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Gen. Martin Dempsey. / Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images

The Air Force recently uncovered a widespread cheating scandal implicating dozens of nuclear missile officers. An Army brigadier general pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct.

There have been reports of an increase in sexual harassment allegations in the military.

What's going on?

Years of war are fraying the discipline and small-unit leadership that are the bedrock of the arms profession, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

"This is not a profession in crisis, though it could become that way if left unaddressed," Dempsey told reporters aboard his plane as he flew back from a two-day trip to Israel.

This has happened before. Militaries at war become so focused on combat that they start to neglect the small, but important discipline that is a part of barracks life. The military faced similar problems after World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Barracks life is filled with inspections, training and drilling. It may be dismissed as Mickey Mouse by some soldiers, but it serves a purpose, military commanders say, by instilling discipline and enforcing good conduct.

"Over the past 12 years, our pace of operations has been such that we have neglected some of the safety nets that we have traditionally used to manage the behavior of the force," Dempsey said. "We were so busy, we simply failed to use the tools available to police ourselves."

It's been particularly hard because the burden of more than a decade of war has fallen on the tiny fraction of Americans who serve in today's all-volunteer military.

"This is the first time we've taken the all-volunteer force to war for a protracted period," Dempsey said. Some servicemen have deployed a half dozen times or more.

With U.S. troops out of Iraq and the American presence in Afghanistan declining, the U.S. military is returning to the barracks - and a renewed focus on the discipline instilled there.

The Marine Corps, for example, started requiring non-commissioned officers and officers to spend more time in the barracks, supervising junior enlisted Marines. Corporals and sergeants are usually the first ones to pick up on any morale or disciplinary problems in the barracks.

Dempsey has visited the service academies where he has challenged cadets and midshipmen to focus on the issue as young officers and not wait for direction from the brass.

"I want them to understand that the day they graduate they become owners of the profession," Dempsey said.

"There is one constant in all of this and that is leadership," Dempsey told midshipmen at the Naval Academy in a recent visit. "Don't wait around for guidance. You'll be well on your way to fixing things before you get the guidance on how to do it."

Follow @jimmichaels on Twitter



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Dempsey: 'This is not a profession in crisis'

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