OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - Ten U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) employees completed the USSTRATCOM Strategic Leadership Fellows Program as part of a University of Nebraska program to enhance the management skills and technical expertise of civilians as they progress to strategic supervisory roles.
USSTRATCOM senior officials, University of Nebraska academic professionals, previous Fellows program graduates and members of the greater Omaha community recognized this year’s graduates during a ceremony at the Peter Kiewit Institute on the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) campus, April 22.
“Over the last two years, the Fellows program has become an important part of professional growth and development for our civilians, who make up more than 60 percent of my headquarters staff,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USSTRATCOM commander. “The achievements of these talented professionals during the program, and the knowledge and skills they""ve brought back to the command, have been very impressive. I want to thank the staff and faculty at the University of Nebraska for your continued partnership and contributions to national security.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, USSTRATCOM deputy commander, said it was an honor to be among “such an impressive group of leaders” at the graduation ceremony and he looks forward to seeing how much the newest class of Fellows has grown since the 2016 program kickoff event in January.
“The amount of work required to be selected for this prestigious program, and the dedication it takes to graduate, speaks volumes about the importance these 10 graduates place on higher education,” he said. “I am confident that the newest Fellows will continue the outstanding performance demonstrated by their predecessors when they rejoin the team at USSTRATCOM Headquarters.”
Wilson added that he has not only seen, but also utilized, the skills that are developed through the program, highlighting 2015 graduate Heather Kearney’s work during her time at UNO.
“I was so impressed with Heather”s project on improving the assessment of adversary intent that I invited her to travel with me to Stanford University and discuss her work with some of the leading Asia-Pacific experts there,” he said. “This is a perfect example of the return on investment we are seeing from our Fellows, and it wouldn’t be possible without our partners at the University of Nebraska and beyond.”
Kearney described her trip with Wilson as an “amazing” opportunity, adding that the program allowed her to build important relationships and grow as a professional.
“I‘ve had opportunities that I may not have otherwise had if it weren‘t for the Fellows program,” she said. “I know the type of leader and co-worker I want to be, but I also know the type of leader and co-worker I don‘t want to be.”
She added that going into the program with an open mind and having the opportunity to attend classes away from the command were also “extremely important.”
“It gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to look at yourself as a leader or potential leader,” she said. “We have to get out from behind our computers and meet folks, build relationships with other professionals. That is how work gets done.”
Mike Kemp, associate athletic director of UNO athletics, provided the keynote speech, during which he challenged the graduates to influence their peers, encourage them to find the leader within and create ways to make the organization function more efficiently, stating “leadership comes from within.”
During the 13-week program, the Fellows learned mission-oriented skills from national security and defense experts from the University of Nebraska in a classroom-based, hands-on environment.
They also authored group papers as part of their capstone project.
“Larry Roberts‘ and my examination of the Joint Interagency Task Force construct, currently used by U.S. Southern Command, and its wider employment as a means to meet 21st century security challenges will directly translate to the work we are doing here at the command,” said Jeffrey Braxton, one of the graduating Fellows and a member of USSTRATCOM’s plans and policy directorate.
In addition to coursework and capstone projects, the Fellows engaged with senior military leaders from USSTRATCOM, private business leaders throughout Nebraska and academic professionals from UNO, as well as the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. This year marked the first time that all four University of Nebraska campuses were involved in the program.
The Strategic Leadership Fellows Program was launched in March 2014 as an initiative under the University of Nebraska‘s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI), one of only 13 Department of Defense-sponsored University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) in the nation.
Through feedback from prior Fellows and mentors, the program has evolved to meet the needs of a changing environment.
The 2016 USSTRATCOM Strategic Leadership Fellows Program graduates are:
- Mr. Brent Backman, Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike
- Mr. Jeffrey Braxton, Plans and Policy Directorate
- Mr. Phil Hacker, Joint Exercises and Training Directorate
- Mr. Jason Lang, Mission Assessment and Analysis Directorate
- Mr. Kevin Lloyd, C4 Systems Directorate
- Mr. Joseph Murphy, Capability and Resource Integration Directorate
- Mr. Larry Plowman, C4 Systems Directorate
- Mr. Brandon Pollett, Mission Assessment and Analysis Directorate
- Mr. Larry Roberts, Capability and Resource Integration Directorate
- Mr. Marcus Thies, Plans and Policy Directorate