Due to the relentlessly high OPTEMPO that many military units have had during the past 10+ years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of troops training and deploying were focused on skill sets that matched the mission at hand...regardless of whether such skills aligned well with their traditional (as per regs) career path for promotion. This was necessary, and as military personnel that's what we sign up for: completing the mission, regardless of personal sacrifice.
Generally characterized, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was to win in and among the local population centers...on the ground, with chai cups in hand. If this meant route security and your unit was stretched thin on personnel, and you were a cook, then guess what? You grabbed your M-4 and gear, and you did what you had to do. It's not a fairy tale. Cooks in my unit did it. Cooks in tons of other units have done it. I'm not suggesting that cooks are the quintessential example for personnel executing non-core tasks like this, but it's important to recognize that they did these missions to the best of their abilities, alongside combat arms personnel who were conventionally trained to do so.
The final piece of this reflection is more open-ended, as I ask you all: What effect does doing non-core tasks have on one's military career and promotability? Especially if you didn't do these tasks every once in awhile -- but for years on end, without taking time to go to your branch schools and hold traditional leadership billets in your Specialty?
Tell us your thoughts on this, and share your experiences if you were one of the countless personnel who without hesitation conducted every mission you were given to the best of your ability, even it if meant sacrificing your own career.
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