Exploring Officership Personnel studies reveal officer gains
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
The West has experienced phenomenal growth through the decade of the ’90s with increases in such key areas as meeting attendance, numbers of soldiers, and numbers of corps. Officers of The Salvation Army lead these programs. The International Commission on Officership has recommended a number of specific changes which, if implemented, will impact the Army for years to come. The Introduction to the Commission’s report notes: “Officership in The Salvation Army is a complex subject which has developed its own spirit and character, established its own literature, and impacted lives in a wide variety of cultures.” They seek to “prepare soldiers for mission.”
This report seeks to examine data involving the numbers of officers ministering within the territory to determine gains, losses or steady-state numbers. In terms of numbers, then, how is the West doing in relation to officership?
Examination of statistical reports on officers indicate a gain slightly in excess of 12% in the total number of active, full status officers during the decade of the ’90s. These data, released by the territorial personnel secretary, also reveal a sharp gain in the number of envoys. In 1990 there were 39 envoys and in 1999 the number had risen to 123 a gain of 215%. Most of those holding envoy status minister in the place of commissioned officers and provide leadership in corps settings. Envoys, technically employees of the Army, have provided an important source of leadership and skill. The survey of officers by the International Commission on Officership did not seek responses from individuals holding the position of envoy. The large increase in applicants along with existing Army policy for this position provide some hints concerning relevant policy which could lead to an increase in the number of applicants for officership. For example, the position does not require both partners in a marriage to serve in envoy status, although such joint employment frequently occurs. Additionally, envoys accept specific positions within the Army and are not vulnerable to reassignment by administration to other positions.
Historically, the primary means to recruit and train officers has been through the various colleges for officer training. In the West, this two-year program culminates in an Associate of Arts degree in ministries, commissioning as a lieutenant in the Army, and assignment to the field usually as a corps officer or an assistant corps officer. Recently approved plans for the West’s Crestmont College establishes it as a “Center for Lifelong Learning” to which officers on the field may return each summer for specific course work. Non-officers may also enroll for course work. The total curriculum, extending over a five year period, will also include “distance learning” activities involving computerized instruction and culminate in a Bachelor’s degree.
Western CFOT registration in the ’90s revealed a fluctuation in the number of cadets commissioned. The largest session size of the decade occurred in 1994 when 61 new lieutenants were commissioned. The lowest number occurred in 1999 when 28 were commissioned. The average number of cadets commissioned each year over the entire decade was almost 40. The territory expects to commission 29 Cadets of the Forward 2000 Session this June.
Another source of leadership with increased use throughout the ’90s has been provided by the position of auxiliary captain. Interestingly, the International Commission of Officership has recommended that this rank be dropped, that age restrictions for acceptance to officership be “revised,” and that flexible training programs be initiated. Individuals holding the A/captain rank are considered officers, but are not at full status. They may achieve full status by meeting specific requirements. Most A/captains choose to enter Salvation Army service after completion of successful careers in other lines of endeavor. Both partners in a marriage must agree to serve in this capacity, and the administration has the prerogative to determine the nature of their appointments. The International Commission has recommended for all officers that “Orders and Regulations be amended to allow, in exceptional circumstances, …a married officer to continue in officership when the spouse can no longer remain an officer.”
In addition to the commissioning of new lieutenants through completion of the College for Officer Training, gains in the numbers of officers also may occur through acceptance of A/captains, re-acceptance of former officers and transfers of officers into the territory. Throughout the ’90s, an average of 65 A/captains entered service in the Army each year. During this same period, 77 A/captains were brought to full status, indicating a continuing recruitment effort of A/captains during the decade. An average of almost eight former officers were re-accepted each year of the decade, and approximately 12 officers transferred into the territory each year from other territories. This figure is balanced with the fact that approximately 13 officers transferred out of the territory each year to take assignments in other territories often on the overseas mission field.
Officers leave officership through retirement, death, resignation or termination. An average of 13.5 full status officers and 14.5 A/captains retired each year of the decade. It appears that a decade average of 27 or 3.6% of the total active officers resigned their officership each year.
Of increasing interest to both administration and corps membership is the length of stay officers have in their appointments. In examining data provided by each division it is evident that the average length of stay of officers in appointments is 2.2 years. Approximately two-thirds of the officers are in appointments from zero to three years; almost one-third are in appointments three to six years; and less than 1% have been in their appointments for over six years. One of the International Commission’s recommendations concerned “The appointing process” with intention to “reduce the frequency of officer transfers …”
The Army’s “rank system” has been a continual subject of discussion for many years. Throughout the history of the Army various ranks have been added or deleted from the system. The International Commission has suggested two options: first, that “all officers be commissioned to and retain the rank or captain” except the General; or, second, that “all ranks (except General) be based on years of service.”
Personnel statistics for this territory indicate that 6.3% of the officers are A/Captains, 17.7% are lieutenants, 44.1% are captains, 26.5% are majors and 4.1% are lt. colonels.
The Commission Report states: “Officership is a (product) of a covenant relationship between an individual and God. It is characterized by a sense of calling by God to ministry through The Salvation Army, and the response of the individual in an offer of obedience.
“Officership implies obligation by the Salvation Army as well as the officer. There is a need to develop a mature relationship based on mutual commitment. This is much more about attitude than provision, and requires a shift from paternalism to partnership and from command to facilitation.”