In the summer of 2020, lieutenants in Basic Officer Leader courses and captains in the Maneuver Captains Career Course participated in a series of assessments as part of a new self-awareness/self-development program called “Project Athena.” Just over one year later, Project Athena has expanded to all company-grade professional military education (PME) courses, the Command and General Staff School, and to pilot programs in Warrant Officer Education System and Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System (NCOPDS) courses.
What is Project Athena? Project Athena is a leader development program designed to make Soldiers and Civilians more self-aware of their strengths, weaknesses and “blind spots.” With this knowledge, they can address developmental needs through self-development and immediate actions. The name “Project Athena” came about as a nod to the Greek goddess Athena who was noted for strategic warfare, wisdom and learning.
Today’s operational environment requires an Army that not only maintains its materiel and maneuver advantages, but its leader advantage as well. Project Athena addresses this developmental need.
“Army research has shown us that leaders who are self-aware and willing to put in the work stand apart from their peers,” said Col. Sam Saine, director, Center for the Army Profession and Leadership (CAPL). “They are more effective, make better decisions and lead organizations with higher readiness, morale and performance.”
Project Athena consists of a series of developmental assessments designed to measure leadership, cognitive abilities, communication skills, mental toughness and interpersonal skills. The assessment tools vary based on the level of PME. Trained proctors administer the assessments and faculty/staff are available to interpret results and provide coaching, upon request. Individuals taking the assessments own the results, although they are highly encouraged to share this information with their instructors and cadre in order to receive feedback. Informed feedback helps the individual plan both long- and short-term self-development.
Regardless of whether a student chooses to share their Project Athena assessment results, they must complete the common Individual Development Plan (IDP) prior to graduation. This IDP should be updated at each level of PME and is best informed by Project Athena results to chart progress on leader attributes and skills.
The use of an IDP to document plans and goals is not new; however, the common IDP used as part of Project Athena will soon be an official form and available on the Army Publishing Directorate website. It will also be included in doctrine as part of the upcoming Field Manual 6-22 “Developing Leaders” slated for publication later this fall.
What’s next? Department of the Army Civilians will begin program assessments as part of their Civilian Education System starting this month and expansion across all Army cohorts will be completed by the end of September 2022. Inclusion of U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard courses is planned for fiscal year 23-24. Leaders at the Mission Command Center of Excellence (MCCoE) and CAPL completed briefings on Project Athena at all the Centers of Excellence this spring and are in the process of briefing officers and senior NCOs at each Army division.
MCCoE Director Brig. Gen. Charles Masaracchia’s message has been consistent from the beginning. “When I’m out on the road talking to leaders about Project Athena, I ask them three questions,” he said. “’Are you as good as you want or need to be? Are you willing to be completely honest with yourself while taking these assessments? Are you willing to put in the work to be as good as you need to be to lead our Soldiers?’ If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ then Project Athena can help.”
To learn more about Project Athena, visit https://capl.army.mil
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