levels were almost totally unnoticed. This is not surprising-nowhere in Army doctrine from 1778 to the present does it mention "taking care of leaders." Some officers have written in professional journals about the socio-professional relations among German army officers-Auftragstaktik-as a social process in which each officer mentors his immediate subordinates with respect and tolerance to develop their readiness and competence to exercise initiative.22 It is often described as the combat multiplier that enabled the German army to defeat more numerous and better-equipped opponents through 130 years of warfare. 23 The US Army has not yet embraced Auftragstaktik, though some enlightened officers practice its principles.

There was, however, rapid progress in other aspects of leadership doctrine. The 1980 AR 600-20 expanded the concept of respect for subordinates: "Commanders should not rely on coercion when persuasive methods can effect the desired end." Additionally, "Discipline can be seen in . . . mutual respect between senior and subordinate personnel."24 The language is pallid and tentative, but at least it is there. In 1981, a "leadership goal" was promulgated that enjoined leaders to be "committed to mission accomplishment and the well-being of subordinates."25 After 19 years, the troops were brought back from subsidiary status. In the 1983 Field Manual (FM) 22-100, Military Leadership, rich historical examples reconfirmed 19th-century leadership principles and put new emphasis on respect and trust across the ranks.26 The Army chief of staff's 1985 White Paper, Leadership Makes the Difference, was a concise statement of policy that established competence, caring, communication and candor as the foundations of leadership.27 This doctrine built on, but went beyond, the pre-World War II regulations and directly strengthened resistance to combat stress. The 1987 FM 22-102, Soldier Team Development, emphasized trust and respect up and down the hierarchy and the progressive empowerment of subordinates. It operationalized "discipline's" definition as the ability and readiness of junior personnel to use initiative and take appropriate action in the absence of orders or supervision.28 By reposing confidence in the subordinate and granting him ownership of the mission, discipline based on respect for the soldier makes vertical cohesion indissoluble and is a powerful antidote to stress. The concept of self-discipline grew from the theme of respect for subordinates, and it was stated explicitly during World War I. During the Confusion Era, few leaders believed in it. Finally, FM 22-102 made it a doctrinal cornerstone.

Leadership doctrine has not addressed betrayal of "what's right," and indeed, the phenomenon had not been described in connection with military leadership until 1994.29 Research on the attitudes and perceptions of soldiers during Operations Just Cause in 1989 and Desert Storm in 1991 revealed few instances in which soldiers felt betrayal by their leaders, and none of these involved serious issues.30 On matters that were fundamental to the operation's purpose, such as rules of engagement, treatment of the enemy and indigenous civilians and adapting to changing missions, there was an understood and accepted consensus about "what was right." The evidence from these post-Cold War "shooting wars" suggests that leaders who follow the precepts of caring, competence, communication and candor will not betray "what's right."

Conversely, in operations where the mission was ambiguous, such as the interventions in Somalia and Haiti, some soldiers felt their leaders had let them down.31 It is difficult enough to define "what's right" when the mission is clear. When it is not, misunderstandings can increase the level of stress in a unit at the same time that erosion of trust and confidence are reducing resistance to stress. Irrespective of the ambiguity of the mission assigned by the National Command Authority, soldiers and unit leaders must have a clear statement of purpose for each intervention as a point of departure for them to work out "what's right."32

During the many armed interventions the Army has carried out since the Cold War's end, NCOs and privates have behaved independently and adaptively in pursuing mission objectives. Soldiers of all ranks have behaved with restraint and compassion toward their adversaries, and they have shifted rapidly from training to combat to constabulary to humanitarian missions. They have coped with as many deployments in a single enlistment as previous soldiers encountered in an entire career. They stay in the service after an intervention, and it is the responsibility of the Army, not the civil sector, to manage any stress reactions that develop. Soldiers, leaders and military mental health professionals know how to manage most forms of stress and see that units are psychologically ready for the next deployment.

The missing element in leadership doctrine is support for leaders. Support for a leader can only come from the confidence, trust, support and respect of his boss. This support is the essence of Auftragstaktik. Until recently, except in isolated units in special circumstances, soldiers, leaders and units had not developed the professionalism necessary to sustain a leadership doctrine founded on mutual trust and respect. Although our Army is smaller, it is competent, powerful and ready for a supportive social system for leaders as the culminating component of its leadership doctrine. With psychological support for leaders as well as junior soldiers, the Army will be fit to manage stress with optimal efficiency in a dangerous and rapidly changing world.

Reference #2

"The Military Must Revive Its Warrior Spirit"
By William C. Moore
The Wall Street Journal
October 29, 1998


The issue is not money, plenty of which has been thrown at the problem. Neither does the problem stem from too many deployments, family separations or lack of so-called quality-of-life programs. Soldiers like to go and do what soldiers are trained to do. They understand that hardships are part of the work they have chosen, and most will tell you that the best "quality of life" program is to keep their aircraft or tanks running and give them the ammunition and fuel so that they can train and deploy.


Soldiers see their relevance as warriors being questioned. They are told that the technologists are going to give them an easy way to fight, that "situational awareness" is more important than weapons systems, that simulation is a substitute for field training. Fascination with technology is leading to a silver-bullet mentality and a belief that anyone can be a warrior -- just put the cursor on the target on your computer screen and click the mouse.


No longer do the best-qualified officers necessarily get promoted. The Army's new Officer Personnel Management System, known as OPMS 21, probably removed the last vestige of that "discriminator." The Army now bases promotion on its functional needs rather than picking its best, a system contrary to motivating officers to perform to their very highest ability.


Warriors join and stay because they know that they are special and that not everyone can do their jobs. They are leaving now because their leaders have created an environment that doesn't appreciate them as special