One of the Company Commander’s primary responsibilities is to develop his subordinates. One way to do this is by implementing an effective Army Officer Professional Development (OPD) program in your unit.
Officer Professional Development is a mandatory training event. In the Army National Guard, we typically conduct Officer Professional Development a minimum of once each quarter. Personally, I believe OPD is an ongoing process that should happen each and every drill weekend. It can be either formal or informal. In other words, it doesn’t have to happen in a classroom setting.
Listed below are some of the different Army Officer Professional Development training events 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.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 1- Visit a Local Battlefield: If your unit armory is located near a historic battlefield, 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.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 2 – Watch a Military Movie: There are countless military movies. One great way to conduct OPD is to watch a movie with your Officers. Assign each Army 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.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 3 – Book Review: In between drill weekends, assign your Platoon Leaders 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 lieutenant pick a book each month or quarter.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 4 – Conduct a Team Building Exercise: Take your Lieutenants 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 LT in charge. At the end of the exercise, do an AAR and provide constructive feedback.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 5 – Put Your Lieutenant in Charge: Assign one of your Lieutenants as “acting commander” during a training event. Put them in charge. Let them plan the mission, conduct 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.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 6 – Career Planning: Sit down with your Officers to teach them about career planning. Talk to them about military education requirements, promotion requirements, what jobs to have, etc. Teach them what they need to do to advance their career.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 7 – Retirement Planning: This might sound a little bit crazy, but one of the best OPDs I ever had was when a Major sat me down (while I was in ROTC) to talk to me about the importance of retirement planning. He taught be basic knowledge about stocks, mutual funds, IRAs. That was the best OPD I’ve ever had. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching this yourself, you could bring in someone.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 8 – One-on-One Time: You need to 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? You will never find out anything about them if you don’t spend one-on-one time with them.
Army Officer Professional Development Idea # 9 – Let a Lieutenant Teach an OPD: This is a great idea. Assign an OPD class for each Lieutenant. Let them prepare the training. Have them review their plan with the Company XO prior to the event. At the end of the event, do an AAR. Remember, you can learn just as much from your Lieutenants as they can learn from you. Don’t think you must to do everything yourself.
Remember, the unit OPD program is your responsibility. Don’t think of it as another painful requirement to fulfill. Instead, think of it as a chance to invest your time and energy helping someone else become a better Officer. Whenever possible, make it fun and interesting!
What OPD ideas 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.