FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Two years into his military career, 1st Lt. Eugene Lilliewood said he was looking for a group that would help further his development as a professional Army Officer. The "ROCKS", Inc. turned out to be just the group he was searching for.

"This was something I was taught about and was stressed to me since I was in college at Hampton University," he said. When I got to Fort Campbell, I actively sought out the chapter and that's how I got involved."

Named after Brig. Gen. (ret.) Roscoe "Rock" Cartwright (who was killed in a plane crash in 1974), The ROCKS, Inc., has grown into a world-wide professional military organization that helps develop young officers into professionals using the time honored, "teaching, coaching and mentoring" method.

The organization was founded in the mid-1960s at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at the height of the Civil Rights movement and is comprised of active duty, reserve and retired commissioned and warrant officers, as well as ROTC cadets, former widows and widowers of deceased members, and other uniformed service members.

Lilliewood and Fort Campbell ROCKS, Inc. Chapter President, Maj. Jacqueline Lewis, said they agree they program provides African-American Soldiers many positive future benefits.

"It's about learning how to perform better as an officer in your career," Lilliwood said. "The ROCKS wants us to be on the same playing field as everyone else. They want us to perform as well as any other officer in the Army, and it has significantly contributed to educating and furthering our future leaders."

The group conducts a monthly lunch meeting at Cole Park Commons on Fort Campbell, where both senior and junior grade leaders get a chance to break bread and discuss the various leadership issues they encounter daily.

"With the young officers, we look at their Officer Evaluation Reports to make sure they have the right bullets to maneuver through the Human Resources Command process, as well making sure we provide them guidance in terms of getting the rights schools they'll need to get to the next level," Lewis said.

Mentoring the next generation of leaders is serious business to the ROCKS, Inc., as they tackled the question about the value of mentorship in their chosen profession.

"Everyone wants to be noticed, but no one wants to be watched," said Lt. Col. Andre Golden, electronic warfare officer for the 101st Airborne Division. "There are some people who keep an eye on you to see if you're going to mess up. That's why we need to continue developing our young Soldiers, but not enable them."

Maj. Natasha Clarke, a supply officer with the 101st Sust. Bde, said being a self-starter is critical in developing a successful Army career, as well as developing solid relationships with Soldiers.
"I've learned over the years that you have to grab hold of mentorship and learn how to step outside of your comfort zone in order to be successful," she said.

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement, Lewis said African-American Soldiers, like their civilian counterparts, have moved forward to bigger and better things.

"We can see there are more minority officers in the armed forces. There more opportunities as opposed to the 1960s," she said.