Rethinking Army Special Operations Forces Talent Management for the 21st Century

Rethinking Army Special Operations Forces Talent Management for the 21stst Century

By Major General Patrick B. Roberson, Major Stuart Gallagher, Major Kyle Martin and Major Wes Dyson

If you’ve been in the military for a while, you’ve heard one of the many sayings about the importance of people in the organization. Two that immediately come to mind are “Mission first, people always!” and “People First!” Similarly, in the special operations community, there is a series of guiding principles called the Truths of Special Operations Forces (SOF) – the first of which states that “humans are more important than hardware”. In the Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF), we could go further, “humans are the most important”. As with any organization, recognizing the importance of people is one thing, but the true measure of importance comes through action. Army Special Operations and the Army as a whole seek to better focus on people and improve talent management across the force.

USAJFKSWCS students receive green berets

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Title: USAJFKSWCS Student Awarded Green Berets

Photo by: K. Kassens

U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School

The Army, by its very nature, is a people-centred organization. According to the President’s budget highlights for fiscal year 2022, the military’s budget is $173 billion. This number includes funding for recruiting, training, employing, and retaining soldiers to support/advocate US interests. In testament to the importance of his people, Army Chief of Staff General James McConville said, “Winning matters, and people are my number one priority. The people are our soldiers – regular army, national guard and reserve – their families, civilians and soldiers for life – retirees and veterans. We win through our people, and people will drive success in our priorities of preparedness, modernization and reform. We have to take care of our people…” This emphasis gave rise to an official “people strategy”, placing people as the number one priority. In support of this initiative, the Army created the Army Talent Management Task Force, which addresses a comprehensive reform of personnel management within the organization. In addition, it has also implemented a series of programs such as the Interactive Army Module 2.0 (a tool that helps in officer talent management), flexible career options and leader assessment programs such as the BCAP (Battalion Command Assessment Program) and the CCAP (Colonels Command Assessment Program), used to determine an officer’s suitability for command and strategic leadership.

These are all solid initiatives that have already begun to benefit both the population and the military as a whole. In the same vein, considering the time and money invested in soldiers of ARSOF (Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs), the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School or SWCS has also started to develop talent management. program approaching army people strategy from a slightly different angle. The official mission of SWCS is “to recruit, assess, select, train, and educate U.S. Army Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, and Special Forces by providing superior training and education, relevant doctrine, career management effective and integrated force development capability”. SWCS talent management started with the question, and if we could collect data on a soldier starting with assessment and selection, continuing as they progress through their respective training pipeline, resulting in a newsletter that would not only help the soldier in his – development, but also promote better placement and mentoring upon arrival in his host unit?

Interestingly enough, this concept is already being implemented in other special operations organizations such as the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC). In fact, MARSOC shared its talent management concept with SWCS in a meeting about a year and a half ago, encouraging further development. SWCS has embraced the concept and created a joint venture with special operations students studying at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. Working together with SWCS over the past year, Major Kyle Martin and Major Wes Dyson provided the academic rigor required for the initiative, developing what is now called the ARSOF Talent Management Profile.

Using a custom-designed data collection program that spans every course in every training pipeline, performance data is collected on a soldier from the day they are recruited by the recruiting battalion. special operations. As the soldier progresses through the program, key data is collected from each course taken and then aggregated into a final report. This report includes a series of categories deemed essential to the future success of ARSOF. The first category is behavioral, which includes mental ability, social intelligence, personality, and attributes. Attributes are further broken down to include: initiative, teamwork, interpersonal skills, efficient intelligence, physique, determination and reliability. The second section is interpersonal which includes a word cloud from peer reviews. It also includes a psychometric linguistic analysis of all peer review comments. The third section includes the peer rankings themselves, which show how the soldier ranked against their peers throughout the program. The fourth section is physical performance, which measures the physical fitness tests of the soldier throughout training. The fifth section is cognitive, which is a compilation of all academic and tactical tests against the population average. The sixth and final section is a personal entry section which allows the soldier to write a paragraph about themselves highlighting anything they want the executive/management to know – This can include, but does not include limit thereto, personal experience, skills and education gained outside the military.

The first pilot is expected to be conducted with Special Forces students in Spring/Summer 2022. Talent Management Profiles (TMPs) will be developed throughout training and generated after graduation. As the soldier prepares for the permanent change of position, the TMP will be provided to each graduating soldier for their examination. Student feedback on the report will be collected by SWCS and changes will be made as needed. Going forward, the intent is to provide a version of the TMP to gain command teams into the task force. Again, feedback will be collected to refine the TMP to meet operational needs. Once the pilot is fully implemented in the Special Forces pipeline, it will be collectively reviewed by SWCS and operational leadership, and refined accordingly. Once updated, the TMP will also be deployed to the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs pipelines.

As useful as this new talent management tool can be once fully implemented, it is only the first step. Looking ahead, SWCS is also in the early stages of building a more longitudinal program that will capture a soldier’s performance from cradle to grave – from entering ARSOF to exiting. This is a much larger project that will require significant coordination with the task force. However, when completed, the product will provide a more comprehensive tool for soldiers and leaders, while better informing how the company recruits, assesses, selects and trains its personnel. With a focus on talent management, SWCS will be better positioned to make data-driven decisions regarding the future structure and composition of the ARSOF formation, ultimately providing the best possible product to the task force and defense of our nation.

As the largest producer of special operations personnel in the world, there is no more important resource for ARSOF than its personnel. As such, it is imperative that SWCS continues to develop and invest in the most modern systems, technologies and products that optimize the recruitment, assessment, selection and training of the best and brightest soldiers. elite Americans who will ultimately be responsible for fighting and winning the nation’s future wars. The talent management profile is just one more way to meet this burden.

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