From the 95th Commanding General

It’s All About Needing a Theme

Brig. Gen. Susie Kuilan
CG, 95th Training Division (IET)

So I originally set out to write an article for The Griffon, but wasn’t given a theme. I generally come upwith better ideas if I have a theme. That being said, I started working on my August Battle Assembly video, which then led to this article. However, before I went final with my article, I always send my work to some of my trusted advisors for feedback. My Command Sergeant Major came to me and said, that it sounded like a “run-down of the weekend versus a themed message.” Exactly! I need a theme. So instead of giving you the article below, I should focus on one aspect. But before I do that, let me show you my original article, so you all (my dear readers) at least have an idea of what had been written:

I am energized and I am exhausted. The 95th Training Division (IET) hosted its inaugural New Leader Summit. This summit was focused on new commanders, command sergeants major coming into brigade and battalion within the 95th Division, along with other incoming brigade personnel. While most of these folks have been through the pre-command course, that course doesn’t delve into issues that are unique to the 95th Division, such as drill sergeant recruiting and production. To that end, we had briefings on the Sustainable and Relevant Recruiting Initiative (SRRI), DSPAS and the bottom-up review and others that will help leaders be successful in the 95th Division.

What I do know is that the Chief of Staff, Col. Marshal Gatling and the staff of our Headquarters worked really hard to put on a top-notch event that not only will help these new leaders be successful, but also nests within Lt. Gen. Daniels’s article, “Changing Culture, Moving from Metrics to Readiness.” These new leaders were provided with overviews about potential changes within our structure but also potential effects of various TRADOC efforts. We also ensured they completed their leader requirements for SHARP and Transgender training. As mentioned in the introduction, they were also introduced to SRRI and how that initiative works and the way we initiated and process drill sergeant packets in preparation for their attendance at the academy. Part of the summit also included briefings and networking with each of the staff sections along with a one-on-one meeting with the commanders.

The last thing we did as a group was have our “book group” discussion for this quarter’s reading, which was The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. These discussions are always one of my favorite parts of battle assembly weekend or in this case, our final event for the New Leader Summit. We did conclude with an After Action Review and immediately went into planning our Division Symposium (and the next New Leader Summit), using the various AAR comments from the participants and the staff. One of the directives that I gave to the new leaders attending the summit, was that they had to come to consensus (not a majority but group consensus) on the reading that we would do during the second quarter of Fiscal Year 23, which would be discussed during the Division Symposium. They chose Behind the Colors: Where NCO Leadership Lives, by Scott Schroeder. We will read this book for a February discussion during the Division Symposium.

These events would not be the same without some type of social event, which we had on Friday evening with a no-host social at a local restaurant. While these social events are never required, they are encouraged and a very beneficial way of breaking down communication barriers. Breaking down communication barriers often means getting “things” accomplished more efficiently.

These types of events energize me because I see such good work and good networking taking place. But they also exhaust me, just because they can also be very hectic and take up a lot of my energy. That being said, I can’t wait for the next symposium in February.

So, I often listen to my Command Sergeant Major – hence, he’s one of my best trusted advisors. During his review, he suggested that each of the paragraphs above basically had its own theme and that I should possibly focus on one. As I mulled this over, it dawned on me that it IS all about “needing a theme.” Themes are “the subject of a talk or an idea that recurs or pervades a work.” A theme provides clarity, binds the whole, and keeps us on target – much the way a commander’s vision does. As leaders, we must be clear and foster an environment of mutual trust; everyone should understand our intent, priorities, expected outcomes, and know we’re all in this together. That was the “theme” of our New Leaders Summit, and my message to you, my dear readers.

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