By SGT Nancy Deweese - 3d US INF REG - "The Old Guard"January 25, 2009
Being a part of the U.S. Army has always meant being part of a team effort, a part of something much bigger than any one person or thing. Success for a Soldier depends on the strength of a team and how well a group of people from different cultures and levels of education can come together to combine their assets to build up each individual in the team.
The challenge to make a strong team of Soldiers out of men and women who are just beginning their military careers falls on the team leader. The team leader must find a way to ensure that all of his men are learning everything they need to know about being a Soldier. This includes physical training, battlefield tasks, first aid, military education, higher civilian education and Army resources.
With all of the information that must be passed on to new Soldiers, a team leader must find an effective way to make all of his knowledge available for his Soldiers. It's a daunting task, especially for a new leader.
Two years ago, a team leader in The Old Guard created a high-tech way to help his Soldiers find and use the information and tools the Army offers to all Soldiers. Sgt. Joshua Bronson of Company D, 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) developed fireteamleader.net, a website containing over 100 links to Army-related websites, tactical advice for new Soldiers, guidance on paperwork and military schools, and facts about the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
What started as a tool to help his Soldiers and comrades has become a resource for thousands of Soldiers stationed throughout the world.
The idea started off small, said Bronson. "People kept coming to me asking me questions about how to find information on the Internet, counseling, and stuff like that.
"I wanted a place where Soldiers could go if they couldn't get a hold of me. A lot of times they get tasks to do at home. So if they couldn't find me, get in contact with me to gather information, they could just go to the website and they'd know that all the big links are right there in one spot," he said.
An old friend of Bronson who made his living on the Internet gave him a hosting, and Bronson went to work.
"There's a lot of resources on the Internet that Soldiers don't know about, and it's really confusing, especially for young Soldiers who aren't familiar with things, like if you tell them to go do a POV [Privately Owned Vehicle] risk assessment online at home, they're going to go to Google and type it in, and the right link is not necessarily going to be what shows up. So [with this website] you just go to fireteamleader.net, and it's right there on the left in big letters, and the Soldier will know that's what his team leader wants him to do. It's easier to say, 'Go to fireteamleader.net,' than it is to say, 'Go to http://www, and on and on,'" said Bronson.
The website is beginning to gain recognition from leaders in Company D. "As we move forward in information technology, the military strives to stay abreast with constantly evolving forms of media in order to provide updated and accurate information that Soldiers can access, understand and use in their daily operations," said Capt. Joey Nickel, the executive officer for Company D. "Sgt. Bronson's website does just that. With his efforts, our Soldiers are able to readily access the resources they need to stay combat effective and Army Strong."
What began as a way to help Bronson's small team of Soldiers has grown to help Soldiers and leaders throughout Bronson's unit, and even throughout the world.
Bronson noted that when Soldiers from his company were sent to other units in the United States and around the world, he would see people accessing his website from places like Italy, Alaska and Afghanistan. He gets comments and suggestions from Soldiers stationed throughout the world.
The most popular part of the website is the counseling section, said Bronson. Counseling lower enlisted Soldiers is a major part of Army leadership, a part that often takes a lot of time and resources.
"I had an E-7 [sergeant first class] from the 173rd [Airborne Brigade Combat Team, stationed in Vicenza, Italy] email me and tell me he's using my initial NCOER [Noncommissioned officer evaluation report] counseling, and to say that it's pretty squared away," he said.
Although Bronson alone is responsible for the website, he insists that it was not a solo effort. "I can't take the credit for a lot of stuff that's on there. A lot of it was given to me. I just wanted to put it all in one spot so that all Soldiers could access it."
Two years into his effort, his purpose has been met beyond his original intention - since January 2008, Bronson's website has been accessed over 37,000 times.
But still the work isn't done, said Bronson. "I'm constantly trying to improve it. I spend a couple hours every week on it - there's still a lot of work that I want to do. Right now I'm working on a CLS [combat lifesaver) section.
Bronson's first duties as a Soldier make updating the website a secondary task. While he was stationed in the Horn of Africa as part of the Global War on Terror, the work all but stopped.
"A lot of the links I had on the website went dead while I was deployed for 15 months," said Bronson. "From Manda Bay, Kenya, I tried to do a little bit of updating, but I couldn't get much done because we didn't have much bandwidth there, he said. "And I had to concentrate on the mission. I didn't have much free time."
As he continues his career in the Army, Bronson hopes to continue work on the site with the help of other like minded Soldiers stationed throughout the world. "There are other guys that are doing the same basic thing online, but with different angles. We share information with each other," he said. "I've made friends online with a few guys who found my website online, and they have little ones of their own, so we share information."
Bronson emphasized that his website is the result of a team, for a team. His aim for the website remains the same - to build up his Soldiers by sharing information. "I don't need the credit for doing this," he said. "It's for the guys. It's not just my information. I got this information from a lot of other people, and I just took these resources and put them together."