Corps Compass Mentorship Program Prepares Future Sergeants Major for Leadership

By Andrew SmithMay 8, 2024

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While many skills can be learned in the classroom, and some can be learned through trial and error, others are best learned through advice from those who have experience-based knowledge to draw from. To this end, the Corps Compass program was developed to pass on skills and knowledge from Senior Enlisted Leaders. The program aims to improve leader engagement and military culture, reduce potential misconduct, and enhance retention for future Command Sergeants Major (CSMs) and Sergeants Major (SGMs). Its mission is to create a mentorship program that enhances the development of Sergeants Major Academy (SGM-A) students.

Master Sgt. Karen Rivera, a student attending the SGM-A Class 74, is a member of the Army Reserve with limited time to devote to her duties in uniform. Rivera described the Corps Compass program as an excellent opportunity for Army Reservists to receive guidance and mentorship that would help them successfully complete the Sergeants Major Course. "It is great to see that the Army is taking steps to support its Reserve Soldiers in this way." Rivera expressed how valuable the Corps Compass program can be for career development. She shared that her experience on being paired with someone as knowledgeable as Command Sgt. Maj. Tully Culp allowed her to get his perspective and gave her a sense of direction.

Michael Grinston, the 16th Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) initiated the program and emphasized the importance of having Senior Enlisted Leader mentorship and a coaching workshop.

As a result in 2022, the Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Center of Excellence (NCOLCoE), Department of Training and Education designed the Senior Leader Coaching Workshop (SLCW) and implemented it as part of the Corps Compass program beginning with Class 73. The SLCW aims to expose Senior Enlisted Leaders to emerging Career Long Assessment practices, coaching strategies, and principles used to guide future CSMs and SGMs. SLCWs add an extra layer of best practices for coaching the students and contribute to developing the next generation of senior leaders in the Army.

The NCOLCoE Command Initiatives Group NCO, Sgt. Maj. Amber De Armond Hillard, shared that the goal of the Corps Compass Program is to provide future SGMs and CSMs with a resource to guide them through their evolution and commitment as a Senior Enlisted Leader. Currently, the program has 142 students enrolled and 79 "guides" or mentors who are either brigade or nominative CSMs and SGMs.

Additionally, Hillard stated that the Corps Compass program "supports using the Individual Development Plan (IDP) and Career Long Assessments (ATHENA), in support of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and U.S. Army Combined Arms Center priorities. Students take ATHENA each term and voluntarily share that information with their guide. The guide's role is to mentor the student through the formation of the IDP and the student's aspirations without telling them what and how to do it."

"The Corps Compass program has been instrumental in my leadership development by instilling a sense of accountability with me toward my mentor," stated Master Sgt. Jacinta Moore, another SGM-A participant. The milestones set by the program were not just regular checkpoints but rather lifelines that guaranteed a constant stream of communication, feedback, and guidance from my mentor. This experience has allowed me to understand the significance of trusting Senior Enlisted Leaders, knowing they always have my best interest at heart."

A third student eager to share her opinion on the program was Master Sgt. Vanessa Barquero who highlighted the benefits of partnering with someone from the same Career Management Field. As someone that has previously served in the G1 position, Barquero found the discussions with her mentor relatable and saw the benefits of her mentor's tailored advice. "I have served in the G1 position before as the Noncommissioned Officer In Charge, but not as the G1 Sergeant Major."

Even though the program is in the pilot stages and the Army does not have a formal mentorship program, Barquero believes that the unique experiences offered by this program make it a valuable opportunity for anyone looking to grow and develop as a leader.