Foreword to the Infantry Journal, No. 8

D.B. Ells, Lieutenant Colonel, Commanding Officer Infantry School
Infantry Journal, Vol. 8, Winter 1979

One of the most important yet neglected aspects of infantry training is the development of the young officer. Without well trained and dedicated officers the infantry cannot function effectively across the full spectrum of roles that we have been, or may be, tasked to carry out. We at the School give the young officer the basic knowledge to take his place in an infantry platoon, but this is only the start of his development. There are two facets of the development of young infantry officers, that I wish to address. The first is the officer's own responsibility. How many subalterns when they reach their regiments stop reading? How many take the time to become familiar with all the weapons, equipments and vehicles within their battalion? How many develop a knowledge of the myriad of regulations that affect the handling of their men? Not enough. All infanteers agree that we never stop learning. How many young officers are following this dictum? At the moment, we have an overabundance of young subalterns in some units. How many of them are actively pursuing an increase in basic infantry knowledge? How many are content to sit and wait for formal training at the School or for training directed by their company commanders or battalion commanders? The first two or three years of a young officer's life become the foundation of his career. He must, on his own initiative, take some of the responsibility to lay the groundwork for future professional development. An example of the "lay back and wait approach" is my contact with two junior officers who both stated to m that although the Infantry Journal is always present in the mess, they hadn't bothered to read it. Apathy on the part of young officers is a prelude to their and our professional decline. The development of young officers is also the responsibility of their field officers. Senior infanteers must constantly challenge the young officer. Too often I feel that we do not push the development of the subaltern. We are satisfied that he is performing well in his present job; therefore, we hope that he will gain, by osmosis, the knowledge needed for his continued development. I say this assumption is not justified. Unit officer training is a regular happening in all infantry battalions. But is this enough? Is the studying that the junior officer must undertake to prepare himself for the officer Professional Development Program really the solution? I think we must look at the other aspects of this problem. Do we select officers to do different tasks with a view to their individual development? Do we give guidance and direction at all times? Are we interested in discussing with the young officer the reasoning behind the day-to-day tasks that are carried out within a company or battalion? To we explain to him how things should be done? When mistakes are made do we sit down and analyse the cause and effect of these mistakes? We preach to the young officer to know and care for his young Men. Do we know and care for him? We should not forget that formal military training at the various schools is designed to provide the framework of technical knowledge. The practical application of this knowledge requires sustained study by the young officer and continual guidance and direction by his senior officers.