BANGOR, ME, UNITED STATES
More than 50 noncommissioned officers from the Maine Army National Guard volunteered to attend a workshop called “Not in My Squad” in Bangor the first week of February. The workshop focuses on re-empowering NCOs and addressing issues at the lowest possible level.
“Not in my squad is a grassroots initiative, focused at building mutual trust and cohesion at the squad and team level,” said program creator, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey in a video message to those participating in the workshop. “The highest performing squads are those that are built on trust; trust in their leaders and trust in one another. This is the essential element of Not in my Squad.” Dailey also took time to address the NCOs attending the conference and answer their questions during the second day of training, connecting from his office in D.C. in a video chat.
Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Doyon, the senior enlisted Soldier for the Maine Army National Guard, attended a national command sergeants major advisory council where Dailey talked about his new initiative.
“I didn’t think much of it then, but when I came back I looked into it more,” said Doyon. “The program is based on building trust, which struck a chord with me. I make it a priority to go out and visit all of our units and talk to as many Soldiers as I can. What I have realized is that the communication that we used to have is missing, and that’s what made me reach out to the NIMS staff.”
Sgt. Maj. Boris Bolanos traveled to Maine from The Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) in New York with his team of researchers and facilitators to train a new group of Soldiers, National Guardsmen. Maine is the first National Guard organization that they have worked with directly.
“I am really impressed with the support and the comradery here,” said Bolanos. “The leadership has been phenomenal. They really opened their doors to us to be able to come and plant a seed with the junior leaders of the state. I think that speaks volumes about the senior leaderships’ belief in the concept, this initiative and what it can do to better readiness in [Maine].”
The Not in My Squad initiative was started in 2015 after Dailey attended a summit at West Point that discussed squad leaders needing to take ownership and responsibility for what happens within their squads, said Bolanos. He then took that idea and directed CAPE and the Army Research Institute to build a partnership that would take the program throughout the Army.
CAPE's senior training developer, Don Jackson was another facilitator at the Maine workshop. Every month he gets at least one request for his staff to conduct this workshop at active duty installations around the world. Working with a National Guard organization provided an opportunity for CAPE to work with the challenges faced by the Citizen-Soldier.
“You are a unique audience that we have yet to serve in a direct face to face environment,” said Jackson. “We had the propensity to serve the entire state, versus a selection of individuals from an installation. Here, we have all the companies, brigades, battalions [which] are all significantly involved in the process.”
Being a squad leader in the Army National Guard has its own particular set of challenges as well. Unlike their active duty counterparts, Soldiers may be dispersed throughout the entire state, making it more difficult for squad leaders to maintain a sense of cohesion and comradery, said Jackson.
Despite the differences between Active Duty Soldiers and the National Guard Soldier, Bolanos said that throughout all of the trainings they have conducted, reaching over 500 Soldiers in 2016, the same issues are always present -- professional development, trust, training management and discipline and standards and accountability.
Course facilitators challenged Soldiers to work with new people, splitting up members of the same unit into separate groups as challenges facing one unit may not be present in another unit. The separation of units also helped encourage conversation and problem solving as they worked through discussions focused on identity, climate and culture. Command Sgt. Maj. Doyon greeted the NCOs every morning and polled the Soldiers on the previous day’s training.
“Everyone I talked to, could only talk about what a great experience it was,” he said. “It really worked well having all the groups with different people, rather than putting all of the combat engineers in one group, having all the medics in another, etcetera. The dispersion seemed to lead to great conversations. Someone in the 11th Civil Support Team said it was great to hear about what is really going on with the traditional M-Day Soldier, especially where everyone in his unit serves full time. The feedback was great.”
At the conclusion of the workshop, each of the groups presented what they consider to be three main issues to the command staff and a panel of command sergeants major and sergeants major. Doyon said he wasn’t that surprised with the findings.
“I think it’s pretty incredible that all of our E9’s in the state are pretty in tune with what is going on,” he said. “Almost every one of the issues you brought up, we are working on. We are fighting, we are arguing for you. Now, I have a confirmation that these are issues, and now, because of the ideas you all provided, I have a whole lot more tools in my back pocket. If my solution doesn’t seem to want to work, I have more I can try!”
Both Doyon and Bolanos emphasized the importance of not letting this workshop end after the Soldiers go home.
“You can go back to your Soldiers and do this,” said Doyon. “You can get feedback like you just gave me. Now I know what the problems may be for the squad leaders, but what do the privates think are the current issues? Take this back, make time for this. You want more time to team build, start here.”
||BANGOR, ME, US
This work, “Not in My Squad” Training Comes to Maine, by SSG Angela Parady, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.