What Can We Learn From an International Military Trainer?
No one trains like the United States military. What can we learn from an international trainer with almost 30 years’ experience who now coaches professional speakers and trainers?
Rich Parsons served the United States for 27 years as an Air Force senior leader and program manager. He started in Civil Engineering and quickly moved up to be an instructor for everything from dealing with chemical attacks to how to be a supervisor. He also taught leadership and communication at the Community College of the Air Force. He then moved up to be the Senior Technical Training and Development Manager. Rich finished out his Air Force career as the Superintendent for over 400 Airmen. Rich has continued his devotion to receiving and giving training, as he is now a certified TEDx Speaker Coach and a certified Speaker and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team.
Rich is happy to hear from you and offers a free Success Call for all listeners of The People Catalysts podcast
LinkedIn: Rich Parsons
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Read Along as Karla and Rich Discuss Training to Train…
Karla Nelson: And welcome to The People Catalysts Podcast, Rich Parsons.
Rich Parsons: Hey, how are you doing Karla?
Karla Nelson: Glad to have you on the show, sir.
Rich Parsons: I’m super excited about this. I’m glad we were able to connect and make this happen so quickly.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, pretty fantastic. Somebody who’s been a trainer of the Iraqi Army, Afghan Army and worked… you were in the Air Force, right? But you worked in conjunction with Navy and Marines and all sorts of good stuff.
Rich Parsons: Yep, that’s correct. Yeah, it was pretty interesting to experience working with the other services and then having the opportunity to work directly with training the Iraqi Army when they were coming up after the transition in their country, and then working with the Afghan nationals and their Army as well has been a pretty unique experience.
Karla Nelson: What brought you to that place? And then what brought you to working with professionals and CEOs, and in training the outside world? Because I love this story in regards to veterans. I mean you guys know trading to the nth degree, you’re some of the best people to work with. Because you see the value of training and now you have your story and then your work, and now you’re bringing it to the outside world. Share with us Rich, that whole kind of spectrum.
Rich Parsons: Okay. Yeah. I won’t go back into the early days of joining the Air Force in 1991 but what I will do is highlight just a couple points along my career that really got me to where I’m at today. And I’ll say that I did not get anywhere in my military career and in my personal life without having coaches and mentors along the way to help me. And I think that served as probably one of the biggest highlights. And one of the biggest takeaways from my career is the value of having a coach, of having somebody to come alongside you, to mentor you to get to that next level. And that’s really what’s driven me through my career. And I have one of those individuals, a man by the name of Mike Sullivan. I met him back in the mid-nineties when I was going through my first level of professional military education.
And skipping forward a few years as he and my instructor Richard Redusco made an impact on me. I then later on in the early two thousands became a professional military education instructor where I was teaching leadership and human resource management and counseling skills and all this. And Mike Sullivan ended up being one of our leaders on the base that I was doing that, so I had yet another opportunity for him to speak into my life and to help me grow. And it was also during that time as an instructor that I got to go to Iraq and help stand up the new Iraqi Army. And that was a very unique, to say the least. Many people referred to it as herding cats.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, we use that frequently in business.
Rich Parsons: Yeah. And you can use that. Yeah, exactly. It’s a pretty universal term. But having that opportunity to train the Iraqi Army and help set up their training battalion. That’s where I worked with the other Air Force instructors, Army, Navy, Marines and I became pretty close with each of them and we actually taught the Army professional leadership course, which I had to learn to speak Army pretty quickly, but some unique stories out of that, that I could go into another time. But-
Karla Nelson: Well I love that though, speak Army, you have to tell us a little bit more about that.
Rich Parsons: That was really my first experience working with the Army and I had to build some cloud there and often times the Air Force is kind of looked at as-
Karla Nelson: The chair force.
Rich Parsons: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t want to say it.
Karla Nelson: I’m married to somebody who’s 21 years Air Force, he’s-
Rich Parsons: Oh okay. Yeah that’s right.
Karla Nelson: And then my dad is 24 years Navy, so believe me I’ve heard it all.
Rich Parsons: There is definitely some differences in the services and kind of our PT and our level of, I don’t know exertion in that, but we always got picked on because we did a bike test instead of a run test for the longest time, so I had to prove myself. One day we were doing one of our formation runs with all the services and at the end, the last, I don’t know, half mile or so, they just kind of let it be a free run. Well I was damned and determined that I was not going to show up badly for the Air Force. And as I came across the line there was a Marine, an Army and then myself, they looked rather like, what are you doing here? And so just kind of getting some clout with those guys. And I think, and honestly that was kind of a turning point for some of the guys like, well maybe you guys aren’t all that bad. But with our instructors that we had there, we had to learn how to communicate in a way that was consistent with the other services.
And when I say speak Army, some of their lingoes, some of their terms, things like that was different. But as I found, that as we were able to speak their language, it allowed us to connect with them. And that same thing applies in the business sector-
Karla Nelson: Oh, for sure.
Rich Parsons: And the civilian sector. When you learn to speak the language of the company and you learn the people, you’re able to connect with them and help them create change and to go to that next level. That’s one of the big lessons I learned out of that was just being able to connect on their level, to be able to go to the next level.
Karla Nelson: Definitely. I love that. And then also can you share with us just a little bit, one of the things I love about our armed forces, all the branches is the value of training, right? That’s one thing that I wish in business that they would like put their arms around it and go yes you have to practice.
Rich Parsons: Right.
Karla Nelson: And so, can you share with us Rich a little bit about your background in valuing training and needing it and then-
Rich Parsons: Right.
Karla Nelson: I mean, my goodness, you trained the Iraqi Army and the Afghan Army, right? They needed training too, so understanding the branch between the training in the armed forces and the same logistics happen in business.
Rich Parsons: Correct. Yeah. Obviously for the military side of things, I think this really crosses all lines, but training is a foundation, is basically what it is. Without the foundation being there, you’re not able to perform at the level that you’re supposed to. And oftentimes people, and I get it. I’ve hated training myself, even when I was a trainer, because we still had to do training on how to do training.
Karla Nelson: I’m going to have to quote you on that. I hated trading myself even when I was a trainer. That’s fantastic. It’s true though, Rich, right?
Rich Parsons: It is.
Karla Nelson: It’s like, it’s not like sexy or like woo hoo, but it’s necessary.
Rich Parsons: It is, it is a necessary evil at times, but without it, you know, when I would go out on field exercises or I would go into… It’s like even some of the things I would train people on, it’s like, why are we doing this again? And really the reason we were doing it again is not because we didn’t value their time and not because we didn’t value whatever else it was, whatever complaint that came with it. Really a lot of it is because we valued the ability, or we valued the opportunity to increase their competence in a certain area or increase their level of safety and their ability to do something. And so with repetition in some of the training it builds that. But you know, at the same time we had opportunities as I’m sure businesses do as well, is you have to look at the value that comes out of the training, and put the effort behind those things that matter most. And typically, anything that involves safety, being prepared to do your job, even in difficult situations, things of that nature are going to get more focused.
For instance, I was in Korea for a year back in the mid two thousands and with just the hostility and just the differences and things that go on over there, it’s like you know at any minute what they say is the balloon could go up. And when that happens, there’s little time to react, so we practiced every month wearing our gear and going out and doing something related to our skill. And in my case, it was airfield recovery and being able to function in a chemical environment and function in austere conditions. Without that training, it would not have been muscle memory.
Karla Nelson: The stress level probably goes up so much, right?
Rich Parsons: Yeah. In corporate world, in the business sector, the training. You know, you may not have to practice chemical warfare, but in some places, they don’t do active shooter training, they don’t do hostile actions or hostile worker type stuff. And those things are critical because without it, you don’t know how to react when that situation comes up. And that’s why training is important and being able to understand the concepts of it. And how to get that across in an effective manner. Again, it goes back to knowing the people, knowing the culture and figuring out what the needs are and then meeting them so that they can be more effective as they move on to whatever.
Karla Nelson: That’s so critical. And so absolutely fantastic. Share with us a little bit Rich about your War room and your Boardroom.
Rich Parsons: I created basically a success floor plan and-
Karla Nelson: Because I love that War room, Boardroom, I mean my goodness. I mean-
Rich Parsons: I anybody was curious about the floor plan. That’s something we could definitely connect on. But two of the rooms that are in there are the War room and the Boardroom. And so what I’ve done with that is for those that are military minded, military affiliated be it civilians or actual military personnel, the War room is something that… They both kind of run in a hybrid mastermind type format. But the reason I have them split up and they kind of cover a lot of the same information, but it’s being around like minded people that oftentimes we’re able to learn more effectively, and to go to that next level. Even though the like-minded people being military and military affiliated, it doesn’t mean that there’s not different perspectives in there, but being able to gain those perspectives on a common ground is important.
And the same thing happens in the Boardroom where if you have executives or rising stars that they’re wanting to move into leadership or executive positions within corporate side of things, that’s a great area to have like-minded people that have business experience that can help those up and coming, those high potentials, move to that next level and really just kind of creates a comfort zone to where a Boardroom’s not getting inundated with a bunch of military lingo and terminology that they wouldn’t understand-
Karla Nelson: Yeah. And acronyms, right?
Rich Parsons: Yep. Oh yeah acronyms-
Karla Nelson: It’s so funny Rich and even today it’s like, Oh, if I said it in an acronym, you would know what it means, right?
Rich Parsons: Yep. And that was one of my… One of my things that if I was the Air Force acronym king for the day, one of the things I wanted to do before I got out of the service was if I had an opportunity to make one acronym list for the whole service, I would have done that because every command, every base, they all had different ones-
Karla Nelson: There were some times, I don’t even know what they actually mean I guess I’m a military brat, it’s like I know what it means, but I’m not sure what the words are.
Rich Parsons: Right?
Karla Nelson: Yeah.
Rich Parsons: Yeah. I liked one of the commands, their philosophy a few years back was if you can find it on acronym finder.com it’s good. That’s good and bad but anyway. There’s value in having some commonalities and some standardization through things.
Karla Nelson: Well, definitely because that’s where you kind of find quote unquote home. But I really love the Boardroom, the War room, and what you’re doing with your mastermind groups is absolutely fantastic. And valuing coaching. And you talked about your coach Mike Sullivan and Richard Tedesco and we all have these individuals? Well we should all have these individuals in our lives, right. That help us through challenging times or trying times and I’m definitely going to have to quote you on I hated training even when I was the trainer, because that’s so true, right?
Rich Parsons: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: It’s like you don’t really want to do this, but it’s necessary and it’s necessary to be prepared and to understand that you don’t wait for the chemical warfare to happen. You practice before the chemical warfare happens.
Rich Parsons: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: I mean, and it’s very, very fluid to business. Okay. Where can our listeners get ahold of you Rich?
Rich Parsons: They can go out to my website, higher calling consulting llc.com all one word, no spaces. And on there, there’s some information. The biggest thing that I would point out on that is there’s my phone number and there’s also a contact me form that people can fill out to get in touch with me, to learn more about what I do and how I can bring an exceptional the coaching experience to either individuals or to a business team.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, we have no doubt about that. Thanks so much for being on the show, Rich. We’ll make sure that information is in the show notes as well. Thank you so much, sir.