Reading is fundamental component to unit’s goals, professionalism

| August 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Command Sgt. Maj. Garfield Skyers,
18th Medical Command (Deployment Support)



If you were stationed in Fort Riley in the mid-1980s and you were told that you were going “back to basics,” you would literally shake in your boots.

Back then, the term meant that you were about to endure another eight weeks of military training at the U.S. Army Retraining Brigade under the watchful eyes of a drill sergeant, learning what it meant to be a Soldier. Yes, basic training all over again.

Today the term has taken on a different meaning. Rather than sitting through an hour or two of instructions as part of institutional training, back to basics focuses on teaching Soldiers at the unit level basic military customs and courtesies, Army traditions, history, leadership development and standards — skills that might have been taught during basic combat training, during noncommissioned officer education schools or learned at this point in their career.

During the past year, I have made numerous on-the-spot corrections with Soldiers — from privates to master sergeants — on issues that range from proper wear and appearance of the uniform to grooming, saluting, customs and courtesies, speeding, training, counseling, standards of conduct and other issues, some of which I learned during basic training or at my first duty station.

Sometimes they correct the deficiency before I start my mentoring, but increasingly, I receive an expression of total confusion or a dazed appearance and a common response of, “I did not know.”

In the 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support), we use a tiered approach to get back to basics. We focus on our junior enlisted Soldiers through our Junior Enlisted Development Program. This program spotlights what junior enlisted Soldiers should know in order to become effective leaders. For example, our promotion boards focus on the things that sergeants and staff sergeants should know at that point in their career.

All questions for the promotion board come directly from Army regulations, technical and field manuals, and training circulars, instead of online or store-bought study guides. This one change forced our specialists and sergeants to read the regulations.

Our NCO professional development program centers on the fundamentals of NCO leadership and training. These fundamentals include topics such as range operations and marksmanship, supply discipline and inventory, counseling and the Army writing program.

Later, we intend to implement a certification program for sergeants first class and below that starts on the 30th day after arriving at the unit. This certification program will list tasks that these Soldiers must demonstrate with competency over a period of nine months.

In an age of ubiquitous computing, more information is available to Soldiers today than at any other time in our history. Despite the ease with which information is available, Soldiers spend less time reading Army regulations and other manuals than in the past.

Field Manual 7-22.7, The Army NCO Guide, states: “A man cannot lead without determination, without the will and the desire to lead. He cannot do it without studying, reading, observing and learning. He must apply himself to gain the goal — to develop the talent for military leadership … Leaders are developed! They are guided by others; but they are largely self-made.”

As one senior NCO told me, getting back to basics is about “enforcing standards.”

I agree. Back to basics is indeed the enforcement of standards and a return to the basic of what right looks like across the Army.

Reading, so you know what the standards are, along with applying what you learn at the unit level, is fundamental to returning to the basics.

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Category: Leadership, News, Standing Columns

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