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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 Keep a Notebook Like Da Vinci

How to Keep a Notebook Like Da Vinci

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By Joe Byerly

When we hear the name Leonardo Da Vinci, the word “genius” immediately comes to mind. His 16th century works “The Last Supper,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Vitruvian Man” are still popular today. The Da Vinci namesake is a part of our modern pop culture as well: The Da Vinci Code dominated the New York Times best seller list, he’s been represented in cartoons, movies, and TV shows, and the episode of Epic Rap Battle about him has had more than 74 million views on YouTube. Most recently, in November 2017, one of Leonardo’s paintings broke a record, selling at auction for $450 million.

There is something, however, we should know about his genius: he wasn’t born with it or guided to it through schooling (he didn’t go to one) — he worked for it. And as Walter Isaacson argues in his latest biography, Leonardo da Vinci, his style of creativity is exportable, because we can all learn from and adopt one of his most important practices — keeping a notebook. Leonardo’s creativity and artistic abilities grew out his talent for making connections across disciplines. And it is within his notebooks where those connections were made.

So what can Leonardo’s notebooks teach us about creativity?

How to be a Successful S6

How to be a Successful S6

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By: LTC Joshua Trimble

Did the Army select you to serve as an S6? If you are lucky, you remember your training. If you are extra lucky, the Army even sent you to a refresher S6 course.  Chances are, you are not that lucky, and you probably do not remember everything that isn’t written down in your little green notebook. It would be impractical to expect you to remember everything. But, if you can remember these three themes and what they imply, you are on your way to success.

Have a PACE not a Prayer.  Many are familiar enough with the communications practice of a PACE. It’s the abbreviated signal way of having different courses of action – the acronym standing for, “Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency.” Each letter representing the preferred method of communications between you and adjacent units.  There are different PACEs for communicating to higher units, to lower units and to adjacent units because each unit will have different types and quantities of communications equipment.

There can even be different PACEs for operations or phases of operations.  Ask an aviation unit S6 how many PACEs there are in an air assault operation (Hint – at least three: 1. Aircraft to Command Posts (CPs), 2. Aircraft to Aircraft, 3. Aircraft to ground forces) and you understand the complexity of developing a PACE. The best PACEs also account for different Warfighting Functions (WfFs). For example, the intel team wants to talk differently than the fires guys who want to send digital fire missions.

5 Battlefields that Influenced My Outlook on War, Leadership, and Life

5 Battlefields that Influenced My Outlook on War, Leadership, and Life

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By: Jim Greer

Throughout my life I have visited many battlefields, certainly more than I can remember. The first battlefield I visited was Kennesaw Mountain, with my Dad when I was seven years old. The most recent was Fort McHenry last year (crossing the birthplace of our National Anthem off my bucket list). Some of these visits have been strictly tourism, some personal development, some staff rides, and some for other reasons. All have been instructive and visiting battlefields has been a core component of both my personal and professional growth as a security professional and a member of the human race. Below are the five battlefields I’d like to highlight that have had a profound effect on my life.

Kennesaw Mountain

When I was six years old we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. My Father was an artilleryman and always very interested in the Civil War and Civil War battlefields, particularly since he had grown up in the Northeast where none of those battles had taken place. When I was seven he took me out to the battlefield of Kennesaw Mountain. Kennesaw Mountain was one of the series of battles and engagements that took place during the defense and siege of Atlanta in 1864. It was the first battlefield of any type that I have been to, although it would prove to be the first of many more.

Kennesaw Mountain was a particularly violent battle. In it, the Confederates were defending the heights of Kennesaw Mountain, well entrenched and with commanding fields of fire. The Union troops attempted to attack up the mountain to dislodge the Confederates and secure the high ground in support of the broader operation to take the city of Atlanta. The Union attacks were repeatedly repulsed with severe losses.

At the battlefield my Dad took me to the Confederate breastworks. We knelt down behind them just as the Confederate soldiers had done and so we had a view of the long slope up which the Union forces had struggled against withering fire from prepared defenses. My Dad explained the battle to me in terms a seven year old could comprehend. What I have never forgotten is how he stressed to me the leadership the Union officers must have been able to exert and the courage the Union soldiers must have had to attack over and over up that slope even in the midst of horrendous losses.

The Opposite of Fear is Love

The Opposite of Fear is Love

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The Opposite of Fear is Love is from Chapter 13 of Steven Pressfield’s The Warrior Ethos published by Black Irish Books. 

The greatest counterpoise to fear, the ancients believed, is love—the love of the individual warrior for his brothers in arms. At Thermopylae on the final morning, when the last surviving Spartans knew they were all going to die, they turned to one of their leaders, the platoon commander Dienekes, and asked him what thoughts they should hold in their minds in this final hour to keep their courage strong. Dienekes instructed his comrades to fight not in the name of such lofty concepts as patriotism, honor, duty or glory. Don’t even fight, he said, to protect your family or your home.

Fight for this alone: the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him.

The soldier’s prayer today on the eve of battle remains not “Lord, spare me,” but “Lord, let me not prove unworthy of my brothers.”

You Want the Best? Embrace Failure

You Want the Best? Embrace Failure

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By Brad Hutchison

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The troops were ready: SHARP, OPSEC, SAEDA and CTIP training complete; field sanitation, environmental compliance, and ammunition handling teams trained and identified; all Soldiers who would come within the 385 days of their exit from the Army before their return to home station complete with Soldier for Life; everyone current on dental and vaccinations. Every task highlighted green from their pre-deployment checklist to the commanding general’s “roll-out card”. For his abilities and competence, the company commander was rewarded with a battalion headquarters company command upon redeployment from the National Training Center (NTC). Yet, after 11 days of fighting Blackhorse in the unforgiving California desert, the company tallied only three destroyed enemy vehicles against their own forty eight lost.

As a recent Observer-Controller/Trainer at the NTC I spent months watching units’ defenses crumble like this and seeing their attacks stall against materially inferior forces. What caused the failures? All that readiness. We ask more of today’s units than ever before in the history of the Army, and it is harming both the mission and our Soldiers.

Ten Important Lessons I Learned as the S3/XO

Ten Important Lessons I Learned as the S3/XO

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By Jason Gallardo

1.Build relationships- your ability to succeed will depend on your aptitude at working with your sister BNs, BDE, DIV, and post agencies.

You have been told throughout your career that relationships are everything, but it becomes even more vital as a field grade officer. If you try to go at it alone, you will fail. Be genuine and always be the first to help your peers when you can. This will make it far easier to ask for help when you need it. Remember that you are the face of your organization and how you interact on post can determine the reputation of your unit.

2. Your commander’s priorities are your priorities- but it is your duty to ensure those priorities are balanced with his/her boss’s priorities. Never let them run counter to each other.

Remember that command is very personal for your boss, and while you are 100% invested in your organization, this isn’t just a BN/SQDN fight. You are a part of larger organization and it is your duty to remain objective to ensure that you don’t let your boss counter any priorities or initiatives of your next higher boss.