Service Academy Character Summit debuts at NCLS

  • Published
  • By Tali Burress
Each year the National Character and Leadership Symposium aims to raise the bar on character and leadership development. Symposium organizers collaborated with the National Medal of Honor Institute and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Leadership and Conflict Resolution Program to host a unique kickoff event: the Service Academy Character Summit.

Service academy cadets and midshipmen came together at the summit where Congressional Medal of Honor recipients challenged them to elevate leadership through shared values.

“You have to be a leader and be there at the point of friction,” said Medal of Honor recipient and retired Navy SEAL Master Chief Petty Officer Britt Slabinski. “You have to do the hard work and live it every day.”

Exploring the idea of honor

The small, 55-participant summit gave attendees an opportunity to interact and connect with Medal of Honor recipients in a personal and interactive forum.

“The recipients shared their stories and insights in panel discussions, but also helped facilitate small group breakout sessions and large-group discussions,” said Kevin Basik, chief of leadership programs, National Medal of Honor Institute. “They’re as much participants as the cadets and midshipmen, learning and sharing alongside each other.”

Finding shared values across the military service academies

Participants discussed the factors in their service academy cultures that pull them away from, rather than toward the values they share.

Cadet 1st Class Robert Kersten, cadet wing director of character and honor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, said the summit offered an opportunity to establish rapport and connection with his counterparts at the other military service academies.

“This summit was inspiring,” said Kersten. “This is the first opportunity I’ve had to work with my counterparts at the other institutions. The incredible group of facilitators, who are all experts in their own ways, have helped facilitate conversations.”

Slabinski said it is important to share his experiences with future military leaders.

“Regardless of military affiliation, honor and character are universal traits that service members should embrace,” said Slabinski. “When you’re wearing the uniform, regardless of your service affiliation, we are all in the same family. We have some fun poking at each other a little bit but we’re all in the same family. So, it’s very important for us to be here.”

See more photos on Flickr.