LOS ANGELES – The Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division doesn’t wait for leaders to show up, it grows and mentors people to fill leadership roles. Seven new leaders are emerging from a graduation of the Regional Leadership Development Program - Tier III for Fiscal Year 2014 at a ceremony held at Fort MacArthur Oct. 21.
The seven graduates are from all across the Division: Ondrea Hummel from the Albuquerque District; Hunter Merritt, Derek Morley, and Beth Salyers from the Sacramento District; Jacob Hensel and Rueben Saski from the Los Angeles District; and Jim Mazza of the San Francisco District were each recognized for their efforts by Division Commander Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, and their respective District leaders.
“Leadership development is the most important program in the Corp,” said General Toy. “You can never stop learning. As a senior person and leader, you have to make time to develop.”
The seven USACE employees are already graduates of the Tier I & II programs and this year continued their leadership training. The Tier III program takes more than 500 hours to complete between the on- and off-duty time required of the program.
“This is the best thing I get to do, graduating a new class of leaders for the Corps,” said Director of Regional Business for the Division Traci Clever. “This is a huge accomplishment, you can be proud of your efforts.”
The participants agreed.
“It (RLDP III) is an opportunity for professional and personal growth,” said Hensel, a senior economist. “It’s an opportunity to see where you see yourself going, access your strengths and weaknesses in a really open environment.”
The RLDP Tier III develops leaders at all levels, across all functional areas and career programs, according to the Information and Application Pamphlet for the program. Tier III is a regional program equipping emerging leaders with an assortment of skills, techniques, and practical tools to effectively lead teams and manage resources. Additional exploration of self-awareness and team building insight is provided through facilitated leadership, behavioral assessments and team exercises. Participants expand their perspective of the Corps via interaction with teammates throughout the South Pacific Division and a trip to Washington, D.C. They apply their accrued leadership skills by completing a regional team project and a couple of strategic challenges on important issues or initiatives for the South Pacific region.
The fiscal year 2014 RLDP’s project was to improve and formalize the transfer of knowledge from the highly experienced USACE employee to their District coworkers. This knowledge transfer ensures USACE experiences don’t leave the corps when people retire or separate from their jobs.
The participants only had nine months to complete the project because of the accelerated program schedule sequestration forced at the beginning of the year, said Merritt, a study manager.
The knowledge transfer project was briefed in detail to the Division leaders in attendance moments before the graduation ceremony and left USACE leaders with a program and implementation plan.
“I learned more about the SCAR (a contracting) program than I ever expected because of this project,” said Merritt.
Merritt explained he was the junior and leading member of a two-person team which hosted a brown bag learning event. “It is a good thing the senior person is there so they can save your bacon if you get stuck.”
The program got off to a rocky start with sequestration initially forcing its suspension. The participants were able to visit Washington, D.C. in April at the same time as the fiscal year 2013 RLDP III class and other Divisions’ RLDP classes were there.
“We didn’t just have the Corps guide us, there were experts from Georgetown University telling us the workings of Congress,” said Morley, a section chief. “We actually went to (hearing) sessions of Congress and we met with Headquarters. We spent nearly a day with the visits and also met with other LDP participants.”
The LDP Programs started in 2000 and have graduated 229 participants so far.
“The take-away is understanding how each District, Division and then how the enterprise works,” said Sasaki, a hydrologic engineer. “It’s (the USACE Division) complex, I’m getting a broader view of that. You learn more on leadership, more in depth and the application of it (from RLDP).”
The program had a different influence for each participant.
“I actually learned what my strengths are and I started to visualize how my strengths fit into the regional leadership and how to use those strengths to succeed,” said Salyers, a senior project manager.
The LDP being a regional program also had advantages.
“One of the biggest things I take away from this program is having those regional connections,” said Hummel, an ecologist. “Now I know folks in every District, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of leaders. I can now reach out within the Division for anything.”
The Tier III LDP class being regionally led had an impact on all the participants.
“Getting greater exposure to the organization, meeting and working with all the people across SPD,” said Mazza, a senior project manager. “It was a treat getting to know the leadership outside of my District see them in action and receive their feedback directly to the group.”
The program doesn’t end at the graduation ceremony held here Oct. 21.
“There is more than the first year of the program,” said Morley. “There is a second year of utilization. The Districts and the Division will be leveraging what we learned here. We have been assigned projects outside of our lane (of expertise) to tackle the challenges they face.”