By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

“Candor, genuine and no script. I want you to kind of speak from the heart. Talk about your failures and successes that helped you get to here today.”

Those words were spoken by Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier to a panel of six sergeants major before a two-hour leader professional development session at the Post Theater Dec. 9.

The combined idea of the panel was created by the Victory Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and Tavernier. The panel offered noncommissioned officer leaders from across the installation an opportunity to ask questions to help further their professional development and growth in their careers.

“I’ve never had an opportunity like this,” Tavernier said of the panel. “To have real dialogue.”

Some NCOs dread developmental sessions, thinking they will be stuck in a classroom listening to a guest speaker they don’t know or identify with. Tavernier approached the panel members with an opportunity for them to speak candidly about their fledgling days as Soldiers and what motivated them to enlist and pursue their career paths.

“We are just like you. When I joined the Army, I initially did it to get my degree,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Erin Hicks, U.S. Army Medical Activity-Moncrief Army Health Clinic and panel member. “But I chose to stay because the Army gave me the sense of belonging.”

Some panel members spoke of their humble beginnings before enlistment, one came from a single parent family that struggled financially, one enlisted to find shelter from homelessness and another to rise up from a life of drug use and violence.

The brutally honest introductions of the panel members led attendees to ask difficult questions and seek advice on a variety of topics to include interpersonal relationships with subordinates, how to treat Soldiers with dignity and respect while they are under investigation, racial tensions, and conflict resolution between enlisted and officer ranks.

“Every single one of you in this room has something that will make my life better,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Blair, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. “We just have to talk to each other and learn from each other at a sub-surface level. Relationships matter.”

One commonality shared by the panel members included mentorship. Each panel members attributed their successes, and finding their way to success after failure, to the honest conversations and advice from their mentors.

As the panel came to a close, Tavernier thanked all the panel members for answering the questions of attendees and spoke of continuing the panel in the future.

“To everyone here, thank you. This was a great dialog,” Tavernier said in closing. “Hopefully this was beneficial to you and hopefully we continue this is the future.”