Monday, December 14, 2009

Asking Why!

I heard an interesting leadership story today and it went something like this.

A young private was in the middle of boot camp at Fort Dix, NJ. One day he got tasked with painting the parking lot. He had to recover all the yellow lines that marked the individual spots. He was well on his way when he had an accident. He spilled some paint in the middle of the lot. There were no parking spots there so it kind of stood out. He took the paint and evened it out into a circle. So out in the middle of the parking lot there was a big yellow circle. He went on and finished all the parking spots and reported back to his drill instructor that he was finished.

This young private graduated boot camp and never told anyone what had happened. After a few years as an enlisted soldier he went to OCS (officer candidate school). He graduated and became an officer. After being in the army for 15 years and making LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) he found himself back at Fort Dix for a conference. When the sessions where over he happened to drive by the old parking lot that he repainted. To his amazement, it was freshly repainted. All the lines where done in a bold yellow. And wouldn't you know, the yellow circle in the middle of the parking lot was still there! Not only was it there, but it also was freshly painted and bright as could be. For 15 years soldiers in basic training had re-painted the same accident circle over and over.

The moral of the story has to do with leadership. In the Army we have a lot of training that teaches us to do what we are told when we are told. The "why" question is discouraged or even punished if asked. Granted, as a leader, sometimes you need your order carried out immediately and the why question only waste time you might not have. But on a routine basis, we need to train soldiers to ask why.

Good leaders should not fear the why question. Good leaders should explain why often enough that when they can't, their followers understand. Teaching followers to ask why also ensures they understand the intent of the order. If you want a gauge of the effectiveness of your leadership, find out how often your followers know why they are doing what they are doing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Air Assault is almost over!

The 10 days (really 11) of air assault school seems to drag on and on. Thankfully, tomorrow is "sling load test" day. I've got a written test first thing in the morning. Then after the written test we move on the the hands on test. We have to inspect 4 sling loads and find the "deficiencies" in each load. We are given two minutes per load and there are 4 deficiencies on each load. We have to find 3 of the 4 to get a "go."
Hopefully, I will find all the deficiencies quickly and not have to re-test on anything. Once this phase is complete, we move on to phase 3: fast roping and rappelling. That will be Friday, Monday and Tuesday. On tuesday we get to fast-rope out of blackhawks!
That's really what I am looking forward to. Then its all wrapped up on Wednesday morning with a 12 mile road march! Finish the road
march and get my wings! Then I'll never have to go back there again.

Hopefully I'll be posting tomorrow at 10:30am at home after getting a first time go on all the tests. If not, it will be a long day. Hope you are all well!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Army Life IS My Style.... Air Assault School Is NOT!

Hey Everyone,
I could only have imagined how busy I would be once things got underway for me as a Battalion Chaplain. Well, Army life has exceeded my expectations. I am going to carve out a few minutes each week to put out an update but for now, here is what's going on.

I've been on the job for a little over 3 months. There's been a ton of on the job training that I've gotten. There has been little from the Chaplain school that I've actually used, but I'm sure some of it will come in handy some day.
I've had all sorts of experiences that I didn't see coming and been able to help some people in some great ways. I've got a great commander and a top notch staff to work with. I feel privileged to work with and for such great people. I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the Army.

For some reason, a few weeks back, I volunteered to attend the Air Assault School. My commander was like "Really? Chaplain, you want to go?" I thought I did. I went to Airborne School and got through with out any issues. I thought Air Assault would be about the same. I was wrong. This school has shown me how soft I've become as I've gotten older. I can honestly say that I've not enjoyed one minute of being there. I've never quit anything in my life, however, the other day I thought about setting up my packing list wrong just to get kicked out so I could go back to my job. Like I said.... I'm becoming soft.
Its 11 days long and I'm through 3 days. This coming week, I'll take the test on phase one (hand and arm signals, pathfinder operations, and aircraft information), then start phase two (sling load). Then the following week we will move into the rappel and fast rope phase. It all ends next week Wednesday (December 16) with a 12 mile road march.

Then after that I'll go back to work for a few days and then start block leave. We will be heading back to Chicago December 23rd through the 30th. Hopefully my body will recover from all this abuse. Hope you all have a great Christmas and have some time of rest.