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Gillette Area Leadership Institute members make connections, deepen community bonds through program

GALI touring Wyoming Army and Air National Guard facilities. Photo by Sgt. Kristina Kranz

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Not many civilians will ever get the chance to ride in a Black Hawk helicopter, much less cruise in a C130 cargo plane.

Members of this year’s cohort of the Gillette Area Leadership Institute, however, got to experience both those things and more in their nine-month curriculum, which comes to an end next month.

The organization, also known as GALI, put together by the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce, has been providing leadership training to those in the Gillette area since 1986. Each year, members participate in monthly meetings and outings around the community to make connections and learn more about local industries.

The group also takes an annual trip to Cheyenne to visit the Capitol and the Wyoming National Guard facilities, which is where the GALI cohort had the opportunity to take a ride on a Black Hawk helicopter as well as a C130 cargo plane. The tour also had a sergeant following the group and taking photos, which were later posted publicly online for the group to access.

For GALI member Amanda Hauck, who works as a foundation coordinator for the Gillette College Foundation, the tour offered a unique opportunity to better understand the work life of her boyfriend, who is a Marine.

“It was almost, like, humbling, because it was very unique. … I could not only relate to my partner better, but also what these people go through.” Hauck said, noting that their 30-minute cruise was nothing compared to the 10-hour flights common for those in active duty.

“We were in the air for not that long — half an hour, maybe 45 minutes — and there were people who got sick in the back because it’s so rough. … Like it’s a newfound respect; I already respect all our military folks, but a newfound [respect] because that is rough. There’s nothing luxurious about what they do,” Hauck said.

The trip to Cheyenne also offered the group a chance to see behind the scenes within the state government, as the group visited the Capitol during session and met with Sen. Barlow and Gov. Gordon.

Norberto Orellana, a self-professed political junkie, said that seeing lawmakers in action was a highlight of the two-day trip in Cheyenne. On the younger side of the GALI cohort at 26, Orellana appreciates the networking the group provides, especially when he’s able to make connections related to his job as public relations lead at Campbell County Health.

“I feel like I know a lot more about Gillette and Campbell County … and the things that matter and places that I might be able to plug myself in to really help move the dial on the issues that matter to folks here in the community,” Orellana said. “But also to ask those folks, you know, ‘What is your perception of the hospital? What do you see, what do you like? What do you don’t like?’ and being able to bring that back and being able to share that information with the team that I work with.”

This year’s GALI cohort, 18 participants in all, will hold its last monthly meet-up in May, and will then participate in a graduation ceremony in September alongside the incoming group. The program requires a high level of buy-in from participants, with strict attendance requirements through the nine months of topic-focused experiences, which range from agriculture and business to ethics and quality of life.

Even so, those in the program now have a hard time picturing life without the monthly meetups of their close-knit group.

“At first you kind of wonder, especially having full-time jobs, how you’re gonna make everything balanced, but once you get into it, it just becomes a normal part of, you know, really the day to day. Thinking about when the next GALI day is coming up, looking forward to interacting with your cohort, and it is definitely going to be weird not having those days anymore,” Orellana said.

For those interested in participating in the GALI program, more information is available on the Chamber of Commerce website.