The United States has an Army that possesses numerous strategic tasks and operational objectives like any other professional organization. While the primary function of the Army is combat operations, it is evident that the Army supports civil government agencies through the Army National Guard. The Army structure, therefore, includes two different segments: operating forces in charge of fighting as well as generating forces, which oversee the preparation of the operating units (Department of the Army, 2012). The functionality of these forces depends on over 200 military occupational specialties, known as MOS. Although each position is vital and implies a range of specific strategic tasks, some occupations require Soldiers to have additional skills, not included in their initial job description.
Drill sergeants, recruiters, liaisons, and other MOS are highly valued since they contribute to the training and professional development of Soldiers. Prospective Soldiers are usually taken from their primary specialty and encouraged to go through training to improve existing and develop new skills (Department of the Army, 2019b). These occupations are what is known as “broadening assignments,” which help Soldiers acquire the necessary knowledge and practical experience. Despite the aforementioned pros, positions referred to as broadening assignments can negatively impact any future development due to easily identifiable drawbacks and the senior officers’ failure to address Soldiers’ concerns and generate applicable solutions.
Statement of the Problem
Broadening assignments give Soldiers an opportunity to attain valuable skills, which they may not have gained elsewhere. There are certainly some experiential gains to non-operational assignments, according to Boccardi (2012). In addition, broadening experiences contribute to fostering organizational innovation within the Army by expanding the Soldiers’ skillsets so that they meet the current needs of the force (Boccardi, 2012). The United States Army focuses on selecting the candidates based on their performance and achievements in their primary MOS, rather than accepting volunteers. Broadening assignments within the Army lead to numerous unwilling Soldiers, who would prefer to remain at their normal positions. Pulling the best men and women from their positions results in the unit being left without primary leadership (Boccardi, 2012). This problem subsequently affects Soldiers at the squad and platoon level since they often have to adapt to new conditions, which exclude the presence of promising leaders. Once Soldiers return to the operational forces, they often struggle to regain momentum and quickly readjust to their surroundings. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the drawbacks of broadening assignments and research the possible solutions senior leaders can implement in order to improve the situation.
Research Question and Strategy
Formulating the research question is extremely important in order to focus on the ways to solve the problem previously identified in the paper. This essay aims to conduct thorough research regarding the issues associated with broadening experience and answer the following question: How can the Army ensure Soldiers receive the most benefits of broadening assignments with the minimum of sacrifices in terms of personal development in the original occupation and unit performance as a whole?
The Army culture values Soldier development, with continuous professional advancement being a critical factor in promotions. According to Orsi (2017), it is highly unlikely for an officer to move ranks without some sort of completing mandatory training and improvement programs. The Department of the Army (2017) informs that “training builds confidence and competence while providing essential skills and knowledge, resulting in unit readiness” (p. 2). The Army has the Human Resources Command, which includes the Enlisted Personnel Management Division (EPMD) tasked to create realistic career paths and timelines for each MOS. The EPMD develops a map of all the possible positions to further personal development and increase the Soldiers’ chances of getting a promotion. It is crucial for senior leaders to identify the emerging issues at the squad and platoon level, which may be a reflection of Soldiers’ struggles to readjust after serving in broadening assignments.
The Army needs to take into consideration the effects of broadening assignments on Soldiers’ performance and motivation. In addition, it is important to realize that broadening experiences are not limited to the field, but also can foster positive changes in the Joint force. Soldiers have to be prepared for mitigating the downsides of broadening assignments in order to gain the necessary practical skills to ensure successful career continuation following a broadening experience. Senior leaders can utilize Army doctrine as a tool to assist the development and growth of Soldiers as military professionals.
As for the strategies implemented to identify relevant resources, the research process for this essay has been well-structured and strategic. Firstly, it was important to look through government publications and expert reports in order to examine the current attitude towards broadening assignments. Therefore, the essay includes a couple of sources posted online by the Department of the Army. Additionally, a thorough search of the peer-reviewed articles in academic publications was conducted, which resulted in Military Review and Joint Force Quarterly being referenced in the paper. Doctrinal resources are another important part of the literature used in this essay. An example of such a paper is a report published by COL Thomas D. Boccardi, a student at Jackson Institute of Global Affairs at Yale University at the time of the publication.
After completing the initial active duty training (IADT), Soldiers serve in their first military duty position for three to four years, which means that by the end of this assignment, they most likely become Sergeant. Soldiers are required to complete the Basic Leader Course, which is often followed by a broadening assignment such as recruiting duty (Department of the Army, 2017). These broadening experiences are usually involuntary, which is why declining operational reassignment results in penalties and potential removal from the Army. Therefore, Soldiers have no choice but to complete these assignments, which leads to the forces losing some of their most promising Soldiers because the latter decided not to take on additional duties.
Recruiting duty, for example, has a number of disadvantages even though the position of a recruiter is essential to the Army’s success. Recruiters (usually in the rank of Sergeant to Sergeant First) become representatives of the military forces to civilians. Thus, Soldiers in this assignment must possess high moral character, outstanding professional record, and approachability (Angeles, 2017). The three-year obligation to the position of a recruiter allows Soldiers to gain experience, which leads to their promotion to Staff Sergeant or Sergeant First Class. However, the problem with recruiting duty is that it fails to ensure Soldiers attain the necessary leadership skills and practical knowledge to be efficient in a position of a squad or platoon leader. As a result, the Army’s inability to provide Soldiers with the necessary leadership skills causes dysfunction, which is increased with the new rotation of Soldiers. Soldiers returning from recruiting duty do not have enough competencies, which is why leaders often disregard these Soldiers upon their return. Instead of fostering growth and professional development, the broadening assignments such as recruitment put various limitations on Soldiers.
When it comes to joint assignments, they have numerous advantages and disadvantages as well. On the one hand, such assignments positively impact the Soldiers’ development and aid the Army since Soldiers from different career fields will take the knowledge attained in joint operations back to the field (Boccardi, 2012). As a result, joint assignments help to create a joint environment with the Army. However, Soldiers assuming joint functions can have various negative effects on them as individuals and on the Army as an organization (Angeles, 2017). Such positions require extensive training and knowledge, which is why the military assigns the brightest and most promising Soldiers to joint assignments. Thus, this creates a deficit of efficient leaders in the force. In addition, such broadening experiences narrow the scope of the Soldiers’ career in the Army, similar to the recruiting duty described earlier.
Based on the aforementioned issues presented by broadening assignments, some military leaders agree that broadening experiences fail to provide Soldiers with the necessary skills and information. In addition, sending young Soldiers to schools and companies may interject with their career in the Army because these institutions and corporations manage to lure young men and women away (Angeles, 2017). Broadening assignments also lead to understaffing and the appointment of incompetent Soldiers to key leadership positions. These organizational shortages and drawbacks need to get attention from the higher echelons of the military to make a change and foster positive changes.
Summary of Findings
When it comes to joint assignments, there is no easy solution, which is why senior military leaders must create and maintain a healthy balance to ensure Soldiers perform well in all the assignments. The Department of the Army (2019a) concludes that it is the responsibility of a good leader to facilitate learning among his/her subordinates. Therefore, leaders have to “explain the importance of a particular topic or subject by providing context—how it will improve individual and organizational performance” (Department of the Army, 2019a, p. 6-9). Soldiers’ education does not only include traditional schooling but requires the replication of real-life experiences they go through to develop the necessary practical skills. The Army is a uniformed structure, which benefits greatly from the implementation of broadening assignments. However, it may be hard for Soldiers to readjust back to their normal conditions as a result of the duties they had to fulfill outside their initial MOS. Therefore, Soldiers returning from broadening assignments require strong leadership, which would ensure successful integration of the Soldiers into the unit.
Links to Professional Practice
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the drawbacks presented to Soldiers and senior leaders as a result of broadening assignments. Realizing that there is a negative impact associated with these assignments on individual Soldiers and their respective units is the first step to generating applicable and effective solutions to the aforementioned problems. As a leader, it is crucial to understand how exactly broadening assignments affect the organization and performance of a particular unit that lost some of its most promising and well-performing leaders. To notify the higher echelons about the issue, senior leaders must first assess the effects of broadening experiences on Soldiers. The next step should be the collective development of the plan for possible transformations within the structure of broadening assignments. This way, leaders can enable Soldiers to voice their concerns to help them readjust to the conditions of their initial MOS after being on duty for broadening assignments.
The overall performance of the nation’s military forces depends on the broadening assignments allow Soldiers to get. The research shows that eliminating broadening assignments would be ineffective since these experiences are essential to the Army’s innovation (Boccardi, 2012). The Department of the Army (2019c) reports that “limited expansion of the Army resulted in the degradation of the Army’s readiness to rapidly respond to a large-scale war-time contingency with ready and responsive Army forces” (p. 3). Therefore, it is apparent that the U.S. Army needs Soldiers with diverse skillsets and practical knowledge in order to remain efficient. Soldiers need to have an opportunity to improve their professional abilities having the easiest readjustment process afterward.
Links to Policy
The starting point for the senior leadership of the Army to deal with the issues related to broadening assignments is an overview of the current policy and regulations. The Army doctrine includes a road map, which helps senior leaders to contribute to the growth and development of Soldiers. For example, it is crucial for leaders to identify the needs of their subordinates and evaluate their professional competence. They also have to assess individual Soldiers’ strengths and weaknesses in order “to ensure subordinates receive the appropriate education, training, and experiences to compete for promotion, as well as to increase their potential and motivation for current and future assignments” (Department of the Army, 2015, p. 6-2). Young military professionals need to engage in broadening assignments in order to master the necessary skills and become more familiar with the positions of the squad and team leader. These leadership positions are the foundation of all the future critical assignments and an opportunity to get a promotion.
Soldier development would always be the number one priority within the Army. As the Army grows and becomes more complex as an organization, the need for well-trained and skilled leaders is going to increase. Therefore, the practical education of competent leaders facilitated by broadening assignments remains exceptionally important to the Army’s success.
To sum it all up, while Soldiers can gain applicable skills and professional knowledge during broadening assignments in recruitment or joint operations, there are numerous disadvantages related to these assignments. The issues associated with broadening experiences include the limitations they put on the Soldiers’ career development, the lack of practical knowledge Soldiers receive when serving these duties, as well as the shortage of senior leaders, who could guide and help Soldiers gain the necessary knowledge. There is no simple answer to solving this problem, which is why senior leadership has to coordinate in order to make broadening assignments meet the needs of the Soldiers individually and the Army as a whole. Soldiers will be successful in their professional efforts in professional development as long as they receive guidance and support from their leaders. Mentorship is a crucial factor in ensuring the Soldiers’ growth and continuous improvement in the forces.
Angeles, R. (2017). Assessing the value of serving in an army service component command as a broadening assignment. Military Review, pp. 54-59. Web.
Boccardi, T. D. (2012). Polyester culture: The U.S. Army’s aversion to broadening assignments [Civilian report, Yale University (U.S. Army War College)]. Defense Technical Information Center.
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Department of the Army. (2019c). Force generation – sustainable readiness (AR 525-29). Web.
Orsi, D. (2017). Professional military education and broadening assignments: A model for the future. Joint Force Quarterly, 86. Web.