General officer support staff course graduates first class

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center and visiting officials said today that 71 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians assigned to general officers in 35 states, territories and the District of Columbia graduated Aug. 20, from the National Guard's first General Officer Support Staff Course.

The General Officer Support Staff Course includes a series of open forum lectures, scenarios, role-playing and capstone studies, as well as a panel discussion, on what are customarily intrinsic challenges - like public, ethical and legal decisions - for high-ranking officers and their staffs.

"On behalf of General Frank Grass, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, first of all, I want to congratulate you," the Special Assistant to the Chief, National Guard Bureau, Air Force Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean said. "This is one of the best classes I've seen for something like this."

Course Development

Incoming general officers from the Army and Air National Guard requested the training for their support staff, TEC officials said, asking that it identify their challenges and the distinctive ways that their National Guard offices work with Public Affairs, Protocol, the Inspector General, and the Judge Advocate, among other interests.

The three-day course was modeled for executive officers, secretaries, enlisted aids, traveling executives and assistants assigned to one- and two-star generals across the National Guard, said officials.

"I am very excited that we were asked to address this need and assemble this curriculum," the TEC's Commander, Air Force Col. Jessica Meyeraan, said in her opening remarks to the students. "We were so fortunate to be selected to put this course on."

The TEC's officials said that they will evaluate student feedback to further develop and refine the course's content.  "We are also going to explore ways of delivering the course content via Learning Management System technologies, like Blackboard, interactive TV broadcasts using our Warrior Broadcast Network and other blended learning techniques," Meyeraan said.

Student environment

The class included an equal mix of Army and Air National Guard officers, enlisted and civilians.  More than half were assigned to general officers less than six months ago, while the remaining group had served for up to a year, or more.

"This course has been very thoroughly thought out," said the Executive Assistant for the Adjutant General of Georgia, Maria Dickerson, who added that she has worked on the general's staff for about a year and a half.

The course included ethical case studies, and Dickerson and others admitted that they encounter ethical decisions in their offices.

"I've experienced some of those questions coming in, so being able to think through, and going through the stages of what we should do, and who we should discuss these things with to get the subject matter expert opinion, have been really good," Dickerson said.     

For Army Lt. Col. David Roberts, the assistant chief of staff with the Maryland Army National Guard, his career assigned him to general officers on several occasions. He currently supports his state's assistant adjutant general for Army.

"I've never had any type of formalized training on how we deal with general officers, the specific and unique situations that they find themselves in," said Roberts, "so this [training] is very good for me as far as being able to manage my staff in how we support the general officer."

Roberts said that he plans to send his staff to the course. Among his favored aspects here was networking with support staff from other states.

The course also included lessons on protocol, including a working protocol dinner. That helped Air Force Staff Sgt. Brynn Frane, the executive assistant for the Adjutant General of Montana. 

"I really liked the protocol side of it because there's a lot of area where protocol is open to interpretation," Frane said. With two years' experience in her assignment, she said that there were still many things to learn from the inspector general topics as well as from the face-to-face with personnel from the National Guard Bureau, among other lessons.

Subject matter experts

General Dean shared his perspective on general officer's needs and took questions during an hour-long lecture. Later, he joined a panel made up of current and prior support staff from the Pentagon and the National Guard Bureau.

That panel included Air Force Lt. Col. David Meece, the TEC's deputy commander, who spent a lot of time as what he called "being a trusted agent" to general officers - supporting two directors of the Air National Guard.

"The learning curve was not a curve, it was a straight up," he said about his first six months assigned to a three-star general's support staff.

Meece also laid out in his opening lecture many of the things that he wished he knew beforehand, calling such assignments demanding but also rewarding.

"You find that your schedule is not your own, and when you realize the gravity of what you do, and who you're supporting and some of the information that you are privy to at times ... not many folks get that opportunity," he said.