Battalion commander leads from the front
December 9, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - The commander of a Mississippi Army National Guard battalion accompanied his Soldiers on a convoy security mission from Contingency Operating Location Q-West to Forward Operating Base Warrior Nov. 24 and 25.
Lt. Col. Kerry Goodman, a Meridian, Miss., native who commands 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, out of Senatobia, Miss., used his own truck and crew to roll with members of 1st Platoon, B Company, 2/198th CAB out of Greenwood, Miss..
Goodman said he regularly joins his convoy security missions to supervise, to improve his battle-space awareness and to help him see from his Soldiers perspectives.
"A leader has got to go with the Soldiers to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing," said Goodman, "but my main reason for joining missions is to be out there with my Soldiers and experience what they experience and understand what issues they are having."
Goodman's presence raised morale, said Staff Sgt. Robert E. Cullom, a squad leader and, during this mission, a scout truck commander.
"We like to see commanders out here with us," said the Flowood, Miss., native. "Having the battalion commander take time to be here definitely helps morale. It gains our trust and respect."
Sgt. John F. Diviney, a gunner from Spokane, Wash., serving as noncommissioned officer in charge of Goodman's vehicle crew, agrees that the time Goodman spends with the troops is good for morale and builds trust.
"I've known battalion commanders that hardly ever went out the wire," said Diviney. "You have to respect commanders who get out there with the troops, and lieutenant colonel Goodman goes out a lot. When he's talking to the Soldiers, you can tell he understands enlisted life, and the Soldiers can tell."
Goodman said that every leader is either a good or a bad example to the troops.
"One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned about leadership I learned from a bad platoon sergeant," said Goodman. "He was the worst leader I ever saw. He was never around for us. He was overweight. He was not tactically or technically proficient. I was young and could have learned the wrong lessons, but instead I learned what not to do from his bad example. I learned the importance of leading by example."
Another benefit of being with the Soldiers is that it allows the commander to recognized outstanding performance, said Goodman.
"If I see something that deserves recognition, I have the privilege of giving an impact award," Goodman told his assembled Soldiers before departing Warrior for the return to Q-West.
Goodman bestowed two Army Achievement Medals, one to Cullom and another to Staff Sgt. Jonathan A. Parks, a scout truck commander from Grenada, Miss.
"These NCOs identified a possible improvised explosive device and did an outstanding job of dealing with it," said Goodman during the brief Nov. 25 ceremony in the COB Warrior Central Receiving and Shipping Point yard. "They established security in the area, radioed a detailed report and requested (explosives ordinance disposal) support and air cover. When the EOD and air cover arrived, Staff Sgt. Parks and Staff Sgt. Cullom played key roles in coordinating that support. They were vigilant and professional. They did nothing less than what I expect. Even though the IED turned out to be a false alarm, they did the right thing, and this was an excellent experience for the entire convoy."
Cullom said that he was surprised and honored by the recognition.
"I was actually feeling down about the whole incident," said Cullom. "I felt like I wasted the convoy's time. I even thought I might get some flack because it turned out not to be an IED."
The recognition pleased Cullom's driver, Pfc. Charles E. Hall, III.
"I was clapping the loudest," said Hall, a native of Sarah, Miss. "I was glad that the scouts got recognized. We do the job up front, and we don't get a lot of notice. Them getting awards is like all of us scouts getting awards."
Awarding outstanding achievement raised morale, but simply by being out with the Soldiers Goodman earned a greater trust, said Sgt. Joseph R. Schultz, an assistant convoy commander from Minneapolis, Minn.
"When commanders come out with us, they make better decisions because they gain a first-hand understanding of the situation," said Schultz. "Soldiers feel uncomfortable with leaders who make decisions about our missions and lives from behind a desk. If you're a leader, you should never ask somebody to do something you're not willing to do yourself."
Sgt. Edward V. Lee, a truck commander from Sunflower, Miss., said much the same.
"It's definitely motivating to have the battalion commander out here with us," said Lee. "He's experiencing what we do every day instead of staying in an office. If we have something to say about a mission, he will understand our point because he's been out here with us."
Other Soldiers shared this sentiment.
"He's been out here with us, so if we have an issue, he'll know what we're talking about," said Spc. Robert E. Bowen, a medic from Grenada, Miss.
Pvt. Lawrence A. Harris voiced a similar view.
"Him coming with us lets him see how it feels to do what we do," said Harris, a driver from Ruleville, Miss.
Goodman performed well as a truck commander and team member during the mission, said Spc. Michael A. Boucher, a driver.
"It's good to have the battalion commander out there," said Boucher, a Batesville, Miss., native. "And he wasn't just along for the ride. He did a good job with his vehicle and with passing information. I could tell he knew what he was doing."
Goodman said he feels a deep responsibility for the welfare of his Soldiers.
"As a commander, I try to do what's right for everybody," said Goodman. "My number one goal is to accomplish the mission and take care of these Soldiers, to get them all home. Before we left Mississippi, I made a promise to the families that I would be there for their Soldiers, that I would take the same risks."