(1) Read the Constitution: When we join the Army we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. However, you would be surprised at how many Soldiers have never actually READ the Constitution. As I see it, this is quite perhaps the most amazing document ever written (other than the Bible). Do yourself a favor and read the Constitution. Don’t just read it, study it! And make it a point to re-read it at least 2-3 times a year. Every time I read the document I fall in love with my country all over again. It wouldn’t hurt to print out a copy for your Leader’s Book either.You can read the Constitution right here.
(2) Study and Know Your Unit History: Most units have an amazing history, especially the line units. Do yourself a favor and do some internet searches about your unit. Find out more about their traditions, the battles they participated in, the famous leaders and the Medal of Honor recipients. Learn everything you can about the Unit/Regimental Colors, the motto, the unit crest, etc. Become an expert on your unit and be part of the proud of tradition. At a minimum, know your unit’s and your next higher unit’s history. Once you study your unit’s history, you should feel a great sense of pride and honor to be part of that tradition. It wouldn’t hurt to study some of the U.S. Army‘s history either. Read about the history of the U.S. Army.
(3) Read Books About Famous Military Leaders: There are so many famous military leaders, U.S. and foreign. You should make it a point to study history. Learn what these successful men and women Soldiers did in their military careers and study their lives. Study the founding fathers, Napoleon, Patton, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Colin Powell, Pershing, and other great leaders. You can study someone’s entire life in a three to six hour book. That is pretty amazing when you think about it. What took them a life to learn you can learn in three to six hours. At a minimum, try to read a book about a famous Soldier every 90 days. It will be time well spent. Here is a great book to get started with.
(4) Find Someone Outside of Your Chain of Command As Your Mentor: You need a mentor. Whether you are a superstar or average performer, you need the mentorship of someone who has gone before you and achieved success. Few people have adequate mentorship within their own chain of command, especially in the USAR and ARNG, so I suggest you look OUTSIDE of your organization and find someone who has achieved what you want to achieve in your career. For example, if you want to retire as a Brigadier General, find a retired Brigadier General you admire and respect and ask them to be your mentor. If they charge you, PAY THEM. It is money well spent. If they offer to mentor you for free, seize the opportunity. Look for people in sister units or retirees. If you look, you will find a good mentor. As you progress through your career, you might switch mentors from time to time, or find ADDITIONAL mentors to teach you different things. That’s quite normal.
(5) Volunteer to Help Out Other Vets: Veterans have an important role in our society. As a Soldier you are part of a proud brotherhood and sisterhood. Consider volunteering in your local community to help out homeless veterans. Or volunteer to spend time with WW2 Veterans in nursing homes. Or join a Veteran’s Organization you are passionate about. It doesn’t have to take much of your time. Even volunteering one hour a month will be beneficial. You should also join the VFW, AMVETS, American Legion and/or other Veteran’s Organization that lobby for and support veterans. When you volunteer and associate with other veterans, pick their brain. Most of these old Soldiers have so much experience and wisdom that would benefit you. Just ask them questions and listen.
In conclusion, these are the five things that I think every Army leader should do, regardless of their rank. The bottom line is that we all have the responsibility to serve, to improve and learn, and to give back. Do these five things and you will be well on your way to having a great career and great life. What are your thoughts?