Air Reserve component officers hone international leadership skills in France
By 1st Lt. Chelsi Spence, Oregon Air National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published August 17, 2017
ROCHEFORT AIR BASE, FRANCE -- Officers from seven countries gathered here July 22-29 for the 23rd annual International Junior Officer Leadership Development course designed to enhance and develop leadership skills, cultural understanding and military doctrine of NATO nations.
The intense week-long course allowed more than 60 guard and reserve junior officers to expand their knowledge of leadership concepts through exposure to, and discussion of, leadership theory and practice. This unique experience also fostered interactions and relationship-building with people from other nations to better understand differing military cultures.
“IJOLD is a rare opportunity for our CGOs (company grade officers) to develop relationships and a shared understanding of partner-nation military capabilities at the early stages of their careers,” said Maj. Gen. James P. Scanlan, mobilization assistant to the commander, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, and IJOLD U.S. Head of Delegation. “This shared understanding will then positively shape their philosophy and decision-making process as they serve in a coalition environment.”
IJOLD is a competitive opportunity for U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard company grade officers. It strengthens professional development by obtaining valuable tools and skills in leadership principles and practices in a joint environment. Also, the course enables the exchange of ideas and knowledge with NATO partners while building lasting relationships.
“Through the Reserve School Selection Board process, 192 (Air Force Reserve) company grade officers submitted an application for IJOLD, and only 20 of the best and brightest Air Force Reservists, from different backgrounds and Air Force specialties, were selected to attend IJOLD,” said Capt. Robert Bruce, IJOLD facilitator.
Reserve and guard officers from the U.S., France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada received classroom lectures on a variety of topics including cultural diversity, international relations, and military doctrine and capabilities.
“It is absolutely critical for our young officers to develop their understanding of partner-nation military doctrine and capabilities,” Scanlan said. “Understanding what our coalition partners bring to the fight will enhance coalition strength and enable more effective coalition operations.”
While learning leadership techniques with their NATO allies, IJOLD participants were not only tested mentally but also physically during a 48-hour field training exercise, where they worked together in teams, overcoming different leadership styles and communication challenges to accomplish various tasks.
“Team eight carried airplane parts, ammo boxes and each other at times through water, high grass, mud and rain, all while evading the 'enemy' and collecting,” said Air Force Reserve Maj. Brooke Robinson, IJOLD participant. “I met some incredible officers doing amazing things for their country.”
For many participants, IJOLD marked the first time they worked with foreign military members in a coalition-type environment. The course is an opportunity for CGOs to gain early interactions with NATO allies and, in turn, be able to use that exposure to better accomplish the various missions of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
“The networking piece with our partner-nations was the most valuable aspect of IJOLD for me,” said U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Jennifer Trahan, IJOLD participant. “We get few opportunities to see firsthand how our foreign counterparts operate outside of deployments, but I think it's key to a successful joint-operational environment.”
That sentiment is shared, not only by the participants, but by senior leaders who see the value in IJOLD and programs like it.
“I believe the most valuable takeaway is the development of long-term relationships,” Scanlan said. “I am confident these young CGOs will find themselves deployed with some of the colleagues they met during IJOLD. Having developed that rapport at IJOLD will serve them well and enhance coalition effectiveness.”
IJOLD is held in a different NATO country each year. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard officers interested in applying should watch for the Reserve School Selection Board announcement each year. For more information, contact the Total Force Service Center, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, at 1-800-525-0102.