PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado - James B. Johnson, deputy to the commander, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, hosted the command's Emerging Enterprise Leader Program inaugural graduation Sept. 5.

Six employees completed the one-year developmental program, which provides aspiring leaders in grades GS-7 through GS-12 (or broadband equivalent) with specialized junior leader development.

Todd Buckhouse, G33, explained that the command decided to conduct the first iteration of the EELP as a pilot program with Army civilians above the target grade in order to test the program, work through unforeseen issues and make recommendations for improvement. The intent was to ensure the next session of GS-7 through GS-12 employees is a favorable experience.

The graduates were Jeffery Bartlett, Task Force Eagle; Jessica Grubbs, G8; Torri Johnson, G6; Mary Miller, Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence; Bernard Schwartze, Task Force Eagle; and John Wade, G3.

The program consisted of structured self-development, mentoring, a developmental assignment and a team project targeting on a focus area within the command.

The program kicked off July 31, 2018, with a weeklong initial orientation, which provided guidance for the next year. Members completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire, toured all of the command assets in Colorado Springs, and participated in team building events.

During the next few months, each individual was paired with a mentor to focus on professional development and enhance his or her current role within the command. They identified courses to complete such as required Civilian Education System training and leadership programs at schools such as Carnegie Melon and the Center for Creative Leadership. The group also looked into developmental assignments that were of interest to them.

The final portion of the program grouped the individuals into two teams to work on projects designed to improve the SMDC work environment. The teams worked on the actionable items identified within workforce surveys and developed a class to help SMDC employees understand how their daily individual contributions support the commander's mission, vision and intent. Upon completion of the EELP, all participants were brought together to present their projects to SMDC senior leaders along with courses of action.

Wade said he came to the program looking for opportunities for networking with other leaders.

"It was a great leadership development experience. I was able to experience collaborating with leaders from other divisions within the command," he said. "Group discussion forums were very helpful in that we were able to see the same material from different perspectives based on the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the group members. Making the investment in programs to develop our future leaders is resource intensive but critical to the future of the organization at the command and service levels."

Miller said her expectation going into the program was the opportunity to participate in designing and "test driving" something that would be innovative and useful for emerging leaders coming up in the command.

"I thought it was a really smart idea to include new folks and old folks - people who have been leaders or in supervisory positions - to come together and offer a variety of perspectives on how leadership works, how management works, then to put this together and give feedback back about the program. I was also looking forward to getting fresh perspectives from others in the program and from those outside of SMDC as we went through the developmental assignments."

Miller said during the program, she got a better understanding of the leadership development process for civilians.

"I feel like I am a better advocate now for encouraging people to participate in the different CES levels," she said. "It gave me time to sit back, reflect, and do that personal development that most of us just never have time to do. I think this program has a lot of potential that our young and developing civilians will benefit from."

Following a participant out-brief to Johnson, he presented each individual with a certificate of completion and shared his thoughts on the importance of the EELP.

"This program appears to be right down the alley of what we need as a command for our aspiring leaders," Johnson said.

"I know it's a lot work especially for the pilot class where you're trying to pave the way and figure out what right looks like," he continued. "I am sure it will evolve over time. For the first class, I am sure it is a lot of discovery and learning in trying to figure it all out. From what I can tell, it looks like it was very well developed and executed, so I thank everybody who had anything to do with that.

"Congratulations to the graduates. Now what you guys need to think about is where you go from here. This is not the end. This the just the beginning," said Johnson.

The next iteration of the EELP is scheduled to begin in October 2020. There will be an advertising campaign January through March 2020 that will include information on how to apply. The application process will occur in March through May of 2020 where 10 candidates will be vetted and selected for the program.