RICHMOND, Ky. – “I am here today to learn how to be a leader.” Those were the words of Andrew Schwartz, captain of the Lexington Christian Academy School varsity soccer team. LCA brought a group of student-athlete leaders to the Blue Grass Army Depot last week to utilize the depot's leadership reaction course as part of their student development program.
The leadership reaction course is a set of various obstacles, each with different challenges designed to test participants mentally and physically, stretching them beyond their comfort zones. The Army uses LRCs to teach soldiers to work together to complete complex, but obtainable tasks, in a speedy manner while dealing with unknown variables, such as a teammate's 'death.'
LCA students had to successfully 'cross a minefield,' 'build a bridge,’ and ‘cross a river,’ using nothing but the materials and personnel on hand. Each student leader had to quickly assess the situation, ascertain their team member's strengths and weaknesses, and devise a plan to complete the challenge before time expired.
According to Steve Fugmann, 9th-grade health and PE teacher at LCA, who is also a soccer coach, "Some of these guys are mine. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s HYPE conference was today, but we decided to go out on our own and do something within our athletic program for our student leaders,” he said. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association website states the HYPE conferences promote team building, respect, and sportsmanship, while working with 'the future of the state, the cream of the crop.' LCA had similar goals for its students completing the leadership reaction course but wanted each student to have more time leading others.
"We have great facilities here at BGAD," said Col. Brett A. Ayvazian, Commander, Blue Grass Army Depot. "The Army is all about developing leaders, and we're happy to partner with schools developing tomorrow's community leaders."
Every coach at the Lexington Christian Academy chose two students from their team who they thought would benefit from the leadership reaction course training at BGAD.
One of those students was senior Lauren Barber, team captain on the volleyball team.
"I feel like, to be a better leader, you must continue maintaining your skillsets," said Barber.
Col. Joe Blanton, an active-duty Army soldier assigned to Bluegrass Station, Lexington, and volunteer working with LCA, agreed.
"Each student here today is an athlete within the school. And all selected by their coach for exhibiting exceptional leadership potential," said Blanton. "We're looking to begin talking leadership and developing young leaders at earlier stages in a student’s life," he said.
“Our coaches selected us for what they saw in us,” Schwartz added.
BGAD’s leadership reaction course has 15 different stations with varied scenarios to solve – 13 active and two remodels. LCA coordinated the use of the leadership reaction course with BGAD's Military Training Coordinator, Bill ‘Gunny’ Huntzinger. The school rotated its student-athletes through leadership positions as they passed from station to station, giving each youth a chance to be in charge and work on solutions.
"Our leadership reaction course is well maintained and up to date," said Huntzinger. "It is an excellent way for small-level units to learn to work together. It's about learning different personalities and people's strengths in your team while increasing trust to overcome challenging obstacles quickly.
BGAD's Military Training Department makes depot facilities and equipment available to other military units from all service branches. Additionally, college ROTC and high school Junior ROTC programs train at BGAD to improve their skills.
After completing BGAD's leadership reaction course, students from Lexington Christian Academy completed a service project, packing meals for citizens of Eastern Kentucky affected by extreme flooding earlier this year.
The Blue Grass Army Depot started operations in 1942. It’s part of the Army’s Organic Industrial Base which manufactures, resets, and maintains Army equipment, providing critical materiel and sustainment support to Joint Warfighters. BGAD’s primary mission is storing and shipping conventional munitions, while safeguarding the country’s chemical munition stockpiles awaiting demilitarization.