As a small unit leader, your primary responsibility is to prepare your Soldiers for combat. Everything else you do is secondary. In order to prepare your Soldiers for combat, you really only need to do two things. You need to teach them the right skill-set and the right mind-set. We’ll cover more on each topic below.
The Right Skill-Set
The right skill-set means that your Soldiers can do their job, get the mission done, and then come home safe. Specific elements include:
- Trained at the Warrior Tasks – Every Soldier, regardless of their MOS must be proficient in the Warrior Tasks. They must know how to shoot, move and communicate, so they can survive on the battlefield.
- Trained in MOS – You need to ensure that your Soldiers are highly trained in their MOS, that they have the schools they need and the job experience to know what it takes to succeed. They should also be cross-trained in other job skills.
- Trained in Unit’s Collective Tasks – Soldiers must be proficient at their unit’s collective tasks. They must know the unit’s collective tasks and what their role is in helping accomplish those tasks.
The Right Mind-Set
- Live by the Warrior Ethos – You must instill the warrior ethos in your Soldiers. Some examples include discipline, the will to carry on, pride, honor, etc. Soldiers must think like Soldiers and be mentally tough. It also includes being mentally and physically fit.
- Live by the Army Values – The Army values are important, even in combat. You must instill the Army values in your Soldiers: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
- Disciplined – We covered this a moment ago, but discipline really is the core component on this entire list. Everything starts with discipline. Your Soldiers must respect the rank structure, their orders, their superiors, and most importantly themselves. They must be willing to carry out orders, even if it could cost them their life in combat.
- Team Focused – Their is no “I” in team. You need to make sure your Soldiers are team focused and care just as much about the team as they do themselves. This means they care about their team and understand that the team’s objectives are more important than their personal objectives.
- Mission Focused – You must instill in your Soldiers a mind-set that accomplishing the mission is the most important thing. Everything revolves around the mission.
If I had to put all these things into a single statement, it would be to ensure your Soldiers have the skill, the will and team work to get the job done.
Whenever you do a training event at your armory or in the field, make sure it is battle focused. Make sure that it incorporates one of more of the things listed above. By doing that, you will help ensure your Soldiers are prepared for combat. That way if they get deployment orders, you can be confident that they will get the mission done AND come home safely.
What are your thoughts? What do you think leaders should do to prepare their Soldiers for combat? Leave a comment and let us know.
13 years ago today I graduated college and was commissioned as a brand new 2LT in the US Army. I graduated from SUNY Potsdam while taking my ROTC training at Clarkson University. At the time, I had no idea what the future had in store for me. I was excited to finish college, have a secure job, and serve my country.
I remember waking up early that morning. My parents were coming in to town (a long drive from Maine) to see me graduate and receive my commission. I was excited to see them. We had a nice small commissioning ceremony at SUNY Potsdam where we my parents “pinned” on my gold bars. I was so proud.
In addition, my National Guard First Sergeant rendered my first salute and I awarded him a silver dollar, as with Army tradition.
I spent the afternoon with my parents, some of my ROTC peers, and my fraternity brothers. We went out to lunch, spent a few hours together socializing, and then I drove off to my first duty assignment: Fort Lee, Virginia.
I experienced so many emotions that day. I was excited about “finally” being an officer, sad to leave all my friends behind at college, and unsure about what the future had in store for me. Looking back, I was young, naive and very inexperienced (green). It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come during the past 13 years.
Our lives are nothing more than a series of moments. This is one of the most “special” moments that I will never forget.
My favorite time of year is December’s drill. This is because there is usually some kind of family event, drill is very relaxed, and there is a formal event like a dining-in or dining-out. After marrying my husband last year, I got to experience the ultimate dining-out at his unit! A dining-in and dining-out are similar, except at a dining-out, civilian guests (like spouses) are included; it takes place at a normal restaurant and has dancing. Here is an overview of the dining-in and why they are so great.
The dining-in is traditionally for the officers of the unit, however, in a majority of cases the entire unit participates in the event. It’s important to know that with a Dining In spouses DO NOT attend. It is reserved for members of the unit.
The reason that I love this time of year so much is because it is a huge tradition that we can still make the most of. I think the Army needs to keep as many traditions as possible, they instill pride and esprit de corps. The great part is that every unit has their own tradition and every dining-in differs just slightly from the others.
One person that makes or breaks the dining-in is the Mr. Vice. This should be somebody who has a great sense of humor and a quick wit. He or she will be doing majority of the talking throughout the event, and it is imperative that the right person is selected for this position!
The commander usually serves as the president of the mess, and is seated at the front along with guests of honor, chaplain and guest speaker. The dining-in begins with a receiving line, then the colors are posted. There will be opening remarks from the president and the guest of honor. Most units make a grog bowl, and the senior leadership in the unit will each have a hand at pouring a particular liquor or something like “sand from Iraq and Afghanistan”, or “a sock from the lowest ranking private’s foot”. Dinner must be sampled and ensured that it is fit to be consumed by the mess.
Toasts are done, and one must make sure their glass is always charged! Once the gavel drops after dinner and everyone is dismissed, usually people stay and continue to socialize and dance.
Final Thoughts: A dining-in is a great event to plan every year and they help keep Army traditions alive. If you’ve been to a Dining In before, I would love to learn about your story or experiences with it. Leave a comment to tell us all about it.
The National Guard Technician Program is responsible for organizing, administering, instructing, and training Soldiers. The program is also responsible for the maintenance of equipment for the entire Army National Guard. Technicians can be assigned to positions in Human Resources, Aviation Facilities, Ground Equipment Maintenance, Logistics Management, Facilities Management, Soldier Training Sites, and Property and even Financial supporting areas!
Army National Guard Techs can be either Dual Status or Non-Dual Status technicians. Dual Status technicians are federal civilian employees and are assigned to organize, administer, or train Guard members while maintaining membership in the National Guard. As Citizen Soldiers, these techs provide continuity and a greater depth and breadth of civilian skills to their units in their respective states whom they work for.
Dual Status ARNG technicians are employees of the Department of Army or Department of the Air Force. These technicians are required to maintain military membership in the National Guard in order to retain employment. However, unlike other Federal employees, the State Adjutant General has the authority to affect employment and is the level of final appeal for most personnel actions. With few exceptions, an ARNG technician enjoys the same benefits, privileges and rights as other federal employees. If selected as a National Guard Technician, you become a federal employee covered by the National Guard Technician Act of 1968 (32 USC 709, Public Law 90-486). Because of this law, you are referred to as a military technician.
Remember, your primary mission as an ARNG technician is to provide day-to-day continuity in the operation and training of Army and Air National Guard units…which to me, isn’t a bad way to make a living. Here is a link to help you begin the application process if you are interested:
If you’ve ever spent time as a National Guard Dual Technician, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment to tell us what your experience was like.
The Army Air Assault School is dubbed as the “hardest 10 days in the Army” by some. Depends on who you talk to I suppose. This article post is just me sharing my experience with you and I will describe the course as it is broken down (by phase/milestone). A disclaimer I must include is that I attended the Warrior Training Center Air Assault School, not the Active Duty school held at Fort Campbell. However, it has been my conviction that the WTC Schools, which are run by the National Guard, are just as hard if not harder than the Active schools. My good friend said that Pre-Ranger, which is run by the WTC was so much worse than actual Ranger School…
Entry Phase: Now, this isn’t necessarily what it is called, but that is what I am calling it. After you in process paperwork wise, it is game on. You will in-process and make your way to your barracks, etc. The atmosphere will be calm, cool and may fool you that the course will be a cake-walk. I urge you to stay vigilant and begin to prepare yourself for the next day. Drink water, eat good and stretch. As I recall, the next morning began full-blown with a nice lengthy “smoking” session. Air Assault Sergeants (AAS) beat you down, let you sip water, then beat you down again. After the smoke-session you will roll right into your APFT. That’s right…they will push you to physical exhaustion, then give you your PT Test. My advice, do NOT go to AAS just making the minimum on the APFT. Make sure you can easily get 80% on each event and give yourself some wiggle room. Once your pushups and situp events are done, you will run 2-miles to the obstacle course. There will be an AAS standing at the entrance to the O-Course and if the time expires before you get there…well, you are done with Air Assault school… PERIOD.
The O-Course is pretty standard as with all of the them. The only exception is that between each event, you will be getting smoked. I won’t lie, I have no shame in telling the world that I threw up on the O-Course from a combination of chugging water and being physically spent. Suck it up…Drive on. Once you complete this first day, you are IN! Look at it like a try-out and you WANT to make the cut. Trust me, it is all down hill from that day on.
Air Assault Phase: Now that you have been “initiated” it is time to learn about Air Assault Operations. These days are long, classroom oriented days that are peppered with random smoke sessions and other physical challenges. You will learn everything about every single helicopter the Army has, learn about Air Assault Operations and how to conduct them and you will also learn how to ruck…and I mean ruck. Our classroom was only about a city block away from the barracks but we always took a 4-5 mile detour on our way there with a ruck weighing 35+ lbs. Take time each night to study as there will be some testing going on that you MUST pass to continue.
Sling Load Phase: Things began to slow down for me, at this point. After passing all the Air Assault exams and learning what I needed to about the Army helicopter, we began to receive more in depth classroom instruction on the various sling loads and sling load configurations that are used to transport equipment via helicopter. While in my opinion, the written exam was harder than the hands on testing, some others found it to be quite the opposite. Some people have better memories than others. My suggestion is to take every single opportunity that the AAS instructors give you to study and have your hands on the mock-up sling loads. You do this, you will be set up for success. During the exams, try to remember certain things using acronyms or other mental triggers. It is pretty difficult to memorize all the information. During the hands on inspection, use a systematic approach, always start and end the same way as you did when you practice. Also, TOUCH EVVERYTHING! There are often small, subtle differences that the AAS instructors bank on you missing during your inspection. Touching every single item as you inspect it guarantees that won’t happen to you!
Rappel Phase: Once you have exhausted your mental capacity and brain dumped everything, it is time to get physical learning how to rappel from a helicopter….true Air Assault style! You will complete numerous rappels from the towers to prepare for this. My tips are to: 1) let the equipment do the work and TRUST in the equipment (otherwise you will exhaust your arms and shoulders) 2) listen to your instructors 3) have fun. Don’t be afraid of the heights or cantilevered edge of the tower, which most of us were not used to prior to AAS. During the rappel phase, you will also receive instruction on the basics of setting up a HLZ and how to land an aircraft. You will have to memorize all the hand and arm signals to test out for this. Pretty simple, but still manages to snag a few students. At the end of this phase you will, depending on the school and availability of aircraft, rappel from a UH-60 Blackhawk. Let me tell you, this is a great experience and something that will get your adrenaline flowing. One of the fondest memories from the course for sure!
Graduation Day: Well, you’re all done…you passed every test, practical and physical challenge they threw at you and it is time to graduate, right? WRONG! AAS is known for its rough and tough 12-miler that goes down on graduation morning. You have to complete the ruck in less than 3-hours or all you did to finish the course was for nothing…you’ll be a NO-GO and go home. Big tips here for this event: 1) Eat the morning of. Snag a few snacks from the DFAC to eat in the middle of the night before 2) Pack your ruck the RIGHT way…heavy items on top, soft lighter stuff closer to your back and low. 3) Hydrate, HYDRATE HYDRATE!!!! 4) Keep some Jolly-Ranchers in your pocket to suck on while you ruck…adds energy and breaks up the monotony of the walking 5) Prep your feet prior to stepping off…if you know you have hot-spots then duct tape them…use foot powder and good boots. 6) Use a buddy…this helps, ruck with him, talk and keep each other motivated…and lastly 7) PACK EXACTLY WHAT IS ON THE PACKING LIST…this is a no BS tip…they will drop you from the course if you cross the finis line, dump your ruck and are missing an ear plug. I promise you, I saw it happen. AAS is all about attention to detail!
FINAL THOUGHTS: AAS was probably my favorite of the schools I have been to (i.e. Airborne, etc.) even though it was rough. I met a lot of great peers and was extremely excited to get my “blood wings” at graduation. Just remember, that AAS is all about proper planning, attention to detail and sucking it up when things get rough.