Commentary: Army of ones
July 16, 2010
<b>FORT STEWART, Ga.</b> - There once was a U.S. Army recruiting slogan that died an early death. The slogan went, "I am an Army of One." It was intended to attract individualistic young Generation X and "Next Gen" men and women, who might resonate to the idea that service in the Army would complete their self-sufficiency. I had been told by some recruiters that it was working. Nonetheless, voices a bit too seasoned to come from actual potential recruits opposed what they reckoned to be an anti-team theme.
Be that as it may, within our teams, I'd venture to say we really are an Army of <i>ones</i>. It is one by one that we join this Army, one by one that we accept its hard training and do our demanding duty, one by one that we deploy to serve in harm's way...
And it is one by one that we may be faced with choosing the other over our self, perhaps even the other's life over our own; one by one that we may make the ultimate sacrifice. One by one we confront our demons and grow from our experiences.
It is one by one over the past ten days that Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashmen and I bade farewell to Vanguard Brigade's Soldiers, some 3,100 one-by-ones woven like Kevlar fibers into a sheet of impenetrability. One by one we make a team - a team that is Army Strong.
The importance of the individual to the team is precisely why we have been so focused on safety; motorcycle deaths have claimed two Soldiers here since May, one a Marne first sergeant, one an officer here on leave.
The decisions of the individual become the consequences for the team; watch the brief motorcycle safety video on our Facebook page that was produced by the British army and you'll see what I mean. If you ask the members of the Vanguard Brigade company that lost their first sergeant to a motorcycle wreck weeks before deployment about the effect on them, there would be no doubt.
And this is not a "get the motorcyclists" campaign - most of our riders, like our drivers, are responsible; but even the best among us have moments of incaution that can bring disaster - recall the driver who in March, completely sober and evidently at the speed limit, reached down to pick up his cell phone, and veered into the oncoming lane, totaling his car and a National Guard van with ten aboard.
Our focus extends to our Families - the ones who wait for us to return. If one spouse is struggling at home to get through the deployment, we are failing on two counts: one, the focus of the Soldier deployed, which must be on mission first, is likely to be - quite understandably - on the Family's problems; two - and to me even more important, if that's possible - our Army is not adequately taking care of its own. And we take care of our own... one by one.
That is why our rear detachment chains of command, including Command Sgt. Maj. Ashmen and myself, will ensure we look out for every one. Please don't be surprised if one of us knocks on your door for a respectful "hello," to inquire if the Family has what it needs. It's all part of caring for our own, one Family at a time; and from that comes a team.
An Army of <i>ones</i>, acting together in concert; an American team that's helping change the world for the better.