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Staff Sgt. Nilberto Navarro, center, a squad leader in the 51st Transportation Company, briefs his Soldiers in conjunction with pre-combat checks prior to the start of a training patrol on July 29 in Sennelager, Germany. As part of the “This is My Squad” initiative, the Army is developing a mobile app to help leaders better connect with squad members and manage everyday tasks. 

WASHINGTON – As part of the “This is My Squad” initiative, the Army is developing a mobile app to help leaders better connect with squad members and manage everyday tasks.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston recruited a team of 15 non-commissioned officers from a variety of career fields to give feedback and help build the app’s features. It will be introduced at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in October.

The app development squad will work with Army Futures Command to explore mobile solutions for training management, counseling and sponsorship.

“We’re really looking at how to give a squad leader an app – like a leader’s book – right there in the palm of their hands,” Grinston said during a virtual town hall at Fort Campbell, Ky., last week. “It does more than just record data.”

Grinston said he has had discussions about adding a virtual counseling feature that allows NCOs to document those discussions with subordinates on their phones. The application would replace the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s “Squad Leader” app, which gives NCOs and junior Soldiers access to learning and development tools. No release date has been announced for the new and improved app. Development of the project will continue into the next fiscal year.

Under the “This is My Squad” initiative, Grinston said leaders focus on the positive aspects of their Soldiers’ lives. The effort involves getting to know squad members on a deeper level by building trust and learning their backgrounds. TIMS also emphasizes taking ownership and responsibility while focusing on leadership.

“It’s not about one program. It’s about the leader in the middle,” Grinston said. “If we could focus on leadership, all these things that are happening around us get better. It’s really looking at a positive culture where we look at things in a positive way.”

Grinston said TIMS lays the foundation for Project Inclusion. That Army-wide initiative focuses on eliminating practices that discriminate while striving to improve diversity and equity. Building trust with other Soldiers makes difficult conversations on race possible.

“That’s what it means to be ‘in your squad.’ You don’t shy away from those things that are hard to talk about,” Grinston said. “(It shows) trust – that the person on the other side is a valued member of your team. They’re not going to judge you; they’re going to help you if you’re going through difficult times and you’re comfortable talking to them.”

The deaths of Minnesota resident George Floyd and Spc. Vanessa Guillen stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, recently brought the national discussions of race to the forefront. Army senior leaders have pledged for a greater examination of racial diversity, equity and inclusion within the Army’s ranks.

In June, the service announced it would start removing official photos from promotion boards to eliminate unconscious bias. The Army also called for a re-evaluation of race disparities within its legal justice system.

Grinston said he had emotional family discussions regarding diversity and inclusion with his 18-year-old daughter. It exemplified the point that TIMS could apply to multiple squads in a Soldier’s life, including their family.

“There was a lot of questions about diversity,” he said of his at-home chat. “(My daughter) was struggling with it. That’s what it means to be in my family; it means we sit down and talk about these difficult times and what’s going on. You don’t just ignore it.”