Building Effective and Efficient Systems

Shortly after becoming a Battalion Operations Officer, I was overwhelmed by the volume of “stuff” coming across my desk prior to distribution, publication, or implementation. As the S3, I simply could not touch all of the FRAGOs, tasks, and requirements flowing through my headquarters. Though shaped for several years, I had just made the shift from small unit to organizational leader. I quickly found the organization’s success revolved around our ability to establish and maintain systems. Later, as the Brigade S3, I would reap the benefits of hard lessons learned in system management as a Battalion S3 attempting to keep my head above water.

The Field Grade Leader in a Stryker Formation

My first experience with Strykers was as a field grade officer after service in both Armor and Light formations. The Stryker formation is powerful, but only if leaders understand its true capabilities and limitations. This article highlights the strengths of a Stryker formation and how field grade leaders enable success by exploiting those relative advantages.

The Operational Planning Team

As a Major, we’re focused on those important (and painful) “KD years,” time well spent as a key leader at the battalion or brigade level. That said, the majority of our time is often spent on higher level staffs, toiling away at a project that no one else seems to care about until it becomes a crisis. Given the time spent in such positions, its interesting that we invest little energy thinking about and preparing for success.

U.S. Army Soldiers, from the 25th Infantry Division and soldiers from the Republic of Korea army participate in demolitions tactics and procedures during the joint exercise Foal Eagle near the DMZ, South Korea.

A Major’s Guide to Communication

One of the most challenging facets of life as a staff officer is pulling information from inside of your head and distributing it across the formation. Your day is filled with meeting after meeting and the precious time in your office is often spent putting out fires or answering e-mails from the hyperactive Brigade S3. To counter lack of available time, master effective and efficient means of communication to ensure shared understanding across your formation. I’ve highlighted a few, ranked from least to most effective:

Teach, Coach, Mentor

Developing Subordinates to Succeed in our Profession

Prior to starting KD time, I dreaded becoming disconnected from Soldiers and junior leaders. I’m a people person, and genuinely enjoy being a part of someone’s development. From the outside looking in, it seemed the BN S3 and XO were constantly chained to their desk and had little to do with development. This perception could not be farther from the truth. Though regularly chained to my desk, I was amazed by the number of subordinate leaders who relied on me for a facet of their development. We often throw the phrase “teach, coach, mentor” around, but don’t take the time to unpack these leadership responsibilities and think about how we’ll fulfill the role of teacher, coach, and mentor. Here are a few thoughts through the lens of a Battalion level field grade officer.

The Science and Art of Being a Major

There are a ton of resources out there for Captains before they take command. From books to blogs, there’s an abundance of information readily available. However, there’s usually a cognitive gap between completion of ILE and your first KD job, often separated by an assignment to a Corps or Division staff. Here are some key thoughts to get you thinking about KD, broken down into two categories — Science and Art.

Your Field Grade In Brief

Each time a Major joined our Brigade, the XO and I would sit down with them to discuss success during KD time. Our Brigade Commander always said that leaders invest time in priorities, so the XO and I would invest scarce time in setting new team members up for success.. We’d talk through annual training guidance, policies, the battle rhythm, and other information we saw as essential to a good start. Of all the topics, I’d argue the most important was being a team player and good peer. The discussion would usually go something like this: