Small Wars Journal

Jump Starting Your Professional Reading Program

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Jump Starting Your Professional Reading Program:

A Six-Pack of Books

by Captain Kelly Jones and Major Scott Shaw

Download the full article: Jump Starting Your Professional Reading Program

Full Disclosure: We, the authors of this article, are die-hard readers. We love reading, especially anything that can help make us and our Soldiers more effective leaders in this profession of ours in which learning is an absolute imperative. We've incorporated professional reading into our personal development, and we've integrated it as a fundamental part of our leader development program in our units. Additionally, over the past four years we have led the "Pro Reading" part of the Platoon Leader and Company Command online professional forums, which members can find at In that role, we've been exposed to what other members of the profession are reading and what books are making an impact on leaders across our Army.

If one thing is clear about our current fight, it is that junior leaders are being given much more autonomy than many of us ever had. In order to deal with the ever increasing responsibilities of today's platoon leaders, we, the company commanders and field grade officers of our Army, must give these young bucks and buckettes the tools to succeed. This includes the nurturing of analytical skills (Troop Leading Procedures) in conjunction with the intuitive leadership skills that are necessary in combat, and the ability to deal with the aftermath of combat as well. The question is how to do that without breaking the bank. When the price of a platoon leader learning his or her trade could be the life of a Soldier or several Soldiers, then we owe it to those Soldiers to educate their leaders before entering the fray.

One powerful way to develop your leaders is through a professional reading program. The fundamental assumption informing this article is that professional reading is critical not only to individual development but also to collective learning and development in our units. Many of you are undoubtedly saying, "It's too hard. My platoon leaders aren't interested. And, I don't have the time to do it when I am in between deployments." We hear what you are saying and counter it with, "If we could figure out how to do it, then you can too." A dedicated professional reading program costs the unit less than a hundred dollars -- and if you have a library near-by, possibly nothing -- and builds the mental Rolodex of a platoon leader.

To jump-start a reading program, you have to start out with some sort of "What do I want to get out of this?" question. That may seem intuitive, but many leaders just throw out random books, and the result is less than desirable. With the hundreds of books and multitudes of reading lists out there for a platoon leader, how do you narrow down the scope of your reading to what is applicable to you? We don't have the answer, but we would like to share some suggestions. Based on our experience, we offer six books that we believe are classic volumes to give to platoon leaders to start discussion on issues from the tactical to the ethical and everything in between.

Download the full article: Jump Starting Your Professional Reading Program

Captain Kelly S Jones is a recent graduate of the Civil Affairs Officer Qualification Course and is the Executive Officer of a Civil Affairs Company. He received a B.S. from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. His military education includes Mounted Officer Basic Course, Maneuver Captains Career Course, Airborne and the Civil Affairs Officer Qualification Course. He has served both as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer in 1-34 AR, Fort Riley, Kansas and Iraq.

Major Scott Shaw is the Bde AS-3 in 1st BCT, 1st Cavalry Division. He received a B.S. from the University of Arkansas, an M.A. from Norwich University, and an M.M.A.S from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He has served as a Headquarters and Rifle Company Commander in Afghanistan and Iraq and led a Battalion Military Transition Team in Iraq.

Kelly and Scott continue to work with's Pro-Reading Forum and welcome comments and ideas to help promote professional reading at the company and battalion level.

About the Author(s)