FORT SILL, Okla., March 11, 2021 — Student officers in the Basic Officer Leader and Captains Career courses here received an introduction to Project Athena, a new leadership development program Feb. 24 at Snow Hall.
Brig. Gen. Charles Masaracchia, Mission Command Center of Excellence director at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, presented the material to the air defense artillery and field artillery company grade officers and their instructors.
Developed by Training and Doctrine Command, Project Athena is designed to inform and motivate Soldiers to embrace personal and professional self-development. Assessments are intended to serve Soldiers throughout their career and over the next year will extend to noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and senior civilians.
Athena is about leaders gaining self-awareness and better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. It can help those officers reinforce their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
“The Army gains nothing except better leaders for those who put in the effort,” said Masaracchia. “We are targeting the people who want to be better.”
The general said the Army is doing this, in part, because perceived overmatches with peer adversaries after Desert Shield and Desert Storm, if they still exist, have diminished to a great extent. He said peer adversaries are investing heavily in leader development and more effectively using those leaders at each assignment.
For the student officers getting ready to go through Project Athena assessments, the general asked, “Are you good enough, or do you think you’re good enough, to lead our Soldiers today?”
He said for those who answer yes, he doesn’t have anything to help them. But he added he’s never been prepared for any position he went into.
Masaracchia then followed with two additional questions regarding the Athena assessment: One, are you willing to be completely honest with yourself about this assessment? And, are you willing to put in the time and effort to getting better and getting to the point where you are capable of leading our Soldiers?
For those who answered yes, Project Athena can help them become more effective officers.
Project Athena offers a battery of individual assessments that provide self-awareness to the individual. Accessible by the individual’s common access card, that person is the only person who has access to that information.
While participating in the assessments is one way to benefit, the general added individuals who know their weaknesses can plug that information into the assessment and receive recommended resources from which to improve.
Hundreds of learning resources, tied to each assessment and the areas assessed, are available at no cost to the individual. Armed with this information, Soldiers can begin the self-development process immediately and proceed at their own pace.
Along with presenting the information, the general also sought to gain nonattributional feedback from the students and instructors.
One instructor said, “I think it’s a great initiative to get a holistic understanding of leaders as we progress through our careers. I think it’s a drive toward a leadership culture and it’s going to take some time to get to the intent of the program, but I think it’s a great (tool) that we need. Having the ability to do that self-assessment and to have tools as a leader to help those who want to develop. This makes it readily available and gives insight in different areas beside just what’s in the current doctrine, and gives a more personal approach to each individual. I think as far as developing each individual holistically, it’s a great initiative.”
A student said he viewed it as a useful program to get leaders to start thinking about themselves and how they should improve throughout their career instead of waiting to receive that later on.
“The heart is in the right place for the program and we really hope that the pilot develops a good seamless way to do this to where it’s not interfering or being an additional ball to juggle with everything else going on,” he said.
Finally, another officer saw it as a benefit to instructors and to those they teach.
“I think the next step is ensuring that leaders in the force who aren’t part of the assessments have enough understanding to take this (individual development plan) and know what to do with it instead of just (filing it).”