Lead with the best version of yourself.

Lessons Learned from a Company XO in EUCOM

by Chard Phebe

Being an Executive Officer (XO) as a First Lieutenant (1LT) has been described as “unglamorous” and “thankless.” I knew that entering the role back in August 2021, when previous Battalion Commander encouraged me to take the position. What I didn’t foresee was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or that my unit would deploy to the Baltics a year later. I was responsible for getting all our equipment to Lithuania—but I honestly had to Google “Lithuania” to know where it was going. In short, I had no idea how unglamorous and thankless being an XO would really be. 

But these unique challenges gave me the chance to gain experience and insight. In this article, I will share practical advice I currently use as an XO in three key areas: maintenance, administration, and self-care. While my experience comes from the European theater, this advice is relevant anywhere. These tips are intended to help company XOs excel and maintain personal well-being during this intense professional challenge. Should you ever find yourself assigned as a Company XO, your success in this challenging position is based on the habits and skills you bring to your daily life.

Maintenance Tips from the Field for Junior Leaders

By Victor Littleton

The best professionals in any given field have a deep understanding of their profession, and they use that to mentor and lead the next generation of professionals. The best doctors seek out teaching positions and help create better doctors; the best lawyers oversee practices with numerous junior attorneys. The officer corps in the Army is set up differently; we place young and inexperienced men and women in positions of authority and ask them to lead the Soldiers of all ages and backgrounds without the experience to guide them.

This article’s goal is to assist platoon leaders, executive officers, maintenance officers, or staff officers gain an understanding of maintenance knowledge by providing three tips–listen, acquire knowledge, and seek development– which will help them become more effective maintenance leaders.

Understanding Sun Tzu through the Mongols

by Chris Horvilleur

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, written in 400 BC, has shaped strategic thinking for nearly two and a half millennia, foremost amongst military minds but also recently amongst western business leaders. The breadth of the book’s impact makes it worthwhile for military leaders at all echelons to understand its basic structure and principles and consider its efficacy via historical case study. 

The Art of War consists of thirteen chapters which may be grouped into four sections. Chapter One identifies the critical calculations prior to war. These calculations include identifying the morale of the people, climate, geography, leadership and logistics. The next chapter lays out the costs and dangers of mobilizing a state to go to a protracted war. Then chapters 3-12 describe commanders’ skills in the way they lead, maneuver and organize their Army, as well as assessing the terrain and their enemy. The final section, chapter 13, concludes by explaining the importance of spies and intelligence. 

This piece explores three principles (each one a chapter) from The Art of War: picking battles, knowing thy enemy, and using diplomacy as a weapon. In order to bring these principles to life, I will provide historical examples of Sun Tzu’s maxims using case studies from the Mongol military victories of the 12th through 13th centuries. The Mongols, at their height, built the most extensive single-connected Empire in world history—via military conquest according to Sun Tzu’s principles. Leaders today, in our era of great power competition can glean much from these principles.

A Letter to My Younger Self on Graduation Day

by Nikiay Comer 

Graduation week is here and you’ve felt a wave of emotions in anticipation of its arrival. You’re looking forward to accepting your diploma in front of your family and friends who have traveled far and wide to support you on this special day. You will soon be a commissioned officer. 

For some, commissioning is a time to be joyful and excited about what the future brings. For you and others, commissioning brings excitement from completing a milestone but also uncertainty—anxiety—about the future. You’re not sure if you’re ready. Although you have put so much hard work into preparing yourself to be a leader, you wonder if you’ve learned enough. As a cadet, you have completed many types of military training, leadership and character development lessons, and physical readiness classes. Even still, you may think you’re not ready. But I’m here to tell you that you are. It is okay that you don’t know everything there is to know about leadership. Knowledge will come with experience. However, at this very moment, you have what you need to be a good leader.  

You Are Your Best Career Manager

by  Brandon Eans

As a career manager, I think daily about the advice my former First Sergeant offered me over eight years ago: “You are your best career manager”. 

I was a First Lieutenant serving as an Executive Officer for a Field Artillery Battery. At the end of the workday, I would occasionally sit with the First Sergeant in his office where we would discuss the operations of the Battery. As a young officer, I valued this time as it was an opportunity to gain mentorship from the most senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) within the Battery. On this particular day, my First Sergeant voiced his frustration on certain NCOs who were not properly managing or maintaining their records in preparation for an upcoming promotion board. It was here that he gave the simple, yet profound, advice that I would use to guide my own career and as a cornerstone for my mentorship philosophy. It drove me to actively manage my own career, update my Officer Record Brief (ORB), and initiated thoughts of how I hoped to serve in the Army. 

Thought Partner: A Primer

by Nicholas A. Rich

I recently spent a weekend with a good friend. After the long weekend, I received a message from him thanking me for being both a friend, and a “thought partner.”  I met him in the Army in 2015, and we deployed to Iraq together in December 2016. He has been a pace-setter in every organization he’s been a part of, including nowadays as a civilian in Washington D.C. After the weekend, I reflected on our friendship and took a moment to appreciate a connection that I wouldn’t have had without the Army guiding me to it. Throughout our friendship this thought partner has helped me navigate a handful of different experiences, he even challenged and motivated me to go through Ranger School as a logistics officer. Out of the Army he provides other insights about how to integrate technology, think about funding, or utilize different leadership styles. From this friendship, I continue to grow. 

Is Foreign Service ILE Right for You?

by Jake Kohlman

As I filled out my location preferences ahead of Intermediate Level Education (ILE), I knew I wanted to try something other than the traditional path of the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I considered sister service schools like the Naval War College in Rhode Island or the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California but ultimately decided, after discussion with my wife, to put a foreign service school, the Ecole de Guerre in France, as my number one preference. 

A few weeks later I was thrilled to learn I had received the assignment with the Schools of Other Nations program (SON) and would be PCSing with my family to study in Paris.

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. 

Running the Race, Real-Time Resilience

by Caleb Miller

The Olympic runner Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, would say that “he felt God’s pleasure” when he ran.

I have no idea what he is talking about. 

I’ve always hated running. I’m not bad at it – that doesn’t mean I like it.

One of the things I hate about running is that it never seems to get easier. Sure, getting to a certain pace or time or distance can be done. But the experience of running – fast, hard, past the ability to hold a conversation (or shout a cadence!), often early in the morning in unfavorable weather conditions – has never been the least bit enjoyable for me.