Caring, Committed, Coachable building a culture
Story by Steven Stover on 06/09/2019
FORT GORDON, Ga. Lt. Col. Matthew Lennox, the outgoing commander of the 782nd Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (Cyber), relinquished his battalion command to Lt. Col. Wayne Sanders, in a change of command ceremony hosted by Col. Brian Vile, the commander of the 780th MI Brigade (Cyber) at Gym 5, the Cyber Fitness Center, on June 7.
Lennox’s focus throughout his command has been on collective training, building the core, and enhancing the battalion’s Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Corps, and what he asked of his Soldiers and Army Civilians was to be “caring, committed, and coachable” in order to build a culture. And that is exactly what they did.
“We built a culture. We have moved beyond in- processing people, pushing them through training, and getting them onto a (cyber) team, to building a Family.”
‘Command is a marathon’
Lennox is only the battalion’s third commander. He compared his command to a marathon. “The marathon is both the two years that you are in command and the marathon that is just command.”
He thanked his predecessor, Col. David Chang for putting things in motion.
“Dave Chang left me a very solid battalion. They had a phenomenal reputation, but what I anticipated was we were never going to be asked to do less. I expected the amount of work, the number of operations, the number of capabilities we needed, to expand,” said Lennox. “When I looked across the battalion at the time, we had a lot of individually trained folks and most of the teams all of the teams were FOC (fully operationally capable) at that point were on a glide path to come back to a validation exercise. It tended to be a time when teams were trying to do an in-stride assessment or get away from dedicating two weeks a year to actually doing collective training within the team.”
‘Collective Training, the Core, and the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Corps’
Lennox, looking back on his two years in command, talked about three focus areas that the Soldiers and Army Civilians seized upon and advanced: collective training, “the core”, and the non-commissioned officer corps.
The first was on the value of collective training exercises.
“We have always allocated the time for the teams to do it,” said Lennox. “In conjunction with the Joint Force Headquarters, it wasn’t always easy, but we got to a place where they enabled the teams to train, and that really set the teams up for success.”
Secondly, Lennox said the battalion adopted a term for the group of people who “make mission happen” on each cyber team and they called these Soldiers and Army Civilians “the core.”
“Early on we decided that each team, on average, had about eight people in the core’ and the intent was to grow the core’, over time, to about 20 people,” said Lennox. “I think most teams are there today where they’ve got a core group of 20 people. What that [means] is, if a crisis hits this weekend, you have 20 knowledgeable, practiced people on the team in order to get the mission done.”
His third focus area was growing the NCO Corps. Lennox reminisced back to his time when he was a cyber team lead. He said his warrant officers were predominantly the ones leading the sections, training individuals, and taking care of people. He didn’t have that NCO backbone like every other unit in the Army.
“One of the things I worked on with Command Sgt. Maj. (Bart) Larango and Command Sgt. Maj. (Christian) Adkison was on growing the NCO Corps. Today, Command Sgt. Maj. Adkison is managing a very good NCOPD (NCO professional development) program,” said Lennox. “I truly believe we have the NCO Corps that we need to have, both now and in the future, already resident within the battalion. It’s a function of having a very good command sergeant major, a function of the best, top of the line first sergeants six of them were selected for the Sergeant Majors Academy to become sergeant majors and from there down, the quality of NCOs in this battalion has improved dramatically. It’s about taking care of Soldiers.”
According to Lennox, those three focus areas enabled his command philosophy.
“What I really wanted when I came into the battalion was for people to be caring, committed, and coachable’. Those were the three words I used throughout my time in command. Every time I talk, I talk about those three terms. I believe that if you are those three things, then you are the leader that we need in this organization.”
‘Caring, Committed, Coachable’
Lennox explained that caring is taking care of yourself, taking care of your Soldiers, and taking care of your Family; and committed means driving the organization to success, understanding what the mission is, and what is going on two levels up.
“Those are just Army fundamentals, things you are taught from the time you’re a lieutenant in Combat Arms,” said Lennox. “Coachable is a new domain in that we are all going to make mistakes, and I’ll underwrite the honest mistakes in cyber operations as long as you take responsibility for your actions, learn from them, and are willing to stand up and teach other people so we don’t make the same mistakes again in the future.”
Lennox said the biggest lesson he learned from his command was “if you get to caring, committed and coachable, you’ve built a culture.”
Thinking back, he believes it has only been in the last 180 days that the culture in his battalion really started to come out.
“There were little things the battalion did outside of workpeople willing to get together outside of work, not levying work upon them outside of work, but just allowing them to get out and enjoy the company of one another outside of work,” said Lennox. “About two weeks ago the lieutenants popped up out of nowhere, all wearing their Aloha shirtsI think they called it the Lieutenant Luau’. They are starting to form their own culture. It’s nothing that I’ve done, it’s just that I think they’ve bought into caring, committed, and coachable’. It’s a function that we started to realize the benefits of the culture that probably didn’t previously exist because we were just too young when I took over.”
According to Lennox, building the NCO Corps is the one area he is most proud of.
“I just needed people to be caring, committed, and coachable’ because I thought the one part we weren’t was in taking care of Soldiers. And that all ties back to understanding the core of the team, understanding the value of the NCO Corps, and getting back to the basics, and taking care of Soldiers,” said Lennox. “I think we’ve got a group of non-commissioned officers that really believe in taking care of their people, grooming their successors and propelling them forward to make the organization better.”
‘What are you going to miss?’
“The people. There’s some real talent in this battalion,” said Lennox. “I think we generated a whole new level of buy in from the Civilians in this battalion, in terms of just letting them do their jobs.”
He mentioned Army Civilians like West Lewis, Connie Hamilton, and Cece Shoffner, and “there’s a whole host of other people. We have had some first-class people in this battalion,” said Lennox.
“We have managed to grow. In fact, we probably had the lowest civilian attrition rate this battalion has ever had. We have retained talent such as developers and Civilian operators people who could go out and make more money elsewhere, but have found something in the job here, and made the decision to stay with us. That commitment has been awesome and it has truly been an enabler for the teams.”
‘The fourth commander of the 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber) Cyber Legion! Silent Victory!’
“Dave Chang handed over a solid organization, and we have grown a lot,” said Lennox. “I believe Wayne Sanders is going to take over a battalion that is firing on all cylinders, but that’s not enough. Just like when I came in, wherever we are at today, we are not going to be asked to do less. He’s going to have to find the resources and the leaders to do more.”
However, Lennox believes Sanders is “absolutely the right person to do it. He’s been in the brigade, he’s done the S3 (operations) job, the XO (executive officer) job, and the team lead, so in many ways he’s more familiar with the organization than even I was when I got down here.”
Lt. Col. Sanders’ most recent assignments include serving as the chief of Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) Support to Corps and Below (CSCB), U.S. Army Cyber Command, as the team lead for 23 National Mission Team, Cyber National Mission Force, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).
In his comments to battalion Soldiers and Civilians, Vile remarked, “Fifteen years and over six thousand miles away in a place called Mosul, your new commander stood out even in a Brigade of exceptional Soldiers. Along with a young warrant officer named Al Mollenkopf (currently the Command Chief Warrant Officer at USCYBERCOM), Wayne and his team fundamentally changed the way that SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) drove operations. His innovation, coupled with an agile, adaptive, and opportunistic force, created operations successes beyond anyone’s expectations.”
Over the next 12 months the Lennox Family will be in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Lt. Col. Lennox will attend the Army War College. He is already anticipating his follow-on assignment coming back to the cyber Family and taking command of the 780th MI Brigade (Cyber) where he will continue his philosophy of creating a culture of “caring, committed, and coachable” soldiers and civilians. Praetorians! Strength and Honor!