Finding our Voice: The Narrative in the Army #Operating Concept


The Army has an identity crisis. After 13 years of waging war in remote corners of the world, we struggle to find our voice, our raison d’être. While our Sister Services posit a future where peer competitors present high-tech threats that limit our reach and influence, we fight for the words to describe our purpose in the world of today. Forget the future, we’re still arguing about yesterday.

Then along comes the Army Operating Concept, “Win in a Complex World.” Semantics aside (complexity is, after all, a relative term), the concept represents something very significant for a fundamentally-schizophrenic U.S. Army facing what just about anyone who can read would call simply “uncertainty.” Rather than a future where the Army stands on the sidelines as hypersonic missiles and fifth-generation fighters do battle over global commons rules by stealthy, fast-moving naval vessels, the concept imagines something far less glamorous over the horizon. A world that is crowded, urbanized, resource-starved. A world where asymmetry is a means of survival on the field of battle, fields that exist in heavily-populated urban sprawl, in the filth of the sewers beneath us, fought by an insidious enemy network able to change methods faster than we can adapt. Chaos.

Into this melee of death, dirt, and destruction, we launch the one weapon capable of bringing chaos to its knees: man. The human element. The ground-pounding foot soldier. Because the future isn’t Tom Cruise, it’s T.R. Fehrenbach, where the only way to prevail in the battle of wills is on the ground, in the mud, among the people. Chaos, ruled by men and women who thrive under chaos.

But the concept doesn’t offer any trillion-dollar silver bullets, so what possible value does it hold? There’s no mention of the hover-tank. It completely avoids any discussion of robotic super-soldiers. And for an entire generation of follicly-challenged Army officers, not one word on the cure for premature male baldness (a shocking oversight considering the mastermind behind the concept was none other than Dr. Evil himself, LTG H.R. McMaster). So what good is it?

The Army Operating Concept marks the opening stanzas of the long-neglected Strategic Landpower narrative. The answer to our identity crisis. It isn’t particularly elegant, and it tends to ramble from time-to-time. But it’s prophetic. It’s visionary. It’s part Black Hawk Down and part Starship Troopers, smeared with mud, blood, grease, and guts. It’s the answer to “Who are we?” and “Why do we fight?” It’s our narrative. Finally.

We found our voice.


Doctrine Man is America’s favorite comic anti-hero. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


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