April 9, 2016 –
Non-Commissioned Officers are known as the backbone of the Army. They are master trainers; passing on lessons learned in combat as well as their years of experience to the Soldiers entrusted to them. It’s a mission they carry out with true dedication to all those entrusted to their care.
Doing what they do best, NCOs of the 104th Training Div. (LT) prepared and evaluated a group of International Military Students competing in this year's Sandhurst Competition at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. There, Officer Cadets from military academies around the world are given the opportunity to compete for the top prize, a British officer's sword presented by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Camberley, United Kingdom to the USMA in 1967.
This year's event, which ran April 8-9, 2016 challenged the Cadets in several military skills such as marksmanship, land navigation, negotiating an obstacle course as well as other mentally and physically grueling events chosen on an ever changing basis; all skills they’ll use during their military careers when the time comes for them to lead their troops of their own.
Many Cadets facing their first Sandhurst Competition experience anxiety. Helping to build their confidence are the NCOs, assigned to the 3rd Bn., 304th Inf. Reg. (USMA,) 104th Training Div., (LT) Among them are two NCOs whose leadership styles are perfectly suited to meet those needs.
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Partin, a native of Mont Vernon, NH, sees his leadership style as an effective means of teaching his specialty; marksmanship. Uniquely qualifying him is the fact that he is a member of select few known as the Presidents 100, a group that recognizes the top 100 marksmen and women who compete for the honor at an annual match.
Partin's marksmanship knowledge did not come overnight. Joining the Army partly for patriotic reasons, he mainly wanted to learn how to shoot. After learning the basics, he bought and assembled his own M-16A2 service rifle and spent countless hours of his personal time practicing, perfecting his technique, even paying his own way to Perry, Ohio, the site of the match in 1996.
Partin, who has been both an Infantryman and a Military Policeman, recalled that the match was not the real reason behind his efforts. Rather he wanted to learn while under pressure because he felt that’s the best way to learn anything. He wanted to teach others by being good at what he was being asked to teach, himself.
He passes the knowledge he acquired competing to those he trains with a leadership style he describes as one of leading by example and building unity. More importantly, he stresses the need to be self-effacing; working with his trainees as a member of their team.
Partin credits his past role models, good and bad, but mainly bad, with setting examples he knew he did not want to emulate as he grew as a leader.
Sgt. Richard Libby, of Saco, Maine and also with the 104th Training Div. (LT), leading those under his care, understanding as an infantryman what learning under pressure is like as well, believes in taking a calmer approach to training as well.
“Basically, I'm low stress,” said Libby. “I will help them rather than make them feel like they are less than what they are.”
Libby said it’s impossible for anyone to know everything and encourages fellow leaders to be honest with them. Libby added that a leader needs to be approachable rather than intimidating because it encourages Soldiers to communicate their needs with him or her as well as to get them to carry out any orders they give to their subordinates.
In the end, both Partin and Libby have key lessons they want their trainees and subordinates to take with them. For Partin, it is about leaders caring for their people beyond just training and “checking the blocks”. Leaders must remember that their Soldiers are people like themselves who have their own lives and are not just there for the Leader's ends. For Libby, it is about leaders taking their teams aside, learning and perfecting skills together.