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As war wanes, how will US military retain its best warriors?

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"I'm always amazed at the talent we have in our Army, especially our junior leaders across the board. The challenge for us now is to continue to engage them in such a way that they're committed to staying in the Army," says Kim, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. "I know that the Army as a whole is very mindful of that – everyone gets it. It is not something we cannot look at and wish away."

Often, challenging soldiers – who have had unprecedented authority on the battlefield for a decade – will involve giving them more say in how they prepare for future conflicts. Previously, back at home bases, "suffice it to say, you have had significantly less authority than you do outside the FOB [forward operating base]" during a time of war, says Gen. Robert Cone, head of US Training and Doctrine Command.

Now, senior military leaders are going to have to recognize that young veteran officers expect some measure of deference to their experience.

"In the past we've been very centralized and issued orders because that was the threat we faced – you needed to be very lock step," says Col. Robert "Pat" White, deputy commander of the Combined Arms Center-Training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

"These young soldiers expect you to tell them the 'why' of just about everything," he adds. "It's no longer 'just execute' – it's 'give me the why, give me the intent, and allow me to collect information within the left and right limits of the order that's just been given.' "

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