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Vice Chairman: Military Services Can Learn from Each Other, Strengthen Trust

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, February 23, 2016 — Trust is at the heart of military professionalism, and the services can learn from each other ways to improve leadership and better communicate the military’s values, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"I think the common theme across all of our services and the common theme across military professionalism is the concept of trust," Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva said in an interview recorded for the inaugural Defense Department military professionalism summit.

The meeting, which is taking place today and tomorrow at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is bringing together the military's centers of excellence to spur dialogue, share what works, and create a community of practice.

Professionalism is "incredibly important to the foundation of who we are," Selva said.

The conference, he said, is an "inspired event" in which subject-matter experts from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard can come together and discuss military professionalism.

"It's really important that we are able to compare notes, that we are able to build on strengths, and then we are able to share the things that work across that whole enterprise," said Selva, the second highest-ranking U.S. military officer.

Strengthening Leadership Skills

Leadership skills can be strengthened throughout a career, he said, adding that there is always room for improvement.

"At the foundation of military professionalism is the trust that our young men and women in service have in our ability to provide sound leadership," he said. "We owe it to them to continue to explore what that means."

Selva said he is encouraging participants to think critically about the differences and commonalities among the services in leading their people. That can help build the core of professionalism of military leadership, he explained.

An important step in the journey to improve leadership, Selva said, is to learn how best to communicate the values of the military to the men and women who serve.

Senior and mid-level leadership of the services have to constantly strive to be able to communicate the value of trust and leadership to all members, he said.

"We can all be better as leaders," he added. "I would suggest that none of us are born to leadership; we're taught how to be leaders, and that's a skill we can continue to hone through our entire military career."

'Tremendous Opportunity' to Grow, Learn

The professionalism summit is a "tremendous opportunity for collaboration and insight sharing," said Navy Rear Adm. Margaret Klein, who is leading the conference.

Klein, who is the senior advisor to the secretary of defense for military professionalism, spoke in an interview earlier this month to preview the conference.

"It's a great way for DoD to come together and bring the best that they have to solve challenges common to all the services -- things in the area of values-based leadership of character and leadership development," she said.

It also can serve as a foundation for infusing fresh ideas into the force and getting all members to recognize their responsibilities in promoting trust and respect, she said.

"If we get culture right, then some of these other problems will stand out very quickly in stark contrast," she added.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)