ARLINGTON, Va. - As an infantry officer and a military policeman, Army Capt. Joshua Carr and Army Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Miller always remembers the unofficial slogan of "Leader's Recon," a video and audio podcast they produce at the Herbert R. Temple Army National Guard Readiness Center: "For Soldiers, by Soldiers."
Carr and Miller, strategic communicators for a leader development branch at an Army National Guard Directorate, said "Leader's Recon" aims to create easily accessible leader development content for Army Guard members via interviews with subject matter experts.
"When Soldiers hear 'Leader's Recon,' they know that means somebody is going out in front to get the best information for the mission to follow," he said. "That's highly applicable to what we are doing: We are going out and we're trying to get the best information to give it back to Soldiers."
Topics range from Army Guard Rangers discussing training and competitions to education specialists talking about tuition assistance or senior leaders breaking down the National Guard's COVID-19 response efforts.
"When you look at your typical podcast, you have a niche audience, but 'Leader's Recon' doesn't have that," said Miller. "So we have that wide range of topics, whether you're enlisted or an officer, in combat arms or support — everybody is integral to the Army National Guard, and we address that in the program."
Now in its 23rd episode and with more than 3,000 followers on the video podcast portion, "Leader's Recon" came about in late 2019 when senior leaders with the Army Guard's domestic operations directorate were looking to expand leader development communication efforts.
Enter Miller, who while serving in a part-time status with the Army Guard, operated and still owns a film and video production company in Colorado.
"When I was brought in, we were looking at a small social media campaign coupled with an audio podcast," Miller said. After demographic analysis, it became clear a more robust "visual component was needed."
Despite branching out to more social media and podcast platforms and having the equipment and resources needed to create television studio-quality content, Carr and Miller knew one non-technical challenge remained: keep returning viewers engaged.
For Miller, that meant an "invest-in-the-guest" approach — experts sharing relevant information in an informal, talk-show style setting.
"The reason we take a conversational format is because we can ask that base question, and that may spawn a bunch of smaller questions where we really get to pick at the meat of what the guests are trying to say," said Miller.
Sgt. 1st Class Erich Friedlein, a senior infantry instructor with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 166th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), said Carr and Miller make the interviewing environment personable.
"I never felt pressured to answer any question a certain way, and it felt more like a normal conversation among peers," said Friedlein, who discussed leadership qualities and how they fit into Army competitions on the podcast. "I feel they do an excellent job at selecting topics to discuss, and the questions were relevant to the overarching theme."
Carr said that while "Leader's Recon" caters to the Citizen-Soldier, the program's material can be helpful for Citizen-Airmen, too.
"We realize that most Guard members are working on the civilian side, so we want to create content that is applicable to their military career but also helps them in their civilian workplace," he said. "In the end, it's leadership development for people — and people make up the National Guard."
Having an "enduring quality" to the program, Carr added, will be key to its success.
"For those young Soldiers who might be interested in seeing our episode on performing well in an Army competition, later on in their careers might want information on how to do well at the Sergeants Major Academy'," he said. "That's why the diversity in the content we create is so important."
Miller said while going digital is nothing new to the Army Guard, "Leader's Recon" will continue to strive for fresh and engaging content.
"You can't surf the wave if it's already passed you by. You got to get out in front of it," he said. "That's what we are trying to do: getting in front of this thing by developing a new mindset in how we reach Soldiers."