We all know the importance of keeping our skills sharp, especially as Soldiers. After all, as Soldiers we are…”trained and proficient” and “experts and professionals”. While serving as an ARNG or USAR Soldier, it is oftentimes a challenge to keep those skills sharp. With only 48 MUTAs a year and a 2 week long Annual Training period, we are grossly at a disadvantage for quality training time when compared to our Active Duty brothers and sisters. However, we are expected (and rightfully so) to perform at the same proficiency as our Active Component. So how do we maintain our MOS proficiency throughout the year? What can we do to ensure that we stay at the top of our game? Well, here are my Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Army MOS Skills and Proficiency.
First and foremost, the best thing you do to maintain your MOS proficiency is to read technical material! Honestly, reading is the best thing you can do to stay sharp. For example, every month I try and read at least 2 books related to my branch and/or tactical leadership. One of those two books is always a TM or FM from things I have already learned and know. As I always try and read new things and learn new things, I also know the importance of maintaining what I already have. Just this past month I read a great book about organizational leadership (new material) and spent an afternoon reading over my Pathfinder Operations FM (old, learned material) just fresh in my mind the things I learned back 4 months ago. It is a great technique and really works!
My second tip may seem a bit silly, but I truly believe that the best way to maintain your proficiency in something is to teach and train other Soldiers. To me, this is a win-win because not only are you maintaining your skills but you are also improving the proficiency of your Soldiers. No matter what your level of technical/tactical knowledge: teach others what you learn, and your own learning will be stronger for it. Apart from forcing yourself to understand something at a level required to teach, it solidifies your own learning.
Something that I do personally to maintain my MOS proficiency is networking with other leaders and Officers. In the Armor world, things change rapidly…especially in the Stryker world! Throughout the many schools I have attended, I have met some great NCOs and Officers who are in doctrine, instructors at schools and other various capacities throughout the Army and just having semi-monthly contact with them keeps me abreast to things as they change and develop and vice versa. For example, this past year we have worked very closely with the Active Duty doctrine writers with respect to the Direct Fire Gunnery Manual and were able to train to the new standard prior to our annual gunnery.
Maintaining and improving any skill requires you to operate at the edge of your abilities; in short, you have to consistently reach and constantly repeat. As leaders, we understand the importance of pushing our Soldiers but we oftentimes are unable to push ourselves in the same way. Personally, I try to attend a physically or mentally challenging school every year. By continually pushing myself and my skills I find that the skills I already have shine through and are honed. Coupled with that is repetition, repetition, repetition!
The last tip I have for improving your MOS proficiency and skills is realizing the importance of details and give attention to minute particulars. Needless to say, this is particularly important in the Army across ALL MOS skills. Work on breaking a complex task or concept into “component parts.” Almost every MOS skill includes discrete steps. Pick one, deconstruct it, master it… then put the whole task back together. Then choose another component part and master that. Before my Soldiers became proficient at developing hasty battle positions they first had to master the skill of developing a sector sketch which is a sub-skill required to establish a good battle position. Before drawing a sector sketch, my Soldiers had to first master the skills of realizing where dead space existed and how to establish their engagement areas based on their effect ranges. You see, mastering the little particulars make you more and more proficient overall.
Always remember that proficiency lies not just in your talents as a Soldier but also in your effort. Talent can take you far, but hard work and focused practice will always take you a lot farther. What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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