By Command Sgt. Maj. Roy WardJuly 23, 2015
Service members, leaders, civilians, Families and teammates: Below is a perspective from Fort Leonard Wood's Soldier of the Year, Spc. Elliot Whitehead, concerning Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey's initiative to empower young leaders to know and care for those they lead.
I will be talking with and presenting views from other service members, civilians and leaders, before the culminating Leader Professional Development sessions at 1 p.m. Aug. 20 in Baker Theater and 1 p.m. Sept. 2 in Abrams Theater.
Dailey's effort is to identify areas of improvement and implement ways for leaders to enforce standards across the Army Values, the initiative, "Not in My Squad, Not in Our Army: We are Trusted Professionals," pledges to focus on the well-being, safety and dignity of our service members and civilians.
Please read my dialogue with Whitehead and what "Not in My Squad" means to him.
Question: "Not in My Squad" is a call to duty for junior leaders to take responsibility and own solutions while caring for those in their charge. How do you uphold this responsibility?
Whitehead: I uphold responsibility by making sure I'm doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking. I make sure I'm proficient in my job skills so, when someone asks something of me, they know I will get the job done efficiently and effectively.
Question: You mentioned doing the right thing when no one is looking. Sometimes we see others failing to do this. As a junior leader, how do you enforce standards?
Whitehead: I enforce standards by making sure I am the standard. I try to set the example and embody what right looks like. I do this by being in the right place, in the right uniform, at the right time. You can't enforce something, if you don't follow it yourself. Part of this is choosing to spend time with the right group of people. I was always told, "You are who you hang around," and that saying has stuck with me to this day. I try to surround myself with people who have similar goals, values and morals, so we can push each other to be better and hold each other accountable, if we stray from what is right.
Question: One of the hardest things to do as a young Soldier is to correct someone senior to you. How do you do this?
Whitehead: When addressing someone senior, I snap to parade rest or the position of attention and, in a professional manner, you address what is wrong. I find doing this communicates my correction in the most respectful way possible.
Question: Excellent job. See, it's important for everyone to look out for each other to make sure we are all doing the right thing. This is part of being a team. Greatness spreads faster than indiscipline. People want to be a part of a team that fosters greatness. What are your thoughts on this? In your experience, have you found this to be true?
Whitehead: Yes, I find this to be very true. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team and feel like they have accomplished something. We all want to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. For example, when I first got to Fort Leonard Wood I decided to put myself around those who strive to excel in their military career. As a member of the Fort Leonard Wood and Army team, I am here to motivate, inspire and encourage, not just my peers, but everyone around me.
Question: You are absolutely right about surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals and aspirations, as yourself because this builds a team and community dynamic, which can foster cultural change. A critical cultural change we are trying to accelerate in our Army is the reduction and prevention of sexual assault and harassment, bullying, hazing and substance abuse. What advice do you have for other service members in battling these challenges to mission readiness?
Whitehead: Make sure you stay on top of your SHARP training, and if you see something suspicious, don't be a bystander; you have to intervene. If you have a problem with substance abuse, don't be afraid to talk to someone and ask for help. You can self-enroll yourself into ASAP and they will get you the help you need.
Question: You hit the nail on the head. As Soldiers and leaders, we all must intervene if we see something suspicious. This is the first step in improving this issue, which negatively affects our Army's mission readiness. I'm also glad to hear you talk about the outstanding service available to our service members who may be struggling with, or have fallen victim to some of these issues. We are all part of the world's best team of teams and will support our fellow service members to get the help they need. In doing so, we build a climate of trust, dignity and respect. As a junior leader, what have you found to be effective in building a climate of dignity, respect, trust and inclusion at the squad level?
Whitehead: I think the most effective way to do this is to get to know your quad. Once a squad leader knows their Soldiers and how to approach them, talk to them, and help them think their way through decisions and actions, they build a professional relationship based on trust, dignity and respect. These are not just given; they have to be earned. Doing squad physical training or squad events can help to earn these important characteristics.
Spc. Whitehead, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and share your thoughts on this from the junior leader perspective. The thoughts and opinions of you and your peers are extremely important, because you are the future of our Army, and the strength of our nation.
(Editor's note: Ward is the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major. Whitehead, a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist. He entered the Army and completed his Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood. After completion of his initial entry training, Whitehead completed a year tour at Camp Casey, Korea, before returning to Fort Leonard Wood, where he won the installation Soldier of the Year competition. Whitehead is currently preparing to represent the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Soldier of the Year competition, where he will compete in hopes of earning the title of TRADOC Soldier of the Year.)