I got an unexpected thrill on a recent flight to Boston, Mass. Imagine my delight when I found myself seated behind Colin Powell. He is likely best known for having served as U.S. Secretary of State, but in fact, Powell's entire adult life has been in service to his country. From his days as a young Army lieutenant, to wounded warrior, to White House fellow, to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell has distinguished himself as both a Soldier and civilian.

"Will you let me take a picture with you so I can post it on Facebook," did not seem like an appropriate request to ask of the former secretary of state as he was preparing for takeoff, so I just smiled at him like the nerd that I am and thought about the countless leaders Powell has inspired.

Perhaps my service in the Army and study of rhetoric in undergrad has influenced my fascination with military oratory. While it may be legendary football coach Vince Lombardi who said, "leaders are made, not born," it's a philosophy I believe Powell supports, as evidenced by Powell's numerous speeches on leadership. It's a philosophy the Army Management Staff College supports too.

Some may be surprised to learn that nearly every fulltime Department of the Army Civilian, regardless of grade or education level, is eligible to participate in Army Management Staff College Civilian Education System courses. CES provides eight levels of sequential leadership and management development training. They include the Foundation Course, Basic Course, Intermediate Course, Advanced Course, Continuing Education for Senior Leaders, Action Officers Development Course, Supervisors Development Course, and Managers Development Course.

Most permanent Army Civilians' tuition, travel, and per diem are funded from central budgets. Since funds do not come out of local coffers, CES courses are a great option, especially when local resources are scarce or when local programs such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts' leadership development programs are at capacity. Upon completion of the Advanced Course, civilians may seek additional education at the Senior Service Schools, War College, and Defense Leadership and Management Program.

The method of course delivery is distributed learning which is online, resident instruction, and blended learning which is a mix of both online and resident instruction.

I just returned from Fort Leavenworth where I completed the resident portion of the Basic Course. I was thrilled to experience two weeks of intense personal reflection, problem solving, as well as management and leadership opportunities. Each course at the Army Management Staff College is taught by master or doctorate-level facilitators with expertise in fields such as psychology, organizational leadership, conflict resolution and change management. Through a series of assessments, lectures, and exercises, students expand their self-awareness and increase their ability to manage projects in a short period of time.

Another added benefit of the course is that students participate in classes with fellow civilians from dozens of Department of the Army and other Department of Defense organizations. Among my civilian classmates were folks from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command who work to counter chemical and biological threats, personnel from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command who work at a school that teaches law enforcement, and medical staff with the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command who work to determine the suitability of would-be military recruits.

It's a big world out there and you might miss out on great opportunities to serve the nation while supercharging your own career if you don't leave the comfort of your local surroundings. Your communities need high-performing people to serve on high-performing teams. You've already taken the first step to serve as a Department of the Army civilian, why not expand your management skills and leadership ability too. Leaders aren't born, they are made. Let the Army Management Staff College make a leader out of you.

(JC Delgadillo is a former U.S. Army Reserve non-commissioned officer who now serves as a Department of the Army Civilian within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District.)

Page last updated Tue July 24th, 2012 at 13:23