by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Loicano
Tech. Sgt. Sarah Loicano
8/13/2015 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Members
of the Montgomery Police Department, in a new partnership with Officer
Training School faculty, participated in a two-day leadership consortium
here Aug. 6-7, 2015.
Montgomery police officers attended a tailored version of leadership
training coursework that OTS cadets receive. Day one included leadership
self-assessments and courses in conflict management, effective
supervision and full-range leadership. Day two involved tackling the
Leadership Reaction Course, or Project X, a field exercise consisting of
a series of obstacle course challenges.
When deciding which courses to include in the leadership consortium,
Capt. Kris Walker, OTS chief of training, said that the initial goal was
to look at solving problems in communication and personalities between
members in an organization.
"The main premise was to look at work center focus, to look at those
issues that regardless of the institution, the organization or its
actual goal or mission, any team or work center is going to have,"
explained Walker. "[There are] similar, universal managerial obstacles
that front- line supervisors have to be able to overcome to get mission
The second portion of the consortium consisted of field training at the
popular Leadership Reaction Course, where participants navigate various
obstacles with specific goals, rules and time limits, while different
team leaders must get his or her team successfully through the obstacle
within those limitations. The LRC emphasizes and solidifies the
theoretical classroom lessons on leadership, personality, and conflict
management, under the real- world restrictions of time and limited
"What it does is it separates us from all the things we know and puts us
in an environment where someone is going to have to stand there with a
team and understand that the performance of their team is all on their
shoulders," said Col. Scott Lockwood, OTS commandant.
He explained that even extremely successful people can find that leadership role to be an uncomfortable experience.
"When you're standing up front and everything relies on you, and you're
accountable for the performance of that team ... sometimes it's a lonely
feeling," he said. "We're trying to invoke those feelings in an
individual going through this to see how they use their team members and
all the talents that are out here. In the end, hopefully what we can
find out is that not only have you trained yourself to be a better
leader, but that when you walk away you know what your weaknesses are.
That's as important as anything, that humbling experience."
The field training exercise is essential to underscore the classroom
lessons of the course, as the police officers quickly discovered.
"[The leadership reaction course] teaches you how to work collectively
and collaboratively with your guys to achieve a goal. It's a building
exercise to learn the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the group
so you know where to pool your resources," said Capt. Shannon
Youngblood, a 20- year veteran of the MPD. "You don't realize how you
can apply lessons until you get out here and work together with the
group and bring in the classroom portion. It's a great idea. It lets you
realize that just because you're the leader doesn't mean you have all
the answers. You can take the input from the other guys and collectively
form the best way."
Despite the heat and physical challenges that going through the reaction
course presented, Youngblood spoke about the benefits and camaraderie
of the day.
"The best part is everyone having fun and working together. There are so
many personality conflicts that can happen when you have so many people
together, but everyone has worked together really well and gotten along
really well, and it's just been a lot of fun," he said.
The training initiative was developed to create a community partnership
between the police department and OTS, allowing both organizations to
compare and contrast leadership training efforts as well as learn new
ways of conducting leadership training, both in an academic and field
environment. Although the police department has several avenues for
police development, including Command and Staff College for sergeants
transitioning to lieutenants, Capt. Wayne Gaskin, the assistant division
commander for the MPD training and recruiting division, jumped at the
chance to work with Officer Training School faculty.
"In developing leaders, we believe that there are always ulterior ways
to develop those skills, and in the consortium with Maxwell and OTS, we
wanted to take advantage of the alternative training methods that were
utilized in developing our skills as leaders," Gaskin said. "It's a
learning experience for our officers, that there are alternative ways to
fix problems. Seeing this training gives us the opportunity to take
advantage of alternative ways, showing that you need to work together as
a team to fix those problems."
In exchange for classroom and hands on leadership training, the police
department hopes to provide OTS faculty with leadership experiences in
the form of ride- along opportunities, grappling techniques and active
shooter scenario response.
The Department of Defense routinely sends senior military officers to
civilian schools for new perspectives on leadership, organization
management and behavior, and Lockwood explains that this partnership was
created with that same goal in mind.
"It's very easy for us to feel like we know a whole lot about what we're
doing and that we're doing it the right way and that we have the
answers, [but] it simply takes a little exposure to outside perspectives
and the diversity of perspectives to be able to find out that there are
a lot of things we can learn from our community partners," said
"It's really a natural fit with MPD to be able to come out here and do
these exercises with us. I think we're going to be able to glean as much
from MPD as they are from us. We're benefiting from them; hopefully we
are able to educate and train them on the way we do things and how we
think about leadership. We look at OTS to produce leaders of morale
character. We think that's the most important aspect of leadership right
now that the American people deserve."