The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders. The professional army had numerous positive attributes. It also had limitations. Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars. What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced. As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?


September 1, 2011 - Posted by | H100 | , , , , , ,


  1. Today’s western professional soldiers do indeed share attributes with the force of Fredrick the Great. Many of these attributes are identified in the US Army’s Profession of Arms White paper.
    First, both groups of Army professionals are widely considered experts in their field. These soldiers are bound by a shared identity and service to their nation (or ideal). Although, one could argue the actual freedom of choice in the 18th century; both sets of professional soldiers serve as volunteers to their cause.
    Finally, both the 18th and 21st century professionals train as a unit and maintain a professional standard of accepted behavior. When a violation of this standard occurs, there exists a mechanism for discipline and adherence; corporal punishment in the 18th century, and the UCMJ in the 21st.

    Comment by Maj Christopher Duffett, USAF, 17D | September 1, 2011

  2. The United States military forces today do share attributes with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia. Specifically, Frederick and the new paradigm army in the 18th Century demanded perfection in drill and discipline. Although the harshness of discipline and punishments are not the same today, the portability and application of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as a tool for commanders is similar in concept and absolutely necessary for maintaining good order and discipline.

    As articulated in the 1974 US Supreme Court case, Parker v. Levy (417 U.S. 733), courts have long recognized “that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society.” Because of this, the military developed its own laws and traditions “during its long history.” Today this law is embodied within the UCMJ.

    The Court states in Parker v. Levy that “[t]he differences between the military and civilian communities result from the fact that ‘it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to fight wars should the occassion arise.” Moreover, an “Army is not a deliberative body. It is the executive arm. Its law is that of obedience. No question can be left open as to the right to command in the officer, or the duty of obedience in the soldier” (Orloff v. Willoughby, 345 U.S. 83, 94 (1953)). The commission is where this authority is vested.

    Ultimately, “the rights of men in the armed forces must perforce be conditioned to meet certain overriding demands of discipline and duty” (Burns v. Wilson, 346 U.S. 137, 140 (1953). Consequently, our Supreme Court has generally held the position that our business in applying an internal set of law for good order and discipline within the armed forces is absolutely necessary and relevant to the military institution.

    Comment by MAJ N. Hummel, 17B | September 2, 2011

  3. The professional army concept dramatically changed European warfare in numerous ways.

    1. Unlike militia based or conscripted armies, professional armies had the discipline to stand their ground and absorb the punishment of the opposing forces. This was critical since many 18th century tactics included exchange of volleys between opposing forces. This tactic was used to break the will of the opponent. Thus, discipline was paramount to this tactic.

    2. Professional armies received much more training than the previous armies raised by most kingdoms (excluding the mercenary companies of the time). This provided kingdoms/nations with forces that knew simple maneuvers and some combined arms tactics, unlike the mix matched forces previously raised.

    3. Professional armies were supplied and paid by the kingdoms/nations. This meant that they were less likely to prey upon the local villages to meet their supply needs. This decreased the likelihood of peasant uprisings against the rulers and their armies.

    4. Lastly, professional armies had to be maintained year around. This meant that rulers had to have a steady income (taxes) to support their military. Since professional armies’ existence were tied to rulers’ ability to tax their nations they were then used by rulers to collect taxes. This enforced rulers’ claim/right to tax their subjects.

    Comment by MAJ Chris Moore, 17A | September 2, 2011

  4. The 18th Century may have seen the perfection of the concept of the professional Army, but this concept was hardly new. It was merely an improvement upon a concept that has existed since at least 106 BC when the Marius reforms to the Roman Army were initiated.
    Garius Marius found himself faced with a conflict in the province of Gaul with insufficient troops to confront the invading African tribe. Raising an army at this time was difficult due to the strict eligibility requirements to become a Roman soldier. A potential soldier must be in the fifth or higher census class and must be able to supply their own weapons and armor. A member of the fifth census class owned land worth at least 3500 sesterces (one sesterce consisted of a 2.5 gram silver coin).
    In order to raise the Army needed Marius did what our Army often does when faced with a recruiting shortage, he lowered the entry requirements. Actually, he eliminated the requirements and offered the peasant masses the opportunity to become professional soldiers. His soldiers were recruited for enlistments of 16 years initially and were given the opportunity to share in the spoils from military campaigns. Marius provided standardized training and equipment for his soldiers and implemented his reforms throughout the Roman Legions creating a standing army of professional soldiers.
    These reforms, like the reforms instituted in the 18th century, improved the readiness of the empire (or kingdom) and the military capability of the armies. When war was threatened the Emperor (or king) no longer had to recruit a citizen army, quickly train and equip it and fight a war with green Soldiers or rely on hired mercenaries whose loyalty was questionable. Instead the Emperor (or king) had a well-equipped, trained, and often seasoned, standing professional army.
    Source: and

    Comment by MAJ Rick Mercer | September 4, 2011

  5. The US Army is currently conducting an internal assessment after ten years of war using the Profession of Arms as the starting point. It uses a list of ten attributes to define the profession of arms. These ten attributes are evenly split between the Army and the individual’s responsibility. The Armies of the 18th Century encompassed some of the attributes of the profession. However, they did not instill those attributes of The Professional. Both Armies reflect the importance of expertise, development, and service to the nation. We can debate if they shared the remaining two attributes of trust and values.

    I believe that Fredrick’s Army was lacking in the attributes that define a professional. His Army did value individual skill and duty as part of being a professional, but the remaining three attributes have developed in armies over time. Our leaders today understand the importance of trust, leadership and character. Fear is not primary motivator to ensure discipline. The Army does not tolerate leaders whose character or leadership ability is called into question. The recent replacement of toxic battalion and brigade commanders is an example of this commitment to the profession.

    I want to change my direction to comment of the idea of drill and discipline. The difference between the two army’s means to discipline a Solider is easily identified. But, are there similarities in the way we drill as Soldiers? The basic drill of an 18th century Soldier is similar to what we call Drill and Ceremony (D&C) today, but the purpose behind training differs. We use D&C for formal ceremonies and to conduct garrison movements. 18th Century leaders used D&C as a means to control chaos during battle. It was used to master the individual Soldier actions throughout the battle. Through drill, Soldiers followed the Officer’s orders with immediate action and obedience. This concept is still trained in today’s military by using different drills than those of the 18th Century Army.

    The Army’s field manual 3-21.8 list the battle drills for the platoon and squad. These are only a few of the drills Soldiers are trained to conduct. Every base in Iraq, no matter the size, has a drill to react to direct or indirect contact and gain accountability. Every patrol that leaves the base has a drill to conduct causality evacuation. These drills are published and trained until they become second nature. The Army continues this drill process down to the individual Soldier level. In LT.COL. Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret.) book, he argues that individual marksmanship is a form of drill. Drill is defined by Webster as: to fix something in the mind or habit pattern of by repetitive instruction. During the marksmanship drill: a target pops up, Soldier conducts BARS (breath, aim, relax, squeeze) and the target falls down. This automatic reaction is critical to success during the chaos of war. Leaders expect this reaction from their subordinates without having to give the direct order to return fire. The training of a Soldier’s mind through drill has been done since the 18th Century and continues to this day.

    Comment by MAJ Ryan Barnett, 17D | September 5, 2011

  6. We have field manuals and SOPs that for all levels in our Army. The Armies of old had individuals that expressed professionalism but it was hard for it to spread with great success. Yes it has an effect, we change our doctrine and went to FSO. Over the past eight years our professionalism has been tried and tested, but because of the doctrines we have in place and the training that has enhanced Soldiers we have survived. We evolve every year and looking at our documents like the National Defense Strategy and etc we will continue to evolve and change with the environment. Development and Professionalism of our Soldiers was one of the cornerstones of our National military strategy and one of the tenets that will shape the future of our Military.

    Comment by MAJ Carl Mason, 17A | September 6, 2011

  7. I will start with the first question, attributes and limitations. Some of the attributes have already been stated: drill and training, higher discipline. Other attributes included the use of larger forces, preferring speed of movement to precision, building a larger infrastructure (fortifications) and better use of logistics as well as limited engagement (fighting to maintain territory and not necessarily conquer new lands).

    The main limitation was cost (and remains so today). The technological changes of the day and the educational requirements required money. The building of forts and the supplies needed to maintain these new larger armies also required a vast amount of resources.

    Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military affect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century? Yes. One common thread is that of our limitations due to logistics as evidenced by the “operational pause” in OIF in 2003 due to overstretched supply lines.

    Another similarity is that US public opinion makes political leaders risk averse when it comes to war. In this regard, “limited war” is something that we will continue to have in common with the 18th century for some time to come.

    Comment by MAJ Efrain Ramos | September 6, 2011

  8. The effects of this new 18th Century professional army were profound. It was among the first to professionalize the Officer Corps as combat leaders and gave the military officer social standing. This paradigm also gave at least equal standing to drill and tactics as it did to mass and economy of fires. However, the drawbacks included the rigid discipline that was a byproduct of the recruitment of the average soldier, and the taxes that were necessary to maintain a standing army even in times of peace.
    One can still see details of Frederick’s army in today’s military. The Officer Corps still enjoys social standing, although most of the daily soldier tasks and drill fall to the NCO Corps. Taxes and the defense budget still dominate politics as it did in past centuries. One notable difference is that the modern soldier has responsibilities and trust placed upon him or her that the 18th centry officer would never have conceived. This is due not only to the evolution in the nature of warfare but also of the higher quality soldier recruited into the modern army.

    Comment by Matthew Wilder, 17D | September 6, 2011

  9. The attributes of the military does effect how the Army wages war in the 18th Century and today. Our soldiers today still fight, endure wounds, amputations and death but their conditions of service are so much better that they would be astonished if they read the accounts left by their ancestors who fought in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular wars against Napoleon. Modern armies enlist some women, not so 18th Century armies though one or two women did fight disguised as men. But some women followed the army in the Peninsular War and were officially recognised. The usual number was 6 per regiment. Some were of great help to the soldiers, others brawling, drunken nuisances. Today women are of high qulity and accomplish as much or even more than most men in the Army.

    Comment by MAJ Wayne Kinney | September 7, 2011

  10. 1. Some of the effects we saw with the rise of the professional army in the way war was waged in the 18th Century were:

    – Discipline. We saw the formations that would maneuver as a unit and were willing (or various reasons) to stand toe to toe with the opposing forces. As a result of their ability to not break ranks, we saw the beginnings of massing of fires.

    – Training. We saw the emergence of a better trained force. The methods may not have been what we would consider acceptable to today’s standards, but they did receive more formalized training, that was suspect at best prior to.

    – Logistics. This is a time we saw some further development in the concept of Supply trains. Although not perfect (far from it), they were a beginning as the forces realized they had to sustain their force logistically (and operationally) in order to continue forward on their campaigns.

    2. Some of the attributes of the professional military forces we share with the Prussian Army were:
    – Positive: Functional Officer Corps, use of Fire and Maneuver and ability to mass fire
    – Negative: Tendency towards draconian (toxic) leadership and tendencies to out fight logistics.

    3. The professional attributes of the U.S. military that effect how the it wages war in our current state isn’t very similar to the way war was waged during the 18th Century? The modern force was more similar during the cold war when we focused on the linear fight. However, in the last decade we have been forced to fight a full spectrum of operations and have had to adapt to weigh the impacts on the local populations where the wars are waged. I suspect the war fighters of the 18th century didn’t worry too much about things such as swaying the populace, collateral damage, humanitarian aid and support localized political primacy. Particularly the last point, localized political primacy, was likely the opposite, I would suspect the 18th century war fighter want to de-legitimize the established governments more than build it up.

    Comment by MAJ George E. Chittenden SG17A | September 9, 2011

  11. Yes, today’s professional soldiers share attributes similar to those of Frederick the Great’s Prussia. A few examples are evident in how the 18th century required perfection in drill and discipline. Both are required in our services today. Though discipline is different, our discipline is more lenient. They preferred harsh, corporal punishment and we utilize UCMJ in order to maintain discipline and order. Additionally, we maintain professionalism through the use of doctrine, TTPs, SOPs, training and FMs. We also utilize Joint Strategy publications, depending on the environment we are operating in.

    Comment by MAJ LaShaunda Jackson 17A | September 19, 2011

  12. Ryan does a good job of highlighting the ongoing discussion of “The Profession of Arms” and the attributes that define our profession. I agree that professionalism was relegated to second-tier status as drill and discipline (in terms of training and skills) were placed at the forefront of 18th century armies.

    George also raises some good questions in terms of operational considerations between our modern army and those armies in the 18th century. I would agree that, today, we take more careful consideration the impact collateral damage will have. We also place more importance on IO in swaying the local populace than our predecessors did.

    Comment by MAJ Efrain Ramos | September 21, 2011

  13. Is the reason we consider collateral damage and civilian causalities because of how technology forces IO?

    With the given technology and speed of information, we have to be “The Profession of Arms” of today to ensure the will of the people maintains our ability to win militarily.

    I would say that there are similarities of today’s army to the 18th century, but we have taken professionalism to a much higher degree.

    Comment by MAJ Chris Holmes / 17A | September 25, 2011

  14. I concur with MAJ Mason, in that the army is built on pillars of education and training. We are constantly updating, revising, deleting and/or changing regulations and SOP’s as we use lessons learned from the battlefield. We have gone from a military that trained for battle against communism towards one that focuses on terrorism. Like the armies of the 18th century, we continue to train and focus on improving our military capabilities, no matter what situation presents. C2, training, size and structure of deployable forces, providing equipment focused on efficiency and reduction of casualties are a few examples. Continually updating tactics, equipment and training, are instrumental in achieving this. As previously mentioned, cost was, and still is, a limiting factor. Like the professional military of the 18th century, 21st century Soldiers are well trained and disciplined. In both eras, the armies fight better and win wars because they know they are doing it for the nation state.

    Comment by MAJ Kim DeJesus, 17A | October 2, 2011

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