Academic journal article Military Review

The Importance of a Long-Term Self-Development Concept to Army Officers

Academic journal article Military Review

The Importance of a Long-Term Self-Development Concept to Army Officers

Article excerpt

Many active-duty Army officers struggle to achieve self-development goals related to their profession. Many also retire without a clear plan for transition into their second career, or without having achieved their most ambitious academic goals. They sfruggle over the course of their careers to complete advanced degrees, make coherent sense of their professional development opportunities, or achieve their full full intellectual potential. The course of their careers is instead littered with discrete opportunities: a sequence of professional military education (PME) courses at intervals of years, certificates of completion for military training, some books read, and a master's degree attained during PME, while always having answered the call of successive assignments with their demanding time requirements. Officers generally arrive at the end of their careers in better academic condition, but many fall short of what they would have liked. They are highly educated, but not with the credentials they had aspired to acquire, perhaps not with that prestigious master's degree or that elusive doctorate.

The Army leader development model is clear. It has three domains: institutional training, operational assignments, and self-development.1 The first two domains are sound and interrelated. Institutional training and operational assignments both come under the close management of Human Resources Command. I will describe the Officer Education System, which provides institutional training, later in this discussion. Operational assignments come regularly for active-duty Army officers from their assignment officer at Human Resources Command and by design fulfill the goals of that leader development domain.

Department of Army (DA) Pamphlet 600-3, Officer Professional Development and Career Management, describes that entire process of making operational assignments.2 It is an enigma that consumes the emotions and time of Army officers and their families throughout their careers. For those who remain engaged, the professional development objectives outlined for each branch and specialty are often met. Assignments come, and the body of operational experience grows. Some might argue that the progression of assignments for some officers does not fully equip them for the high-level goals of the Officer Education System, but that is not a debate for this analysis. Instead, I will focus on that elusive professional development pillar- self-development-because it is simply underappreciated.

The most cynical readers likely will say this domain of leader development is almost nonexistent for most officers, but my observation is that the majority make a reasonable attempt to stay current in their branch or specialty and with global events, within the limits of time demands from work and home. But, do they achieve the objectives of self-development as outlined in the Army's policy and doctrinal authorities?

Self-development surely cannot be happenstance, without intentionality, plan, or long-term objectives; there must be a clear vision and purpose. Self-development requires a conscious personal strategy, clearly defined goals, and from those, a long-term self-development plan. Just like officers plot their assignments, promotion points, children's graduation dates, and key life milestones onto a time line, they should conceive of what self-development they will accomplish over the course of their careers.

In this article, I will establish some simple concepts to help active-duty Army officers conceive their self-development goals and conceptualize how they will reach those goals. First, I will describe the current facts regarding academic education and self-development. Then, I will argue for a broader concept of self-development. Self-development can help to capitalize in new ways on opportunities now missed over the course of a career. This argument will highlight integrated Army educational and broadening opportunities. …

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