The purpose of this post is to write a book review for the book “The Writer: The Comprehensive Guide for Writing Awards” by Mark Gerecht. As a quick disclaimer, I received a review copy of this book for free. Although I’ve never met Mr. Gerecht personally, we do have a professional business relationship online. However, I was in no way compensated to write this review or asked to say something specific. This review is simply my opinion.
The Writer: The Comprehensive Guide for Writing Awards (now in its 10th anniversary edition) is a book designed to educate Army leaders at all ranks on how to write awards. And that is a BIG deal. One of the most important jobs of a leader is to recognize and develop their subordinates. So, putting Soldiers in for awards is a very important part of EVERY leader’s job.
Unfortunately, many Army leaders (especially junior leaders) do not know how to write an award properly. Very few Army leaders are ever counseled or mentored or trained on how to write awards, so this book plays a big role in helping fill that void.
This is the most comprehensive, yet easy to follow guide for awards I have ever read. It’s to the point, easy to understand, well organized and very comprehensive. It’s not necessarily a book you will read page by page. Instead, it is something you will refer to when you need specific information or specific examples about writing awards. You can simply go the index, find what you are looking for, and then go to the section that covers that information.
Some of the things it covers include:
- Award Preparation Checklist
- Award Writing Overview Flowchart
- Mind Mapping Your Award
- Developing Your Award
- Filling out the DA Form 638
- Developing Your Award
More importantly, you will have immediate access to sample citations that you can use as a shell when writing your own awards. This will save you lots of time and make life easier for you. These citations include examples for leadership, special duty positions, staff positions, inspections/evaluations, recognition, deployment, volunteer and miscellaneous. So whether you are in a combat zone, or doing peacetime operations, there are plenty of great examples you can use.
Furthermore, you will find narratives for:
- Awards for Valor
- Legion of Merit
- Soldier’s Medal
- Bronze Star Medal
Another thing I really enjoyed about the book is the word listing at the end of it. Mark provides example adjectives, verbs and nouns that you can when writing awards for your own Soldiers. This will help give you additional words to choose from, so all your awards don’t sound the same.
Here is a list of what each chapter covers:
- CHAPTER 1: Award Preparation
- CHAPTER 2: Opening Sentences for Citations
- CHAPTER 3: Helping Sentences for Citations
- CHAPTER 4: Closing Sentences for Citations
- CHAPTER 5: Achievement Statements
- CHAPTER 6: Sample Citations
- CHAPTER 7: Narratives
- CHAPTER 8: Word Listing
The book retails for just $19.95. It is published by Mentor Enterprises, INC. The book was first published in 2001 and is currently in its 3rd edition. It features 128 pages.
Overall, I give the book 9 of 10 stars and consider it a must read for EVERY Army leader. I believe that all Army leaders, from the newest NCO to the most senior Officer should have a copy of this book in their leader’s library. I wish I would have had a copy of this book while I was serving. It definitely would have saved me time and made life easier for me.
BOTTOM LINE: If you haven’t read the book or don’t own it, invest the $20 and buy it right now! If you have subordinate leaders under your authority, tell them about the book and get them to buy a copy for themselves. You will be glad that you did.
What are your thoughts? If you’ve read “The Writer: The Comprehensive Guide for Writing Awards” I would love to hear from you. What did you like or dislike about the book? How did it help you? Leave a comment below and let us know.
The title alone should say it all. The M978 HEMTT Fueler will always be a special vehicle to me, as it was the first major piece of equipment I learned how to use in the Army. I didn’t ship out to basic training right away, so I had the opportunity to spend many drills with my unit training on my MOS. Being an aviation fuel handler, we would try to set up FARPs (Forward Arming and Refueling Points) with the HEMTT Fueler as much as possible. While I adore the entire HEMTT series (manufactured by Oshkosh), the HEMTT Fueler is my favorite.
That being said, here are four really cool things about the M978 HEMTT Fueler:
- I’ve seen a HEMTT recovering another HEMTT. That alone makes it totally awesome because it has the capability to recover another vehicle of its same size. It’s impressive to see these vehicles work.
- Its fuel carrying capacity. The HEMTT carries 2,500 gal of fuel, minus a couple hundred for expansion, but you get the drift. It can fuel a lot of vehicles, and if you are in a squadron like I am with a lot of rolling stock, that means that training days in the field are long. We can keep them moving without any interruption in training.
- Its versatility. It can ford water, and still fits on strategic lift aircraft for transport. It can stand alone and fuel from one hose, or it can expand to four fuel points if necessary. It can defuel vehicles, and receive bulk fuel via bottom load.
- It is the backbone of Army Logistics! While this is true for the entire HEMTT series, you get the point. I think highly of every model of HEMTT, and while I have a soft spot for the fueler since it is the first truck I learned in the Army, I appreciate what all its siblings do for my unit and how our capabilities are greater because we have them. HEMTTs can be utilized by every battalion in the Army.
Here are some other cool facts about the M978 HEMTT Fueler.
- The current version is the A4.
- It has a 500 Horse Power Caterpillar Engine.
- It has ant-lock brakes, a large climate controlled cab, and comes with an optional 20,000 pound self-recovery winch
- The gross vehicle weight is 64,000 pounds
- The dimensions are 409 inches long, 96 inches wide and 118 inches tall
- It has an internal fuel capacity of 155 gallons and has a cruising range of 300 miles
- It can be transported by a C-130 or C-141
If you’ve spent any time at all in the Army, you’ve probably seen one of these bad boys in action. And if you haven’t, check out the video below to see what it looks like.
Bottom Line: The M978 HEMTT Fueler will make your entire battalion function more efficiently, and it is a great vehicle for new Soldiers to train on. If you have experience with the M978 HEMTT Fueler, leave a comment to share your thoughts.
It is pretty obvious that Army National Guard Commanders face different challenges than our Active Duty counterparts. One of those is the area of Soldier retention. Only in the National Guard are Company Commanders responsible for and rated on their ability to retain their Soldiers. It sort of makes sense when you think about it…after all, Commanders and NCOs have the biggest impact on whether a Soldier opts to stay in or get out. In the Active Component, it is usually Colonels who make the call and determine which Soldiers have the most potential for success and meeting the Army standard. In the National Guard, we rely on Company Commanders…
The biggest challenge in this lies in the fact that many of the forces at play that determine a Soldier’s decision to remain in boots are out of a Commander’s control. From civilian career pursuits, family concerns/pressures, continuing education endeavors or simply a disinterest in serving beyond what they originally contracted to do…it is extremely difficult to convince a Soldier to continue to be a part of your team…the Army team. Personally, I know the continuing trend of expectations of doing more and more with less and less time (due to failures in leadership) have forced out more than a few of my friends and peers.
While it may seem that retaining Soldiers is impossible, there are some things you can do as a Commander (or any Officer/NCO) to help your cause and ensure successful retention efforts. Now, these are not simply “do these things and Soldiers will simply stay in” tips but rather strategies and Command climate visions that will aid your efforts as part of your overall Retention Program. For these strategies to have any affect, you have to have a solid Retention Program in place that addresses Soldiers well before their ETS date. The following are My Top 5 Army Retention Ideas for Company Commanders.
One reason that many Soldiers leave the ARNG is because they are frustrated. This frustration stems from things like disorganized units, toxic leaders, lack of advancement, full time leaders who lack an M-Day empathy or Soldiers who are just simply disenchanted. For these types of Soldiers there are things that are within our control that we can influence to keep quality Soldiers in our units.
This brings me to my first tip…don’t assume high quality Soldiers will just “take one for the team”. Part of keeping high quality Soldiers around is understanding what frustrates them and trying to find things to “un-frustrate” them. Chances are, your best Soldiers are the ones who put in the extra hours between drills and work harder than other Soldiers. As Commanders, we have no control over compensation for these Soldiers (that’s the Army’s job). After all, what incentive does a hardworking E-6 have for sticking around when there are E-7s and Officers slacking off and make more than they do? Well, not much of one that’s for sure. There are, however, other ways of recognizing hard working Soldiers and ensuring that they are getting the treatment they deserve. One example of such strategy was my previous Command. When RMP funds were available they would throw Soldiers some extra cash for their work done between drills. Sometimes they would even offer a few SUTAs. These are simple gestures, but they are gestures that show your Soldiers that you recognize their hard work and may be the type of thing that keeps them around when their ETS date comes.
If you want to keep good Soldiers, their drill weekends need to provide them with meaning – a sense they are doing something important, that they are fulfilling their duties within the larger picture. As silly as that may sound, these psychological needs are likely to be as important, and perhaps more important, than the hundreds of benefits the NG offers them. Nobody likes to come to drill and go through the same motions year after year. Too many command philosophies and vision statements are published on day one and are never referred to again. Leadership is a process, just as creating a vision is a process that will continue to develop as long as you make your Soldiers feel a part of creating that vision.
It is important to offer special schools and training opportunities. Effective Commanders know that to retain Soldiers, sometimes they have develop their strengths and to become more of who they are (or want to be) and they have to challenge them. As they come to better understand who they are, they can see opportunities for growth in the NG, utilizing their strengths and talents. As they move forward in their self-knowledge, they can look for places within the Company where their talents are a good fit. Sometimes just offering a Soldier a high-speed school like Airborne or Pathfinder School is enough to motivate them to stick around. Trust me, I have seen this work.
It has been said that no news is good news, but for Commanders interested in keeping the best Soldiers, this is not true. For Soldiers, not getting any feedback is tantamount to being ignored…and it leads to complacency. Organizations that ignore performance will destroy the very Soldier spirit that makes the true difference in quality units. Positive recognition is often thought of as coming strictly from Senior Leadership, but I have found that Soldiers also value praise and recognition from their fellow peers. Soldiers know the particulars of their job and when they give good feedback it can be more meaningful. What can a Commander do to help foster this? Model the appropriate way to give frequent praise and recognition. Working to develop appropriate and effective feedback skills throughout the unit…such a culture can have a positive impact on retention.
Last but not least, understand your Soldiers’ motivations – It’s really important to understand how each of your Soldiers who is looking to leave is motivated and what they want from the Army. For example, Soldiers might be working for different reasons such as personal fulfillment, love for what they do, to accomplish financial or educational goals and also for money (VA Home Loans, etc.). If you understand the motivations for each Soldier, it will be easier for you to have a discussion with them according to their preferences. If you address them appropriately, they will be less likely to think that you simply view them as a number you must maintain for retention. This is a technique that I have used personally with a couple of my Soldiers. While I couldn’t retain them for 20 years, I was able to get them to extend for a few years as they worked towards their goal of securing a VA Loan and going back to school for their Master’s degree. I understood what motivated them on a personal level…
There you have it. These are my top 5 retention ideas for Company Commanders in the ARNG and USAR. Follow these five tips and you should see a big improvement in your retention rates.
What are some of your techniques and experiences with retention efforts? Any out of the ordinary approaches that surprisingly worked? Share with us!