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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8 thoughts on “Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Army MOS Skills and Proficiency”
You hit the nail on the head with saying training and teaching others a particular MOS skill can help maintain your proficiency as a ARNG or USAR expert. What’s more, it can even INCREASE your knowledge.
Inevitably your soldier protege is going to ask you a question to which you have no answer. You will likely use your leadership skills and say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” As a result, you’ve increased your own MOS knowledge base, shown a valuable military trait in being willing to say “I don’t know,” and increased your soldier protege’s self-confidence!
The teacher normally learns more than the student!
Training doesn’t end after the basics, there is always room for growth and improvement. Regardless of your MOS, you should always be looking for ways to do things better, faster, more efficiently. Training is continuous, it has to be a priority for a soldier. You have to stay on top of new technologies, new equipment, and policy changes. Networking, just like in the civilian world is a great way to do this. You may learn something from another soldier that you didn’t think of, or possibly overlooked. Just because you aren’t a squad leader doesn’t mean that others can’t learn from you. Mentoring a soldier new to your MOS can help you stay on top of your game as well.
Ty mentioned mentoring other soldiers in your MOS which I completely agree with. I also would say that finding an “old-timer” that was also in that MOS to mentor you isn’t a bad idea either. No matter how long you have been doing a particular job, there is always still something new you can learn. Dad used to tell me, “if you don’t learn something new today, it was a wasted day.”
I agree with your tips in improving MOS skills. Reading is an excellent way to keep your mind refreshed and improve your MOS skills. Too many times we can forget the skills that we are taught, but taking at least 15 minutes each day will refresh and improve the skills that are needed. I also believe that training others is a great way to improve MOS skills. When you teach, then you can retain and refresh your MOS skills.
I am a firm believer in reading. Reading builds wisdom. By reading books or other materials directly related to your MOS, you will keep it fresh in your mind; this may sound crazy, but it works: to retain even more of what you read, read it out loud. By doing this, not only are you seeing the words, you are hearing them. Two for the price of one. Try it, it works.
I am also in strong agreement with training others. By doing this, it will help you retain and even memorize every part you read.
Very good post Justin.
As part-time Soldiers we are at a MAJOR disadvantage when it comes to staying technically and tactically proficient. All of those skills are perishable skills. I think the best thing to do is read manuals, just like Justin said. Take 10-20 minutes a day and read something that teaches you something new. Educate yourself and stay on the cutting edge. It also helps to stay in MTOE units, so you are more likely to go to the field and do your actual job. Avoid TDA units like the plague. Another good thing to do is go to a different military school at least once a year. The bottom line is that you must be proactive. It’s up to you to stay technically and tactically proficient. And if you are a leader, it’s your job to make sure your subordinates do the same thing.
Hi Justin! I agree that we are at a disadvantage to stay proficient, and have to put in a lot of time outside of drill! I like your suggestions. I think assigning junior enlisted to teach classes is great development for them and prepares them for when they become an NCO. What do you think?