[February 9, 2018] Leadership can be taught. That is the premise on which all leadership training is based and it is the reason so many folks have achieved great things in their lives. Today, I’m beginning a new series on leader training and today my focal point will be on the Sapper Leader Course conducted by the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Upfront to understand is that the technical parts of the course, at the admission of the U.S. Army, has “no related civilian jobs with this type of training.” But they will tell you that it helps the soldier “gain confidence, leadership skills and a sense of pride.” The latter is my focus; confidence, leadership, pride.
The course is 28 days long and is designed to train joint-service leaders (meaning from all military services) in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and performing part of the combined arms team. Individuals attending the course are required to take leadership positions, as they are rotated throughout. This provides each with an opportunity to lead others while under considerable extreme environments and under considerable stress.
Extraordinarily mentally and physically demanding is how those attend describe it. That only gives us a sanitized view of what the students undergo. Each soldier we sent to the course from my Army Engineer units were selected for their high-degree of motivation, knowledge of engineering skills, and proven leadership ability. The failure rate is high.
It is impossible in words to give an idea of the gut feeling required of these students. A few promotional videos are linked here, here, and here. The Sapper Leader Course requires knowing specialized Infantry and Engineering skills and strengthens their job proficiency. The course has been compared to the Infantry Ranger Course.
The course pushes these leaders to improve on their ability to be innovative, versatile, and resilient. Anything short of this is simply not acceptable to those who run the school. Most people see the physically demanding leader training course where students lose sleep, crawl up mountains, and struggle in the mud. But it’s the value of improving one’s leadership skills that it’s all about.
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