SMA to Soldiers: 'Understand the people around you'
By Joseph LacdanJanuary 31, 2020
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCHORD, Wash. -- To help build cohesion among units throughout the Army, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston encourages Soldiers to adopt a culture similar to those found in Special Forces units.Speaking to Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- and to others joining on Facebook Live -- Grinston asked Soldiers to engage in more activities together, including physical training sessions and meals."Do you sit down with your squads?" Grinston asked Soldiers. "Do you spend time with them?"In the Army's new initiative "This is My Squad," units focus on the positive aspects of a Soldier's life and a greater emphasis on a collectivist culture, or a culture where the group is prioritized over the individual."When you think of 'my squad,' you think of something positive you do every day to take care of each other," Grinston said.Grinston hopes by shifting Soldiers' focus to shared experiences, they can form the unity needed to solve personal crises and combat misconduct. By engaging with fellow Soldiers, squad leaders can also better detect personal dilemmas and crises."We want to build a committed organization that's founded in a cohesive team built in trust," Grinston said.Grinston hosted a panel of five non-commissioned officers from Lewis-McCord to discuss the new initiative and how to solve common problems at the squad level. Those problems include working with Soldiers who harbor negative attitudes and working with peers of equal experience.Staff Sgt. Gabriel Christiansen said that one private last year confided in him that he had been the victim of a $20,000 financial scam. Christiansen helped the Soldier acquire a loan to help pay for the debt and worked with the Soldier's bank to alleviate the financial strain. Christiansen said keeping regular contact with his Soldiers made the problem-solving opportunity possible."That's the goal: to understand the people around you," Grinston said. "You're going to find something about the person sitting next to you that you never knew."Christiansen and Staff Sgt. Thomas Hahn and Sgt. Shylar McIntire said that developing an understanding of what motivates Soldiers could help Soldiers with poor attitudes. Counseling sessions and communication with each squad member can keep Soldiers on the same page, a quality essential for cohesion, Grinston said. Learning squad members' hidden talents could also reveal Soldiers' strengths.Christiansen said the importance of communication and preparation helped him become a successful squad leader and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repair technician at 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Lewis-McChord, whether on the firing range or in a convoy."The job of a squad leader is a constant cycle of training and mentorship," Christiansen said. "And if you're a prepared squad, you know that you're never done actually preparing."Grinston said that squads extend beyond the squad level. Command staffs, special units and Soldiers' families also act as squads that impact Soldiers on a professional and personal level.Staff Sgt. Carolina Ruiz, a human resources specialist and former drill sergeant, said Soldiers in her squad share meals and cultural experiences to remain close. She added Army squads could resemble the nuclear family."In order to take care of my squad, I must know each individual member of my team," Ruiz said. "Knowing Soldiers builds trust and mutual respect."Finally, cohesive teams, through repetition, can adjust to unpredictable adversity, whether on the battlefield or dealing with financial problems or divorce, Grinston said."Repetition and discipline over time builds cohesive teams that can be adaptive," he said.