In this episode, we discuss a specific situation about a Soldier who attended BLC and upon return to their unit, demanded an Award as a result of their BLC performance.
Situations like this can be a common problem for Army NCO Leader's to deal with and overcome.
How would you handle this situation?
Hear my thoughts, strategy, and recommendations for resolving this specific Soldier issue.
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Welcome back to the podcast, my friends. Again, I'm Steven Foust, and I want to share with you a question that I received recently and give you my thoughts and feedback on it. You probably have your thoughts and ideas as well, but this is something I think that's going to make you take pause. It's going to make you consider, how are you going to address this with a soldier. Now, you may be facing situations exactly like this that I'm going to cover here today, or you may be facing similar situations that this is going to give you some insight and some different thoughts on how to approach it. So let me read this question. This is a question that I received in a group, and I want to unpack this for you. So it says, "I had a soldier just returned from BLC. They stated they made honor grad, a nd when the soldier returned to the unit, they stated that they thought that they deserve an award for achieving honor grad." Okay, doesn't sound too unrealistic on the surface, but we have to read a little bit further here. So the soldier came back, they said, hey, I just got back from BLC and I made honor grad. And you know what? You owe me an award. At least that's what it feels like on the surface, the way it's stated. Now, as we continue with the question here or the comment, "The soldier stated that they deserved an award." Okay, well, let's keep reading. "Nowhere in the 1059 does it state that the soldier was on the Commandant's list, an honor graduate or a distinguished honor graduate. Only two of the blocks on the 1059 were rated as exceeding standard. The rest were at met standard." So this soldier NCO goes on to say, "I do not see this soldier as deserving an award, but now the soldier is screaming and going around saying that their leaders are prejudiced and that this is the reason that they're not being recommended for an award." "The soldier will also not listen to any criticism and is calling everyone racist for it. None of the other soldiers in the unit have gotten an award for very similar performance at BLC." So that's the question or that's the comment. And he goes on to ask, you'd, like, to sit down with the soldier and talk about it, look at the 1059 together, things like that, and basically looking for some feedback here. So let's just take a pause and think about what is going on. So a soldier goes to the Basic Leadership Course BLC, and they made honor grad. The 1059 doesn't reflect that anywhere. The 1059 doesn't indicate that there are significant areas that they exceeded standard. Now, the soldier is screaming, and those are the words that are used here, screaming and going around and saying that there's prejudice going on because they didn't get recommended for an award. Okay, so what do you do? What do you do if you're a leader? If you're an NCO, how do you handle that situation? So you got to call foul on some of this, right? If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, I'm just going to go on a limb and say this is a duck. Number one, the soldier has apparently some sort of chip on their shoulder as I read through this, and I have to assume, I'm assuming and stipulating that the information provided is accurate. I have no reason to believe it's not. It's a sincere question, a sincere challenge and struggle that we're unpacking here. So I'm stipulating that going forward, soldiers screaming and pitching a fit maybe a little bit, that they're not getting recommended for an award. The NCO responsible for this soldier is going, okay, show me the money. Show me the money on the 1059 where you got this. Now, I'm sure he didn't say it quite like that, but let's be realistic. I've been to the NCO leadership courses. I know many of you have as well. I've been distinguished undergraduate. I've been honor graduate and every one of the 1059 that I received and if you look at the regulation, I think you'll find this to be the case. If you are recognized in the top, let's say 10% of the class, and there are a certain number of people in that course, number of soldiers that are in that course to hit that threshold, and you are determined to be the honor graduate, that will be annotated on your DA Form, 1059, it just is. And if you're the Distinguished Honor Graduate, you are the top dog, the top person in that training, it will be on the 1059. So what should this NCO do after we wade through the noise and wade through this soldier saying that they should be given an award and there's prejudice? Time out, everybody here. If you're that NCO, the first thing you do is you sit that soldier down, and he indicated that he was doing that. Awesome, good job. Sit that soldier down, and let's look at the 1059. And he indicated that he was doing some of that as well. But you cannot allow a soldier and today's a different time than it was just a few years ago, two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It's a different world we live in now. And these words that soldiers and people can use to get people pulled over into their world, into their message and take a side. People know what those are, right? If you say racist and someone's being racist to that individual, they need to be punished as far and as wide as the regulation will allow. No doubt about it. But so often today, people can use these words to get attention, to get exposure, to get a rallying cry around. So if you're, the NCO, do not get pulled into that situation. Once you hear those words, once you feel this environment going south on you, where you're going to get pulled down this rabbit hole, don't allow that to happen. Stop. Pause. Sit down with the soldier. Pull out the 1059. Go. Let's just assume it's CPL Smith here. So, CPL Smith, let's look at your 1059, man. Let's look at this. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I missed something. Let's take a look. Hey, great job. You did a great job at BLC. You had two exceeds. You did a really nice job. You made it through, unfortunately, CPL Smith, I don't see any annotation or reference here to being an honor graduate. Pause, wait for a response. Well, I was, and it's not on there. Let's say, well, okay, pause. Stop the conversation. Now let's take that and let's reach out to that NCO Academy, that Plc, and let's go make sure that maybe something wasn't omitted. It's not impossible to believe that someone may be graduated with honors or graduated as a distinguished graduate or an honor graduate or the Commandant's list or those things. And maybe it was missed. Maybe they told him, maybe somebody told this soldier that he or she was an honor graduate or Commandant's list, and maybe it just didn't make it on and they're as upset as anyone that is not on there. Okay? So let's flush that out. That's easy. That's a phone call. That's an email. That's a 24 hours solution. So go find that out. Go figure out if that's true or false. Now sit down with that individual, that soldier again, and go, hey, you know what? I reached out to BLC, and, you know, you are absolutely right. You were an honor. You were a Commandant's list, honor graduate, distinguished honor graduate, and they're going to give you an amended DA Form 1059, and you are going to be recognized as such. Or maybe you do that reach out and it comes back as, nope, they were not. They got two exceeds, and they were not of any noted graduate of Commandant's list or higher. Okay? Boom. There's another answer. So when you sit back down with that soldier again, reveal what those findings were, show them that you did due diligence, show them that you were working on their behalf to go find out the correct answer. That's going to get you some street cred, some credibility with that soldier, CPL Smith, in this case, in this fictitious name, and you're going to be able to unpack that. Now, you can't control what they say and how they respond. What you can control is the message that you send. So be clear, be very decisive, and make sure that it's clearly obvious to CPL Smith that you took a step, you reached out, you got the answer, and now you're providing that feedback. Now, CPL Smith says it's going to go a couple of different ways. He or she is going to say, oh, okay, wow, that's different than what they told me. I apologize, or it's going to be, no, you're still holding me back, and you're not giving me a chance and you're not recognizing me. Okay, well, you got to put that to bed first. Was or was not CPL Smith true to what he said? He was a recognized graduate of some level in BLC. Yes or no, period. You've done the due diligence. You've done your homework. You have got a decision. Now it's yes or no. That's solved. Now, the second part of this is the behavior that CPL Smith demonstrated as he or she was on the rant and rampage of the tone and the assumption that we were not recognizing him. That's another problem. That's a leadership problem, where it has to be made clear to him through, not through telling, but through the daily work, through the daily engagement, through the daily conversations, through the monthly counseling's. That's where that can be exacerbated and magnified, or that's where that could be minimized and put to bed, because it's the relationship over time that's going to determine how CPL Smith reacts and responds. So keep that in mind. Right, next step would be if it's still not put to rest, you've got to bring the First Sergeant in. Let's use the chain of command. Let's not just go nuts and start to act and behave like Corporal Smith did when he or she ran around saying, you guys are all wrong and I'm right. Bring the First Sergeant in. Right. Bring a senior leader in to help you navigate that early on before it gets layers and layers down the rabbit hole. That's the next thing to do there. And let's say that it was verified and you did get a DA Form 1059 amended that said command on something, then you can decide if that's worthy and valid of an award. It may be. No, we don't do that. We don't have that precedent here. If you go and you're a Commandant's list, good job. If you're a distinguished undergraduate, okay, we might give you an Army Achievement Medal, for example, or maybe Commandant's list. We may recommend you for a certificate of achievement from an O-5 or something to get you some promotion points. So don't be inconsistent in how you approach these from situation to situation. Now, people will say that, oh, you've got to treat everybody exactly the same. You've got to treat everybody equally. What you do for one, you've got to do for others. I do not believe that for one second. And you know why? It's because that the performance and the behaviors of individuals are not consistent in the same every time. It may appear that it is on the surface by people that are looking from the outside into your situation, but the reality is that everyone is different. Everyone acts, thinks, and behaves differently. Everyone may perform differently on tasks and then military schools. You cannot say that one size fits all. There could be a reason you submit one for an award. There could be a reason you don't submit the other. But you just have to be clear on what those reasons are. You just have to be clear that it's not a personal decision that's made on I like you or I don't like you. It's made on your behavior was this, your performance was that. Based on these factors, I'm recommending you for X, a Certificate of Achievement an Army Achievement Medal an Army Commendation Medal, so on and so forth, and make sure that your DA Form 638, your recommendation for award reflects clearly and objectively not with emotional statements, but with fact statements. The behavior demonstrated was A, B, and C. The performance demonstrated was X, Y, and Z. The best thing that you can do is to take the negativity that's displayed towards you and what they think CPL Smith thinks that they should be expecting from you, give me this, give me that. You owe me. You got to shut that down. But you do it in a professional way with credibility and facts on your side. Validate the 1059. Show CPL Smith that you took an extra step to validate the 1059. And it is this or it is that, and whatever it is, you decide what the next decision is. Don't get sucked down the rabbit hole pulling the 1SG when there's an indication that things are going south in ways that are not logical, okay? And then stand up for what's right. It's easy in our society today for people to cry wolf and to have people back down from fear of having to deal with a difficult situation or a tough problem. So don't fall into that trap. Do what's right. Stay firm on your decision. Do the due diligence. Sit down with CPL Smith, show them and demonstrate to them that you went down this rabbit hole to figure it out for them, to help them. And based on your findings, here's the decision you made. If they want to continue to cry wolf, you've got to pull in senior leaders to help you deal with that, not only to give you advice and support and guidance, but also to get air cover, because they're going to be pulled in at the point where they're going to see the facts on the table, and they can come to their own logical conclusion as well. And you won't be in the foxhole all alone. All right, my friends, I hope that was helpful, I hope that at least made you think a little bit about some of these situations that you could run across and use your experience, use the experience of others to help you solve these problems. Don't be alone. Don't stay in the foxhole by yourself. Reach out, reach up. Get a helping hand, and you will be a better leader, a better NCO, and grab the respect of all your soldiers.