Caribbean Sea - Leadership skills are formally taught in the Navy to personnel after achieving certain ranks, through programs like the Petty Officer Selectee Leadership Training Course and Chief Petty Officer (CPO) 365.
There is an absence of continuous, structured leadership training available to all ranks, all year. On the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), a pilot program is aiming to change that.
The Kearsarge Academy of Leadership offers unconventional leadership training, developed by Kearsarge Sailors using material borrowed from the civilian world, to E-1 through O-10.
"When I first came aboard as the command climate specialist I did a lot of observations throughout the command and felt that leadership was here and it was working," said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Erik Scott, the command climate specialist for Kearsarge. "However, I wanted something that would engage leaders on all levels to impact a greater scope of Sailors onboard."
Creating this program to be different is one way the instructors are trying to make students respond more enthusiastically.
"This class is a lot different than your typical military training," said Mass Communication 1st Class Deven B. King, the lead instructor and a curriculum developer for the course. "None of the material comes from any pre-existing Navy-sanctioned courses. It's all from history and authors of leadership and business management works. Even the way the class is conducted is different. A lot of it is group discussions and group projects. It's facilitated by a group of instructors and we guide the conversation and let them talk about it on their own; come up with their own opinions, and discover their own leadership styles."
Before the course begins, Scott emails an article to the Sailors who have signed up to prime their minds with thoughts on leadership.
"My favorite thing was reading about the Bathsheba syndrome," said Electronics Technician 1st Class Jasmin Lamanna, a student of the academy. "It calls you out to not be that guy that lets the leadership get to your head. Don't let the position of power influence you in a negative way."
During the class, Sailors learn about "four pillars."
"The first pillar of the program is ethical voice and it talks about the article we emailed out and how leadership can be positive and negative," said Scott. "Once you receive power in leadership are you utilizing it to your advantage? Are you abusing that power?"
Ethical voice also teaches leaders different ways to communicate more effectively.
"I learned better ways to talk to my Sailors to try and get them to understand things," said Lamanna. "When something is wrong, a lot of people just jump into a complaint without a solution. That's something that ethical voice broke down with each and every way you can go about a problem and solution."
The next pillar focuses on serving those who are led.
"Then we go into servant leadership and it talks about how, as leaders, we need to listen to our Sailors," said Scott. "We need to listen to the ones that do the everyday grind. If we're here and we're not doing what's right by our Sailors, are they going to follow us? Are we going to become better leaders ourselves? It's a more well-rounded approach to what leadership should be, where you're impacting not just seniors and subordinates but also your peers."
According to Lamanna, understanding the needs of her shipmates and adjusting accordingly can ultimately help her be a better leader.
"Being transparent and also leading from the middle and modifying your leadership or your following skills to each individual makes you more well-rounded," said Lamanna.
Motivation, the third pillar, deals with how to motivate different personalities.
"When it comes to motivation, how do we keep people motivated to want to do work," said Scott. "How do we take the mission that we're doing and keep them going?"
Lastly, the resiliency pillar discusses ways leaders can help their Sailors bounce back from any hardship they face.
"Are there ways for us as leaders to help our Sailors even if they do something wrong? Are we doing what we can to help them bounce back and be in a positive position?" said Scott. "That's ultimately what this is trying to develop and build for a better Navy now."
Lamanna feels reflecting on the past after learning this pillar can then lead to success in the future.
"Resiliency was something I thought I was top notch at," said Lamanna. "Then, after listening and understanding everything that was taught, I reflected back about the bad times I had, and there was definitely more I could have done about it in a positive way. There was reflection on how I could have done better in certain situations and how I know I'm going to do better in future situations because of the course."
With approximately 75 Kearsarge Sailors having attended the full course, and 25 of those attending at least one of the follow-up "booster" courses, which focus more in depth on one of the four pillars, the response has been exactly what the team leads have been hoping for.
The feedback has paved the way for future classes eventually being integrated into command indoctrination for all newly-reported Sailors.
"From what I see with their participation and engagement in class, what I've heard talking with Sailors after, and from the course critiques that we have everybody fill out at the end, it's been nothing but positive," said King. "People are really responding to it and the chain of command is super supportive and happy with what we're doing."
The Kearsarge Academy of Leadership team hopes to market the course to "big Navy" with the eventual goal of having some iteration offered at many commands throughout the fleet.
Kearsage and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting FEMA, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.