Among the many ill-conceived programs we endure at school, the Thursday mentorship program for Army soldiers is one of the dumbest.
Each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. we gather in a conference room of the main school building and listen to a one-hour lecture about what our job will be like out in the field. At least, that is how the lecture is billed.
In reality, exactly one of the lectures had any real connection to our immediate future in Army Public Affairs. But these lectures do have an effect on our school experience.
They are one more ill-conceived and unnecessary aggravation.
We get up at 4 a.m. each morning to do PT (Physical Training) and have eight hours of classes each day finishing at 4 p.m. Adding a lecture that will not be graded at the end of a 12-hour day would be nasty if it were interesting. But these lectures are farther off topic than cold-weather survival training in Mogadishu, Somalia.
With one exception, these lectures are far above our pay grade, and focused on active-duty Army. The majority of the soldiers in these classes are enlisted and junior NCOs in the National Guard and Reserve.
Four weeks ago, a Sergeant First Class talked to us for 73 minutes about the distribution of Public Affairs leadership slots in the active Army. His focus was on officers and senior NCOs. And he droned on 13 minutes over his hour in front of people who had already spent a whole day in class.
Two weeks ago, a Master Sergeant spoke for his entire hour about creating PowerPoint slides for command briefings. He is a perfect example of the kind of speaker that drives speechwriters crazy: he thinks he is funny, and he is not. Worse still, he thinks he is funny when he is just being himself. He said toward the end of the hour, “I know this stuff is dry, but at least I am entertaining right?”
He got a mildly affirmative answer, but what else could he get. He has power over his audience and was using it to make himself feel good.
To be fair, there was one useful mentoring hour. It lasted just 45 minutes. A Staff Sergeant who works on the Army’s social media program talked to us about how the Army is currently using social media and where the program is headed.
That talk was useful. We got one ungraded day in our entire three-month school program about social media, and most of us will return to units who have or need Facebook page administrators.
By the end of school we will have had 12 hours of mentorship, 12 hours mostly spent trying to stay awake listening to irrelevant information.