The Profession of Arms As Defined, Dissected and Debunked Along with any healthy debate comes, the original textbook definition of the subject being discussed. Since this is a report and not an oral debate, I have the privilege of expressing my opinions without the consequence of being challenged by an adversary. We will get to my perception of “The Profession of Arms” shortly. For now, let’s get the official, Uncle Sam approved, campaign winning definition out of the way. The complete definition of the profession of arms provides all members of the Armed Forces with a common understanding of what it means to be a military professional.
Understanding the nature of military professionalism, its relation to the military ethos and the vital institutional role of the Armed Forces is crucial to combat effectiveness and to meeting the citizens’ expectations that their military professionals will defend the nation with honor. This entails meeting the highest standards of professionalism and having a full understanding of the obligations inherent in military service. Sounds intoxicatingly patriotic and symbolic to what our country stands for, doesn’t it? Funny thing though, this did not come from a United States military doctrine.
This definition didn’t even come from the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE). No, this came from our dear friends to the north. That’s right; this concept came directly from the Canadian Forces (CF). Lieutenant Colonel Bill Bentley, from the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS), created a leadership manual for Canada’s armed forces, entitled “Duty with Honour: Profession of Arms” in Canada back in 2003. Coincidently, LTC Bentley served as the Canadian Exchange Instructor at the Us Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Please don’t misinterpret the fact that I pointed out the origin of this phrase, or slogan. I simply felt it was necessary to set the tone for this report. My hope is that, by the end of this, you feel as though you should remain optimistically cautious when listening to the rhetoric associated with the slogan, “The Profession of Arms. ” Let me preface by saying that I am extremely proud and honored to be a military service member. There is nothing more rewarding to me than being a Non Commissioned Officer in the
Army, where I have the privilege of leading and mentoring junior soldiers. I do agree that, after a decade of war, we need to revamp our concept of operations and think of ourselves as professionals. Being military professionals, we serve in different environments, wear different ranks and are developed in a wide variety of different occupations. But, I do believe that a greater American Forces ethos binds us together and points to our higher loyalty to America and the rule of law. Service to America is, and always shall be, our primary duty.
Just like the Army White Paper states, I also think that to be a professional is to understand, embrace, and competently practice the expertise of the profession. I also agree with the Army’s attempt to stress the importance of soldiers gaining expert knowledge in many unique skill sets. What I gather from this is that we, the military, no longer want personnel to consider themselves as “another brick in the wall. ” As leaders, we need to transition into a leadership style that manifests the drive to “be all that you can be” (cleaver quip intentional) and to steer away from the old ways of training soldiers to believe they are replaceable.
With all that being said, I do not believe that this philosophy is all sunshine and rainbows. I disagree with several aspects of this Profession of Arms campaign. First, and most important in my eyes, is the actual word in the title. When I see the word “profession”, I relate it to the word “career. ” When I think of the word “career,” I associate it with a full term of honorable service, consisting of twenty or more years of my life putting the needs and protection of our nation’s freedom and democracy first. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, why is it then that Congress is toying with our current retirement plan? Their feeble attempt to cut spending by prorating military service member’s retirement pay by completed years of service also cuts the drive or determination to give twenty plus years of work to the military. This has the potential to have service members only serve until a better offer comes along. Since we are on the topic of pay, why is it that the last two fiscal years have netted the lowest pay raise percentages since President Carter years?
To me, it seems as though there is a contradiction between bloviating to service members how important they are but not compensating this importance with adequate pay. There is even talk about cutting the current Tuition Allowance (TA) up to 90 percent! Being the well trained NCO that I am, I’m not going to just gripe about the problems I see with The Profession of Arms concept. I do have a few suggestions that will hopefully improve upon program. First, stop taking away from our pay. Cutting costs can be easily achieved with less reliance on civilian contracts and utilizing service members that are “experts” in their skills set.
For a service member to maintain the title of expert, there should be annual or even biannual proficiency courses that are mandatory in order to be eligible for advancement to the next rank. In any event, I am a believer that we are, or at least can be, a Profession of Arms. It will take the dedication of every service member, but will only cement the fact that we are the greatest fighting force in the world. I am, and will forever be, loyal to this country, as both an expert and a professional.