ONE-YEAR AT GOIZUETA: Keiylene Strickland – The Fort Benning Leadership Reaction Course: A Sunday to Remember

04:45 – my alarm goes off

Wait, it’s a Sunday. What is happening? It’s the Fort Benning Leadership Reaction Course Day. We have been talking about this day for weeks and it is finally here. I pull myself out of bed and stagger around to get ready. Sunblock, check. Eye protection, concerning, but check. Change of clothes for when we get wet, check. I load up the car and head to GBS.

06:00 – arrive on campus

Have you ever seen a zombie apocalypse? Ask a class of MBA students to arrive on campus at 6:00am on Sunday and you can say you have. Everyone is dragging (and rightly so! It’s 6:00!). I grab a muffin and my cup of coffee and head to a seat in the back of the bus.

As the bus pulls away, I realize that my half-empty cup of coffee will make it quite challenging to sleep during the two-hour bus ride ahead of me. Since there is no trash in sight, I finish it off and pull out some case prep. Almost as good as sleeping, right?

08:00 – pull up to Fort Benning

We all exit the bus and assemble in our teams after a brief introduction by General Ken Keen. There, we grab our helmets and gloves (The eye protection is beginning to make more sense).

Our first challenge of the morning involves a moat, a barrel and two planks of wood. The challenge: to cross the moat with our box of supplies. All is going well until a teammate unintentionally takes a swim in the moat, followed quickly by another teammate!

Fort Benning_1

Team attempting one of the “moat challenges.” The perfect balance of risk and trust.

The challenges continue throughout the morning. Each requiring even more creativity than the last. After a few hours, we break for lunch and head to the mess hall where we exchange tactics and stories of our adventures.

12:00 – lunch at the mess hall

Lunch is followed by a bus tour of Fort Benning. We pass the U.S. Army Jumpmaster School where General Keen shares a brief overview of the three week program that begins with ground simulation and is completed after five airborne jumps. After the tour, we head back for round two of the reaction course.

13:30 – the second round of team challenges

Our team discovered a consistent pattern during the morning session. We were typically successful in determining the solution to the challenges but were far too slow in our execution. Taking this revelation to heart, we started again. Our luck continued with successful solutions implemented a bit too slow as we ran out of time challenge after challenge (including the one where half of our team was left standing atop a ten foot wall).

Fort Benning_3

Our team attempting the wall challenge. Time ran out shortly after we all made it to this point!

As the day was coming to a close, we had time for one last challenge and we were determined that this was the one! As soon as the whistle blew, we grouped together to formulate a plan and immediately took action. It may have been the last challenge, but we finished with a few minutes to spare!

16:00 – loading up the bus to GBS

As we loaded the bus after the closing remarks, I couldn’t help but notice how the atmosphere had changed. Everyone was exhausted but there was such an air of excitement. Everyone was sharing the tricks they had discovered and swapped stories of mishaps and “swim breaks”. The conversation died down as we headed back to Emory but you could feel the deepened sense of comradery.

As a class and within our individual project teams, we learned so much about our strengths and our weaknesses as teammates and as leaders. I would venture to say however, that the greatest takeaway was a greater sense of trust among our classmates.

It was a long and tiring day but the enthusiasm for the experience in the afternoon far out shadowed the humorous scene of a class of tired MBA students meandering around the courtyard in the morning.

Fort Benning_Group2

Our group at the end of a very long yet incredibly rewarding day.