FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Soldiers from 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, participated in a Basic First Line Leaders Course from Jan. 22 to 26.

Col. Chris Black, commander of 1st CAB, said it was important for him to organize the BFLLC because he noticed a gap in preparing Soldiers for leadership.

"The military spends a lot of time and money and resources on the more senior leaders and on making sure they understand leadership and organizational design and philosophy, but we don't spend as much time on the lower levels, and that's where I wanted to focus," Black said. "It's important for me because I think we put an enormous amount of trust and responsibility on some very young men and women who we have just been selected to become leaders and I don't think that we've completely armed them with the tools that they should have to meet these formations."

Black got the idea of organizing this program for his Soldiers from Brig. Gen. Stephen G. Smith, deputy commanding general (support), 1st Inf. Div., because they had been discussing on how to get their first-line leaders involved in counselling and leadership.

The BFLLC will now be held quarterly, said Chaplain (Maj.) Shay Worthy, 1st CAB. He said it was the program's purpose to provide junior leaders with every opportunity for success.

"As they are leaders, it would be wrong for us to give them a position and say, 'hopefully, you'll know how to do it or you'll figure it out,'" Worthy said. "No, we want to give them -- as we say in the Army -- the tips, techniques, procedures -- the tools to do that job well."

Apart from classroom and discussion time, 'Demon' brigade junior leaders were coached on the power of effective leadership through "ineffective leadership experiments." Worthy said BFLLC instructors, who are also senior leaders in 1st CAB, would model how not to be a leader to test the course participants. The types of bad role-modelling was tweaked to reflect the topic of the day, such as holding an impromptu Army Physical Fitness Test that broke all the ethical guidelines on the day they talked about ethics.

On Jan. 25, Black held an informal discussion on the topic of toxic leadership and followership to a room of junior leaders. Worthy said he walked into the training room grumbling to test the Soldiers.

"(Black) was all mean, and ugly, and nasty and then he (pauses and said), 'What kind of mode did I just set for this whole group?'" Worthy said. "And that's modeling how not to be a leader."

On the last day of the course, the Soldiers participated in the Warrior Adventure Quest portion. The team-building physical activity taught Soldiers how to relate the concept of personal resilience to leadership.

1st Lt. Evan Spence, Company C, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, said the Warrior Adventure Quests helps build creativity during group physical fitness time.

"It's crucial in times like this to put in creativity in what we do, to make the most of what we have at this time and to continue to build the same level of readiness regardless of the resources that we have available to us," Spence said.

The biggest thing Spence learned from the course is intentional leadership, he said.

"It's important to get out of the office and talk to our new Soldiers and our younger Soldiers," he said. "And to make a consolidated (effort) to get out of the office with my platoon sergeant and really get to know these younger Soldiers -- to be able to understand what they have going on in their lives on a personal and individual level."
Spence's takeaway from the course echoes Black's intention for BFLLC.

"Leadership matters and leadership takes work, and they can do it as long as they apply themselves," Black said.