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. 

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:

Don’t Read This, Just Go To Bed

by Chris Murray

In 2015, as a young Infantry lieutenant, I found myself once again in a crowded, overheated battalion conference room. I was attending what seemed to be the hundredth staff meeting since I had arrived at the unit two months earlier as my Battalion was preparing for a deployment across the Pacific Ocean. My battalion commander provided a significant update to our logistical coordination: we would be chartering a massive cargo ship to carry our Strykers, Blackhawks, Chinooks, humvees, and all supporting equipment with us. Then, throughout the deployment, this cargo ship would shuttle our equipment between the various host nations for our training exercises.  As a shiny new lieutenant, I didn’t understand much being said in the meeting. But I understood that for an Infantry battalion accustomed to having logistical support arranged for us, this was a serious undertaking for our S-4 shop. 

I glanced at the S-4 to see his reaction to the news. The S-4 was asleep. Granted, he was attending probably his sixth or seventh “urgent” meeting of the day, and today had been calm compared to his past few weeks. Fresh out of Ranger School, where sleeping was a capital offense, I withheld the urge to throw a pen to wake him up and spare him his head. Poorly positioned to help, I instead scanned the rest of the staff. Two others were dozing off, and pretty much everybody in the room looked ready to do the same. It wasn’t even lunch time. We were sleepwalking into a deployment.

Mentoring Through Setbacks

By Michael Quigley

Mentorship is about empowering and building a future generation of leaders; to do that leaders should share the reality of their careers, including examples of personal setbacks. In a recent meeting with a mentor, we used the first 10 minutes of our conversation to discuss my mentor’s life story. He is clearly a top-tier officer with a phenomenal career, but he overcame many challenges. 

He enlisted in the Army because he didn’t think he could complete college. When he was enlisted, his platoon leader submitted an application to West Point by convincing him that he was filling out a request for information – not an application. He had many difficulties as a young officer and openly admitted he is far from perfect. Mentors saw his potential and developed him.

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. 

Enduring

by Hannah Wentland

For a long time I have struggled to write or even share my thoughts. The first notion inhibiting me is always, “Who am I to write something worth knowing?” I fear I lack the credibility to sit at the table and champion my voice: I lack the rank, title, experience, badges, and a myriad of other spoken or silent markers of merit. Still, even more pervasive, is my fear that anything I say will be construed and generalized as blanket truth for other women in similar positions. Indeed, this is one of my greatest career hurdles and daily struggles.

My perspective and experience cannot speak for an entire gender. Furthermore, my niche of being a female combat arms officer still does not mean I can speak for all women in these roles. I want you to hear my voice and know there is truth in my experienceꟷ that many probably share it, as well as my opinions, but it is only one part of the whole. The very thing that polarizes me from people is what makes me diverse, allows me to bring something to the table, and fosters a dialogue to ensure we, as leaders and stewards of the profession, create the best environment we can.

Developing Your Reading Plan

by Jakob Hutter

During a speech in 1957, Dwight Eisenhower made a paradoxical statement about preparation when he told an anecdote about the maps used during military training in Leavenworth. He stated, “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” 

Just as leaders most likely have plans to conduct training, perform physical fitness, or even meal planning, planning helps you stay focused on what you want to accomplish and achieve.