News: Leadership course arms command teams with tactics to overcome mistakes
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret
FORT DIX, N.J. – Maj. Oscar Rubio worked as the french fry guy at a McDonald’s when he was 16.
His job requirements were simple: Grab the fries from the freezer, stage them, fry them, salt them, package them and serve.
But what if the fryer exploded suddenly, injuring the manager standing there?
Would it be in his job description to save lives and put out the fire?
“That’s called going beyond the ‘rational limits’ of the job,” said Rubio during a class on leadership to a group of 30 leaders.
Rubio used the story to present a point: It’s the leader’s job to inspire soldiers to go beyond the minimum requirements.
The instructors taught a dozen topics during the Company Team Leader Course at Fort Dix, N.J., the last week of January. The course included topics such as “followership,” ethics, personality styles, commander vision and motivating soldiers. This group of students was one of 24 scheduled classes that Rubio will teach this year with his three-man team of instructors around the country.
“The stuff we teach here would make a commander’s life a lot easier,” said Capt. Ken Dobbe, senior instructor, a Chicago native.
When he was a company commander, Dobbe said he could have avoided a lot of mistakes and hardships if he had taken this course when it was available.
Mistakes to avoid: clash of personality conflict, lack of vision, inability to motivate soldiers, poor stress management, and the list goes on.
The instructors armed commanders and their staff with the tactics to overcome those mistakes.
“Prior to this course, I had a basic idea the course would enable commanders to strengthen relations with their command teams,” said Capt. Michael Wilson, commander of Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, 402nd Quartermaster Battalion, Petroleum, of Ellwood City, Pa. “I really felt it would be a beneficial tool for my personal commander tool box.”
Wilson’s expectations were not disappointed.
“Honestly, I think these instructors are excellent. The (Army Reserve Readiness Training Center) schools I’ve been to have been fabulous,” he said.
The course is unlike most other leadership classes the Army teaches. Instead of students coming to learn as individuals, company commanders bring their first sergeants, unit administrators and other staff members with them. It’s a total team concept from day one to graduation.
“It’s given me a better idea for planning and training and dealing with leadership positions at the company level,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Schreiber, of Horse Head, N.Y., first sergeant for Company G, 3rd Battalion, 78th Training Division. “I’ve been a first sergeant for three-and-a-half years. This would have been nice to have two-and-a-half years ago.”
The course was not just instructive, but interactive.
The instructors included video clips from funny commercials, popular war movies and television shows to enforce the points made in class. The instructors were funny, direct and challenged command teams to think through the problems that affect their units.
This isn’t the typical leadership training that bores people to death.
“We hear the success stories,” said Dobbe of the feedback they receive after each class, sometimes even months later. “It works because it’s relevant.”
Instead of assigning abstract or hypothetical problems, the course forces leadership teams to address the very real and imminent problems they face at their own units: Lack of motivation, soldiers who continually fail to meet standards, poor military bearing ... every commander and first sergeant knows these issues well.
“You have to make it as realistic as possible. You have to use past experiences (from the students). … The whole purpose is to use the rest of the class’s knowledge to resolve the problems we all face,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Cassano, course manager, from Bennington, Vt.
Dobbe said that almost every class begins with at least a few students who question whether this course might be worth their time.
“Even my naysayers by the third morning are drinking the Kool-Aid,” said Dobbe.
The effects can be infectious.
“We want this to be a viral course,” said Rubio.
He said that this course really has the ability to impact the Army for the better, because these company leaders go back to their units and instill their vision and reinforce the standard with new enthusiasm. That breeds an infectious environment where soldiers grow and impact others for the better.
That, of course, starts with a team of instructors that practice what they preach.
“We are a good metaphor for the course,” said Rubio. Every member of the team said they love working together. “We got lucky. We do mesh. We tie in well together. We know where each one starts and where the other can pick up. … If we were a (company) command team, we would work very well together.”