News: 42nd Fires Brigade challenges its leaders
Story by Staff Sgt. Aaron Knowles
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Part of the noncommissioned officer creed states that leaders will never leave a soldier uninformed.
But, how does a leader determine what to share?
What experiences will you share with young soldiers to prepare them as the next generation of leaders?
Soldiers and leaders of the 42nd Fires Brigade “Wheel Horses,” 3rd Infantry Division, participated in a day of Leadership Challenge exercises and learned how to better share lessons learned at Club Stewart, March 6.
Lt. Col. Pete Kilner and Maj. Jon Silk, instructors from the Center for the Development of Leader and Organizational Learning at West Point, were personally invited to Fort Stewart by Col. John O’Grady, commander of the 42nd Fires Brigade, 3rd ID, to teach the Wheel Horse soldiers how to approach leader challenges with new perspectives.
O’Grady’s intent was adding what CALDOL had to offer to the Leadership Development program of the Wheel Horse Brigade.
“When you put on this uniform, you became a leader, whether it is in your unit, your personal life, ‘off duty,’ in your family or in your community,” O’Grady said. “That’s a challenge and an expectation. You have the authority to be a leader and you have the responsibility to be a leader.”
“So much of leadership is understanding where the lead ‘are,’” Kilner said, the director of the CALDOL. “Sometimes you think ‘What the hell was he thinking?’ That is because we are stuck in our own ways of thinking.”
The training that Kilner facilitates is an opportunity for soldiers and officers, of all ranks, to sit down in small groups and learn from each other.
“A leader challenge entails engaging soldiers, and getting them into the boots of an actual soldier, who had an actual dilemma,” Kilner said. “It is a structured way to engage people in small group conversational learning, in which they end up learning from each other. So, a leader challenge or a professional development session doesn’t have an instructor. People aren’t learning from me or from Maj. Silk. They are actually learning from themselves, as they hear themselves speak, and as they ask a question.”
During the sessions, the 42nd FiB soldiers were presented vignettes of real world challenges that leaders would face. An unruly soldier speaking against a mission or a noncommissioned officer, who has more issues than initially presumed, are examples of challenges that the Wheel Horse soldiers faced during the day’s challenge.
“When we hear real stories, and these are all real, it connects to our own experiences,” Kilner said. “The Army gives us tons of experiences, but it doesn’t always give us time to reflect on them. So, [the] Leader Challenge is a way of getting you to step back and reflect and then to articulate it.”
The soldiers sat in small groups of five to six people at a table. Every 10 to 15 minutes, they moved to a new table with an entirely new group of people. This maximized the diversity of perspectives that each soldier heard.
“The leader challenge trajectory is that within the 60 minutes, soldiers speak on the immediate challenge at hand,” Kilner said. “What should you be thinking about? What would you do? Then the table is broken up, and they look at what the challenges are, and what those consequences mean for them as a leader, and also what could have brought about other consequences.”
“I love that it brings everyone together because we all are soldiers,” Kilner said. “I am a Lt. Col. now, but I was once a private, and I like that this brings everyone together into the shared conversation.”
“We talk about mentorship and that we want to do it, but when do we really get to do it?” Kilner continued. “How do we even know who we want to be our mentors? This is a chance to build relationships. It’s a chance to know how people think and it’s a chance to find commonality.”