Academic journal article Military Review

Writing: A Way to Maximize Returns on the Army's Investments in Education

Academic journal article Military Review

Writing: A Way to Maximize Returns on the Army's Investments in Education

Article excerpt

Have the courage to write, publish, and be heard. Launch your ideas and be an integral part of the conversation. Why? Because it makes our nation and our profession stronger. In the end, no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.

--Adm. Jim Stavridis, U.S. Navy, Retired

The dialogue on educating the force tends to focus mostly on making additional investments in education, which is increasingly difficult to do in the contemporary era of budget and workforce reductions. Therefore, this article refocuses the dialogue on a way the U.S. Army can maximize returns on the investments it has made in education. Soldier education and training rank high among the Army's priorities despite budget and workforce reductions. The 2015 unveiling of the Army University evidences the services commitment to invest in soldier education. According to its charter, the Army University "represents a greater investment in our soldiers and civilians through improved education that will increase competence, character and commitment." (1) Typically, people and institutions invest to yield maximum returns, which raises the question: How can the Army maximize returns on its investments in soldier education? In other words, how can the Army better tap into the soldier expertise it is cultivating through sustained investments in education?

An increased emphasis on writing can help the Army effectively utilize the soldier expertise it is cultivating through sustained investments in education. Implementing The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World requires growing competent, innovative, and adaptive leaders consistent with some of the concepts operational tenets. (2) By emphasizing writing, the Army can enhance soldier competence, innovation, and critical thinking--this article highlights how, and it posits ways the Army can get soldiers to write more, and better.

Literature on Writing

There is considerable literature on writing, and a brief examination will help provide context and clarity on ensuing arguments about the utility of writing to the Army. Some works on writing discuss the importance and benefits of writing well, but much of the literature on writing seeks to improve writing skills in some respect.

Clear written communication is important and beneficial. The Army understands the importance of clear written communication and promotes it in manuals. For example, Army Regulation (AR) 25-50, Preparing and Managing Correspondence, promotes effective written communication within the ranks. It defines effective Army writing as being "understood by the reader in a single rapid reading and... free of errors in substance, organization, style, and correctness." (3) Other examples of the Army's appreciation of, and commitment to, effective writing are the now-rescinded AR 600-70, The Army Writing Program (1985), and Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA Pam) 600-67, Effective Writing for Army Leaders (1986). In DA Pam 600-67, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. John A. Wickham Jr. referred to the fateful Charge of the Light Brigade--a failure based partly on unclear written orders--at the 1854 Battle of Balaclava. Wickham stated, "one way to assure... clear and concise communication is by improving the quality of our writing." (4) This perspective is shared by some in the Army. For example, in his we 1l-written 2011 article in the Military Review journal titled "Flight Simulation for the Brain: Why Army Officers Must Write," Maj. Trent Lythgoe echoes the critical importance to the Army, as well as the benefits, of writing well. Lythgoe highlights a link between writing and critical thinking, arguing that "writing, although valuable as a communication medium, is most valuable as a powerful way of thinking." (5)

Among the numerous works that seek to improve writing skills, Henriette Anne Klauser's book Writing on Both Sides of the Brain stands out as a key enabler to writers and aspiring writers. …

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