No system is perfect, but Army evaluations primarily reward short-term success. Instituting or continuing programs and practices that promote the long-term health of our Army just does not get rewarded, unless it fits neatly into a rating period. The exception to this rule is self-satisfaction and the gratitude of our Soldiers.
It takes a lot of effort (usually unrecognized) to provide quality, rather than just amass a laundry list of “check the block” in the areas of training, health and welfare, but the reward for our Army could be exponential.
Just for the record, I’m talking about the practice of sending Soldiers to Army schools on time or to college instead of hoarding them at the unit for dubious short-term gain. Or running a first-rate unit reception and integration program that makes new Soldiers feel like they are really part of a family. Or providing training that benefits the long-term development of the unit rather than culminating in time for the next change of command or responsibility. Or just recognizing leaders who enforce standards or who exhibit moral courage.
These are all things that surely would help lessen the stress level, improve retention, and increase motivation in a continually deploying Army – and I’m sure smart people can come up with even better ideas. The change could be accomplished by integrating mandatory comments for actions promoting long-term benefit to the Army or by finally instituting the 360 degree evaluation system.
Leaders are human; they will work within the system to achieve the best ratings they can get, but they know what the right things to do actually are – and most actually strive to do the right things. I’m not saying that changing the evaluation system will help rid the Army of toxic leaders, but realigning it so that the best ratings go to leaders who take actions in the best long-term interest of the service – rather than just during their tenure – is surely a step in the right direction.