Posted for MAJ David Little, CGSC, SG 5A
CGSC Class 12-02 had the opportunity today to listen to a panel of former brigade commanders who discussed their experiences and provided their perspectives and advice on everything from training to leader development. The distinguished panel consisted of: COL Tom Guthrie (Director of the Center for Army Leadership), COL Thomas Hollis (Chief of Staff of the Mission Command Center of Excellence), COL James Rainey (Director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence), and COL Charles Sexton COL Sexton (Commander of the Mission Command Training Program)
The panel framed the discussion for the audience by opening up with their thoughts on expectations for field-grade officers in battalions and brigades. Additionally, they shared their thoughts on the Army’s pending transition as we pull out of Afghanistan and the counter insurgency (COIN) environment we’ve been operating in for the past ten years. The class of future field-grade staff officers was then afforded the unique opportunity to ask the panel any questions.
The panel offered insight to the first question which asked how their perspectives on deployment priorities had changed from then they were a staff officer to a commander. The panel seemed to universally respond with the theme of mastering time and resource management. COL Guthrie reminded the audience that, “You can’t do it all, but you have to figure out what’s important.” COL Hollis said that field grades “must become a master of resource and time management, the commander will set the priorities.” COL Rainey offered the advice that all leaders must additionally set a priority filter on how leaders approach everything by 1st priority is mission accomplishment, 2nd priority is to protect the men and women in the command, 3rd is everything else. COl Sexton echoed the emphasis on mission accomplishment and resource management, but also warned, “never expect the time needed to train will always be available, so train like your going to be at war tomorrow. Train and prepare your formations for the uncertainty the world brings.”
When asked about their lessons learned on different leader’s philosophies, COL Rainey reminded the audience, that all commander’s are different, and that staff officers would have to adapt to that commander. It is the field-grade’s role to be complimentary to the command and the organization, and to reinforce, augment, and fill the gaps as needed. This critical advise was echoed by the panel. COL Guthrie shared his personal story of expecting to affect tremendous change quickly after taking command, but reflected and advised that “change doesn’t have to happen immediately – take a step back off of the ledge and understand that some of the things you wanted to do may never get done, and may not need to get done. You don’t need to tear down the whole system and start over, but take a good look at the organization and tweak what needs to be tweaked.”
The question was asked for advise on addressing conflicts with both the commander and with the Command Sergeant Major. After some humorous comments, the panel universally advised that when it comes to legal, ethical, and moral issues, then, in COL Rainey’s words, the confrontation “is no longer a dilemma, it’s a responsibility.” Each leader offered techniques which focused on engaging in an appropriate discussion aimed at gaining better understanding of the issue, rather than being confrontational and divisive. COL Sexton also stated, that you must “be prepared to accept the fact that you could be wrong and understand that there could be another route to the objective.” On the subject of S3/XO conflicts with the CSM, the panel wisely explained that the CSM is a part of the command team, and the commander should not be forced to step in and choose sides. It is the staff officer’s job to work with the CSM to resolve the conflict between them. COL Hollis reminded the audience that they would need to “Check your ego. Field grade officers are there to enable to organization, not cause tension and friction.”
The panel asserted that leadership is the most important aspect of our jobs in the Army, assuring the audience that staff officers like S3s and XOs are still leaders that the Soldiers look up to, despite the fact they aren’t green-tabers. To address the question of the panel’s perspective on leadership development programs in their formations, the panel each assured the critical need and top priority to create effective leader development programs, each offering their own take on the process.
Overall the panel provided candid yet valuable advice and guidance that each audience member could identify with, and more importantly apply in their own careers. The panel members then transitioned to the classrooms for more intimate leadership discussions in the classrooms. Class 12-02 is exceptionally lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with these exceptional experienced leaders.