Take the right path, lead by example
July 10, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 13, 2013) -- Yes, my commentary photo is old. Yes, it was the Army of yesterday. Although the Army of today is not yesterday's Army, many of yesterday's traditions and principles are still true today.
Of all things, the Army's definition of leadership still rings true today and has not changed.
According to the Army's leadership doctrinal manual, Field Manual 6-22, Army leadership is "the process of in,uencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization."
It is the same definition I learned as a young Field Artilleryman in the mid-to-late '70s.
FM 6-22 tells us an Army leader is anyone who, by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility, inspires and in,uences people to accomplish organizational goals.
What the field manual does not tell us is what age, race, gender, age or any other demographic one has to be to become a leader.
Why? Because contrary to many beliefs about a leader being born not made, everyone has the ability and potential to be a leader.
I believe Vince Lombardi had it right when he said, "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile."
Over the years, the general public's idea that leaders are the gruff, crusty, profanity-laced old noncommissioned officers; the analytical, suave, forward thinking officer or the Patton-like general with ribbons stacked to their shoulders giving a motivational speech before battle, has changed.
With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet and other various forms of obtaining news information, the general public now gets a little better look into today's Army -- and its Soldiers.
But, even with the changes, one thing that hasn't changed is the expectations Soldiers have of their leaders.
Soldiers expect their leaders to be moral, self-aware, adaptive, ,exible, mentally agile, physically fit, composed, confident, resilient, empathetic, able to display sound judgment, be a leader of character and a long list of other attributes.
Above all, Soldiers expect their leaders to lead by example -- and we have those types of leaders at Fort Benning -- and every week their message is reinforced in print in the Bayonet and Saber.
By now, if you haven't heard or read it already, crimes against female Soldiers is not tolerated and that includes sexual harassment -- it's not tolerated today, and it wasn't tolerated in the Army of yesterday.
In late 1978 or early 1979, the Field Artillery welcomed women into artillery combat arms specialties. I remember the first 15E, Pershing Missile Crewmember female Soldiers arriving in my unit.
We lived in the same barracks with females on the first floor. We used the same showers and latrines, which had designated shower times for females and separate shower times for males. Our latrines were split down the middle by dividers.
Yes, we were different, but when it came down to keeping the most dangerous weapon system the Army has ever had poised and ready, the Pershing nuclear missile, we were one team.
Each of us had a part in keeping the only U.S. theater nuclear threat in Europe ready for a moment's launch -- and each of us, men and women, have a place in history by bringing the Soviet Union to the bargaining table to reduce nuclear weapons because of the threat our weapon, and the Soldiers who maintained and fired it, posed.
That is a proud history.
Consider what our history could have read if our Soldiers, male and female alike, were embroiled in scandal because of sexual harassment or rape. What would our legacy have been in the public eye?
And, just how much trust and confidence would our nation have in us today?
Finally, would women still be on the verge of being able to take part in the proud traditions of being in the Infantry, Armor and other combat arms specialties?
The other day I listened to Australia's Army Chief, Lt. Gen. David Morrison, address the subject of sexual harassment in the Australian Army.
His message was succinct and to the point -- and I agree with him wholeheartedly.
Part of his message was about soldiers allegedly involved in sexual harassment in his army, who were discrediting the honor and tradition of former soldiers and those who were bringing discredit to his army today -- but, he had a message for all soldiers: "Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army," he said. " ... If that does not suit you, then get out. … It is up to us to make a difference. If you're not up for it, find something else to do with your life. There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters."
That is leadership -- and, it's the same type of leadership we have at Fort Benning.
Commanders and senior noncommissioned officers at Fort Benning and across the Army at every level of command have delivered that same message.
Why? Because that is what good leaders do -- and it is what Soldiers expect of their leaders; leaders with strong character who are moral and ethical -- leaders who do what's right.
The role of leadership and what makes a good leader hasn't changed over the years, even through the most trying times.
Our Army has a long, proud tradition -- and, women have either served or taken part in every war America has ever been involved in and are part of that tradition.
Female Soldiers are here to stay -- and they deserve the same honorable treatment every Soldier deserves. Sexual harassment has no place in our Army's history, nor do the Soldiers who commit those types of acts.
Be a leader, set the right example.