FORT HOOD, Texas - The III Corps and Fort Hood command team appeared on Fort Hood’s Great Big Podcast April 8 to discuss a variety of issues relating to Soldiers here and across the corps, as well as how leaders can mentor and guide them in the right direction.
Operation Phantom Action, an initiative that began in the fall of 2020 was meant to improve readiness by focusing on cohesive teams. It evolved into the Operation People First, a Soldier-focused initiative created to rebuild trust through action, which is designed to affect permanent change across the force.
“We started off taking Phantom Action and transforming into People First by stepping back and saying ‘I can’t ask Soldiers and leaders to do things if I don’t make sure they have the right tools to do it,’” Lt. Gen. Pat White, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, explained. “So, the first thing we did is take time to put out what the standards are. Then provide teams to reconnect the small unit leaders back to their Soldiers.”
White said they are now in Phase 2 of Operation People First, which is focused on holding people accountable, but it also winds back to the beginning because some Soldiers and leaders who were at Fort Hood in late 2020 have moved on. Now, their replacements need to be trained.
“The good thing is those people have gone on to other duty stations and they’ll have something to reflect back on,” Command Sgt. Maj. Cliff Burgoyne, command sergeant major of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “I think it’s a continuous process – yearly, monthly, weekly, biannually – that’s how we educate our Soldier. That’s part of the education, development process of the Soldier.”
One of the ways the command team is putting People First is by inviting Soldiers to have physical readiness training with them every Wednesday. White said that Wednesday morning PRT allows the command team to talk to Soldiers at the squad level, find out who they are as a person. He said it also gives them the opportunity to see leaders in action and see firsthand how much they care about their Soldiers.
After PRT, the Soldiers are invited inside III Corps Headquarters, given a history lesson about the Soldiers who have come before them and what their own futures may hold. Burgoyne revealed that the Wednesday morning PRT also brings out his competitiveness, and pushes him to do as well or better than the young Soldiers.
“When you get a group of Soldiers together, the competitiveness just comes out. You don’t say anything, it just happens,” he added. “I think it’s important to show the young Soldiers that the (physical fitness) expectation of you is the same expectation of me and the CG.”
Sgt. 1st Class Kelvin Ringold, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command public affairs, and one of the co-hosts of the podcast, said Brig. Gen. Ronald Ragin, the 13th ESC commander, regularly goes on mentorship ruck marches with young lieutenants.
“You’ve got to get to know your Soldiers, get to know your leaders,” Ringold said, revealing that Ragin uses the ruck marches as an opportunity to talk to his troops and leaders about who they are underneath all the camouflage.
Understanding the person inside the uniform can also help recognize early warning signs of extremist behavior, Dr. Daniel Milton, associate professor at West Point, New York, and a research fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy, explained as he joined the command team on the podcast.
Milton said, unfortunately, extremism has reared its head in the military and there is no “silver bullet” to address the problem.
“One of the things we’ve learned over decades of research in the radicalization process – what leads people to become extreme – differs greatly from one individual to the next,” Milton explained. “It may be the case that for somebody that extremist ideology fills a gap that they experience in their life after a personal loss or trauma. For others, it becomes a way for them to exercise authority over other people. For others, it’s a social engagement. There’s a variety of reasons and unfortunately, there’s no simple solution.”
The professor said that extremism is formed when a person is only hearing or seeing one side of the story. While advanced technology has helped the world, he believes it can also be dangerous. He explained that smart phones hear something and before a person has the opportunity to question what they heard, the smart phone is showing advertisements and stories regarding that one little thing.
“That can be dangerous because part of what protects people against extremism is a diversity of experience, a diversity of thought,” he added.
Burgoyne agreed, recalling an article about a cultural shift in 2012, when more than 50% of people owned smart phones.
“The phone is not allowing our young men and women to be inquisitive. It is feeding you exactly what you want, so you don’t have to think,” Burgoyne said. “Be inquisitive, ask questions and think. If you don’t know the answer, go ask your friends. That starts up a conversation and you might learn something today.”
Milton said extremist behavior may not be obvious to an outside observer. Even with experts on the lookout for extremism, the person who notices first is usually a friend or colleague. That friend, however, may not know how to respond. Milton said the friend should know that by taking the step to respond to the person may be how they help the person before it turns into a bigger issue. It all comes back to People First and taking the time to help a friend.
“When it comes to building a cohesive team, there’s a lot that can be done by the person in the foxhole next to you,” Milton added.
White reminded people they can always call the CG Hotline at (254) 618-7486 if they need help.
The command team also took the opportunity to discuss the variety of uniforms walking around the Great Place. Fort Hood is currently hosting Warfighter 21-4, a multinational exercise designed to help gauge how all the partner nations fight together on a large scale.
“Part of this exercise is sharing how we fight and then learning to fight together,” White explained about the two week exercise.
He said that while the warfighter exercise is only conducted every 18 months, it is a prime opportunity to develop leaders, the ones who may be in leadership roles the next time Fort Hood units are called to action. Burgoyne said even during training, people are always at the center of everything they do.
“People First – there’s a lot of different definitions out there and it changes from the Soldier level to the junior NCO level, to the platoon sergeant, to the first sergeant, battalion, brigade, it keeps going. And it changes based on experience, based on … wisdom and maturity,” Burgoyne explained. “The CG’s definition is fit, disciplined, highly-trained, cohesive teams, led by engaged leaders. People are always at the center of all we do.”
To listen to the full podcast, visit www.facebook.com/FortHoodBdcstOps.