'Prepare your Soldiers to fill your shoes'
February 23, 2009
- Preparing your Soldiers
- Soldier and single mom finds time to volunteer with youth center
- Ways to enhance unit morale
HUMPHREYS GARRISON - Tens of thousands of young men and women join the U.S. Army each year with the hopes of maximizing their professional potentials as Soldiers, capitalizing on the training and educational opportunities the Army has to offer. But there's another part of a Soldiers' total Army experience, found in their support of Army community activities.
Sgt. 1st Class Leticia Smalls, a medic with Headquarters Service Company, 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion was recently recognized as Active Duty Volunteer of the 1st Quarter for her efforts supporting youth programs at USAG-Humphreys.
"Sgt. 1st Class Smalls has always found time in her busy military schedule to volunteer her time coaching youth sports teams," said Carlos Ruiz, director of Youth Sports and Fitness at USAG-Humphreys. "In addition, she always finds time to help the youth center during cooking clubs and special events. She's taught our youth life skills such as safety, health, self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork."
Smalls said she volunteers to support youth activities because her experience as a mother of two (and expecting her third child in March) gives her unique insights to mentor young children. Smalls relates her youth program successes to the training, experience, leadership and communication ability she has grown for many years in the NCO Corps developing Soldiers.
"I believe that a critical part of being an NCO is being approachable," said Smalls. "If you're not approachable, your Soldiers are not going to be able to talk to you and put their trust in you and know that you've 'got their back.' You always want to prepare your Soldiers to fill in your shoes, and if you're not training them and giving them the best tools of leadership, then you're not doing enough for them," she said.
Smalls said being approachable enables Soldiers in her unit to be more involved with how their mission progresses.
"Most of the time I ask my Soldiers what they think about the way we accomplish our tasks and give them the chance to develop ways to improve our mission readiness," she said.
Smalls says everyone should serve at least two years in the military to get a better understanding of the pride of America, and take the learning experiences the Army has to offer.
"I think it's important to understand what the short-term and long-term educational goals of our new Soldiers are," said Smalls. "Because I've been in the Army awhile, I can tell new Soldiers what opportunities are available to them and encourage them to take as many courses as they can. The Army trains us to be Soldiers, but we must also take advantage of Army educational programs and Army training to not only run missions effectively, but also prepare ourselves for life after Army."
Smalls originally enlisted for two years, but early-career mentors inspired her to stay Army.
"Sometimes I look back on the 14 years I've served and can't believe I've made it this far," she said. "My first company commander and 1st sergeant really motivated me to stay Army and it was because they truly cared about their Soldiers and the morale of the company. They always told us if we needed anything we could call on them, and to me, when you have a command that works well together where the right hand knows what the left hand is doing - both showing Soldiers how to excel - and Soldiers believe 'I can do that, I can be where they are,' you'll have great morale."