U.S. Army and the nation's educators continue partnership for leadership symposium

By Anthony L Taylor | 85th Support Command | Nov. 19, 2018

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — “We share a common belief that we can build a future only with effective, well trained leaders to guide us there,” said Dr. Christine Handy, President of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “The education community and education policy makers are finally coming around to see what the Armed Services have understood for generations, leadership matters.”

Principals and counselors from across the nation participated in this year’s U.S. Army Leadership Symposium held at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Nov. 7-9, 2018.

The symposium, initially launched in 2013, took place in a partnership with The National Association of Secondary School Principals and the American School Counselor Association to create a collaboration between the organizations, and gain insights and priorities of each organization.

“We partnered with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the American School Counselor Association, and (brought) in a group of educators, principals and counselors, we showed them how the Army develops leaders. And they shared with us how they develop students to become leaders, and so this exchange of knowledge helps strengthen all of the organizations,” said U.S. Army Col. John Oliver, Deputy Director, Army Marketing & Research Group.

Jill Cook, Assistant Director of the American School Counselor Association, was in attendance for her fourth year and continues to learn something new from the symposium.

“What’s exciting for me, having attended this for multiple years, is seeing and learning all about what the Army does and all of the opportunities for students,” said Cook. “I think there is sometimes a misunderstanding that everyone maybe thinks it’s a linear process, and everyone’s (military) journey is the same. But as we hear these Army stories, everybody’s path is different and your entry way and exit way is very circuitous and different from each person. So (we’re) learning that you have a lot of options, and the thing that always impresses me is the Army’s support of education, higher education and continual learning for all those involved in the Army.”

Senior Army leaders from across the Army’s formation participated in the symposium to include Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center; Brig. Gen. Jill Faris, Assistant Surgeon General for Mobilization, Readiness and National Guard Affairs; Brig. Gen. Kris Belanger, commanding general of the 85th United States Army Reserve Support Command; Col. Timothy Brown, deputy commanding officer of U.S Army Cadet Command; and Col. Wayne Hertel, chief of staff of the United States Army Recruiting Command.

“This program gives the principals and counselors options on educating their students on the different opportunities that exist out there, so they become more experienced by listening and learning from us, and understanding that there is no cookie-cutter solution to putting someone in the military or even thinking that they may or may not be a fit,” said Belanger. “It’s really just about understanding what the opportunities are that exist and giving those choices to their students.”

Belanger further elaborated on the unique differences between service in the active Army and the Army Reserve.

“In the Army Reserve you do have an element of flexibility there that affords you the opportunity to really work though either being a parent, or working a career simultaneously with your military service,” said Belanger.

Paul Kelly, principal of Elk Grove High School and the 2018 Illinois Principal of the Year, was new to Army opportunities and experiences that are available.

“The kids that I do know that have left Elk Grove (high school) and have joined the Armed Forces, by all accounts, have had a really positive experience, so I’m curious to see what opportunities exist if a kid is going to enlist, or go to school and consider ROTC. What would be the types of options that they would have,” said Kelly.

Paul Ripchik, Associate Principal and Director of High School Counseling for Shenendehowa, High School, Clifton Park, New York, touched on leadership and similar traits that the Army and colleges search for in their applicants.

“I think this week has given me a new light on the military and the opportunities, and seeing that they’re actually looking for the same types of kids that the colleges are looking for,” said Ripchik. “While there are opportunities for the enlisted, there’s a lot more opportunities for students that may go to a four-year school, and get into the military and be leaders. So it’s impressive when I heard the (Army) general talk about intellectual curiosity. I had referenced that I had talked to the director of admissions at Duke (University), and that’s what the Duke admissions director was looking for.”

Oliver explained that although some may look at the Army as a last option, it is not as easy to join the Army as one may think.

“Fewer than 30 percent of young folks graduating high school are eligible to join the military, and there are a lot of reasons for that. There’s obesity, moral reasons, intellectual reasons, but by cooperating and engaging with our educators, we can help improve those numbers and we can also get the message to young people about the opportunities in the Army,” said Oliver. “A lot of folks that are qualified in joining the Army don’t seek out that Army service because they don’t know anyone that has ever done that, and these educators don’t have information on that, so it never enters their thought to give Army service a try or go see what it’s about. So this program helps fix that.”

Handy shared that one of NASSP’s focus areas is professional learning for their school leaders because an investment in learning is an investment in leadership.

“Anytime we can expose other opportunities that are available to our students is an opportunity for them to do some collaboration,” said Handy. “It’s important that we are able to serve our students and to empower them, and give them a voice, so anytime we can expand our knowledge, then we’re going to be able to support our students better.”

The overall goal of the symposium was to increase awareness of Army careers, training and education opportunities, with a focus on leadership that educators may not be aware exist.

“Our goal is when these educators walk away, they have a better understanding of their Army, and that they understand that the Army is a place where young Americans can go and serve in over 150 different career fields. And that the Army has opportunities for doctors, lawyers, combat troops and all the different things that the Army needs people to do,” said Oliver. “And therefore, when a young American comes to them and asks them questions about the Army, they can answer from a position of knowledge.”