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Building a NCO: Personal Battle Focus - Goal and Mission

J. D. Pendry

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?  Yes, to the very end.  Will the day's journey take the whole day long?  From morn to night, my friend. -Christina Rossetti, 1862


Personal Battle Focus applies battle focused training concepts to your development as a noncommissioned officer.  Battle focused concepts when properly applied produce successful units.  Applied on the personal level, they produce successful NCOs and successful soldiers who aspire to be NCOs. 


Before we start this discussion, let's recall the basics of battle-focused training:


  • The commander's training goal - a statement that gives the unit direction.
  • The unit's mission - its stated purpose and the roadmap to achieving the commander’s goal.
  • Mission essential tasks - what a unit must successfully do to accomplish its mission.
  • Battle tasks - those mission essential tasks critical to the next higher-level unit's mission.
  • Collective and individual tasks - tasks that units must perform successfully to accomplish their mission essential tasks.
  • Training plan - a plan to help a unit become proficient in performing its required tasks and accomplishing its mission.


Your Training Goal: A Vision Statement


If you thumb through your worn copy of FM 25-101, Battle Focused Training, you'll find that the commander sets the tone for training when he starts his commander's guidance with a training goal.  This training goal is where he wants the unit to be ultimately.  It's a vision statement.  The unit directs training efforts toward reaching this goal.  Let's apply that same concept to you.


Like the commander's goal, your vision must be something within your power to achieve, but it must also be a challenge.  Winning the lottery is probably an OK fantasy, but not a very good vision statement because it's not within your power to achieve.


You can use many approaches to help you develop your vision statement.  I like to use a quote from a Charlie Brown cartoon to get started.  In the cartoon, Charlie Brown says to himself:


"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask myself, why am I here?  Then a little voice answers, why?  Where do you want to be?"


You answered Charlie Brown's first question, why am I here?”, when you completed your honest self-assessment.  If you can honestly answer his second question, “where do you want to be?, you can capture your personal battle focused vision statement.  Just remember to be honest and serious when answering it.


A legacy statement is another approach to use.  Your legacy is what you leave when you're gone or in this case how you want others to remember you.  Try this: Pretend that you are sitting in the last pew at church (if you got there early).  Standing up at the pulpit is an honest person, one of your good friends.  Oh, did I happen to mention to you that this is your funeral and that brutally honest friend of yours is delivering your eulogy?  What do you want your friend to say about you?  If you can seriously answer that question then you have a vision statement.


Your vision is a lifelong goal - a destination.  You may never get all the way there, but if you plan, you will consistently make the choices that continue to move you in that direction.


Take some time and contemplate the following questions:


·         Where do you want to be at the end of your trip?

·         How do you want others to remember you?


You probably won't arrive at a vision statement that you like right away, but it's important for you to think about these questions and write down your thoughts in response to them.  Put some feeling into it.  Include something in your vision statement that causes you to get emotional.  What gets to the heart of you?  At the end of the day, you must believe and internalize your battle focused vision statement. It's what leads you.  Having one determines where you go.  Not having one does also.


Your Personal Battle Focused Mission Statement


A mission statement answers the question, "What's our purpose?"  When we put that on a personal level it's much more difficult to answer, but we have to answer it if we ever want to get close to achieving personal battle focus.  A good approach to developing your personal battle focused mission statement is to tie a group of shorter statements together to answer the purpose question.  Keep in mind that you already have a general direction of travel - your vision.  Answering the following questions is a good start to developing your personal battle focused mission:


·         What is important to me?

·         Who is important to me?

·         Who depends on me?

·         What do they depend on me for?

·         What must I do to achieve what is important to me?

·         What must I do to meet the needs of those important to and depending on me?


These questions require some serious thought and not just quick answers.  For example, I'm sure there are many things important to you - your vision, competence, respect, success, and acceptance as a professional....  Who is important to you? Family, friends, subordinates, superiors, unit....  Depends on you for what? Security, support, loyalty, leadership, accomplishment of unit mission....  Successfully answer the first three questions and you'll be better prepared to deal with the second two, which will be the meat of your personal battle focused mission statement.


The final thing to consider for your mission statement is that you don't want to fill it up with a bunch of empty can-do buzz phrases and feel good words.  Remember that this is you.  This statement provides you with purpose and direction.  Lastly, when you have a good draft of your mission statement written ask yourself these questions:


·         Does this mission statement point me toward my vision? 

·         Does it align with and support the mission of my organization?


The answer to both these questions must be affirmative.  Spend some time now and try to capture your mission statement in writing.  It takes time and a lot of critical thought.  What you put down on paper now will likely not be your final product, but getting started is the most important step.


Remember that your life and development as a noncommissioned officer is a trip.  Without a solid personal battle focused vision and mission it'll be a trip without a destination and with no road map. Get a good start on your mission statement and you'll be prepared for our next discussion - your personal mission essential tasks.


This is the third in a series of seven articles on NCO self-development. CSM (ret) J. D. Pendry is Author of The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs.


Copyright © 1999, James D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved