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Massachusetts National Guard junior officers receive unique professional development

Thirty-six junior officers from the Massachusetts National Guard participated in the state’s second annual Officer Professional Development Staff Ride to D.C., Sept. 24-27. (Courtesy Photo)

Thirty-six junior officers from the Massachusetts National Guard participated in the state’s second annual Officer Professional Development Staff Ride to D.C., Sept. 24-27. (Courtesy Photo)

WASHINGTON -- Thirty-six junior officers from the Massachusetts National Guard participated in the state's second annual Officer Professional Development Staff Ride here, Sept. 24-27.

The select group, consisting of 24 Army and 12 Air National Guard officers in the ranks of lieutenant and captain, learned about the strategic-level work and challenges being faced by both senior military and elected leadership in the nation's capitol and was provided with a sight picture of the future for the National Guard.

"Officer Professional Development in D.C. was extremely insightful. What greater place than our nation's capitol for officers to gather and learn? We were fortunate enough to see many sights while receiving a wealth of knowledge about the way of the future for the Guard," said Capt. Kimberly Askew, 1166th Transportation Company commander.

The professional development kicked off with an evening social event highlighted by speeches from Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Director of the Air National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, Deputy Director of the Army National Guard. The generals set the tone for the staff ride by discussing the challenging fiscal environment on Capitol Hill and how it shapes the ongoing discussions and decisions affecting the National Guard's future.

On the first full day of the staff ride, the officers received a tour of the Pentagon which included a visit to the Alternate Army Operations Center where a team of dedicated Soldiers maintain constant preparedness to provide command and control assistance during the response to manmade or natural disasters in their area of responsibility.

After a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the company grade officers received a presentation from the National Defense University about continuing education opportunities for military officers; followed by presentations from Homeland Security officials who discussed Domestic Operations and the National Guard's involvement in Defense Support to Civil Authorities missions.

The professional development was rounded out with briefings from each staff directorate at the Army and Air National Guard Readiness Centers, a tour of the U.S. Capitol building, and a legislative affairs briefing at the National Guard Memorial Building which is the headquarters of the National Guard Association of the United States.

In addition to the strategic-level discussions, both Army and Air National Guard professional development attendees held in high regard the opportunity to network with their peers.

"This trip provided a great chance to get to know our counterparts both in the Air and Army National Guard, and to see the similarities and differences in how we operate," said Capt. Tom Billingsley, 102nd Air Operations Group airspace management officer.

"My favorite part...was the opportunity to meet and network with fellow officers, both Army and Air Force across the state," Askew said.

At the conclusion of the formal agenda, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, thanked the junior officers for taking a vested interest in their careers and he shared his thoughts on professional development.

"The first piece of professional development is to become an expert in your career field. You guys are the next step beyond that. The next step is to get core, basic leadership capabilities in your heart and soul. You become a flight commander, you become a company commander; you're at that level now. This professional development trip is a piece of that," Rice said. "The last and final step is to become a bureaucrat. So, you're a professional, you're a leader, you're a manager. You need to combine all three. The people who become experts in all three areas will be extremely successful and competitive at the colonel and general officer level."