NEW ORLEANS --
Senior leaders, ranging from the rank of staff sergeant to brigadier general, attended the Senior Leaders Workshop aboard Marine Corps support Facility New Orleans, from Jan. 23-27, 2017.
To begin, the Marines and Sailors attending the workshop hung up their uniforms and left their ranks at the door to promote an environment where they could learn and listen from each other as equals.
The course is designed to provide in-depth training on equal opportunity issues, improving communication, and helping senior leaders implement and reinforce the equal opportunity program in their own units.
The senior leaders were also encouraged to use their own personal and professional experiences to offer different perspectives and solutions to issues they have encountered in and outside of the Marine Corps.
“We allowed people to give their honest assessment and participation is key. We acknowledge everyone has a different experience even though we all wear the same uniform,” said Master Sgt. Billy A. Richardson, equal opportunity advisor for MARFORRES and Marine Forces North, and instructor of the workshop. “We want everyone to get a glimpse of what it is to be someone else or to walk in someone else’s shoes, which gives everyone an opportunity not only to share and participate but to also listen.”
The leaders called upon these experiences as they participated in several exercises to find solutions to issues that challenged their ways of thinking. The exercises ranged from working together as a team to untangle a human knot, where participants join hands to form a knot out of their arms with the goal of untangling themselves without letting go of the hands they are holding, to “Poker Power”, a card game that gives a certain demographic of students an unfair advantage. The challenges brought awareness to topics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, power, discrimination, diversity, and more.
“The exercises bring about another aspect and view point other than staring at a power point, it puts you in a position so you see it firsthand,” said 1st Lt. Nick Peterson an administrative officer with 1st Civil Affairs Group, Force Headquarters Group. “Something as simple as a card game among friends, you get that feeling of not having as much as the other. It brings out a level of awareness and puts the topics in action.”
The workshop also stressed the importance of awareness about these equal opportunity issues because they have impacts on a unit, mission accomplishment, and mission readiness.
“When people think of equal opportunity issues they believe people are always intentionally doing things to harm other Marines and Sailors, but it is the unintentional cases that are seen most,” added Richardson. “Harm can occur if we don’t pay attention to the things that we say or do. We need to be aware of how work environments can impact the performance and retention of our Marines. The goal is to recognize this and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
Going into the program, several senior leaders had specific expectations on what they were going to learn and discuss, but many left saying the experience was eye opening and they had a new found understanding and open mind to help deal with these topics.
“I learned a lot about myself which will overall reflect on my junior Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery J. Morella, company first sergeant, Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. “I work with quite a few junior Marines, being that morale booster and being that person that they can come to with an open door. Now I realized maybe some of the things I said in the past may have closed that door to some of them, instead of keeping that door open.”
Over the course of the week the leaders gained a new found perspective of themselves and surprisingly discovered they may not have been addressing the issues in the correct manner. The workshop provided leaders with new tools to improve their awareness of certain issues and how to address them in the future to the benefit of their Marines and Sailors.
“The one thing I would have them take away from this course is know yourself and seek self-improvement,” said Richardson. “Always be looking for a better way to lead and know that what we do impacts our Marines and Sailors, this will lead to a better force.”