Greetings from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), our Army’s association for education and professional development, and a major supporter of the Army’s Soldier for Life efforts.
This year Americans can reflect and take pride in our military institutions as we celebrate – all across the country and overseas – the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
Both Senior ROTC and Junior ROTC continue to develop and grow the educated and motivated leaders for our ever-changing nation and the complex world in which we live.
AUSA’s Redstone-Huntsville Chapter hosted the first ROTC luncheon of its kind in Huntsville, Alabama, March 15, during the Association’s Global Force Symposium and Exposition.
In attendance for this inaugural event were hundreds of senior and junior ROTC cadets, faculty members and administrators.
Recruiters from the local recruiting company also attended the luncheon, joining in our recognition of the 100th anniversary of ROTC.
The ROTC cadets in attendance were motivated, respectful, and focused on following their goals by serving in some capacity after graduation.
I had the opportunity to engage in several discussions with the cadets about officer and noncommissioned officer relationships and responsibilities.
As the luncheon’s keynote speaker, my message to them was to be flexible – you will have failures, setbacks and successes.
Making mistakes is not the problem; failing to learn from your mistakes, and not improving, fixing and trying again, is the problem.
The challenge going into any new job where you are in a leadership position – where you have subordinate leaders and soldiers under your control – is learning what you need to know as quickly as you can.
As a commissioned officer, you will have a noncommissioned officer, a platoon sergeant, to help you learn the battle-rhythm of the organization and help you become competent.
Seek out the subject matter experts to learn their wisdom and teach you everything you need to know so you feel totally confident in the decisions you will make.
Your journey through life, whether in the Army or in the civilian workforce, centers on life-long learning.
To make my point to these rising young leaders I shared with them the analogy of the three pillars of learning: institutional education, organizational assignments, and self-development.
While the institution plays a key role throughout our military careers to help us prepare for positions of increased responsibility – to learn doctrine and learn from our peers.
The total knowledge gained is really just a small percentage of what we learn in life.
The greatest learning experiences come from organizational assignments; command, staff, broadening and additional duties are all assignments that give us the opportunity to learn and grow.
Some of the best jobs you will do in the Army are the ones you know little to nothing about because these are the opportunities where you learn the most.
You learn from the leaders and people you work with every day, and you learn from yourself in the knowledge you gain from first-hand experiences.
Today’s work environment is very competitive both inside and out of the military.
Self-development and self-study are learning opportunities you do on your own initiative or as directed by a supervisor.
These learning opportunities especially enable young leaders to further their education, build confidence and become competent in a shorter period of time.
Leadership success can be focused on one key individual trait – lead by your own example.
Competency in the workplace, physical fitness, respect and dignity to others, how you dress both on and off-duty, how you conduct yourself on the internet, etc., are all reflections of your character.
Leading by example in life is one of the most important aspects of becoming a successful and valued leader.
The final message I left with the group of future leaders was to take the knowledge they gain and teach their subordinate leaders.
The Army chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has said repeatedly: "Readiness for ground combat is – and will remain – the U.S. Army’s Number 1 priority."
The four fundamental elements of readiness are manning, equipping, training and leader development.
As a platoon leader, what is your role in each of these four elements of readiness?
Most young leaders at the platoon level think manning is left to the big Army and the company, troop or battery commander and first sergeant to assign soldiers to their formation, give them a new piece of equipment or send their soldiers to school.
Very quickly these four fundamental elements boil down to one – training –which is a very important part of readiness.
However, the most important mission we have as leaders at any level in the Army is growing and developing the next generation of leaders.
For these future platoon leaders, developing and teaching the next generation of sergeants is critical to our Army’s future.
With more than 180,000 soldiers forward stationed or deployed around the world in 140 countries, platoon leaders today are really commanding their platoons, with their subordinate leaders and soldiers potentially executing as many as four or five ongoing missions simultaneously.
Growing and developing young leaders to serve in leadership positions is fundamental, but developing a bench of leaders, those junior subordinates who are ready to step-up and fill a vacancy or need, is part of the resiliency they build into their organizations.
This development and coaching of junior leaders occurs every day in the execution of training, manning and equipping within our formations across the Army, as we ensure our piece of the Army that we are responsible for is ready when we are needed.
For these future lieutenants, the lessons learned in leader development at the platoon level become the experience needed to grow future officers and noncommissioned officers when they are serving in positions of much greater responsibility.
ROTC cadets tour the exhibit hall during the 2016 AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exposition. (AUSA News photo by Robert Knudsen)
For the Junior ROTC cadets in attendance, my message was first one of congratulations in taking a step forward to be part of something bigger than themselves, to seek opportunities to learn about the world where they live.
Balancing a busy academic schedule, their social life and potentially any number of extracurricular activities – such as volunteering to participate in Junior ROTC as a teenager in high school –clearly demonstrates they want to excel in life.
Speaking with many of the Junior ROTC cadets prior to the event, I asked them why they volunteered to be part of the ROTC program in their high school.
Several said they were seeking to learn more about leadership while others wanted to learn something new like survival techniques and map reading.
Many of these young cadets were considering military service after graduation, while others were in the execution phase of enlistment and pursuing a specific occupational specialty.
With approximately 75 percent of students graduating from high school on average across the nation, my message to them was to stay in school and graduate no matter what their plans were after high school.
These professional development discussions are occurring every day all around the Army and across the nation.
If any of the discussions in this article, in AUSA News, on our website or in social media, then you need to be part of the team and a member of the Army’s professional association.
There is no substitute for the knowledge and wisdom gained through experience and when you are a young up-and-coming Army professional, associating with other members of your profession with varied experiences creates a unique opportunity to learn through the eyes of others.
Now more than ever America’s Army needs AUSA, and AUSA needs your membership support.
Membership is the volume knob to ensure your voice is amplified many times over and heard throughout the halls of Congress, from sea to shining sea across this country, and throughout every small town and community in-between.
Keep America’s Army Strong!
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Still Serving, Still Saluting!