Emergence Alum Making a Difference: Paving the Way in the National Guard

Major Dillon Mathies (Emergence Program Cohort 2301) is ready to recruit more members: not just as a Recruiting Company Commander for the Louisiana National Guard (LANG), but also for the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Emergence Program. He hopes that by sharing his experience and implementing his Change Initiative, more members of his organization will become interested in the program. His Change Initiative, “Rapid Response: Creating Efficiency Between Tactical and Strategic-Level Communications,” focuses on refining their Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) utilized in an All-Hazard Response scenario.

Major Dillon Mathies

He originally presented the concept of the initiative to the leader of his organization, the Adjutant General of Louisiana, Brigadier General Thomas C. Friloux (Executive Leaders Program Cohort 2301) on December 12, 2023, and received further guidance on the direction he should proceed in as he brings the concept to fruition. “It is important in our current resource-constrained operating environment to become more efficient,” said Friloux. “Achieving our long-term vision will require changing the way we’ve operated for the last two decades, finding the balance between innovation and training fundamentals.”

The initial idea of a Change Initiative was a little daunting to Mathies, as “change for [the National Guard] at any fundamental level is something that has to be reviewed by the National Guard Bureau or by ‘big-Army’ in Washington, DC. That process is very burdensome, very guided, [and] very specific; there is an established way that you go about changing regulation.” For these reasons, he focused his Change Initiative less on regulatory changes and more on TTPs, which is “something that could be easily refined or adjusted within the Louisiana National Guard.” As a result, “while [the topic] narrowed the scope, it broadened my area of influence.”

His Change Initiative is not the only application of the valuable lessons he learned in Emergence. Upon returning to work after his January 2024 graduation, Mathies finished a months-long process to re-write the charter and by-laws for the National Guard Association of Louisiana (NGALA) as the organization’s Charter and Bylaws Committee Chair. The by-laws and charter have existed since 1955, says Mathies, and the documents were starting to blend together. He used what he learned in Emergence to recognize how some of the language can be modernized or more specific, so as to more accurately match current operations and procedures.

He appreciated the assignments during the first distance learning phase before his cohort got together for their first in-residence because he felt that it gave him the tools to “wade through the muck; to move stuff out of the way that was essentially white noise.” As he began developing his Change Initiative, he realized his scope was “still pretty broad to be able to change something in the military. … I needed a very definitive, actionable approach to figuring out [what] ‘the problem’ was and then how to go about solving it.” Those first few months of distance learning, said Mathies, were crucial for him “to explore some of these concepts and then apply them to what was becoming my Change Initiative.”

Mathies learned about the Emergence Program through a presentation given by Strategic Communications Director Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran during a Louisiana National Guard Command & Staff conference. When his leadership suggested everyone check their own eligibility for CHDS program offerings, Mathies decided to apply for Emergence and was excited to be selected.

From left: Emergence Director Cynthia Renaud, Mathies, interim CHDS Director Jodi Stiles, and former Emergence Director David O’Keeffe at the Emergence Graduation

“I told Cynthia [Renaud, Emergence Program Director] that I have never experienced a program that was so well put together: so deliberately thought out and so well executed as the Emergence Program,” said Mathies. He was “was shocked at the number of willing perspectives and the amount of participation” from his fellow 29 cohort members, Cynthia, and David O’Keeffe, former Emergence Director.

Renaud’s “willingness to have conversations after class and discuss with us things that were not part of the curriculum,” said Mathies, was one of his favorite parts of the program. She “identified that we had this interest collectively, in understanding a certain topic and ran with that because she saw the value in allowing us to explore that than to stick strictly to the curriculum.”

Mathies wants to spread the word about the CHDS programs to other members of the National Guard. What is taught in Emergence is not just theory or ideas, said Mathies, but the necessity of building relationships drives problem-solving: “Just having the tools to generate change is not enough. You need to build partnerships for those tools to be truly effective. One builds on the other, and it continues to grow and grow to the point where the momentum takes over to get you to the finish line.” Mathies’ cohort continues to communicate on a nearly daily basis, putting this philosophy into practice. He said, “We’re talking about some of these things, we’re talking about issues, we’re talking about articles that we find. But we’ve also developed these relationships across multiple organizations, multiple states, and that is the driving force behind, ‘How do you solve a problem that seemingly can’t be solved?’”

“The very deliberate nature of the program,” he said, “taught me to not think about a problem in a traditional sense, but to scrap what I think I know and come up with a newer idea, a revolutionary idea, and figure out the the framework on how to implement that idea.” The whole point of the Emergence Program, said Mathies, is to “rethink how we think. … Don’t try and solve the problem in the current context of the argument. Come up with a new way to solve the argument.”

He also sees the CHDS programs as the rare opportunity to connect beyond your own state if you are part of the NPS-CHDS community. “You have the ability to start a conversation within your organization about how you continue to revolutionize, how you continue to be on the cutting edge, how you continue to be the thinkers and the forebears of the success of your organization by being a part of this program.” Mathies recognized how he was a beneficiary of ELP members in his organization saying, “I highly advise you to consider these opportunities.” Now, said Mathies, the Louisiana National Guard has a member in the Master’s Program as well as ELP alumni.

Mathies believes he has developed a new perspective in the pursuit to becoming a more forward-thinking and humble leader. “Whether I’m developing a new idea or emulating someone else’s approach elsewhere in the country, I recognize the need to remain humble and not become emotionally attached to an idea: ‘pride is the mother of arrogance.’” The Emergence Program, he believes, is the perfect conduit to exploring these new perspectives and bringing them back to an organization. Mathies is excited to spread the word to other members of the National Guard.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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