Story by Richard M Arndt on 08/09/2019Seventeen U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center employees at Rock Island Arsenal recently completed a three-month journey of self-assessment and leadership skills as they graduated from the first Mentoring Program held at the Center's Illinois site.
The program pairs rising Center employees with experienced mentors and provides students with a slate of facilitated exercises and guest speakers, all aimed at helping employees learn about themselves, their coworkers, and how they can best contribute to the organization.
The program has been a staple of employee development at the Center's main campus at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The program normally runs for five months, but was condensed to three months at the Rock Island site to accommodate employee schedules and the site's workflow.
Center Director Dr. Eric Moore, Ph.D., and Deputy Director for Engineering Bill Klein joined the Center's Rock Island leaders and mentors for the student out-briefs and graduation ceremony on July 18.
"We've worked for many years to bring the Mentoring Program to Rock Island," said Klein. "We have an incredibly energetic young workforce here, and developing our workforce is a priority."
Moore agreed, advising the graduates that leadership opportunities will inevitably become available as leaders retire at the Center and Army-wide.
"All of you have taken a step today toward preparing yourselves to take their places," Moore said. "Continue to prepare yourselves for leadership roles."
"This program is awesome," Moore continued. "I wish we'd had something like this when I was coming up through the ranks."
The graduates expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the program, and overwhelmingly recommended it to others.
"Going in, I didn't know what to expect from the program," said McKinley Hawkins, an engineer with the Rock Island Sustainment Support Division. "You learn more about yourself than you knew before. You learn to see yourself through the eyes of the people around you."
Kyle Applen, a Sustainment Support Division engineer who's worked at Rock Island for two years, agreed. "I was apprehensive about the program at first. I didn't know what I would get out of it," he said. "I learned that I have strengths that I can build on and weaknesses that I can overcome, and I learned a lot of communications skills that I can use to strengthen our program."
Communications skills, interactions with others and resiliency were common themes shared by the graduates during their presentations.
"I want to focus on having a better impact on people around me," said Josh Clifton, and information technology specialist who's been employed at Rock Island for 18 months. "I want to empower others to do better."
Samantha Haas came to Rock Island after graduating college with an engineering degree 2 years ago. "I was trying to figure out what comes after college," she said. "You step from that structured college environment onto a career path that has a lack of structure. And I learned that's OK -- that most people don't have a hard-and-fast plan -- and that part of resiliency is being flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise."
For Bianca Carmona, and administrative assistant who's been at Rock Island for a year, the program was her first formal career development course. "This experience has helped clarify my options and define my goals," she said, explaining that she now plans to return to college with the goal of earning a degree in computer science.
Associate Director for Rock Island Kevin Lee applauded the effort put into the program by the students and their mentors. "At the end of this program, we have a stronger workforce," he said. "I've gotten to know all of you a little better, your mentors have gotten to know you a little better, and you've all gotten to know each other a little better. Now I challenge you to take those skills that you've learned and put them to use on the job. Make CCDC-CBC Rock Island a better organization."
Moore vowed to continue to push employee development opportunities like the Mentorship Program to the Center's sites. "We need to share the wealth on the positive things that we do," he said. "We need to continue to provide you with professional opportunities that will help you expand your box."