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    Former CECOM, APG Commander looks back, Part III of III

    CECOM Commande Team holds virtual Town Hall

    Photo By Philip Molter | CECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo and Senior Enlisted Advisor Command...... read more read more



    Story by Philip Molter 

    U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command

    Note: This is the last of three articles in which the former U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command CG and APG Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, looks back on his tenure as he transitions to his new role as the U.S. Army Deputy Inspector General.

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. —The APG News recently sat down with Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo to discuss his tenure as the 16th commander of CECOM and senior commander of APG. His tour of duty at APG officially ended on Aug. 6 when he relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson II.

    What would you say has been CECOM’s evolution in your time here?

    Again, it is about operationalizing the command and keeping an eye toward the future. CECOM is making decisions today that will ensure the success of the command in 2025 and beyond. We are actually thinking about key strategic initiatives that will ensure our success and relevance. For example, we’ve been modernizing our Organic Industrial Base for the past decade with a focus on adapting the [Tobyhanna Army] depot to facilitate newer fielded systems. We’ve taken that one step further with now evaluating robotics and other modern techniques to facilitate modernization and efficiency to ensure we’re making the best use of all our resources. While at the same time continuing to reduce the total time an asset remains in overhaul at the depot.

    Additionally, the leaders in CECOM have evolved as well, leveraging strategic prowess and focusing/tying our future to our people. We’ve focused heavily on eliminating challenges in the workplace and creating a culture where our workers are comfortable taking challenges or concerns to their leaders and trusting their leaders to assist with solving them and maintaining their privacy.

    We all are aware of the challenges our country has been facing outside the gates. Because our workforce primarily lives outside the gates, some of that turmoil seeps into our workspace and we must face that head on. I believe our leaders have opened the aperture to where they feel comfortable having conversations on sensitive topics with the workforce. My only ask of them was to not allow politics to enter into the conversations. When I arrived two years ago, those conversation weren’t something you saw on a consistent basis. The senior leaders in the command have invested a lot of time coaching and mentoring our leaders at every echelon. I take personal responsibility for ensuring leaders own that role. We make the assumption as senior leaders that we know everything we are supposed to know, and we don’t. I was obligated as a commander to coach, teach and mentor all leaders in CECOM. That covers our flag officers all the way down to our first-line supervisors. Leading is hard and you must invest time into developing leaders if you want your organization to remain successful. A phrase I adopted from retired Lt. Gen. (Russell) Honoré describes it best: “our audio must match our video.”

    Ultimately it is back to people first. We want our workforce focused on the mission and the customers they support. We want the increased efficiency that results from a keenly focused workforce. When we eliminate distractions and improve communications we improve trust, eliminate micromanagement, and empower our workforce to be more innovative and inclusive. In order to get to an ideal level of efficiency, our workforce must be able to leverage leaders’ open door policy and leaders must actually listen to what’s communicated and act.

    Finally, if we’re going to be prepared for the future, we have to enable the talents of the entire team. Truthfully, I don’t consider myself an innovative thinker. I’m a problem solver, but not innovative. I rely on proven basic fundamentals, tactics, techniques, and procedures and allow the talents of others to help us accomplish our mission.

    Did you have any significant mentors whose leadership style you admired?

    I have had a number of key mentors that I give a lot of credit for my success. While serving as the Executive Officer for retired Gen. Carter Ham, I learned how to better manage crisis while watching him manage the aftermath of Benghazi. Likewise, observing retired Gen. Joseph Votel lead us through the rise and defeat of ISIS and the Syria crisis provided more lessons on managing a continuous crisis. Being able to work in close proximity to both and learn from them gave me the confidence I needed to help lead APG/CECOM through the COVID-19 crisis. At AFRICOM there were days when the team wanted to make certain decisions and the boss would basically say no. A week later you would understand why he said no. He could see things that others didn’t. I describe it as the ability to take that step back in the midst of a crisis situation and practice patience; think through second and third order effects and leverage your skills to allow you to make hasty but still deliberate decisions. It’s an invaluable skill and I used it continuously during the crisis.

    Further, the lessons I learned about leading and dealing with complexity in the workforce from retired Gen. Dennis Via, retired Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, and retired Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford have served me well from the time when I was a junior captain. I took components from each of them to help mold me into the leader I am today. Finally, retired Col. Art Maxwell was my first mentor and the person that taught me how to prepare and plan properly and more importantly how to control my temper. Without his counsel, I would’ve likely left the military at a young age.

    What do you think is the most important aspect of leadership?

    It’s taking care of your people. For me I approach leadership from this perspective. There is a part of me that is focused on organizational leadership and the challenges that lie therein. But I believe you also have to be very personal in leadership. Interfacing with your people, humbling yourself, and taking the time to coach, teach and mentor. One of the things I would have done more of, and I feel cheated of due to COVID-19 restrictions, was to get into the workspace more and get involved with the people. Affording me an opportunity to get to know them on a personal basis and them me. I did this with my key leaders, but COVID took away the opportunity for more of the CECOM and APG family to get to know me on a more personal basis. When we know one another personally, we willingly fight for and protect one another. I honestly believe the Soldiers, DA Civilians, and Contractors that work for the DoD and serve the people of this great nation are a different breed. I believe we’re not just working for a paycheck; we work for one another.
    We love executing our mission and take pride in the fact that we’re the best at doing it. Let’s face it. Most of us could earn more pay if we chose to work outside the DoD. What serving is about is rallying around one another and that bigger thing, that larger purpose. It is about what is the Soul of CECOM. Selflessness, Ownership, Unity, and the Larger Purpose of why we do what we do. At the end of the day, it is about protecting our way of life and standing firm in our Constitution and what it stands for.

    What is the biggest change CECOM will have to make to meet the challenges of the next several years?

    CECOM will continue to work in an environment with a reduced budget. We are going to have to continue to make risk-based decisions that deliver the best for our warfighters. CECOM will need to better balance mission sets going forward. We will have to take more initiative in some areas and help the Army make some of the tough decisions required to ensure our future success. The thought that you have to continue doing more with less is a facade. We can’t continue to salami slice our budget and execute a large portion of our missions only in the time of crisis. We will have to stop executing some missions altogether. We don’t want our Soldiers to have hardware or software that’s half ready. It hampers readiness and puts our warfighters at risk.

    Additionally, CECOM has to continue to evolve at the pace of operations. We are a strategic organization, but we can’t simply focus on the strategic aspects; we have to have tactical and operational perspectives in our thoughts and processes. Our decisions have to be tied to the Soldiers we support. We don’t have the luxury of being slow. We have to move at the pace that supports the modern Army. We have to move at the pace that supports us being in the fight. For a C5ISR organization, we have to be a threat-based thinking organization as it pertains to our primary execution of missions in the cyberspace, and network-defense domain.

    CECOM is outward focused on our customer base, and I believe CECOM needs to be inward focused on AMC as well. What mission sets in AMC should we take away from the enterprise, own and execute for AMC to ensure it remains secure. CECOM has the capability to perform all the cyber defense, software development, and network engineering that AMC requires already inherent in our workforce. We’ll need to leverage it to free up the higher headquarters so it can focus on other key initiatives required to support the SSA.

    What do you see as the course of the Army in the future? What will be the major challenges in fifteen years?

    I think the path the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army has us on is the correct one. Modernize to ensure we’re dominant in Multi-Domain Battlefield Operations while simultaneously competing in peacetime to deter our enemies. In order to win in the next war, we’ll need to modernize our battle systems, dominate cyberspace, leverage artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, and deliver a robust cyber-hardened, and flexible network. Our adversaries have the resources, manpower, and will to threaten our dominance. However, they will never match the abilities of the American Soldier. That’s the edge and it’ll keep us dominate in the next fight.

    What makes our Army so much different from other armies is our non-commissioned officer corps. Foreign armies don’t put the same level of trust, value, and emphasis on their non-commissioned officer corps. Our non-commissioned officers lead and execute missions that they would never be allowed to lead in foreign armies. We invest in our non-commissioned officers, challenge, and empower them to succeed. Our model is not duplicated by any force in the world. And I know that is what makes us better. So if we can continue to focus on training our Soldiers in realistic, stressful environments and provide them with the most capable equipment, we will always be at the top of that pyramid. It would take some of these other countries centuries to match just what we do with the American Soldier. That is our decisive edge, it is our Soldiers. What we know they will do on the battlefield. All we have to do is give them the tools to be successful and they will come out on top every time.

    What do you hope to focus on in the future with your transition to your new role as Deputy Inspector General?

    I have been a signal officer my entire career and have only had one of two opportunities to serve in a branch immaterial capacity. So, there is a slight sense of ‘I don’t know what is going to happen,’ but there is excitement as well because it is something new. I’ve been interested in IG operations for many years. I’ve always respected and relied on IG’s to steer me in the right direction. This job is an opportunity for me to take the perspective of my operational experience, and experience as a Senior Installation Commander, to the DA IG office. My IG’s have all been eager to assist, coach, teach, and mentor and I love to do that.

    One of the things I learned from Gen. Ham is that you need to seek to operate outside of your comfort zone. This current job is outside of my comfort zone and that’s the edge I need to keep pushing me. To keep me hungry, to keep me energetic. So, I am looking forward to joining the IG team and working on the Army Staff. I’m eager to meet new people and learn how the Army operates at the highest level. It’ll push me in the best way because I want to be the best. I hate to be unprepared, and I hate to lose. I may be seemingly more reserved than others, but I am as ‘type A’ as they come. This new position will help me get inside my wheelhouse but be outside of my comfort zone. It is going drive me to be better because I want to be the best DA Deputy IG that’s ever served.



    Date Taken: 08.16.2021
    Date Posted: 08.19.2021 09:57
    Story ID: 403186

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