By Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan WileyNovember 1, 2011
At his first assignment at Fort Hood, Texas, as a young cavalry scout, back in 1996, he began as the lowest private on the totem pole, but left as a sergeant promotable, with the duty title of section sergeant.
Throughout his 15 years of service, he has consistently sought out challenging assignments and leadership roles, so when the opportunity to join the 188th Infantry Brigade Team, headquartered at Fort Stewart, Ga., came up, he did not hesitate.
"I had heard of Active Component / Reserve Component assignments, and I knew that it was a good career advancer, but I didn't really know anything about the First Army mission," he said.
He decided to accept the job, and he soon learned that the mission of First Army and the brigade is to train Reserve and National Guard Soldiers who are mobilizing in support of combat missions overseas.
In the year that he has been assigned to the brigade, he has mentored hundreds of Reserve and Guard platoon sergeants and platoon leaders while they prepared to deploy in support of operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.
Most recently, Mikan was the senior Trainer/Mentor for a headquarters battery first sergeant and company commander of the Ohio National Guard's 1/134th Field Artillery Battalion during a four-day field training exercise at Camp Shelby, Miss., which ran from Oct. 20-23.
"It's a great experience to be able to pass on the knowledge and experience you have acquired to others," Mikan said. "This can be a very rewarding job. Oftentimes, at the beginning of an FTX (field training exercise), you get a platoon and they can't even figure out how to do their PCCs (pre-combat checks). It's total chaos, but the by the end of the exercise, they have figured things out. They have their checklists, they're making their checks and they're all in one line and uniform. It's amazing to see how they go from being totally lost at the beginning, to having done a complete turn-around by end of the rotation."
When Mikan coaches Soldiers during an FTX, the respect he commands from them is apparent. Soldiers lean in when he speaks and nod their heads in agreement to much of what he says. Like most of his peers at the 188th, Mikan was a platoon sergeant in a combat operational environment immediately before coming to the brigade, and the experience that is behind his words is clear when he is in mentor mode.
Mikan is not an instructor, however.
"My job isn't to tell someone where they messed up," he said. "My job is to get Soldiers to see for themselves where they messed up and what they need to do. With the benefit of multiple Iraq and Afghanistan rotations, I have seen things from a lot of different points of view. I try to impart these multiple perspectives to them."
Mikan said he knows if he has been successful during the After Action Review process.
"If during the AAR process, I'm doing all of the talking, I have failed. I'm wrong. My goal is to get them to do the talking and to see ways they can refine their processes and TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures), to be in accordance with their TACSOP (tactical standard operational procedures) and Army doctrine."
After the 188th, Mikan said he wants to become a first sergeant for a light reconnaissance squadron, and he said that his experience of being able to sit back and observe others make decisions in simulated battle environments will make him a more effective leader if he ever gets a chance to be in that role.
"Watching these guys, you get to see the mistakes they make. It goes into your head, 'Ok, If I'm ever in that position, I know I don't want to do it that way.' You get the benefit of learning from what others do wrong," he said.
Mikan said he also gains a lot of knowledge from his peers at the 188th.
"The best thing about this assignment is that you learn from the people you work with. I've been doing this for 15 years, but sometimes someone will bring up a point during an AAR, and I'll be thinking, I have never thought of it that way -- that makes a lot more sense than anything I have every thought about it," he said.
Mikan said he would encourage any sergeant first class with a lot of knowledge and skills to impart to consider joining the 188th Team.
"There is a lot of camaraderie, and it's a great working environment," he said.