While its primary learning objectives revolve around understanding individual strengths and building leadership skills, Huntsville Center’s Level II Leadership Development Program (LDP) also strives to expand employees’ knowledge about the organization – not just the Center, but the entire Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s really good as you broaden yourselves that you learn about the Corps of Engineers and see some of the other work that’s done,” said Col. Robert J. Ruch, Huntsville Center commander. “We are very specialized at Huntsville Center; we perform small slivers of work. If you come up in the Corps of Engineers, and you’ve been in Huntsville the entire time, that’s what you think the whole Corps of Engineers does every day.”
Ruch joined LDP members on a tour of Nashville District’s Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Tennessee, June 17 to learn about Army Corps of Engineers civil works missions and the district’s ongoing foundation rehabilitation project at the dam. The current efforts are part of the second of three major contracts to rehabilitate Center Hill Dam, built in the 1940s. Huntsville Center falls within the civil works boundaries of Nashville District, which also has an office in Decatur, Alabama, that manages regulatory functions for the Tennessee River and its tributaries in the northern part of Alabama, according to Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander.
“The chance to see this side of the Corps in action was a rarity for a person in my career program,” said Nancy Book, the Mechanical and Electrical Division secretary in the Engineering Directorate, who also coordinated the trip for the group. “It gave me a chance to see the work our teammates do in other areas. I gained even more respect for their knowledge and expertise, to keep the locks and dams running smoothly across the nation.
A contract specialist on the Installation Support and Programs Management energy team, Phyllis Watson said she was a bit apprehensive about the trip at first, not knowing what to expect.
"I was pleasantly surprised once it began; the trip was well planned and exciting," said Watson, who has worked at the Center for just over two years. "The presentation was thorough and I especially liked how their group worked together, explaining their job roles and the acquisition process for the dam repair work."
Watson added that because employees are all so busy in the day-to-day operations of the Center they seldom get to meet and really connect with other employees – even those in the same building – so this was a great opportunity to do just that.
"The (bus ride to the dam) provided me the opportunity to become acquainted with members of our leadership program. As I listened to the flowing conversations, I realized we have many things in common and played similar childhood games,” said Watson, who has been in Huntsville Center for just over two years. “I was shocked and amazed at the same time. Just looking around I would have thought that there would have been a great difference in experiences that brought us all to our current positions. I thought there would have been more differences in culture, values and basic beliefs. I discovered that the American experience and dream is much the same for all Americans no matter how diverse things may appear.”
Book encourages her fellow employees interested in pursuing a leadership role to apply for this course the next time it is available.
“This course has changed my perceptions and assumptions about communication styles of Huntsville Center employees,” Book said. “It was enlightening, to learn that everyone has a different style of hearing and receiving, or perceiving information.”
Huntsville Center’s LDP program champions Michelle Crull and Margaret Simmons want to expose Level II participants to broadening opportunities like the Center Hill Dam site visit and fundamental leadership concepts through readings, essays and group discussions so that at the end of the program participants are able to answer the questions: “What have I learned about my own leadership strengths and weaknesses?” “How do I react to change?” and, “What contributions can I make to the Huntsville Center and Army Corps of Engineers in the future?”
The Center’s 24 LDP Level II participants – who all volunteered for the program and were endorsed by their supervisors – are Nancy Book, Keri Daniels, Mark Fisher, Daniel Gaston, Carrie Gilmore, Rhett Graves, Carolyn Harris, Paula Henderson, Robert Jackson, Eldric Jefferson, Melissa Kelly, James Kiesling, Patrick Lane, Robert Mackey, Michele Maxson, Stephanie McCaul, Carla McNeal, Zalerie Moore, Alfonso Santa, Kelly Stell, Wesley Trammell, Phyllis Watson, Amy Webb and Paul Wiggins. Graduation is scheduled for April 2015.