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NEWS | July 2, 2014

National Guard member stands out during leadership program

By Army Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – To be a good leader, many Soldiers may say that you need to have an understanding of what your subordinates do on a day-to-day basis, and from the point of view of the individual.

Army Maj. Andrew Berryman, operational intelligence branch chief for the National Guard Bureau’s Joint Intelligence Office, recently graduated from a course that focused on just that: the Department of Defense’s Executive Leadership Development Program.

Berryman began the course in November 2013 with 61 other individuals “representing approximately 54 different DoD agencies and the Department of State,” he said. “We were told then that more than 900 had applied to attend the program.”

According to the program’s website, it is not for everyone. It is both mentally and physically challenging and all applicants must submit a medical release from a physician.

“The program immerses mid-level government civilians and military officers through the same training that the components’ warfighters go through,” Berryman said. “The purpose is to teach us, from the perspective of the individual, what it is that they do daily … and how the decisions we make as leaders affect that warfighter.”

During the eight-month program, Berryman said students went on “deployments” anywhere from one to two weeks to get the hands on experience needed to understand what it is that service members do across the DoD.

Berryman and his peers got to experience what it’s like to be a Marine Corps recruit in basic training, how precise an air crew needs to be aboard a KC-10 Extender aircraft during aerial refueling operations, how sailors in the Navy train to survive a water landing and what it’s like to be a Coast Guard member aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

“I have a much broader perspective of the total force, and I respect why the other services are the way they are much more now,” Berryman said of his experiences.

“There are such extreme requirements on some of our troops that require them to be the best, despite how big or small their piece is in the entire mission,” he said.

During the program, Berryman and his classmates were not just learning what it’s like to be a warfighter and how a decision at the top affects the individual, but they were also learning what it takes to lead, and how they can grow as a leader themselves.

“I learned that the way I think things should be done is not always the best way or the only way to get things done,” he said, “and to trust in the abilities of those you are leading.”

That was a lesson he put immediately into practice as he served as the class chief of staff, a role in which he had to make decisions that would affect his class.

“You sometimes think of your leader as always having the answer and I didn’t always have the answer as their leader,” Berryman said, “nor did I try to portray that I always had the answer … because I was still learning how to do that.”

Walking the line between learning and doing was not always easy for Berryman.

“The biggest challenge for me being the class leader was also being a peer to my classmates,” Berryman said. “Even though I was the one putting my thumb down when deadlines were coming up, I was also still a student like everyone else. It was hard for me to balance that dual personality.”

But hard work paid dividends for him in the end when he was awarded the program’s pinnacle award – the Joe Snow Memorial Leadership Award.

“I was speechless, and I never expected to even be eligible for it,” he said.

Of the course, Berryman said it positively changed who he is as a leader.

“This opportunity afforded me the ability to develop rapidly as a leader in about eight months, as opposed to over the length of a career,” he said. “I still have plenty of developing to do, but I now have a very solid foundation to build upon as I continue to develop as a leader, and with almost 17 years in the military – the numerous leadership positions I’ve held – this program will have a lasting impact on how I lead.”