Iron Sharpens Iron

Updated: July 13, 2016


By RU Rob

For any military officer, staff work sucks. They like to lead, not get stuck behind a desk on a thankless Battalion, Brigade, Division, or Joint staff. But at some point, every officer with more than two assignments (and most senior NCOs) will have to bite the bullet and do staff time. It’s a necessary evil and every Major in the Army will either lead a staff or find themselves relegated to one. It’s tough, thankless work that can be chaotic, tedious, unforgiving, and can end a leader’s career faster than a negligent discharge on a parade field. So how do you get through it? With determination, swagger, and maybe a little help from someone who’s been there…a lot.

The Iron Major Survival Guide is the essential self-help book for senior Captains, Field Grade officers, and staff leaders & managers of all types – both in and out of uniform. Soon-to-be-retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Dunphy composed this manifesto of “how to keep yourself out of trouble and maybe even shine” after years of teaching at the Army’s Command and General Staff College, the Captain’s Career Course, and Texas A&M ROTC.

“I just figured I’d seen enough and taught enough that I could help other officers get through that difficult time in their careers when they take the step up into the field grade ranks,” Dunphy says.

The Iron Major Survival Guide has hundreds of timeless tips and tricks on how to make it through the daunting and confusing world of staff operations. It’s almost assured that an officer or non-commissioned officer (NCO) will serve on one kind of staff or another, probably for more years than one would care to. This book is the definitive road map to getting through it all without committing careericide.

IronmajorThe Iron Major Survival Guide provides an illuminating checklist of the things a staff leader and manager should consider when being assigned to or running a staff.  Younger officers can also use this book to gain perspective on the challenges inherent in those imminent and crucible Field Grade years, and from that vantage point, make adjustments to their own management techniques in a continued effort to make their organizations better.

Written by a guy who did not become a General himself, The Iron Major Survival Guide contains plenty of self-deprecating humor and “there I was, scraping more occupational dog poo off my boots” vignettes that every officer and leader can relate to.

“That’s kind of the beauty of this book,” Dunphy says. “It’s written by a guy who didn’t make it, so the tone is very much ‘don’t be like me!’”

If I have a criticism of the book, it’s that there aren’t enough pictures. Dunphy turned himself into an artist and developed a bunch of humorous images and cartoons on Powerpoint that make this book funny as hell. Dingleberry Vino and The Catfish Dwell Zone had me rolling.

A refreshing angle Dunphy takes to staff work is that staff’s should be led, not managed. This book reinforces our obligation to continue to lead, not just manage our Soldiers and organizations while serving in such capacities. Just because you’re a staff weenie doesn’t mean you can’t exercise some leadership.

Younger officers can also use this book to gain perspective on the challenges inherent in those imminent Field Grade years and prepare for them. From that vantage point, Captains and junior NCOs can make adjustments to their own management techniques and make their organizations better.

Want a surefire guide on how to become a General? Go pick up something by someone who wore stars on his shoulders. Want a comprehensive checklist on how to survive your time as a field grade officer? Pickup a copy and make yourself an Iron Major.

The Iron Major Survival Guide can be found here – Amazon

Follow Dave Dunphy on Facebook here – Facebook



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