By Marie BerbereaMarch 2, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla., March 2, 2017 -- The Fires Conference boasts high-level knowledge and discussions with leaders from across the Fires force. The annual conference, hosted at the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, May 2-4, shares information generally aimed at officers, but this year two breakout panels are tailored specifically to their enlisted counterparts.
"I wanted [sergeants major] to leave with something they didn't come with," said FCoE and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Fagan. "I think that happens in large part on the officer side. They come here and get exposed to a new concept, or really senior discussions about senior concepts, but not so much for the sergeants major.
"We sit in the same room with [officers] and either didn't have the benefit of, or didn't take advantage of an opportunity to prepare so we could be a part of the conversation. We're not value added and we don't really get anything out of it."
Fagan said this was a chance to have a conversation unique to sergeants major to give them relevant information to take back to their formations.
New to this year's Fires Conference, Panel 3, "Nominative sergeants major process" discusses the new selection process and developmental career path of nominative CSMs.
The nominative sergeants major process (NSMP) aligns management of the nominative sergeants major with Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22 and the Army Leader Development Strategy. The current process is a natural progression of the Centralized Selection List and allows for talent management along with a clear developmental model for the sergeants major population.
"For the vast majority of the brigade-level commanders, the [NSMP] is a mystery to them. And it's a fairly new program; picking and managing nominative sergeant majors is only about five years old. Brigade commanders are not really versed on it so this helps with that discussion," said Fagan. "Part of that discussion is how to communicate with their commanders prior to the board and once they've been selected to be on a nominative list, then how to do their letter of recommendations."
ADDING EXPERIENCE TO PLANNING
Panels 2 and 4 cover "Lessons from the current fight." Panel 2 is for officers and Panel 4 provides brigade-level CSMs with an intellectual discussion on lessons learned from combat training centers and the resources available to enhance the skills and training of the Fires warfighters.
Fagan said he wants that discussion to relate to individual crew-team sections, or platoon-level sections, on what Soldiers are getting right and what they need to work on. His goal is to bring sergeants major to the planning table with their commanders.
"For whatever reason, we haven't historically played a big part in training. It's more actions on the objective, you know when we show up for the training then we'll execute it and if it's not going right then we'll adjust on the fly.
"Oftentimes our officers, the commanders, don't get the benefit of our experience in the planning process. As [noncommissioned officers] we're not having the kind of conversations that empowers other NCOs to have that type of impact on planning. That's hopefully what this will do also."
CREATING THE NORM
Since its inception in 2009, hundreds of Fires stakeholders attend the conference in person and virtually to listen to panel discussions and take part in the conversations they create. With fiscal security driving decisions on which events leaders can attend, Fagan wanted to ensure sergeants major were receiving more bang for their command's buck.
"If the feedback from the CSMs attending the conference is what I described, 'they just sat in a room, didn't really get anything out of it,' I think eventually you're going to have a lot of people prioritizing differently. But if the feedback and a product in a publication comes out of this, then you're going to have guys excited to want to attend next year to be developed," which Fagan added is the intent of the conference.
Ultimately he said the goal of the sergeants major panels is to offer quality professional development.
"On a social level those are the three words I'm looking for are, 'you missed it.'" said Fagan.
If he can get that result, Fagan believes he will have achieved his objective in influencing the right outcome from this year's Fires Conference for the enlisted side of the Fires force.