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Four Years at the Mount

The Graduate


Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(8/2017) In keeping with the spirit and theme of the upcoming World Youth Day, I spent some time brainstorming this month.

What do I want to tell or teach the world?

Well, as a recent graduate of the Mount’s Secondary Education program, I am literally about to teach (some children of) the world, so I’ve spent some brainpower on this already, naturally.

I have my personal mantras, beliefs that hark back to Catholic teachings, and practices that come from a very small amount of experience.

On the same note, I have minimal experience in the "real" world, probably less than every single person reading this article.

At the conclusion of those rambling thoughts, I decided that experience is pretty much everything. Sure, I have my pretty theories, but without experience there is minimal credibility, practical application, or real reason to invest in that theory.

In the Army, experience is everything especially as a brand-new Second Lieutenant. I have a rank that tells the people around me I graduated college and deserve to be in a room, but the same rank essentially tells everyone around me that I don’t know much about the Army. I will only have this rank for around eighteen months. After that, the gold bar will turn to black and with the simple switch of the Velcro patch, I’ll be expected to know (just a little) more.

At the same time, a senior enlisted man or woman next to me is expected to have both experience and expertise. Their rank tells me to trust that they do, but really it tells me they have put in the years and have lived and worked through things that I don’t yet understand.

In this very simple example, I found that experience is pitted at the center of trust and respect in the Army. That has come to life over the last month at Ft. Lee.

My classmates and I came here, as a requirement, to learn about our field and get experience with supply methods, vehicles, weapons systems, and more. So far, much of what we have done has been what some may recognize as "death by PowerPoint." Most days have been spent in the classroom learning and practicing the basics – terms, ideas, etc. Quite honestly, we had all been growing extremely tired of the monotony and, though we love the air conditioned building, had been itching to get outside and practice.

This week, as a natural next step in this story, we finally got out into the field to get real experience in everything we had been learning. Our first task was relatively simple, creating and loading pallets onto a C17 Aircraft. We split up into our four squads and starting, for the first

time, attempting to assemble these pallets. As it turns out, assembling them isn’t really much of a task – assembling them correctly; however, with 11 people who had never seen it done, was a different story. Every step needed to be pre-planned and thought out. Every time a net was pulled over the top to secure the crates or a crate assembled, we needed to think ahead to transporting whatever we created, the way everything needed to be facing, which rings needed to be lined up where, etc., etc. To an experienced group, the task may be monotonous. To us, each move was calculated. After we got everything together the first time, we tore it down to do it once more.

The second time I may have done more watching than helping because (with this article topic already in my head) I saw something happening. This time, the moves were already calculated and the end result was already a picture in our minds. We didn’t need to think about which way to lay a net on the ground, because we knew that the large rings hooked to the small hooks and crisscrossed at each corner. We had already seen it work and watched as the intricacies were taken apart step by step.

Again, I’m all about the simple examples this month, I saw experience in action.

I saw why my dainty ideas about how this could work flawlessly paled next to an experienced teacher.

Now, as I like to do every month, I took this small, simple example and applied it to the idea at hand.

I do want to tell the world what I believe and what I know. I want to teach what is right and what is kind. I want to live in the spirit of World Youth Day, but I want to put every part of that to practice along the way.

Every single day in my classroom I can teach lessons on the intricacies in literature because I have spent four years testing my ideas on just that. I wouldn’t, however, attempt to stand in from of 30 teenagers and teach Irish poetry because I know nothing about it. I haven’t studied it, or read it, or researched it. Before this week, similarly, I wouldn’t stand in front of soldiers and preach my preferred way of assembling a palette.

My conclusion is relatively straightforward – I would like to share my beliefs with the world and influence people, but not before full understanding and practice. We shouldn’t try to assemble a palette without practice and we shouldn’t teach Irish poetry without ever reading a line. In the same light, we shouldn’t make judgments or conclusions without understanding and experience. We shouldn’t seek to impose our opinions on our neighbors without first spending time in the matter.

Experience is essential to full understanding, that is what the Army is teaching me and that is what I would like to share with the world.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary