Miller selected for Johnson Chair for the Study of the Profession of Arms

By Julie Imada
U.S. Air Force Academy
Center for Character & Leadership Development

On any given day, thousands of airmen work to ensure America’s enemies can’t take down critical military infrastructure through a sophisticated cyberattack. Many other thousands of airmen support, use or stand ready to use weapons with small to immense destructive effect. Still others operate satellites tens of thousands of miles from Earth. Those performing and supporting these vital missions are officers as well as enlisted and civilian personnel. Yet the common concept of the profession of arms arguably fails to capture the complexity and breadth of the people and missions that have come to be part of America’s military, and particularly its Air Force.

The Helen & Arthur E. Johnson Chair for the Study of the Profession of Arms, endowed by a significant gift via the U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment, aims to address that shortfall.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Miller, a 1980 graduate of the Air Force Academy, has been chosen to lead this effort as the inaugural Johnson Chair. Miller is well suited to facilitate the work ahead. He brings broad and critical perspective to the effort: he has deep experience in training, education, personnel, political-military and joint staff leadership; he has commanded B-1, B-2 and deployed units in Operation Enduring Freedom; and he is a former Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs.

No small undertaking

This Johnson Chair mission is no small undertaking. Ancient stereotypes and the mid-20th century work of political scientists and sociologists like Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz have powerfully shaped how Americans — both in and out of uniform -- think about the identity and roles of the American profession of arms. Based in the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development, Miller is tasked with leading the charge on research into the profession of arms and how it has changed over the last half century. He will also facilitate the discussion centered on USAFA to enhance understanding of and the operational challenges facing those who serve the modern profession of arms.

“In The Soldier and the State, a 1957 book familiar to many USAFA graduates, Samuel Huntington famously said the special competence of the profession of arms is ‘management of violence’—and it still is -- but today, it’s far more than that,” Miller said. “Huntington’s definition of the profession included only officers, yet our entire force is extraordinarily well-educated today. Answers to many other new questions, such as what valor looks like in cyberspace, have the potential to affect our understanding of the profession. The Johnson Chair is intended to help produce insights on how ancient traditions and stereotypes interact with modern technological and geopolitical imperatives. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and the citizens they serve, will all benefit from a better understanding of the nature of this modern profession and their identities in it.”

The funds for this effort, facilitated through the USAFA Endowment, underscore the commitment of the donor community to support critical missions at the Academy. They will directly benefit the education of cadets and help enhance research opportunities for faculty, both internal and external to the Department of Defense.

Tying past to present

Importantly, this new chair recognizes the contributions of a respected Colorado family who have long supported the Academy. Arthur Johnson, a Colorado businessman and president of Argo Oil Corporation beginning in the 1930s, was one of the first board members of the Air Force Academy Foundation, incorporated just weeks after Colorado Springs was selected as the Academy’s home. From his military service in World War I to his philanthropic support of basic human needs, self-sufficiency and quality of life, Johnson, along with his wife, Helen, was community-minded and focused on improving the state of Colorado.

The Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation awarded one of its final legacy grants to the Air Force Academy in November of 2016 to help faculty and cadets enhance their knowledge and preparation for service in the 21st century profession of arms. “Today’s military prepares to fight traditional adversaries in new ways, and fights enemies who do not operate by traditional norms and codes of conduct, especially as they were laid out in The Soldier and the State. Two new dynamics, especially, threaten to make traditional rules obsolete: the rise of social media and the emergence of cyberspace as a man-made domain and battlefield,” said Jennifer Bateman, USAFA Endowment vice president of development.

“As cadets leave the Academy and serve in the Middle East, for example, they are going to confront adversaries who shun traditional means of conducting warfare. We saw the most recent example of this with the use of chemical weapons in Syria at the beginning of April. The leaders we teach at the Academy are going to be in charge and have to confront situations like that. Our cadets are smart, amazing people. The Johnson Chair’s purpose is to extend our traditional definition of the profession of arms and better prepare them to master these new challenges,” Bateman said.

Looking to the future

USAFA’s renewed study of the profession of arms—enhanced by the Johnson Chair and driven by intellect and energy across the entire Academy faculty and staff—is intended to generate Air Force and joint service discussion that will influence leaders’ understanding of core issues of identity and purpose of the modern profession of arms. At the same time, as graduates from USAFA are commissioned and begin their careers, USAFA’s course of instruction must help them bring timeless values and keen, up-to-date understanding of the profession to their leadership of airmen.

The Johnson Chair’s charge is to inspire and achieve discourse, research, events and scholarly work that will prepare the Academy and its graduates to lead in the profession of arms the nation needs for tomorrow.

Collaboration and research inquiries for the Johnson Chair for the Study of the Profession of Arms can be directed to CCLD@usafa.edu.

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