‘Highlanders’ instill standards, develop leaders
Sgt. Brandon A. Bednarek,
4th BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
Training of junior leaders can be one of the most important and beneficial practices any military unit can invest in. The simple expenditure of time and effort can produce high-yielding dividends for commanders by creating more competent leaders who in turn can distribute their expertise to subordinate Soldiers.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, exercised that strategy by training nearly 50 sergeants, staff sergeants and lieutenants Oct. 22 through Oct. 26 in what it calls the Highlander Leadership Course, a week-long training regimen aimed at increasing leadership proficiency and mastering of Army, division and unit standards.
“We are in our leader development phase, building leaders for tomorrow,” said brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Clark. “So we developed a period of instruction that focuses on our mid-level leaders to ensure that everyone is operating under the same standard.”
With most of the unit’s senior leadership supporting the Security Force Advise and Assist mission in Afghanistan, the brigade refocused attention on branding junior noncommissioned officers and officers with the task of projecting and upholding a unified standard that every Soldier is held accountable to.
“Our hopes are that when we send the lieutenants and staff sergeants out, they’ll be able to implement [the standards we want to accomplish] a lot faster,” Clark said.
The training, which was led by battalion command sergeants major and first sergeants, guided leaders through a variety of leadership topics, including composite risk management, counseling, noncommissioned officer evaluation reports and troop leading procedures.
The leadership course took a different avenue of approach by using visual aids as a secondary technique and utilizing the collaborative experiences of its participants to drive the learning.
“The feedback I’m receiving from students are that they’re enjoying it and learning from it,” said Clark. “They’re in a group setting with their peers, so a lot of the discussions are not necessarily off PowerPoint slides or regulations, but them talking about lessons they’ve learned and good tactics, techniques and procedures.”
A six-mile stress shoot kept leaders grounded in a combat frame of reference and the daunting physical training sessions left them with an exhausted understanding of why physical fitness and training are so essential for Soldiers.
“The most important thing we do every day is conduct physical training,” said Clark. “With the new [physical readiness training] the Army has developed, it will significantly lower skeletal-muscular injuries and is designed to make sure Soldiers have total core strengthening. That’s why we wanted to make sure leaders were doing it properly and to standard.”
“That was a huge benefit for me,” said Staff Sgt. John Edmisten, the brigade chaplain’s assistant. “Because I’m not directly in charge of Soldiers, I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time learning how to instruct or why we do what we do during PRT.”
The collective physical training sessions also forced leaders to interact and form working relationships, which create a cross-brigade network of experiences and ideas leaders can later call upon, said Clark.
“We divided them up, got people out of their comfort zone,” Clark said. “We’re building a team and getting everyone involved with each other. That’s always been my philosophy.”
The implications of the HLC go well beyond a leader’s ability to enforce a standard or reference regulations; it also establishes the individual framework for a leader’s current and future assignments.
“It’s only the foundation, you can keep adding to it,” said Edmisten. “By providing them this education, it helps them to expand upon their own experiences and ultimately sets them up for success.
“It’s a good starting point,” he continued. “I think it’s a very effective tool to give junior NCOs and officers a good, sound foundation of not only what the Army is about, but more specifically what the 4th Brigade and 1st Armored Division are about.”
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