The beginnings of military professionalism Part I

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When we think of the military man, at least the officers in our military and in many Western armies, we think of the sharp, professional man, dedicated to learning his craft.

Today’s American army is, by far, the most educated army in the history of the world. Here at Ft. Huachuca, I’m training with many people who have bachelor’s degrees in everything from philosophy to economics. Some have master’s degrees.

In this Army, the promotion system is based on the past performance and professionalism of each soldier, and when examined, can be found to be one of the fairest promotional systems in any line of work. Leadership ability, MOS knowledge, and physical fitness are the primary attributes that officers on promotional boards look at.

There’s a myriad of schools that both commisssioned and uncommissioned officers can attend to increase their knowldge on leadership, warfighting and many other areas. Also, the Army encourages high levels of education by giving both promotion points for degrees and credits as well as paying for all college and books while a person is enlisted.

The path of the professional officer was not always based on personal merit. It was based for much of history on blood-lineage. It was believed that people of royal blood were better at everything than the commoner could ever be. At times, teenage boys were put in charge of entire companies of troops, and only because they possessed good breeding.

All of this changed however when the military genius of Napolean upset Europe’s balance of power. Napolean Bonaparte’s primary contribution to modern warfare stem from his ideas on logistics. He was the inventor of the Task Force. That is, his military units possessed some of each basic type of troop: Artillary, calvary, foot-soldiers etc. In this way, he was able to deal with any unforseen confrontation, and using his own maxim of ” march divided fight united”, dominate his more inflexible opponents. Napolean crushed foe after foe. When he reached the Prussian Empire, it was the same; Napolean’s superior numbers and logistical flexibility overcame a proud army. Carl Von Clausewitz, an officer in Frederick The Great’s army dejectedly accepted defeat and went on to author his unfinished Magnum Opus: On war. Clausewitz, a melancholic genius and Prussian nationalist despised Napolean and the French. He was dumbfounded as to how Napolean could defeat the professional Prussian army. Together, with his mentor, Gerhard von Scharnhorst, he opened a war college or, Kriegsakademie that would lay the foundation for todays most professional armies. The Prussians adopted the French practice of conscription, so that they could easily replace soldiers lost in combat. Officers were extensively indoctrinated and educated and the rank and file were drilled to perfection.

To be continued….

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