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Cadet 1st Class Jonathan Kim, of Cadet Squadron 18, participates in a communication exercise during the Commanders Leadership Enrichment Seminar Jan. 21. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Elizabeth Andrews)
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Seminar provides leadership enrichment for cadets

Posted 2/17/2012   Updated 2/17/2012 Email story   Print story


by Luis Rendon
Public Affairs

2/17/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department has enriched and developed cadets through their Commanders Leadership Enrichment Seminar for more than 30 years.

Though the seminar has gone through various names and has been revised to accommodate the changing needs of the cadet population, the purpose of developing cadet leaders to intentionally pursue meaningful progress has been unwavering.
The seminars are held at the beginning of every semester and are comprised of cadet commanders and intercollegiate team captains who are striving to see progress and change within their squadron or team.

The latest seminar, made up of 59 cadet leaders, was held Jan 20-21 and was the largest yet, said CLES Assistant Director Capt. James Walliser.

"We're giving the cadets the tools that they can use as leaders to set goals, communicate effectively with the people they're leading and really just make change in their organization for the better," Walliser said. "We're helping them do what they already want to do."

With only a short amount of time for the cadets to pursue their goals, the seminar focuses on helping cadets realize goals that are specific, measurable, challenging and realistic.

Cadet 1st Class Michael O'Donnell, the Cadet Group 1 commander, believes CLES has a lot to offer cadets.

"It is amazing how many facets there are to leadership and how every leader (uses) their individual skills differently," O'Donnell said. "My biggest takeaway from CLES would definitely be in the interaction with both squadron and wing leadership. It was great to bounce ideas off of each other and understand the worldview of those I am working with.

"As cadets we constantly strive to satisfy our personal needs and goals and sometimes overlook the struggles of those around us. I learned at CLES that in order to build trust with your subordinate you have to listen to them and empower them," O'Donnell added.

A four-pronged process of reviewing goals, brainstorming with facilitators and mentors, foreseeing obstacles and other issues and getting feedback is the structure set up by CLES directors to ensure cadet success.

One piece of the process, however, really makes the difference.

"Our facilitators are really the backbone of the program," Walliser said. "They are some of the sharpest people in the Academy, and they help our cadets with whatever issues they might have."

Walliser said many cadet leaders in the spring are facing motivational issues, which have to do with the fact that most are looking forward to graduation and are sometimes easily distracted.

Armed with the tools from the seminar, however, and the cadets' intrinsic desires to see their group do well, Walliser believes their time spent at the seminar is valuable.

"I'm not so sure we're teaching our cadets anything new," said Walliser. "I think what they are taking away is a confidence and intentionality to apply these tools."

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