Colonel gives bowling leadership lesson
June 14, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Finding a good line, delivering the ball in a consistent manner and repeating this 12 consecutive times makes bowling a perfect game difficult.
But, toss in a social gathering where the main intent was meeting and talking with junior ranking Army officers, and bowling a 300 game seems almost a work of science fiction.
Col. Daniel Karbler, Air Defense Artillery School commandant and chief of ADA, stepped into that other dimension of time and space earlier this year creating an unusual lesson in leadership.
The colonel received an invitation to a team building event for Basic Officer Leadership School second lieutenants at Twin Oaks Bowling Center on Fort Sill. The function occurred the day before an extended weekend, and Karbler said he didn't initially accept because his calendar often fills up at week's end. In this case it didn't so he headed out for an afternoon of bowling one game to be precise.
"All lanes were filled except for one where they needed one more bowler. There was no practice, just lane on, game on and start bowling," said Karbler, who added he's normally a quick bowler anyhow.
So began his odyssey pick a line to throw to, throw a ball and if the results are good, repeat the process. Except, before each repetition, Karbler went off to talk with the young officers.
"My intention was an informal, relaxed setting where, as the senior air defense officer on post, I could talk with lieutenants and find out how school was going and ask some questions to gauge what they've learned," he said.
Anyone in a leadership position would recognize his second goal. He asked them about their plans for the long weekend like a platoon leader would talking with his or her Soldiers. He queried their perceptions of the Army asking if it met their expectations and if they had suggestions to make things better.
This is all part of what Karbler referred to as Leadership 101, which also includes gaining an awareness of Soldiers' families.
"All good leaders have to relate and know their people," he said. "Knowing that whole connection from your Soldiers down to their families lets them know you genuinely care about them."
As for strengthening the bonds within his own family, the Karblers are well familiar with bowling being part of their family time.
"Bowling is a good family outing, and there's nothing better than a bowling alley cheeseburger, french fries and a soda," he said.
Returning to his lane, Karbler hefted the same ball he's bowled with since his days as the captain of his class bowling team at the U.S. Military Academy. Finding his mark on the approach, he stood in the same bowling shoes he's worn since high school.
"My delivery is consistent and precise, based on foundational learning when my dad taught me how to bowl when I was 5 years old," he said.
At that time bumpers didn't exist to assist a bowling ball to hit the pins. Many a game his pin count failed to exceed 10 to 15 compared to today where there is no consequence for doing something wrong, he said.
"My dad told me stay patient, keep working and try to not to get too mad and quit," he said.
Karbler's kids don't get the bumpers when they bowl and have bowled many games wistfully watching their peers score higher with the bowling aids. Like their dad, the added challenge has proved fruitful.
"The Karbler children are good bowlers," he said.
Back in conversation with future Army leaders, Karbler said the experience reminded him of his first days in the Army.
"It doesn't seem that long ago that I was in the Officer Basic Course so reconnecting with lieutenants at that level hopefully drew some information or dialogue from them that is helpful for me and for them," he said.
To and fro he continued, spending far more time talking with lieutenants than he did bowling. In the seventh or eighth frame another bowler said to him he didn't have any spares so far.
Ordinarily a bowler perfect through any number of frames is left to him or herself to not upset any karma, superstition, mojo or planetary alignment that may have contributed to the string of strikes.
Unfazed, Karbler continued on as he threw the same way: A slight hook taking his ball over a certain board and into the right-handers' pocket for one pin rattling strike after another. Eleven down and one to go.
"I wanted to put it all together one last time, and replicate the same mechanics of the previous 11," he said. "It was a little unnerving because the whole bowling alley was quiet, everyone stopped to watch it was about as quiet as a bowling alley has ever been.
"The last ball was the weakest, and the 10 pin was a little slow going down," he said. "But, by God's good fortune, he put enough of the 6 pin into the 10 pin to tip it over."
Turning around, Karbler experienced his 15 minutes of fame condensed by the attention of many witnesses.
"I was surprised because all the lieutenants had come up on the approach. I never saw so many camera phones in my life as they were taking pictures of me and the displayed score. It was neat, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience not only for me but for them as well. Perhaps someday some of them may tell others, 'I was there when the air defense commandant threw a 300 game,'" he said.
Three hundred is one mighty step toward a 700 three-game series total. But, duty called and the chief of ADA headed back to the office.
Besides 700 isn't an unheard of number for the anchor on his team's Tuesday night bowling league. Karbler joined former co-workers of his in the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade: Capts. Greg Booker Jr. and Anton McDuffie, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Felch and Sgt. Luke Valenzuela. The colonel carried a 218 average in league bowling and crested 700 twice during the year. Still, he would tell you wrapping up first place the second to last week of the season meant more to him.
That team championship culminated Karbler's influence on bowling here, but further leadership opportunities await him as the Army selected him to command the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
"I take the Army one assignment at a time and try to do a good job wherever I'm sent," he said. "I strive to enjoy each posting, affect someone's life positively and leave things a little better than how I found it."