Today our Army finds itself in an interwar period. We do not know when it will end, and so the work we must do is urgent work. We must modernize our equipment and doctrine, we must train hard, and we must reinvest in our profession. To do this work well, we cannot solely depend on the thoughts and voices of senior leaders in high command, as we can assure you: we do not have all the answers. Instead, we must strengthen our profession from top to bottom by building expertise through written discourse. We must also train hard on mission essential tasks and individual warfighting skills. This will ensure that when called, our Army is ready.

Our Army must reinvest in venues that produce vital professional discourse to improve our professional expertise. When we were leading companies, Infantry, Armor, and other branch magazines allowed us to learn from our peers, plan the best possible training, and see new ways of operating. But today, the Army’s professional publications need our help. They publish fewer pages and less often. Their authorship is not as diverse as our Army. And their means of circulation have not kept pace with this smartphone era. This is despite the hard work of dedicated editorial staff through a period of great transition.

The US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) will lead this effort to reinvest in the professional dialogue needed for this interwar period as an integral part of a larger plan to strengthen our profession. Created to change the Army and celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, TRADOC will strengthen the profession by attending to its institutions, experiences, and culture. These renewed professional publications will give every one of the Army’s soldiers, NCOs, officers, and civilian professionals the opportunity to partake in a conversation as wide, diverse, and thoughtful as the Army itself.

To succeed in renewing the Army’s publications, however, top-down reinvestment alone will not do. We need the help of every leader in the Army.

The Path Forward

As one way of strengthening the Army’s professional institutions, experiences, and culture, we acknowledge the work of the Harding Project. Started by an Army major and captain, the Harding Project is an effort to renew professional military publications. Their detailed analysis and careful prescriptions convinced us to think harder about the role of our publications in the Army profession.

Professional writing is important. In a hierarchical organization like the Army, professional writing allows leaders to inform the force of changes, while others share lessons laterally. As these lessons accumulate, professional writing connects communities of interest around shared problems and then informs doctrinal development. Writing can also create an outlet for issues that may not find a hearing in other forums. And finally, writing well builds talented communicators—a critical component of modern military leadership.

While today’s media environment is crowded, there is a critical place for a vibrant set of Army publications for several reasons. First, only our publications are backed by the full faith and credit of the Army, and while non-Army outlets have provided valuable space for the discussion of issues vital to our service, we can’t count on them to stick around. Second, even while Army outlets like MWI have demonstrated that there is an appetite for articles and other media that advance our understanding of our profession and the challenges ahead, they rightly do not focus on niche branch issues. That responsibility rests with our professional bulletins: Infantry, Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, and twelve others. These publications have been impactful throughout their history—Military Review helped drive development of AirLand Battle in the 1970s, for example, as Armor (then Cavalry Journal) drove discourse around the tank in the run-up to World War II—and we need them to remain impactful today. The challenges (and opportunities) of the years ahead are no less formidable than those earlier moments; we need a robust, bottom-up professional discussion to help drive us forward.

Given the importance of the Army’s professional journals, we must focus on renewing the institutions that support professional writing. The first step is modernizing to web-first, mobile-friendly outlets supported by social media. Soldiers encounter content on social media or through recommendations from their friends. After encountering an article on social media, links direct them to that article on the web. Unfortunately, our professional publications, with the exception of Army University Press, have largely missed this transition. This may be partly due to declines in resources; regardless, it’s time to get started.

After modernizing, the Army will better connect our outlets by experimenting with volunteer editors. When the Infantry Journal renewed in the 1930s, active duty soldiers rotated through editorial positions to keep publications fresh. For a variety of reasons, the Army no longer staffs journals with uniformed personnel. As a result, many officers and soldiers feel little connection to their publications. We’re going to fix that.

Finally, we will fix our archives. If you’ve ever tried to search for historic Infantry articles, you might have noticed that you can’t. That’s because our archives are in massive PDF files. Put another way, we’ve locked ourselves out of thousands of lessons our predecessors learned. We are going to fix that too. Our Army Center of Military History and its reach to over twenty Army museums are but a few resources that can assist in this area.

We have evidence this approach will work. Six months ago, the Army University Press and Military Review adopted a modern, web-first platform supported by social media. Since then, their weekly visitors are up by 60.1 percent while their subscribers have increased by 54 percent. Army University Press also just added branch magazines to its landing page as a first effort to raise the profile of all of our Army’s professional publications.

As members of the profession of arms, we ask for your support over the next few months. As a modest gesture to recognize our talented writers, we will recognize three impactful articles each month with a pen, coin, and personal note of congratulations. We’ve sent our first ones to First Lieutenant Mara Tazartus for her article on engagement area development in Armor and Sergeant First Class Leyton Summerlin for his article on standards in Infantry. Now we are scouring the internet for September’s authors. During the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in October, we will feature the professional writing renewal during the forum on professionalism. If you are there, look for the Army University Press’s kiosk at the Army exhibit and give them your feedback on our outlets.

A Call to Action

In the interwar period before World War II, our greatest generals and warfighters contributed their thoughts to branch publications. In the Infantry Journal, then Major George C. Marshall wrote about “Profiting by War Experiences,” while then Major George S. Patton, Jr. contributed his thoughts on “Success in War.” Likewise, noncommissioned officers like Sergeant Terry Bull contributed articles on “Battle Practice” while Staff Sergeant Robert W. Gordon both wrote for and edited the journal. Their contributions demonstrated the strength of the profession by helping solve the real problems of the day.

To strengthen the profession today, our role as senior leaders is to ensure the institution provides relevant, quality places for the force to develop and refine our martial knowledge—ideas about leadership, training, and warfighting. We know those ideas are out there. We see them every time we talk with soldiers, whether at home station, at the combat training centers, or on deployment. This is also evident in the contributions of those who are currently writing in the online forums mentioned above and in Military Review.

Yet our professions currently misses out on those ideas. Many of the great ideas we hear are too specific, too technical for general-purpose publications. Yet the nature of our profession is that the details are just as important—probably even more important—than the big ideas. Branch journals are the place to share new ideas, ask questions, and identify challenges and solutions.

What sort of ideas, questions, and solutions are we looking for? Professions are defined by a combination of formal institutional inputs like doctrine, experiences in training and deployment, and an understanding of the world as a whole. Branch journals are a place to bring all these influences together.

As Marshall and Patton did before, we need those leaders operating where it matters to offer their ideas about where our doctrine and school curricula get it right, need improvement, or are missing something. The profession also requires sharing innovative tactics, techniques, and procedures more widely than just within your unit or group of colleagues. The Army devotes enormous resources to realistic, demanding training. Share what you learn!

Finally, one of the hallmarks of our age is that so much happening in the civilian world can—and must—be incorporated into our operations for the Army to succeed. What ideas, techniques, and technologies can we incorporate into how we operate? As we watch the war in Ukraine, there are numerous, clear signs that successful armies are learning organizations that quickly apply imaginative solutions.

As you contribute to our revitalized professional journals, you will be solving problems and you will also be strengthening the profession. For individuals, writing a well-argued article with supporting evidence hones the ability to think critically and communicate. These are essential leader traits. It also requires some courage to put your ideas out there, and both individuals and the institution will take some licks in the process. But this is exactly the type of courage we need right now. It is no different than any other form of training. Well-meaning leaders may be wary of “rocking the boat,” but the Army needs the absolute best ideas at echelon. You have our commitment that we will be open to the best ideas, even if they challenge the sacred cows of the Army’s conventional wisdom. Encourage writing in your formations so that our Army remains the greatest ground force in the world—strong, professional, and ready to defend its fellow citizens.

This is a critical and challenging time to be a soldier of all ranks. The strategic environment virtually ensures there will be plenty of work for the Army in the years ahead, even if we cannot know exactly when, where, or how threats will manifest. Making matters more challenging, the pace of change, technological but also social and cultural, is so great that the character of war is changing faster than ever—faster even than a century ago, when Patton was predicting the impact of technologies like the tank. The country and future soldiers depend on us to devote as much effort to preparing intellectually as we do physically.

We cannot remain static, so we ask this of you: Write for your branch magazines and professional bulletins. Look for opportunities to volunteer as an editor. Spread the word. And join us as we commit to renewing one of our Army’s greatest assets, our culture of professional military writing.

General Randy George is the acting chief of staff of the US Army and the 38th vice chief of staff of the US Army.

General Gary Brito is the 18th commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer is the 17th sergeant major of the Army.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

Image credit: Chin-U Pak, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division