We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Muddy Boots Leadership
30 July 2011, 08:09
Filed under: Books, Leadership | Tags: , , , ,

I just finished Muddy Boots Leadership: Real Life Stories and Personal Examples of Good, Bad, and Unexpected Results, written by MAJ John Chapman (USA, retired) and heartily recommend it for leaders, both military and civilian. Chapman provides not only a great set of guidelines on various aspects of leadership, but also real life stories that illustrate the points – both positive and negative examples. Additionally, he includes quotes from commanders, philosophers, poets, scientists, business leaders and many others to emphasize his points.

The worse the weather, the more important for you to be there. Even in an office environment, there are times that no one wants to work and duties that no one wants to perform. If a leader never involves himself in these inconvenient and uncomfortable tasks, nor checks on them, it sends a message to those performing them about the unimportance of those tasks.

In writing about “Not Quitting”, Chapman quotes Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” He then relates this real life story to illustrate how actions speak louder than words.

It was late Friday night. The platoon had been breaking down tank track and replacing track shoes for hours. The soldiers were beyond exhaustion. They were beyond intimidation. They quit working and sat down, waiting for the inevitable ass-chewing.

The platoon sergeant had worked just as hard and long as they had. He was every bit as tired, and many years older. He approached the sullen group and said… nothing.

He walked past them as if they were invisible. He slowly bent down, picked up the tools and began to break down track alone.

For several minutes the soldiers watched him sweat and grunt. Slowly, one by one, they each stood up and resumed work. Not a word was said, not then, not ever.

The book was a quick read for me and I think it useful for anyone in a leadership position or who hopes to have a leadership position. You may never have to inspect a listening post in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm, but the lessons Chapman learned as an officer can be applied anywhere.



Weekend Wanderings Super Bowl XLV
6 February 2011, 11:30
Filed under: 506th, Marines, Navy, Veterans, Weekend Wanderings | Tags:

Super Bowl Sunday is a uniquely American experience, parties that start mid-afternoon on a Sunday and last until the game ends. Loads of food, a good amount to drink and a game on in the background. Oh, I almost forgot the commercials! The commercials are usually the best part.

  • Every year, folks go out and commemorate the Battle of the Bulge with a reenactment at Fort Indiantown Gap. Friends of mine were there and passed along a link to a good article about the event. Hat tip to Brim.
  • Craig made a good post to commemorate Operation Flintlock on its 67th anniversary. Operation Flintlock is a textbook example of “joint” operations built by experience – a prime example of Lessons Learned.


Front-line lessons
6 December 2010, 18:55
Filed under: Leadership, Officers, Veterans | Tags: , , , ,

At the Colmar Pocket seminar, GEN Fred Kroesen spoke about his experience as junior officer during World War II. He spoke at length about the fighting, relating that he started as the weapons platoon commander, but as each other platoon commander was wounded (oddly, each was wounded while standing next to Kroesen), his role expanded. He almost got to give back command of the 3rd platoon, but as he was bringing up that Lieutenant (who’d recovered from his wounds), that Lieutenant got wounded again. After a short R&R trip to Paris, he returned to take command of the company, as the only other officer left standing had been promoted to battalion XO.

He related two major lessons: trust your junior officers and war is a collective effort.

When I was a Scoutmaster, I relied on those two lessons.

Tell the junior leaders what needs to get done and get out of their way. If you’ve trained them properly, they’ll get it right. I knew that if the boys who held the leadership positions didn’t make the decisions, they would never learn to be leaders themselves, and, quite frankly, they’d get bored and quit. As the General says, the man (or boy) on the ground is going to have the best handle on what’s happening there and how to handle it. If you step and tell him how-to-do-it instead of just what-to-do, he’s going to expect you to always tell him how-to-do-it. Then, when you’re not around, which is certain to happen, he’s likely to do nothing or do the wrong thing. You have to give him the training, provide some direction and observe. Of course, good followup – perhaps with after-action reviews – can provide further insight, using each action as a training opportunity.

The General relates that war is a collective effort and it surely is. Highly motivated soldiers (or Boy Scouts) working together accomplish far more than a handful of heros acting individually. Team effort is actually a force-multiplier. Those leaders who can get everyone on the same page, working together, accomplish far more than any other leader. When I worked in a warehouse after I got out of college, the plant manager was able to get everyone very motivated for about four months. We all felt part of the team and we truly produced. Somehow, he let us lose that feeling and the productivity simply disappeared. He’d gotten it right, but lost sight of his methods, failing to treat us like members of a team and… everyone realized how they were being treated and responded accordingly. I see it all the time at competitive events in Scouting those that work together win, regardless of how talented individuals in other groups might be.

At the seminar, I met a couple of active duty Generals. I don’t think you can find two more motivated, sincere leaders of men than Major General Randall Marchi (28th ID) and Major General Eldon Regua (75th ID). I had an opportunity to talk with each of them for a few minutes and they each expressed how honored they were to meet and show their respect for the veterans of World War II. Those veterans are truly a treasure and I urge everyone to take full opportunity to meet them and to listen and learn. They are a treasured resource that is disappearing far too fast.



Lessons NOT Learned
15 August 2010, 13:32
Filed under: Operation Dragoon | Tags: , ,

I attended the second annual Operation Dragoon conference over the last few days. It was, again, an amazing learning experience and a great opportunity to meet some of our World War II veterans. One evening, while I sat in the hotel bar, I got to pontificating a little bit, based on articles and books I’d read recently.

In the February issue of Naval Proceedings, there was an article by Dr Jim Lacey, entitled “Old Ideas Needed for a New War“. In the article, Lacey points out that “The Department of Homeland Security and even U.S. Special Operations Command are actually consulting science-fiction writers on a regular basis.” While this kind of ‘thinking outside the box’ can be commended, Lacey notes that it seems no one is asking military historians to look at the current situation to find examples in the past that might help today. This struck me as especially pertinent to our conference on Operation Dragoon, since it is so frequently forgotten when studying World War II.

So, as I sat there, trying not to sound to self-important, I mentioned that our planners really ought to be at the conference, soaking up “Lessons Learned”. A couple of chairs over, a senior officer was listening and asked, “Have you ever heard of a Lesson Not Learned?”

Sometimes, my junior-high, smart-aleck nature comes out, so I said that my life was full of them. If I’d learned the lessons the first time I made the mistake, I wouldn’t have made it twice.

While I did amuse myself with that, it got me wondering if anyone does look around for “Lessons Not Learned”. I wonder if that shows in any AAR’s? Because I assume that one of the points always covered is “Lessons Learned”, both as a way of showing what was learned and showing that you’re doing good analysis work (or at least engaging in appropriate Pentagon-speak).




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