Donald S. Potoczny
Colonel Don Potoczny recently retired after serving twenty-six years on active duty in the United States Army. He served in a wide variety of operational assignments around the world. Colonel Potoczny
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Don Potoczny is the founder and president of Patriot Advisers, LLC. Over a distinguished military career, Colonel Potoczny developed a reputation as one of the most innovative trainers in the US Army. He has built diverse teams all over the world to solve some of our allies’ most challenging problems.
Don deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, in the last year of the US occupation. When he arrived, he found the US headquarters had lost focus on their most effort. The broad strategy was to train and advise the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), so the US could return home. Staff turnover and counterterrorism activities distracted the command. Don first organized conferences that assembled US commanders from throughout the theater to provide their assessments of the hundreds of Iraqi units. These assessments provided a baseline to identify critical areas requiring focused efforts.
Don then developed a team of officers from every service – US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Customs, and Border Patrol. This “ISF Team” maintained assessments of every Iraqi security organization. They developed training strategies based on those detailed assessments. One of those training strategies paid enormous dividends for the Iraqi Army three years later. Assessments revealed that the Iraqi Army was capable of maintaining area security and supporting counterinsurgency operations. But they were not trained in traditional infantry operations like defend and attack. The ISF Team created a program for the Iraqi Army that trained them on these skills.
ISIL invaded Iraq three years later. The enemy took and occupied large swaths of Iraqi territory. But the Iraqi Army with support from allies was able to counterattack. After months of hard fighting, they reestablished Iraq’s sovereign borders. Don and his ISF Team clearly had an enormous impact on Iraq and its future as an independent nation. Their methodical approach to developing training strategies ensured the readiness of our ally, reduced the need to increased US involvement, and save countless lives.
Don served in the Republic of Korea for ten years culminating in his selection to command the Army’s rocket artillery battalion just thirteen miles from North Korea. His highly effective training programs addressed his two priorities – unit readiness and leader development. To address readiness, he developed a system of alerts that ensured every subunit was ready to deploy with no notice.
Don personally created his unit’s leader development program that became the model for the entire division. He committed to a weekly program that assembled every officer for a holistic program on wide-ranging activities. His reading program encouraged habits of lifelong learning by requiring reading, writing, and discussing professional texts. He brought in guest speakers from other units and academia.
Don served his last two years of duty as an exchange officer with the Canadian Armed Forces. He served with the Canadian Joint Operations Command, which oversees all activities of the Canadian Armed Forces. In Ottawa, Don created a team to address Canada’s most complex and pressing challenge – the information domain. Numerous government activities endeavored to address developing threats and build capabilities. Don created the Joint Operational Effects (JOE) Team to synchronize many of these efforts. The JOE Team integrated public affairs into operation, coordinated senior leader engagements around the world, and operationalized a host of capabilities.
Don also identified challenges for staff coordination across the headquarters. The functionally-aligned staff had developed impenetrable silos with officers assigned regional responsibilities. Don recognized a transformative opportunity to increase collaboration. He developed Regional Working Groups to connect desk officers across the functional staff. He led these working groups to share perspectives, and they reached a level of teamwork they never imagined possible.
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History & Expertise
Master of Science, Adult Education, Kansas State University
Master of Strategic Studies, National Security Policy Studies, The United States Army War College
B.A., Philosophy (Philosophy Club, Recipient of Mary Olive Woods Scholarship for Philosophy, AUSA Military History Award), Western Illinois University
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from HRCI
Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The America Legion
Project Management Institute Chicagoland
Association for Talent Development
Center for Creative Leadership