FORT KNOX, KY. – During his visit to Cadet Summer Training, The Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, took time to interview with Public Affairs interns about diversifying the Army and discuss how the Army can tell its story better to the American people.
Fanning has several goals he wishes to accomplish for the Army, and one of the goals is to integrate all genders into all military occupational specialties.
“I think anytime we open up opportunities to more people who meet the requirements it makes the Army stronger,” Fanning said, “Fewer people are serving now than they ever have in my lifetime. We need to find a way to open up the Army and military service to more people in order to foster connections and because the world is getting more complex. The adversaries are getting more creative and we need as many eyes on the problem as possible.”
Creating a gender-inclusive Army is a step toward finding the best candidates possible to serve the nation, according to Fanning.
“I want to recruit the best from as a big of a pool as I possibly can. I think all of the movements are making us stronger and opening up more opportunities for people. It’s better for the Army, better for the country, and better for national security,” Fanning said.
Fanning believes the Army needs diversity in order to better problem solving in and out of battle.
“More opportunities for more people means we’re recruiting from a larger base. I want the best I can possibly find. Diversity and inclusion means we are bringing more perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, more ways of looking at things as we face a more complex problem set,” Fanning said, “I want as much diversity as I can possibly get to come up with the best solutions we can.”
Not only do potential recruits need to meet the physical standards, but they also must meet character standards as well.
“I want people who understand and share the Army values. We want ethical moral people because we are asking for important decisions in the battle space. I want them to be creative and agile in how they go about things, to be problem solvers. That is why I want to recruit from as a big of a space as possible, so we can find those people.”
Fanning discussed how he and his team had drawn a map of the United States and pinpointed the locations where there are military installations and where they aren’t any instillations. What he found were gaps, which he is working to combat by sending Army leaders, advertising, and marketing out to those places.
During his tour of the different training sites at Cadet Summer Training, Fanning was pleased to see how diverse the group of Cadets were.
“It’s great to see them, they are all soldiers out there on the course training, the rest doesn’t matter. We are recruiting a very impressive group of people, whether it’s the enlisted or the officers of the future whom I saw training. They are doing things that most Americans couldn’t do, or wouldn’t even try,” Fanning said.
Fanning believes that strong leadership is needed to progress the integration of women into all military occupational specialties.
“You have to set the standards which are gender neutral and specific to the task at hand. Anybody who can do them then gets the opportunity to do it. In order to open up opportunities to women in the military, we have to have strong leadership in place as they are trained. As women come into training, they need to see themselves in leadership,” Fanning said.
When asked on what challenges the Cadets will be facing as senior officers in the future, Fanning discussed the importance of being sensitive and understanding to all cultures.
“As the world gets more complex with technology, it seems to be getting smaller. Soldiers have to interact with different cultures and represent the United States of America in a way they didn’t have to before,” Fanning said, “We have 140,000 soldiers outside of the United States in over 140 countries interacting with different cultures and speaking different languages, and there will be even more in the future. Soldiers are going to be important ambassadors for the United States and they need to have cultural understanding and sensitivity, because we are going to ask them to do a lot of things in a lot of places.”