McPherson became more than just the name of their duty station for 14 Soldiers May 6; it became a lesson on leadership.

As part of the 2009-Year of the Noncommissioned Officer observation, 14 Fort McPherson Soldiers conducted an NCO professional development training exercise by visiting the Cyclorama in downtown Atlanta at Grant Park.

The Cyclorama is one of the largest panoramic oil paintings in the world and captures the day of July 24, 1864, during the Battle of Atlanta. Amongst other depictions, it shows the flag-draped wagon containing the body of Fort McPherson's namesake, Union Maj. Gen. James McPherson, who was killed two days earlier while attempting to evade southern troops.

Although the painting shows McPherson after death, the Soldiers took to studying his life and how it exemplified the Year of the NCO theme for May, leadership in training.

"Prior to the start of the Civil War, McPherson was stationed at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco, Calif., as the superintending engineer for the prison's defense," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark C. Steinfeld, U.S. Army Garrison Equal Opportunity advisor. "Once war was declared, he decided he wanted to get involved and lead Soldiers, knowing it would advance his career. By seeking out the 'tough jobs' and not settling for complacency, he rose from the rank of lieutenant colonel to the rank of major general in just two years. Gen. McPherson knew what he wanted and got it."

Steinfeld said today's NCOs should mimic McPherson in looking at what they want out of their careers and aiming for those goals, controlling their destiny as much as possible.

"Seek self improvement," he told his fellow Soldiers under the shade of a large tree outside the Cyclorama, a fitting scene for the "under-the-oak-tree" style of counseling created by another historical military figure, retired Gen. Burwell Baxter Bell III, former U.S. Army Europe commander.

Under this form of counseling, subordinates and supervisors engage in informal, personal, face-to-face talks, Steinfeld explained. Steinfeld also took the time to remind his fellow senior NCOs of their inherent responsibilities as leaders to guide and mentor their Soldiers for the next stage in their careers after the post closes.

"Assist them in every way possible, whether through civilian and military schooling, job positioning, and even civilian life. It's important as NCOs to develop your Soldiers," he said, adding that such development is never finished.

The instruction portion of the trip was balanced out by a relaxing times spent touring the Cyclorama museum, viewing an introductory film about the campaign leading to the battle of Atlanta and viewing the actual painting, a 42-feet-high by 358-feet-long cylindrical behemoth, and the 3-D model in front of the painting that leads directly into the scenes depicted on the canvas.

Two of those scenes depicted, Kennesaw Mountain and Stone Mountain, were the sites of earlier Year of the NCO events. Staff Sgt. Chendi Goodman, the administrative NCO for Gen. Charles C. Campbell, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general, said the trip was very educational, not just for helping her understand more about the man for whom Fort McPherson is named, but also for exposing her to recreational opportunities in the Atlanta area.

"You live here but you don't know about all the stuff here in your backyard," she said. "It was neat to break away from the norm."

Being a student currently enrolled in an art appreciation class also made her more interested in the painting and the artists behind it.

The Soldiers themselves became the subject of interest after the trip. Several elementary school children on a field trip to the neighboring Atlanta Zoo approached the Soldiers, giving the troops an opportunity to practice some of the mentoring responsibilities inherent in leadership positions by interacting with the local community and educators.

Although the trip only lasted a few hours, Steinfeld said the lessons taught must be long lasting.

"Leaders are never born; they are guided and molded by other leaders," he said, reminding the NCOs that they are the current leaders who need to mold the future leaders.

Page last updated Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:30