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Junior Officer Development: Reflections of an Old Fud

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Soldiers are fond of recalling how things used to be. Part of this is a healthy, deeply felt affection for the common heritage which bonds the members of our profession so closely. If we can refrain from the temptation to romanticize our experience or gloss over negative aspects of the past, such a look back can serve usefully as a kind of long-term after-action review. A review of this nature will show a marked disjunct between the career experience patterns of todays senior officers principally senior lieutenant colonels through generals, on one hand, and those of the officers coming up behind them, on the other. To put it another way, the commonality of formative approach, method, and convention that prevailed across all the ranks when I was a young officer seems to be disappearing. The continuities are simply no longer there, so that very soon a rather wide experimental gulf will exist between the senior generation and the one that follows it. The gulf has developed so gradually and imperceptibly, however, that today we seniors think we have something we do not. We think we have an officer corps whose junior officers know what we knew at their career juncture and who have had the experiences we had as junior officers. Our misapprehension comes from a failure to reflect on officer development opportunities existing then and now. Our junior officers today are as eager and capable as ever. I would rather go to war with the units I have served in over the last ten years than the units I served in for the first ten years. Still, I think that conditions have produced a very different junior officer, and its not all good news.

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  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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