Your professional development is the key to a successful career

Your professional development is the key to a successful career

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Greetings from the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), our Army’s association for education and professional development, and a major supporter of the Army’s Soldier for Life efforts.

This past year has come and gone and we are now focused on our annual Membership Report and why it is important to be part of the Association of the United States Army.

But the question we ask is: "Who should be part of the Association of the United States Army and why should I join?"

Interestingly, as I traveled this past year, I’ve had the honor to meet and work with a broad range of Association members who find the value of their membership worth the investment.

Let’s explore these members’ decisions and look closer at what they gain from being a part of the "Army’s Professional Association."

Junior and mid-grade leaders often ask me if they should become involved in an Army or veteran organization.

Whether this leader is Army National Guard, Army Reserve or Regular Army, I always say yes!

Soldier- and leader-focused organizations are a great place to meet new friends, stay active in your military and civilian communities, and learn a little more about something of interest to you.

Whether you are considering joining a cultural, social or professional organization, I recommend you check them out; learn a little about their history, their mission and what they can do for you.

When you find an organization you really like, get more involved in its activities, contribute your time and, if you desire, grow into leadership roles in the organization just as you have done in your Army career.

The Association of the United States Army’s young professional focus scratches this itch in several ways.

The Firing Line Blog discussions found on our website,, focus on current, real-world developments, issues and trends that impact all young leaders and their soldiers.

These online discussions become an important part of our junior leader development by delving into the art and science of the decisions leaders make every day.

Association of the United States Army chapters serve as the interface between the Army and the local communities surrounding our military lives.

Contributing as a volunteer to the AUSA chapter’s mission, to serve as the "Voice for the Army" and "Support for the Soldier," provides young professionals with the opportunity to network and build relationships.

From my own personal experiences as a battalion command sergeant major, I found the junior officers, platoon leaders and company executive officers approached me more openly at these volunteer events than they would have in a work environment.

During these events, social interaction and discussions broke down the barriers to communication and established bonds of trust and mentoring.

Organizations with many motivated young people increase the likelihood of meeting likeminded soldiers focused on learning about their profession, building lifelong friendships and having fun.

Across the nation and around the world there are 119 Association chapters focused on both support programs for soldiers and their families, and professional development initiatives to support young professionals looking for opportunities to enhance individual skills and leadership competencies.

Everyone in uniform, at some point in their career, must transition to a new chapter in life outside the Army.

Employers today look for professionals who can multi-task, or do multiple types of jobs and tasks.

Employers also look for those professionals who thrive and excel in what many might consider busy lives and even stressful environments.

The secret of these young professionals is their gradual growth and involvement in education and professional organizations above and beyond their daily job.

Becoming part of and contributing to a professional organization is a great addition to any resume, and provides the opportunity to gain some real world experience beyond any military occupational specialty.

Serving in leadership or committee level positions further demonstrates your abilities to efficiently and effectively prioritize tasks, manage time and complete everything successfully.

Just as the Army’s Soldier for Life program is aligned with the four quadrants of a soldier’s career and their life in and out of uniform, the Association of the United States Army can meet the needs of the soldier in each of these quadrants.

So for young professionals, the Army wants them to start strong in their Army careers, and as soldiers move into positions of increased responsibility, to serve strong for the duration of their Army adventures.

The Soldier for Life webpage at provides a link between the Army, soldiers, retired soldiers, veterans and all their families.

Starting strong is an essential part of learning "what right looks like" for both young officers and noncommissioned officers.

Working together with other likeminded professionals is a key element in broadening a leader’s communication and decision making skills.

But working with other likeminded professionals is only one step toward building a network of professionals and mentors to tap into for help and guidance.

The "older soldier" generation is a key element in sharing experiences with the up and coming generation.

While not everyone wants to sit around and listen to "war stories" or the "good ole’ days" tales, there is much that can be learned by young and midgrade leaders from the character of the individuals who have lived those experiences.

It is equally important for the past and current generations to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to the up-and-coming generation.

The reason we have the greatest Army in the world is because we have the greatest soldiers.

The legacy of service of each of our veterans who have worn the uniform of a soldier is passed on from one generation to the next.

So if you are on the fence and not sure if you should join the Association of the United States Army or another organization of interest, why not jump in?

The experiences will be worth the hassle and you’ll come out with lasting memories and a host of newly acquired skills.

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!

Take a Stand!

Still Serving, Still Saluting!



Sergeant Major of the Army

Kenneth O. Preston, USA, Ret.

Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs