FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Leading Soldiers can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, responsibilities in the Army, and to prepare for this vital mission, the Army provides its new commanders and first sergeants with the tools they will need to be successful.

At Fort Sam Houston, new first sergeants and company commanders took advantage of the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills Jan. 14-18 as they attended the U.S. Army North, Company Commander and First Sergeant Training Course.

Seventeen new company commanders, along with eight first sergeants and a detachment noncommissioned officer, attending the training, which was mandated by the Chief of Staff of the Army in February 2012.

The 26 leaders learned how to best employ the Army programs and benefits designed to help Soldiers. During the course, Army North senior leaders shared their personal experiences and lessons learned in dealing with the gamut of issues they face in providing assistance to Soldiers, to include financial, legal, administrative, medical and various other potential issues.

The course was invaluable, declared 1st Sgt. Mahlon Thomas, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brooke Army Medical Center.

"There is a lot of vital information you need and may not have at your finger tips," said Thomas. "Having these subject-matter experts teach us helps us build our leader's book of contacts that we can use when needed.

"The Army has done away with the Army-level first sergeants course. While many of the things that were taught in that course are now being taught in the senior leaders' course, many things are not - that is why this course is important."

The students said they were pleased at the level of involvement by the senior leaders throughout the course.

"On the first day of the class, the Army North battalion commander and sergeant major spoke to us - and they have been with us in the class since then," said Capt. John Bannister, company commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 56th Signal Battalion. "It is always good to get tips and guidance from senior leaders because they have been there and done it right."

Among the senior leaders providing tips and guidance was Maj. Gen. Adolph McQueen Jr., deputy commanding general for support, Army North.

"Being in command is a great opportunity," said McQueen. "It is also a great responsibility because you have been allowed to serve Soldiers as leaders."
McQueen, who is a prior enlisted service member and has served in all levels of command, spoke to the group of the importance of having a good relationship between the commander and first sergeant - and to make sure that the command grew a little each day.

"Every command should look different each day; it is small steps, not big ones, that make a command team successful," he said.

The course also provided the leaders an opportunity to network and.

"I found the ability to meet other commanders here helpful because we all have many of the same challenges, and it helps to know that you can turn to one of them for guidance if needed," said Capt. Veronica Schoenborn, who took command of Company A, Brooke Army Medical Center, in June 2012.

Having the best tools to lead Soldiers is a vital task, and the Army emphasizes the importance of teaching, coaching and mentoring its leaders to help ensure American Soldiers are the best trained, equipped and prepared forces they can be.

The course is important, said Sgt. Maj. Timothy Ricks, Army North, because it provides the command team the basic knowledge on using the tools necessary to perform their leadership missions successfully.

"When you become a commander or a first sergeant, it is important to know what steps and procedures you need to take to prevent mistakes," said Ricks. "This class provides the commanders and first sergeants an opportunity to meet and speak with the civilians and

Soldiers who are dedicated to help them become more effective leaders in garrison."
McQueen told the assembled commanders and first sergeants to remember their first responsibility as a leader.

"You have Americans under your command - who expect you to lead," he said. "At the end of the day, it is a joy to work with and train Soldiers."

Army North is scheduled to conduct the next commander and first sergeant training course March 11-15.