What Right Looks Like: My visits to units
Jan. 3, 2012
By Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe Commanding General
When I was a Captain, all the Company Commanders at Ft Polk received a one-page memorandum entitled "FORSCOM Commander's Philosophy on Visits." It outlined some of the things that all of us should do if the FORSCOM Commander -- a 4-star general who had risen through the ranks from Private and who entered the Army in WWII -- came to our unit. At the time, I thought that was pretty dumb...did he really have to tell us what he wanted to see, or shouldn't we be able to figure that out?
Now that I'm more senior, I now understand exactly what he was doing...and it was pretty smart.
Given I've visited several units now -- the most recent was a VERY successful and fun trip to the 12th CAB, hosted by COL Jay Voorhees -- I'd like to pass along a couple of things if you're wondering what I'm looking for when I come. I'll use some of the things Jay did, because it was such a well-planned visit.
Here are the tips:
-- The word is out that I don't like power-point slides. That's good; but it's only partly true. I don't like LONG power point shows (10-12 is about right, anything over 20 lasting more than 30-45 minutes is WAY too long), and I also know that an intro to the unit and the organization is sometimes necessary in a briefing format. Use common sense on this...I've come to see your unit and your soldiers (and frankly, for them to see me), not to get a long briefing.
-- An office call with the commander before we wander around is good...Jay Voorhees hit the mark with a short office call where we discussed personal development and professional management of his warrants, mid-grade and senior leaders; the maintenance and supply issues he's having with his aircraft and in his command; and where he was focusing his attention in the next six months. He also told me where the USAREUR staff and I could be helpful. All of that was perfect! But those were HIS discussion points...you may have others. I've sent out a couple messages of things I would like to hear about (personnel management, leader development and how you do it, bars to reup, etc), but how you discuss those things are your call.
-- I like to wander around Soldiers and leaders in their workplace. See what they do, and where they do it. I'll ask a lot of questions, because I like to learn things...about how the Soldiers view their jobs, their living conditions, their assignment to Europe, the care for their families. Again, Jay got me to several places: a CH-47 hanger, a maintenance and supply bay, some office spaces of the Attack Battalion where I could talk with company commanders and warrants. You need to design the same thing for your organization; do a mission analysis, and figure how I can get a good feel for who you are, and what you do.
-- Having told folks I want to have lunch with between 8-12 Soldiers in an informal setting (no flags, no table settings, no separate rooms), many will pick the very best soldiers in the unit to have lunch with me. That's okay, but again, Jay took a different approach and it was hugely successful. His CSM grabbed six soldiers coming into the DFAC, and asked them if they wanted to have lunch with the USAREUR CG. It was a great experience. And as an aside: I've been in the Army 36 years, I've heard complaints, and nothing (well, almost nothing) a soldier will say to me will surprise me or reflect poorly on your unit...unless I see/hear a trend; then we'll talk.
-- If you want me to reenlist someone, promote someone, or give coins, I'll do that. But please know I'm stingy with coins. I've seen many high ranking people give them to entire formations, and I won't do that. They are for excellence, so ensure the individual you recommend is noted for doing something that makes him/her a standout.
-- we had a chance in Illesheim to have a cup of coffee with the spouses of a deployed company, and that was terrific. If you have spouses that want to share some thoughts with me, that's a bonus.
-- Finally, these visits are a dip-stick. I'll see you and your unit at other places (Graf, Hohenfels, exercises, on Warfighting Forum VTCs), but visiting your commands is truly one of the best things I do. Don't get excited about it, but have a plan which really gives me insights into who your unit is, and what they do.
-- If I'm spending the night (either before or after), I'll want to do PT with one of your units. I'm not interested in 8 mile runs and testosterone checks, I'm interested in whether or not your leadership is present, if you're doing PRT correctly, and how you're handling your formations to ensure we're truly preparing for the physical demands of combat.
If any of you have any questions, please let me know. I hope this is helpful.
Strong Soldiers, Strong Teams