FORT KNOX, Ky. – 2nd Regiment Cadet Leaders Course (CLC) Cadets were in for a treat on July 1 when retired Lt. Gen. Ken Keen spoke during the second session of the Commitment to the Army Profession Seminar (CAPS) at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.
Keen shared how “day-one readiness” was instrumental to Operation Unified Response, the military mission he commanded in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
“When he mentioned day-one readiness, I realized that as a future lieutenant, I need to be ready to hit the ground running on day one,” said Cdt. Jay Edmonds, a senior history major at the University of Alabama.
Keen recounted the exact moment the earthquake struck the island while he was in a meeting near the Port-au-Prince home of Kenneth Merten, former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
“We saw his house swaying back and forth like a palm tree in a storm. We could hear around us what we thought were explosions, but the noises were collapsing structures, multi-story apartment buildings and hotels. What seemed like forever lasted 53 seconds,” Keen said.
Keen also stressed that leaders need to be adaptable during a crisis of that caliber.
“The leaders were the ones that could adapt quickly to the environment,” Keen continued, “There were characteristics from a leadership perspective in Haiti that were consistent with what I’d seen in my career in the 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Forces, Iraq, Pakistan and wherever else I served.”
Cdt. Ruben Holly, a senior political science major at the University of New Mexico, said Keen’s remarks motivated him to never stop learning from others with different experiences.
“For me, the overall takeaway was to never be set in my ways as a leader. I don’t want to be the officer that goes in believing he knows all the right answers,” he noted.
Keen left the Cadets with a practical piece of advice, encouraging them to fully apply themselves in CLC.
“The day you step into your first unit, you need to be ready to lead. Spend time reflecting on what you’ve learned so when you step into your first unit, wherever that is, you’re ready to lead,” Keen said.