Monday Maneuvers

Welcome back to Monday Maneuvers!

Monday Maneuvers is an occasional series provided by the Army Women’s Foundation to help prepare you for life in and out of the Army. It appears on the first Monday of every odd number month.

Monday Maneuvers provides tips and insight on an array of subjects such as leadership development, finances, and job interviews. Some of the entries are provided in bite-size, quick take-away points. Other entries are essays reflecting on Army experience.


March 6, 2017

A graduate of the first gender-integrated class of West Point, AWF President BG (Ret.) Anne Macdonald served over 30 years in the US Army, leading and building highly effective teams. In this month's column, she demonstrates how attitude effects outcomes. It is true for each of us, and it is particularly true for leaders.

The Power of Positive Attitude — “Don’t worry. You’ll find them.”

It is often said that nothing good happens after midnight. That saying held true for me as a battalion commander. One dark February night at Fort Campbell I received a call from a flight crew at 0200 hours. During night vision goggle (NVG) training, a set of aviation NVGs had accidently fallen out of an aircraft. The U.S. aviator night vision systems were extremely expensive and highly sought after by both our friends and adversaries. In the wrong hands, the goggles could do serious harm to our technological advantage.

Missing, lost, gone, unaccounted for — whatever the word used — the lack of accountability of a high dollar item, triggered a series of events including immediate notification to the Brigade Commander, Division Commander and the XVIII Airborne Corps Emergency Operations Center. For our battalion, it meant standing down what we were doing and putting a 100% concentrated effort on recovering the goggles.

In the middle of the night there was no stand down. In fact, the task was the exact opposite — getting folks to stand up — to wake up and begin the search. Finding a set of night vision goggles, a device six inches by four inches in size, a set that had “accidentally fallen out of the aircraft somewhere over the Fort Campbell Reservation,” would be a daunting task by any measure. The Fort Campbell Reservation covers over 100,000 square kilometers: the goggles could be anywhere.

I called my Battalion Command Sergeant Major and Executive Officer to prepare a search plan. As I got ready to leave our quarters, my husband “warmly” offered, “Don’t worry. You’ll find them!”

I thought, “Right. You who get to go back to sleep.”

When I arrived at the battalion, a search party made up of the full flight company had been assembled. The young Soldiers, who obviously had been hastily awakened, had no idea why they were at the hangar this time in the morning. The 1SG was explaining to them how a set of aviation goggles had fallen out of the aircraft during night flight operations. Their task would be to find the goggles. As I looked at their dejected faces and the hopelessness in their eyes, I knew I had to say something.

Much to my surprise the first words I said were those of my husband’s, “Don’t worry. We will find them.” (These words had stuck in my mind. They were a seed of hope.) I saw the Soldiers visibly square off their shoulders and stand a little taller. They got it. “Don’t worry. We will find them.”

The power of positive words! Those words put us into the right frame of mind. Science tells us that we perform significantly better when we are in a positive state of being. We had to start our search with an attitude that would at least attract a positive outcome. The last thing we needed was to quit before we even had started.

Fortunately, this story had a good outcome. We started our search at the last known place of accountability of the goggles — a huge landing zone located close to the airfield. Standing side by side, we began our sweep of the field. After hours of searching, walking shoulder to shoulder with only flashlights to guide us, we found the night vision goggles. What a glorious sound when we heard a soldier cry out, “Stop, I think I just hit something!” All flashlights went to the sound of his voice, then to his feet. And there on the frozen ground, amongst the stubble of cut hay, was the most beautiful site — a set of night vision goggles!

How many times do we look at a task and feel defeated or want to quit before we even start? A positive attitude can set the conditions to foster a positive outcome. A significant part of leadership is to swallow misgivings, paint a realistic picture of the desired outcome and with a positive mindset...“get ’er done.”


Takeaway: Never underestimate the power of being positive! The US Army Women’s Foundation is the national network for today’s Army women and a positive support system for women Soldiers and Veterans. That is why I am proud to lead this organization and expand our support to and for Army women — Officers, NCOs and Soldiers. Army Strong! Working together, we will get it done!


January 2, 2017

The military offers many financial advantages, from guaranteed basic pay to free classes in financial literacy, for those who serve. BG (Ret) Belinda Pinckney, President & CEO, BHP Consulting LLC and former Treasurer, AWF, shares her knowledge about a few of those services, and why you should take advantage of them. BG Pinckney served 34 years in the US Army, and was the first woman in the Army’s Finance and Comptroller Field promoted to the rank of General Officer.

Some Financial Advantages of Serving in the Military … From a Leader’s Perspective

Soldiers need to understand the educational, hazardous duty pay, cost of living allowance, and other entitlements they receive so that they know how best to use them.

Soldiers also need to understand basic personal finances, so that when they receive extra money that they are not accustomed to getting, they can avoid making bad decisions about how to spend it. Understanding personal finances is also a good way to protect against predatory lending institutions that might otherwise exploit service members who lack sufficient finance knowledge.

The Army offers services to help educate you in those and other important matters.

When asked to write this article, I quickly revisited my brigade command days in Europe. At the time, with support from senior leaders, the brigade developed a financial readiness handbook to serve as a financial awareness campaign. Primarily, we wanted Soldiers to think hard about what to do with the extra funds they received from their deployment entitlements.

We focused on finance from both the military and personal financial readiness perspectives. The handbook explained compound interest and dollar cost average, understanding interest rates and many other concepts.

Support from leaders like General Montgomery Meigs, Lieutenant Generals Larry Jordon and Guy Swan, who understood the importance of this financial awareness campaign, was crucial and by far exceeded the norm of my era. Committing to publishing and distributing a financial readiness handbook was unprecedented. Financial readiness became a priority for leaders, and was included at leader development events. Our brigade provided detailed, specific personal financial management information, and Soldiers loved it.

Leaders have always made financial readiness for military families a priority. Army Community Service, for example, provides a host of financial services to Soldiers and their families. Programs related to understanding a family budget and debt management classes are free, and, at times, can be mandatory. Setting up checking accounts and balancing a checkbook are just some of the free support available and provided to families from professionals in their areas of expertise. Debt management is a difficult but necessary challenge that families must face and conquer. A chain of command that understands those challenges also knows that those challenges weigh heavily on the morale, health and welfare of military families.

The Thrift Savings Plan and Tuition Assistance programs are offered for free and are supported by leaders, as is education about topics such as protection against predatory lenders. The Army’s official benefits website,, provides more information on these kinds of programs. On the website, you can find Financial Readiness under Soldier Services.

These programs are in fact some of the financial advantages of serving in the military. I think we take many services that provide financial advantages to us for granted. We have guaranteed basic pay and 30 days paid leave per year, with holidays off for most (except those military personnel serving in positions that require work performance 24/7). Military pay scales apply to all the same way (i.e. all privates with two years of service will be paid the same amount of money, assuming all other conditions of employment are the same). These are some of the examples of financial benefits the military offers.

The start of each New Year often comes with fresh goals. If your goals include revisiting how you can best use the services and programs the military offers, here are some tips to consider as you welcome 2017:

  • If you are currently serving and not taking advantage of any or some of these services, consider what steps you will take to educate yourself … and then be like the Nike commercial and “just do it.”
  • If you are no longer serving on active duty but know people who are still serving and who need support in these areas, reach out and help direct them to the proper service providers.
  • If you have exited the military and you had a Thrift Savings Plan or some type of plan associated with continuing education, you may need additional support in deciding what to do next. If so, don’t stay stuck! Determine exactly what areas are unclear to you and try searching on the Internet for organizations that provide free personal finance advice to military families. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and the Better Business Bureau, for example, jointly published a comprehensive guide called Financial Field Manual for military families. You can download it for free: Thrift Savings Plan information can be found at

November 7, 2016

The Army Women’s Foundation is very grateful for your donations. Because of you, Army women receive recognition for their contributions to our nation. More Army women and their children are able to attend college. The spotlight continues to shine on the needs, from healthcare to hiring, of our women Soldiers and Army women Veterans. All of this is possible because of your generosity. You make a difference.

Army Women’s Foundation Executive Director Peggy Trossen shares information about how to donate to the foundation in ways that you might not have known.

Giving to the Army Women’s Foundation — Painlessly

When making gifts to charity, no matter how worthy the cause, sometimes writing a check or putting debt on a credit card can put a strain on a household budget. You know the money is going to a cause you are passionate about, and perhaps you’d like to give even more to help. But at this time, you may not be in a position to donate as much as you would like. However, there are surprising ways you can support the charity without putting a crimp in your monthly budget, and they are the reason for the enticing "painlessly" in the title of this brief column.


Life Insurance: Many people have a life insurance policy, either through the government or purchased privately, that they have forgotten, or which no longer serves the purpose for which it was obtained. For example, perhaps it was purchased to provide for children, including that favorite niece or nephew, but who are now grown. Or perhaps you purchased it to assist a partner or spouse in covering bills you previously shared, but who has predeceased the insured. Sometimes, parents purchase policies for children when they are young that are paid up after, say, twenty years, and now, years later, almost forgotten. All these policies could be redirected to the work of the Army Women’s Foundation without cost to the donor. If you are the owner of such policies, you can name the Foundation as beneficiary, or actually transfer the policy immediately with possible tax benefits on the transfer.

Retirement Assets: A second source for supporting the Army Women’s Foundation that does not involve immediate payments, but could be of significant value to the Foundation, is retirement funds. These could be IRAs or other pension and retirement plans where there may be funds payable after the death of the owner. These funds are among the most heavily taxed in an estate, and if they are part of probate, they increase those costs. These plans usually allow designation of a beneficiary to receive remaining payments directly. Since AWF is a tax-exempt foundation, the funds designated in this way will not be taxed in your estate.

It is important to think about the assets described here and make certain they will do what you wish in the future. Discuss the options with your attorney or financial advisor. It is a way you can have a personal impact on the lives of others through the Foundation.

September 5, 2016

Are you competing for tuition assistance for a college degree or a certificate program? The Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship Committee Chair COL (Ret.) Alice Demarais shares an insider’s view on what scholarship review committees look for when deciding which applicants they fund.

How to Convince an Organization You Deserve a Scholarship

Whether it is for a certificate granting program, or a college degree, it requires financial resources to achieve the status of graduate. Some people dig into savings, take out loans or apply for federal or state grants. There is another option, though.

Scholarships are a great way to further your chances of reaching your life goals. The Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship Program has been helping Soldiers, Army Veterans and their sons and daughters do just that since 2008. Over the last nine years, the Army Women’s Foundation has awarded scholarships to 156 scholars totaling more than $300,000. And we are now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 academic year.

But, how do you get a scholarship? How do you successfully complete an application that connects you with the scholarship committee and makes you stand out from the legions of others who are pursuing the same thing?

Ask yourself: Why should the Army Women’s Foundation grant me a scholarship? What makes me more worthy than another person? How do I convince AWF — or any other organization for that matter — that they should select me?

In some ways, it is very simple, and in other ways it is a bit more complicated.

The simple part is pretty obvious. Organizations that grant scholarships are concerned about how their funds will be spent, so they lay out clear guidance in their application process. Be very familiar with the requirements for the application and know what must be submitted for consideration. First and foremost, make sure you are eligible for the scholarship. If you do not fit the criteria, don’t waste your time and that of the organization by submitting an application. If you are eligible, read and follow the directions and ask yourself, “Have I included all the required documentation? Have I left anything out?” Ask a responsible individual to review the entire application. Once you have satisfied all of the requirements, make sure the complete application is submitted by the deadline. Do not give a review committee any reason to eliminate you from the start for something as simple as missing the submission date.

Ensure that letters of recommendation are from valid individuals. Academic advisors and teachers who know you — both as a person and as a student — are the best to include. Most organizations will require letters from these individuals. Additionally, letters of reference from individuals who may have knowledge of the scholarship granting organizations may help. For example, if applying for a scholarship from a healthcare organization, having a letter of reference from a healthcare professional may provide a bridge between you the applicant and the organization’s review committee. Help your references by providing them information about the scholarship you are pursuing as well as information about yourself that will assist them in writing letters that focus on the specific scholarship. Give your references plenty of time to write the letters so they are not rushed in trying to meet a deadline. In an effort to meet a short suspense, the letter of reference may suffer and it might hurt your chances more than it will help.

The complicated part of the application process — and probably the most important part — is the ESSAY. It is safe to say that every scholarship granting organization requires the applicant to prepare an essay, usually about 2 pages in length. This is where the applicant can connect directly with the scholarship review committee and convince folks they have never met to take a chance on them, that they are a good financial risk, and the organization will be glad they made the investment in this applicant’s future. The committee wants to know about the applicant, and she has the chance to sell herself in the essay. Don’t pass up this opportunity to shine!

First off, the organization outlines what they want the applicant to cover in the essay and it behooves the applicant to follow those instructions to the letter. Usually, the essay is expected to cover a number of different aspects of the applicant’s life — chosen major, plans for the future, community activities, financial need, etc. Make sure all the items mentioned are covered in the essay. If there is some reason why a specific aspect is not covered extensively, say why it isn’t. Maybe the applicant was a community volunteer in the past, but due to academic load, job or personal issues, has not been able to spend as much time volunteering of late, so say so. The review committee would rather learn that, than have to wonder why volunteering is not mentioned as may be required. Address financial need candidly and honestly. Scholarship committees take very seriously the responsibility of giving away someone else’s money and they love to provide funds to individuals with true need and great potential.

The essay is about the applicant and should be reflective of the applicant’s academic pursuits and achievements as well as accomplishments in other fields of their lives. It is fine to brag a bit, but never embellish the truth. Members of the scholarship review committee are very sharp and they can tell when something is amiss. This is the kiss of death. Applicants who stretch the truth do not deserve to receive scholarships that should go to a worthy individual.

Tell your story in clear language. Don’t try to ‘pretty’ it up by using big words that were found in the dictionary or the thesaurus. First and foremost, make sure the essay is grammatically correct and has no misspellings. Sounds obvious, but never overlook this. Again, don’t give the committee a simple reason to discount your application.

Finally, have fun writing the essay. If you are adept at using humor, feel free to do so, but don’t let it derail the objective of the essay. Creative ways to tell your story can be fun, so try it if it fits your personality. Committees are always looking for that special effort that sets one applicant apart from others.

Writing thank you notes never goes out of style and this remains true when receiving a scholarship. The scholarship granting organization deserves to be thanked for their gift and the recipient owes it to them. A short, heartfelt note that includes some ways the funds will be used to further the applicant’s education is a must do as part of the entire process. It will go a long way in the future. At a later date, it is also a good idea to let the organization know how you are doing after the funds were utilized.

Convincing a scholarship review committee to select you is like baking a cake or following a recipe. The granting organizations are looking for specific things. Like a recipe, if you leave something out, the outcome is in doubt.

Don’t leave your future to chance. Seize the opportunity and attain your education goals. The age-old adage of ‘reach for the stars’ is exactly what to do in pursuing a scholarship.

For more information on the Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarships, go to

Quick Check List
  • Read the scholarship requirements carefully.
  • Make sure you are eligible.
  • Follow instructions carefully.
  • Submit all required documents.
  • Ensure that letters of recommendation are from valid individuals.
  • If you know someone who is familiar with the organization providing the scholarships, ask him or her for a letter of reference.
  • Cover every area required in your essay.
  • Sell yourself in your essay, but DO NOT stretch the truth.
  • Submit your application in its entirety BY DEADLINE.

July 4, 2016

SGM Andrea Farmer, USA, Ret., explains how her job as Drill Sergeant allowed her to help young soldiers and prepared her for other leadership roles, from Platoon Sergeant to Sergeant Major.

The Best Job I Had In the Army

The moment I began Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey in April 1983 I decided that I would one day know what it felt like to wear the coveted Drill Sergeant “Australian Busch” hat. I wanted to lead Soldiers through the initial phases of Army training and be an example for others. I knew when I joined the Army that I wanted to serve at least 20 years and make the Army a career.

My inspiration to become a Drill Sergeant was rooted in my first exposure to the sergeants in Basic and Advanced Individual Training. I originated from a small town called Castalia, North Carolina where jobs and opportunities were limited. At the age of 19 years old I did not possess a skill set to earn anything other than a minimum wage position at a fast food restaurant. While I was at home one day, pondering what to do with my life, the “Be all that you can be” commercial came across the television screen. At that moment I was determined to make the Army a career.

When I started Basic Training, the first Drill Sergeants I met were Drill Sergeant Hardy, a woman, and Drill Sergeant Rodriguez, a man. I was very impressed by their professionalism and expertise and how sharp they looked in uniform. One day Drill Sergeant Hardy left her hat in her office unattended, and I could not resist walking by and trying the hat on for size. I went to my wall locker, grabbed my camera and hurriedly had someone take my picture before she found out her hat was missing. That was my first step toward making my dream come true of being a Drill Sergeant, and believing that it would come to fruition one day. I always kept the picture close by as a reminder of my future goal.

Ironically, my first assignment in the Army was at Fort Benning, Georgia at a One Station Unit Training assignment with the Infantry Soldiers. I was surrounded by many Drill Sergeants who took time to mentor me. One in particular informed me that I would have to earn the rank of Sergeant (at that time) before I could apply for Drill Sergeant School. Fortunately, I did not have to wait too long. I earned the rank of Sergeant in 2 years.

When I arrived at Fort Benning Georgia, my first line supervisor stressed the importance of education, so I immediately enrolled in college courses at Troy State University, Georgia. My Military Occupation Specialty in the Army was a Food Service Specialist.

Once I obtained the rank of Sergeant, I applied for Drill Sergeant School and I was accepted to attend training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There were 2 females in our class and 20 males, and all of them had been in the Army much longer than I. I must admit I was somewhat intimidated but I did not let that hinder my goal to become a Drill Sergeant. During the graduation ceremony I earned the Iron Man trophy for scoring the highest on my Army Physical Fitness Test. After graduation I was further assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia as an Advanced Individual Training Drill Sergeant. I was among the first Drill Sergeants at Ft. Lee; previously trainers were called Black Hat Platoon Sergeants, positions that were comparable to and converted to Drill Sergeants.

I served as a Drill Sergeant for three years from 1986-1989. It was truly the best job that I ever had in the Army. Being a Drill Sergeant afforded me the opportunity to help instill pride and confidence in new Soldiers in the Army. I was a 5' 4" tall slim framed 130-pound unassuming Drill Sergeant. Also while on Drill Sergeant duty I earned the title of Drill Sergeant of the Quarter. Although I tried to portray the “mean Drill Sergeant” image, most of the Privates knew it was only a cover up and that I genuinely cared about them and their well-being. During my Drill Sergeant tenure I wanted to portray a positive influence in others and teach, coach, train and mentor just as others did for me. I was honored to serve the Army as a Drill Sergeant and even more honored to serve as a Soldier in the Army for 30 years. The Drill Sergeant assignment set the tone for other staff and leadership positions that I served in while in the Army such as Platoon Sergeant, Dining Facility manager, First Sergeant, Equal opportunity Advisor, and Sergeant Major. I will always be grateful for the fellow Soldiers that I met during my career who helped set me on that path of a Drill Sergeant, which was truly the best position I held while in the Army. I’m also grateful to the Army for truly allowing me to “Be all that I could be”!

May 2, 2016

LTC Ingrid Lim, Psy.D., is the Sleep Lead for the Performance Triad and System for Health, Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. Today in Monday Maneuvers, she explains the vital role sleep plays in health, and offers advice on how to get the rest you need for peak mental performance.

If you want to be a better Soldier, a better co-worker and a better leader, get your sleep. That might not always be so easy to do in the military, where there is a culture of insufficient sleep.

Women in general don’t sleep well. Even though they get more hours of sleep, they tend not to get good sleep quality. Research isn’t entirely clear on why that is; it may be because women often are caregivers and their sleep is fractured even when controlled for psychiatric illnesses. Still, women appear to cope better with a lack of sleep because of gender expectations and practice.

Research is very clear, however, that a lack of adequate sleep — for men and women — can be harmful to your health and pose a danger to you and those around you.

Sleep is one of the three components of the Army’s Performance Triad; the other two parts are activity and nutrition. Sleep is the apex of the Performance Triad and the most challenging aspect when it comes to Army culture.

Your body needs sleep to work efficiently. Hormones that promote growth, repair and memory consolidation do their work while you sleep. Your brain needs sleep and the primary function of sleep is to maintain mental operations. The more sleep you get the better your brain functions. Sleep is the only thing that restores your brain. It is also the time when the brain is most efficient in removing protein waste, such as beta amyloid, generated from thinking throughout the day. When fully rested, one’s cognitive abilities are optimized and we see improved mental processes and clarity of thought. Sleep helps us to better manage stress, prevent injuries, and make us more resilient — Sleep is a cure for a world of sins that we create for ourselves.

The vast majority of people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours to function well. When you fall short of that, repeatedly, you’re headed for trouble. Though we can make it through the day, if insufficient sleep becomes routine, our brain will accommodate the deficit, and allow us to function, though at a lower level. An extremely small number of people need less than 5 hours of sleep or more than 9 hours of sleep. The exact number of hours you need will be different from person to person. Some people will need 7 hours and 15 minutes, while another might need 8 hours and 5 minutes. Each of us has our own sleep number.

People who get insufficient sleep:

  • Are poor judges of their own performance
  • Are less productive
  • Fall asleep in meetings (Boring meetings don’t put people to sleep; lack of sleep does) or worse, while driving.
  • Have difficulty with problem solving
  • Are more inclined to get sick or injured
  • Are more inclined to injury during exercise, or skip exercise
  • Are inclined to crave junk food and make unhealthy food choices
  • Exercise poor judgment
  • Take unnecessary risks
  • Lose situational awareness

While physical abilities remain intact, your motivation is likely to be lower than usual when sleep deprived. You can still march, you can still pull the trigger and probably hit a target, but you’re likely to be hitting the wrong target.

Research shows that getting only five hours of sleep a night for five consecutive days is equal to functioning with a .08 alcohol blood level, the legal threshold for drunkenness.

In the Army, the lack of sleep often leads to Soldiers driving while drowsy and having accidents.

The best way to avoid those problems is to establish and maintain habits for yourself that make it easy for you to sleep. Here are some tips:

  • Create a routine before going to bed.
    It usually takes about an hour to wind down so that you can be relaxed and ready to sleep. Build a routine that helps you to wind down, such as tidying up, turning off the lights, and locking the doors. If you take care of children, create a routine for them, too. For example, give them a snack, bathe them and read with them in the same order at the same time each night. This routine helps them to learn it is time to go to sleep and helps them to develop good sleep habits. Make sure they get the appropriate amount of sleep they need based on their age. Once they have a good sleep routine, you’ll get more sleep and time to yourself.
  • Turn off the television 1 hour before bedtime and disconnect from your personal electronic devices.
    Put your phone and tablet away and gently escort them out of your bedroom. If you get up in the middle of the night, resist the temptation to check for phone or email messages, or Facebook news.
  • Meditate, breathe, or do yoga to decompress and relax.
    There are many ways to meditate, from chanting “oms” to reciting Bible passages to practicing breathing exercises. Studies show that breathing exercises help to strengthen your relaxation response so you can dial it back and relax. Yoga or gentle stretching will also help to de-stress and prepare you for a good nights’ sleep.

Those are a few tips. For more advice on how to sleep better, and for more information on sleep and its impact on performance and health, see the sleep guidelines below or visit the Army Public Health Center website at


March 7, 2016

CSM Cynthia Pritchett, USA, Ret., the first woman command sergeant major of a sub-unified combatant command, achieved remarkable success in her 36-year Army career. Today in Monday Maneuvers she shares her experience and offers her advice to help you succeed and lead.

You never know the impact that you have on someone you’ve never met.

Throughout my career, I had always been told I was a trailblazer and a role model for women and men. While I accomplished a lot in my career, I never focused on my achievements. In fact, every time my biography was read at an event, I would become uncomfortable because I tend to downplay my accomplishments. Why? Primarily because I didn’t do any of it on my own; it was always the hard work of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen I served with that allowed me to succeed.

But you never truly understand the impact that you have on those you’ve never met. Since my retirement in 2010, I have received emails from former Soldiers, Soldiers I’ve never met and from school children thanking me for my service and telling that me they want to follow in my footsteps.

In June 2014, I received an email from a young Corporal in the Warrior Leaders Course in Germany, asking to interview me for an oral presentation she had been assigned to give on my life as a Command Sergeant Major. In her email, she said “it will be greatly appreciated if you could instill a little more knowledge to a junior leader that’s striving to become a CSM just like you and retire and enjoy life by helping others.”

Without hesitation, I wrote her back and said I’d be glad to answer her questions. In her final email to me she wrote the following: “As I continue to read your emails I am more and more amazed. … You inspire me to keep moving forward with my career and also a few other great NCOS, Officers, and Warrant Officers. Your outlook on the way the soldiers should look at the Army is still instilled throughout the ranks of the U.S. Army. … Just having the honor to do this presentation on you will definitely go under one of my greatest achievements, because not too many people could say they wrote a former CSM and she replied and gave them the best insight on the Army and in life that you can carry out and pass on to others family and friends, but most of all fellow service members. Your key points to success are very inspiring and I can tell with time comes wisdom. I read your emails with awe, because I’m kind of still shocked that you replied and also because you’re a legend in the history of the Army and for all women in the Army. I wish I could have served under your leadership and/or met you before I came to WLC because in my eyes I strive to be just like you one day, so when I present my presentation Friday, I will do it with confidence (because I usually [suffer] stage fright in front of people). I thank you once again for your time and dedication to still contribute to our nation and Army by helping out the leaders to come like me.”

Her email reminded me of the importance of being accessible but more importantly that you’ll never know the impact that you have on someone you’ve never met. Even though we only exchanged several emails, I made an impact and impression on her that I will never forget, and look back on when I’m having a bad day.

The next instance came a few weeks later, when a mother tracked me down through the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and the Army Women’s Foundation. Her 12-year-old daughter and three of her classmates wanted to interview me for a National History Day project. As a young lady, her daughter was very passionate that they interview a servicewoman for her documentary. The theme for 2014 was “Leaders and Legacy in History.” Their topic was Harry S. Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 and the impact this had on the military and our country. They were looking for my perspective of how women benefited from the desegregation of the armed forces. We exchanged emails, I sent them pictures for their report, and I spent a Saturday morning on Skype answering their questions. Later that day, I received an email saying: “I want to say ‘thank you.’ We have not stopped talking about our interview with you… You were spot on with your answers. I received the pictures. Thank your for sharing a snapshot of your life. What a great picture of you with the former Secretary of State. I will send a more formal thank you note to you soon. I will contact you the next time we drive to South Florida to see my grandparents. Maybe we can stop by the Orlando area and I can meet you in person. Again, thank you for taking time out of your Saturday morning to speak with us.”

In our discussions it was revealed that her uncle was Professor Charles Moskos who served on the President’s Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Military.

There have been other instances where Soldiers have reached out to me both while on active duty and in retirement and while I answer them all, these two really stayed with me as a reminder that you never know the impact that you have on someone you’ve never met.

– CSM Cynthia Pritchett, USA, Ret.

Do you want to learn more about how she succeeded, and how you can, too? Read her tips below:

CSM Pritchett’s Keys to Success:

  1. Never take correction or criticism personal. When I was counseled, corrected or criticized — I won’t lie — it would bother me greatly. But I always tried to take a deep breath and listen to what was being said and tried not to react immediately. If I were really bothered by it, I would find another NCO to talk to and get their perspective and discuss it. What is important is learning. Learning comes from understanding the challenges we face, addressing them or the mistakes we make, correcting them, and moving on. How one handles adversity is what is important — it will determine how successful you’ll be.
  2. Never counsel or make a decision when you’re angry — the outcome is usually never good. Sometimes you have to walk away and calm down before taking action. It’s not always easy, but every time I failed to do this, I missed what the real issue was that led to the situation.
  3. My basic philosophy is to be consistent, be firm and be fair. The worse thing a leader can do is be inconsistent when dealing with Soldiers. Soldiers may not like the decisions you make but if they know you’re consistent, firm and fair in addressing situations, you will earn their respect.
  4. Get out of your comfort zone — look for and accept different opportunities. The Army is looking for Soldiers with diverse experiences.

    I was promoted out of the secondary zone for every promotion except Staff Sergeant. I was a Drill Sergeant and Recruiter — one by my choice, the other the Army’s choice. Each of these assignments provided me different skills that served me down the road in my career even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Performing additional duties inside a unit is also another opportunity to expand your experiences. Never turn down an opportunity to do something new and different.
  5. Admitting you don’t know something is not a sign of weakness; failing to acknowledge our shortfalls and not asking for help and advice is.
  6. Empower your Soldiers and they will surprise you — that doesn’t mean you don’t check on them. Give them space to try it their way and learn from their actions. I only intervened if safety was an issue.
  7. Give credit where credit is due. I was successful because of my Soldiers. They did all the heavy lifting and I gave them credit for all their hard work. When something did not go well, I first looked at myself to see if somewhere along the line I missed the mark in providing the proper instruction, guidance or training before blaming them for what went wrong. I am a firm believer in AARs.
  8. Be true to yourself — don’t compromise your integrity and values in order to be accepted by others. Actions speak louder than words. Even when you think no one is watching, someone is.
  9. I never worried about what was next in my career. I focused on being the best at what I was doing at the time and ensuring my Soldiers were successful. If you are always focused on what’s next, you’re looking in the wrong direction. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals and that you shouldn’t volunteer for assignments — you absolutely should. But if all you’re worried about is what’s next for you, then most likely you’re not looking out for your Soldiers.

My first goal was to be a DS, my second was I wanted to be a 1SG someday. I never imagined I would be a SGM/CSM until I made MSG with 16 years of service. Only then did I think making E-9 was possible. Other than volunteering for DS duty I never sought out my next job. My performance in my current position led to the Army and other leaders recognizing my potential and providing opportunities to excel. I never imagined I’d be a nominative CSM, let alone the CSM of a Sub-unified combatant command in Afghanistan.

– CSM Cynthia Pritchett, USA, Ret.

January 4, 2016

In this, our inaugural column, Army Women’s Foundation President MG (Ret.) Dee McWilliams shares her counsel on professional development, leadership and work-life balance. MG McWilliams served 29 years with the United States Army, where she held a variety of Human Relations positions, commanding four companies, a training battalion, and a personnel brigade. She also taught national strategic studies and leadership, and served as an Equal Opportunity Officer.

As Director, Military Personnel Management for Department of the Army, MG McWilliams developed policy and strategy for staffing, salary compensation, and training for over one million soldiers, to include recruitment of more than one hundred thousand annually. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and Installation Management in Europe where she provided human resource and quality of life support to soldiers in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, and Egypt.

MG McWilliams retired from the Army in 2003 and later joined the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She retired in 2010 as Director of the Lessons Learned Center.

MG McWilliams recently spoke about professional development, leadership and work-life balance at the AUSA annual meeting. Because so many people who follow us on Facebook were unable to attend her speech, we want to share her tips with you in Monday Maneuvers. Here are six key points:

  1. Read!

    Soldiers often serve in many areas of the world. Before your boots hit foreign soil, be familiar with that region. Be able to find it on a map, know the local culture and government of your destination.

    Additionally, embrace the history of the United States. US history reads like a lessons learned study of the US Army and its contributions to our nation.

    Reading enhances your professionalism.

  2. Network.

    Get to know others who work in your specialty. The sharing of ideas is powerful.

  3. Know your subordinates.

    In order to take care of people, you have to genuinely like them. Soldiers know when you are faking. Ask them about their lives. How is your son with chicken pox? How are your night classes going? Be truly interested in them and their wellbeing. If you take care of people, they will take care of you.

  4. Choosing a mentor.

    Mentoring is time consuming. Frequently, senior leaders you might desire as a mentor have busy schedules and 14-hour workdays. That leaves very little time for formal mentoring. As a result, such arrangements are very rare.

    It is possible, though, to gain valuable mentoring. If you choose carefully, you can learn from multiple leaders without a formal arrangement. Be laser focused. Select a leader for some particular trait or skill. One person might have great organizational skills or a specific competency, another might have handled a specific situation in a way in which you want to master, or another will have a career path in which you are interested.

    You should be alert to times when that person is walking down a hallway or in the chow line. Take advantage of those times. Have an opening question prepared and ask it. When you show a professional interest in what they do, I think you will find they will be willing to share with you. Develop your skills at seeking these interactions — it’s opportunity mentoring.

  5. Your legacy.

    Often we think of legacy as being "first" to achieve something. Indeed, breaking new ground is important and should be recognized not only for accomplishment, but for opening doors for those who follow.

    Trailblazing is not required to leave a legacy. Your legacy to the Army will be the soldiers you trained and mentored to step up to lead tomorrow’s Army.

  6. Nurture the relationships in your personal life.

    What you do in the Army is important to our nation, but don’t get so caught up in your job that you neglect your friends or family.

    When you get off work, go home, change your clothes, and spend quality time with the people in your personal life.

    You are not always going to be serving in uniform. If you do not nurture your personal relationships, when you retire or end your service, you will have nothing but that uniform in your closet.