Story by Jefferson Wolfe
USAG Fort Lee Public Affairs Office
FORT LEE, Virginia – “It’s important to learn from failure” was among the pieces of advice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville shared with young leaders as he toured Sustainment Center of Excellence training facilities here Thursday.
According to his staff, the CSA came to Fort Lee to review the Combined Arms Support Command’s progress on Army priorities, including the emphasis of People First initiatives and training readiness.
During the visit, McConville spoke to a Basic Officer Leader class at the Army Logistics University. He primarily focused on the Army’s philosophy of People First and how it integrates into leadership development.
The lieutenants in the class were the first to take part in a new career assessment system the Army is implementing. The program will give young leaders a chance to examine their skills and set a path to build upon and augment them over time.
“Your career is a marathon, not a sprint,” McConville reminded the students.
Brig. Gen. James M. Smith, 31st Chief of Transportation and acting president of ALU, offered additional insight about the assessments. The program is a developmental tool that “helps individuals see themselves,” he said. It is not meant to influence the way senior leaders rate young officers or select them for assignments, and it is not meant to be used punitively.
McConville noted how young officers should keep their options open as they progress through the ranks, adding their goals may change as their careers mature. It is important to fail, he also told the class. It is important to know what failure feels like and how to react to it. Learning this makes a person a better leader.
“The people who can fail – get knocked down and get back up – are the ones who are still around,” the CSA said.
Changing the topic to People First, McConville said part of that effort is focused on getting the right leaders in the right place at the right time.
Another element is the emphasis of diversity and inclusion – making all Soldiers feel as though they are part of the team. It’s also about getting rid of “harmful behaviors” in the military, which are sexual assault/harassment, racism and extremism.
The goal of a platoon leader – and all leaders – is to develop a highly cohesive team that is highly trained, disciplined, fit and can fight to win, McConville said. The key is determining how to build that team with a goal of getting Soldiers to be masters of their crafts.
“You have to apply as much leadership as it takes to get the job done,” he emphasized. “If you do all that, you’ll be successful. If you don’t do that, you won’t be successful as a leader.”
In combat, that cohesive team will be very important, the general continued.
“That’s when you know you’ve got it,” he said. “When everyone starts to care more about the team than they do about themselves.”
While touring other CASCOM facilities, McConville learned about Go for Green – a program focused on delivering more high-performance food and drinks to Soldiers as a way to boost fitness, strength and health. The Joint Culinary Training Center is at the forefront of that effort.
McConville also experienced virtual welding, metalworking and machining, and various other activities at the Ordnance School’s Cohen Hall.
At the Quartermaster School’s Petroleum and Water Department, the general was briefed on the 3,000-gallon-per-minute Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit. Then he experienced one of PWD’s digital learning platforms where virtual reality goggles are used to simulate operating a vehicle.
During his visit to ALU, the CSA spoke with students and cadre from several leader development programs. Presentations included a collaboration exercise between Captains Career Courses at the Sustainment and Maneuver Centers of Excellence; the data analytics program that’s being used by students of the Warrant Officer Technical Logistics Course; and an overview of the Female Mentoring Program.
“Really enjoyed my visit with the team at Fort Lee,” McConville shared on Twitter after his tour “I couldn’t be more proud of the innovative teaching techniques and modern technology being used to teach, coach, mentor and develop our new Soldiers and leaders.”
McConville is a native of Quincy, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He holds a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and was a National Security Fellow at Harvard University in 2002. He became the 40th CSA in August 2019.