by April Van Epps, Ignite Louisville Class of 2014 –
The day that we spent at Ft Knox is a day that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I consider myself someone with a strong sense of patriotism – someone who is very proud of our country, just as I was raised. Our country isn’t perfect but we have a strong history founded on hard work and opportunity. Before our day at Ft. Knox, I hadn’t been this close to our military. I would often stop when I see someone in uniform to say thank you for your service, just as my parents did. I knew that the person or persons in front of me had sacrificed so that I could rest easy. But with that vision, came a view of leadership that was very brash, iron-fisted or even dictator-like. I thought leadership in our military was about screaming louder, with a montage of movie scenes featuring boot camp in my head. Knowing this was my perspective, I wasn’t prepared for the impact that this one day would have on me.
My classmates and I learned about and witnessed authentic, servant style leadership. We spent our day surrounded by amazing, dedicated, humble, smart and hard-working leaders. We learned about the military planning and decision making processes, which will provide great insight as we begin to work on our Yum! IGNITES Challenge service-learning project. I was amazed at how much detail and planning went into just planning – yes, you read that right – to make a decision. We also heard from Brigadier General Gayler who shared the US Army’s philosophy on leadership development: the most important purpose of the US Army is to prepare and develop those that follow to do better than those who have come before. What an amazing perspective of future focus!
The officers that our Ignite class spent with day with were rising leaders themselves – all excelling in their field of choice, be it special operations, aviation, artillery, etc. – who were on special assignment planning the next duty stations and plotting the careers of their peers and subordinates around the globe. They were serious and passionate about doing this assignment – none of them receiving their current 24 month posts by choice – to the best of their ability to plan for the future of the US Army and through that a sense of American safety and security.
Although I am as grateful as ever for the sacrifice that these gentlemen and thousands of other men and women and their families make for me and my family, I am forever marked by the outstanding leadership I saw in action that day. I have such increased respect and confidence in our US Army and wish that everyone could see what we saw. I am so very grateful for this experience and to the officers of the HRC at Ft. Knox who gave so freely of themselves so that my fellow classmates and I may increase our leadership skills. I will use what I learned to the best of my ability to give of myself to our community to make it a better place, as these officers so freely give of themselves every day. Servant leadership at its finest!