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On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

I had a little talk with the General the other day concerning a number of things, not the least of which were the decisions on personnel policies emanating from the International Commission on Officership. These are very wide ranging recommendations that, most importantly, illustrate the Army’s willingness to listen to its officers and to make some fundamental changes in a number of crucial personnel areas.

I asked General Gowans which of the recommendations presented the most difficult choice for him? He said that one of the most difficult parts of his responsibility was trying to find a balance between cultural sensitivity and equality of policies over the entire world–giving to some which could not be given to all.

As I studied the report carefully I concluded we have a very bright man at the helm who isn’t afraid to “pull the trigger” on difficult decisions.

One of the recommendations that seems to have captured the imagination of several soldiers who read the summary in our last issue concerned aspects of the rank system. I have no idea why this gets talked about while so many more important issues seem ignored by the rank and file. Perhaps its because rank is a fairly safe topic. Personally, I’d prefer to discuss aspects of the outstanding recommendations pertaining to leadership models. Orders and Regulations for Officers will now reflect policies leading to servant leadership, cultural relevance, flexibility, increased participation and mutual accountability.

I can work with these kinds of leaders. I’ve discovered this from my relationships with my own corps officers over the years.

I’m also impressed that Gowans took on the seniority system. It will need to be implemented through territorial policies, but O & R will strengthen the concept. Younger officers will be given responsibilities commensurate with their competence.

Gender issues caused some hesitation and delegation. One such thorny issue related to marriage regulations. With the exception of some minor increases in flexibility, the major question of whether or not a non-officer can be married to an officer has been left to territorial discretion–and then only in exceptional circumstances. This course of action makes it possible, but not mandatory. Those desiring to see this policy in effect will need to continue the debate at the territorial level.

Equal pay for each married officer was another difficult one. Gowans agrees with the concept –but only if it is culturally appropriate, avoids becoming financially disadvantageous and safeguards the interests of single officers.

Gowans ducked even testing of open-ended officer service. I don’t see what the problem is. We talk about a “lifetime commitment,” but nobody stays ’til death-do-us-part. Everyone leaves at 65–even the General. What’s wrong with flexibility here? He went with a parallel structure outside of officership to encourage this kind of service.

And that decision, of course, brings us to the “rank” system. Gowans wanted to get rid of the ranks of Lieutenant and Commissioner. The first one is easy, but those Commissioners have some rank protection locked into the British law that will require an “act of Parliament” to change. Gowans says he’s still working on that with “the legal people.” Anyway, cadets will graduate as captains. The rank of lieutenant–a non-officer position–will take the place over time of Ox Captains and Envoys. This will allow individuals to sign-on to the salvation war for a limited time period. Gowans hopes to attract young people who are willing to give three to five years with some specific training and be sent to specific assignments as lieutenants. He hopes after their term of service has concluded they’ll take another look at officership in general.

Well, we’ve got some exciting changes taking place here. Our territory needs to get its “Officership Task Force” going, and we all have to wait for the final go-ahead from the chief-of-the-staff.

This commission has certainly taken some excellent subjects off the “coffee table” after meetings. What’ll we have left to talk about besides that aging sergeant-major who somehow won’t give it up?

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