Col. Cameron Leiker
Emporia State Alumnus Involved in Historical Moments
Col. Cameron Leiker recalls vividly the day when a plane crashed right under his desk.
Leiker's desk was in the Pentagon and the plane was American Airlines flight 77. The day was September 11, 2001, often referred to as simply 9-11, and all 59 passengers on the hijacked plane were killed. Another 125 people in the Pentagon at the time were killed.
Leiker's first thoughts after the initial impact was, where is my wife? She was also working in the Pentagon that day, in a different area, and it took some time before they united to find both safe.
Fast forward to May 29 of 2010. Col. Leiker was at ground zero of another monumental happening when he signed a complaint against PFC Bradley Manning. In the complaint were the following charges:
"THE SPECIFICATION: In that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, U.S. Army, did, at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between on or about 1 November 2009 and on or about 27 May 2010, without proper authority, knowingly give intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means.
SPECIFICATION 1: In that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, U.S. Army, did, at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between or about 1 November 2009 and on or about 27 May 2010, wrongfully and wantonly cause to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government, having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy, such conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."
PFC Manning was arrested in May of 2010 on suspicion of passing classified material to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. The episode drew worldwide attention and mixed reactions. As for Col. Leiker's part though, it seems he simply was following up on the incident per military practices.
Manning, now considered a “trans woman” and going by the name of Chelsea, was acquitted in 2013 of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. A military judge found Manning guilty of violating the Espionage Act and multiple other counts which resulted in a 35-year prison sentence.
The main point of mentioning Col. Leiker's brushes with these high-profile events is only to illustrate the far-reaching involvement of an Emporia State graduate. He was in ROTC on campus and graduated from Emporia State in 1990 as a distinguished military graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He also received a commission as an Army officer.
Leiker has been involved, too, in the Army's Green Agenda. This program was partly about moving from petroleum-fueled vehicles on base to electric. At that time it was projected that this acquisition of 4,000 NEVs would allow the Army to meet 42 percent of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requirement for a two percent annual petroleum consumption reduction through 2015.
Col. Leiker currently serves as director of Human Capital Enterprise and Strategy, Plans and Initiatives for the Training and Doctrine Command Personnel and Support Element (TRADOC) at Fort Eustis, Va. From 2008-2011, he commanded the Army’s largest battalion, the Headquarters Command Battalion at Fort Myer, Va.
Col. Leiker graduated from the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Warfare School and was assigned to South Korea in 1995. He graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from the JFK School of Government, Harvard University in 2000. He served in Iraq from 2003 to 2006.
As a battalion commander in Iraq, he found the duties to be sobering, saying you had to "be very good at building and maintaining relationships.
“In some units, the unit can live or die by the leadership and how they operate. [In Iraq] we were decentralized" he recalls. "As a commander, I had to establish a long-term, strategic vision along the way, then let go and let people operate with the intent they understood the mission
“My command philosophy since I was a young cadet has included two things I have to do as a leader — train my soldiers and take care of them and their families,” Leiker said.
As is typical for soldiers coming off the battlefields, Col. Leiker did not walk away unscathed. His wound was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Leiker says the first symptom he identified in himself as PTSD was a sense of agitation.
“That was the first trigger,” he says. “I realized that I was slightly unbalanced, that something had changed and I didn’t know what; it got me thinking. And then I went and sat down with a medical captain while stationed at Camp Falcon in Southern Baghdad with the 1st Cavalry Division in 2004 and 2005 and I started going over the last nine months of combat.”
That was the first instance. In 2006, the stressors from combat resurfaced. He was working for the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, and was filling out a mandatory on-line PTSD survey, when he identified some other symptoms that applied to him. He visited the Stress Defense Management Team in the building and voiced his concerns.
“They made an appointment for me and I got in pretty quick,” he says, "first seeing counselors then later participating in group therapy.
“When you participate in group you have no rank on, it’s not like you walk in and say, oh there’s a sergeant, or that one’s a lieutenant colonel. We started to get down to analyzing situations. You can cry and moan all you want, but the bottom line is, are you going to try and make yourself better and help your teammates?
“PTSD has this bad connotation, that it’s only a combat thing. It’s not. Depending on who you are, a traumatic car accident, the loss of a loved one, seeing a building blow up or the towers coming down on 9/11 can be a traumatic experience. We don’t know what triggers PTSD because it’s not the same for everyone. It’s all different.”
With his wealth of experience, Col. Leiker was a natural selection to be speaker at the 2012 Hayes Lecture on campus. The annual lecture series’ namesake, Dr. Sam Hayes (BS 1962) of Mission Hills, Kan., is past president of the Missouri Dental Association and is a retired Captain of the U.S. Navy Reserve. He served as chair of the ESU Foundation Board of Trustees in 2001–2003. Hayes and his wife, Jeannene, established the lecture series as a way to engage Emporia State’s alumni in highlighting their successes.
Col. Leiker, the son of Wayne and Edith Leiker of El Dorado, made his main lecture focus about the basics of leadership, helpful skills, risk management, and some lessons he has learned over the years.
“We’ve found that if you get to know your people and you get to invest in them, it’s a win-win situation,” Col. Leiker said during his lecture which was titled Building Dynamic Leaders for the Future. “A win for the organization, and a win for the people involved in the organization.”
Col. Leiker talked about the basics of leadership being to teach, coach, and mentor.
“We as alumni, as business leaders, as people outside the university, need to become mentors,” he said.