FORT HOOD, TX— The 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command has rolled out a new Squad Leader Development Program designed at creating better leaders across their formation from the ground up, here at Fort Hood, Texas.
Building upon the Army’s “This Is My Squad” initiative, the Squad Leader Development Program focuses on bringing junior and mid-level Non-commissioned officers together in a non-threatening atmosphere to solve common leadership problems throughout the ranks that can worsen if left unchecked, resulting in what is commonly referred to as ‘Toxic Leadership’.
The Squad Leader Development Program is apart of a larger effort from the 13th ESC to implement Fort Hood’s People First initiative, called the ‘Strong Sergeants’ Campaign.
Strong Sergeants consists of a two-week training period. Training provided will cover the basic technical and tactical skills, knowledge and attributes that a Non-Commissioned Officer should possess. The training ensures that NCO’s know their duties and the responsibilities expected of them in fulfilling the Army’s Mission.
The 13th ESC is one of the first units here to implement the ‘This is My Squad’ and ‘People First’ initiatives in this way.
Command Sergeant Major Tamara Williams, 49th Transportation Battalion, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, is showing her dedication to affecting change throughout the ranks as the driving force behind ensuring that the Squad Leader Development Program is implemented.
“We want to develop and bring back strong sergeants,” said Williams. “We want them to understand what their job is, empower them as leaders, and give them the tools to be effective.”
The Squad Leader Development Program utilizes hand-picked Senior Leader cadre from within the unit to bring leaders into a classroom environment, to spend three days together identifying challenging areas within their jobs, squads, and sometimes personal lives that affect their ability to effectively lead.
These areas include ethical dilemmas, micromanagement from higher up, and not having a sense of being ‘heard’ resulting in a lack of overall unit motivation.
The cadre then facilitate and guide conversation in order to allow the participants to talk amongst each other, empathize, and problem solve through sharing like experiences.
One of the participants of a recent class was Sgt. Marjani Addison,49th Transportation Battalion, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, who works directly with junior soldiers in the 13th, has seen the effects of toxic leadership firsthand on more than one occasion.
“Being around other people allowed me to gain other perspectives,” said Addison. “I definitely walked away with something, like better ways to prioritize work and life and hopefully make myself a better leader.”
Addison was especially vocal about how she felt about the state of things after the 3-day exercise.
“I wear both the US Army name, and my family name on my uniform. Therefore, to me, being a better leader is about finding the working balance between both my work and personal life and passing that on to my soldiers.”
Once the class is concluded, senior leader(s) from the 13th meet with the participants and engage in a round table discussion about the prioritized problem areas. The feedback turns into a dialogue between both senior and junior leaders about the path ahead.
During these discussions, Senior leader(s) give context and meaning to junior leader’s concerns; both offering guidance and actively listening to issues.
The overall key to the Squad Leader Development Program, as well as the TIMS initiative, is starting the conversation. When leaders identify problems and friction areas, then brainstorm solutions with input from experts, they bring these newly formed ideas and skills back to their formations and soldiers.
“We are after transformational change,” said Williams “The idea is, once we help mentor and develop NCO’s here, they will take their knowledge and expertise with them and continue to spread it across the army.”