Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Army Reserve Chief Applies Business Lessons to Military Force

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 25, 2007 – As an operations manager for Proctor and Gamble,
Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz strived to recruit the best new workers, get them trained for their jobs, then retain them so they didn't take their skills and experience elsewhere. That's similar to the challenge Stultz faces now, serving as the Army Reserve chief during a four-year leave of absence from his civilian job.

"I come from the business world, and there are a whole lot of similarities," Stultz told American Forces Press Service during an interview marking his one-year anniversary
leading the Army Reserve.

So when Stultz assesses the
Army Reserve and its requirements, he tends to think as much like a businessman as a three-star general.

When it comes down to the product, Stultz said the Army Reserve is the best it's ever been in his entire 33 years of service. "It's the most professional, best-quality, best-trained force I've seen," he said.

Visiting deployed Army Reserve soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Kosovo, and just last week in Panama and Belize, Stultz said, he's struck by what they bring to their mission.

"It's just inspiring to see the quality, the dedication and the professionalism of the soldiers we've got," he said. "When you talk about the quality of the force, these are top-notch individuals that we have in our force."

Stultz knows firsthand what these soldiers have left behind to deploy; since leaving active duty to join the
Army Reserve in 1979, he was deployed for Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991, for Operation Joint Endeavor in 1997 and for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom from 2002 to 2004.

"Wherever I go, I see soldiers who, over and over again, have put their civilian careers on hold," he said. "They are well educated, have got a very bright future ahead of them, but they joined our ranks in the
Army Reserve so they can serve their country."

The soldier in Stultz understands that most joined the Army Reserve out of patriotism. But the businessman in him knows that to keep them in the force, the Army Reserve will need to keep giving them fulfilling
training and missions, a fair benefits package and more balance in their lives.

With more than 170,000 Army Reservists mobilized since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the force is more experienced than ever before, Stultz said.

Troops feel good about what they've accomplished and proven about the Army Reserve, but simply can't keep up the current operational pace, he said. They need more time at home with their families and civilian employers between deployments, and they need predictability about when they will deploy.

"We have got to put some predictability and some dwell time back in their life, because they can't keep going at this tempo," he said. "They have got to be able to get back home, back to their civilian jobs, back to the family life that they want."

In short, Stultz said, the
Army Reserve needs to give its citizen-soldiers a bit more time to be "citizens."

He expressed optimism that the new Army Force Generation model will go a long way toward that goal. The model will set a cycle for reservists to deploy, return home, then get time at home and the opportunity to prepare for another deployment.

As he considers ways to bring balance to the "soldier-citizen" equation, Stultz also spends a lot of time trying to come up with better ways to keep troops in the force and to compensate them for their service.

After all, he said, it doesn't matter how strong the force is if you don't have soldiers who want to be a part of it.

Twenty-five years at Proctor and Gamble taught Stultz a lot about what motivates employers, and he'd like to see some of the same practices that work so well in the private sector applied in the military.

New employees, like new troops, are typically more interested in hearing about up-front cash payments than long-term benefits, he said. Mid-level workers, like mid-career soldiers, commonly want to know more about other benefits, particularly health care. Those toward the end of their careers, whether in the private sector or
military, begin to think a lot about retirement benefits.

"At Proctor and Gamble, when you talked to an employee you were trying to retain, you looked at where they were in their life," he said. "And the same thing really does apply when you think about retaining a soldier."

Stultz said he'd like to see compensation packages better tailored to fit a particular soldier's interest.

For example, rather than automatically offering an up-front $15,000 re-enlistment bonus, the
Army Reserve might give the soldier the option of applying that money somewhere else, he said. It could go toward pre-paying health insurance premiums, put into a retirement 401 plan or even pay off a child's college tuition costs through a program negotiated with the state.

Similarly, he said he'd like to see health-care programs better tailored to troops' particular needs. He's a big fan of a "continuity of care" concept that would prevent reserve troops from having to flip back and forth between their employers' and the military's systems when they deploy and return home.

"If we are truly going to have an operational force in the reserve components, if we are truly going to say to expect to be mobilized on a repeated basis on a regular frequency, we can't keep requiring the soldier to change medical plans every five years," he said. "We just can't keep doing that."

Stultz noted that changing medical plans affects entire families. "That is too much turmoil and stress on the family," he said.

He's considered ways to prevent this, possibly by having the
military work with employers to share the cost of continuing corporate health-care benefits while a soldier is mobilized. Another option might be for the military to extend Tricare benefits for reservists to reservists who don't have health insurance elsewhere or at a lower cost than they can get it from their employers.

That could be a big enticement for civilian employers, particularly those in small business, to want to hire reservists, he said.

Stultz said he's "trying to explore all avenues right now" to come up with the best recommendation for providing health care to Army reservists on an ongoing basis.

He also likes the concept of a "continuum of service" that would enable soldiers to move between the active and reserve component during their military careers. This would enable soldiers to continuing serving as their life situation changes.

As a result, he said, the
military would be able to retain their skills and experience, and they'd have the flexibility to continue serving and, if they choose to, to continue working toward a military retirement. Stultz noted that it could take them 35 years to acquire 20 active-duty years, but that they'd have that opportunity if they chose to pursue it.

As he considers incentives that have proven successful in corporate America and considers how they might work in the Army Reserve, Stultz is also eyeing the military retirement plan.

The current plan provides a retirement for reserve troops with 20 years of service, but they have to reach age 60 before collecting it. Stultz said he favors the idea of lowering the age, but only if it's tied into serving beyond 20 years.

He's intrigued by the concept of allowing reservists to draw retirement six months early for every year they serve beyond 20. Based on this formula, troops who served 22 years could draw it at age 59. Those with 26 years of service could draw it at 57. Those who stay 30 years - which Stultz recommends as the cap - could draw their retirement at age 55.

"So I would get 10 more years of service out of that individual, for five years of early retirement," he said.

One year into the job, Stultz said he recognizes he's got a lot on his plate, and that the concepts he's exploring are somewhat revolutionary to the military. But he said he's convinced that the corporate sector has some important lessons to offer. Much of it, he said, boils down to attracting,
training and retaining the best people possible.

After all, he said, people are the bottom line in a successful Army.

Training and equipping isn't important if you don't have any soldiers to train and equip," he said. "To me, manning the force and sustaining that is really the first priority."

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