Time and trust are key pieces in U.S. Army Forces Command’s “Foundational Training Days,” according to senior FORSCOM leaders, who are encouraging U.S. Army Soldiers, units and families to re-establish and re-invest in trust within Army formations, communities and the American people.
Foundational Training Day is protected time aimed at permitting Soldiers to have dedicated time to listen and learn from one another, and to understand issues affecting Soldiers’ lives on and off duty, said Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, on Dec. 4 to a group of 36 FORSCOM officers, who joined him at Fort Bragg, N.C., for the monthly training.
“As I look across the force, the most valuable resource that we need to manage most closely is time,” Garrett said. “I have directed all the units in Forces Command to take one day a month to focus on improving the relationships between leaders and led. I want squad leaders to know not just their Soldiers, but to know the Soldiers’ families. The importance of real relationships and leaders really knowing their Soldiers is crucial right now. That’s the real purpose for Foundational Training Days.”
Army units may refer to Foundational Training Days by names tailored for their units. It may be known as Big Red One Family Time, Operation People First, Wellness Day, Readiness Day or Eagle Time … “every unit has personalized it,” Garrett said. He explained that the training is designed to provide time for Soldiers to listen and better understand one another as well as their personal backgrounds -- even freshly introducing each other with questions like “how did you grow up?”
“This is very important, we have to know each other and we have to know our Soldiers,” said Forces Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims.
The topics for Foundational Training Days include: suicide prevention; sexual-assault and sexual-harassment prevention; preventing racism and extremist behaviors; and encouraging diversity and Army Values.
“Treating each other with dignity and respect is an essential part of the Army culture,” Garrett said. “Leaders must start conversations with young officers and NCOs about race, for example,” he said, “letting them know it is okay to talk about it. Open dialogue is critical to helping our people understand and support each other. Our leaders at all levels will afford all individuals an environment free from harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
“One thing that we can do right away is to provide time and to focus on people,” Garrett said. “So, if we really, really want to make a difference it’s about “spending time getting to know your Soldiers. There is no substitute for that.
“If you go back to the Sergeant Major of the Army’s ‘This Is My Squad’ effort, the People Strategy that our Army put together, Project Inclusion and the Chief of Staff of the Army’s discussions about people … that’s what we’re getting at with Foundational Training Days,” Garrett said. “It’s a way of prioritizing by giving time to units and being prescriptive in terms of what we want them to do with that time.
“People are our number one priority … and what that means to me is we have to regain the trust of not just Soldiers, but the American public,” Garrett said. We have to provide time for Soldiers to know one another better and in ways that are helpful. Over time, what we’re looking for is changes in behavior.”
Forces Command recently updated its priorities to: (1) People; (2) Readiness; and (3) Modernization. The People Priority includes: “Care for Soldiers, Civilian Employees and Army Families.” The Readiness Priority includes: “Master the Fundamentals” and “Deliver Decisive Total Army Readiness.” The Modernization Priority includes: “Empower and Execute Army Reforms” and “Inform and Implement the Future Force.”
Garrett highlighted Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston’s This Is My Squad initiative, which uses a “golden triangle” showing how section leaders and squad leaders, Army families and Soldiers’ buddies interact with Soldiers. The goal is developing “leaders of character who foster belonging and value across the team.” The triangle includes physical, spiritual, psychological and family considerations that contribute to Soldiers thriving, feeling valued and belonging to the team.
“Foundational Training Day aims to strengthen our foundation – People – with the goal of building caring relationships, starting at the squad level,” Garrett said. “We are doing this through listening and sensing sessions, counseling, open dialogue, assessing conditions and making changes. Listening is key.”
Garrett recalled a quote from a famous news commentator who said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.”
“The point is to listen,” he said, “and that’s the purpose of Foundational Training Days.”
“I’m in my 37th year in the Army, my dad was in the Army for 35 years – he was my division sergeant major when I was a lieutenant in the 24th Infantry Division. I’ve been around the Army my whole life,” Garrett said. “Where we are today is based on the Operational Tempo, moving from one mission to the next over the past decades. The increasingly high OPTEMPO at the unit level is a significant source of the Army’s trust challenge.
“It is the responsibility of every leader to form and build trust in their units,” Garrett said. “By doing this, we prepare service members, civilians and family members to handle changing conditions and better adapt to uncertain situations on and off the battlefield.
“The decision to invest so much of our most precious resource – time – on activities not captured in readiness reports is not a distraction from readiness, but rather an enhancement to readiness,” Garrett said. “Over time, we expect to see improvements in both tangible readiness metrics and the intangible factors that influence unit readiness.”