By Pfc. Andrya Hill (4th BCT, 25th ID)September 30, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan - The Army is rich in history and legacy, and while most Soldiers can answer questions regarding basic knowledge, like when the Army was founded, many of them go about their day-to-day operations without account to times past.
Paratrooper Staff Sgt. Tyler Fosheim, however, considers himself a history buff, and said he uses common sense and the Army's legacy for insight and inspiration in his noncommissioned officer duties as 1st Platoon Sergeant for Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
"My great inspiration in life is probably my father and my grandfather. My grandfather was in World War II, and a very kind man. He brought home weaponry that my dad inherited: German helmets, old mortar tubes. Then my dad, he really gave me my love of history and that's why I wanted to join the army," he explained. "I wanted to live history, make a difference, and really find out what it's like to be in the fight."
Fosheim tries to instill an appreciation for history and Army values in his Soldiers, and said that it is important to understand what America's forefathers endured to fully grasp the Army experience.
"How can you know about the Army, and how can you appreciate the Army, if you don't know the history of it' If you don't know how hard your grandparents had it - and their grandparents," he challenged. "You can't compare the conditions in World War II to what we have now. It's just impossible. We can't imagine not having an MWR and only being able to write letters, and living in a fox hole every day for a year. So I just like to impress that upon my Soldiers."
He draws encouragement from historical figures, and models himself after great men of the past.
"It is probably pretty clichAfA, but my favorites are Army Gen. MacArthur or Gen. Patton. They were audacious. They basically had no regrets. They did what needed to be done to win the battles and to win the war and sometimes they did first and asked questions later," he said, smiling. "As Theodore Roosevelt said: 'Instead of letting congress debate the canal, I built the canal and let congress debate me.'"
In addition to his historical motivation, Fosheim has a strong understanding of the NCO creed, and strives to exceed standards.
"An NCO is someone that trains and leads Soldiers, but it's a lot more than that," he said. "It's someone who makes sure all their Soldiers eat before them, makes sure they are taken care of. Someone who makes sure that, before they move on to personal stuff like the MWR or calling mom and dad, their weapons are clean, everyone knows what's happening during patrol, and it's been rehearsed - someone who puts the mission ahead of himself."
Fosheim has an aggressive approach to leadership and insists on maintaining standards and integrity. His Soldiers said they were leery of him in the beginning, but have developed a healthy respect for him.
"I came to this platoon with a reputation because I was one of the graders at EIB and I adhere to the standards, so people got no-gos at my station," he said. "So when I came here they weren't too happy at first, but now they see who I am, what my leadership style is, and that I'm proactive."
Spc. Paul Nichols, one of the infantrymen that received a no-go from Fosheim during his EIB testing, said his opinion has changed since Fosheim became the platoon sergeant.
"It's strange how things work out," he said. "It's different now that he is with us. He's pretty on-the-ball, he knows what he is doing. He likes to spot check people, look for mistakes, correct them. He expects everyone to know their job and the next job up. But he is pretty cool. He'll talk to me about family and just how it's going."
Leadership styles take years to develop, and Fosheim said he has matured over his course as an NCO, learning immensely about himself in the process.
"I learned that I can have patience," he said. "As a junior NCO, a sergeant and especially a corporal, I was very short with Soldiers. I was a loud NCO, not yelling for no reason, but when the opportunity came I would use corrective training as a tool. I find now that I have a lot more patience; or try to."
Fosheim balances patience and discipline with a mix of professional at-ease, allowing his Soldiers to relax when not under pressure.
"I come across stern at first, but once the Soldiers learn that I'm being serious when I tell them things, then we can kind of relax the atmosphere and joke around a little bit, but we always keep it professional," he said.
At the end of the day, Fosheim simply tries to lead his Soldiers, inspire his fellow leaders, and continue his personal development as an NCO in his quest to impact modern-day history.
"I strive to take care of my Soldiers, remain tactically and technically proficient, and to mentor my NCOs to share the same values as I do. Be, Know, Do," he said. "I lead by example. I would never ask a soldier to do something that I haven't done myself, or that I wouldn't do."
Whether inspecting Soldier's weapons and gear, teaching them something new, or challenging them with a pop question on Army history, he is constantly involved in their personal and professional development.
"He asked me the other day who the youngest president was. I didn't know," said Nichols. "It's Theodore Roosevelt," he added, smiling.
From patrols, to routine missions, to down time on the FOB, Fosheim can be counted on to be a steadfast leader. Through history, Army values, and a desire to leave a legacy, he strives to be the best NCO possible, for his Soldiers, himself, and his wife and three daughters.
"My daughters, they are everything I have to live for," he said. "That is why I want to make the world a better place."