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NEWS | Jan. 21, 2021

Employing innovation to teach innovative leadership: First virtual Regional Leader Development Program teaches forward thinking

By Maj. Liana Kim 311th Signal Command (Theater)

Six officers of Pacific Team Signal-Cyber recently completed the first-ever virtual iteration of the Regional Leader Development Program, a 12-week course that began in early September and culminated with a four-hour simulated exercise, Dec. 3.

Hosted by U.S. Army Pacific in partnership with George Washington University, the course traditionally includes a short residence portion. Due to travel restrictions of our current environment, course planners explored virtual options and conducted the entire curriculum successfully via Microsoft Teams.

The program includes two separate seminars: one that focuses on near-peer competition in the Indo-Pacific region for junior leaders, and one for mid-level and senior leaders that explores the strategic issue of Great Power Competition in the Arctic and what role the Army should play in the larger strategic environment. Students in both seminars heard from experts including authors, academic leaders, and former senior military leaders.

“This course made me a more dynamic leader, it broadened my perspective on the U.S. military’s role in the international community, and the importance of strategic relations,” said Capt. Francis Rivera, 311th Signal Command (Theater) Logistics Officer who participated in the near-peer competition seminar along with Capt. Jonathan Tsujimura, Maj. Michael Curnow and others from various commands and services. “It teaches leaders to think outside ingrained military ways of thinking to address emerging trends and tactics of today’s battlefield, while also refreshing on the basics of caring for Soldiers.”

Designed to help develop strategic and forward-thinking leaders, the RLDP is a part of USARPAC Commanding General, General Paul LaCamera’s leadership development plan. All USARPAC Major Supporting Commands, from Alaska to Japan and Korea, are asked to nominate Soldiers and civilians to participate. Participants also hail from the U.S. Navy and Canadian allied partners serving as liaison personnel.

"One of the best aspects of this program is its commitment to developing future leaders, and exposing them to many varying perspectives from experts in the fields addressed during the course," said Col. Halla Nilsen, 311th SC (T) Logistics Officer who participated in the Arctic seminar along with 311th peers Col. Kimberly Marquez and Lt. Col. William Christensen, among others.

“We got to hear from retired general officers and command sergeants major who added fascinating strategic perspectives and valuable mentorship as we worked through the course,” Nilsen said. “Arctic seminar guest speakers Admiral Michelle Howard and authors David Kilcullen and Klaus Dodds, to name a few.”

The course culminated with a role-playing exercise in which students were assigned key strategic level roles in the Executive Office of the President, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Department of State, and Department of Defense.

According to Nilsen, another critical aspect of the course was the leader-to-leader professional development that occurred through the course with mentors, and meetings with key USARPAC leaders including LaCamera and his new operations officer, Col. (P) James Bartholomews, who added leadership mentorship to the strategic mentorship the students gained from the George Washington University staff and military mentors.

“During one of the mentorship sessions, a profound and powerful statement was made that caught my attention and really challenged how I viewed destructive forces to our formations: the impact to Soldier behavior that a failure in leadership can have when dealing with sexual assault and harassment, radical thoughts and actions, and bias was equated to fratricide,” Nilsen said.

“This is a powerful message that I think all leaders can learn and benefit from, as it provides a different way of thinking about how our actions can impact unit cohesion and readiness,” said Nilsen. “One of the first steps in changing culture or how people think is to provide them a new perspective on the potential consequences of failing to take action in the critical moments of leadership."