Until I retire and even after that, I will continue to stress the importance of Soldiers getting their Professional Military Education (PME) completed as well as being Duty MOS Qualified (DMOSQ). Soldiers continue to complain about the difficulties of not being able to get into BLC, ALC and SLC but the truth of the matter is many only want to go to school when it’s convenient for them. You can’t afford to pick and choose when it’s the ‘right time’. Every military school I attended, I was told when I’m going and that was the end of the conversation! It’s imperative that you are completely trained in both your duty MOS and in your leadership courses especially in these times when we can be involved in another conflict at any moment. Training is the key to success and if leaders, CSMs, 1SGs, and commanders are not encouraging and making their Soldiers attend the necessary level of PME they require, then they failed the Soldier.
To ensure Soldiers understand the importance of PME, I will be conducting mentoring sessions with Soldiers as much as possible. Recently I spoke with a group of E-5s and E-4s and inquired about their PME. The excuses I heard weren’t new to me, but as I had my staff look into these issues, I’m finding out what I already knew. Soldiers are procrastinating, waiting for that right time, or not in compliance with AR 600-9 or just can’t pass the APFT. My battle buddy MG McQueen says it all the time, being a Soldier in the US Army is not a right, but it’s a privilege. You should be proud to wear this uniform and putting it on is just a part of it. You need to look like a professional and you must present a professional image at all times. The image you project should be one that others want to emulate. There are some that let themselves ‘go’ and they also come up with the same old excuses which I’ve heard a million times. Bottom line is we find excuses for everything. Start being accountable for your actions and start taking ownership of the things you know you’re responsible for. The things that are in your lane. As a young Corporal, I had the honor of having a Squad Leader by the name of SSG William Atkins guide me and mentor me. If I made a mistake, he was there to explain what I did wrong and how to correct it. Back then a Soldier’s proficiency was tested by what was known as a Skill Qualification Tests (SQT). If even one of the members of our squad received a NO-GO in any area, he held me accountable and said it was because I failed to ensure they knew the task, condition and standard and how to execute to meet the standard. Leaders must start doing a better job at mentoring and training their Soldiers. They need to take a personal interest in every one of the Soldiers they are responsible for and ensure they’re doing everything to make that Soldier successful.
I was asked during a recent Town Hall ‘what are we doing about Drill SGTs that have been in the unit for fifteen years’? This is another area where I feel we aren’t doing a good job and that’s initial and periodic counseling. At the beginning of every NCOs rating period, we should be conducting an Initial Counseling. That counseling should consist of what is expected of that NCO as far as duties, responsibilities and expectations. It should also serve to map out the rated NCOs career path, their next level of PME, additional duties, and even preparing them for areas of greater responsibility. If a DS or any Soldier is in the same unit for fifteen years, that’s an indication he or she hasn’t been properly counseled or mentored. Quarterly counseling informs the NCO if they’re meeting the rater’s expectations. If a Soldier or an NCO isn’t given objectives to achieve, they’ll continue to do the same thing they have always done.
While speaking at a pre-command course, someone said they have no time to do training because of all the mandatory class room training and on line training that is required. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. If you manage your training schedule properly, there’s enough time to do more than you think. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into a unit unannounced and found Soldiers sitting around doing nothing. Start challenging your NCOs, giving lower ranking Soldiers tasks and assignments and making every one accountable for the things that are expected of them when they put this uniform on. I realize it appears we’re constantly asked to do more and more, but it’s because we’re Soldiers and there’s nothing we can’t do.