Leading America's Future Soldiers
May 17, 2013
DENVER -- Future Soldier leadership is not just a position you fill, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Demott, Denver Recruiting Battalion's Citadel Career Center Future Soldier leader.
"You can't walk into the position and sit there. You have to make it your own, and get creative with it," Demott said.
Demott has one of the highest Future Soldier retention rates within the Denver Battalion, and loves to talk about his Future Soldier Training Program.
"Overall, I give my Future Soldiers purpose, direction and motivation," said Demott. "Future Soldier leaders are extremely busy. We have to do all of our admin requirements on each Future Soldier, make sure they show up for training, along with all the other functions required of the position. So I'm busy."
How does Demott do it? He keeps his Future Soldiers fit and engaged by using three key principles.
1. Turn your Future Soldier pool into a platoon.
"I set up my 45 or so Future Soldiers like a real platoon. I have a platoon leader, four squad leaders, and four team leaders," said Demott. "But why I do it is to empower them. I want them to make this program their own."
Demott said one of his big responsibilities is getting Future Soldiers to his training events, and not losing one of them. These kids don't even know that they live close to each other. In a platoon, they are forced to problem-solve for themselves, and each of these Future Soldiers is responsible for the other. They check in with one another, and if you just have them lumped in a group, they are disenfranchised and don't talk to each other.
"When you make them accountable for each other, you find that they live close, they don't flake out, and they create a bond," said Demott. "I put the onus on the squad leader for them to communicate with other Future Soldiers. Some of the Future Soldiers don't have a lot of friends. For the ones that do have friends, it keeps them hanging out with someone on their same path, and out of trouble with old friends."
Assign Future Soldiers Positions
Future Soldiers can be in the program anywhere from four to six months. Knowing who is who is beneficial to assigning them positions.
"My platoon leader is the one with the most longevity in the program," said Demott. "He or she shows up the most, has to have pretty good PT scores, and has to show that they care."
Demott said that they become platoon leaders if they never have an excuse for not showing up. They don't give excuses like they woke up late or forgot. Demott rotates them out according to their ship date, and will soon incorporate a change of responsibility ceremony.
"I want them to know that this is how the Army works. When leaders leave, there is a change of command or change of responsibility. And when my Future Soldier platoon leader leaves, we'll select the best replacement," said Demott. "The Army promotes the best Soldiers among their peers. These Future Soldiers are learning this."
2. Structure physical training with variety and expand creative common core classes.
Demott conducts physical training (PT) with his Future Soldiers every day, and teaches them in-depth basic soldiering skills.
"Not everyone can show up to PT, but ensure at least 10 percent of your Future Soldier pool makes it," said Demott. "Ten percent is not a big percentage, but it makes a difference. It helps them get physically fit to go to boot camp where they will be doing PT six days a week."
Demott suggests switching up PT routines to add variety so Future Soldiers stay engaged.
"Pushups and situps get old and we never tell them to just go run," said Demott.
Demott said he uses group exercises that teach them "communication skills, teamwork and how to talk to each other."
Demott said a lot of the younger generation has lost the ability to communicate with one another unless it's through a computer screen. He said they will do push-up competitions "without saying a word or asking for help, but we make them dig in, communicate, and help their buddy."
Future Soldier physical training programs will adhere to the guidance in FM 7-22 and RPI 237, the Army Pocket Physical Training Guide.
Expand Common Core Classes
Demott expands land navigation to learn about the 10-digit grid coordinate system. The team that makes it back last does pushups. He also created a cheat sheet for the basic training task list.
"These Future Soldiers will brain-dump the knowledge from the tests they have to take on the computer," said Demott. "At any given time, they need to regurgitate any question I ask them. Anything on that sheet should be firsthand knowledge."
Put Yourself Out There in Training to Get Referrals
Demott said that recruiters merely asking for referrals won't get them any.
"I do a physical fitness challenge," said Demott. "They'll open up their cell phones and dump out contacts if you challenge them to challenge you. They want to see you do 50 pushups for referrals."
3. Make them feel like the Soldier they will become.
"I could have a future Sergeant Major of the Army in my Future Soldier pool. I start teaching them that they're in the Army now," said Demott.
Demott requires them to stand at parade rest when addressing him or any other noncommissioned officer and at attention for officers. He said he has to come to work in a certain uniform, and Future Soldiers need to come in their uniform: their Future Soldier T-shirt.
"Some of them think they're at a job interview at McDonald's," said Demott. "Start teaching them standards and discipline before they go to boot camp so they won't be in such shock and awe."
Don't Just Check the Blocks
Demott said the Future Soldier Training Program is not just a check-the-block program. Never do the same thing the Future Soldier leader did before you, he said; Put your own spin on it.