09 Jan Full-Spectrum Military Leadership
If you want to read about military leadership, you just need to check Amazon and you can find any plethora of books out there about it. Most articles or books on military leadership will talk about combat experiences. While leadership in combat is one of the highest forms of leadership, I want you to understand the part that’s not often talked about. The part that comes mainly from my experience in the Infantry as a leader and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO).
No offense to the officers that may be reading this, but the NCO is the one who is on the front-lines of leadership. It’s the young Sergeant who has to ensure his younger soldiers are able to succeed not only in combat, but in life. One of the best parts about being a leader in the Infantry for me was being able to develop young men.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Young men, however good their parents may be, are not usually taught how to do their own laundry. Mom did that for them all the way up to the time they entered basic training. In the Army, you must look presentable and professional every day, so guess who gets to teach that young soldier how to do his laundry? His team leader. For reference, the age we’re talking about here is typically a 21-24-year-old leading someone 18-21 years old. By the way, these young men are some of the best our nation has to offer and it’s always a pleasure to serve with them.
Another example to a different extreme would be when you have a young soldier that wants to buy a car. Car dealers in military towns typically salivate at the thought of young soldiers walking up to their lot. On more than one occasion I went vehicle shopping with a young soldier to ensure they didn’t get taken advantage of. Keep in mind that you’re also teaching these guys how to close with and destroy the enemy. You’re ensuring they’re trained on the load of annual classes that get shoved in our laps. Things like Suicide Awareness, Sexual Harassment, Information Security, etc.. Some of these classes are necessary, but they can be time consuming. Bottom line, when they talk about being a soldier is a lifestyle and not a career, that’s exactly what it is whether you like it or not.
With all the training and teaching your responsible for with your soldiers, you’re also accountable for their actions. If you have a soldier that gets a DWI on a Saturday night during their off-time, guess who’s getting called in and answering for them? You as their leader are. No matter how good your safety brief was prior to the weekend activities, you’re being held accountable for your soldier’s mistake. I’ve had soldiers get in trouble on the weekend for alcohol related incidents and had to answer for it and be questioned when I had all my responsibilities and was simply sitting at home with my family. If a soldier is going to travel a certain distance away from their duty station, you have to ensure they have a mileage pass submitted and signed as well as a vehicle inspection sheet. That’s right, you have to follow a checklist and inspect your soldier’s vehicle. If anything doesn’t pass inspection, they don’t go anywhere.
These are just a few examples of the width and depth of what leadership is in the military. It’s not just about rank structure and telling people what to do, it’s about teaching and preparing these young soldiers to succeed in daily life as well as succeeding on the battlefield.
This might seem like a lot, but this full-spectrum of leadership from daily life to combat is what makes the military leader and especially the NCO or enlisted leadership some of the most experienced and competent leaders in the world.