Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 90

Retaining the Warrior Spirit Maj. Andrew J. Knight, U.S. Army Maj. Andrew Knight is a distinguished graduate of the Marine Command and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia. He holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy, an M.P.A. from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and an M.M.S. from Marine Corps University. Maj. Knight has served in a variety of combat arms assignments and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. T he transition out of current combat operations is unique for the United States Army because it ends the longest duration of warfare by an all-volunteer force in U.S. history. This transition, along with the current fiscal constraints, brings a number of challenges. The reduction in the size of the Army and the squeeze of a tighter defense budget are the most publicized issues that senior Army leaders are facing. However, another concern that gets little attention outside of the military is the potential flight of talented and experienced junior leaders after the excitement of combat is no longer available. Related to this is another less visible, yet significant issue, namely, the possible loss of the warrior spirit that currently pervades the Army and contributed so much to its success in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many criticisms of military leadership practices and the Army’s preparedness for war rose in the peacetime environment of the late 1980’s and 1990’s which 88 downplayed the importance of a warrior mentality as a necessity for dealing with the stress of close quarters combat. With the advent of prolonged conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001, and as a means of realigning the Army with the basic tenets of warrior heritage, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Erik Shinseki introduced the Soldier’s Creed in 2003.1 The purpose of the creed was to infuse a common code within the Army to help produce victory on the battlefield. The Soldier’s Creed (which contains the four lines dubbed the Warrior Ethos) was intended to instill a certain spirit amongst professional soldiers. Internalizing the published ethos took little time, given the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Army returns to a peacetime posture, while the spoken ethos endures as part of the officially published creed, the spirit of the individual warrior that provided true meaning to the ethos is in danger of diminishing as combat becomes more remote as a normal part of organizational culture. Fortunately, though evolutionary changes in the military are rapid in wartime, they are much slower during peacetime.2 This condition affords senior Army leaders a window of opportunity for maintaini