ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Eighty-three U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command employees came together for the command's first Professional Development Day held at Top of the Bay here Sept. 5.

The training aimed to provide valuable communication techniques for the workplace, effective strategies for managing conflicts professionally, new perspectives on cohesive team building, and solutions for coping with stress in a fast-paced work environment.

ATEC Chief of Staff Karen Taylor decided it was important to host a similar event for ATEC employees at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The training would support the Army's Profession of Arms campaign -- a campaign both Taylor and Command Sgt. Maj. Allen Fritzsching believe is crucial in developing the workforce.

"The Army has a rich body of knowledge for leader development that provides the foundation for leaders to grow and develop others to perform effectively," she said. "This professional development training accomplished this through developing their skills and enhancing the expertise and competence of our leaders and workforce. It further developed them as Army Professionals."

To prepare for the ATEC event, Dr. Victoria Dixon, the ATEC Equal Employment Opportunity director, and Jody Jackson, EEO manager, traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, in May to participate in their annual Professional Development Day. Fort Hood's professional development training has proved so successful that attendance has grown from 30 attendees in its first year in 2004 to 180 attendees this past May -- a number limited only by location.

Along with Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, commanding general of ATEC, and Taylor, who each gave opening and closing remarks, Rex Thomas and Jose Saucedo, both from the Fort Hood EEO office, were invited as guest speakers. Their speeches ranged from changing workplace culture to redefining new perspectives for a productive and friendly work environment. Chaplain (Col.) David Hillis spoke on coping with stress in the workplace; Dixon presented topics on successful communication, and Jody Jackson spoke on team building and conflict management.

Attendees actively participated in various mini-exercises including one that centered on communication and how we each hear things differently. Sheets of white copy paper were passed around and attendees were instructed to close their eyes and follow the verbal instructions given by the facilitator, such as folding the sheet in half and tearing it in different locations. When everyone opened their eyes, they were astonished to see that no two sheets were exactly the same.

Dixon, the last speaker of the day, spoke at length on how to deal with difficult people and encouraged attendees to address their own personal communication challenges. "Good communication opens doors," said Dixon. "Poor communication closes them."

A sentiment that was felt by Talita Sanders, ATEC budget analyst, after participating with employees she works with on a daily basis.

"It opened the door to dialogue at my particular table about perhaps uncomfortable topics that normally wouldn't be addressed," she said. "That resulted in a small but better understanding about each other."

Overall, the PDD was well received and attendees expressed satisfaction with the training offered.

"This training was well organized, well executed, and a successful event," said Monica Webb, facility manager. "The ATEC family should continue having these 'family meetings' at least once a year."

Webb may just get her wish. Taylor said she would like to offer the training at least twice a year.