JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Forty-two non-commissioned officers from several branches of service came together Nov.13-17, 2017 to learn self-care techniques to enhance their leadership abilities. The 360 Leaders Course, developed and taught by Army Col. (Ret.) Mary Lopez, is a comprehensive learning experience with classes ranging from financial literacy to personal wellness.
“I got a restart,” said Staff Sgt. Shannon Tomkinson, a Flight and Operational Medicine Technician with the 628th Medical Group. “I got in and thought it’s going to be another class where they teach us about mentoring airmen; when I got here I realized I need to be able to take care of myself in order to take care of my airmen and my family and friends.”
Lopez, along with Army Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Steven Salazar, developed the course based on current scientific research targeted to NCOs. “The NCO has to be the focus because the NCO is the person who sits down everyday and says, ‘How are you doing? What’s going on with you?’” said Lopez. “They are the ones so connected with their airmen, sailors and soldiers. If you have a strong NCO, you’ve got a strong unit.”
Since 2010, approximately 2,000 NCOs have attended the week-long course. The class is structured to be an open, personalized and hands-on experience. Participants have opportunities for one-on-one meetings with a psychologist, physical therapist, financial advisor and a personal hypnosis session with Lopez.
“A lot of times these trainings we go to are blanket but everything we did was very personalized,” said Tomkinson. “I learned ways to cope with my own stresses. Now I can share the information with others.”
Every morning the service members started their day with an opportunity for physical activity and self-reflection through a warrior yoga session.
Dr. A.J. Patrick, a physical therapist with the 360 team, finds that aspect to be a key factor of the course, explaining, “It gives you a chance to self-reflect on your life. There aren’t many times where you can take time out of your life and just dedicate it to making you better.”
Throughout the day the course alternates between traditional classes and physical activity but the evening blocks allow for more creative reflection. One of the evening sessions, art therapy allows participants to meditate then draw where they came from and what they want to achieve in the future.
“You see people who are really stoic up to that point but you give them some crayons and they will draw dark clouds but want a sun,” said Michelle McMeekin, JB Charleston’s Community Support Coordinator. “Usually they’ll say ‘I now believe with this class and the things I’ve learned I have potential.’ That is hugely impactful. When they get to those evening sessions, I think it takes them to a whole new level.”
The mission of the 360 Leaders Course is to restore, reinforce and enhance resiliency, health and wellness in military leaders.
“I’m actually excited to go back to work because I feel rejuvenated,” said Tomkinson. “It’s nice to realize I can recharge and still be a great NCO. I would highly recommend it for all NCOs, no matter what branch.”