MOH recipient discusses professional leadership

By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeJanuary 19, 2022

MOH recipient discusses professional leadership
Medal of Honor recipient and former Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia led a virtual discussion on leadership Jan. 13 for Soldiers from the 923rd Contracting Battalion and civilian employees with the Mission and Installation Contracting Command contracting office at Fort Riley, Kansas. The leadership development program event was also opened to other on the installation and attracted almost 100 participants. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army illustration) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Jan. 19, 2022) -- Medal of Honor recipient and former Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia led a virtual discussion on leadership Jan. 13 for Mission and Installation Contracting Command members at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Soldiers from the 923rd Contracting Battalion and civilian employees with MICC-Fort Riley were joined by other installation members for the leadership development program attracting almost 100 participants.

Maj. Mark Mayor, the 923rd CBN operations officer who organized the LDP, said the training event was aligned to support the 1st Infantry Division’s Operation Victory Wellness and aimed to build strong and resilient Soldiers, civilians and families.

“The object of our LPD this month was to facilitate a dialogue on leadership and facing fear. The ability to apply effective leadership while facing fear is absolutely essential toward the accomplishment of duty and teamwork at all echelons,” Mayor said.

Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor by for his bravery as a squad leader during the second battle of Fallujah. Exposed to enemy fire during a search for insurgents Nov. 10, 2004, he used his M249 squad automatic weapon and grenades to kill four enemy insurgents and mortally wound another, ultimately saving three squads of Third Platoon, A Company, Task Force 2-2.

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery during some of the deadliest fighting in Iraq. A squad leader during the second battle of Fallujah, Bellavia exposed himself to enemy fire as he defended his Soldiers on Nov. 10, 2004. Learn more at

Related video: Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia: Operation Phantom Fury

The Medal of Honor recipient opened the LPD by emphasizing that leaders don’t cut corners and that consistency and communication with subordinates is crucial, not just the mandatory safety briefings before a holiday or confirming the understanding of operational orders, but on a more personal level that directly affects combat readiness and victory on the battlefield.

“We are, in the Army, the world’s largest adoption agency; this is our family.” Bellavia said, adding that professional leadership is key to combat readiness. “We have to be subject matter experts, but we also have to have character. The building block of competency is character. You may be the best at whatever your job skill is … (but) nobody is going to take that expertise and learn from you unless you have the character to be approached.

“What we have to identify is that we’re only as good as what our subordinates do after our leadership. That’s how a leader’s judged,” Bellavia said. “I’m not judged by an award that my Army gives me, I’m judged by what my subordinates do after me. Have I left my uniform in a better place? Is my division, my brigade, my battalion, my company, my platoon, is my squad, are my Soldiers better Soldiers from me having led the way.”

While admitting that his initial fears in uniform were that another Soldier might surpass him in rank, he quickly discovered after going to war that it is exactly that premise that makes the Army better each day.

“I realized my entire purpose on this Earth is for my subordinates to eclipse me. The reason why we’re the best Army in the world is because you, right now, are better than I was when I was in uniform,” he said. “That’s the only way (the Army) sustains itself. We have to be better than the previous generation.”

Bellavia said every generation is going to get tested, requiring that NCOs live as they train every single day while constantly connecting the dots for their subordinates on how and why their contributions lead to mission accomplishment, whether attacking a theater or a pandemic.

“Our entire job in this Army is to just constantly rely on our lower enlisted and our Soldiers,” he directed primarily to the NCO corps. “And we, you, are the reason for that.”

Lt. Col. Randy Garcia, the 923rd CBN commander, affirmed that if it were not for his first NCO, he wouldn’t be serving as a lieutenant colonel today after joining the Army as a private. Garcia accentuated that effective leadership is not possible without a sound foundation in principles.

“I constantly talk to my subordinates about what I call the three Cs - character, competence and commitment, and we only get one chance with character,” Garcia said during the question-and-answer portion.

Mayor added that these principles serve as the lodestar for leaders in several ways as outlined during the LPD.

“Effective leadership is nearly impossible when there is a ‘lack of commitment or character’ in a leader who does not bother to learn the basic background information of their subordinates,” Mayor said.

Bellavia said better understanding of what motivates subordinates is critical, because every single Soldier is a part of the Army’s success.

“We have to show dignity and respect, empathy and love, and tough love. We have to discipline them, we’ve got to make sure they’re doing the right thing, but they’re ours,” he said. “We’re the surrogate moms and dads to these subordinates. We have to treat them like our family. Sometimes we love them, sometimes you gotta smoke ‘em, but the point is that it’s out of love, because we know what motivates them.”

“If everyone is giving 100 percent or giving all that they can give, we are an unstoppable force. We are a force of nature. When you see that Army working together, when you see all the mechanisms and gears of the team moving together toward the same objective, it is a sight to see,” he said. “We don’t get to see it from the inside a lot of times; we just see our piece of the pie. When you take a 35,000-foot approach and look at everything and the way it operates, that’s why this Army is devastating. That’s why our country has swagger.”

He believes it’s that swagger that serves as America’s greatest deterrent.

“Everyone is on the same side. Everyone has the same uniform, that same patch, that same flag. That is power, and we have a force. We are the greatest force of good in the world. We deliver on the battlefield, we deliver in the training environment, we deliver in the barracks in garrison, and we deliver in American society.”

Bellavia pointed out to LPD participants that being able to deliver what it takes calls for the greatness in subordinates to be realized and safeguarded.

“We’re the best of society. We’ve proven aptitude and competency to be here. We take adolescents … and make men and women,” he said. “And those men and women are capable of handling anything put on their plate, because you raised them. You’re a part of their gestation into adulthood. You’re part of their greatness. And you can see that the greatness in your subordinates is a part of your legacy.”

About the MICC:

Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,300 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.