Fort Knox: Strength Starts Here

Dr. Audra Rankin

Audra Rankin, assistant professor, University of Louisville School of Nursing

By Dr. Audra Rankin, Ignite Louisville Class of 2015 (October 2014 – April 2015)  –

My father served in the Air Force during Vietnam.  He doesn’t often speak about his deployment but tells anyone that will listen that the armed services provided him with an opportunity for education, leadership and life skills that he never would have found in his hometown in southeastern North Carolina.  Although I was not an “Army Brat”, I learned every armed services fight song as a child; singing them with my dad as we ran around the neighborhood, training for my upcoming tennis seasons.  A few months ago, I chuckled to myself when I heard him sing “Off we go into the wild blue yonder” to my 16-month-old daughter—some things never change. Although the stories, songs, and culture of the armed services were not foreign to me when I arrived at Fort Knox last week, I was completely unprepared for the emotional impact that a few hours on the campus would have on my thoughts–and thankfulness–for the men and women who so bravely serve our country.

I had the pleasure of listening to Brigadier General William Gayler discuss the fundamentals of military leadership and he said something that continues to resonate with me; “If I can get a soldier to see me have fun with what I do, I may have connected them to their passion for their next 30 years.“

My professional role as a pediatric nurse practitioner and faculty member at the University of Louisville School of Nursing affords me many opportunities to engage in policy, service, education, and improving pediatric healthcare.  As I soaked up every word of General Gayler’s presentation, I found myself hoping I can one day inspire my patients and students as General Gayler inspires his soliders, community and our nation.

Ignite Louisville at Ft. Knox November 2015

Conquering the teams course at Ft. Knox: (Left to right) Olivia Webb, Audra Rankin, Colleen Payne and Sytisha Claycomb.

Later in the day, I arrived at the Dunagan Teamwork Development Course, greeted with gray skies, bitter wind, and a chill in the air that cut to the bone.  As my teeth chattered and I assessed the leadership reaction course that lay ahead, my first thought was that no pilates reformer or barre class could have prepared me to scale walls or lift large wooden planks.  I was right.  There was no way the course could be completed individually but only as a team.  As my Ignite Louisville team worked together to complete our challenges; strengths and weaknesses emerged and our leadership skills bubbled up over wooden boards, human bridges, and heavy oil barrels. I left the course, physically and mentally exhausted, and in awe of how five short obstacles taught me so much about my team and myself.

As I ended the day at the Saber & Quill, a cold drink in my hand and warm food in my belly, I was encouraged, inspired and thankful. I spent a few short hours with the Army Special Forces and left with a lifelong appreciation for the master skill sets our soliders possess in order to protect our nation.  These brave men and women exemplify leadership, and their thoughts and actions are worthy of emulation in any professional setting. Fort Knox: Strength Starts Here.


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