On an average day, one would expect a service member to perform the requirements of their job. For an infantryman, that would entail combat training. A human resource specialist would be providing administrative feedback and record keeping on service members, and a tanker would be driving around maneuvering an armored vehicle. Most days, that person would be completely wrong.
The military has made a significant transition which has a constant and direct effect on service members. Instead of focusing on job-specific training, there is a large demand on Army Training and Leader Development requirements which is seen in Army Regulation 350-1. Within these hundreds of pages, a service member can read and understand all of the critical training requirements that they must complete in addition to their specific job requirements.
Filling these pages are such requirements as annual ethics, resiliency, suicide prevention and equal opportunity training. Sprinkled in amongst the bigger subjects are specific topics such as combating human trafficking, and constitution day awareness. If these topics seem wide ranging, it is because this requirement was put together over time as people identified more and more mandatory training requirements for service members.
In days past, soldiers could be brought into a room and given a joint briefing on operational security, or social media awareness, and the unit would be complete. Nowadays though, most of the requirements must be individually completed behind a CAC-card enabled computer through multiple army-based classes. Some are video based, some focus on decisions, some violate every principle of power point by presenting a slide filled with words and meticulously reading every word before the service member can go to the next slide. At the end of the day, they are all required, and leaders are held accountable for their completion by their subordinates.
This creates a variety of issues across the force. First, there are not as many CAC-card enabled computers as there are soldiers. This means that, if each class takes 45 minutes to an hour, soldiers have to wait in line to complete their requirements. As many of the classes require a significant amount of video interaction, it requires the individuals be in a location that supports bandwidth for all of the people competing to take the same courses. The time that must be dedicated towards all of the competing AR 350-1 requirements actually takes up so much time that if to do them all, a service member would not have any time to train on their job-specific tasks. This is why the latest RAND study identified that services need to reduce this general military training to remain competitive.
This encourages service members and leaders to prioritize and therefore fail to meet all of the mandated training. While this may seem innocent enough, as it falls under a regulation, failure to meet the requirements can actually result in punitive actions against those individuals. So people do what they must, they lie. They turn red power point slides to green, they check the block and say they did it, and everyone accepts this lie, because it is common sense. Leaders at all levels recognize that there is no way to accomplish the tasks, but they continue to add requirements anyways.
It is time that the organization looks honestly at their own requirements, and recognizes the difference between a need, and a “good idea fairy” response.