KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Around 60 participants from across the 21st Theater Sustainment Command and top Army junior leadership authorities broke new ground in the "Not in my Squad" campaign during an "empowerment" event held Jan. 27-29 at the Vogelweh Military Complex.
The three-day workshop, facilitated by experts from the U.S. Army Research Institute and the Center for the Army Profession and Ethics, included esprit building physical fitness and social functions in addition to robust discussion of vital issues impacting junior leaders throughout the entire Army.
The event, which included participants from the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Europe Regional Medical Command and 5th Signal Command as well as the 21st TSC, was not only the first of its kind held in Europe but among the first few conducted in the Army as a whole.
The program, unveiled by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Daily during the 2015 Association of the United States Army professional development forum in Washington, is designed to empower junior leaders, helping them achieve greater understanding and "take ownerships" of their squads. The effort also "empowers" senior leaders by providing improved two-way dialogue with junior leaders. Ultimately, the entire organization benefits from stronger communication and mutual support, resulting in a positive command climate and improved morale.
"We are extremely pleased with not only the contributions and efforts of the Soldiers and squad leaders but also the senior leaders here," said Jeffrey E. Fite of the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. "There has been a great deal of leadership listening and real mentorship going on and real communication that you don't always get to see."
Sgt. Maj. Keith Taylor, the TSC signal sergeant major and a key event organizer, described the workshop as a "grass roots campaign" designed to "change culture" and an ideal learning and leadership environment for emerging enlisted leaders.
"This was an excellent opportunity for junior leaders to feel a sense of empowerment to change the culture of the Army going into the future," he said after the event. "This was all about empowerment -- they understood their input will be reported directly to the SMA's office. What an awesome opportunity to make a difference not only in Europe but throughout the Army."
Taylor left no doubt about his strong confidence in the young leaders he engaged during the workshop and their ability to lead the Army into the future.
"The squad leaders are running the Army," he said. "They're where the rubber meets the road. The Army belongs to them -- and this is their opportunity to influence and shape it. It was a blessing to be around a group of highly motivated, professional Soldiers with a sincere desire to change the Army for the better."
The forum encouraged candid discussion of vital leadership issues, including not only sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention but more broadly creation of a climate of dignity, respect, cohesion, "change" and "inclusion."
"There have been a lot of candid and honest responses," said Donald R. Jackson, of CAPE. "Soldiers really feel this gives them a venue to voice their opinions."
"Over time, we noticed it's been about trust," he added. "How do we build trust within our cohesive squads? Once the trust and respect is established, a lot of those underlying issues that seem to be magnified at the upper levels will be mitigated. Soldiers really feel this gives them a venue to voice their opinions."
Participating junior leaders shared his optimism about the program.
"I think it's great we could come together and discuss real problems facing squad leaders and other NCOs in the Army," said Staff Sgt. Eric Ward, a military policeman with the TSC's 92nd MP Company, 709th MP Battalion, 18th MP Brigade. "It's been beneficial to hear that other NCOs are facing some of the same challenges and hearing their ideas to rectify the issues."
"It was really beneficial," added Sgt. Lyndsay Borden, strength management NCO with the 21st Special Troops Battalion. "Starting at the squad level was very refreshing. We interact with the Soldiers every single day. We hear their concerns. This gives us a great opportunity to have a voice."
Borden described the workshop as transformational.
"This has reignited my passion for the NCO corps," she said enthusiastically. "It's truly made me feel like we have a voice. I hope they keep doing this. It really reminds us why we're needed -- it's great."
Borden will indeed play a key role in ensuring "they keep doing this" as a facilitator for future events across the area. The regional campaign, conceived by Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades, the 21st TSC senior enlisted leader, and energized by leadership from the Sergeant Morales Club and dynamic junior NCOs like Borden, will reach enlisted personnel throughout the region. The CSM intentionally included Morales Club members -- among his most trusted junior-to-mid-level leaders -- and an ideal mix of ranks, organizations, job specialties and backgrounds in the workshop in order to lay the groundwork for future empowerment sessions.
"The lesson of this event and the premise of this entire campaign is simple -- we need to listen to our sergeants and staff sergeants," Rhoades said. "They're the ones who deal most directly with our Soldiers, day in and day out. They're the ones teaching, mentoring and developing our future senior leaders."
The CSM emphasized the importance of trusting and empowering junior NCOs.
"They're a big part of the Army of our present -- and they are the Army of our future," he said. "We can't stifle their innovation. We can't stifle their leadership. What we can and must do is empower them to accomplish missions, solve problems and lead Soldiers."