Story by Senior Chiefs’ Michael Mullins and Sarah B. Foster
Reservist Magazine #1-2015 • Up Close and Personal
The six weeks spent immersed in leadership discussions on Coast Guard history, core values, ethics, budget, conflict management and organizational change bolstered by a trip to Training Center Cape May, New Jersey, a mentoring session with recruits and cadets, and a tour of chase hall and the Coast Guard Museum was an experience of a lifetime for Senior Enlisted Leadership Course students.
Sixteen senior enlisted reservists and active duty members from all over the Coast Guard converged at the Leadership Development Center in New London, Conn., in August to learn and most importantly to build meaningful relationships for two weeks following four weeks of online discussions.
The blended learning concept of combining non-resident on-line and classroom instruction is a recent development at SELC during its 10-year stint. Judging from the students’ active participation on both learning venues, it has been a success after many other learning techniques were adopted and incorporated.
The online discussions provided an open forum for participants. While at times challenging with real life’s time constraints and distractions, budgeting at least one hour a day was worth the effort where anyone can access the discussion board from any computer and compatible web browser.
“When we first incorporated the on-line portion of the discussion board recently, we started with one topic,” said Master Chief Kevin Leask, SELC school chief. “We added several more topics after realizing that students were very receptive to online dialogue; in fact, we’ve topped more than 1,000 posts during some class discussions.”
By the time students arrived Aug. 15, most had already discovered common ground and intersecting interests, despite the large diversity in ratings and communities. Leaders from aviation, cutter forces, boat forces, logistics, and Reserve, engaged in a free-flowing discussion about conflict management, leadership styles, sexual assault prevention and leading change.
Writing instructor Dr. Susan Roberts helped students with writing techniques by encouraging critical and analytical thinking while Master Chief Leask lead thought-provoking discussions and debate to reinforce the online discussions and to synthesize ideas from leadership library titles such as Phillips and Loy’s Character in Action, Kotter’s Leading Change, and Tieger and Barron’s The Art of Speed-reading People.
For the public speaking requirements, students were required to deliver presentations on either leadership philosophy or leading change. In using the assignment as a leadership platform, students engaged their classmates enthusiastically as they endeavored to articulate their point of view.
The class visit to TRACEN Cape May revitalized personal history and a sense of homecoming while the interactive tour at the newly-renovated Coast Guard Museum revived connections and a love for Coast Guard history.
“This course is worth the time and effort for any senior enlisted member desiring to expand their leadership knowledge in preparation for a Silver/Gold Badge, or Rating Force Manager assignment,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Katchko.
In summing up his overall experience, Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael “Scott” Bannon was excited with the trip to Cape May and interacting with recruits for lunch. “The trip to Cape May was the highlight of the course, understanding the entry-level leadership development and challenges,” he said. “I truly enjoyed engaging and mentoring the recruits and I believe these encounters will pay dividends in the long-term.”