FT. SHAFTER, Hawaii – Squad leaders assigned to the 311th Signal Command (Theater) recently began a monthly virtual Squad Leader Talks (SLT) with a goal to build a more cohesive team culture by empowering squad leaders to take ownership of their squads while promoting the positive aspects of a Soldier’s life.
With the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston having set forth, this year, an initiative entitled, “This is My Squad” (TIMS), the 311th SC (T) leadership along with its subordinate units are using CVR Microsoft Teams to help strengthen the TIMS culture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Select Squad Leaders between the ranks of sergeant to staff sergeant from across the theater participate in hour-long talks every month to highlight and share best practices with peers and other leaders.
“This monthly forum will continue to encourage the TIMS culture and help our Junior noncommissioned officers grow and develop as leaders to take charge and take care of our Soldiers, Civilians, and Family members,” said Sgt. Maj. Randy W. Gillespie, Command Sergeant Major of the 311th SC (T).
This month’s SLT theme focused on suicide prevention with an emphasis on building team cohesion. The discussion garnered varying discussion points that brought valuable insight on how to apply the TIMS culture to suicide prevention. For one Soldier, his approach was about trust.
“I believe TIMS, overall, supports suicide awareness and prevention by building squads that can trust each other more and that can drastically suppress suicide rates in the Army,” said Staff Sgt. Chelston Acoba, cyber security NCOIC and alternate communication security account manager, 30th Signal Battalion.
Alongside the topic of suicide prevention, the Soldiers agreed that a common approach to promoting team-building activities is hosting sporting events or other group activities such as bowling or dodgeball and using physical training session as a forum for open discussions.
“During our (physical training) cool downs, we’ll sit down and have an open discussion just about how everyone is doing and getting to know everyone as well,” said Staff Sgt. Roger Hancock Jr., 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Hancock recommends another best practice for squad leaders: continuing to talk to the Soldiers but not forcing it. He says squad leaders still have to lead in terms of learning more about each other and must continue to trust them to gain their trust. In that way, they can feel like they can come to you whenever they need to.
For Staff Sgt. Arthur Broughton, 516th Signal Brigade, success lies in effective communication. According to Broughton, counseling and gatherings between him and his Soldiers are a good way to promote team cohesion.
“I go to the counseling and I talk to my Soldiers and I tell them my expectations,” Broughton said. “Then I ask them what their expectations are of me. I then hold myself accountable for what they expect of me as their leader.”
Overall, the hour-long meeting was very constructive and its participants seemed to end the virtual meeting with a renewed fervor.