Lead with the best version of yourself.

Searching for a Purpose in Professional Military Education

by David Kahan

My time at the Captain’s Career Course (CCC) was a disappointment. 

Arriving at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in April 2022, I hoped that Military Intelligence CCC (MICCC) might help either to prepare me for my next position or teach me useful skills that could be broadly applied within Military Intelligence (MI). 

Neither proved to be the case. 

Instead, I was met by a poorly designed course that left all attendees that I spoke with feeling unprepared for their follow-on assignments. It was not only difficult to engage with material that is of little use to our military careers, but even more so in an environment that diminished our experience over the past three to four years in leadership roles. This was exacerbated by the Army’s requirement that officers planning on separating within the next two years still attend. The end result was an expensive Army investment that seemed to only increase officers’ desire to separate as soon as possible. But perhaps the most frustrating part of all is the knowledge that the Army does have the resources to provide a more enriching, engaging and overall worthwhile educational experience. 

Counterproductive Leadership: Impact to People and the Organization

by Jakob Hutter

Effective leaders who demonstrate confidence, courage, compassion, and character enable an organization’s success. Stay in any organization long enough, and you will understand that counterproductive leaders can leave serious harm to both the individual and to the organization. These behaviors are not immune from any one individual, but regardless of where it occurs, the short- and long-term effects can be destructive and detrimental to the future success of the organizational climate and culture. It is important then to understand what leaders are responsible for, the impact of counterproductive behaviors, and how you can recognize and overcome these behaviors to benefit your team and organization.

Sixteen Things I Wish I Could Tell My Senior Rater

Authors’ Note: The authors of this post, @notyourtacofficer and @therecoveringcommander, are mid-career, post company-command officers wallowing in their KD-complete broadening assignment lives and contemplating what’s next. Referred to as the, “meme-lords of a generation” by literally no one, their views are their own and do not represent the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or From the Green Notebook. 

Many a well-meaning senior leader shares their personal leadership philosophy or a, “how to handle me” letter and while it’s important to understand, “how the boss thinks”, we feel that many of our leaders fail to understand us as well. Especially in the Profession of Arms, we are duty-bound to obey orders that are legal, moral, and ethical. Yet, as much as leaders say that they want candid feedback, there are “unspoken truths” that are often contradictory to the “unspoken norms”. Dr. Lenny Wong demonstrated that the Army has a problem lying to itself and this problem persists

We offer these perspectives as the junior military officer audience that LTC Dominick Edwards sought to reach (on this same website no less) in 2016. By no means is this a response or rebuff of his points: the authors of this article were First Lieutenants when LTC Edwards published this piece and could very well have been the ratees he sought to reach. We find many of them to be clear and relatable and with a few more years of service, may find ourselves agreeing with even more. Moreover, sharing your ideas publicly is admirable and we are grateful that leaders such as this consistently give of themselves to the profession. Thank you, Sir. Truly.

Despite claims of open door policies and that “feedback is a gift”, we humbly offer some truths that those you senior rate may hesitate to share with you and a handful of tips to help you understand their perspectives. Here are 16th truths your ratees believe you don’t understand and aren’t willing to risk telling you:

Thinking Like a Fox: The Military’s New High Ground

by Nate Bump 

In our modern world, complexities abound.  As a result, many assume more specialists focusing on challenges like ‘strategic competition’ is the answer. However, evidence supports officers specializing as generalists via a multidisciplinary method of thinking can offer an asymmetric advantage against a backdrop of wicked problem sets.  

This post will not advocate for abolishing specialization in the military; however, the necessity to identify, develop and recognize the utility of our military’s multidisciplinary leaders at all levels, ranks, and functions in an era of increasing uncertainty offers a pathway to recapture our competitive advantage in the cognitive domain.

Our Sloppy Over-Reliance on Texting

by Jack Hadley

Farewelled by my unit and signed out on PCS leave, I stood at a German train station headed to the airport. Then my phone went ding! I reflexively glanced at it, feeling a small but noticeable tinge of stress. I was no longer a Company Executive Officer (XO), but my pavlovian response to text messages had been trained into me for months. The XO group chat. I opened the message. Just a request for help from an adjacent XO—no crisis. Still, the message sucked me back into the distraction-filled task execution I had eagerly awaited leaving behind. So right there, at the train station, I decided it was finally time to exit all seven XO-related group chats. A cathartic wave of relief washed over me. I finally felt free.

Why was my group text exodus so liberating? Because these group texts were the symbol and source of my greatest professional frustration while serving in a Brigade Combat Team (BCT): our sloppy over-reliance on texting. The effects of our poor text communication habits include spotty and ever-changing ‘guidance’, inefficient task coordination, normalized distraction, and, as a result, dissatisfied soldiers. These negative effects’ accrual will affect our combat readiness–if we don’t change our current texting norms.  

Don’t Look the Part, Be the Part

by Oren Abusch

In the early spring of 2020, my Battalion ran a two-week marksmanship course. Each day, NCOs would go to the range to hone their shooting skills and, on one particular range day, I noticed an NCO kitted in the most expensive after-market gear money could buy: an OpsCore helmet, Peltor ear-protection, a water-cooled plate carrier, Lowa boots, and a Crye-Precision Combat blouse and pants. Simply stated, he looked the part of a tried and tested warrior. 

However, he was struggling to zero. Finally, in a fit of frustration, one of our more senior NCOs looked at him sarcastically and said “all that Crye, and no precision.” 

His remark captures a core issue in our current army: a culture that values looking lethal over lethality itself.

Opportunities and Applications for Executive Coaching in the Army

by BG Brett Funck

It’s likely “coach, teach, and mentor” is a familiar phrase for those in the Army.  However, understanding and differentiating the three items is less familiar. The Army is growing its exposure to executive coaching and learning along the way. The focus of this short article is executive coaching, how it differs from mentoring, and possible risks.

A leader most commonly selects a mentor to provide guidance, advice, support, and insights based on their years of experience. Simply put, the younger leader asking questions of the more seasoned leader. The mentor provides insights and most commonly a path to solution. This is the most common form of mentoring, but not the only way. Mentoring still belongs in the Army; however, leader growth is more significant with a complementary mixture of mentoring and executive coaching. 

Making the Case for an Army Peer-to-Peer Rewards Program

by Aaron “Butch” Pucetas

The Army’s current rewards system is mostly top-down, leader-driven, and formal in nature. If a Soldier excels in an event or area, their supervisor recommends them for a reward and it is processed through the chain of command. Once verified and approved by the chain of command, the Soldier is rewarded with time off, recognition at a unit formation, and/or an award that improves their performance file. In this rewards system, it is up to the supervisor to witness the exemplary behavior and initiate the process. Then the chain of command must verify and approve the reward. Furthermore, the accounting of the rewards is left to the unit. Command teams and their public affairs professionals must mine unit newsletters, S1 files/systems, and other data sources to paint a picture of how many “good things” happened in the unit over a given quarter or year.

Lessons Learned Leading Zero-Experience Ad-Hoc Teams

by Brad Crosson

Thanks to a recurring overseas exercise, I have had several opportunities to take about two dozen people who have never met before and quickly turn them into a functioning team. I measure my impromptu teams’ success by how well these strangers turn into a team in three short intense weeks. There are a few thoughts that come to mind that help direct my actions. Hopefully you find them useful should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

The Cornerstone of Our Profession

By Marc Meybaum

As we raise our right hand, our oath is expected to be, and must be, an honest commitment to serve. Honesty is called forth in the very first act of every military service member in our modern volunteer force. It is our first act of spoken truth as we pledge to support and defend the constitution.  

This expectation of honesty nurtures the very trust and confidence that the American people have in military service members. An argument can be made that honesty is the virtue that underpins many others within the context of our military service. Honesty is necessary to embody other virtues vital to military service such as obedience, discipline, courage, integrity and likely others. If trust is the foundation, honesty must be a cornerstone of our profession, and it exists in various forms, in our actions, in our thoughts, as intellectual honesty, and in our words.