By NICK DUKEMay 30, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (May 29, 3013) -- In April, the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning, conducted a workshop here in an effort to introduce Fort Benning leaders to Leader Challenge.
And while many leaders and future leaders took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the video-based training tool, the workshop was not the first time Leader Challenge had been used on Fort Benning.
Col. Robert Clark, the commander of the 192nd Infantry Brigade, decided to integrate the Leader Challenge into the brigade's training of drill sergeants.
Clark has known Col. Tony Burgess, the director of CALDOL, since both were cadets at West Point and has been familiar with CALDOL's development of Leader Challenge.
Clark said the format lends itself well to exposing Soldiers to a variety of different viewpoints.
"We called it tactical speed dating because you rotate from one table to the next and get a fresh perspective from a different leader," Clark said. "It's very fast paced and very interactive. A lot of time we learn better from a story than we do from someone just giving us a lesson or the content itself."
The Leader Challenge format is also in keeping with the Maneuver Center of Excellence's goal for providing 21st century means of developing leaders.
"The reason we're down here is because of Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster's focus on leader development," said CALDOL director Col. Tony Burgess. "That's really the impetus for us being here, and he just has the same passion for that that we do."
While most challenges have been focused on platoon leaders, Clark requested that CALDOL develop Leader Challenges aimed at noncommissioned officers.
All Leader Challenges feature a real-world scenario, and Clark had a scenario in mind for CALDOL's first NCO Leader Challenge.
An incident within the 192nd involving a case of trainee abuse came to Clark's attention in the summer of 2012.
The incident occurred when Staff Sgt. Christopher Peeples came across another drill sergeant abusing a trainee.
Peeples elected to report the abuse to the brigade's chain of command, with word of the incident eventually making its way to Clark.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Clyde Glenn and I sat down and talked about it, and we realized it was exactly what you want your leaders to do," Clark said. "You want them to take the difficult right over the easy wrong. You don't want them to be worried about the consequences of being a whistleblower. ... We awarded him an Army Achievement Medal for moral courage in front of the entire brigade's leadership."
Peeples said the decision to report the other drill sergeant was not an easy one, but he was sure that it was the right one.
"We were good friends, and rather than letting my friendship get in the way of doing the right thing, I basically reported the incident to higher leadership knowing it could be the end of him," he said. "But, it was the right thing to do. ... Families trust us with their children, their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, husbands and wives. They trust us to take them in and train them and treat them like humans, and if we're not doing that, then it needs to be stopped."
Clark eventually went to Burgess with the scenario and asked him to develop it as a Leader Challenge.
The vignette is now presented to in-processing drill sergeants in the 192nd Infantry Brigade.
"What we've seen since we started the Leader Challenge is that incidents of trainee abuse have gone way down and in situations where drill sergeants have encountered a dilemma regarding the conduct of another drill sergeant, they've turned them in," Clark said. "They've taken the harder right because they understand that it's their duty and responsibility to do so. It's through the interactive of the Leader Challenge that they've learned to do that."
The vignette has also spread throughout the Army and is used as a training tool at other installations, something Peeples said he never expected when initially asked to tell his story.
"At first, I didn't know how big it would get to be," Peeples said. " I thought it would be talked about around the brigade at most, maybe even at West Point, but it has MCoE-wide now and even other installations are using it."
Since the initial NCO Leader Challenge, the 192nd and CALDOL have developed other NCO vignettes and also hosted live Leader Challenges with Soldiers sharing lessons learned on stage in front of participants.
Peeples said the brigade's continued use of Leader Challenge has helped it to become one of the 192nd's most effective training tools.
"Honestly, I think it's the best mode of training that we have for our drill sergeants right now," Peeples said. "One, it lets them know that there are consequences for these types of actions, but it also lets them know what their responsibilities are as drill sergeants to report these types of incidents that might happen."
Clark said the brigade's development and use of NCO Leader Challenges came as a result of the chain of command keeping an eye out for situations that provided teaching opportunities.
"The examples are all around us," Clark said. "You just have to know what's going on inside the unit and be able to pull those situations out, and hopefully it's in a way that allows folks to learn and understand."