Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Dodson
715th Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th MI Brigade
Ask any Soldier in our Army what “Back to Basics” means, and you will likely receive a variety of responses.
That is to be expected. Our Army is composed of individuals from various backgrounds and
experiences, so it is only natural that we have some different ways of defining such a term.
However, if we look within the various responses, from Soldiers past and present, we should be able to identify some common themes that will help us truly define what Back to Basics means to our Army and how it can make our Army even stronger.
Having said that, here is the way I see it: Back to Basics is not about going back to Basic Combat Training. Rather, it is about getting back to some of those basic, everyday actions that served as the bedrock of our forces for many years, but were somewhat eroded during years of persistent conflict.
So what are some of these basic, everyday actions? I actually enjoy writing, so this could get lengthy, but here is just a little food for thought.
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Yes, I stole that line from Hollywood, but seriously, we live in a connected world where computers, smart phones and social networking are the norm, and your thoughts are instantly dispersed to your organizations and families. But are we really communicating with them?
Don’t get me wrong here; I just spent half of my morning on the computer, and it is certainly a very useful tool — one of my most valued, in fact. But has some of the information been lost in translation?
What about the person who types on the computer while simultaneously holding a conversation with another? Many of us have done it, all the while forgetting that physical barriers to communication (i.e. the computer screen itself) can and do exist.
The answer to that one is fairly simple: Take a break from typing, look the other person in the eye, listen and then provide guidance.
Now what about during counseling? Are we properly communicating our message to our subordinates? Why is it that some Soldiers appear surprised to hear they were not recommended for promotion? What about a noncommissioned officer who seems utterly shocked when he or she is presented with an evaluation for signature? If we communicate properly with our subordinates, both verbally and in writing, there should not be any surprises.
Now let me take this in a totally different direction. Let’s talk about inspections. Are we conducting uniform inspections, room inspections, weapons inspections, privately owned vehicle inspections, counseling packet inspections and so forth? More importantly, are leaders at all levels physically checking these areas themselves? Do we know what to look for during an inspection? What does “right” look like?
Again, the answer here is fairly simple: Leaders at all levels need to be educated on what the standard is and then ensure the standard is being met. If you don’t know what the standard is, then communicate with your chain of command or NCO support channel, and find the answer.
I realize I placed a large amount of questions in this article, but there is a reason behind it. I don’t have all the answers here, but it is my hope that these questions may inspire you to take some time to reflect on what Back to Basics means to you and your organization, and that you will discuss it with your subordinates, peers and supervisors. Surely you will find amongst you some common ground upon which you can implement positive changes in your formations.
Thank you for all that you do for our nation and our Army each and every day. Always Out Front! Army Strong! HOOAH!