Army Seeks Out Scientific Test of Character

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command is seriously looking for a scientific means of assessing a soldier’s character to be in positions of responsibility over recruits and trainees, the TRADOC commander said Tuesday.

Gen. Robert Cone said the Army could adopt such an assessment tool in connection with its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Protection program, or SHARP. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of rape in the military, including by instructors coercing or preying on those just entering the service.

A Fort Jackson, S.C., drill sergeant is currently serving a four-year sentence for raping five female trainees in 2012. Meanwhile, the Air Force has been investigating more than 30 instructors who allegedly sexually assaulted 16 trainees.

“Is there some sort of scientific measure or instrument we could test people on [as part of the selection process?]” Cone asked at a panel at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C., that included Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

”The problem we have is that when you’re in a public institution, it’s got to be scientifically valid, because you have the potential of denying opportunities based upon it,” he said, noting that TRADOC is “looking very hard at that, but it’s got to be a very high standard.”

The discussion on a scientific measurement of a person’s character was included in one of the panels on leadership at the show. Odierno said he might consider a limited use for such an assessment tool, but not as a means of judging character.

The Army is made up of people from all different backgrounds, and their character is defined differently because of that, he said.

“So I get a little nervous when somebody tells me you can scientifically measure character,” he said.

Odierno said character is something the Army is always assessing, from the time a soldier enters an ROTC unit or West Point as a cadet, or enlists.

“There is a constant assessment of character from the time you come in,” Odierno said.

Character has to be assessed constantly because it changes with time and experience, according to Odierno.

“What I think of character is different today than when I was a 17-year-old cadet entering West Point,” he said.

One of the ways the Army assesses character is through its Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback 360 program, which is intended to enhance leader adaptability and identify leader strengths and areas for improvement.

In the 360 assessment, he said, there is a place for talking about shortcomings, letting a soldier and leader know where he or she needs to improve and “self-adjust over time.”

“I think your character has to develop over time,” he said. “If it does not, then we have to let people know and say ‘hey, it’s time for you to find another line of work.’ We simply won’t tolerate a [poor] level of character.”

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