ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Forty-nine employees from 13 organizations graduated the Aberdeen Proving Ground Leadership Cohort 4 during a Feb. 14 ceremony at Top of the Bay.

The APG Leadership Cohort is a one-year program designed to create and sustain a cadre of GS-14 and 15s and equivalent-level managers at APG.

The number of candidates nominated for APG Cohort doubled this year, making it possible to stand up two Cohort 3 classes.

The Cohort includes training sessions in leadership concepts and knowledge, individual coaching sessions and results-driven community projects. The training program is run by the Office of Personnel Management, under the leadership of OPM's Cynthia Dewey.

During the ceremony, Cohort sponsor Gary Martin, deputy to the commanding general of CECOM, challenged graduates to mentor future Cohort class attendees. Martin, who created the program with acting RDECOM Deputy Director Joseph Wienand, said he would also like to see alumni take a mentorship role in the upcoming APG Emerging Leadership Cohort Program. This six-month developmental program for GS-11 through 13s is slated to begin later this year.

"The Cohort program is not static," Martin said. "We continue to improve on it."

Martin said despite budget cuts, APG senior leadership is very supportive of the program, recognizing the value of enhancing cooperation and collaboration among APG organizations.

The graduation's keynote speaker, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries Program and Arlington National Cemeteries Kathryn Condon challenged graduates to remember "the four P's of leadership:" people, passion, perseverance and public service.

"Your core mission is to support the men and women in uniform," she said. "You can't lose sight of that."
Condon added that the best thing a leader can do is listen. "Listen to the pros and cons of every decision, and listen to your employees."

She said good leaders adapt to change and accept new challenges. She noted that before accepting the position as executive director of ANMC and ANC she didn't have experience managing cemeteries, but she did know how to be an effective leader.

Condon was successful in completing an organizational overhaul of the ANC in 2010 after a Department of Defense report revealed misplaced remains and gross mismanagement at the world renowned graveyard.

She said ANC simply needed better leadership and updated technology. For example, before 2010, ANC used index cards to record burial sites. Now ANC burial sites are recorded in a computer catalog and visitors can find burial sites using a state-of-the art wireless smartphone app.

Condon challenged graduates to not be afraid to make changes in their own organizations.

The commencement also included leadership reflections from graduates Letitia Proctor of ACC-APG, Adam Bogner and Jerry Cook of RDECOM's CERDEC and Deborah Kramer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Abel Salgado of CECOM LRC emceed the graudation ceremony.

Cohort 4 Program Manager Sue Nappi gave the invocation.

Graduate Valentin Novikov of JPEO-CBD called the Cohort program personally and professionally transforming. Novikov, a retired Army officer, said he grew as a leader and now has a better understanding of ethics, conflict resolution and maintaining energy levels.

"This program gave me time to reflect on what makes a good leader, what areas I need to improve," he said.

Angelique Scharine of ARL, said she enjoyed getting to know people from different organizations. Scharine called her group's community project, which involved promoting APG's new Army Wellness Center, a helpful experience.

"I went into this program as a new leader, she said. "As a scientist I didn't get any formal management training (in college) so I found this program very helpful. I want to be someone my organization can rely on to meet challenges."

Wilma Solivan of CECOM LRC said the program helped her polish her leadership skills. She is eager to use what she learned during the program to help her employees develop leadership skills.

With Cohort 4 completed, a new class of leaders is scheduled to begin in March and will continue through February 2014.