JANUARY 16, 2020 – Standing on the ice in a white Army West Point hockey jersey with the number 40 representing his designation as the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville grabbed a microphone and made an announcement to the crowd.
“The SAMI is cancelled tomorrow,” McConville said before high-fiving U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams and walking off the ice.
As a USMA graduate in the class of 1981, cancelling the SAMI, or Saturday A.M. inspection of cadets’ rooms, was a huge gift to the future officers studying at West Point, which McConville called the “gold standard” for leader development.
“Where is the core of the Army going to come from? It’s going to come from here, that’s why it’s so important,” he said. “People expect a certain product from West Point. They expect the best. They look at lieutenants and they look at captains and if they come out of West Point, it’s a standard.”
McConville has based his tenure as chief of staff around his motto of “People first, Winning matters,” which includes building a cohesive team, putting talent in the correct places and developing a work/life balance for Soldiers and their families.
He attended West Point’s hockey victories over Air Force Friday and Saturday nights as part of a weekend visit to the academy where he talked about his people strategy, met with professors to learn about research being done at the academy and learned about the areas of emphasis at the academy.
“This place is a national treasure,” McConville said. “That’s how we see it in the Army and it’s absolutely key to the future of the Army. Like Gen. Peter Schoomaker used to tell us back in the day, to whom much is given, much is expected. I will say to you all, much is expected. You are graded at a much higher level.”
The academic presentation included projects from various academic fields at West Point, all of which focus on meeting the Army’s goal of modernizing and reforming in order to be ready to fight in the 21st century. These included the Squad with Autonomous Teammates-Challenge, which works to develop and test technology that can help Soldiers be more effective in ground combat. Researchers and cadets also presented the Autonomous Drone Delivery project, which is working to find more efficient ways to deploy supply drones to Soldiers in need and a 3D bioprinting project, which is working to improve survivability and care for Soldiers in combat.
“USMA is a go-to resource for grappling with the toughest challenges facing our nation and society,” Rachel Sondheimer, USMA Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, said. “USMA’s unique position at the nexus of the military establishment and academia allows us to leverage and combine the best of both worlds to produce cutting edge research as part of the development of the Army’s future leaders.”
McConville also held a leader professional development session with USMA staff and faculty where he went through his people strategy, the new talent management system for promotions and discussed the modernization efforts underway throughout the Army.
This year as part of the new talent management system, West Point was the first commissioning source to use the Market Model Branching System, which was used to assign branches to the class of 2020. The model takes into account cadets’ branch preferences and also the preferences of the branch commandants to pair cadets with a branch that can best utilize their skills.
“I think that’s going to fundamentally change the way we do business. What I’m trying to do is break down our industrial age personnel management system, which was good for the industrial age. We’ve got to compete for talent,” McConville said. “If you can put people in a place they want to be and what they want to do, they’ll do it better. It’s just human nature.”
During his visit, McConville also had the chance to visit with academy and cadet leadership, see a demonstration of the Indoor Obstacle Course Test and more.
Story by Brandon OConnor
United States Military Academy at West Point