Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks to captains recently in Lincoln Hall Auditorium during a professional development event. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

“We’re in a war for talent.”

That was the key message from Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, when he visited Fort Leonard Wood recently to speak with soldiers and civilians, stressing the message that every member of the Army team plays a role in recruiting and retaining the best men and women.

During his visit, McConville toured facilities — including the Chemical Defense Training Facility and the Homeland Defense Civil Support Office — and said he was impressed by the “unique capabilities to train our soldiers.”

“I was very pleased with the facilities that they have, and really, the training capability — the very complex training that they can do,” he said.

About the drill sergeants and instructors he met, McConville noted the passion they have for their jobs.

“(They are) very, very motivated, very interested in how they are going to improve these young men and women coming in,” he said.

Throughout his visit, McConville spoke about the need to inspire individuals to serve — and continue to serve.

“We’re looking at a call to service,” he said. “We’re taking a look at how we can inspire more young men and women to serve. Right now in the country, only 23 percent of Americans are qualified to serve their country, and as we take a look at the force, 83 percent of the young men and women that come into the Army are coming from military families. Some would argue we’re a military family business; we want to be an American family business, where everyone has the opportunity to serve.”

Calling military service “a pathway to success,” McConville also talked about the need to upgrade the way the Army helps prepare future soldiers, who have been left less equipped for military service — academically and fitness-wise — due to the pandemic.

“I think we’re just going to have to work our way through that,” he said. “I think us, as a military and an Army, we have to invest in these young men and women. We want them to have the opportunity to serve, and I think it’s going to take a little more work on our behalf, and we’re prepared to do that. We are not going to lower our standards.”

One of the highlights of the visit for Fort Leonard Wood’s junior officers was a professional development event McConville hosted in Lincoln Hall Auditorium.

During the event, McConville told the junior officers — many of whom were captains attending the Captains Career Course— to focus on building cohesive teams, where everyone is an expert at their job, because “cohesive teams win in combat.”

“If you’re a company commander, make sure your unit is ready to go — make sure they are trained, disciplined and fit,” he said. “That’s what you need to do.”

He also spoke about the future of talent management in the Army — that doing a better job at aligning people with their skills is the way forward — and he relayed the story of a junior enlisted supply specialist, whose off-duty software coding hobby is now being utilized at Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas.

McConville also told the captains about the importance of a positive work-life balance, and that many times, a personal event — such as the birth of a child — should take precedence over a less-important professional event — such as a field-training exercise. Leaders must know how to prioritize their subordinates’ work and personal milestones, McConville said, and he shared the story of a captain he knew, who missed the birth of his son while at an exercise in Thailand because of one brigade commander.

“I think his philosophy was people last, not people first, and he said, ‘No way that captain’s going back because I was never there for the birth of my kids,’” McConville said. “I was furious. He missed the birth of his child because he was the backup narrator for the (combined-arms live-fire exercise) that we were running at the time. I made this pledge to myself. I go, ‘If I ever command, that will never happen in one of my units.’”

Overall, McConville summed up his visit to Fort Leonard Wood by saying he is impressed with the work being done here.

“I’m very, very impressed with the leadership; very, very impressed with all the leaders I’ve met — their commitment, their passion for their jobs,” he said. “One thing I’ll say about this post is it does an awful lot of important work for our Army … They bring in some great young men and women, and they turn them into soldiers, and they train them — and I’m just proud of all the great work that’s being done by our soldiers and our civilians. I’m very, very proud of our families, who support our soldiers in everything they do, and I’m very, very proud of this community, that has very strong support for our soldiers.”

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