By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 26, 2015) -- Earlier this month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress only 33 percent of Army brigades are ready to go to war, when the number ought to be closer to 70 percent.
While there is little a Soldier can do about the funding required to ensure his brigade meets unit readiness standards, he can do something to be personally prepared, so when his personal readiness is folded into the larger calculation that tells "Big Army" what units are war-ready and which are not, he is adding to and not subtracting from that number.
"One of the most important aspects of Soldier readiness is individual skills and tasks - making sure they understand the knowledge and skills associated with their skill level and military occupational specialty [MOS]," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. "There is also personal readiness - making sure their medical and dental, and all their appointments are taken care of, so our readiness accounts are up to date and we can report readiness at a higher rate."
Dailey said there are many non-deployable Soldiers in today's Army who detract from a unit's readiness. While some of those Soldiers are wounded warriors, a portion of that non-deployable number "is attributed to Soldiers not maintaining personal readiness."
"Every single Soldier's individual readiness is part of a collective effort to get their entire organization at a readiness status that is up to par with them being able to accomplish their wartime mission," he said.
Dailey said that in addition to the personal readiness of individual Soldiers, a unit's total readiness involves such things as small-unit collective training, platoon-level training, platoon live-fire, company training, home-station mission rehearsal exercises, home-station certification exercises, unit/staff exercises, and rotations through a combat training center.
CHANGES TO THE NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER EVALUATION REPORT
In September, the Army expects to roll out an improved way to evaluate Soldier performance - a new non-commissioned officer evaluation report, also known as NCOER, system that provides a different template for sergeants, staff sergeants through master sergeants, and sergeant majors.
Dailey said the new system more closely matches what Soldiers are evaluated on with what Army doctrine expects of them.
"The new NCOER is fundamentally different than what we have had in the past," Dailey said. "We needed to revise it. It's a system that has been revised throughout history, but doctrinally is incorrect. We had to revise it to meet the current needs of our doctrine."
Dailey said that the leadership attributes spelled out in Army doctrine have changed, and so the evaluation of Soldiers must change to reflect that.
"We need to match the NCOER with the leadership attributes inside of ADP 6-22," Dailey said. "If we are saying in doctrine that things are important, then that is what we should be evaluating our NCOs [non-commissioned officers] on."
The new NCOER also addresses a critical problem with NCO evaluations: rating inflation.
"It's no secret that NCOERs have been overinflated for a long time," Dailey said. "When you look across files of NCOs in the same grade, there is a tendency to see everybody's 'one block' checked all the way down the left side: among the best, among the best, etc."
Right now, Dailey said, the Army may promote, at best, perhaps 20 percent of Soldiers in a particular grade and MOS.
"We can't sustain a fair promotion system when everybody is ranked number one," he said. "Not everybody can get promoted."
To fix the problem, he said, the Army will implement rating profiles for senior raters. The result will be that senior raters will only be allowed to give top ratings to a certain percentage of Soldiers. The Army has already done something similar for officer ratings, Dailey said.
"You can't give everybody a one block, because we are going to track your profile as a senior rater," Dailey said. "For officers, if you break your rater profile, everybody gets a 'two block,' or center of mass. That is something we have instituted, and it has helped greatly with our officer corps. It's a huge culture change for NCOs."
Dailey said one driver of rating inflation is that raters have not done a good enough job of counseling their Soldiers.
"If you haven't told somebody throughout the year that they are not doing a good job, you are less apt to tell them at the end of the year they are not doing a good job when you write their NCOER," he said. "That means you didn't do your job."
Soldier counseling is a critical part of NCO rating, Dailey said. Under the new NCOER system, raters must counsel a Soldier each quarter. Senior raters must counsel the same Soldier at least twice a rating period. For senior raters, this is new.
"The most important thing for a Soldier's performance is the counseling that happens throughout the year," Dailey said. "If there is a negative behavior, or less-than-superior behavior that you want to correct, the way to get at that is by counseling the NCO. Driving that process through the use of consulting sessions with the senior rater is going to help us maintain the appropriate counseling we need between the rater and the ratee."
Dailey said the new NCOER system also allows senior raters to rank a ratee among his peers, "one out of seven," or "five out of seven," for instance. "It gives the board and others an indication of performance based on what their peers are doing."
STAYING IN THE ARMY
The Army is drawing down, reducing Soldiers in the force, and expects to be at 490,000 Soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2015, and at 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017.
Dailey said that the Army hopes to achieve much of that force reduction through the adjustment of accessions and retention.
"But traditional accessions and retention will not get it all," Dailey said. "Some Soldiers will be asked to go home."
Deciding who gets to stay and who does not will be a decision based on a Soldier's adherence to standards, Dailey said. The Army will rely on a "standards-based approach" when drawing down its end strength.
Centralized selection boards will review Soldier files to look for performance-based measures "and determine within that MOS and skill level who is most qualified to stay," Dailey said. "That's the most appropriate way to do it, and the one that Soldiers can relate to - and have to accept. There is no other way to do this appropriately."
To stay in the Army, Dailey said, Soldiers must "work hard, do their best every day, invest their time when they go to school and graduate in the top 10 percent. There is plenty of room in the Army for Soldiers who want to stay and serve and be stewards of the profession."
"If we have a Soldier doing everything we ask them to do, working hard every day to represent themselves and the American people, and then there is one who has not done these things -- who is supposed to go?" Dailey asked. "It's an easy pick."