General Odierno explained the fundamentals of development best when he said, “the best leaders create environments that allow individuals to grow and trust subordinates” (2014). The Army develops its own leaders which is essential to the Army’s success today and in the future. The Army’s leaders of tomorrow are in Advanced Individual Training (AIT) today and as and AIT Platoon Sergeant (PSG) I am the first line of defense to maintain an Army of competent and committed leaders with the skills and attributes necessary to progressively develop subordinate leaders so the Army can continue adapt to a changing world.
Developmental processes, such as that described in the Field Manual (FM) 6-22 Leader Development (Chapter 3), describes how a leader within an organization develops future leaders. “Army leadership requires the establishment of interpersonal relationships based on trust and setting the example for everyone- subordinates, peers, and superiors” (p. 3-1). Consistent with the Army model, the Army fundamentals of development consist of four components: setting conditions for leader development, providing feedback on a leaders actions, enhancing learning, and creating opportunities for succession of leaders.
As an Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant (AIT PSG) I am expected to train individuals not just as a junior ranking Soldier but also as the army’s future leader. Due to the nature of my job I have not focused on one example of a time I used the fundamentals of development but rather the methods in which I consistently use the army’s model.
When I first arrived at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) as a Platoon Sergeant in training, I watched my peers used minimal time to train Soldiers and I internally believed that I was going to be different. I knew that I would have specific training times set aside to produce the best, most disciplined Soldiers the operational army had ever received. I was going to spend seventy percent of my time on instructional training, twenty percent focusing on Master Resiliency Training (MRT), and ten percent on administrative processes because of course, all my attention would lead to naturally disciplined soldiers. After assuming fulltime Platoon Sergeant responsibilities however, I quickly realized that my Battles were not choosing to use minimal time; they were working within the time constraints imposed upon them. I also realized no matter how much I’d like to focus on other areas, administrative actions require most of my time. I have since learned to be deliberate about having a plan for Soldier leader development.
To set the conditions for optimal leader development I gain knowledge of my subordinates as individuals and believe in the idea that “any opportunity is a training opportunity”. By learning my Soldiers as individuals I am able to use time productively. I not only strengthen their weaknesses but I am able to develop and sharpen their strengths within time allotted. I have done this on multiple occasions by encouraging personal development and innovation by publically acknowledging and rewarding good choices. Today in fact at 0430 (on a Saturday) as usual, purely for Soldier motivation I too attended reconditioning Physical Readiness Training (RPRT) which is held for Soldiers that require additional help passing the Army Physical Fitness Test. I noticed a
Soldier that was not instructed to be in attendance, when asked why she was present she replied; I’m trying to be like you, Sergeant. While she may have been sarcastically speaking, I publically acknowledged and encouraged her initiative for personal development. I also feel however, that the decision she made to attend was in part because I have created a positive environment wherein I am present and my example to come in during personal time to do PRT motivates Soldiers to emulate my example.
Due to the time constrictions of Training Doctrine (TRADOC) Regulation 350-6, as an AITPSG I have very limited “hands on” time with the Soldiers during the weekday, as such I make or find time to observe the Soldiers. I observe quietly at the schoolhouse during Point Of Instruction (POI) hours. When observing during POI hours I check for personal challenges. During unit gatherings I observe actions and effects the Soldiers may have on their peers. During PRT hours I learn personal limits of strength and endurance. Also due to time constraints during the week most of my feedback is delivered as the action occurs. I will deliver honest feedback during PRT so that when a Soldier enters the operational Army they are able to conduct proper form and delivery. I also give immediate delivery of feedback during times of formation or upon noticing actions that go against army regulations. When giving positive feedback, I explain to the individual exactly what action is being praised, and when giving corrections I ask for the individual to explain to me the mistake and what they can do to correct the deficiency.
I feel that I most enhance learning through candor. Recently I had five Soldiers that decided amongst themselves that they did not need to attend a formation because
they had already completed the training purpose for the formation. When given corrective training one Soldier felt that she was not in the wrong. I actively listened to main points which were; she had already completed the training and that the student Platoon Guide did not know whether of not the soldier needed to stay for the formation and so she decided to leave, which she thought should count as “initiative”. As an experienced Soldier, knowing that a formation is not up for discussion or that you wait to be dismissed, I held back my initial judgments and kept in mind that this Soldier has only been in the military all of three months. I asked the Soldier several direct open-ended questions as to how she came to the conclusion that she did not need to attend formation. When all was said and done, I provided direct feedback and gave the Soldier corrective training which included research on Article 92. Upon completion of corrective training it was very apparent that the Soldier had learned the importance of following orders and I gave positive feedback to the acknowledgement of mistake and completion of corrective training.
In addition to having applicable corrective trainings I create opportunities for Soldiers to excel by collaborating with my subordinates in professional development. I explain the importance of promotion criteria and ensure that any free time is used to set the Soldier for success. When a Soldier is in holdover or holdunder status I require that the Soldier work towards completing Self Structured Development 1 (SSD1). I also
create opportunities for the Soldier to excel in physical training in the operational army by requiring the Soldier to attend RPRT if a minimum of 66 points is not recorded during diagnostic APFTs. I strive to create opportunities for professional development by incorporating promotion board requirements during Phase Up opportunities such as written biographies and testing general Army knowledge.
The Army grows its own leaders by following the fundamentals of development, as an AIT PSG while working within time constraints I use the fundamental of development daily. I have developed others by setting conditions for leader development by having a deliberate plan for development, giving candid feedback, enhancing learning through effective mentoring, and creating opportunities for Soldiers to promote and excel upon entering the operational Army.