The Pentagon put out a one-page explanation of the Profession of Arms (POA) in 2011 that points out the "significant impacts" the last nine and a half years have had on the "Army, its Soldiers, Families and Civilians" (Pentagon). This missive pointed out that many of the impacts the wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) are "well documented and are being addressed. There remain, however, other consequences that we seek to understand" and within those consequences the Pentagon wants to "take a hard look" at how soldiers have changed as "individuals, as professionals and as a profession" (Pentagon).
The level of responsibility of today's Army soldiers is "like no other profession" due to the fact that soldiers are entrusted to "…apply lethal force ethically and only when necessary" and obviously this is an extremely difficult task given the "…chaotic and deadly machinations of war" (Pentagon). The support that the Army and its soldiers receive from the American people is "tremendous" and the Army is "forever grateful" and will never take the support "for granted."
General Martin E. Dempsey, Commanding General, U.S. Army: Army White Paper
General Dempsey writes in this 2010 White Paper that the document is designed to be a "starting point" in which to begin discussing the Profession of Arms. The lengthy document has as its mission a campaign to understand what the Profession of Arms really means. It is time, the white paper asserts, to "refresh and renew our understanding of our profession." The white paper notes that there have been some events over the past ten years that military personnel are not proud of, but they need to be seen as reasons to evaluate the ethical approach to conflict. The list of events that challenge the military include: the Second Battle of Fallujah; Sadr City, Abu Ghraib (the prison where Muslim detainees were tortured), IEDs (roadside bombs) and more.
Part of the need for an assessment of Army ethics and strategies is that "we have been so busy that we have not consistently thought through how these challenges affected the Army as a Profession of Arms, the white paper points out (1). It is not hard to understand why the Army has been busy, given the seemingly endless conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (Afghanistan began in 2001, Iraq began in 2003). But the white paper does not try to hide from the reality that trust with the American people and civilian leaders "…must be re-earned every day through living our Ethic, which incidentally, can't be found in any single document" (2).
The Army has been part of the American scene for 237 years, and indeed the first standing federal Army was established in 1803; the degree of professionalism has "waxed and waned over the years" and the important thing now is to learn from "our history of post-conflict transitions" and to reflect on what it means to be a professional in the Profession of Arms (4).
What is a Professional Soldier in the Army?
An American professional soldier is "an expert, a volunteer" who is certified in the Profession of Arms, who bonds with comrades in a "shared identity and culture of sacrifice and service to the nation and the Constitution," the white paper explains. The professional soldier should adhere to "the highest ethical standards" because the soldier is "a steward of the future of the Army profession" (4). It is up to the leaders in the Army to help establish a "professional identity and culture" -- and it should not be the government imposing this on the soldiers. Through being trained to be adaptive, and by constantly engaging in self-assessment, learning, and development" the professional soldier aspires to become an expert in the use of "lethal expertise" while at the same time displaying the "highest standards of character" (4).
This white paper (2010) precedes the 2011 "Profession of Arms" report (which will be reviewed later in this paper), but it poses a broader framework -- and a very ambitions agenda indeed -- for the Profession of Arms. The Army's professional expertise is grouped into four distinct fields in this agenda. ONE: "Military-Technical Expertise" (this expertise enables the Army to conduct operations -- tactical, operational, and strategic -- in offensive and defensive postures. TWO: "Human Development Expertise" (in this expertise the Army can "socialize, train, educate, and develop volunteers to become Soldiers" and then those trained soldiers will become leaders though education, mental and physical fitness). THREE: "Moral-Ethical Expertise" (the moral aspect of combat power is addressed in this aspect of expertise; soldiers must be up-to-date on "ethical culture and climates" along with "institutional values." FOUR: "Political-Cultural Expertise" (across many boundaries -- national and cultural -- the Army soldier is expected to be professional vis-a-vis "civil-military relations" and "media-military relations").
Meanwhile, within the levels of Army culture there are: a) "artifacts" (all the "tangible phenomena that soldiers see, hear, and feel" in an Army unit); b) "espoused beliefs and values" (when Army leaders fail to "walk the talk" according to Army beliefs and values the soldiers become confused and this leads to "dysfunctional and demoralizing behavior"); and c) "basic underlying assumptions" (the deepest level of Army culture; when a solution is found to a problem that the Army or Army personnel face "…what was once a hypothesis gradually comes to be treated over time as reality").
Profession of Arms -- 2011 -- The Profession After 10 Years of Persistent Conflict
General Dempsey introduces the 2011 version of his review of the Profession of Arms by saying that "…we remain an Army in transition" after nearly a decade of war. The general asserts that while the Army performs "magnificently" and yet there is a constant need to "review, reemphasize, and recommit to our profession" (Dempsey, 2011). This document, like the 2010 version, contains a great deal of explanatory narrative, some of it self-promotional and designed to promote the best of what the Army offers. The Army Ethic, for example, simply states the obvious: the purpose of the Army is to protect the nation's right to sovereignty; the civilian leadership is in charge; the Army will continue to be all-volunteer; and if the Army does not "self-regulate it's ethic, it is quite justifiable that those external to the profession must do so on its behalf" (Dempsey, 3).
The "Timeline of the U.S. Army" is an interesting portion of the 2011 Profession of Arms ("235 years in selfless service to the nation"). The first army was created at the pleasure of the Second Continental Congress in 1776, and after the U.S. Constitution was ratified (1788) there was a definite need for a large standing army because: a) the War of 1812 raged between 1812-1815; the Civil War, an unbelievable brutal and bloody conflict, occurred between 1861 and 1865, taking the lives of an estimated 620,000 soldiers.
The Civil War casualties of course dwarf the numbers of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, but these were vastly different theaters and situations. The Confederate Army lost approximately 258,000 troops (164,000 to disease; 94,000 in battle); the Union Army lost 360,222 (250,000 to disease; 110,070 in battle). Contrasted with that, American troops killed in Iraq (approximately 3,529) and Afghanistan (1,774) are small in number but the issue of Americans engaged in Muslim countries in wars that seem to have no end has caused constant controversy among taxpayers and citizens in the U.S.
The "Timeline" continues to and through "Iraqi Freedom" (the Afghanistan conflict was called "Operation Enduring Freedom"). In between one can clearly see that United States has called upon its Army to engage in a number of conflicts. In 1957, the Special Forces as a unit of the Army was launched, and those units were engaged in the Vietnam War (1961-1975), a war that cost America about 55,000 lives. For many Americans it is not easy to remember the American invasion of Grenada under President Ronald Reagan (1983), and there was the operation in Panama that succeeded in arresting General Noriega (later convicted of international drug trafficking) under President George H.W. Bush (1989). The Persian Gulf War (1990-1992) and the liberation of Kuwait are additional wars that American Army personnel were asked to engage in, and which they delivered their services professionally and competently.
General Douglass MacArthur's quote on page 6 of the 2011 document is as apropos as any quote from any military leader in U.S. history. "All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment," MacArthur wrote. "But you are the ones who are trained to fight," he explains, pointing to the Army. "Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country" (6).
There is no secret that many Army soldiers did not just…