After completing company command and three deployments to Iraq, my post-command options seemed limited. Nothing could ever compare to leading troops in combat or the tremendous responsibilities given to captains, junior majors and senior noncommissioned officers in today’s high operational tempo. Admittedly, I became accustomed to operating with very little guidance from my chain of command. My chain of command trusted my judgment and gave me the latitude and autonomy to accomplish a mission. However, once I redeployed, I wondered if I could find an assignment that was as challenging and rewarding as command.
Fortunately, I read a MILPER (military personnel) message announcing the Army Congressional Fellowship Program. The message grabbed my interest. I learned the fellowship is managed by the Office of the Chief Legislative Liaison, and includes a three-phase assignment that targets senior captains, junior majors, senior NCOs and Department of the Army civilians (GS 11-14).
After being selected for the fellowship, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and began the first phase, which focused on studying for a master’s degree at George Washington University and included a Department of the Army orientation. The Army briefings were from senior members of the Army staff, and provided vital information to help gain a better understanding of the Army from the operational and strategic levels.
During the second phase of the program I worked as a staff member for a member of Congress. I soon learned that Army fellows have a great reputation on Capitol Hill. For an entire year I saw and contributed to the inner workings of Congress. Primarily, I focused on defense- and veteran-related issues, but my portfolio also included areas outside of defense. I worked directly for and interacted with my assigned members of Congress for the duration of the year.
The final phase of my fellowship is a two-year utilization tour in a congressionally related position on the Army Staff. I, like most fellows, am assigned to a position in OCLL. OCLL is the Army’s primary point of contact with Capitol Hill and regularly provides Congress with information to ensure it understands the Army’s needs. My current job is extremely challenging and provides me multiple opportunities to use the academics from George Washington and my experiences on Capitol Hill. Throughout the utilization assignment, Army fellows become an integral component of the effort to tell the Army’s story and convey the Army’s needs to those charged by the Constitution to resource and oversee the Army.
During his farewell address to cadets at West Point, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “The Army has always needed entrepreneurial leaders with a broad perspective and a diverse range of skills … in addition to the essential troop command and staff assignments, you should look for opportunities…(that) might include … being a congressional fellow.” The fellowship provides multiple opportunities for adaptive and versatile leaders to assess a situation and find a solution — each day is a challenge.
Nothing will ever compare to leading Soldiers in combat. However, the fellowship offered me a very unique experience at the highest level of our nation’s government that proved professionally and personally satisfying. I now understand the importance of the relationship between Congress and the Army.
If you see yourself as an entrepreneurial leader, would like to broaden your perspective and want a unique position to see your nation at work, the congressional fellowship is an opportunity you cannot ignore. Regardless of your branch, academic background or key development assignments, the fellowship is a great opportunity. For more information refer to MILPER Message 11-363, visit the OCLL website at http://ocll.hqda.pentagon.mil/ or contact your branch manager.
Maj. Tim Meadors was selected for the fiscal year 2010 cohort of Army congressional fellows. He is now in the second year of his two-year utilization and was chosen to serve as the program manager for the fellowship. Meadors’ previous assignments include the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division.