Academic journal article Military Review

The Army Officer as Warfighter

Academic journal article Military Review

The Army Officer as Warfighter

Article excerpt

Battle is the ultimate to which the whole life's labor of an officer should be directed.

He may live to the age of retirement without seeing a battle; still, he must always be getting ready for it as if he knew the hour of the day it is to break upon him. And then, whether it comes late or early he must be willing to fight-he must fight.

-Brigadier General C.F. Smith1

THE MILITARY OFFICER must fill a number of roles, often simultaneously. He has responsibilities as a warfighter, as the Nation's servant, as a member of the profession of arms, and as a leader of character. These four roles are interrelated almost to the point of inseparability, but examining each separately allows a better understanding of their inherent complexities.

The central premise of this article is that preparing for battle is a lifelong developmental process and a worthy life's work. While fighting America's wars is not the professional soldier's only task, it is the task that only the professional soldier can do. Warfighting's complex arrangement of activities includes generating, applying, and sustaining combat power from the fort to the port to the fighting position to achieve the aims of policy. Most of the examples cited come from the realms of direct and indirect fire, but that fact stems more from our inability to discuss the other critical aspects of warfighting than it does from any contention that the point of the spear is somehow more important than the shaft.

Developing the set of skills necessary to manage violence in the Nation's service is a lifelong developmental process that begins when an officer receives his commission and continues throughout a career. Professionalism is a combination of competence and devotion to service that grows over time, and growth occurs differently in each individual. There is no rank or position or level of education that clearly delineates the professional from the mere jobholder. Furthermore, the relationship between professionals at differing stages of career development is symbiotic. The younger professional benefits from the older one's wisdom and dignity, while the older benefits from the younger one's idealism and energy.

Mastering the art and science of warfighting encompasses every aspect of the human experience-- physical, intellectual, and moral.2 To understand fully the officer's responsibilities as a warfighter, we must explore in detail each of these aspects.

The Physical Dimension

The Army inspires soldiers to have the strength, the confidence, and the will to fight and win anywhere, anytime.

-The Army Vision, 2002(3)

This statement from Army Vision, 2002, is as applicable to General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware in 1776 as it is to Task Force Eagle's crossing of the Sava in 1995. Warfighting always has been and always will be a struggle, not only against hostile forces but also against hostile environments. The officer as warfighter has a duty to prepare himself and his subordinates to cope with such physical rigors. This duty begins at the earliest stages of an officer's service.

After arriving at his first duty station, a second lieutenant is expected to set the standard for his platoon in physical toughness. Toughness, not mere fitness, is the standard by which soldiers measure leaders. That the lieutenant be in excellent physical condition is necessary, but not sufficient. More important is his willingness to share his soldiers' physical hardships. Sergeant Major John Stepanek, addressing a group of officer candidates, stated succinctly what they could expect from noncommissioned officers (NCOs): "You can expect loyalty to your position, devotion to our cause, admiration for your honest effort, courage to match your courage, guts to match your guts, endurance to match your endurance, motivation to match your motivation, esprit to match your esprit, a desire for achievement to match your desire for achievement. …

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