Sgt. 1st Class Mark Boyer
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER — As the third iteration of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s Young Alaka’i (YA) Leader Development Program comes to a close, the attendees and planners reflect on a great run with the 8th TSC and a bright future, as the mid-career professional development initiative transitions to U.S. Army Pacific sponsorship.
The YA program, created by the 8th TSC in February 2015, provides top-performing company-grade officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers a dynamic and engaging forum to increase their geo-political understanding, foster networking and peer-to-peer relationship building and exposure to executive-level mentorship.
“The focus of the Leader Development Program is to prepare agile, adaptive leaders on ‘how to think’ while armed with a deeper understanding and comprehension of the implications of culture,” said Trey Johnson, a program manager for Young Alaka’i/Regional Leader Development Program-Pacific. “Ultimately, the goal is to enable leaders who can excel in a dynamic, complex, multi-domain operating environment, executing a high degree of mission command to achieve strategic effects.”
Each YA iteration is divided into three distinct leader development phases: Phase one is dedicated to leader academics and teamwork, phase two develops regional and national strategies and expertise, and phase three focuses on regional broadening in the Pacific Theater.
From Feb. 18-March 8, the YALDP conducted Phase III (In-Country Immersion) for a cohort consisting of 22 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsman and DOD civilian leaders from across U.S. Pacific Command, along with five mentors for cultural immersion training in three countries within the USPACOM area of responsibility, spanning over three sub-regions with starkly different socioeconomic factors, exposing significant challenges and issues to the participants.
The cohorts participated in an 18-day in-country immersion phase, driven by a robust set of cultural and strategic engagements across the Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economics (DIME) spectrum (mil-to-mil, gov’t, industry, academia, cultural) in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Japan.
“These three countries were selected very intentionally,” said retired Maj. Gen. George A. Higgins, senior mentor for the YALDP, “to provide a broad mix across the Pacific region, so the young leaders don’t go to just one set of countries that have the same specific characteristics.”
The country selection criteria focused on participants’ exposure to diversity with regard to the respective countries relationship with the U.S. (fully mature, mature and emerging) and across three sub-regions (Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia) while meeting key leaders from the respective partner nations for first-hand, in-depth discussions and engagements.
This experience enhanced the degree of regional expertise, professionalism and shared understanding of strategic challenges and issues across service components with regard to USPACOM national and regional end-states.
“We have seen first-hand how our actions and personal relationships with our counterparts (from partner nations) can have strategic effects.” said Capt. John Servidio, battalion S-1 for the 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade. “Each culture within the countries we visited varied, and the more ‘we can wear their shoes,’ the more effectively we can build a concrete relationship and secure our joint interests. Strategic thinking is an art that is built up and practiced over time.”
“The knowledge gained and engagements we learned from in all three countries are the major takeaways. It is definitely a great experience to learn directly from policy makers and international leaders,” said 1st Sgt. Mark Millare, first sergeant for 95th Eng. Co., 84th Eng. Bn.
The YA program strives to provide its attendees with an enhanced professionalism, regional expertise, and to ensure the readiness of service component staffs’ and units’ understanding, planning and execution efforts in support of USPACOM country, regional and theater end states.
“Growing leaders at all levels is essential to build future readiness. It must be a formalized, focused program that can be conducted at any level,” explained Ed Schober, exercise planner for 8th Army. “The primary resource required is focused time, by the senior leaders of the unit, to teach, coach and mentor junior leaders early and often.”
“We’re not going to immediately turn these youngsters in to strategic leaders,” Higgins added. “We are going to start to lay a foundation, of learning how to think, rather than what to think.”
Because of its overwhelming success and the growth of the program, operational oversight of Young Alaka’i will elevate to the control of USARPAC for future iterations.
The program’s new title will be the Regional Leader Development Program-Pacific.
The newly formed RLDP-P is a joint, multinational activity, sponsored by USARPAC, currently in pilot phase, targeting participation by talented, mid-career military professionals (company grade officers, NCOs (E6 (p)-E8), WO, and DOD civilians), assigned to USPACOM, as nominated by parent commands in accordance with established selection criteria.
This is a regionally focused broadening opportunity intended to develop agile, adaptive leaders that can work effectively in a dynamic, strategic operating environment, as well as an investment in preparation of the next generation of leadership.
Given its significant success under 8th TSC since 2015, Gen. Robert B. Brown, commanding general of USARPAC, intends to establish the RLDP-P as an enduring program with progressively increased enrollment.
USARPAC is currently preparing to accept applications from all services for the next three phase iteration tentatively scheduled, Aug. 21-Oct. 8, 2017.