LEVEL UP! Indiana service members attend 2022 Enlisted Leadership Symposium

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roland Sturm

Service members from across the state of Indiana met up to network and refine their leadership skills during the 2022 Indiana Enlisted Leadership Symposium at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Oct. 17-20.

The four-day ELS event focuses on the professional development of the state’s enlisted services members through practical exercises, work groups and briefings from leaders and partners.

“This is an event to continue their growth during their career path,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert C. Hackett, command chief of the 181st Intelligence Wing. “This is more of a face-to-face thing. It’s more of an open forum instead of a class work forum.”

The sessions included current topics ranging from mental and physical health, service member and family resources, current events and policies affecting service members and the military as a whole.

“As a new [non-commissioned officer], I now have airmen under me,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Hannah L. Willger, 122nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “I thought it would be beneficial to gain some more skills and knowledge on what it really takes to be a leader, as well as some other assets that I could utilize.”

Networking and experiencing operations outside of their normal day-to-day operations is a large focus at ELS. Indiana’s ELS originated as an Indiana Air National Guard specific event, with 2022 being the first year with attendance from the Indiana Army National Guard and the Air Force Reserves.

“If you want to be a part of this event in the future get on the planning committee, we need your ideas,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael E. Dixon, Jr., command chief of the Indiana Air National Guard. “Soldiers and reservists, we want you on board to be part of that planning committee too, so we can tailor it to a more joint feel.”

“I've never been to a leadership course that was outside of the Army, so I took a real interest in [ELS] because I'd like to get other perspectives,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jenna Burks, 38th Infantry Division. “I came out with a new perspective on views from other branches perspective and how differently we handle some situations.”

During the symposium, service members took notes and engaged in discussions with key leadership from the state and national levels.

That list included:

- Army Maj. Gen. R. Dale Lyles, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard.
- Air Force Col. Charles T. Goad, commander of the 181st Intelligence Wing.
- Air Force Col. Joshua C. Waggoner, commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing.
- Army Command Sgt. Maj. Dale A. Shetler, senior enlisted leader of the Indiana National Guard.
- Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael E. Dixon, Jr., command chief of the Indiana Air National Guard.
- Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth M. Bruce Jr., command chief of the 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber).
- Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Christopher E. Muncy, former command chief of the Air National Guard.

A major takeaway from the event was the access to strategic level leadership, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kyle D. Hoopingarner, command chief of the 122nd Fighter Wing.

“These are these are people that are sharing strategic level thinking stories from their level and just really getting that up and out sort of thinking. I think a lot of our [service members] understand why we do what we do, and understanding emerging threats that we have across the globe is a big thing that they get this week.”

The goal of ELS is for the next generation of enlisted leaders throughout the state of Indiana to refine their skills, grow their network and add tools to their leadership toolkit.

“They're the future,” said Dixon. “We spent a lot of time talking about change and innovation. That starts with them, it's not going to come from a 49-year-old command chief. My innovation days are probably not near what their potential is.”