Tag Archives: Leader Development

E-to-O: Enlisted Commissioning Programs & the Problem with Credits

To complete my Public Policy master’s degree, I chose to develop a policy analysis aimed at improving enlisted commissioning opportunities at my university. The Army’s version of these programs is Green to Gold. (In the Navy, it’s STA-21, MECEP in the Marine Corps, and the Air Force has a few programs under the enlisted commissioning umbrella.)

The general problem is that my school doesn’t support prospective enlisted-to-officer candidates very well, though they want to—that’s where I come in. I sent out a survey just this week to several university admissions offices and various ROTC programs (of all services) to ascertain trends and capture best practices. Although the work is far from over, a concerning trend is already clear: many troops don’t have credits for core college courses. Continue reading E-to-O: Enlisted Commissioning Programs & the Problem with Credits

B&B Summer Reading List 2016

It has been an eventful summer at Bourbon & Battles Headquarters (by which I mean my house). I finished my first year of grad school, completed an 11-week summer internship in San Francisco, suffered through a nasty case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and found out my wife was pregnant with our fourth (and final) child, this time a son. He will be woefully outnumbered—though I suspect well taken care of—by three older sisters.

It dawned on me pretty early in the summer that my super-long commute to the city afforded me a new and rare opportunity for long periods of uninterrupted reading time. That in mind, I set out to take full advantage before the crushing weight of required textbook reading returned in the fall. I generally took care to choose highly rated or recommended books to get the most bang for my time, so my summer was jam-packed with an extraordinary reading selection. Continue reading B&B Summer Reading List 2016

Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

Today’s guest post is written by Oren Hammerquist, an Active Duty Army NCO who’s bringing a much-needed enlisted perspective to B&B’s ongoing musings on Army culture.


I grew my mustache on leave and a whim. In fact, wear of a mustache has a much longer tradition in my family than military service. I see it as a hobby and a way to maintain some facial hair. As expected, I returned to both compliment and ridicule. Opinions on mustaches vary widely. Perhaps one day my hobby will grow old. At a minimum, I must wait until people have forgotten I did not used to wear a mustache so they will ask what changed. But this time has not been wasted. I never expected my military mustache would teach me a valuable lesson. Now I know the truth: mustaches make better NCOs. Here are five reasons why.

Continue reading Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

6 Slow Realizations of the Headquarters Company Commander

Few jobs in the Army inspire the phrase “better you than me” than that of a headquarters company command. There are paths to success if you find yourself in that gig, especially if you follow good advice like that offered by Captain Scott Nusom in his article “Surviving Headquarters Company Command” published at From the Green Notebook.

But along the way to completing a successful headquarters command, there are a handful of slow—sometimes painful, sometimes cathartic—realizations that change the way you perceive the job, for better or worse. Continue reading 6 Slow Realizations of the Headquarters Company Commander

Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

Post #7 in the “In Between” series.

I’ve come to appreciate a handful of things about basic military administration and organization since I’ve spent some time away from it. As a leader, you have the very real responsibility of keeping your organization knit together and operating functionally and smoothly by mastering those administrative/organizational exigencies. We often lose sight of just how fundamental much of what we do in the military is.

From my brief foray into the civilian world, let me share just a few things I miss.

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Don’t be like Zoidberg.

 

Continue reading Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

An Adjutant’s Advice

One of the very first stops an officer makes when he or she arrives to a new unit is the office of the Adjutant. It makes sense as the Adjutant is usually the S1 Officer-in-Charge, the personnel manager and supervisor, in charge of handling the personnel manning of the organization. But the wise and experienced officer knows that the Adjutant is more than just a pit stop. He or she is a gatekeeper, a hub of information, and one of the leaders in the organization who has the boss’s ear.

Here are some pointers from this Adjutant, ranging from how to best use an Adjutant’s skills to your advantage to how to best manage your records and career.

Continue reading An Adjutant’s Advice

Addicted to Action

After I passed the guidon off to my replacement and moved to California for grad school, I was sad to leave the organization I led for 15 months and the relationships that I forged, but I was relieved to be done. My responsibilities were abdicated, the rat race was complete, and I was off to a new adventure in the Golden State. I now have more time with my family, an amazingly flexible schedule, and the rare chance to expand my educational horizons.

Then it hit me. I miss the action.

I miss the time spent taking care of business, planning training, executing tasks, working with fellow soldiers, and basically staying busy all of the time. I had an Outlook calendar full of events and just had to look at my unit training calendar or the battalion’s long range calendar to know what to expect for the rest of the quarter and those in the future.

And the calendars were full, but never mind that. There were plenty of unscheduled tasks to keep me (and everyone else) gainfully employed because of what many call “fires.”

For the uninitiated, a fire is a problem that, as you can guess, needs to be “put out.” They are usually challenges that crop up outside of the normal battle rhythm or planned events that must be resolved before flaring up, spreading, and drawing the ire of higher-ups.

“If nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter.”

The problem is that an organization can extinguish fires as they crop up, or they can jump from fire to fire with an unhealthy intent, creating fires where they need not be.  In my short career, there have been frequent periods when just about every day there was a fire to put out.  I found myself joking with peers that, “if nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter!”- a reflection of the attitude that the organization seemingly always had to have a crisis to handle or we weren’t working hard enough.

What existed was an addiction to action.

I don’t miss that.

Continue reading Addicted to Action

Batman v Leadership, Part 2: The Bad

In Batman v Leadership, Part 1, I discussed five leadership traits of The Batman that represent some of his good, positive leader qualities. But anyone familiar with the Dark Knight’s M.O. knows his techniques, actions, and demeanor are often at odds with what we’d want our kids to take away as healthy behaviors.

Continuing and concluding my two-part look at some of Batman’s leadership characteristics, I now bring you some of the Caped Crusader’s less desirable qualities from which we might be able to learn and avoid ourselves.

Continue reading Batman v Leadership, Part 2: The Bad

Batman v Leadership, Part 1: The Good

Full disclosure up front: I’m a Batman fanboy nerd. He is my all-time favorite comic book hero – a masked vigilante who fights crime, injustice, and evil with his wit, training, preparation, and bottomless bank account. He doesn’t have super powers, and yet he’s a card-carrying founding member of the Justice League and a proven fighter capable of going toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel himself.

But like any man, the Caped Crusader is not without his flaws. Starting with this post and finishing with the planned second part, I will discuss a handful of the Dark Knight’s leadership traits, first good, then bad. What lessons can leaders glean from the World’s Greatest Detective? How many more nicknames for Batman can I use?! Keep reading to find out!

Note: I won’t post any spoilers for the movie. In fact, I’m going to stick mainly to the comics.

Continue reading Batman v Leadership, Part 1: The Good

In Between: The One About the Value of Free Time

Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between.  This is the fourth post in a category I call “In Between.”


As part of my master’s curriculum, I recently participated in a multiple-day project that serves as a sort of “rite of passage” for students in the program—an over-the-weekend policy analysis exercise designed to “simulate a real-life work environment in which rapid-response and “land-on-your-feet” skills are at a premium.”

While the project was certainly a valuable education in rapidly developing a meaningful policy analysis product, I came away from it with, what was to me, a profound realization that a civilian school just coopted my entire weekend—with the explicit intent to use the weekend, not weekdays—for a project that could have easily been programmed into a weekday setting with just a little pre-semester intradepartmental coordination.

Continue reading In Between: The One About the Value of Free Time