Guardsman challenges stigma, stereotype

By Sgt. Tackora Hand | Indiana National Guard | Nov. 24, 2020

Indianapolis —

Plato, Thucydides, Plutarch, Cicero and Alexis de Tocqueville; these are not the names you would generally expect to see listed as reading material on the website for a three- to five-week military school.

However, this is exactly what you'll find at the Army's Strategic Broadening Seminars. These seminars are just one way the Indiana National Guard and Department of Defense continue to challenge the all too popular "I couldn't go to college, so I joined" stigma.

"The seminar gives you a whole different perspective on leadership from an academic viewpoint," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Helmsing, a senior maintenance officer in the Indiana National Guard from Edinburgh, Indiana. "They build from the ground up, the history of leadership, self-actualization and various things required to actually build a leader."

The Army's Strategic Broadening Seminars' introduce junior and midcareer leaders to the discipline of strategic planning. The postgraduate seminars are part of the Strategic Studies Fellows Program. Participants are exposed to new concepts that challenge their preconceived ideas about military, business, and conflict resolution.

"I learned about the SBS opportunities while supporting state partnership exercises in Niger with the Indiana National Guard," said Helmsing. "During the exercises I had the ability to network and hear about other officers' experiences at the broadening seminars."

Early 2020, despite the worldwide uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Helmsing was excited when he learned his application had been accepted for the Strategic Broadening Seminar at the University of Louisville. The month-long program took place at the Louisville's McConnell Center and focused on three core areas of strategic broadening: leadership and political philosophy, constitutionalism and national security, and security developments in the Pacific Asia region.

On a daily basis, the list of guest lecturers included professors, doctors, politicians, active and retired general officers, who offered challenging questions that required soldiers to prepare for class and pay attention. The schedule was demanding, said Helmsing.

"We spent a lot of time talking about Russia, China and major strategic issues that are related to the military," said Helmsing. "I was exposed to a thoughtful way of approaching leadership, challenging our doctrinal tendencies about the next generation of problems."

Required reading assignments averaged between 150 and 250 pages per night.

Strategic Broadening Seminars are an opportunity to meet and learn from current and former Department of Defense senior leaders, political leaders, and some of academia's best professors who have decades of experience. More notably, it is an opportunity to expand your thinking, engage peers, and establish long-lasting relationships.

The SBS is a fully funded program with no strings attached. There are no additional active-duty service obligations, no restrictive post assignments and no cost to units. Graduates earn an additional skill identifier, strategic studies graduate, which is annotated on their enlisted record briefs or officer record briefs.

"Every junior to mid-level Army leader should consider applying to this program," said Helmsing. "I believe the military is what you make of it. These opportunities are out there, you just have to be willing to take a chance and apply."