I sat across the desk from a young Soldier whom the first sergeant sent to my office. He was sullen, defiant and on the verge of suicide. It appeared he could not seem to stay out of trouble with his chain of command. He had a reputation for drunken fights with other Soldiers and behaving in a disorderly manner. His depression and internal rage burned in front of me as he spoke of his journey prior to our appointment.

The Soldier did not know who his biological father was. His upbringing included being shuffled in and out of foster homes where he was physically abused multiple times by foster parents who were supposed to love and care for him. He struggled to cope, but he was barely surviving. He lost trust in authority figures and resented people he felt were trying to control him.

A judge saw something in him that no one else saw -- potential and value. So when he turned 18, he enlisted in the Army. After the Army gave him a purpose he wanted to make a difference. He had a desire to serve his country well and help in his local community. He hoped to be a future leader, husband, father, friend, and a good Soldier.

Sadly, his Army experience ended as abruptly as it started. Unfortunately, he encountered toxic leadership with similar experiences as he had experienced in civilian life: hurt, betrayal, and lies. More mistreatment eventually led to his decision to leave the Army. If only his initial entry had been different. A potential Army career was lost due to poor leadership at his first assignment.

I wonder how things may have been different if he had had good leadership which supervised, trained, mentored and coached him effectively. Well, it's too late for him now to continue a career in the Army, but it's not for the next future Soldier.

We can be certain more future Soldiers like him will enter the ranks this year and in the future. So good leadership is a must and it begins with the initial impression made at recruiting centers. Recruiters have the ability and duty to show men and women like him the value of strong, trustworthy leadership!

Many new recruits like the one described want to make a difference. They want to serve their country well. They want to make something of their lives and they see the Army as an opportunity to gain occupational skills and earn an education to improve the quality of their lives. All of them require good leadership to help them become Army Strong.

So I encourage recruiters to be the type of leader who helps future Soldiers achieve their goals in life. Recruiters have the experience, training and wisdom to make a great first impression on future Soldiers and that is what is expected because they are in a position of special trust and serve as ambassadors for the Army.

A huge responsibility of carrying the Army brand has been placed on the shoulders of all the leaders throughout our recruiting centers. It is a great privilege and honor to be a custodian of that sacred trust. I believe in the saying, "To whom much is given, much is expected." Recruiters must sustain high standards and demonstrate leadership to reach future Soldiers.

I always engage the recruiters when I visit their stations. I talk to them not just about the mission but also about leadership and caring for future Soldiers. It is important that recruiters remain Army Strong as leaders and this means sustaining their readiness and resiliency. They do this in part through daily maintenance on their mental, physical, and spiritual well being. These things help recruiters to remain good leaders and that impresses new recruits.

According to our commanding general, Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, "A position of trust must be filled by one worthy of that trust." Recruiters worthy of trust are the leaders the Army needs every day. They are the Soldiers who will make a positive difference at the very beginning when an interested civilian walks into the recruiting station and asks what he or she needs to do to become a Soldier. So I challenge you to be the recruiter who upholds that type of special trust and you will model the leadership all future Soldiers are eager to follow.

Page last updated Tue January 28th, 2014 at 11:41