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Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course wraps as benchmark program

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, highlights opening actions of the Battle of Gettysburg to U.S. Air Force field grade officers at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. The officers took a tour of the park during the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course to learn about leadership principles from the past, and how they relate to the present. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, highlights opening actions of the Battle of Gettysburg to U.S. Air Force field grade officers at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. The officers took a tour of the park during the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course to learn about leadership principles from the past, and how they relate to the present. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, right, discusses Civil War-era battlefield formation tactics with Air Force officers as part of the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, right, discusses Civil War-era battlefield formation tactics with Air Force officers as part of the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, center, goes through the steps of firing a Civil War cannon with U.S. Air Force field grade officers at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. The Air Force officers took a tour of the park during the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course to learn about leadership principles from the past, and how they relate to the present. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, U.S. Army War College academic engagement director, center, goes through the steps of firing a Civil War cannon with U.S. Air Force field grade officers at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. The Air Force officers took a tour of the park during the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course to learn about leadership principles from the past, and how they relate to the present. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Air Force Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle inspects the remains of Civil War-era ammunition at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Air Force Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle inspects the remains of Civil War-era ammunition at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa., April 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

Michael James, age 4, pauses the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Commander and Spouse Orientation Course tour at Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania, April 18 to give Lt. Col. Baker a dandelion he picked and thank her for her service.

Michael James, age 4, breaks from his family and pauses the 2019 Air Force District of Washington Commander and Spouse Orientation Course tour at Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania, April 18 to give Lt. Col. Heidi Baker, 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, a dandelion he picked and thank her for her service. James' father is a technical sergeant stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

A middle school tour group high-fives Air Force District of Washington Airmen during a tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania April 18. The service members were there as part of the 2019 AFDW Commander and Spouse Orientation Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle)

A school tour group high-fives Air Force District of Washington Airmen during their visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania April 18. The service members were there as part of the 2019 AFDW Commander and Spouse Orientation Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The 2019 Air Force District of Washington Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course recently concluded, and unit principals and staff said they aim to set the standard for an interactive, immersive experience in priming emerging leaders.

As part of AFDW’s overall efforts to produce ready, capable, and innovative Airmen, the five-day course offered separate and blended activities for the attendees, including professional-development sessions with Washington Nationals executive leadership and an in-depth tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park, home of the famed Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania.

“The goals were to give you different perspectives on leadership, run the class without putting up too many slides, get you out to new places, and give you the tools to go do great things as squadron commanders,” AFDW Commander Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson said to attendees. “We hope you take the time to be just as invested in the Airmen who are doing the mission for you.”

Both on the playing field and the battlefield, the commanders enjoyed diverse perspectives, mentoring insight, and candid advice, taking with them resonating lessons they could apply at their new units, where they’ll soon lead between 50 to 300 or more Airmen.

“The lessons of leadership are timeless and a study on the ground at the Gettysburg Battlefield proves that,” said Army Col. Phillip Cuccia, academic engagement director at Army War College. “All of one’s undertakings as a commander will boil down to human relations.”

Even seasoned course attendees imparted wisdom to fellow classmates, providing real-time experiences about the balancing act between commander and family roles.

“It can be knee-knocking and paralyzing that we have people’s well-being and careers in our hands … that we have to make split-second decisions which will affect them financially for the rest of their life,” said Col. Donald Schofield Jr., incoming Air Force Band commander. “But if I carry that weight home with me, I couldn’t be what [my spouse] needs me to be – so learn your audience and be able to adjust accordingly.”

With homestead needs in mind, the course design accommodated the unique challenges spouses may face and provided avenues and tools to help their own families and those of the Airmen within the respective commanders’ units.

“We toured Military OneSource and [Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors], two resources that I knew about but got to explore further in terms of what they do for service members and family members,” said Jon Marshall, spouse of course attendee Lt. Col. Mary Marshall. “What we can pass along to people under their purview is invaluable.”

Ultimately, communication is key at all levels, said course facilitator Col. Kevin Eastland, AFDW vice commander, but he reminded the commanders and spouses of one other important element of the job. “Remember, it’s okay to have fun -- this can be a really challenging but fun job with a lasting positive effect on you and your Airmen.”