This week in episode #16 of the NCO Guide podcast I host Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Ken Graham, the incoming command sergeant major for the 20th CBRNE Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. In this episode we speak about broadening assignments for noncommissioned officers, and talk about a few things to consider in how to get selected, and ways to adjust to the changed environment. Nontraditional assignments can be rewarding and provide a unique perspective, and offer back to the force a more diverse leader with new tasks and skills.
CSM Dan Elder, USA, Retired
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Our thanks to CSM Graham for participating in this discussion and wish him continued success. Statements here are personal opinion and do not reflect the official position of the US Army or DoD, participation in our interview sessions does not equal endorsement of any type. The NCO Guide is an unofficial news outlet of professional commentary and guided self-development from current and former Soldiers with the desire to share their expertise and experience and can be read at http://www.NCOGuide.net.
About our guest:
Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth M. Graham
A native of Warren, Ohio, Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth M. Graham enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 3, 1987, as
a Chemical Operations Specialist. After basic and advanced training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, he was assigned to
the 44th Chemical Company at Fort Hood, Texas.
Graham has served in every leadership position from squad leader to command sergeant major, with his most recent
assignment as Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Operational Test Command, Fort Hood, on April 24, 2014. Other
assignments include reconnaissance team leader, 68th Chemical Company, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood; Chemical/
Biological/Radiological/Nuclear (CBRN) Non-Commissioned Officer, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery
Regiment (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina; CBRN Non-Commissioned Officer, 258th Military Police Company,
Fort Polk, Louisiana; Platoon Sergeant, 87th Chemical Company, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Polk; Drill
Sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry, Fort Knox, Kentucky; CBRN Non-Commissioned Officer, 94th MP Battalion,
South Korea; Division Chemical Operations Sergeant and Division Chemical Sergeant Major, 82nd Airborne Division,
Fort Bragg; First Sergeant, 21st Chemical Company, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg; CBRN Sergeant Major, 13th
Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Fort Hood; Sergeant Major for the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Command Sergeant Major, 23rd Chemical Battalion, Joint Base Lewis-McCord,
Washington; Command Sergeant Major, 48th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood; and Commandant, III Corps and Fort Hood
Non-Commissioned Officers Academy.
His overseas assignments include Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait/Iraq), Operation Joint Endeavor (BosniaHerzegovina),
and three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Graham has a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College. His military education includes U.S. Army
Sergeants Major Academy (Class 56), Advanced and Basic Noncommissioned Officer Courses, Primary Leadership
Development Course, Technical Escort, Mass Casualty Medical Responder Course, CBRN Fox Reconnaissance, Drill
Sergeant School, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, Battle Staff, Hazardous Waste Management, Combat Lifesaver School, and
Modern Army Combatives Level I.
Graham’s awards and decorations include Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (2 oak leaf clusters), Meritorious Service
Medal (3 oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal (9 oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (8 oak leaf
clusters), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Superior Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal (7 oak leaf clusters),
National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, South West Asia
Service Medal with bronze star, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on
Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Saudi ArabiaKuwait
Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Master Parachutist Badge,
Canadian Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and the Drill Sergeant Badge. He is also a member of the Sergeant
Audie Murphy Club and a recipient of the Chemical Corps Honorable Order of the Dragon.
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Dan is a leadership coach, management consultant, and change agent who has mentored hundreds of leaders at all levels. A retired Command Sergeant Major with more than 26-years serving soldiers and their families, he has deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq. Dan's culminating assignment was as the senior enlisted advisor of a major Army Command (USAMC) and as the Army's senior enlisted sustainer. He served on the Sergeant Major of the Army's Board of Directors and is author, editor or advisor to a number of soldier-related books and articles. Working as an independent consultant and small-business owner in Killeen TX, Dan continues to serve soldiers as a Blogger, Podcaster and Speaker. He was selected as the first enlisted Senior Fellow for the Association of the United States Army and was inducted to the US Army Sergeants Major Academy Wall of Fame, and the US Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (June 1, 2015) – When the Department of Defense published DA Pam. 600-3 in December 2014, it provided Soldiers of all ranks a new perspective and guiding light for building career paths to leadership in the Army of 2025.
The emphasis for re-shaping the Army in the years ahead will focus on growing agile, flexible and widely experienced leaders at all levels and across all components and ranks, said Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, Commander, U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
“The last 13 years have impacted the Army’s expectations, with a generation of leaders and commanders defined by our wartime missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we are in a different environment now and need to meet the evolving challenges of a world in constant change,” he said.
DA Pam. 600-3 defines broadening as “a purposeful expansion of a leader’s capabilities and understanding provided through opportunities internal and external to the Army . . . through experiences and education in different organizational cultures and environments.”
Mustion said there are various factors operating in development of each individual Soldier that will determine their specific broadening assignments. With the guidance and support of evolving leadership, Soldiers need to balance and blend their needs for career satisfaction, personal preferences, family dynamics and their personal relationships with their leaders to hit on the right path to his or her goals.
“It’s a process of self-selection determined or defined by matters of performance and the potential for leadership each Soldier displays,” Mustion said. “The way for every officer, warrant or enlisted Soldier is different. There is no model path or program that fits all.”
Broadening opportunities may vary in scope, responsibility and developmental outcomes, and typically fall into one of four major categories: functional, academic, joint and interagency.
Functional or institutional assignments provide developmental experiences usually not directly related to a Soldier’s branch or functional area, fostering a deeper understanding of how the Army operates.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joel Smith, Command Chief Warrant Officer with U.S. Army Human Resources Command, cited an aviation warrant officer being assigned as an Observer-Controller to one of the Army’s National Training Centers as an example.
NTC prepares Soldiers deployments and complex operations within a simulated wartime environment. Aviation officers acting as OCs learn a great deal about how orders and missions take place on the battlefield. This constitutes a broadening experience for them as they conduct overfly missions and monitor control and command of the battle between airframes, said Smith.
“Although they are in their specific MOS, they are looking and assisting a unit to get better at completing their task. They get an idea of what the unit is up against so they can provide expert knowledge to assist them,” he said.
A wide range of academic and civilian enterprise opportunities provide Soldiers broadening assignments with civilian industry or in an institution of higher learning. The goal is to stimulate the Soldier’s growth via new perspectives, and by acquiring skills and abilities not traditionally associated with organic Army experiences, training and education.
One such option is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Service Chiefs Internship Program. Two officers are selected quarterly for the assignment, said Joel Strout, program manager, HRC’s Advanced Education Programs Branch.
“They get the insight of what DARPA is doing, all the latest technological developments. For example, it is a temporary duty and return program for majors (promotable) and lieutenant colonels. It is 90 days and return to their unit,” Strout said.
Joint or multinational broadening assignments provide Soldiers an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Army from the perspective of partner nation military organizations at the operational and strategic level. One such assignment would be with NATO.
“Overall, within NATO, there are around 1,000 to 1,100 positions; 750 of them would be international type, U.S. Army billets, which would be considered the broadening assignments,” said Michelle Cox, plans officer with HRC G3 and previously a NATO liaison officer within HRC.
Assignments vary in length, though most are 36-month, accompanied tours, though there are exceptions. For instance, an assignment to Turkey is presently a 12-month, dependent-restricted tour, “though for most positons, they are trying to get that changed so the officers and NCOs can take their families,” she said.
“Most of the officer positions are major, lieutenant colonel, some captains, some 06s,” but the majority are for O4s and 05s, she said. There is no language requirement for selection, since English is the official language of NATO.
“They request officers with combat experience, so they come with something to give. It is not necessarily anything in their record, though there could be something to an assignment manager to indicate if an officer would be a good candidate. But the indicators for me as a liaison, and for the brigade commander as a support position, is someone who wants to be there, someone who wants the challenge, is hungry for the challenge,” she said.
Interagency and intergovernmental assignments provide similar opportunities for professional growth while serving with government agencies outside the Department of Defense, or with governmental agencies of partner nations. Opportunities for warrant officers vary, said Smith, pointing to one senior warrant with an AG background who is about to begin an assignment with the Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison.
“I think this is an opportunity to broaden an officer who has been doing great things in that community,” said Smith. “Mentorship has absolutely everything to do with your MOS, but it also has something to do with professionalism.”
The diversity of broadening opportunities available across all ranks reflects the importance these assignments will play in shaping the Army of the future, Smith said.
“Broadening has now become a major focus. Whereas it was centrally focused on the officers before, it is now the full gambit: officer, warrant officer, NCO, civilian, and that is the Chief of Staff of the Army’s guidance. Everybody is diligently working at broadening and trying to define it for their cohorts,” he said.
Whichever category they select, Soldiers in all three components will prosper and advance by developing their own career maps and pathways to reach their goals. That navigation will include taking advantage of the most rewarding developmental experiences at each juncture of a career.
“Broadening is an approach to talent management geared toward delivering a generation of Army leadership at all levels capable of leading Army, Joint, interagency and multinational enterprises to victory in complex and constantly evolving security environments,” said Mustion.
Photo Credit: (U.S. Army photo)
Tags: Building individual career paths to leadership in Army 2025, NCO, Soldier leadership through broadening assignments