Once again, leaders from the Medical Research and Development (USMRDC) Command gathered at Fort Detrick's Building 1520 for a career-altering experience, Oct. 6, 2022.
The Leadership Development Cohort Program, also known as the LDCP, consists of six seminars and two-professional one-on-one coaching sessions over eight-full days. The required interactions with senior leadership benchmarks lessons learned, tactics and techniques. The students hone their leadership skills and prepare for the future and greater responsibility within their organizations.
“The future is bright,” said Col. Andy Nuce, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA). “Communication is key.”
Nuce described leadership attributes during his session with the cohort to help employees deal with transition and change.
“It’s about how we navigate and communicate with the team that matters. Leaders should communicate openly and eliminate angst,” he said.
In 2017, USAMMDA’s Training Council began the leadership development program. The LDCP is based on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Executive Core Qualifications to allow employees personal growth and development, and prepares them for career advancement with exposure to mentors and support systems that may lead to professional opportunities.
“There are times when you want to be in the middle of everything and fix all the problems,” said, Kathleen Berst, deputy assistant director for acquisition and sustainment and acting deputy component acquisition executive at the Defense Health Agency during her session. “You shouldn’t try to control the uncontrollable. Control yourself and how you treat your team. Be honest and empathetic.”
Berst was invited to speak on Oct. 6, during a change management session.
“Make sure you share information, she said. “Let them [employees] know if information is subject to change,” she said.
Since 2019, the program has been open to multiple commands, allowing participants from across USAMRDC to participate. Currently, each LDCP cohort consists of 25 to 30 civilian staff members from multiple commands within USAMRDC.
Another speaker, Col. Matthew Clark, joint project manager for the medical portfolio at the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, radiological and Nuclear Defense, explained the ways leaders drive results in an organization.
“I shared the importance of leader and follower development,” he said in a recent social media post about the event. “Each of us must be effective in both to be maximally impactful and efficient as a leader.”
Clark calls this character-driven leadership. He says embracing the duality is important.
The LDCP course extends across six months, allowing participants to take what they have learned and apply it at work. After six months, students return to the class and discuss what did and did not work.
“John Riordan [consultant] is amazing,” said Dr. Heath Jones, research scientist at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory. “I really connected with his approach and how he leads the group to novel ways of thinking.”
Under Riordan, LDCP focuses on student engagement and interaction. Being fully present, both physically and mentally, is key to students getting the most out of the course. Throughout the program’s eight days, participants clear their calendars, turn off their phones and get support from supervisors and colleagues to ensure they can fully focus on the material.
“I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone,” said Katelyn Guerriere Aaron, research scientist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. “It was important to not just take the course, but also actually participate in it. I have only positive things to say about the course material and John Riordan’s facilitation.”
Participants take risks and encourage their classmates to do the same. This approach allows the cohort to try out new leadership strategies without judgment or fear of failure.
“The LDCP challenges us to explore and understand ourselves,” said Aaron. “Later, we can apply that understanding to improve our skillset.”
While the course has grown to include team members from across USMRDC, its roots remain with USAMMDA.
“This is an excellent program,” said Diane Ullman, senior medical acquisition advisor at USAMMDA and co-facilitator of LDCP. “Judy Holian and I were participants in a similar year-long leadership program and aspired to bring something similar back to the organization that would benefit civilian staff. Judy put a great deal of effort in getting it established, and it has been highly successful over the last five years.”
Riordan’s mantra is “Be Yourself with More Skill.”
According to participants, using lessons learned, tactics, techniques and advise from key leaders, this program will likely develop leaders for years to come.