FORT JACKSON – Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, Commanding General, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, joined a variety of general officers at Fort Jackson for a third year to participate in their Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Leader Professional Development Symposium recently.
“The purpose of being here is to really have an opportunity to influence and shape the minds of our future leaders and be able to paint a picture for them of the reality of what they are about to face as future officers in the United States Army,” Belanger said. “This is a unique opportunity. Not everyone gets to hear from senior leaders in the Army.”
Approximately 300 Army ROTC cadets from 12 colleges and universities across North Carolina and South Carolina engaged with 10 currently serving general officers and one who was retired through question and answer discussions, speed mentoring and presentations.
The event was hosted by Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., Commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson commander, who opened the symposium with a talk about leadership.
“The Army wants you for one thing. You know how to lead. You’re learning that where you sit right now. That is your value right now,” Beagle said.
In the audience, Wake Forest University ROTC cadet Miles Middleton shared that he appreciated the chance to listen and learn from senior Army officers.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, as a cadet, to be able to hear from the officers and to be able to gain knowledge or ideas about their careers in the Army,” he said. “To hear from an officer who has been at it for 20 or 30 years is incredible!”
Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner, retired 41st commanding general of Fort Jackson, said the symposium gives cadets, like Middleton, the tools they need to succeed in the Army. Abraham is a graduate of South Carolina State University and a product of its ROTC Bulldog Battalion.
“This leadership development program is probably one of the best formats our cadets can participate in to fully understand the challenges they will face as young lieutenants,” Abraham said.
A range of topics were covered during a company grade panel and general officer panel discussion. Cadets could ask any question and inquired on topics such as what is expected of them as Army officers including best management practices and financial management.
“There are a couple of really big pitfalls you can encounter along your way when you start out in your career and some of those common things are in those particular areas where one would get mismanagement of finances,” Belanger said. “As leaders, we do things that could potentially get us in trouble. Whether it’s not handling credit cards appropriately or government resources. We want to make sure people understand why things should be done a certain way and how we are upheld to standards because we are in the public eye, and the expectations are greater than you would have in any other organization in the entire world.”
Another cadet asked the company grade panel for guidance on relating to soldiers as an officer.
“Be hungry for knowledge. Take investment in your soldiers. Get to know them. Show them humility and be humble,” answered 1st Lt. Christian Alvarado, ROTC program, South Carolina State University.
Lt. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, Inspector General, Office of the Secretary of the Army, offered his guidance to the cadets.
“Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. Listen to your non-commissioned officers and treat everybody with dignity and respect,” Smith said. “Do what you need to do to make your organization ready to go. Focus on the task at hand as a lieutenant. The essence of leadership is you cannot ask somebody to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. It matters what you say, but it also matters what you do.”
Lt. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, U.S. Army Chief Information Officer, emphasized the importance of officers connecting with their soldiers.
“People are the priority for the Army. When they send the Army, they send us to win. At an event like this, we get to demonstrate that people are the priority for the Army. The greatest gift our generation can give is to set a good example for the next generation,” Crawford said.
Belanger said she always walks away with something new she learned at the symposium.
“I think it’s two-fold. It’s a learning experience for me. I was just questioning the escort I had today about the challenges some of our new trainees are having with the new Army Combat Fitness Test,” Belanger said. “I want to understand what’s going on with them to help understand how we are going to be challenged in the Army Reserve and how to get after this test. I’m very interested in learning more from them about what they are experiencing, what their fears are, what their expectations are of us as leaders, as much as it is about us imparting some of our experience and wisdom to them. It’s a two-fold operation here.”
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