Headquarters Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) recently hosted two U.S. Army Civilian Corps members participating in the Army Sustainment Command's (ASC) "Journey to Leadership" (JTL) program.
Patrick Larson, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, and Linda Heuer, 407th Army Field Support Command, both visited SDDC in mid-November as part of the JTL Tier II program.
"This was an opportunity to gain some professional-and-skill-related growth," said Larson.
Designed to prepare high-potential future leaders for key positions through mission overviews, contact with senior leaders, coaching and networking, the program has three tiers: Entry level employees (Tier I), mid-level and journeymen (Tier II), and supervisors and managers (Tier III). Currently, only the Tier II program is available to Army civilians.
"We've only been running Tier II the past seven years but are hoping to offer Tiers I and III again later this fiscal year or next fiscal year, pending funding," said Lisa Schuldt, JTL Program Manager.
The program is a step towards matching civilian employee development to the formal and progressive military leadership development opportunities.
"JTL compliments the leadership training that our military counterparts receive," said Schuldt. "We've had numerous Soldiers complete the program and they've indicated that it was extremely valuable for them."
In the Army, officer and enlisted Soldiers are on a professional development path, starting with their respective basic course, which transforms civilians into soldiers. For Army Civilian Corps members however, that path is not as clearly laid out.
The Tier II program develops participants' leadership skills over a 10-month period. It's geared toward the mid-level employees, GS-11 and GS-13, whose supervisors feel have the potential to succeed in leadership positions.
"The overarching objective of Journey to Leadership is to impart in participants the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to become effective leaders," said Schuldt.
Participants are required to complete multiple developmental assignments, including three executive interviews, two two-day shadowing assignments, three three-day cross-training assignments, and one 20-day developmental assignment.
Participants are free to choose the organizations or higher-headquarters' staffs that would best benefit them professionally. It could be an area or mission that they aren't familiar with and would like to learn about or an organization that they frequently work with, or their higher headquarter or subordinate commands. They also may elect to do an assignment with private industry to learn best practices.
"The participants have various opportunities to assume leadership roles in a learning environment with the ability to gain confidence and apply new skills gained throughout the program," said Schuldt. "They also have numerous opportunities to interact with, observe, and learn from some of our Senior Executive Service (SES) members."
Leaders at all levels carve out time from their busy schedules to mentor and provide feedback to participants.
"You get to do executive interviews with people you may have interacted with a little bit in meetings, but you don't get that interaction where you can ask some questions like, What did it take to get to your position? and What do I need to do to enhance my growth as a professional?" said Larson.
Participants take the feedback and knowledge they have gained and share the information with fellow participants, who also provide feedback to one another.
"It's a growing opportunity," said Heuer. "I learned more about myself. We learn what we need to work on and what strong points others think we have."
During their time with SDDC, the participants not only improved their leadership skills, but also gained knowledge about SDDC missions and functions through engagements with the command's leaders.
"JTL provides an outstanding opportunity for SDDC to showcase our own mission and build relationships with major subordinate commands," said Lance Davidson, SDDC Human Capital Development and Intern Coordinator.
Although the program is designed to grow ASC leaders, hosting them also benefits SDDC and the Army.
"The JTL participants provided insight on how the mission is actually accomplished on their end when dealing with SDDC, compared to how we think it is being accomplished," said Davidson. "There was excellent information sharing to help us streamline our business processes."
Through the exchange of information, the program helps to develop, sustain, and retain a multi-skilled and professional workforce.
"We should continue to assist the other major subordinate commands and focus on developing the Army workforce with duties and functions that fully support U.S. Army Materiel Command missions," said Davidson.