Kim Dankulich, right, deputy director of the Force Projection Directorate at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, talks with a coworker June 9 at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Kim Dankulich, right, deputy director of the Force Projection Directorate at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, talks with a coworker June 9 at Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo Credit: C.J. Lovelace) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT DETRICK, Md. – When U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command realigned under U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command last year, Kim Dankulich was offered a great opportunity to hone her leadership skills.

Dankulich became the first civilian employee from the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a direct reporting unit to AMLC, to enroll in the Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Senior Leadership Cohort program.

“I had no idea this program even existed, so I’m glad I was the first USAMMA/AMLC person to go,” said Dankulich, who serves as deputy director of USAMMA’s Force Projection Directorate. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

Dankulich said the program, which was created in 2009, helped her to relearn and reaffirm many of her existing skills, as well as reflect on what she does well and where she can improve. It was also a great networking opportunity with senior-level civilian service members across CECOM and APG.

“I think the biggest takeaway from any program like this is really those connections,” she said.

The cohort program, administered by CECOM, is for GS-14 and GS-15 civilian employees and offers a curriculum based on the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Core Qualifications.

The nine-month program provides professional development in leadership disciplines to expand abilities both personally and in a team environment, while learning through real projects, issues and experiences, and fostering integration of new ideas and concepts.

Dankulich was one of 35 participants to graduate in May with the latest cohort, the 12th since the program’s inception. The 13th class includes another AMLC employee, Dr. Lolita Smith.

“Cohort is designed to develop and hone the leadership skills of the program participants,” said Maria Layton, program manager for the CECOM-administered program.

Layton, a graduate of the fourth cohort, said the program curriculum is designed to be “highly interactive” and is based on action learning, so participants can easily take what they learn and put it into practice at their respective work environments.

“The cohort curriculum is not static. We strive to keep current with changes within the Army and the latest leadership trends,” Layton said, also emphasizing the importance of networking opportunities for cohort members. “… They compare issues, challenges, successes, and they hear what other organizations are doing.”

The curriculum includes individual and team coaching, personal energy management, adaptive and strategic thinking, personal leadership philosophy and much more.

Dankulich said some topics were a challenge due to most meetings going virtual after the COVID-19 pandemic forced program managers to make changes to adhere to safety protocols.

In addition to the connections with senior leaders, Dankulich said the most valuable parts of the program were an active listening exercise, where she learned how to be more attentive to her colleagues and customers, and learning how to better manage work-life balance.

“Some of that was really just reinforcement, but it was good reinforcement,” she said. “… I relearned a ton, and it really reenergized me in those areas.”