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

Weekend Wanderings, Dragoon Weekend 2011

Monday will mark the 67th anniversary of Operation Dragoon. Last weekend’s seminar and commemoration was, as noted, fantastic. I’d been storing up a few links as I haven’t been able to post a “Wanderings” of late.

  • On OperationDragoon.org, they posted a great story about British paratrooper Peter Matthews meeting, for the first time since August of 1944, the “boy” he gave chocolate to.
  • As the modern soldiers and marines struggle up and down the mountains of Iraq, wondering how to transport supplies and ammunition, we can find an innovative method back in Korea. SGT Reckless made 51 trips up the mountains of the “Nevada Complex” in one day of the Battle of Outpost Vegas, carrying almost five tons of ammunition to Marine gunners. She was wounded twice, but did not stop. The small, Mongolian mare (yes, a horse!) served ably from 1952 to her retirement as a Staff Sergeant in 1960, and was buried with full military honors at Camp Pendleton in 1968.
  • Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post wrote a marvelous obituary for Nancy Wake, known as the ‘White Mouse’ of World War II. She went from being a “sultry glamour girl” married to a rich Frenchman to a wily and effective resistance leader over the course of the war, deying the Gestapo at every turn. The quotes from her are simply precious, and I urge you to read Bernstein’s effort. Any of us would have been proud to know her. Canada’s National Post included a more modern photo of Ms. Wake in their obituary, with far less interesting prose.
  • There’s a rather interesting blog post about the role of the NCO in the American Army throughout history. Not sure about the author’s view on when the role changed, but it is interesting nonetheless. I think the Marines were already doing this in Haiti in Chesty Puller’s time….
  • The 67th anniversary of the capturing of Guam was remembered by Mariah, who usually writes about fashion in New York, but took time out to post marvelous Life magazine photos from the period, including one of Marines holding a sign thanking our most unsung service, the Coast Guard.

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.

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