Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Stone
43rd Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Nine young leaders were the first Soldiers inducted into 43rd Special Troops Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade’s, newly-created “Order of the Trailblazer” Dec. 13, after completing the requirements for the battalion’s Junior Leader Program.
The program is intended to enhance the leadership skills of Soldiers in the ranks of sergeant, staff sergeant, warrant officer, chief warrant officer two, second lieutenant, first lieutenant and pre-command captain.
Each participant was provided a handbook with a list of tasks — starting with tasks to be completed within 30, 60, 90 and 120 days of starting the program and recurring daily, monthly and quarterly tasks.
The tasks included counseling Soldiers verbally and in writing, qualifying as a convoy commander, and learning how to perform maintenance on all assigned equipment as well as instructing junior Soldiers to accomplish the mission.
The program, begun in December 2011, has been integrated throughout the battalion during the last year, according to Lt. Col. Roger Giraud, commander, 43rd STB.
Giraud said he witnessed similar programs in other units and wanted to teach his junior leaders some of the skills 11 years of war had pushed to the background.
“Cavalry units have their spurs program and we needed to do something like that to bring our junior leaders back to core competencies,” said Giraud. “People say ‘back-to-basics,’ but some of the folks don’t know what the basics are.”
One of the inductees, Staff Sgt. Evan Soto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 43rd STB, found himself pushed to get out of his comfort zone.
“Completion of tasks also requires interaction with people you would not otherwise meet,” said Soto. “It is not often that a signal Soldier would sit down and have a talk with the battalion adjutant. Opening the lines of communication with subject matter experts on different subjects is invaluable. Not only have you learned something new, but you have built rapport with someone you could reach out to for help in the future.
“The benefits of continuing to implement this program are not just limited to the junior leaders themselves, whose growth has been fostered, but also to the Soldiers who will reap the benefits of the improved leadership, and the senior leaders who will have a stronger support structure below them,” Soto said.
The Junior Leaders Program also lets the participants in on things they might not otherwise be a part of.
“I have attended command and staff, maintenance, training and first sergeant’s meetings,” said Sgt. Sergio Toscono, 59th Quartermaster Company.
“Attending these meetings, I learned the importance of management and training, of Soldiers and units,” Toscono said. “I now understand the battalion operations and the companies’ roles in supporting each other to meet (the) mission as a whole.”
Giraud said his favorite part of the process is watching people grow.
“The best part of this job, the best part of this program, is watching people learn and strive toward a goal and earn it,” Giraud said.
Soldiers who meet the rank requirements start the program as soon as they arrive in 43rd STB to begin building a strong foundation.
Giraud presided over the Dec. 13 ceremony and Col. Todd Heussner, commander, 43rd SB, gave the commencement address.
The next induction is planned for March 2013 and then there will be one every quarter.