KUWAIT - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District recently kicked off Leadership Development I in the Field, marking the first time the program has been held for field offices within the District’s area of responsibility.
Five participants, three from the Qatar Resident Office and two from the Kuwait Resident Office, are taking part in the inaugural program. The program consists of a kickoff meeting, held in Kuwait, and six months of monthly webinars, required reading, and discussions on leadership topics. This is followed by utilization assignments where participants use the skills they learn by leading a committee or taking on some other type of leadership role.
Though this group has members from the Qatar and Kuwait offices, LDP facilitator and Kuwait Resident Office resident engineer David Rackmales, P.E, anticipates that other offices will be represented in LDP in the Field cycles.
“Ideally, we would have participants from each field office in the future,” he said.
Aly Mahmoud, who is currently participating in the program, says there are major benefits to LDP.
“I encourage everyone to participate in the leadership program at any level,” he said. “This is a program that takes time and effort but it gives back to ‘you’ the individual and the organization many times over.”
The LDP I program resumed at the District headquarters in Winchester, Va. in 2014 after a year-long hiatus due to sequestration. In the past, field personnel participated in the program by attending the kickoff, which includes active, outdoor team-building activities in Winchester. After the kickoff, field personnel attended the remainder of LDP meetings by teleconference. Attending these following meetings proved challenging because of the time difference between Winchester and the offices in the Middle East. Meetings during normal business hours in Winchester would often mean field employees would have spend up to four hours after work, said Rackmales.
“You have a physical cost because people that have been working all day long have to participate at the end of the day in an activity where you should really have a lot of energy. Plus after work, people have other commitments such as family,” he said.
The idea for LDP I in the Field began in 2013 when leadership were looking for a way to allow the field to be involved without causing too much of a burden, Rackmales said.
Rackmales had just finished the LDP II, the second tier in the leadership development program, and was about to begin his utilization assignment when he accepted the Resident Engineer position in Kuwait.
“I was originally assigned as an LDP I facilitator in Winchester but there was no way I could do that since I was going to Kuwait,” he said. “So I discussed with leadership what we could do and the idea about a program and the field came about.”
Rackmales was tasked with creating the syllabus for the program before he even came to Kuwait last year.
“It wasn’t too challenging to execute the program because it was created a year ago,” he said. “All of the logistics, including budget had already been worked out.”
According to Rackmales, participants will meet monthly through teleconferences, but everyone is in the same time zone so it makes meetings much more convenient to attend than in the past.
The program will largely be the same as the one held in Winchester; however, assigned reading will differ.
“Four out of the five participants are Foreign Service Nationals, meaning they are not U.S. citizens,” Rackmales said. “I tried to avoid reference materials that were strictly or uniquely American.”
Though most of the participants come from different cultures, one thing they have in common is professionalism.
“A professional is a professional anywhere,” Rackmales said. “Professionals do their jobs well and keep themselves up on the state of the art of their field..
One key theme that Rackmales wants to focus on during the program is being a good team player.
“I think the most important thing for anyone who works for the Corps of Engineers is to be the best team player that they can be,” he said. “In leadership terms, that means you’ll have to learn how to be a good follower and I believe that good followers make for great leaders. “
“The key is to lead yourself at work every day and get better and better and be the best team player you can be,” he said.
Anwar Gayed, who is a current participant in the program, believes the skills he learns in the program will benefit him in his career.
“I have been taking on progressively more responsibilities during the last year and in order to face the new challenges, I thought I needed to upgrade my knowledge and develop my skills in leadership and management,” he said.
Once participants finish the six months of classroom instruction, they need to complete a utilization assignment like their Winchester counterparts. Although specific assignments aren’t determined yet, Rackmales said there are plenty of potential options.
“We could develop committees that address concerns that are unique to the field environment,” he said. “There are also a lot of leadership activities that can be coordinated with the military bases where field offices are located.”
Though the program just started, Rackmales is excited to work with the participants in the coming months.
“I’m very proud to be able to facilitate for this excellent group that I have,” he said.