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Command Post What is this?
Posted on Sep 12, 2017
COL John McClellan
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LTC Psychological Operations Officer
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IME, mentorship was much more personal and informal than anything that could be included in a program. While OPD classes and other leadership training were valuable, and you certainly pick up good traits simply by observing the great example set by good leaders, to me that was more education than mentorship. Not every commander I had was someone I considered a mentor, though I learned from all of them. Likewise, while I tried to develop all my subordinate officers, I don't believe all of them would consider me a mentor.

There was something more personal and one on one about mentorship. And most of the mentoring didn't take place during duty hours. It was more like conversations that occured late at night when the cimmander and I were finishing some late task, and found ourselves alone in the HQ. discussions involved all sorts of leadership topics, often with the mentor sharing much more of his internal thought process of how he approached a problem and came to a decision than he would normally share with everyone during a busy day. Or maybe it was a story or two he shared from his career while waiting at an airport for a flight, or some other opportunity where we found ourselves alone with some time to kill.

I learned many of the philosophical underpinnings of leadership in this way, seen through the eyes of someone who was excelling at a higher level than I was at, and therefore had a much deeper perspective of the challenges I was facing. Perhaps because this is how I was mentored, it was also how I tended to mentor certain officers.

I believe there is also a personal connection aspect to the mentor-mentored relationship. There wre just certain officers that seemed more eager to learn, more eager to dig into the finer points of being a leader than others. They would ask the probing questions, push the discussion, challenge my positions, which caused a deep examination of the topic at hand. Now, perhaps there is an unfair element to that. Is it fair to spend extra time with some officers than others? Should I have, in fact, created a program that shared all my "nuggets of wisdom" with everyone? Perhaps. But IME that was neither practical nor effective. There is a qualitative difference between having a battalion OPD, (though a lot can be shared that way) and having a one on one discussion (not a counseling session) that generates more organically.

I learned many things from every senior officer I worked for but I consider very few as mentors. To me, there was something more to mentorship than simply education and the sharing of experience. There was an intangible factor that took the senior officer from a respected senior to a mentor.
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MSG Usar Liason
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I always hated how in the Army we are quick to complete negative counselings yet drag our feet when it comes to developmental counselings. It seems like developmental counseling is one of the first things to go out the window whenever the optempo increases. I have been at duty stations where I never received even an initial counseling. I make it a personal goal to properly counsel Soldiers so that they know what I expect of them and whether or not they are reaching those expectations.

I know many in the Army are lukewarm about MRT, but the MRT competencies have a lot of good tools for improving the way we mentor and counsel Soldiers. I try to incorporate the long-term planning MRT skill into my developmental counseling sessions. It helps both me and the Soldier with developing realistic goals for the next month / quarter.

One thing we can do to give us as leaders more time for counselings is to coordinate with the unit training NCO for dedicated times on the training calendar for counseling sessions.

I agree with your assessment on the importance of mentorship. If we placed as much emphasis on mentorship as we do APFT and MOS training, we would have a much more capable fighting force. As leaders, we should always be grooming one of our subordinates to be able to take over our jobs.
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COL John McClellan
COL John McClellan
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Agree with you SFC Daniels! For most of my career, even the mention of the word "counseling" was negative... if someone "needed" counseling then there was something wrong with THEM, or the assumption that they had done something wrong. As I said, very, very, very hard to sustain performance counseling with the right aim (development) vice the negative. Thanks for the response!
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LTC Stephen C.
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Edited >1 y ago
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COL John McClellan, I started BCT on 11NOV69 and the drill sergeant of 1st platoon of D-3-1 at Fort Jackson was SFC Richard DesLauriers. He was a kind and comparatively quiet man, atypical of many BCT drill sergeants. He was in the business of mentoring and counseling eons before the Army formalized the process and was worthy of emulation. He was an extraordinary NCO, and put me on the right path. I think it was his atypical approach to training and counseling that made me listen.
I've tried to find him many times since those days of basic to thank him, to no avail.
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