Tisha Swart-Entwistle
Combined Arms Center Public Affairs Office

"Just a spoiler alert for the people in the room, I'm going to ask you to use your digital devices today," Maj. Josh Powers said at the beginning of his address on "Self Development Through Extended Influence," during the Army Leader Exchange program Aug. 15, 2019 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Arnold Conference Room, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The talk was attended in person by Command and General Staff College students and staff and was also streamed live via Facebook live. Powers said the goal of his talk was to fuse the physical audience in the room with the online audience "to show the power of the digital tools that we have."

During the talk, Powers asked the audience to comment on either the twitter or Facebook feed their impressions of the event as well as any questions they might have.

"What's pretty neat about it is that this will amplify the conversation and you'll see that the reach goes far beyond the formal structures that we usually interact in," Powers said.

Powers is an Army infantry officer who currently serves as the Northeast Asia Plans Chief for United States Army Pacific. He is also the founder of the "Field Grade Leader" blog. Focused on organizational leadership in the military, the blog was created in 2016.

Powers said that while he was a battalion and brigade staff officer, first in plans and then in operations, he had a lot of apprehension about his abilities and capabilities. He said that even though everything worked out and he did okay, he thought a lot about his experience and what he learned and how he could share his experiences.

In 2016, when Powers moved to Fort Leavenworth to attend the School of Advanced Military Studies he began writing.

"I wrote a couple of short articles that were pretty okay," Powers said. "They were not grammatically correct… they were not proofed by anyone, I just kind of sent them off into the universe."

Powers said he thought that was the end of the story. A couple of weeks after starting his courses at SAMS, one of the pieces that he wrote was re-posted by the "Doctrine Man." Doctrine Man began as a series of snarky cartoons by Army Veteran and military strategist Steve Leonard and is now a 'community' for exchanging ideas with footprints on Twitter and Facebook.

"I kind of stumbled my way into the digital environment," Powers said.

The Field Grade Leader was started with Powers' vision of creating a forum where any leader could improve themselves while contributing to the profession and be in a space where they could ask for advice and feedback.

Powers reminded everyone that "The Field Grade Leader," like a lot of the other grassroots blogs, is completely manned by volunteers. Not only do the blogs not make money, any costs incurred come out of their own pockets.

Powers said that the take-away for the blog is that, even though he started it trying to share his ideas and experiences as a staff officer, it isn't about him.

"It is about the structure that it has created, It's about the network of individuals we have interacting together… and it's about how we can contribute back to the environment and to the profession," Powers said. "It is at a scope and scale that I didn't think was ever possible and what I'd like to highlight for all of you guys, is that there are tools out there for you to do the exact same thing."

Powers said that he often talks to people about writing or engaging online and the feedback is often that people think that they don't have anything interesting to say. People are also afraid they might get trolled or that expressing their opinions in the digital environment puts them in a vulnerable position, he said.

"I do a lot of that (writing)… I'm actually a terrible writer," Powers said. "But what you'll find, regardless of how it's written, and really regardless of your message… you will find people that your message will resonate with."

There will be people who will either try to one-up the writer and there will also be trolls who will pick everything apart and be mean-spirited just for their own enjoyment.

"You gotta just brush those people off," Powers said.

Powers said that by sharing how he started the "Field Grade Leader," he doesn't expect everyone to run out and start their own blog.

"What I'm asking for you to do today is to get into the conversation," Powers said. "Through reading, through writing and through engagement (in the digital world)."

The blog can be found at http://fieldgradeleader.themilitaryleader.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FieldGradeLDR on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FieldGradeLDR and the blog also has a footprint on YouTube and Linked in.