Gadson: Teamwork crucial in law enforcement, public service
May 6, 2014
WASHINGTON (May 6, 2014) -- Col. Gregory D. Gadson spoke to the Pentagon Force Protection Agency Monday, about the importance of teamwork and collaboration in law enforcement.
Gadson, garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Va., and former head of the Army Wounded Warrior program, or AW2, spoke as part of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency's, or PFPA's, Distinguished Speaker Series. The agency is celebrating its 12th anniversary, which, not coincidentally, coincides with Public Service Recognition Week, being held from Sunday to Saturday.
"There was a time when law enforcement was not considered a team sport," Gadson said. "One riot and one ranger. You and your squad car alone against the world. In the post-9/11 world, we have to be collaborative, and you have to be a team player to survive."
"Our force protection agency today is asked to be part doctor, part lawyer, part psychiatrist, part teacher, part garbage collector, and part law enforcement," Gadson said. So "you have to expand your networks through collaboration. Meet firefighters, teachers, emergency professionals, public health officials, military and National Guard members, and other federal agents. Work to understand who they are and what they do. Look for gaps and seams in security and work together to close them. Be collaborative."
As Fort Belvoir commander, Gadson has jurisdiction over the Mark Center, a PFPA-protected facility.
PFPA was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
"As a part of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency," said Gadson, "your mission is to protect those who protect our nation. As a commander, I see my role similarly. Law enforcement is not a job; it's a calling."
In May 2007, during the surge of troops in Iraq, Gadson lost both legs above the knees and normal use of his right arm and hand from an improvised explosives device. At the time, he was commanding the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, in Iraq, and returning from a memorial service for two Soldiers killed in action.
"We had some difficult times, obviously [but] we were successful, along with our Iraqi counterparts. Every single soldier in my battalion, there for 15 months, made it back alive."
Gadson (and his doctors) credit then-Pfc. Eric Brown with saving his life by applying tourniquets to his injured legs.
Brown was no ordinary Soldier, and he wasn't even really a medic. Instead, said Gadson, he was a chemical specialist who, at the last minute, just prior to the deployment, had been tapped to fill in for an injured medic who had broken his ankle, and thus could not deploy.
Brown received just two weeks of training as an emergency medic at Kansas State University, before deploying to Iraq.
"He literally graduated from the course just days before we left for Iraq," Gadson said.
"The suggestion by my leadership was that we put Brown in one of the outlying platoons and bring up a medic for me and my [driver], and I said, 'No, the teams are set. If Brown's good enough for them, then Brown's good enough for me. And that young private saved my life."
The explosion rendered Gadson unconscious. He required 129 units of blood that night just to stay alive.
"I was in bad shape, and my life was in doubt. But the doctors emphatically say that the young man who put the tourniquets on my legs saved my life."
For Gadson, the story illustrates the importance of teamwork, spirit and initiative in overcoming difficult and, indeed, overwhelming odds.
"We were not designed, and we were not trained, to necessarily do what we were asked to do. But our spirit, our spirit of selflessness -- our spirit of teamwork -- is what allowed us to take on whatever challenges we had before us."
Gadson's message resonated with the audience of law enforcement professionals, Soldiers, and DOD civilians.
"I came here today," said Issac J. Hayman, "because I served in the same battalion as Col. Gadson in 2007/2008, with the 1st Infantry Division."
Hayman is a former infantry Soldier who served in Iraq during the surge. He is now a presidential management fellow with the CIO/G6 office at Fort Belvoir.
"He [Gadson] became a legend in the 4th Brigade, and an inspiration after he went home and began to recover from his injuries," said Hayman. "The rest of the unit really rallied behind that. He's an example for every single person in our generation of what true courage really is."