HQ USMEPCOM, North Chicago, Ill. –
At a command where teamwork is imperative and members are spread across 65 locations, conferences are a great tool for unit synergy and building important partnerships.
The USMEPCOM Leadership Conference, which brings together Sector, Battalion and MEPS commanders and senior enlisted advisors, returned May 8-12 to Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, after a four-year pause due to the pandemic.
In tackling the challenge of bringing the Leadership Conference back, J-1’s Workforce Development, Training and Conference Division sent out canvassing questions. The agenda was built from answers to prompts like “What are the top priorities for your MEPS with regard to medical processing?” and “What ethical issues do you struggle with at your MEPS?”. What resulted was a five-day conference with a variety of presenters, breakout sessions and focused discussions.
“This is the first time we have had all of you in the same room since 2019,” said Col. Megan Stallings, USMEPCOM commander. “That’s a long time for an organization to go without its leaders being able to connect in person. This week is about all of you talking, connecting and asking questions.”
Dr. Katie Helland, director of Military Accession Policy, was able to introduce herself to USMEPCOM command leadership in person, answer questions and thank personnel for their continued dedication to duty.
“I know you have gone through several years of turbulence,” said Helland. “Whether it be operating during a pandemic to processing applicants in the most turbulent recruiting environment, I know it hasn’t been easy. You’re a critical part to the military story and the value of service, thank you for the work that you do.”
The attendees were a diverse group of leaders from all branches of the military. Everything from seating arrangements, breakout sessions and even a group run were to encourage comradery and to allow for beneficial networking opportunities.
“It’s important for us to know how our higher ups are thinking and that our issues are being tracked,” said Marine Corps Maj. Lou Murillo, Harrisburg MEPS commander. “But the most important thing we got to do this week is break the ice. If we never had this conference, I probably never would call Kansas City MEPS for guidance. Since sitting next to Lt. Col. Krippel, Kansas City MEPS commander, I now have someone I can go to for help.”
Throughout the conference, new connections were made across the command. But it also reunited familiar faces for some military personnel.
“It’s been nice to leave the office, recharge and learn what motivates other people,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. America Estevez-Guerrero, Tampa MEPS commander. “This brings us back to reality and shows us what we do is bigger than we think. Meeting everybody has been great, but I was extremely excited to reconnect with two shipmates I previously served with on the USS Anchorage. It’s amazing to see them succeed and brings back great memories.”
A popular event during the conference was a leader development meet up around a courtyard fire pit. There were no slide show presentations or guided discussions. Attendees were able to network and bond over shared experiences.
“Engagements like this matter the most, where we can come together and share our common challenges and successes,” said Army Col. Janelle Kutter, Eastern Sector commander. “This conference not only reminds us that it’s okay to be vulnerable but gives us the opportunity to lift each other up.”