Two officers from the National Training Center and Fort Irwin’s Operations Group attended a Strategic Broadening Seminar, held at the University of Louisville and in Washington, D.C., from Aug. 25 – Sept. 21.
Capt. Matthew Smith and Capt. Patrick Smith, both from NTC Operations Group, joined 26 other Department of the Army personnel for the 28-day seminar.
The purpose of the SBS, hosted by the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center was, “to create broader, more educated and more flexible Army leaders to face the challenges of the 21st century,” according to a press release from the McConnell Center.
Attendees were encouraged to examine their own leadership styles and think critically about the major ideas relating to leadership and followership. They also looked at issues relating to constitutionalism; major geo-strategic issues as they relate to China, Russia, North Korea and possible future developments in Army intelligence.
The program also allowed participants a chance to travel to Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area. The visit included tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield, Mt. Vernon, Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.
For Capt. Patrick Smith, the travel component was a highlight of his experience.
“My favorite part of the event was the visit to capitol hill and being able to interact with members of congress,” He said. “We were able to have question and answer sessions with Senators Martha McSally and Tim Kaine, and also with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.”
Group members also met with a member of the President’s cabinet and Army strategists at the Pentagon.
Participants were challenged with reading assignments of around 50 pages a day. With the training focused on classical and modern leadership theory, assignment included selections from historic texts such Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, as well as recent peer-reviewed academic journal publications on national defense issues.
Seminars helped reinforce daily lessons and concepts, stimulated deeper thinking and allowed students to dialogue freely.
Students later applied concepts learned in the course to current challenges facing the Army and developed a 1,500-word individual research project.
McConnell Center Director Gary L. Gregg, PhD., a noted scholar on American constitutional government and the life and legacy of George Washington, designed and led the course.
“The 2019 cohort for the McConnell Center’s Strategic Broadening Seminar gave us all much confidence in the future of the U.S. Army,” Gregg said. “These commissioned officers, senior NCOs and warrant officers were smart and dedicated and shook the program for all it was worth. They did the hard work of restarting their education that I have no doubt will now last a lifetime.”
The lifetime effects of attendance was echoed by Smith. “This experience allowed me to step outside of the day to day military “grind” and look at leadership through a different lens,” he said. “I am certain that our classes on thinking about the way we think opened my eyes to new and different ways to problem solve and execute mission orders. Our studies on the challenges facing the nation, particularly great power competition, reinforced how important the job we have here at the NTC is.”
Smith believes that the lessons learned about virtue ethics, the founding of our Nation and the studies on Russia and China have made him a better Soldier, leader and citizen.
“I hope to share my experience with as many people as possible and highly encourage others to attend if afforded the opportunity,” he said.