HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Nearly 100 U.S. Army and foreign junior leaders participated in a solarium last week to learn more about building trust in their units, strategic thinking and talent management.
The three-day forum, a new initiative developed by the Association of the U.S. Army, was held here during the Land Forces Pacific Symposium, or LANPAC.
The solarium, which was intended for sergeants first class and junior officers, placed Soldiers from U.S. Army Pacific and several ally nations at tables to openly discuss topics and interact with others from various backgrounds and career fields.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jasmany Padin, assigned to the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, said he planned to pass down what he learned during the forum to his Soldiers at Camp Zama, Japan.
Padin, who previously served as a noncommissioned officer, said the solarium gave him a broader perspective of how the Army operates and was more informative than he initially thought.
“After 26 years you think you have nothing more to learn,” he said Thursday. “But I’ve been learning so much. I wish I could have brought more of my guys here. I’m taking all I can to bring back to them.”
In one strategic-level exercise, Padin said participants were provided a problem set on a scenario involving two countries in the Indo-Pacific region and they had to identify the challenges and debate on the appropriate response to it.
“Not just how the U.S. would tackle it, but how the international community would handle it,” Padin said. “Each table was responsible for looking at that problem.”
As discussions unfolded, the diverse group of participants offered a mix of views.
“We had a Canadian officer and he had a completely different way of looking at the problem,” Padin said. “Then you had people from different [military occupational specialties] and different backgrounds.”
A handful of other Soldiers who support U.S. Army Japan also took part in the solarium.
Sgt. 1st Class Edilberto Ramos, assigned to the 78th Signal Battalion, said the forum provided him a better understanding of his unit’s purpose in the region.
“There are a lot of things that, at our level, we never even have to consider, because we never have a play in that situation,” Ramos said of the strategic training. “But now we have to think of why these decisions are being made, what’s at stake and how does it continue to trickle down to our level.”
During the discussions, Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Reyes, who is also assigned to the signal battalion, said he was able to study a variety of leadership styles.
“You can learn from one leader to the other on how their thinking is and maybe you can go back and think to yourself … ‘I need to change my way of thinking,’” Reyes said. “To me, I thought that was important.”
Reyes, who has served 20 years in the Army, said the forum also allowed NCOs to share their experiences with the younger officers as well as their foreign partners.
“The NCO corps in the Army is probably the best-trained NCO corps in the whole world,” Reyes said. “I think a lot can be learned from how we do things, but at the same time we can learn from them and how they train their soldiers.”
On the final day of the forum, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Haynie, senior enlisted leader for the 25th Infantry Division, and other panelists spoke on the progress of the Army’s talent management program.
The Army is currently transforming its practices in an effort to place the right leaders in the right jobs by looking more closely at a Soldier’s knowledge, skills and preferences.
Because of the participants’ influence on the Army ranks, Haynie, who also serves as the Army Talent Management Task Force’s NCO initiatives team lead, said it was vital for them to learn more about these changes.
“At that level you really control the culture in an organization,” Haynie said Thursday after the panel. “What you focus on or what you see as important and how you manage or lead your people really defines the culture in an organization.”
For Ramos, he said the opportunity to attend the forum allowed him to disconnect from his normal work routine and focus on what the Army is trying to accomplish.
“The Army, to me, is to send up my reports and do my daily tasks and [physical training],” he said. “But when you come to these things, you get to take a step back. You learn, ‘This is why I do everything I do.’ This is the overall goal that we, as an Army, are trying to achieve.”