Last week the Squadron Sergeant Major’s (SSM’s) Cadre took place at Dettingen House RHQ The RLC. Newly promoted SSM’s from a wide variety of units across the Corps attended. We caught up with WO2 Stiffell and asked him what he thought of the cadre.
Firstly for people who don’t know, what is the SSM’s cadre?
“The cadre is a really good starting point for someone like myself who hasn’t taken up their post yet. It’s a really good eye opening course based on what you can and can’t do as a Squadron Sergeant Major, the legal pitfalls that are about and signposting you on where you can go for advice. It’s also a bit of networking as you get to meet other SSM’s, some of whom are already in post and have been doing the job for 18 months and others like myself who are haven’t started yet, so not only am I learning things from the Command Sergeant Major, I’m learning things from the SSM’s who are already in post. It means that when you go to your unit if you have a problem you have a network of other SSM’s behind you backing you up.”
What does the course involve?
“We have group discussions on different topical subjects; at the moment we are looking at things like recruiting and retention and what we can do to aid that from our position as Squadron Sergeant Major, especially the retention element as that is keeping people in the Army. We can’t really have a massive effect on the recruiting side of things, but retention really is our bag and helping people out and not necessarily losing them from the Army altogether. We may lose people out of the Corps, but we can find them somewhere else in the British Army.
We’ve also had lectures and presentations on various things, all quite useful. We had 25 Training Regiment come down and tell us what they do and once they’ve finished training the guys at their end, what we can expect to gain from them. We’ve also had the Corps Colonel come down and give us snippets on what the Corps is going through at the moment and what it’s about to go through, his vision and what he feels he can do about it.”
How are you going to take what you have learnt here forward?
“I think the role of SSM has changed a lot over the years I think it’s not so much now the stereotypical man that screams and shouts all the time, although there is still an element of that at the right time. I think it’s certainly taught me how we should be treating our young guys and girls, and not automatically treating them like they are beneath you, because there not, it reaffirms that more than anything. The Cadre is full of lots of tips and hints and things like that that, that you can take away and you catch yourself writing these little snippets down all the time and you’ll take them away and you’ll build on them and when the lessons finished. There’s been a few occasions when you find yourself over lunch still talking about things with the guys on the course, and you’re getting lots of tips from those guys as well.”
Would you say that in the past you had a different approach to motivating people?
“The way I was brought up as a young soldier was not always getting a lot of praise, and not always getting a lot of direction, and I think nowadays its more about giving direction. Don’t just expect things to be done to your standards when these guys are quite a number of years behind you, and you shouldn’t expect the same high standards from them, however if you do want that high standard give them the direction and give them help. It’s also really important to the team ethic to make sure people feel wanted and valued in the team, if you’re not going to let people feel that you’re going to lose people and you’re going to struggle to keep hold of people.”
What sort of problems do you think a SSM faces?
“The biggest problem a SSM faces is that within every job you will have that rotten apple; and its making sure that that one bad soldier who just doesn’t want to be in the Army, and you’ve tried everything, you’ve done everything with him, and it’s making sure he/she doesn’t bring other soldiers down, without singling him out without sending him away to do what he wants, or stay in the block all day. You’ve still got to make this guy feel wanted as much as though he doesn’t want to be in your organisation. There is quite a lot of that discipline side of life, its hard and very complicated nowadays. Without a good SSA (discipline clerk) you are going to struggle to get through your discipline, you could spend all of your working day on one guy for a bit of discipline, which you didn’t originally have planned and then you are giving a lot of time to your guys who are not perhaps up to scratch, and neglecting the good guys which is difficult to come to terms with.”
Explain your role as a Squadron Sergeant Major?
“It depends massively on which squadron you are with, whether is a task or a HQ squadron and it depends on the trade as well. I’m going to a movement and postal and courier squadron, they are very busy squadrons as they’re always away on worldwide tasking’s. Generally my job will involve motivating and disciplining the soldiers, advising the OC on the running of the squadron, and generally just being the glue in the whole squadron holding everything together and that’s how I would describe it really.”
WO1 A R Meek Command Sergeant Major RLC said “This week is invaluable to the new Squadron Sergeant Majors of the RLC, they learn so much from each other as no Squadron is the same and we need our people to be able to change and adapt with the times. This Cadre like all Cadres/Courses does not make instant SSM’s, there is no ‘Blue Print’ it offers the tools to take them forward to become high quality senior soldiers. They after all are the ones that will move forward to become the Regimental Sergeant Majors and Late Entry (LE) Officers of the future. “