Marine Capt. Brooke Ashford, Marine Officer Candidate School protocol officer, watches a group of 70th ISR Wing Airmen move to their assigned obstacle Oct. 24 at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School Leadership Reaction Course on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Ashford was sent from the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School to supervise the training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Samuel Daub)
First Lt. Laura Walsh, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing director of personnel, gives a safety briefing to 70th ISR Wing Airmen Oct. 24 at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School Leadership Reaction Course on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Samuel Daub)
by Airman 1st Class Samuel Daub
70th ISR Wing Public Affairs office
11/21/2012 - MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Airmen of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing tested their mettle on the same Leadership Reaction Course Marine Corps officer candidates train Oct. 24 at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
This was a first-time opportunity never before open to anyone other than Marine Corps officer candidates and Navy mid-shipmen.
The course was designed to keep people out of their comfort zones, said Marine Capt. Brooke Ashford, Marine Officer Candidate School protocol officer. Half of the LRC's 20 obstacles were built over water, each with different physical and psychological challenges for the teams to overcome.
"When you add additional elements in, it kind of messes with their minds," Ashford said, while looking down at the Airmen negotiating the obstacles from a catwalk above the LRC. "It makes them think a little harder about the problem because they don't want to get wet. The worst things to worry about on the dry ones are maybe scrapping an elbow. Falling into the water generally freaks people out, changing up the dynamic of the problem."
Supervisors and squadron first sergeants handpicked Airmen of various ranks, based on their work performance and conduct, to participate in the exercise. Airmen were divided into groups of five and the role of fire team leader would rotate to each member as they changed stations.
The FTL was separated from his or her team and given a brief by one of seven evaluators. Once briefed, they were responsible for determining how to solve the problem, communicate their plan to their team, and attempt to lead their team to a successful completion within 12 minutes. Evaluators watched teams as they did their best to solve the problems while making notes of their performances as leaders and followers.
"The point really isn't to solve the problem," said 1st Lt. Laura Walsh, 70th ISR Wing director of personnel, and former Air Force Academy LRC evaluator. "It's all a big test for whoever's in charge' - their leadership and communication skills. Some of these problems are nearly impossible."
When a team completed an obstacle or time expired, the evaluator gave the team a four minute debrief focused on how effectively the leader gave direction and how well the team followed.
"You could tell some had more leadership experience," Walsh said. "There were young airmen out here who have not been put into a leadership position before and I think it was good for them to try out their leadership skills."
Every Airman was rotated into the FTL position, so frequently junior enlisted Airmen were in charge of leading officers and NCO's. Airmen participating in the exercise were also required to remove their ABU tops to keep rank less distinguishable..
"As an Airman, in my shop I don't normally get a chance to lead," said Senior Airman Sean Suppa, an FTL assigned to Delta team. "I was looking forward to it. The first time I was initially nervous but now that I'm comfortable with my team I'm confident we can do any obstacle. I didn't feel discriminated against for being and Airman. Everyone worked together and listened carefully."
"We're hoping to set up another opportunity," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Gilbert, from the 707th Communications Squadron and NCO in charge of the exercise. "Providing Airmen leadership and decision making opportunities with the ability to work and supplement a team is important because Airmen may not be able to get this experience without the LRC."