FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 31, 2023) Army leaders are gaining a more useful resource with the publication of an update to Department of the Army Form 4856, Developmental Counseling Form. The form, located on the Army Publishing Directorate website, is considered a “dynamic” product, meaning leaders can access the appropriate template for different types of counseling within the same form.
Templates in the new DA Form 4856 are based on the three types of counseling described in Army Techniques Publication 6-22.1, The Counseling Process. ATP 6-22.1 “provides doctrinal guidance for all military and civilian leaders responsible for planning, preparing, executing and assessing counseling actions.” A fourth counseling type and template covers general counseling that does not fit into any of the other categories but may be required for specific administrative or legal purposes.
“Every Soldier deserves quality counseling and feedback that help them develop and grow into future leaders,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston. “The new, dynamic form gives our young leaders doctrinally sound information to guide counseling sessions and make those conversations more productive.”
The update comes almost 10 years since a change to the form’s Privacy Act Statement in 2014. "This change is necessary because we're not even sure when the last major update occurred,” said Sgt. Maj. Jelani Edwards, Mission Command Center of Excellence sergeant major. “If we want to take a modern approach to leadership, we also need to modernize the tools we use. ‘This is how we’ve always done things’ no longer applies.”
In late 2021, Grinston charged leaders at MCCoE with looking at ways to update the existing DA Form 4856. MCCoE’s Center for the Army Profession and Leadership, along with representatives from the People First Task Force and Office of the Inspector General, formed an operational planning team (OPT) to gain consensus on necessary changes. Guided by the decades of experience within the team, participants agreed the form should be “dynamic” like the current DA Form 31 and intuitive for the user.
Sgt. Maj. Timothy Nellessen, sergeant major for CAPL and a key member of the OPT, said the intent was to deliver a product leaders could access and use, even if they had never been taught or observed proper counseling techniques.
“The language in the form gives leaders a solid baseline to conduct a counseling session. We even included open-ended questions, as outlined in ATP 6-22.1, so those conversations with subordinates could be more collaborative. This approach is especially helpful when conducting professional growth counseling,” he said.
According to Nellessen, the form went through extensive review across the Army, including pilots in each of the Army corps. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 99% of users seeing immediate utility for themselves and their Soldiers. One concern raised was the ability to access and use the form via smartphones.
“Right now, we are working with the team at Army Futures Command to make the 4856 accessible from the MySquad App,” said Nellessen. “Although functionality of the form on a smartphone will depend on the phone’s age and operating system.”
Edwards emphasizes that commanders still own and are responsible for their counseling programs. “No one is required to use the templates, but they do provide very sound doctrinal advice on what to cover during a variety of counseling scenarios,” he said.
Overall, the new DA Form 4856 delivers on the SMA’s original charter and more by delivering doctrinally relevant information within the form itself to guide performance, professional growth and event-oriented counseling. The improvements to the form will have an immediate impact on Soldiers who previously relied on manually researching doctrine to glean the same information.
“What we need to do now is make sure leaders across the Army and down to the squad level know this form is available and ready to use,” said Grinston. “We are committed to providing our junior leaders with tools, resources and guidance that help them coach, counsel and mentor their Soldiers. I think the new DA Form 4856 is an excellent example of that commitment.”
For more information and to view a "how to" video, visit the CAPL website at https://capl.army.mil.