Excellent leaders walk a fine line between nurturing Soldiers and disciplining them. They are the iron hand that enforces the rules and the first to stick their neck out for those they lead. Leadership is not a position or a title, it is an action and example.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”, said John F. Kennedy.
For Army Sgt. 1st Class Rachelle White, a senior facilitator at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, this is a daily lesson.
White joined the United States Army at 17 years old through the Delayed Entry Program.
Hailing from Panama City, Florida, her family played a large role in her decision to join. After a few years in the Army White knew it was the right job for her.
Now, 17 years later, White said she is excited for what the future holds. With retirement on the horizon, and a position at the NCOA, she can reflect on her accomplishments.
For White, winning the Basic Leaders Course (BLC) Senior Small Group Facilitator of the Year, awarded by the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence on July 10, 2020, was one of them.
“I’m proud of myself,” said White. “I’m excited and I’m happy that I was given the opportunity to put myself out there and give it a shot.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces Soldiers to adapt, it has not stopped White's passion for teaching and motivation to make a difference. Learning how to adapt and move forward while facing obstacles throughout her military career has made competing virtually for the award and transitioning to online learning for BLC, a little easier.
However, White still struggles with accepting change from time-to-time, but also realizes it builds the foundation of great leadership.
“The biggest change was of course going virtual,” said White. “The physical aspect of just being in the classroom and having face-to-face discussions. Those are the things I miss about being in a residence course.”
Converting the BLC class to online learning was a change that White and her command team faced head on. With less than two weeks to prepare for an entire course, they accepted the challenge.
“When a challenge comes my way,” said White. “I just do it to the best of my ability and power through it and keep it moving.”
White said that support from her fellow facilitators and leaders from the NCOA and her ability to adapt and overcome are what helped her earn the award.
Knowing the impact she has on those around her is the motivation and drive she uses to keep going day by day, White said.
White said that her student’s “aha” moments are one of the reasons she loves her job.
Being a facilitator means knowing the material but also guiding the student to form their own ideas said White.
“She is a person that leads from the front,” said 1st Sgt. Rafael Gonzalez, the deputy commandant at the NCOA. “Back when it used to be situational training exercises or going out into the field and training, she would be out there with other facilitators in the proper gear marching out there and training and grading the students and providing good feedback.”
White was the first senior facilitator at the NCOA to get the Senior Army Instructor Badge. She has also helped mentor other facilitators raising the academy’s badge instructors from 40% to over 90%.
Gonzalez said it was dedication and professionalism, to not only herself, but others, that put her ahead of her peers.
Through everything, White is thankful of her experiences and all she has achieved throughout her career.
“I appreciate the ride,” said White. “I appreciate the opportunity from my senior leadership and the encouragement from everyone at the academy for their support.”