University of South Florida


Soldier stands in front of flag holding books

USF helping the U.S. Department of Defense strengthen its communication, leadership skills

As part of its ongoing partnership, the USF Institute of Applied Engineering is working with U.S. Central Command to enhance the leadership, communication and decision-making techniques of multiple Combatant Commands. 

Located at MacDill Air Force Base, USCENTCOM is the administrative headquarters for military affairs, overseeing 21 countries in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and the strategic waterways that surround them.  

The series of trainings is the first order to be placed by USCENTCOM under the IAE’s five-year, $10 million blanket purchase agreement with USCENTCOM and the 6th Air Refueling Wing, signed in September 2022. USF researchers have been working with military officers and civil service personnel, helping improve operations and coordination in nearly every branch of the military. 

In recent months, they’ve hosted training sessions that focused on four key themes: 

  • The importance of effective communication, touching on strategies to improve listening, engagement and body language. 
  • The development of leadership style, obtaining feedback and self-reflection. 
  • Continuously analyzing data to pinpoint areas for implementation and sustaining organizational improvements. 
  • Making data-driven decisions by crafting best practices to collect and visualize data. 
Steve Diasio

USF Professor Steve Diasio

“Within each miliary branch, officers and personnel are trained to communicate in different ways. The complexity of communication across these branches magnifies as it moves up the chain of command,” said Steve Diasio, a USF professor of entrepreneurship and innovation who worked with USCENTCOM. “Overcoming those obstacles through storytelling, which cuts across all medium and organizational cultures, can allow the joint command to run more efficiently and effectively.”  

For his training session, Diasio shared the methods of communication that enact organizational change, the science of storytelling and how storytelling can reduce conflict, as well as the art of persuasion.  

“We tend to think of the military as a top-down command structure, but I saw an intense curiosity and willingness to learn in order to better their branch, the government and society in general and that made me proud,” Diasio said. 

The ongoing partnership with USCENTCOM will continue to further educational opportunities by providing operations research, data science, wargaming, human dynamics modeling, rapid prototyping, subject matter expertise and conference support.  

It also advances the university’s strategic focus with the Global and National Security Institute, which addresses critical issues facing the nation in sectors such as defense, economic and political security, health and human security and infrastructure and environmental security. 

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