The Military Morale Challenge

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US military forces are facing a new challenge following a significant decrease in direct combat operations. As the US transitions into long term operations, as opposed to direct combat, many sectors of the military see the rising of the so called “morale challenge”.

“There is absolutely, when we get right down to deck plates, there’s a morale challenge, because there’s a lot of folks that quite frankly have joined the organization with a vision of what their day’s work, what their career would look like, and that’s rapidly morphing and changing,” Rear Adm. Jeromy Williams, commander of US Special Operations Command Pacific, said Wednesday during a panel at the SOF Week 2023 conference in Tampa, Florida.

Williams’ comments came after he was asked if he had seen any issues with the transition away from counter-terrorism operations to “campaigning” as the US settles in for a long-term competition, especially in the Pacific, with China.

“Some of our folks don’t have as much experience in competition,” said Williams, himself a former Navy SEAL. “The thing that we have to be very careful [of] is our cultural affinity in terms of the bias for action, our desire to gravitate back to what we know versus embrace what [we are] maybe a little apprehensive or insecure about.”

However, US Special Operations Command head Gen. Bryan Fenton seems to disagree with William’s opinion. Fenton told Breaking Defense the morale issue is “absolutely not” something he’s seen himself nor heard in his discussions with commanders around the globe.