At first glance, the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., aims to prep Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets for future leadership. There is one training site, though, that takes a broader approach to LDAC’s goals.
Cultural Awareness, nearly concealed within Washington’s thick foliage and packed pines, lies at one end of a bumpy dirt road. With the distant pops and blasts of squad live fire and machine gun training echoing throughout the large cleared area, Cadets engage in scenarios that emphasize the importance of knowing customs and courtesies in other countries, as well as how to handle escalating situations.
Lt. Col. Lorenzo Rios, chief of Cultural Awareness committee, of California State University, Fresno, said leader development doesn’t stop at the Cadets. From the beginning stages of the planning for Cultural Awareness, Rios wanted Cadets and Cadre alike to benefit from teaching moments.
“We’re living what we’re looking to find in our Cadets, and we’re priming our Army for leaders who live up to those ideals,” said Rios. “(We’re developing) leaders of character…who view challenges not as obstacles, but as opportunities to improve.”
As an integral part of the culture scenario, 2nd Lt. Shawna Tighe, of New Castle, Pa., said she is trying to model that ideal so she can pass down her knowledge to others.
“What we’re here as second lieutenants and what they’re here as Cadets to learn is how to be a leader,” said Tighe. “I get to learn from (other Cadre)…but I also get to teach… I don’t know what other committees are like, but I’m on this one and I love it.”
Even personnel who have been in the Army for many years have benefitted from the site. Master Sgt. Heath Oncale, non-commissioned officer in charge, of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has been in the Army 24 years and is used to things being “taught a certain way.” Although he said he was leery about Cultural Awareness’ teaching methods, it has had richer results than he expected.
“Being able to see (the ideals) in practice is probably the biggest influence on my professional career,” said Oncale. “The day I stop learning is the day I retire.”
Cadre did not play the same role at the site every day. For 2nd Lt. Finis Garrett, instructor, of Richmond, Va., who played a village elder on the atmospherics and search lane most days at Cultural Awareness, it was his turn his turn to act as a tactical operations center officer that day. In that position, Garrett briefed all visitors to the tactical operations center on the site. After the briefing, Rios and others in the TOC gave feedback on how to improve.
“It’s like a lab, almost, where I can make mistakes and learn from them,” said Garrett.
Cultural Awareness 2013 was an improvement from last year, said Garrett. Cadets mostly sat and listened to Cadre lecture the year before. Even though he is no longer a Cadet, Garrett said the healthy learning environment of Cultural Awareness has helped him grow.
“We’re all treated like professionals,” said Garrett. “If you treat people as they should be, they’ll become what they should be.”
Story by Monica Spees.