Story by SSG Johnathan Hoover on 01/13/2018By Staff Sgt. Johnathan Hoover
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar The Top Notch 11th Air Defense Artillery "Imperial" Brigade is spread throughout five geographical locations, thousands of miles apart which presents a unique challenge to cohesion and communication.
In an effort to improve cohesion, relationships and provide professional development to the field grade officers, all majors throughout Top Notch were invited to take part in a Majors Forum.
"I think it was a great opportunity to bring together the air defense, specifically the field grade officers, to the Top Notch brigade headquarters so they can see for themselves how the brigade supports them and how important their mission is to the overall strategic mission here in theater," said Col. Issac Gipson, commander of Top Notch.
According to Maj. Peter Lawall, the operations officer in charge of Top Notch, the intent was dual purpose; to create an opportunity for information and knowledge sharing, and to provide the ability to personally meet with their counterparts.
"It's a challenge for us to personally know each other as well as professionally know each other through the work we do together," said Lawall. "Col. Gipson has always had the intent that it's not just about operational processes or the mechanical processes of production, it's about the intangible processes of building a team that has refined the fundamental relationships which make an organization more than the sum of its parts."
The intent was realized through the Deputy Commanding Officer of Top Notch Maj. Matthew Inglis's lens of building an event that supports the commander's intent. Although maybe not new to the Army as a whole, this was the first Majors Forum conducted by Top Notch.
"This was the first time that a brigade has provided the forum, space and time to bring together field grade officers across the formation," said Maj. Catalina Rosales, executive officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas.
"This forum came about as an opportunity to build not just a planning event, but an intangible event which supports building a team and not just a collection of individuals," said Lawall of Atascadero, California.
"I think it's important to bring everyone together so they can understand that we do truly appreciate their efforts on what they do on a day-to-day basis," said Gipson.
The timeline for the events the brigade had planned were changed due to the unique opportunity for really valuable conversation in some of the higher priority activities, said Lawall.
"The discussion, information sharing and relationship building were truly invaluable," said Rosales from Tyler, Texas. "This opportunity to network and build personal and professional relationships is a combat multiplier in support of the organization's mission readiness."
"Building relationships and not just building processes are important," said Lawall. "This provided the opportunity to build those relationships while we worked on refining our plans and refining our coordinated actions."
In this particular iteration, the field grades worked on the analysis of emerging changes to operational plans in the area of responsibility. Because the movement and flow of forces is fluid and ever-changing, operational plans should be updated on a periodic basis.
"Doing forums such as these in tandem with the changes will maintain the relevance and operationalization of theater operation plans," said Rosales
The event also provided insight to planning, to include smaller things that can sometimes be discounted.
"It provided invaluable insight, for us at brigade, into things we might have overlooked in coordinating and enabling those subordinate unit plans," said Lawall.
"All of us came away from this with a better understanding of our individual roles within a greater plan, but we also came away with a better understanding of the individuals who play important roles in the realization and development of the plan," said Lawall.
"Harnessing the intellect of the brigade's majors on collective and collaborative problem solving is a force multiplier," said Rosales. "This is the first time I've participated in something like this and I walked away with a much greater sense of teamwork with my peers across the area of responsibility."
"The better we understand each other, the better we understand the plan and the better we understand how we can enable each other in the execution of that plan," said Lawall. "We come away as a better team with a shared understanding."
"It's important the majors feel that the input provided by them to the overall process of providing theater air missile defenses is appreciated" said Gipson. "And it was also a venue to talk more than just air defense specific operations here in theater."
The forum additionally gave those who participated a chance to talk about their professional development for both professional and personal advancement to further their careers.
"It's important for the command sergeant major and myself to continuously provide leader development to all ranks," Gipson stated. "It doesn't matter what your age or your rank is as long as we continue to learn as individuals to make our lives better as a whole."
"What made this truly a remarkable experience was everyone's great attitudes, willingness to learn, and to collaborate," said Rosales.
"It's about life in general. It's about learning every single day and no one's perfect and everyone continues to learn on a day to day basis," said Gipson. "If you are that brand new private coming into the Army or the colonel as a brigade commander, it's a continuous learning experience throughout life."
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