Ahh, organizational days. On paper, it sounds like a great time. Why not have everyone in the unit come together to relieve stress for an afternoon and enjoy some quality team-cohesion time? Here’s the problem: Troops very rarely ever have a good time at what is mockingly referred to as a “mandatory fun day.”
If you’re in a leadership position and you’re honestly expecting an organizational day to raise the morale of your troops, then you’re going to need to do a few things different. Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest major changes or anything that could jeopardize the professionalism of your unit, but you should lighten up and actually try to make sure your troops enjoy themselves if an increase in morale is your intended goal. Makes sense, right?
You can have those family fun days. Let the FRG handle that and let the troops be troops.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jason Jimenez)
We’re not suggesting that families aren’t important to the troops — in fact, they’re the most important thing to the many troops who have their family stationed with them. But it’s a much different story for the troops that are stuck in the barracks. They’re not exactly lining up for the face-painting booth like the kiddies.
Plus, when there are children and spouses around, troops tend to be sanitized versions of who they really are. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s also not the way to let off steam and raise morale. You need to give them a chance to be the loud, rowdy, drunk, offensive, and obnoxious war fighters that they truly are.
You may hear them talk about wanting to drink when they’re in the smoke pit, but you’re not really going to know how much they drink unless you’re with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Listen to what the lower enlisted troops want
Within reason, obviously. You don’t have to take the company to the truck-stop strip club because Private Snuffy thought it’d be a great idea. But if they suggest something relatively safe, like going to a baseball game or chilling out at the installation’s bar, that may not be such a bad idea.
Nine times out of ten, if you ask the troops where they’d like to go, they’ll probably say the barracks. Perfect. Throw a party there. This also gives the command team a valuable insight into how the troops actually operate when they’re off-duty.
A squad that trains together, fights together, and parties together stays together.
(U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Kyle Hensley)
Keep the day at the platoon or squad level
This is far more important than most company commanders realize. When you’re trying to build unit cohesion, it’s best to keep any morale-boosting efforts at the level at which troops operate. For nearly all lower enlisted, that means the platoon or squad level.
Platoon sergeants generally know their troops far better than the company commander. Plus, smaller numbers also mean that it’s far cheaper and much more easily managed should things get out of hand. Most importantly, having a smaller group size on fun days means that it’s far less likely that someone will just mope in the corner and be forgotten about.
Commanders should encourage smaller-group team building. It can only mean greater things when it comes to the unit as a whole.
I mean, unless they’re REALLY adverse to showing up to the Organizational Day.
(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)
Attendance is incentivized, not mandatory
When you force something down someone’s throat, they’re going to hate it. By now, you’ve probably heard infantry described with the phrase, “give them a brick of gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy.” Well, in this case, “mandatory fun” day are the gold, and no matter how glittery and gleaming it may be, you’re still forcing it on them.
Give troops a reason to want to go to your organizational day instead of threatening them with UCMJ action. Even if it’s something as stupid-simple as giving them the choice between attending the organizational day in civilian clothes and an early release or sweeping the motor pool until 1700, you’ll see a lot more volunteers.
Nearly every single lower enlisted troop will enjoy themselves at a barracks party over a mandatory Org Day. Why not just let them do it anyways, but with the supervision of NCOs?
(Screengrab via YouTube)
This is as simple as it gets. There’s no real need to go in-depth about why this one would work. Transfer some of the funds that would’ve gone toward a giant bouncy house and tap open a keg for the joes instead. They’ll appreciate that much more.