Island where Army units hold war
games. Soldiers and combat vehicles
use nonlethal laser weapons, making
the training extremely realistic.
It is understood in the Army that
training needs to be continuous, not a
one-time event. Essential information
is presented with three R’s in mind:
review, repeat, and reinforce. Also,
training is aimed at soft (relational)
skills as well as hard (technical)
skills. Soft skills include the basic
people and social skills that the mili-
tary had ignored for years, perhaps
centuries. In the final analysis, soft
skills are potentially the most difficult
to master but have the highest impact.
In the movie City Slickers, a grizzled
old cowboy named Curly proclaims
that “just one thing” is important in
life. He refuses, however, to say
exactly what that thing is. We have
seen that a combination of factors is
responsible for the success of the
Army’s AVF, but if that success were
to be attributed to just one thing,
what would it be?
There is a strong hint in the book
Hope Is Not a Method: What
Business Leaders Can Learn from
America’s Army (Times Business,
1996), co-written by General Gordon
Sullivan, who was chief of staff of
the Army from 1991 to 1995, and his
chief planner, Colonel Michael
Harper. The book outlines the Army’s
processes, methods, and management
techniques that brought about much
of the post-Vietnam transformation.
One theme is the Army’s unwavering
emphasis on the human dimension in
all its transition processes. Consider
this excerpt: “The most basic truth is
this: leadership always comes back to
people. People are not in the organi-
zation, they are the organization . . .
it is the people in the organization
that make the difference. Nothing
will ever replace the human dimen-
sion. In the end, service to nation is
not about good management or tech-
nology, it is about putting our young
men and women in the mud and lead-
ing them to victory.
Enlightened leaders of the new
Army, such as Generals Creighton
Abrams, William DuPuy, Donn
Starry, John Wickham, and Carl
Vuono, saw that the humane treat-
ment of soldiers was the primary way
to secure these soldiers’ full coopera-
tion with and sense of personal own-
ership of the Army and its mission.
This may not be a new lesson for
most civilian leaders, but it was a
dramatic change in the way the Army
did business.
It bears repeating that soldiers
who are well educated, informed, and
sensitive to their diversity expect to
be treated with nothing less than total
respect and dignity. Humane treat-
ment is a fundamental need for the
volunteer soldier. Traditional basic
training methods that involved physi-
cal and emotional abuse were coun-
terproductive and in many instances
had effects that were the opposite of
what was intended. These techniques
reduced the soldier’s ability to learn
because they inhibited concentration,
reduced the ability to retain informa-
tion, and distracted from the task at
hand. The possibility of risk taking
and creative thinking was virtually
eliminated. Abusive treatment made
soldiers focus on avoiding being sin-
gled out and making mistakes instead
of on learning. Furthermore, living
and working conditions needed to be
at least somewhat comparable to
those of U.S. society in general. Pay
needed to be improved. Training had
to be more meaningful and challeng-
ing. And the bureaucratic nonsense
and distractions from mission that
had traditionally hamstrung the Army
needed to be dramatically reduced if
not eliminated. Army leadership saw
these steps as essential if the AVF
were to succeed and flourish.
The concern among Army tradi-
tionalists, whether on active duty or
retired, was and to some degree still is
that this new treatment of soldiers—
caring for them and meeting their
needs—would not toughen troops suf-
ficiently for combat and that training
without some personal harassment
would be ineffective. In fact, just the
opposite was found to be true.
Soldiers’ behavior during the conflicts
in Grenada, Panama, and the Persian
Gulf clearly indicated that more
humane treatment motivated Army
personnel and did not negatively
affect their performance in battle. At
the same time, the Army has not
turned into a country club. Training
still puts troops through stress, but the
stress doesn’t arise from degrading
harassment. Rather it results from
time pressures, difficult conditions,
and challenging tasks involving some
degree of personal risk.
Army leadership further recog-
nized that human nature being what it
is, this more enlightened treatment of
soldiers and meeting of their needs
has to be done in concert with other
elements such as high standards of
training and personal conduct,
crystal-clear expectations, and equi-
tably enforced discipline. These ele-
ments are mandatory; without them,
the Army traditionalists would proba-
bly be proved right.
However, when led and trained
with this combination of essential
elements, the U.S. soldier has no rival
in the world. Having implemented
this style of enlightened leadership—
as it is now referred to at the U.S.
Army leadership estab-
lished a set of core val-
ues intended to give
personnel a sense of
continuity and stability.

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