HONOLULU -- Hawaiian culture says that to earn the title "Alaka'i," a warrior must lead with care and initiative, gain the respect and trust of others and reflect a desire to shoulder greater responsibility.

Thirty-four top-performing military leaders from 18 organizations across the Pacific theater embraced the meaning and honor associated with this Hawaiian value of leadership as they gathered on Oahu in January to kick off an in-stride broadening opportunity designed to prepare them to succeed together as tomorrow's strategic leaders.

The Young Alaka'i leader development program, created and hosted by the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, provides proven mid-grade officers, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers with a dynamic and engaging forum to increase their geo-political understanding, foster networking and peer-to-peer relationship building and expose them to executive-level mentorship.

The program was a featured Warrior Corner topic at the 2015 Association of the United States Army symposium in Washington, D.C. and has caught the attention of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Pacific Command, and U.S. Pacific Command.

This year's class expanded on the program's successful 2015 pilot by opening the opportunity and welcoming participants from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Republic of Korea Army and Japanese Ground Defense Forces, who benefited from one-on-one interaction with senior military mentors, non-governmental agency representatives and experts in leadership philosophy and the Asia-Pacific region.

"The cadre, lecturers and mentors challenged these warriors to not only come together and gain a greater, shared situational understanding of the AOR, but to also embrace our profession's call to duty; a call that requires us to adapt, innovate and succeed in the emerging operating environment," said Maj. Gen. Edward F. Dorman, III, 8th TSC's commanding general.

The program's packed six-day academic phase emphasized teamwork throughout its interactive sessions and also included engaging discussions about humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations, a staff ride to historic strategic locations across the island, and a day of instruction and group exercises at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

Marine Capt. Paul Harris of Marine Forces Pacific said, "I think the best part about the entire program was the interaction with my fellow service members. We all rely on each other, and as we face the challenges of tomorrow, there's no way we can do it alone. We're much stronger when we work together."

Maj. Jino Jeon of the Republic of Korea Army said, "It was an honor to be invited. The curriculum was so valuable. To understand each other in our international society, building relationships and understanding our cultures are very important, and the high level of leadership that participated was great."

Dorman said, "This week, we all made an extremely important and invaluable investment in the future of our military and the Indo-Asia Pacific region."

He joined the TSC's Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Binford and Command Chief Warrant Officer, CW5 Daniel Villarreal, in sessions throughout the week and welcomed a list of senior mentors that included retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack L. Tilley, and retired and active flag and field grade officers and senior noncommissioned officers from multiple services and commands across the Pacific.

The program's first phase officially ended as families, friends and senior military leaders joined the FY16 Young Alaka'i for a graduation ceremony on the deck of the historic USS Missouri at Ford Island, Jan. 16.

Dorman challenged the graduates to no longer identify themselves as purely Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine or Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer, warrant officer, or noncommissioned officer, or even American or Korean or Japanese.

"No! Now, as Young Alaka'i, I expect you will identify yourself first as a leader. A leader dedicated to the principles of Young Alaka'i and all that comes with it," he said.

During Phase II, the alumni phase, the graduates will use the tools they've gained and leverage the relationships they've fostered to help develop others, continue their own professional development and contribute to the greater strategic goals of the force.

Master Sgt. David Mahatha of the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command said he's going to recommend the program to his peers and take the eye-opening lessons he learned during phase one back to his unit to share with his troops and leaders.

As Young Alaka'i alumni, the graduates will also be exposed to opportunities to participate in strategic conferences and broadening experiences, and are expected to play an integral part in the future of the Young Alaka'i program itself just as the members of the FY15 alumni have done over the past year, Dorman explained.

He said it will be the alumni themselves who lead the way in the expanded validation and application of this innovative leader development program in the future.

Dorman expressed his confidence to the FY16 graduates and said, "I speak for all of the esteemed senior mentors and instructors you've interacted with, when I say that our future is in good hands."