By Mass Communication Specialist First Class Debra Thomas U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet Pubic Affairs
How do I become a leader?
This is a question that E-6 and below Sailors may ask themselves throughout the course of their career. How does a Sailor make the jump from working with their peers to leading them? Leadership is often said to be one of the most important skills a Sailor needs for success in the Navy but past attempts at leadership training have fallen short of the mark.
There is a light on the horizon however, The Enlisted Leadership Development (ELD) course has resumed operations here at Naval Support Activity Naples (NSA). The course, originally rolled out in 2019, was put on indefinite hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. It’s a fresh take on Sailor development designed from the ground up to instill leadership attributes in the enlisted ranks beginning at the rank of Third Class Petty Officer and progressing as a Sailor moves through their career. The idea is to get out of the “indoctrination” mindset and invite discussion, collaboration and mentorship.
During the course participants have the opportunity to hear seasoned Navy leaders freely share their experiences and explore key concepts in leadership. For example, in a recent course, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa Fleet Master Chief (FLTCM) Derrick Walters spoke with a group of First Class Petty Officers on the importance of toughness.
“In combat, there’s no second place in a gunfight,” stated Walters. “I need Sailors on all levels who are tough, that can take a hit and come back swinging. It’s all about building confidence.”
Leaders like Walters believe programs like the ELD course are important to creating this kind of confidence in our future leaders. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Joshua Akins, program lead, Enlisted Leadership Development program, is passionate about his role in bringing this course to Sailors. He believes that approaching the training as a conversation between the instructor and the students versus a traditional lecture format is what makes it so effective.
“The Enlisted Leadership Development Course provides foundational leadership and institutional leadership,” said Akins. “It provides a way for different viewpoints to come together, for all different pay grades to find a way to reach a common goal and understand that there are different ways to lead.”
The program begins with the Fundamental Leadership Development Course (FLDC) for new Third Class Petty Officer’s. Courses continue throughout a Sailor’s career with the Intermediate Enlisted Leadership Development Course (ILDC) for Second Class Petty Officer’s and the Advanced Enlisted Leadership Development Course (ALDC) for First Class Petty Officer’s. In each session, classroom training is combined with real world based exercises and open discussion to teach leadership in a way in which the information can be used immediately. A recent graduate of the program, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Brandon Spikler found the professional development tools taught in the course to be incredibly useful in developing junior Sailors.
“The course gives you different insight and techniques on being a leader,” said Spikler, “It teaches you things you can do differently to improve yourself. All in all it’s designed to make you better as a person so you can train your junior Sailors to take your spot, and then, better themselves.”
To date, the program has graduated two classes since its return to operations with plans to offer more courses throughout the year. Due to social distancing guidelines, space in each class is limited. Eligible Sailors who want begin or continue their leadership journey can contact their command representative, for the current schedule.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, Conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.