Command's top enlisted leader accepts new challenge
December 10, 2012
As the commanding general's senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard has spent much of his first few months criss-crossing parts of the country as he gets acclimated. He has dialogued with Cadets. He has interacted with cadre. He has met countless parents. He has visited field training exercises and JROTC competitions.
Being Cadet Command's command sergeant major poses a host of challenges for Howard, mostly from its vast footprint that canvasses the United States -- and beyond. As he settles in to a new home base -- the first move for Howard and his family after 22 years in various assignments at Fort Bragg, N.C. -- Howard says he's excited about what lies ahead.
You have talked with a number of people at all levels of the command recently. What is your take on what you're hearing and of the product Cadet Command is producing?
America's future is bright. We have some of the finest young people out there who are seeking to lead the military into the future and keep America safe, strong and provide critical leadership to our young Soldiers.
The product we're producing is excellent. These Cadets are intelligent, motivated, physically fit and well on their way to becoming critical thinkers. I'm very upbeat about the product we are producing.
After spending much of your career at Fort Bragg, what sparked your interest in becoming Cadet Command's command sergeant major?
The opportunity to come here and contribute to producing our future officers for the Army, the opportunity to come here and coach, teach, mentor and provide the critical leadership that is needed to help us to be the Army we're looking to be in 2015 and 2020.
Was it difficult to leave Fort Bragg, where you and your family had established roots?
Yes and no. Yes, after being there the amount of time I was there, you have all your roots in place.
But on the other hand, no, from the standpoint of knowing what I was coming here to be a part of in this organization and what I would contribute.
What do you see as the command sergeant major's role?
In addition to being the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding general on issues such as morale, training, equipment and policy, I see the role also being responsible for going out and providing mentorship and coaching to the subordinate brigades, command sergeants major, senior military instructors, the Cadet Command staff and, of course, visiting the universities and just getting a pulse of what's going on out there and bringing back issues of concern about how we can better help those in the field.
I operate under the guidance of the commanding general. He has asked me to play a role in the redesign of LDAC (Leader Development and Assessment Course), the retooling of our Pre-Command Course and, of course, go out and make sure we understand the needs and concerns of the people in the field, whether they be at the brigade headquarters, the universities or our Junior ROTC programs.
I see my role as being a second set of ears and eyes to the commanding general to affect what we do as best as possible.
To that point, what are people telling you?
Folks are excited about the retooling of LDAC and looking forward to that challenge and of moving to the new learning sciences of outcome-based training. As long as we provide them the tools to learn and understand this concept we're moving to, they're excited about it.
Cadet Command's mission is two-fold: to commission the future leadership of the Army on the senior level and to motivate young people to become better citizens on the junior level. The numbers of Cadets on the junior level far exceed those of the senior level. Who do you see yourself spending more time with?
I have visited more junior programs than seniors so far, but I think it'll be almost split.
This weekend I was in Camp Shelby, Miss., at a Joint FTX. I wasn't at a university, but I was with 12 universities throughout 6th Brigade. That is how I'll get to see a lot of Cadets, conducting their FTX.
You have spent a good bit of time on the road so far. How does it compare to other positions you have had?
This is a lot more demanding and requires more time on the road. If you're trying to get out and be a part of the solution and a second set of eyes and ears for the CG, you've got to go where the drum beat is -- universities, JROTC programs, training events and national events.
A good deal of your career has been in positions where you were with units and commands that receive Cadet Command's end product. Now you are a senior leader in the command developing those lieutenants being sent to commanders in the field. How much do you value being in the development role, and how challenging is that responsibility?
Not that it wasn't important on the other side, but there is more of an ownership now because, despite what university or where they are, when they commission, they are Cadet Command products. I'm a part of the production piece of that product. So there's more of an ownership role now in producing, as opposed to ownership in receiving.
That's a very challenging role, when you talk about 273 universities and the nearly 1,100 satellite universities. It is not as if you get to put your hand on every Cadet. There are roughly 30,000 or so Cadets in the program, you don't get to impact them directly but you hope you are impacting through policy and training, guidance and your circulation throughout the formations.
The officer-NCO relationship is a significant part of what Cadets are taught. How vital is that relationship?
The Army has always been constructed around that relationship, and it's critical to have that relationship in place. That relationship is built on trust.
We give Cadets the tools to go into an organization and be effective immediately, but they have to rely on that NCO for their further development and training. It's critical that the relationship is formed early and built on trust and teamwork.
Cadet Command is in the process of retooling its curriculum and methodology to a more outcomes-based approach, with critical thinking as a centerpiece. What role do NCOs play in influencing critical thinking in officers?
They're on the leading edge. They provide a huge chunk of instruction to Cadets. They lead the way when shifting to that new learning science. Not saying the professors of military science don't, but the NCOs are the ones teaching a lot of that hands-on training to our Cadets.
This new learning science is going to make a difference. It's not going to limit a Cadet's way or ability to learn. In an outcomes-based model, the focus is the outcome. You're allowed different ways of getting there.
This approach allows Cadets options and doesn't limit them to a lock-step process in their learning. It gives them an opportunity to learn outside the box, as long as the outcome is what is desired.
Scores of Cadets will be commissioning in December, your first commissioning season with Cadet Command. What advice do you have for them as they embark on their careers?
They need to understand the significance of the position that they are undertaking; understand the expectations that not only the American people have of them, but also the Soldiers in the formations they are going to be leading have of them. They need to be ready to live up to those expectations.
They have a tough job ahead of them. They're expected to be critical thinkers, agile and adaptive and able to operate in an environment that, as we know, is forever changing.
They have a tough road ahead of them but no doubt, they are ready for the challenge.