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Massachusetts Guard Helps Host Crisis Leadership Seminar

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julia Ahaesy,
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Massachusetts National Guard, in collaboration with the National Guard Bureau Homeland Security Institute, hosted the annual General and Flag Officer Seminar designed by Harvard Kennedy School’s program on Crisis Leadership April 23-26.

Strategic-level leaders across the nation’s 54 states and territories, Paraguay, Germany and Canada traveled to Harvard University to participate in a curriculum to prepare them for homeland security emergencies — from natural disasters to emergent infectious diseases to terrorism.

HKS professors Dutch Leonard and Arnold Howitt walked participants through case studies of significant events. Senior leaders shared their knowledge and lessons learned during crises. 

The collaboration and networking enabled participants to strengthen relationships with senior personnel, better preparing them for disasters that require the National Guard to work with first responders.

Leonard and Howitt, co-authors of “Managing Crises: Responses to Large Scale Emergencies,” have studied crisis leadership for over a decade. They recognize the National Guard is frequently involved in multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency responses.

“I hope that participants gain insight into a number of issues that shape their participation in disaster response,” said Howitt. “A greater understanding of decision-making as individuals and in groups, effective collaboration methods across organizations and levels of government and relations between political leaders and operational commanders like themselves. Moreover, we trust that the contacts and networks that form among the participants will prove valuable touch points in the years to come.”

The team has shaped the General and Flag Officer Seminar over the past several years to best respond to unforeseen crises. Leonard said the most significant change made was the distinction between “routine” and “non-routine” emergencies.

“Other programs that these participants might take, or have taken, would emphasize the important, but limited, form of preparation and response oriented toward routine emergencies,” said Leonard. “Active consideration of how novel circumstances are different — a main focus of this course — is largely absent from other emergency management curricula. We see this as a key value-add flowing from our program.”

The seminar is designed for General and Flag Officers and their civilian counterparts. Along with strategic-level leaders from the National Guard Bureau, the Homeland Security Institute invites interagency personnel from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Massachusetts National Guard’s State Partnership Program partners Paraguay and Kenya. Invitations are also extended to Germany, Canada, the Israeli and Irish Defense Forces.

“We encourage as many organizations to attend as we can all learn from complex multiagency emergencies to better understand key priorities and how to save lives at a moment’s notice,” said 1st Lt. Roseli Rodriguez, HSI operations officer.