From the Green Notebook
MY GREEN NOTEBOOK by JOE BYERLY & CASSIE CROSBY IS AVAILABLE NOW
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by M. Chris Wingate
Perception is reality. We’ve all heard this phrase; and most of us have likely used it at some point in time. When leaders use the phrase “perception is reality” they are likely making assumptions about others without taking the time to learn if the perception is accurate. This phrase is rooted in a lack of humility and needs to be removed from our lexicon once and for all.
According to psychologists, a more accurate phrase is “perception is my reality.” Leaders often use “perception is reality” as a heuristic due to either being too busy or uninterested in asking additional questions to understand what’s really going on. Having the maturity to ask questions and determine why takes time, patience, and humility.
Said a different way, perception is reality is a leader’s inability or lack of interest in understanding the character or motives of the individual in question. I’m guilty of it. I’ve used it in the past as a junior officer and I honestly did not think much of it at the time. Unconsciously I thought, “My boss said it, so I’m going to say it because he (or she) is successful, and I want to be like them someday.” So, we emulate those who have gone before us and inadvertently display the same lack of humility while never taking a step back to explore what we’re really saying to our subordinates.
by Jakob Hutter
Two months ago, I relinquished command of my company, ending a chapter in one of the most fulfilling, humbling, and finest experiences I have had in my military career. This included an eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise in Camp Roberts, California, and a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
When I first took command of the Forward Support Company in August of 2020, I accepted this responsibility knowing that it would be a dynamic and challenging experience. This included ensuring we were able to support the Aviation Battalion with its requirements to be successful, and also be able to take care of the range of activities in the company while taking care of Soldiers and the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having previously served as the Executive Officer for the company, I had the benefit of understanding the pulse of the organization.
In this opportunity to reflect on my own experiences in what I believe was a successful Company Command, I hope this can resonate with others who are currently in company command or plan on taking on this endeavor.
Before I accepted the guidon, I prepared by thinking over what I wanted to accomplish in this position, continuing my reading plan to include reading Taking the Guidon and a variety of regulations. Additionally, asking for advice and guidance from those that were in company command or had completed it. Preparing this way helped shape my command philosophy by focusing on four main objectives, which include: 1) providing proactive logistics support, 2) taking care of Soldiers and their Families, 3) developing Leaders, and 4) empowering the team.
Proactive Logistics Support
A Forward Support Company is dynamic in its capabilities. As the senior logistics officer in the battalion, understanding this purpose alongside the principles of sustainment is essential in maintaining combat power, enabling operational reach, and providing the supported unit with endurance.
In my command philosophy, I communicated to my team that I wanted us to provide proactive logistic support to our battalion. This required that we deliberately plan, anticipate, and respond effectively to ensure that we could maximize the battalion’s effectiveness. As the commander, building that relationship with the other commanders and battalion staff allowed me to effectively coordinate this effort. Sometimes we were successful, other times, we were not. But overall, I believe that in our efforts to deliberately train and execute our tasks, we were successful in allowing the battalion to succeed.
A commander’s responsibility is to generate readiness. Our major training events, an XCTC and JRTC rotation, provided unique opportunities that many in my company were able to face for the first time. I understood that I required honest input and feedback from my team to plan our training at the company, platoon, squad, and individual levels. Our team was able to build trust that improved our readiness and allowed us to accomplish our taskings at these events, even with the challenges and hurdles we faced. Due to this foundation of trust and honesty, my team was able to conduct proactive logistics allowing us to operate smoothly behind the scenes to support immediate concerns and plan effectively for future problems.
Soldier and Family Care
When I wrote Strength in Inclusion, I noted that each member of the team joined for any number of reasons, and those did not include feeling excluded, unwelcomed, and undervalued. I understood the critical need to be present to effectively lead. I believe for the first few months in command was an improvement that I needed to work on. While I would check-in with Soldiers and ask how they were doing, in retrospect these conversations were surface level or that the overall response was that all was well.
When I wasn’t around Soldiers, I was more at my desk, feeling bogged down in administrative tasks. Thanks to some conversations with my First Sergeant on my approach and how I could improve, I knew that I needed to be more deliberate and conduct leadership by wandering around (LBWA). I was able to make incremental improvements that allowed me to better connect and communicate with my Soldiers and received better feedback that helped improve our organization.
Through this, one of the impacts was that I was able to more positively be there for Soldiers. This, however, can be challenging in staying up to date on Soldiers lives between training events, and I made a point during our monthly leadership calls to let me know if there were any issues facing our Soldiers.
When finding out that a Soldier had experienced a loss in their family, about to have surgery, celebrated the birth of a new child, or any other life experience, I wanted them to know that the company had their back in supporting them by getting them a card signed by everyone. Some Soldiers were greatly impacted by this; I was happy that this was a way I could invest in taking care of Soldiers.
I wanted to infuse predictability with our Soldiers when they came to drill. This is important as Soldiers sacrifice a weekend away from their loved ones to train with us, some traveling hours to attend. I wanted to ensure that they were getting their money’s worth by coming to drill and that they were able to do the job they signed up for. To infuse this predictability, I wanted to be transparent with my team on what was being communicated to me and ensure that Soldiers at the lowest level were able to understand how they were going to spend their time. Doing so I felt helped reduce the friction Soldiers may feel and actually value the time they were taking in showing up.
While developing subordinate leaders can present unique challenges due to limited interactions and time constraints, I wanted to deliberately build a leadership development program that could benefit my team’s personal and professional growth.
In this effort, I intended to build that commitment when I conducted my initial counseling with my team by communicating and discussing my vision for the company, my expectations, and how that individual could contribute to the success of our organization.
When I checked-in with their progress, I would try to block off some time to have a conversation with them to see how they were doing and to discuss their progress so far. However, I could have been more effective in my follow-ups with my team to revisit and see how they are improving and discuss any limitations or constraints they may have and write the highlights down to track their progress over time.
Another aspect of my leader development program that I wanted to create was a lifelong learning mindset. I wanted my leadership team to take ownership in their responsibilities, and to set the example for their subordinates to emulate. By encouraging a lifelong learning mindset, I wanted to establish a foundation where they each could appreciate any challenges we faced and see them as opportunities for personal growth, thereby improving the unit’s overall strength. For me, this required taking the necessary risk of being comfortable and allowing for failure (as long as we deliberately worked to mitigate the issues from becoming habitual).
With our major training events in our XCTC and JRTC, the hard work and dedication they had in accomplishing paid off, and personally have been some of the best training I have received so far in my career.
Overall, having this deliberate leadership development program dedicated to improving Soldiers personally and professionally was rewarding as a leader. I not only saw their own growth, but it helped make us into a stronger team that allowed for open communication and dialogue that helped make the unit effective for the long-term.
Empower the Team
Another element of my command philosophy that I wanted to positively impact the culture of the organization was to empower leaders to think outside the box in order to improve the company. I wanted to push the team to think beyond thinking and saying “we’ve always done it this way” when faced with new ways to improve the effectiveness of the team. With the diversity of knowledge, skills, and abilities that we had at our disposal, the ability to question our processes and be open to change based on our experiences was important for me to communicate.
For instance, based on feedback from my team, we conducted a company planning sync. We put butcher paper around a room, highlighted the key objectives and tasks for each training event, and included space for each platoon to provide their feedback. Then, we had Soldiers pair up to spend a few minutes at each board to include what they needed to accomplish in their platoon for that training event. This provided my team additional insights on training our Soldiers wanted to conduct for the calendar year to meet our objectives and allowed Soldiers to “buy-in” to our collective training plan.
For me, this required that I actively practiced servant-leadership principles and was authentic with others to create an environment for them to work autonomously and be themselves. I think this allowed them to take ownership of their responsibilities as leaders and allowed our company to optimize our training through each month as we were able to have.
In addition to empowering innovation, I wanted each person that was part of my company to have a sense of pride in that they enjoyed coming to drill to play a part in the team’s success. I personally invested, after soliciting feedback from my team, to set out to design and develop a company challenge coin.
Once received, I remember awarding the first two coins within my company, wanting to create a big impact with my Soldiers on my vision for awarding the coin, but more importantly to recognize the accomplishments of the Soldiers receiving them. Upon leaving command, the remaining coins are now with the new company commander, in hopes that the coins can continue to serve their purpose of recognizing Soldiers.
All things considered, my time as a company commander was a very satisfying and fulfilling experience that I will never forget. As I settle into my new assignment, I look forward to making a positive impact by taking these lessons learned over the past two years. For those looking at taking company command, I can assure you that you will have a lasting impact on the Soldiers you lead. While your command will be both stressful and anxiety-filed, it will also be filled by a fun and rewarding experience for your career. As I was told when I first accepted the guidon, if you take care of your Soldiers, they will do wonders for you. Best of luck!
CPT Jakob Hutter is a Kansas Army National Guard logistics officer currently serving as a Plans Officer for the 169th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Leavenworth, Kansas. In addition, he also serves as the Kansas FLIPL Program Manager. He has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and received his commission from Kansas State University in 2016. He is passionate about the science of Army logistics, the art of military leadership, and combining both to provide effective sustainment.
Road Trips & Staff Meetings
My wife and I have spent 20 years having the same discussion on road trips. As dinner approaches and the kids get hungry, we agree that we should stop at a restaurant but, as we drive past rows of options, I frequently find selecting food frustrating. I suggest the first restaurant, the second, the third, etc… With each option, my wife hesitates or declines.
When I finally ask, “Well, what kind of food do you want?” The answer often comes back, “I’ll know it when I see it.”
Perhaps we have all witnessed a staff meeting that looks oddly similar.
A leader’s indecision often comes from being uncertain of what is up ahead. How do I know what I want if I do not know what is available? The decision is delayed by a lack of clarity or a knowledge gap about what is possible. Commanders are often faced with the same challenge.
To envision a desired future, leaders need clarity about what is possible. Intent-based leadership then requires commanders to share their vision. “A well-crafted commander’s intent conveys a clear image of an operation’s purpose and desired end state … [and] ensures shared understanding of what the commander wants.”
But what if the commander does not know what they want?
The Problem with Blind Intent
The commander’s role in the operations process is to understand, visualize, describe, direct, lead, and assess (UVDDLA) the operation. A decision maker in any organization might use different terms, but the requirement to envision a desired future is the same. At times a leader may give ambiguous direction to their team that keeps them from moving forward because that leader has not yet understood or visualized well enough to describe the problem. A commander struggling to issue clear guidance may be suffering from blind intent.
The term blind intent describes guidance given with insufficient clarity to meet the leader’s intent. When commanders operate with blind intent, they are leaning on subordinates to produce solutions for a problem that they have failed to visualize. “I’ll know it when I see it” is as frustrating to an organization as driving past restaurant after restaurant while increasingly growing hangry.
When leaders fail to recognize their own loss of vision, they communicate an expectation that, even though they do not know what they want, the staff will be able to clairvoyantly produce the desired solution. Blind intent is a poor substitute for guidance and can become a counterproductive leadership behavior. Saying only, “this isn’t what I want,” is guidance that sounds decisive yet remains unclear. It is counterproductive because the “not quite there yet” assessment is usually perceived as an unfair negative critique. Staff members that consistently work under unclear objectives become less likely to put in their full effort.
Blind intent becomes most counterproductive when it is a pattern. Teams that become focused on gaining approval no longer fully embrace the creative process. After a certain point of continued frustration, leaders run the risk of the “I’ll know it when I see it” message eroding the trust the staff has in their guidance. At the very worst, a climate of uncertainty leads to burnout.
Seeing through Fog and across Distance
Contrary to what is stated above, it is acceptable for leaders to not have a clear vision. In fact, it is difficult to lead a large organization and not find moments where the fog is too thick to see through. The defining factor of blind intent is not that a leader is uncertain, but rather that they fail to provide clear guidance even when offered acceptable solutions. Acknowledging ongoing work and clarifying a way ahead, even if incomplete, does not constitute blind intent.
“Fog” could better be described as leading under unknown conditions. Emergent challenges, crisis situations, and hostile environments are all examples where it is not possible to fully forecast future requirements. Under these circumstances, commanders and staff members leverage various planning and intelligence methods to determine likely problems, solutions, and outcomes. Teams then prepare to execute based on what they know now. As long as the unknown conditions do not arise from a single individual or the commander’s failure to trust expert team members, knowledge gaps are an expected part of operations.
Fog is not the only challenge to a commander’s vision. Innovating new solutions or pushing the limits of training may mean that the objective is too distant to bring into focus. Often great innovation requires exploring the adjacent possible or reaching towards undiscovered alternatives. These ideas are considered on a “distant horizon” because the team needs to formulate partial solutions before the whole concept becomes completely clear.
Having a vision that is not yet fully formed does not have to frustrate the staff. The question is what do leaders do when they recognize that their vision is lacking or incomplete? Do they issue guidance burdened with blind intent or offer instructions that free and encourage the team to help find the way?
Envisioning the Horizon: an Example
The simplest initial guidance I ever received led to the best training exercise I worked on as a plans officer. Between our morning run and the office, the 82nd Airborne Division Operations Officer (aka: the G3) asked me to look into “what kind of exercise we can build in Europe.” He then directed me to brief the Deputy Commanding General for Interoperability (DCG-I) with some options.
The DCG-I, a British Brigadier, tasked me to develop an exercise that would make the division’s training “demonstrably global.” The vision included training with high-readiness international partners, readiness under unpredictable circumstances, and setting up this training to occur annually. He clarified that he needed me to help him develop an understanding of what was possible in a US formation. This was a vision of innovation.
There were multiple opportunities for the DCG-I, the G3, or another leader to look at my work and declare it, “not there yet.” However, when I presented new ideas, even bad ideas, I was given guidance that moved us forward. As the project became a team planning activity, it became an iterative dialogue. It was clear that the vision was still forming, yet no one ever indicated that they would “know it when they saw it.”
Because we were innovating, the staff maintained shared understanding with our leaders. We knew the gaps they needed us to fill. As lead planner, I received very open guidance with the freedom to operate, permission to experiment, adjustments when required, and multiple opportunities to seek guidance. Our leaders trusted the planning team, and set conditions for us to inform their vision.
The resulting exercise was Swift Response 2015, the first in an annual US Army Europe & Africa series. Swift Response continues to evolve as an allied airborne exercise, and enabled the 82nd Airborne Division’s deployment to Eastern Europe in support of US European Command in 2022. That exercise started with a single sentence of purpose and direction between the morning run and the office – unclear, yet perfectly clear. Our leaders had not finalized the vision, but they did not let that blind them.
Avoiding Vision Impairment
Stopping blind intent requires self awareness. When leaders listen to their own words as well as those of their team, when they are accessible, and when they are open to suggestions, forming a vision becomes a matter of time. Commanders who become aware that the staff are stagnating through unclear guidance, can begin movement towards a clear vision immediately.
Norman Dixon, author of the classic “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence,” shows a pattern through historical examples in which bad leaders are risk averse and indecisive. Leaders who tell staff members that they are “not yet there” and they will “know it when they see it” may fit that pattern.
Multi-step decision making processes are purpose-built for enabling a commander’s vision. (For 13 different military planning processes, see Appendix C of this Handbook). However, if the staff already presented a solution, use that outcome decisively. Adjustments are acceptable, but restarting complex processes with no new inputs leads to staff burnout.
Great leaders extend trust instead of viewing their team as a source of risks. Trusting subordinantes when leaders have impaired vision represents a prudent risk. Leaders can save time and reduce their burden by extending trust. Trust allows leaders to follow expert advice despite their distance from the details.
When a leader’s vision is unclear, iteration and accessibility become critical. Allow time and permission for the staff to candidly ask and answer questions in order to move the process forward. Commanders who find themselves not knowing what they want, may actually find they can better articulate the negative: what they do NOT want. Frame the way ahead by identifying its opposite. Open staff engagements feed the collective vision, overcoming blind intent.
Leaders who find themselves retracting phrases like, “I’ll know it when I see it,” need to own their role. Confirm or deny whether unclear guidance is causing the team to stall. Blind intent places task ownership on the commander to clarify before moving forward.
Clear Commander’s Intent
At the heart of intent-based leadership, commanders issue “clear intent.” If commanders are able to clearly articulate what they want to accomplish, the rest will fall into place. Blind intent fouls this process, decreasing successful outcomes and increasing burnout. When leaders are uncertain of how to proceed, they can allow their team to feed their vision. It is possible to maintain forward momentum before fully envisioning a desired future, but commanders need to make sure they are not issuing blind intent.
Thank you to my wife for being my best editor and for suggesting a lighthearted travel story to replace an ugly tale of counterproductive leadership behaviors. Joel P.
COL Joel P. Gleason is a student in the U.S. Army War College’s Carlisle Scholars Program. He is a former Garrison Commander and a graduate of the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies. COL Gleason is slated to command Defense Logistics Agency – Europe & Africa beginning in summer 2023.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Thinking Outside the Box: The Use of Social Media and Virtual Work in the Development of Effective Communication at WHINSEC
by Moacir Mendonca, Rolly Sanchez, and Cesar Soto-Ramos
In today’s ever-changing academic and global security environment, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) quickly adapted and successfully overcame many challenges that unfurled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an institute committed to developing ethical leaders to strengthen democratic partnership in the Western Hemisphere, WHINSEC utilized social media to enhance learning and communication in a unique academic environment.
Surrounded by the pandemic’s challenges, this environment presented an urgent opportunity for the Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) faculty to enhance information sharing through virtual military communities. The use of social media became a useful venue and a valuable tool that built the bridge within WHINSEC to navigate the gap of connection created by the pandemic. Furthermore, we witnessed the unique benefits that emerge when a multicultural group engages in team-oriented work via social media. The use of social media paved the way to myriad opportunities to connect, enhance, learn, adapt, and effectively fill the void of communication precipitated by the pandemic-induced crisis.
Multiple Cultures Meet a Challenge Together
WHINSEC CGSOC is a 47-week course designed to educate and train intermediate-level military, interagency, and partner-nation officers to be prepared to operate in joint, interagency, and multinational environments as field grade commanders and staff officers. This interrelationship provided a unique cultural diversity environment within the WHINSEC CGSOC during the pandemic. For instance, the faculty is composed of selected instructors from Western Hemisphere countries including Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States. These instructors brilliantly collaborated and confronted the challenge of creating a highly interactive setting that inspired sharing, critical thinking, discussions, and participation. Through applications or platforms such as Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, and more, the faculty learned about exploring and forming a dynamic environment that led to the creation of an internet-enabled group among students, faculty, and leaders. This changing relationship between the faculty, the students, and technology streamlined the multicultural interaction amidst barriers associated with COVID-19 pandemic.
WHINSEC, since its establishment in 2001, has traditionally relied upon in-person education tailored to fit its multicultural academic approach. Despite the unexpected task of a time-sensitive transition to a virtual classroom setting, WHINSEC was able to complete and deliver a transparent switch within a record-setting two days.
Our institute’s Education Technology (Ed Tech) department effectively handled the transition by managing our Blackboard learning system to bridge our virtual learning space. During those two days, the Ed Tech department implemented Blackboard Ultra and conducted rigorous faculty training that allowed students to acquire class lectures and share videos and audio while enhancing collaboration. However, because the majority of the faculty are not digital natives (most are Generation X), CGSOC faced several challenges. Simply put, we were not as tech ready as we thought. As a faculty, we had to face the challenges of learning quickly and adapting to new technical skills due to different expectations. However, our multicultural military mindset and background brought us together and became integral in reaching our goal of providing a quality academic platform and environment.
As virtual learning became the norm to reach our students, challenges such as network reliability and cybersecurity coupled with health and personal issues from instructors and students were areas of concern. At this point, the goal of providing quality education, proper resources, and keeping students constantly motivated became difficult and mired with uncertainty. A compelling need to employ tools for online teaching arose within the organization. To foster effective communication between instructors and students, our team of instructors achieved that objective by employing a series of collaboration strategies. To stimulate creativity and promote a sense of community, instructors welcomed ideas from faculty and students by expressing that a good idea can emerge from anywhere within our organization regardless of rank or country. For example, instructors and students shared links on a variety of current events, new trends, and technology related to their countries and other regions. These links generated active debates and ideas that enhanced our communication while expanding our knowledge and creativity. Therefore, keeping an open-minded approach to diverse perspectives from different military backgrounds was critical to exploring new ways of thinking.
Even though Blackboard is our current learning management system, the WhatsApp application has become a valuable secondary informal source to share real-time information between students and instructors. As a result, CGSOC students and instructors combined Blackboard and WhatsApp to enhance their learning and sharing experience. The CGSOC department is divided into different instructor/student teams. Therefore, each department created its own WhatsApp group based on purpose.
Although these groups were primarily academic-related, they also included various extracurricular and motivational activities, which played an important role in raising collective morale and welfare. For example, regarding extracurricular and motivational activities, the instructors and students utilized their WhatsApp groups to spread inspirational quotes and announcements for class team sports, personal fitness, and family events. We also had situations in which several students faced adversity when dealing with the loss of a loved one. During these unfortunate life events, the class relied on social media to provide help and emotional support during their time of grief. Group members constantly cheered each other up throughout unexpected personal situations, courses, and exercises.
Cultural Adaptability of Social Media
Whether the communication was in English, Spanish, or a haphazard mixture of both, these online groups provided an effective tool for interaction in a multicultural professional setting. Additionally, these interactions assisted many of our international students and instructors in learning or practicing their English skills. For example, simple “Spanglish” phrases such as “today tenemos un meeting,” “por favor enviame el link,” “necesito un update para mi computer,” or “quiero hacer un briefing en Powerpoint” created a useful and fun way for them to learn alongside creative emojis showing their country’s military customs, flags and more. Additionally, these interactions and exposure to the English language benefited them when conducting non-work-related aspects such as running errands with their families or traveling within the United States.
Another challenge that needed attention was cybersecurity. With the concern of not interrupting classes, WHINSEC had to quickly embrace an online learning environment that presented cybersecurity challenges. As a result, we had to reassess our online teaching strategies to avoid compromising class materials or information. This became a challenge for faculty and students, especially when human errors are always present.
However, in this area, WHINSEC did an excellent job by constantly providing training and educating the faculty, students, and staff on the vulnerabilities and threats within our environment. For example, our training emphasized areas such as protecting controlled unclassified information, personally identifiable information, and phishing attacks. Additionally, the CGOSC faculty and students were proactive by sending constant security awareness messages through WhatsApp and short message service (SMS) to keep everyone informed. Simple but well-timed reminders such as “think before clicking or posting,” “use a unique password,” and “never reply to a spammer” led to security conversations within our different teams resulting in a better understanding of everyone’s role across our organization. Nevertheless, we are always aware that the online learning environment still struggles with security and requires constant training and vigilance.
Despite the challenges, opportunities also emerged and created advantages in using social media. First, there was a reduction in the number of sick personnel. As students stayed home, the combination of these platforms reduced the risk of getting or transmitting the infections to others. Second, the instructor-student communication became more effective as both groups continued to address social and emotional needs, which encouraged a stronger and more reliable support network. For example, this support network was critical in a time when digital fatigue, excessive screen time, lack of focus, and other distractions were taking a toll on the students. Additionally, despite the students not always having reliable home internet connectivity, the use of social media platforms became a key to empowering the instructors and students to maintain supportive interactions. It was very important that every team acknowledged every member and recognized everyone’s efforts to demonstrate caring and friendship.
The Way Forward
As the pandemic recedes, the CGSOC faculty is committed to providing a full-time in-person learning experience. However, strategies used throughout the pandemic will continue to be beneficial in traditional work and study environments. For example, if a student tests positive and needs to quarantine, the faculty can quickly implement virtual learning during the quarantine period. In this case, the student continues to actively participate in daily class activities, including exercises and briefings. The already established delivery of instruction will allow for uninterrupted access to rigorous learning until the student physically returns to the classroom. Equipped with our substantial experience that virtual learning can be effective, these practices will remain in our methodology in the near future. In the meantime, as faculty, we will continue to adapt and practice our teaching/learning approach by employing virtual and hybrid interactions supported by social media communication methods.
Comprehensively, social media platforms effectively contributed to the fulfillment of WHINSEC’s mission by maintaining training and continuous education while achieving security cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. Through a team effort, the faculty and students found the use of social media positive. In addition, they proved that meaningful academic growth can still occur outside the traditional confines of a physical classroom.
In WHINSEC, the challenges of the pandemic charted a course into the future. During this time, faculty learned how to better support instructors and students in extenuating circumstances and continue to cultivate partnerships across the Western Hemisphere. When it comes to social media, WHINSEC will continue to employ effective pedagogical strategies while coping with constant cybersecurity challenges and the fast-changing features of social media platforms. “Liberty, Peace and Fraternity” is the institute’s motto. Therefore, whether in a virtual or in-person academic environment, we are postured to promote transparency, trust, and cooperation among participating nations to strengthen democratic values, respect for rights, and knowledge and understanding of U.S. customs and traditions.
LTC Moacir (Brazil), LTC Sanchez (Peru), and MAJ Soto-Ramos (USA) serve as Command General and Staff Officer Course instructors currently assigned to the School of Professional Military Education at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policies or positions of the Exército Brasileiro, Ejército del Perú, or the United States Army.
by Kevin Sandell
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series focused on improving your unit’s communication efforts through your Public Affairs Office. The first part of this series can be read here.
The unit public affairs office (PAO) – and ultimately the unit’s ability to communicate with its internal and external audiences – deteriorates without two critical factors: commander support and emphasis. Public affairs is a commander responsibility, and the ability to shape and affect the information environment ultimately falls to the commander. By laying out his/her intent for public affairs, the commander emboldens the unit’s PAO to synchronize public and command information, crisis communication, visual information, and community engagement activities.
by Chad Corrigan
One thing I learned early in Squadron command is that I was no longer one of the guys.
You cross a major threshold when you transition from company grade through field grade time and on to Squadron Command. I may have felt the same, but I wasn’t perceived the same. I still felt like a Captain. But I wasn’t a Captain anymore. My words and actions hit with much more weight. I had to be deliberate when I spoke. I had to be careful with humor to not accidentally hurt someone. Commanding a Squadron isn’t just a bigger company. I was completely comfortable in an Apache battalion. I grew up in the hangar. But now my presence rippled through the building when I walked in.
by Christopher Williams
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own”
Readers have likely heard a form of this quote at some point in their careers – be it a podcast or article on leadership, a book on living well, or from a leader in an organization of which they were a part. Though a simple message, many of us fall short in aspiring to this ‘chief task,’ as presented so eloquently by Epictetus.
By McKenzie Dull
My dad was a soldier in the United States Army long before I was born. It is all I have ever known. Being around people who serve is a way of life to me and something I took for granted and did not fully understand. It wasn’t until recently, after watching the 2022 West Point commencement speech given by General Mark Milley, that I discovered the incredible responsibility those who serve willingly take. Simply stated, it became clear to me that their task is to support and defend the idea of America and to do so with convicted courage and character.
This summer many of you are changing out of position. We’ve got a question for you:
What’s the one thing you wish you would have known before you started the job?
We all have the one nugget of wisdom we learned the hard way that we wish we would have known before our name was on the door. It’s the thing that kept haunting us for two years. It’s the event we barely survived. It’s the problem that kept us awake at 3 am trying to solve. Or, maybe we didn’t figure it out and now we’re left with regret.
Regardless of whether you recently were a platoon sergeant or a division commander, we know that lesson is still fresh. Now is your chance to set someone else up for success!
In less than 500 words, tell us your #onething. Send submissions to our editor-in-chief, Dan Vigeant (Dan [at] fromthegreennotebook.com) by June 21, 2022. We will launch our #OneThing series in early July.
Don’t let that one thing get lost, only to be rediscovered by another leader…the hard way.
by Caleb Miller
Military professionals are relatively familiar with general mental health and PTSD; a newer concept, “moral injury,” has been growing in popularity for the past few decades among top leaders, counselors, psychologists and chaplains. Since the month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month and June is PTSD Awareness Month, I would like to highlight the concept of moral injury as it has emerged in the military lexicon by answering three questions.
What is it? Why does it matter? How can we address it?