How to Have a Successful Drill Weekend

Whether you are a Battalion Commander or a Corporal, you need a game plan to have an effective and successful drill weekend.  You can’t wing it.  Ina  previous article I wrote about how to prepare for drill weekend and today I’m going to talk about what you should actually do during drill weekend to be successful.

I’d like to share a simple strategy that I used during my six years in the Army National Guard to have a productive drill weekend.  Feel free to modify, add, or delete any of these things from my checklist to fit your current needs.  But whatever you do, make sure you have a game-plan.

successful drill weekendBefore Drill Weekend

  • Do non-essential paperwork/admin stuff before drill weekend – Your goal is to do all the paperwork and behind the scenes stuff on your own time, outside of drill weekend.  Coordinate with the AGR Staff and your supervisor ahead of time and get as much paperwork as you can done on your own time.  That means you will need a CAC card for your home and you will need to commit some time outside of drill weekend for your job responsibilities.
  • Establish priorities for drill weekend – Prior to showing up to drill weekend you need to review the training schedule, OPORD, and training calendar and set your own priorities.  Make a list of everything that needs to get done in your section/unit.  Delegate what you can and come up with a specific “to do” list for each day of drill weekend.  Schedule your time in 15-minute blocks throughout the day.
  • Communicate with key leaders BEFORE drill weekend – If you supervise others, the time to meet with them is BEFORE drill weekend, not during drill weekend.  Email/Call them ahead of time to assign tasks and priorities.  Share your priorities and “to do” list with them.  This will limit meetings during drill weekend and ensure everyone on your team has a game-plan ahead of time.

During Drill Weekend

  • Get their early and get organized – Try to show up to drill at least 60 minutes early and if possible, 90 minutes early.  You want to get organized, review your game plan, and get ready for your Soldiers to arrive.  You need that extra time to prepare and take care of any last minute issues.
  • Use the dry erase board method – After you review your game-plan and “to do” list, put the following things on a dry erase board in your section’s common area.  The mission, commander’s intent, and the big 3-5 priorities/key tasks for the day.  That way, when your Soldiers arrive at the armory they can see what the game-plan is for the day and know what needs to get done.
  • Delegate 80-80% of your tasks to your subordinates – As a leader, you get paid to get things done through others.  Make sure that you delegate as much as possible.  You want to empower your subordinates and work smart.  You want to make sure that each one of your direct reports has a list of things that need to be done during drill weekend.
  • Spend more time with studs than duds – Don’t make the mistake of spending all your time with the “screw ups.”  This is a common mistake that lots of leaders make.  Handle the issues, but spend more time with your good Soldiers and super stars than you do with the problem children.
  • Focus on the most important things: collective training, individual training, mission accomplishment and leader development – 90% of what you do during drill weekend should revolve around one of these four things.  Track how you spend your time and make sure you are spending your time accordingly.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes of quality time with each direct report – Since we only meet one weekend a month, you need to schedule some quality time to sit down and interact with each of your direct reports.  This is where you can do your counseling and leader development, answer any of their questions, and improve your professional relationship with them.  Block off this time in your day planner and make sure it happens.  No excuses.
  • End the drill weekend on a positive – Make sure that you end the drill weekend on a positive.  Have a meeting with your team and review everything.  After your section/unit AAR is finished, do something fun such as play a game of basketball, go out to dinner, socialize for a little bit, or something else.  We did the Ricky Chicken Award ceremony in my old unit and that was lots of  fun.

After Drill Weekend

  • Send thank you cards, put people in for awards – At the end of drill weekend, before you go home, write a few thank you cards for Soldiers on your team who did a good job.  Put a few people in for awards, such as a unit coin, COA or something else.  Make sure your team feels appreciated, and gets recognized for their efforts.
  • Start working on game-plan for next month – Once you get home for the weekend, start the whole process all over again.

Final Thoughts

This is a simple game plan on what to do to have a successful drill weekend.  I suggest you follow the advice in this article, or come up with your own game-plan, so you can have a fun, effective and successful drill weekend every month.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do to have a successful drill weekend?  Leave a comment to let us know.

4 thoughts on “How to Have a Successful Drill Weekend”

  1. This is a great action plan for any sort of major event. Believe it or not, but I used many of these same points when planning my wedding. Maybe that’s because I come from a military family, or simply because a proper plan prevents poor performance.
    I agree that it’s important to spend more time with studs than duds, it makes the “screw-ups” strive to improve and get in with the big dogs. Delegation of tasks is another great tip because it makes everyone realize they play a vital role and the team depends on each other rising to the task.

  2. Amy Skalicky

    Your plan for a successful drill weekend is clearly an effective one, and leadership would benefit from following this framework. Being proactive and effectively planning drill and training time before drill weekend ensures that the everyone gets –and contributes–the most out of drill. Ensuring that the “problem children” don’t monopolize the weekend is also a great point, otherwise the whole weekend can spin out of control because of one or two soldiers. Prioritizing and time management is important for success for the entire unit.

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