GUEST POST – ALI FADLALLAH – The Fort Benning Leadership Challenge “Through the Lens of a Charter Participant”

Hear from One-Year MBA 2014 guest blogger Ali Fadlallah, as he shares his experience at the recent trip to Fort Benning, Dec 13 -14 for our MBA student leadership development trip:

DAY 1: “Team full-time”—Christina, John, Kyle, Prem, Rachel and I—have no idea what to expect. Having served in the military, Patrick has an idea, but I suspect even he is in for a treat. After some introductions with “the evenings” and a few pictures overlooking the courtyard, we finished packing the shiny, snow-white vans and are making our way to Fort Benning, hoping to honor the 1500 expected arrival time. It’s Johns first time driving a 15-passenger van. If the van was any bigger (or if we were in Canada) John would need a bus license. We are reassured by the fact that John is a young father (as if having a child graduates one into a greater level of skill behind the wheel!). John notices low pressure in the tires, coupled with a tank only 1/8th full, and we find our way to a QT. Before long, we hit the highway, conversing about an array of topics along the way and jamming out to an interesting mix of music from Lorde, R. Kelly, Rihanna, some Christmas jingles, and our theme song—Hank Williams’ 1951 classic, “Hey Good Lookin.’”

We arrived at Fort Benning at 1515, and luckily, were not asked to assume push-up position. General Keen was waiting for us and explained that he really needed us there by 1530; he thanked us for being early, and joked: “never trust a man in uniform.” Before long, we unloaded into the barracks and were on our way to the national infantry museum in Columbus, GA, where Col (Ret) Greg Camp led us through an amazing tour that showcased the infantry and military experience from 1775 to present.

 

Like Goizueta, we learned, the army has 7 core values. Side by side, the similarities in both organizations begin to quickly surface. Pillars all around the museum display the army’s values—Personal Courage, Integrity, Honor, Respect, Duty, Loyalty, and Selfless Service. Many of these ring a bell at Goizueta, where we strive to embody Courage, Integrity, Team, Community, Accountability, Rigor, and Diversity.

Col (Ret) Greg Camp explained that anything that would kill the enemy within 100 yards would kill the ally as well. This is what distinguished the infantry from the rest of the military. This group of combatants owned the last 100 yards. We began our tour with “The Last 100 Yards,” the museums signature, tribute exhibit which showcases life-sized dioramas brought to life with compelling visuals, sounds, and lights.

Our eventful evening culminated in a networking reception and dinner at the museum, where I had the privilege to sit next to our keynote speaker, Col (Ret) Ralph Puckett, who shared war-stories imbued with lessons from life and the army. Sitting to my right was Major General H.R. McMaster, the Commanding General at Fort Benning—a highly intelligent and fun man who I shared a great conversation with centered on careers, culture, and the Middle East. He was excited that I was a Teach for America alumnus; his daughter had just completed her final round of interviews. After a great dinner and dessert, Col Puckett joked that, “if you’re not full, it’s your fault!” Col Puckett was a very active man, making his rounds from table to table and person to person throughout the event. He also memorized his keynote address.

DAY 2: We heard that Fort Benning was one of the best training grounds in the world, and it wasn’t long before we learned why. Most of us were awake by 500, anxious to begin our day. After a beautiful Friday of sunshine, we knew that our Saturday would likely take a different course. Part of me was wishing the rain would come, hoping to bask in the spirit that General Keen enthusiastically exclaimed: “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training!”

It rained alright. But not until I already had the opportunity to rappel repeatedly off the 64-foot tower at Fort Benning—the tallest rappelling tower nationwide. Chief Randolph encouraged me to try it Aussie style, and I obliged, taking several feet of slack to run and jump off the tower with my arms spread apart. Dean Brian captured me on video, insisting that the sight was “frightening.” It was a thrill! It was also fun to practice shooting M-4’s (unloaded and attached to compressors), and learn about how army-men are trained to make safe, responsible decisions when moving through foreign lands and interacting with foreigners.

The rain began concurrent with the team challenges—the most fun part of our Fort Benning adventure. Transitioning from station to station, we rotated team leaders and were giving a series of 20-minute challenges followed by 10 minute “After-Action Reviews” or AAR’s, in true Army fashion. The challenges required us to work together—efficiently and strategically—to solve various physical challenges, such as getting artillery or a group of soldiers over a land-mine. We often had access to limited resources, such as rope, a ladder, and our minds! I recall the 4 questions we were asked to focus on in our AAR’s using the acronym “P.E.A.R.L”—Purpose, Execution and Result, Learning.  What was your purpose? How did you execute? What was the result? What did you learn?

To conclude: my own brief AAR on the Fort Benning Leadership Challenge: My purpose was to step out of my comfort zone and understand how the Army (as an organization) can relate to and enhance my entrepreneurial endeavors. I executed this by participating and giving it my 100%! The result was a heightened respect for those who serve in the military, great fun with great company, and a truly life-changing and enlightening 2-day experience. In a nutshell, I learned that the Army’s focus on leadership, hard work, persistence, and continuous improvement are principles that can be applied across any area of life—from business to our personal dreams and endeavors.