Mission, Members & Then Me

The Senior Enlisted Advisor of The Texas State Guard (State Defense Force), Command Sergeant Major Thompson, routinely puts out a leadership messages within The State Guard. One of his previous ones focused on the importance of The NCO Corps and how vital it is in the military. Recently he published a very interesting column on discipline and how it is utilized in the military. He discusses its incorporation in basic training, Drill & Ceremony and how it fits into ‘Mission, Members & Me’.

Have a read:

From the desk of CSM Thompson
Good afternoon, it is time for another of my periodic leadership rants. Today the topic we will be discussing is discipline. When we hear the word discipline, a couple of things usually come to mind. Oxford Dictionary defines discipline as “the process of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior using punishment to correct disobedience to rules and regulations.” Discipline can also be defined as “an activity or experience that provides mental or physical training”. But what is discipline in practice? To answer this question, we need to look at the word itself.
I am going to use a word that I had to look up to ensure I spelled it right,etymology . Let’s discuss the etymology of discipline. The origin of the word is Latin. One school of thought says it comes from the word “disciplina” which means instruction or knowledge. Others say the root word is “disciple” which means student. Of course, we all have heard “disciple” which most people think means “follower”, but what it really means is student or one who studies. In a leadership class I took over 30 years ago, the instructor said the easiest way to define discipline as a verb when it comes to leadership is “to teach”.
This is where we, as a society, have strayed with the use of this word. Today, when someone thinks of the word “discipline” the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of punishment. Being dropped for pushups because you turned left on the command “Right FACE”, or being sent to the principal’s office in school because you couldn’t sit still are both examples that pop into people’s head when hearing the word. Discipline is seen as a punitive measure these days. While it is used to correct deficiencies, we need to remember that what is really used for is to ensure people are learning the right way of doing things. But it’s not always that way. Sometimes discipline can come in the form of a conversation. You tell someone what they did wrong, why it was wrong and how to do it correctly. Sometimes the explanation may include the consequences of making the same mistake again. When having this conversation, it can be done in a normal conversational tone. Yelling is normally not the best way to get the point across.
Many times if you explain in a calm voice, the person understands what they did wrong and will respond more positively than when they are being yelled at. I am not saying that there are not times when the elevated volume is helpful and may be required, but it needs to be used appropriately. If a leader has the respect of their troops, sometimes words are not necessary to exercise discipline in the formation. I know in my life, a specific look from a leader I respected was more than enough to tell me that I had messed up.
When we participate in D&C (drill and ceremonies), we are going through a discipline process. Drill was originally designed to move formations in an orderly, proficient military manner on the battlefield. This method of warfare was prevalent from before the Roman Empire, up to the Civil War and beyond. With the industrial revolution and the introduction of weapons like machine guns and airplanes in World War I, those mass formations facing off against each other became obsolete.
So why do we still include D&C in our training? One reason is that drill teaches instant obedience to orders and teamwork. It teaches us to have the discipline to move when we are told to move, and not ask why because sometimes that is necessary.
I often say that marching is the ultimate act of teamwork. A formation that looks “perfect,” with every member in step and having the proper DCID (dress, cover, interval, and distance) is deceptive. There is no such thing as perfection in a marching unit. Although we teach that quick time is a 30-inch step at 120 steps per minute, very few can hit those benchmarks. What is happening in that “perfect” formation is each member adjusting not only for their deficiencies, but for those of their teammates. When this happens, what is seen on the outside is a formation in which all the lines are straight and aligned and every heel hits the ground at the same instant.
This is the result of another type of discipline. It is self-discipline. The discipline it takes to know what you are supposed to be in the formation and then make those adjustments to stay there. Everyone else is doing the same. The entire platoon is exercising discipline.
This is the same type of discipline that leaders show by having their uniforms squared away, proper haircuts, being within height/weight standards and showing up not on time, but 15 minutes early. And it is this type of discipline displayed by leadership that troops want to emulate.
We need to remember that discipline is more than yelling at people or punishing them when they make a mistake. While there is a time and place for that, we need to remember that positive reinforcement in a disciplinary situation is much more effective. A disciplinary session is all about teaching. A calm conversation in which the leader explains what the deficiency is, and how to correct it is often what is needed. There should also be follow up discussions between the leader and the troop to ensure they are on the right path. All of this should be documented. As we all know, if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
I have come to the end of my leadership rant, but I do want to add one more thing. As leaders, we must have discipline as well. Sometimes that discipline is to ensure that we don’t “go off” on a troop. Other times that discipline is to take that phone call or answer that email, even when we are not on duty. Because as leaders in this organization, we are ALWAYS on duty.
Finally, I will close this rant the way I close all of them with my father’s advice; MISSION, MEMBERS, ME!!!!

Source: Texas State Guard

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