Fifty-eight future leaders in the United States military and Western Hemisphere countries were encouraged to do the right thing when no one else is looking Wednesday during a graduation at Fort Benning’s McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
After 12-months of study at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, majors and senior government officials completed the Command and General Staff Officer Course which prepares students as leaders. Ten students also received a master’s degree in military arts and science from Troy University.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jose Mayorga, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland security and guest speaker for the graduation, focused on character, ethics and consensus building to inspire the future leaders.
Mayorga said character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking and leaders are obliged to follow ethics. Consensus is important for leaders as they move to higher positions of authority.
“The higher you go in leadership you are not going to cheat compliance through orders,” the retired general said. “You’re going to cheat through consensus building. That is required at the general officer level as well as the senior official level.”
Lt. Cmdr. Victor Avila, a Navy pilot from San Diego, agrees a person has to do the right thing all the time. “You have to force yourself to keep on that track,” he said.
While the nation is facing fiscal issues of its own, Mayorga said officials have to be innovative and he believes many countries in Latin America are facing similar challenges. “We do share common borders and we do share common problems, but we have objectives to share the same vision,” he said.
Of the total 58 students, 40 are from the United States and 18 are from Western Hemisphere countries of Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Dominican Republic.
This is the first year an inter-agency student from the U.S. Marshals was in the class. “It’s been a great experience to spend time with men and women in uniform,” said Jose Chavarria, chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service. “Coming from a federal agency, it’s a good thing for us.”
The course prepares students to work in joint, inter-agency and multinational environments like hurricane and other disasters.
Chavarria was impressed with areas on decision making. “We need to be prepared to make decisions and this course teaches you that,” he said. “We have our ways set. This is a new way for us.”
When it comes to working with other agencies and groups, Maj. Don Landgrebe, an evaluator pilot for the KC-135 at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, said inter-agency and coalition teams work well together.
“When you put a bunch of people in a room, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what service they are from, the background they have, they come together and find solutions to problems,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the problem is.”