KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Army doctrine mandates that equipment is inventoried and properly maintained daily, weekly or monthly, in accordance with the preventative maintenance checks and services checklist in the equipment’s technical manual.
Our Soldiers also need preventive maintenance, according to Chaplain (Capt.) Samuel Rico of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.
“Our Soldier is the most valuable resource we have,” he said. “Why don’t we spend the same amount of time and effort PMCSing people that we do for equipment?”
Rico, Lt. Col. Brad Wambeke and Command Sgt. Maj. Corey W. Gill, HHBN commander and command sergeant major, respectively, have taken a unique approach in the 4th Inf. Div. to raise awareness and reemphasize the core leadership value of knowing the Soldiers under a leader’s command.
Although the concept of leaders getting to know their Soldiers is not new, Rico coined a name to help make the approach more memorable – Preventative Maintenance for the Comprehensive Soldier.
Rico said he hopes that by tying the leader-soldier relationship to an already-existing moniker known to all troops will help address a problem they see in today’s Army.
“The hope with this program is that people realize that this is something I need to be doing on some kind of regular frequency to get to know my Soldiers so that I can identify when they are going through a challenge in life and I can potentially help them through that,” Wambeke said.
He said sensing studies have indicated that only about 50 percent of leaders really know their Soldiers. Leaders, at a minimum, should know personal surface details such as the Soldier’s marriage status, number of children, hobbies and interests.
“Every Soldier knows that he must check his equipment daily, weekly or monthly,” Rico said. “Building relationships is no different. But, there is the human dimension we need to tap into. It’s not like something we can just pour oil into.
“I think if Soldiers know that their leaders care, they’re going to want to work hard for those leaders,” he said. “Obviously, in the Army we can command respect through rank and you can order it … Leaders who stand out are those who garner and earn the respect of their subordinates. Those Soldiers will work that much harder for them.”
Gill said it’s not always easy because people have different levels of tolerance for allowing others into their personal lives, but it’s important to discover those limits.
“PMCS works perfect because it is inherent upon leadership to know their soldiers,” he said. “And it’s not going to be a cookie-cutter approach. Every soldier is going to be different. That leader is going to have to know each individual soldier to find out why things aren’t working the way that they’re supposed to be working.”
This will require personal conversations on a regular basis, much like vehicles require regular upkeep to keep them operational at peak efficiency, Gill said.
“Unless we know our soldiers and what’s going on in their lives, it’s hard for us to find the opportunities to help them,” he said. “Our commanding general talks about challenges – that everyone has rocks in their rucksack – and I can’t take somebody’s rock out unless I know what that rock is.”