From the Green Notebook

Lead with the best version of yourself.

The Garrison Command Sergeant Major

The Garrison Command Sergeant Major

By James Brasher

You have been waiting for months and, finally, the Centralized Selection List (CSL) results are published. You have been wondering which brigade you are going to assume responsibility for. You open up the CSL, see your name, and the brigade you are assigned is…a garrison. How you react is proportional to how well you managed your  expectations. Nevertheless, you are about to have a rewarding experience.

How to Build an SFAB: Lessons Learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

How to Build an SFAB: Lessons Learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

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By Gerard Spinney

Maneuver Advisor Teams (MATs) from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) are creating their own legacy. As one of the first U.S. Army units purposefully built for advising, our MAT helped prove the advisor force structure concept. We were tasked with advising an Afghan Kandak (Battalion) during our deployment and now we are tasked with developing how best to train a team capable of advising partner nation security forces anywhere in the world. Our MAT captured our lessons learned and creatively applied them to our current training plan. Advising skills are developed and tested in the field, and here’s how they can translate into better preparation for our next employment.

SFABs were created to lessen the burden on the brigade combat teams for Security Force Assistance (SFA) missions. Small teams of advisors are not a new concept. The U.S. Army has been forming ad hoc advising elements from brigade combat teams and employing them in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Maneuver Advisor Teams are different than the ad hoc teams. An SFAB has thirty-six MATs, specifically designed with 11 experienced non-commissioned officers with several different mission operational specialties and a post company command captain. MATs are the decisive element within an SFAB. Since the formation of SFABs, there is a new standard for how advising is conducted. With more preparation, additional resources, and a structured recruitment process, the pressure is high for the MATs to excel in advising operations. 

Developing the plan

We knew we had to capitalize on our lessons from Afghanistan. Initially, our post-deployment training included similar tasks and events any regular Army unit would face after returning from a deployment. First and foremost we conducted reset of our equipment and began fielding new equipment. Much of our newly fielded communications equipment was unfamiliar. 

Based on our experience in Afghanistan, we identified a requirement to maintain a focus on integrating communications training in anything we planned to do. Collectively we prioritized our training objectives and started planning our training. Following guidance from our higher headquarters, our team training objectives were to become master trainers of our warfighting functions, be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously, and that we all must be capable of winning a fight.  

The Unofficial Guide to Hosting a Distinguished Visitor

The Unofficial Guide to Hosting a Distinguished Visitor

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By: Thang Tran, Nick Luis, Barrett Martin, and Rudy Weisz

Military leaders plan, resource, and execute combat patrols and administrative directives on a daily basis and are well prepared and trained to do so.  In contrast, one task that most subordinate leaders are undertrained for is hosting a Distinguished Visitor (DV). DVs range from senior military commanders, congressional delegations (CODELs), staff delegation (STAFFDELs), or higher headquarters’ staff members.

All visits are the same, but different. Planning and resourcing a DV visit is the same, but each visit’s execution should be tailored appropriately for the specific audience. Higher headquarters within the Department of Defense have protocol offices with a robust staff that are charged with planning, coordinating, and executing DV visits, complete with established standard operating procedures outlined in official documents such as the Air Force Pamphlet 34-1202 and TRADOC Memorandum 1-16. However, these resources do not help tactical formations coordinate and host a DV at their headquarters or outstations.

Lessons listed below come from hosting numerous DVs in various environments and are aimed at educating decision makers, leveraging additional resources, and showcasing our people. The opportunities DV events provide for tactical units require staffs and commanders to diligently plan, resource, and execute such visits.

Before the Event

Mindset: Everybody Freaks Out. Overthinking a DV visit is usually what stresses people out more than the actual visit. If a DV is considered “high threat,” do not feel like you can micromanage every aspect of how he or she will feel. Have a sense of conviction in what you say and you just may be a breath of fresh air.

Know Your Audience. Contact the DV’s personal staff, chief of staff, or executive assistant well before the visit. Confirm their intent, goals, expectations, timeline, and any pet peeves. Verify which medium – written, verbal, or graphic – they prefer. More importantly, know their background and understand how your operations fit into their priorities. For all DVs, read their biography and priorities.  For CODELs, study relevant Congressional Research Service reports. For Country Teams (Ambassador, Chief of Station, Defense Attaches), review the Integrated Country Strategy. The purpose is to understand your audience and produce a program that is nested with their intent and interests.

Predictability. Coordinate all details such as timeline, uniform, and meeting location and publish a detailed schedule through the DV’s staff ahead of time. Doing so provides them time to prepare an engagement strategy and talking points. When things inevitably change, simply update the DV upon initial contact. Plan for a structured and controlled visit – no surprises. Finally, rehearse the visit. The schedule will always veer off course, so ensure you rehearse the scheme of maneuver with all participants so it is professionally executed.

Hosting the Visit

Prioritize and Be Flexible. Much like all missions, your plan will not survive first contact. The DV will show up with a different timeline, more people, or their own vision for the visit. Stay flexible and focus on their priorities for the visit. Through research, you know why they are visiting. Prioritize and be deliberate in addressing concerns and providing candid feedback to support their decision making process. It is the reason for their visit, so deliver. Ensure your peers and subordinate leaders know the priorities and have a plan to conduct the visit in split teams if needed to meet the timeline and accommodate the audience. For example, it might be a better use of time to have a subordinate leader take the senior NCO, J3, etc. on a site tour and talk through your unit’s needs while you take the DV through your more formal brief and agenda.

An Open Letter to Battalion Commanders: How to Use Social Media

An Open Letter to Battalion Commanders: How to Use Social Media

Social media platforms offer children exciting but frightening environmentsBy Scotty Autin

 

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I feel like most of us are missing an opportunity.  We’re missing a chance to get the command messages out to audiences and shape the narrative of our units.  More so, we’re missing a chance to talk directly to our Soldiers, their families, the larger Army, and even the American public.  

In a post late last year, Gen. Robert Abrams penned an article published on this site titled, “Social Media: Senior Leaders Need to Get on the Bus.” If you haven’t had a chance to read his article, take some time to read it before you proceed here.  It gives you a great understanding of why leaders need to be on social media. Likewise, the US Army laid out a comprehensive overview of how to use social media with most of it focused on the official accounts for brigade and above.  From here forward, for those nondigital natives like me, I hope to lay out a way that battalion commanders can leverage social media.

First and foremost, you have to think of social media as a virtual hangout as it relates to interacting and engaging with Soldiers and families.  It exists and your Soldiers are there and active in it. Whether or not you choose to be present, the thoughts, ideas, and narratives are progressing with or without you.  For me, I had the benefit of witnessing some really good leaders and public affairs experts that understand how to use social media as a force projection and multiplication platform.  With that, I’ll lay out a strategy that can help you wrap your head around how to be a leader on social media. This is based on three key points.

The Special Projects Officer Guide to Event Planning

The Special Projects Officer Guide to Event Planning

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By Zachary Griffiths

Military officers plan and execute complex operations. Junior officers cut their teeth on platoon attacks, convoys, military balls, and even conferences. These latter events are hardly new challenges. The Army Officer’s Guide of 1917 recommends event planners establish six planning committees, covering everything from invitations to music and dancing. Planning big events begins up to a year out and requires detailed planning.

The lessons outlined below come from my two years of experience with Senior Conference, an annual event administered by West Point’s Department of Social Sciences. Senior Conference brings about 60 distinguished guests – 30 panelists and 30 participants – to West Point for about two days each April.  This year’s conference aimed to help the United States Army Pacific develop a more comprehensive understanding of the Indo-Pacific region.

Once a conference wraps up, planning for the next year begins immediately. Senior Conference relies on a team that consists of three part-time planners  but surges to more than thirty during execution.

Other events may differ significantly from our model, but these tips, presented in rough chronological order, should resonate with anyone assigned to lead a military event.

How to Write a Blog Post

How to Write a Blog Post

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By Joe Byerly

Since launching From the Green Notebook in 2013, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other military professionals who want to write, but feel they are unable to get words down on paper.  

A blank page is a tough obstacle for many writers to overcome. Several times, I’ve struggled to move past the endless cycle of writing the first line and then deleting it. Fortunately, more times than not, I did find the words to write. I’ve written more than 100 articles, blog posts, and even a chapter in a forthcoming book. However, it doesn’t come easy at first.

I’ve been able to write because of the strategies I adopted after I got tired of the “write a line, delete a line” method.

Speak to a Crowd

Before I write, I pretend that I’m going to give a talk on what I want to write about to a crowd. Sometimes I imagine I’m going to speak to young company-grade officers who are eager to learn about _________(I fill in the blank with that idea chewing on). Sometimes I imagine that I’m going to speak about ________(fill in the blank) to my peers and NCOs who not only feel like they don’t need to read what I’m writing, but look upon it with skepticism. 

This mental exercise does two things: First, it allows me to develop a clear message that I want to convey through writing. When I try to write without fully developing my message, my work is all over the place with no real thread running through it. Next, this exercise allows me to tailor the message. By knowing exactly who I’m speaking to (or writing for), I can work out what details I need to add or omit. I know if I need to be casual or serious, if I can write like I would speak or if I need something more polished.

How to Plan for Your Company Change of Command

How to Plan for Your Company Change of Command

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By: Captain Andrew V. Jazbec

A change of command is a critical time for an organization. Quite often, military blogs, social networks, and Center for Army Lessons Learned handbooks publish helpful lists outlining the first 90 days of command. As the Army Handbook for Leader Transitions outlines, these lists help a new commander set up their team, manage expectations, and establish routines. In fact, the article from which this work receives its namesake focuses on a new leader establishing themselves in their organization. However, there is also a science and art to relinquishing command efficiently that is discussed less frequently.  A poorly orchestrated change of command or leader transition can slow a unit down, create turmoil, and critically endanger readiness. Leaders must actively take part in effectively managing leader transitions to enable future success for their organization.

Luckily, the change of command process has been successfully executed for generations and you can do it too. As a framework, an outgoing commander can apply the operations process to leader transitions. Outgoing commanders must drive this process by adequately visualizing, describing, and directing subordinate leaders through an acceptable course of action for the transition. By doing so, leaders frame critical tasks for the organization and enable positive change.

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The Operations Process, ADRP 5-0

Step 1: Plan

Your time spent planning ensures you are not scrambling to sign that last form or fill that last shortage in the final hours before the ceremony. At the Company level, planning should begin 120 days prior to the transition to give ample time for gathering the necessary information and maximizing your opportunity to mitigate potential challenges that may arise.