The 21st Century Warrior: What Does He or She Need to Be?

June 18, 2008
By Henry Kenyon

Warfighters in the future will need a mix of old-fashioned values and 21st-century knowledge of high technology, members of Wednesday's final panel agreed. All agreed that the current force is filled with dedicated young people who have chosen to serve even under trying circumstances.

Tomorrow's warfighter will possess coordinated skills that enable them to fight in irregular warfare, Cmdr. William E. Noel, USN, commanding officer, Explosive Ordnance Devices Test and Evaluation Unit Two and former deputy commander, Task Force Troy, Baghdad, said.

The U.S. Defense Department must be prepared to train upcoming warriors to work in a joint environment, and much of this already is going on, he stated. "In Iraq, I saw all services pull together, and they all worked well together; that's how well trained in joint they are," Cmdr. Noel stated. However, service members must be better trained in using each other's equipment, he added.

Drawing on his experience in Iraq, Col. Richard L. Simcock II, USMC, commanding officer, 6th Marines, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, shared that many areas of the country are like the "Tale of Two Cities." Future warfighters will need to be able to handle the insurgency uprising as well as the nation-building work that must occur afterward to keep insurgents out of an area.

Brig. Gen. Jimmie C. Jackson Jr., USAF, commandant, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, pointed out that the forces today have been trained to operate in high-intensity conflicts while most of today's conflicts are low intensity in nature. He proposed that the training of the warriors of tomorrow will need to flip this situation because it is more likely that the majority of future conflicts will be low intensity. Also in the training vein, Gen. Jackson related that military leaders of today must realize how the globalization of communication technologies have made for a very interdependent world, and they must lead accordingly.

Responding to a question from panel moderator Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni Jr., USN (Ret.), former deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, about what the military should be doing for its young people, Cmdr. Noel offered that young warfighters must be made to understand how the minor decisions they make can have major implications. Gen. Jackson added that today's warfighters want to know why. "They are not being insolent," he said. "This generation just wants to understand."

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