FORT MEADE, Md. -- Senior leaders from the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade participated in Leader Professional Development training hosted by the U.S. Military Academy's Center for Junior Officers May 31, at Fort Meade's Post Theater.

The mission of the Center for Junior Officers, formerly known as the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Learning, or CALDOL, is to empower junior officers to develop themselves and their teams, improving their effectiveness and advancing the profession by developing cutting edge leader development and enabling professional discussions.

Col. Heidi A. Urben, commander of the 704th MI Bde, said that the big goal of LPD was to collaborate to share lessons learned in an informal manner to constantly get better as a unit.

"These discussions we're going to have here today should trigger some things you know about our whole brigade vision and strategy," said Urben. "If we want to aspire to be a learning organization, these are the types of conversations we want to have."

She reminded the group of leaders, that included noncommissioned officers as well, that the training was for enlisted and officers alike.

"For our NCO's in the group, I don't want you to think, 'ok, well this is going to be an officer thing,' because it's not, this is about company command teams and above, team dynamics and how we can learn and get better as an organization," she said.

Col. Ray A. Kimball, director at the Center for Junior Officers, along with his operations officer, Capt. Chad D. Plenge, visited the Electron Recon brigade to move the unit forward with learning.

To give background on the Center, Kimball said, "we started with two Captains sitting on their back porch in Hawaii sharing their experiences in company command, talking about what they were doing as company commanders; and what dawned on them, after a couple of months, was that what they were sharing with one another were making each other more effective and making their units more effective."

He said the officers decided to have this "back porch conversation" with every company commander in the Army and launched companycommander.com on the internet and talked about the transformation of the website as it constantly evolved to meet needs of junior officers across the force.

"The core idea that by connecting people in developmental experiences and opportunities to share and exchange ideas to shape one another and drive one another; that by doing that, you can transform not only individuals, but you can transform organizations," he said. "When you transform organizations you have knock-on impacts in the Army that nobody can predict, you have downstream impacts that impact future generations of Soldiers for five, ten, 15, 20 years down the line. So at our core, that's what the Center of Junior Officers is all about."

Kimball emphasized that they have a developmental focus on Junior Officers, "but the tools we're going to give you today and the topics that we're going to discuss with you are going to be useful for all of your Soldiers, not just your junior officers."

One thing that Kimball spoke about in terms of mindset before the practical exercises kicked off the day was how most Soldiers come into leader development with what he called "the judger mindset."
"I'm sure you have never heard the term judger mindset, but I guarantee that you've experienced it. The judger mindset is: there's a problem and there's one right answer, one and only one right answer and I know that right answer because I'm a smart person. So because I know that right answer I'm going to share it with everyone else and make sure they agree with me about that right answer."

He went on to say that because of the human complexities of leader development the judger mindset is not well suited for that approach. Instead he encouraged the leaders of the Electron Recon Brigade to bring "the learner mindset" to all the exercises.

"The learner mindset says, I've got a strong opinion on these topics, I've have experiences that are important for this, I've got a sense of what constitutes right or wrong on this, but so does everybody else in my group and I could learn something from them, I can take something away from them, even if it's a perspective that I disagree with, even if it's one that doesn't jive with my personal experience or my personal world view, I can still take something away from every other person in the room."

Plenge began his instruction with some "profoundly humbling" exercises that forced the leaders to think critically, work together as a team to problem solve, and most importantly to communicate effectively.

"The purpose of this LPD was to engage, and professional development only works if they engage and are part of the dialogue," said Kimball.

1st Sgt. Ryan Thibault, the senior enlisted leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 704th MI Bde said, "I learned that you can't have personal biases when you're looking at a problem from a bigger optic and those biases can really bog you down, interfering with the things you're trying to achieve."

Thibault said the LPD was a real eye-opening experience for future decision making processes.

"The Army is ever-changing and if you don't change with the Army, you're probably going to get left behind," he said. "This type of thinking is going to broaden how we think about our day to day routines."