Army Officer Professional Development: Army OPD Ideas & Topics

In today’s post, I’d like to share my thoughts on different Army Officer Professional Development Ideas. I’ll also cover some topics that might interest you.

First and foremost, let’s take a moment and define OPD. Here’s what I found online:

Officer Professional Development (OPD) is a combination of training, education, and experience. It is a program designed to meet the needs of the Army and the individual officer. It is a cooperation among the individual officer, the commander, and the career manager. The objective of OPD is to maximize an officer’s potential. ~ Source:

What’s the Army have to say about Army Officer Development? Here’s what I found right out of DA PAM 6003. This is some good to know information.

  • Leader development programs should be responsive to the environment, including such factors as law, policy, resources, force structure, world situation, technology, and professional development.
  • An officer’s success should be measured in terms of contribution. An officer’s professional goals are directly related to his or her own definition of success in the profession of arms.
  • High-quality Soldiers deserve high-quality leaders. This principle is the heart of leader development and breathes life into all aspects of the seven Army fundamental imperatives—training, force mix, doctrine, modern equipment, quality people, leader development, and facilities.
  • We recognize as a philosophy that leaders can be developed. While a principle in itself, it is inextricably linked to the philosophy of shared responsibilities among the individual leaders; the schoolhouses, branches, and FA proponents throughout the Army; and the commanders in the field.
  • Leader development is cooperative and holistic. The individual officer, unit commanders, mentors, and Army educational institutions all share in the responsibility for developing leaders at every level. ~ Source: ArmyPubs

As a quick sidebar, if you have not printed out and read DA PAM 600-3, you should. It’s your go-to guide for Army OPD.

army officer professional development

Army Officer Professional Development Ideas

Listed below are some of the different Army Officer Professional Development Ideas I’ve used in the past. Each was effective in its own way. The method I used was based upon my available time and resources.

# 1: Site Visit

If your unit armory is located near a historic battlefield or museum, you could take your subordinate officers to the battlefield and review the battle. You could assign each lieutenant a different “General” from the battle and have them discuss the battle from that person’s point of view.

# 2: Watch a Military Movie

There are countless military movies. One great way to conduct OPD session is to watch a movie with your subordinate officers. Assign each officer a different character in the movie. At the end of the movie, have each lieutenant brief what went right, what went wrong, and what they would have done differently. Sample movies include: A Bridge to Far, Patton, Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers.

# 3: Book Review

In between drill weekends, assign your officers a book to read. Have them type up a 1-2 page summary and brief you during drill weekend. Make sure you read the book yourself too. Let a different officer pick a book each month or quarter.

# 4: Conduct a Team Building Exercise

Take your officers out and conduct a Future Leader Reaction Course (FLRC). If you don’t have a FLRC course available, do an internet search to find a “team building exercise.” Complete the exercise. Put a subordinate officer in charge. At the end of the exercise, do an AAR and provide constructive feedback.

# 5: Put Your Lieutenant in Charge

Assign one of your officers as “acting commander” during a training event. Put them in charge. Let them plan the mission, conduct the training, and do the After-Action-Review. Evaluate their performance and sit down with them one-on-one after the training event to give them constructive feedback.

# 6: Partner Up with a Different NCO

During drill weekend, switch your officers. Have them work in a different section with a different NCO for one drill weekend. While it might sound weird, it will benefit them to work with a different NCO for a weekend and learn the roles and responsibilities of the section/platoon/unit.

# 7: Challenge or a Contest

Have a challenge or contest with your subordinate officers. Let them partner up with another officer and work in teams of two, or have them do it on their own. The challenge might be to do something, learn something, or share something. Get creative. The options are endless.

# 8: One-on-One Time

You should invest time in your junior officers. You should get to know them. You don’t want to become their best friend, but you need to find out what makes them tick. What are their goals and dreams? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What motivates them? You will never find out anything about them if you don’t spend one-on-one time with them.

# 9: Let a Subordinate Officer Teach an OPD

Assign an OPD class for each subordinate officer. Let them prepare the training. Have them review their plan with you prior to the event. At the end of the event, conduct an AAR. Remember, you can learn from your subordinates, too. Don’t think you must to do everything yourself.

# 10: Bring in a Guest Speaker

Have a retiree, a leader from a different unit, or a subject matter expert do a speech or class with you and your officers. Pick the topic ahead of time and then find someone qualified to give the class.

army opd topics

Army OPD Topics

Listed below are a few topics you could use for your next Army OPD session.

  • Thrift Savings Plan
  • Career Planning
  • Army Values
  • Leadership Skills
  • Tactical Training
  • Conflict Resolution
  • The Art of Communication
  • The Officer and NCO Relationship
  • People Skills
  • Convoy Operations
  • Weapons Range Management & Operations
  • How to Write a Good OPORD
  • Troop Leading Procedures
  • Military Decision Making Process
  • Counseling
  • How to Write OERs and NCOERs
  • Unit History
  • Army History
  • Strategic Planning
  • Time Management
  • How to Prepare for Retirement

This list is not 100% comprehensive, but it should get you thinking.

Must Read Posts for Your Officer Professional Development

What you will see below are some of my favorite articles on this website that will help you with your Army Officer Professional Development.

# 1: Personal Development Plan for Military Personnel

This first post is my personal development plan for military leaders. I think all leaders should have their own personal development plan, so they can get a little bit better every single day, set new goals, and to develop their potential as leaders.  Read more about creating your own personal development plan.

# 2: Why I Resigned My Commission

At some point, most officers contemplate the decision to stay in the Army or get out. It’s a natural part of the normal career progression. In this post, I want to share the top 8 reasons why I decided to resign my commission and move on to greener pastures. I’m not telling you to resign. I just want to share my story. Read my story about why I resigned my commission.

# 3: Top Army Officers: 5 Things They Have in Common

When you study successful Army Officers, they are all different. They have different personalities, religions, ethnic backgrounds, education, traits and skills. Despite those differences they also have a lot in common! In this post I’ll share the five things all successful Army Officers have in common. These are definitely some traits you want to develop yourself, in order to reach your full potential. Read more about what successful Army Officers have in common.

# 4: How to Develop Your Military Leadership Skills

Everyone should strive to improve and be a better military leader. As an officer, that’s what the Army pays you for: LEADERSHIP. If you’re looking to develop your leadership skills this is the post for you. I’ll share thirteen simple things you can do to be a better military leader and stand out in the crowd. Read more about how to develop your military leadership skills.

# 5: Career Tips for Army Officers

This is a big blog post I did sharing some of my best career tips for Army Officers. We will cover 37 different areas to focus on and improve. This is a must read if you want to be above center of mass and make it to the top ranks. Check out my 50 career tips.

# 6: How to Improve Your Military Writing Skills

Poor writing skills is a big problem in our society and in the Army. As an officer, you need to constantly hone and improve your writing skills. You have to write OERS, NCOERs, awards, OPORDs, Risk Assessments, and so much more. Poor writing skills can be a show stopper. This post will share some tips on improving your writing skills.

# 7: Best Additional Duties for Army Officers

As an officer, you are bound to be assigned several additional duties throughout your career. This post will teach you which ones to seek out and why. I’ll cover what I think are the five best additional duties to round out your experience and excel your career. Read more about the best additional duties.

# 8: 10 Lessons I Learned from Other Army Officers

This is a valuable post with some lessons that I learned from other Army Officers. I’ve been fortunate to serve with some really good officers throughout my career. This post will share some of the most important career and life lessons I learned from other officers. Read more about these lessons.

army professional development


In conclusion, these are my best Army Officer Professional Development Ideas. Embrace OPD! Be a student of your profession. Instead of looking at it as one more thing to do, take the bull by the horns and run with it. Other than mission accomplishment, developing your subordinates is your # 1 responsibility as a leader. Take that responsibility seriously.

What Army OPD ideas or topics do you have? Please share them below. If you have any questions, you can also ask them below and we will answer them to the best of our ability. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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16 thoughts on “Army Officer Professional Development: Army OPD Ideas & Topics”

  1. One of the OPD's I saw was movie scenes: They would play a scene from a military movie and dissect what they saw i.e. leadership, military bearing. It made for some great discussions.

    I also enjoyed history. Someone would be given a history topic without warning and have to talk about for 5-10 minutes. They would tie in the event to their own career and talk about what military values were in play. This taught not only history, but also helped with public speaking.

    1. That’s so cool, Jeff.

      I love impromptu speaking and putting people on the spot, because of what they learn from it. Learning how to handle those situations is very important, especially as you move up through the ranks and must do more public speaking.

      I also like your idea about giving someone a military history topic, out of the blue, and then having to talk about it for 5-10 minutes.

      Great ideas. Thanks again.


  2. Here are some of my favorite Army OPD Ideas:

    1. Time Management
    2. How to write awards
    3. Personal finances and budgeting
    4. Military history
    5. Conflict resolution
    6. Counseling and leader development.

    I hope that helps.

  3. This is what my unit did for their OPD program during the past 12 months (we do it quarterly).

    1. How to Run a Weapons Range the Right Way
    2. How to Do an Inventory the Right Way
    3. How to Conduct an Article 15
    4. Common Legal Issues of Company Commanders

    All of these sessions were great and very informative.

  4. Here are some OPD Ideas we did in my old unit.

    1. Call for fire
    2. How to buy a house
    3. How to get out of debt
    4. Army OES
    5. How to Write OERs
    6. How to Manage Your Time

    I hope that helps.

    1. I love it. Most officers won’t do classes on things like buying a home, staying married, or getting out of debt, but I think they are important topics to developing well rounded officers. After all, what we do outside of work typically plays a big role in how well we do at work.

  5. One of the best OPDs we ever did was a trip to Gettysburg. It was a wonderful experience and all the officers in my battalion enjoyed it.

    1. That’s awesome. Gettysburg is amazing. The tours are so insightful. You could literally drive around Gettysburg all day and visit so many historic sites and learn so many cool things about our country’s history. I’m glad you got that opportunity.

  6. sprzeciw od nakazu zapłaty

    Another good OPD Idea is to teach people how to set goals. You could bring in a life coach or success coach to teach the class.

    1. I love this idea for an Army OPD topic. Goal setting is awesome. Learning how to set written goals changed my life in a good way. I’m glad I had a mentor many years ago who taught me how to do it.

  7. Professional development is an ongoing endeavor. When I work with people I recommend they do professional development that not only helps their career by enhances their overall knowledge too. You have some great suggestions here. You have hit on some great things here, including team building, military education and retirement planning. Solid advice all around.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Joey.

      To share a few more OPD Ideas, I would like to include:

      1. Reading and discussing the US Constitution
      2. Interviewing WW2 Veterans
      3. Parenting class
      4. Stress management class

      There are really endless possibilities.


  8. Here are a few good Army OPD Ideas I can think of: (1) how to buy a house, (2) how to set a budget, (3) how to write OPORDs, (4) how to conduct negative counselings, and (5) how to PMCS a vehicle properly. Thanks for sharing this great post.


    1. Good comments, Irene.

      Here are some more Army OPD Ideas.

      1. Site Visits to Famous Battle Sites
      2. Debt Management
      3. Platoon Battle Drills and Tactics
      4. Guest Speakers (successful retired officers)


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