By Major MD Dey
Ghana Army (HQ Southern Command; GSOII OPS & TRG,)
Policy & Security Architect,
Psc, Jsc, MSc (DIP), BBA (Hons), Dip (MS), PGC (DMC), PGC (POC/CJAX), PGC (EEZM), PGC (CT/CIEDC), PGC (CCMC), PGC (ISMFI)
A future beginning with a new generation of officers becomes unattainable when the core value of purpose is neglected. One single simple purpose of a military officer is to achieve a successful career progression. A good number of officers are unfortunately prematurely exiting the military far before their run out dates due to several reasons including their inability to pass promotion examinations, a foremost requirement for a successful career progression.
The provision of officers passing promotion examination is explicitly stated in the Armed Forces Regulations Volume 1, Administration, that “no officer shall be promoted to a higher rank unless he or she has passed such qualifying examinations…” (AFR Vol 1, 11.02). For emphasis, an officer cannot have a successful career progression without fulfilling mentioned institutional requirement. The promotion examination forms part of host of academic works or requirements of a Ghanaian military officer.
Over the years, unsuspecting officers found themselves out of the service with the simple reason of consistent inability to pass their promotion examinations, attributable to lack of purpose or inability to realize their potential. There is therefore, the need for officers to identify strategies to pursue career progression through military academic excellence to enable them put their future in focus and know the purpose for which they are in the military.
It is against this backdrop this article is structured to provide insight into how officers can strategize to achieve career progression through military academic excellence. The article therefore, covers strategies for finding potentials, strategies for improving academic excellence and strategic connection with people.
STRATEGIES FOR FINDING POTENTIALS
Everyone has a potential but the question most young officers always ask is how they can identify their potential or strength in the military. Simply, it will take confidence, initiative and self-discipline to really bring your potential out. Note that you are never too young and old to explore, plan and train for your life’s career which then becomes your target and or your point of aim. The strategies for finding one’s potential can be through the pocket note book system and determining one’s aptitudes.
Pocket Notebook System
Right from Military Academy, the officer is taught to keep pocket note book and pen in the left top pocket of the uniform for the officer to be considered to turnout properly or dressed smartly. The simple reason for this tradition is to inculcate into the officer the habit of taking note of everything that is new and worth remembering, which becomes a tool for storage of information.
The officers’ pocket note books are more or less a replica of “my first copy book” where important information is supposed to be written. The pocket note book is to be used to record salient piece of information from interactions, constructive arguments, bird-eye views of things, observations, instructions and issues requiring clarifications. Officers largely regard the pocket note book system to be a requirement useful only in cadet lines hence lose its essence without knowing it is the start point for military academic excellence.
It is not uncommon to find young officers dress without having pocket note book and pen in their pocket but find mobile phones stuck in their pockets or hands. If only could the mobile device be used appropriately, there would not be the need for the pocket note book. But the pocket note book system remains the easiest way to practice the diary system in keeping important information that can be referred when the need arises, especially on the account of preparing for promotion examinations.
It is therefore important for young officers to ensure they continue the tradition of keeping a pocket size note books in their pocket for easy record of important information, adding up to their knowledge.
Determine Your Aptitudes
In addition to the pocket notebook system, make list of your personal aptitudes. Aptitude here is referred to, as a natural or acquired talent or ability; quickness in learning and understanding (Dogbatse, 2015:1). For instance, you may have an aptitude in military history, administration and morale, tactics, weapon, current affairs and or the estimate process. You may have to nurture your aptitude by continuously exploring and reading more on those subject areas.
Knowledge mostly is the basis of officers’ confidence. The more vexed an officer is on a subject area, the more vocal he or she is during discussions. This emphasises the saying that “knowledge is power” and thus imperative for young officers to determine their aptitudes which would inadvently help them achieve academic excellence. Now that we know a bit of strategies of finding your potentials or strength where we stated: pocket notebook system and determining your aptitude. Let us move to strategies for achieving academic excellence.
STRATEGIES FOR ACHIEVING ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
According to academics, “…many test-anxious candidates simply study too little and too late for exams. That is why focusing or improving your study skills is a good way to reduce test anxiety.” (Jones & Petruzzi, 1995).
As a young officer and promotion examination (Promex) candidate, it is believed that you are striving for academic excellence. How you study and how well you do that will go a long way to determine how well you perform in your exams. If you are able to improve learning skills, as well as your memory, it is guaranteed there is no way you would not become a good officer, ready to identify your potentials.
The succeeding paragraphs discuss some strategies of achieving academic excellence such as concentration, approaching studies with the right mind set, space your study sessions (take breaks) and overlearn the materials.
The need to concentrate during studies is key because what has not been stored cannot be remembered. The major problem with forgetting is possibly due to initial storage. One may not have stored the information at all hence, the search for that information will be fruitless.
When you are reading or studying, focus all your attention on the materials. In order for information to move from short term memory to long term memory, you need to actively pay attention to the materials (Wereko, 2014). Let us have a test now to know whether your concentration level is good or you need to strengthen it.
Please be honest with your answers so that they reflect your current use of the strategy. Answer YES or NO.
- Do you often experience divided attention because too many unrelated thoughts disrupt your thinking?
- Do you often feel like you are not sure of what you just learned?
- Do you miss important information during a class because your mind tends to wander or day dream?
- Do you find it difficult when reading to keep your mind focused on the information in the pamphlets or the notes?
- Do you glance at your WhatsApp, Facebook or Tweeter (social media) intermittently, as you study or read?
If you gave NO answers to all the questions, it means that you really concentrate when you are studying or reading. The more YES answers you have the greater the need to add this principle of memory to your learning strategies or reading techniques. Let us move to the next strategy which is, approach studies or reading with the right mindset.
Approach Studies With The Right Mindset
Too many of young officers look at studying as a necessary task, not an enjoyment or opportunity to learn. That is fine, but researchers have found out that how you approach something matters almost as much as what you do, Being in the right mindset is important in order to study smarter (Wereko, 2014).
Sometimes you cannot “force” yourself to be in the right mindset and it is during such times you should simply take a short break by doing something else, have a positive chat with your peers, or do something to sweat and take cold shower. Thereafter, come back to the studies when you are not obsessed by something else distracting you. The following ways will help you improve your study mindset:
- a. Aim to think positively when you study, and remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
- Avoid catastrophic thinking. Instead of thinking “I am a mess, I will never have enough time to study for this exams”, rather look at it like “I may be a little late to study as much as I would like, but since I am doing it now, I will get the most of it”.
- Avoid absolute thinking. Instead of thinking “…promex is difficult”, the more objective view is “I didn’t do well last promex, what can I do to improve?”
- Most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others because you would usually just end up feeling bad about yourself. Let your competitor be yourself. That is, set a target and challenge yourself to achieve it.
Space Your Study Sessions (Take Breaks)
Some young officers prefer to sit for hours on end trying to study, but this is not an effective way of studying. To keep boredom and fatigue to a minimum, try altering short study sessions with a brief rest periods. Space your study times or sessions instead of trying to learn a great deal of materials all at once.
For instance, instead of sitting for four or six hours non-stop, have break after every one hour. You can take a walk or grab a snack. This usually makes studying more sustainable and enjoyable. Divide your study time into segment that makes sense and works for you. For example, if you have to digest a whole book’s chapter, find sections in the chapter and commit to reading and taking notes on one section at a time. Maybe you only do a section or two in a sitting.
Find the limits that seem to work for you. The relevance here is that it will help the memory to effectively process the learned information.
Overlearn The Materials
After you have learned a material well enough to remember it once without error, you should continue to study it. Overlearning guarantees you against going blank on a test you are nervous to write. Numerous studies have shown that memory is greatly improved when you overlearn the material. “The best solution to test anxiety is to over-prepare by studying well in advance of the “big day”. Candidates who are well prepared score higher, worry less, and are unlikely to panic (Zohar, 1998). It is therefore important to over learn the materials.
Get Some Sleep After Studies
Some recent researches have shown that taking a nap after you learn something new can actually help you learn and remember faster. This is because when you sleep right after studies, you reduce interference. What is your typical response after you have finished studying? Some of you may walk around and scream just to release tension. Others may want to go out there and watch football or soccer.
Some people may not be able to sleep right after learning. But if you can relax after learning and in the process fall asleep, that will be very useful to the new memory you just formed. Now that we have the strategies for finding potentials and strategies for achieving academic excellence, let us now briefly look at strategic connection with people.
STRATEGIC CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE
The way we receive people into our lives is so important. When you can recognize the person God has sent to you then your vision of being connected to people will be achieved. Anyone who has a gift and a talent needs people to direct, guide and motivate him or her to achieve them. It is said that “…one tree cannot make a forest” (Dogbatse, 2008).
It means one person cannot achieve his or her God-given potential without the help of others. Everybody needs somebody to help him or her achieve his or her destiny in life. We all need four (4) most important people referred to as ‘REBS’ meaning Role model; Experienced person; Best friend and Spiritual parent.
Role models are people who challenge or inspire you to move forward in life. Your role model is a picture of your future. Someone who does not even know you, can be your role model. This is by listening, viewing or reading about the person. But note that your role model is a human being therefore you cannot always expect him to do good things always. Pick the good things in him or her and leave the bad ones.
Experienced person is someone having skill or knowledge because he or she has done something many times (Concise Oxford Dictionary). An experienced person knows a lot, though not everything. This is seen in his or her problem-solving qualities. Example, if you want to pass your Promex then you need to associate yourself with experienced officers. Do not associate yourselves with the wrong people you cannot learn a thing from.
Human beings have been described as social beings and thus easy to identify who your best friend is. That description has made us to understand the need to have and to be a friend. From childhood, friends help us in the lifelong process of self-development. It has been said that the evolution of friendship is an interesting process to observe.
Even though most friendships do not last, it is vital to build yours to help you achieve great things in life. Best friends should be people who are ready to point out your mistakes, stick to you and encourage you in times of problems and difficulties. BEST, broken down, reads this way: Believes in your capabilities; Encourages you; Supports you and Trusts you.
A spiritual parent should be a person who can advise you and also see to your spiritual needs. If you do not have someone who guides you spiritually, you may encounter danger. No matter who you are, you need spiritual parents. Spiritual parents should be persons who can help you grow spiritually by helping you strike a good balance between physical and spiritual things in order to help you develop your potential and career. Note that, your spiritual parents should not necessarily be pastors but any other believer who has a good character you admire.
Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass. The need for officers to identify strategies to pursue career progression through military academic excellence to enable them put their future in focus and knowing the purpose for which they are in the military cannot be over emphasized.
An effort is made to give you some insights into strategies for finding potentials, strategies for achieving academic excellence and the need for strategic connection with people. There is seed of greatness within you. Be a bearer of light and a force of good. Concentration therefore is the focal point of success. Be a creator of possibilities and a role model. Make your officer life a masterpiece.
Armed Forces Regulation, (1970), Administration Vol 1, 11.02.
Deladem Dogbatse, (2008): Be focused to catch your potentials
Jones. L & Petruzzi, (1995): Test Anxiety, a review of theory and current treatment
Paul J Meyer, (1997): I inherited a fortune
Wereko Dacosta, (2014): Studying smarter