In March of this year, I took an oath to join a recruit class for the oldest state militia in the country, the 1st Company Governor’s Horse Guard. This organization was chartered in 1788, with a primary purpose to protect the Governor of the State of Connecticut during his travels, and to defend the State of Connecticut and the United States of America during times of war. Since that time, the troop has served many different capacities during times of unrest throughout our nation’s history.
Today, the troop serves a few purposes: to preserve one of our nation’s oldest military cavalry traditions, to participate in parades and ceremonies, and to volunteer in the community in which we serve.
When I began the 16-week recruit training process, I had little to no knowledge of what this endeavor would entail. I have lived near the beautiful and expansive 100 acre property where the horses are stabled my whole life. As a little girl with a profound love of horses, I remember telling my mom and dad on many occasions as we passed by, that someday I would be a part of it (totally unaware of what "it" was). My husband also had no knowledge of what I was asking him to support, but the day that I came home from my "interview" and told him I had been accepted, he pledged to support me in whatever way I needed to make this longtime dream of mine come true. He even agreed to watch our two little girls so that I could go join the cavalry—what a guy! I am so thankful that he gave me the freedom to pursue this opportunity.
The training process consisted of a 16-week commitment, Thursday nights and most of the day each Sunday. On Thursdays we spent our time in a classroom, learning about the history of the cavalry, the equipment, and the horses. Our basic curriculum consisted of military customs, traditions, and etiquette. The horse training came very easy to me; however I have no military background so that part was extremely foreign. It took some time for me to get used to the concept of "chain of command" and all of the courtesies that are paid to senior level ranks and officers. However, the more I learned about these things, the more I was making connections to the workplace, and I realized that these things exist in our daily "civilian" lives too. We learned a lot about "esprit décor," and having a sense of pride in the organization—strikingly similar to the way we act in the workplace, and our culture (though we use different terms to describe it).
The grand finale of our training culminated with a week-long trip to Camp Niantic, our state’s National Guard base. We traveled to the base with all ten of our horses, and spent the week on base using all of the skills that we had learned throughout the training process. It was a huge effort—and during this week I learned a tremendous amount about myself and my fellow recruits. It was amazing to watch the camaraderie grow in just 16 weeks. We all began this journey as volunteers—each with full time "civilian" jobs, with families at home that were missing us, and with limited knowledge of what we were getting ourselves into. Through the week of grueling work and exhausting hours, we each had our moment where we wanted to break down and leave, but in that moment, the six other recruits that we had grown so close to would swoop in and prop us up. My moment was on day two.
By the end of the week, I could feel a noticeable difference in our outlook. We were a well-oiled team. We could begin a project, and trust that each member would do their part and the result would be greater than we could have ever achieved on our own. We knew a team member needed help just by their body language, or the expression on their face. We knew just what to do to help that team member out—give them a five minute break, cold water, or maybe sit down for a few moments. Sometimes all they needed was a hug or high five. Each of us had exposed our weaknesses, showed our strengths, and we were all so proud of each other. We knew that we had made it through this process because of each other and we couldn't have done it alone. On the very last night, we had our final interviews. This was our chance to explain why we wanted to be a part of this old and historic tradition, and what we would contribute. There couldn't have been a better time to ask.
Immediately following camp, we were welcomed home with a beautiful graduation ceremony. We were given our rank of Private, and handed our shiny silver spurs. We placed them on our boots with pride, and each time we look at them, we are reminded of the 16 weeks of training, the friendships we made, and all of the troopers that served before us.
There are innumerable parallels between what I have learned through this process, and what we do at OneDigital. I learned that taking pride in your work and your organization is contagious. When members of an organization conduct themselves with pride, honor, and respect, others will rise to the occasion. I learned that when times get tough, that is when you need your team the most. I also learned that on a well-functioning team, the team members have an innate ability to sense when one team member needs a lift. It is that same intuition that makes my team at OneDigital such a highly-performing group. I am so proud, and so thankful to be a part of two organizations that have taught me profound lessons about myself, and about life. As the cavalry would say, "HOOAH!"