A group of 12 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District employees embarked on a four-day training exercise that served as the Kansas City District 2023 Leadership Development Program, or LDP, kick-off event at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri on Oct. 3, 2022.
LDP is a program for Department of the Army civilians run by all USACE districts, and each district conducts their program differently. The Kansas City District conducts a year-long program that offers DA civilians the chance to grow.
“LDP is an opportunity for up-and-coming leaders in our organization to get developmental training –there’s classroom training, mentorship, shadowing events – that contribute to an individual’s personal development with a goal of becoming a future leader in our organization,” Shannan Teel, Construction Support Branch contract administration lead and Kansas City District 2023 LDP coordinator, said.
The kick-off at Ft. Leonard Wood started with a change of scenery, when the LDP class checked into the barracks they lived in for the week, a change of clothes, when they changed into the Army uniform, and a change in rank, when they donned the rank of DA civilian on their chests.
“The kick-off is an opportunity for them to get to know each other on a more personal level in a more neutral environment, where they are all a little out of their comfort zone and really start to build those relationships,” Teel said.
Kansas City District senior leaders and mentors were there to guide them through their training.
“We are trying to build an agile bench of people with a broad perspective and great experience sets, that will be our leaders not for tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow, that have a perspective to really make the district better,” Col. Travis Rayfield, Kansas City District commander, said.
The kick-off introduced the LDP class to different areas of USACE.
“So far, we’ve learned a lot about the different aspects of what we do here in the Corps,” Abby Eifert, Next NGA West Project mechanical team lead and Kansas City District 2023 LDP participant, said. “A lot of us are so focused in on our specific discipline or our specific projects, and we don’t always get to hear the breadth of the work that the Corps of Engineers does.”
It also introduced them to the uniformed side of Army engineering.
“It has been a really cool experience to learn everything that members of the Active military side of the Army go through,” Eifert said. “I don’t think all of us have a good understanding of how important the role of an engineer is when you’re in combat itself.”
The LDP class participated in different trainings and classes that soldiers go through when they become engineers in the Army. They completed electronic weapons training and a Field Leaders Reaction Course, and they also sat through demonstrations of how they remove obstacles or build bridges.
“Learning about how they build their bridges, the way that they clear obstacles and the way they are able to think on their feet, was definitely a new perspective… so seeing the commitment they put into their work, how much they have to work together as a team and how sensitive it is to the mission and the lives they are trying to protect,” Eifert said.
So, why did DA civilians train and learn like soldiers? It’s so they can understand and support missions.
“This is one of those places where you gain an appreciation for what soldiers do on behalf of the nation... We are trying to get our DA civilians an opportunity to live like a soldier and see the soldiers that we support, and how we as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can support them with infrastructure for their training and other needs,” Rayfield said.
"Being in the Corps of Engineers, you are assigned to the U.S. Army. By understanding what a soldier is, you gain a little more respect and more background into why they do what they do,” Maj. Steven Lanni, Missouri Area Office deputy area engineer and Kansas City District 2023 LDP kick-off coordinator, said.
Understanding how to support the mission also helped them learn leadership.
“[If] they can learn and understand our version of leadership and how we teach young soldiers coming up in the ranks, [then maybe] they can apply those skills in their backgrounds or disciplines,” Lanni said.
The Kansas City District selects around 12 DA civilians through an application and interview process to serve as the LDP class for that year. The program begins during an orientation in September but truly “kicks off” at the beginning of October with a training event at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Throughout the year, they participate in classes, projects, mentorship and shadowing events to learn and understand their leadership styles and how they can grow as leaders. Their program comes to an end in August when they graduate alongside each other.
Learn more about the Kansas City District 2023 LDP Kick-off: https://youtu.be/UDMGH4XABbg