Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BIA Staff Attends Gettysburg Staff Ride

Back Row (from left to right): Bob Roberts, Dave Underwood, Garth Fisher, Brig. Gen. Horace Porter, aka Mike Reetz, Mark Jackson, Joe Kafka, Darryl Martinez, and Lucas Minton Bottom Row: Robin White and Robyn Broyles
“I felt like this course will greatly improve leadership as a whole within the BIA fire organization. I learned that communications and relationships are two very important factors in leadership. I am taking back with me the notion that leadership is action and good leaders will take the necessary steps to further the interests of their employees and the mission of the Agency.” – Lucas Minton, Eastern Region Fire Management Officer
“Serving tribes and helping them become self-determined, while taking responsibility to protect tribal assets, is a key mission for the BIA,” says Aaron Baldwin, Branch Director for the Branch of Wildland Fire Management. “In order for us to be successful in this, we must ensure our employees
understand and practice the fundamentals of leadership.”

That’s why, for the first time in BIA’s history, a cohort of nine mid-to-upper-level leaders attended Gettysburg Staff Ride (L-580) this October.

During the three-day training, leadership techniques, decisions and principles were introduced to students, making the 253 year old battlefield a living classroom. Using the NWCG, “Leading in the Wildland Fire Service" publication and the book “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara as guides,
students transformed their notions of leadership into applicable principles.

The word ‘principle’ takes its root from the Latin word, principia meaning ‘foundations.’ To transform a notion into a principle, that then becomes part of one’s own being, is no easy task—it takes a lifetime. Despite this, the core principles of the Wildland Fire Service: Duty, Respect
and Integrity—calls us to act from these, our strongest foundations.

One cannot walk the ground where 46,000 – 51,000 casualties occurred and not experience the weight of leadership. Nor can one not feel the tremendous sadness caused by mistakes we now glean as “lessons” – a gift hindsight offers. What character traits positioned the generals and officers for success and failure? How did they establish and follow-through with leader’s intent? And when does having a bias for action create more challenge than success? These were just a few questions discussed during the three-days of training.

As the first cohort to go through the class, Robin White, BIA’s Branch Administrative Officer,
thought that “having BIA represented at the staff ride increased the entire class awareness of the complexities of wildland fire management in Indian Country.” While groups presented their leadership perspective during exercises, BIA contributed a unique viewpoint most have never even considered. For example, what would the Union look like if there was a Bureau of Confederate Affairs, a Bureau whose mission is to preserve a way of life and culture?

While all students took away unique and deeply personal lessons, one lesson all students now hold is that we are expected, even charged to lead ourselves. Further, while we may not all be assigned the role of “leader,” we all are leaders—to ourselves, our peers and even to those we follow.

“It is my hope we can send other leaders from BIA’s fire management program to leadership classes such as this. It will help to set an example for others in our Bureau to follow,” concludes Baldwin.

This article originally appeared in Burning Issues, Fall 2016.

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