By Staff Sgt. Debralee BestNovember 23, 2015
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - Every company attempts to develop its leaders and create a better company. Army units are no different.
The U.S. Army Reserve's 412th Theater Engineer Command's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson, hosted a second Senior Leader Development Training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Nov. 13 to 15.
"This is intense," said Thompson. "This is all the battalion commanders in my formation and all the brigade commanders in my formation, all the O-6's in my entire command, giving them exactly the topics I want to talk about, then building in time for them to give me feedback. It's the opposite of what I call drive-by mentoring ... It's the opposite of that where we can dialog, talk and discuss."
The training focused on a variety topics including building trust with young Soldiers; the Army's future, budget and priorities; ethics, "The Year of the Squad Leader" campaign; and a book review of the Chief of Staff's reading list.
"I enjoyed the book review, when we went in smaller groups and discussed the Chief of Staff's reading list and the books everyone chose. Everyone did a summary of the book they read and what it meant to them," said Maj. Mary Jo Vernon, 412th TEC medical advisor. "I felt that was very enlightening as I don't have time to read all those books, but it gave me a better understanding of, when they read the book, what they got from it. It also is giving me the opportunity to know, after hearing some of the summaries of the book, the books I want to read myself."
This training was focused on a main concern of the Army and 412th TEC leadership.
"One of the top priorities for the Army and also for me is to build the bench, which is looking deep into our ranks and growing our best talent, deciding where they should go and who is going to take our place. That's one of our most important missions," said Thompson.
One of the intents of the training was to build and shape the leadership in attendance.
"We, meaning the senior people, are closer to the end, the finish line, than the start line, so one of our most important jobs is to develop those who are going to take our place. This is how we do it," said Thompson. "Schooling is institutional training, which is very important, but what we do in something like this is probably our biggest opportunity, especially in the reserve component, to speak to our junior people directly."
"I think it's great training," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Jacques, senior enlisted advisor, 479th Engineer Battalion. "It's developing us as leaders and teaching us to develop our subordinates to be better leaders."
For others the training gave them parameters of what their leadership expects.
"Overall, I think the workshop was very successful from the standpoint that we knew what our expectations are as leaders and it gave us some left and right limits and guidelines to what the general expects from us from a leadership standpoint," said Vernon.
Members of the 412th TEC staff, including medical, inspector general, staff judge advocate and safety, were also in attendance to assist the battalion and brigade command teams with issue within their formations.
"As a member of the staff I feel like I'm available to the leadership, if they're having issues or concerns they can come to me, we can take a look at what their needs are and then help them better understand what their commanders should be doing to improve, in my instance, medical readiness," said Vernon.
The other intent of the training was for continuation of the training at lower levels of the command.
"[I hope they take away] that this was useful and they turn around and recreate it at their own levels so three, four months from now the battalion or brigade commanders are doing a mirror-image version of it all the way down to their platoon leaders or at least their company-level leadership," said Thompson.
Battalion and brigade command teams at the training said are already planning this implementation.
"We are going to try to get into an open discussion with the units, the commanders and the first sergeants because they are obviously successful too or they wouldn't be at the level they are at," said Jacques. "We're going to let their experience get shared across our battalion and take back a lot of the information we learned here to share with them."
Most participants saw this second Senior Leader Development Training as successful. Thompson's goal is to hold them twice per year.
"You just can't buy this type of mentoring and availability of all the senior leaders in a two-star command anywhere else, where everybody is right here; there is nothing distracting you. ... You just don't get that opportunity anywhere else unless you do something like this," said Thompson. "If I could do it four times a year, I would; they'd be sick of me then."
The next training is being planned for the spring to continue to develop 412th TEC leaders.