FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- North and South Carolina Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets turned up for a Leader Professional Development Symposium Ceremony Feb. 1 to learn inside tips and tricks on how to be successful in the military.
Senior Army leadership provided insight into successful Army careers during panel discussions and speed mentoring sessions.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, hosted the event at the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment.
Beagle said the event was about "seeing what you want to be," commenting that there would normally never be 10 general officers in the same room.
"No matter what you want to do … you have that around you," Beagle said to the ROTC cadets. "They're here for you."
Panels of general officers, first lieutenants and captains spoke on their experiences.
During speed mentoring, general officers moved around tables of students. They spent 10 minutes with each, imparting their wisdom in response to cadet questions.
Topics of the day ranged from current events to the greatest accomplishments of leaders, to the mistakes they have made and ideas on how to avoid them.
"The only dumb question today is a question you don't ask," Beagle said during his opening remarks.
Beagle recalled that "just seeing" former Fort Jackson commanding general, retired Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner, for the first time years ago inspired him to aim for his current position.
Having a positive influence is key, said Lt. Gen. Nadja West, surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, one of the senior Army leaders present.
West said that "events just like this" led her down the path to become surgeon general after more than 30 years in the Army.
Getting "exposure to those who have walked this journey in front of me" helped immensely, she said.
One of her best mentors was a "self-proclaimed redneck from Alabama," who West incorrectly assumed wouldn't like her, an African American woman in the Army.
"Don't sell anyone short," West concluded. "You never know who you can learn from … reach out past your comfort level."
Events like the LDPS can improve ROTC cadets' leadership skills by giving them access to mentors who "have gone through their careers and faced a lot of challenges that they will be facing," West said. "We all benefit from that, because good leaders take care of their Soldiers, and that's what we're all about."
She made the point that the symposium was good for senior leadership, too.
"The event is important not only to Soldiers at Fort Jackson, but for those general officers and senior leaders who are participating," West said. "It also benefits us as more senior, more seasoned leaders that have been around for a while to be encouraged by the great young people that are coming up in our ranks" and will be "taking over the reins" someday.
Other distinguished guests at the event included U.S. Army Reserve Command Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Alberto Rosende; U.S. Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Leslie Smith; Lt. Gen. James Richardson; and Turner.
"You need to be humble, and you need to listen," said Richardson, a native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and a 1982 graduate of the University of South Carolina. "If you're not out there making mistakes, you're not trying."
He commented that respect is earned, partially through becoming "technically proficient."
"You're going to fail," Beagle added, commenting that it would be difficult for the cadets because many in the room were likely "type A, type triple A, type quadruple A."
Beagle said he will never forget being called out by a former commanding general for saluting incorrectly in his early Army days.
"It's not always about the mistakes," Beagle said. "It's going to be about how you respond."
Rosende recommended that Soldiers get in the habit of following news in magazines, periodicals and newspapers now.
"Self-study is one of the three components of leadership development," Rosende said. "The most important level is the tactical level," but Soldiers also must be "situationally aware."
Smith commented that Soldiers "have to help each other … that's what the Army is looking for you to do."
"You have to forget about yourself," Turner agreed, and think instead about comrades and the mission at large.